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Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Friday, 1 June 2018

Herbert Thomas scrutinized



A new review of Herbert Thomas and his work has just been published in Antiquity journal. Was he a brilliant geologist, or a bit of a charlatan?  I'll report on the detail in due course, but in the meantime here is the Abstract and the reference list -- the latter makes a good check-list of the papers by Bevins and Ixer.  With a bit of luck, the hyperlinks will work........
(As we all know, I don't agree with the authors that they have definitively identified the locations from which some of the bluestones and the debitage at Stonehenge have come -- the best that can be said is that they have narrowed things down to the most likely neighbourhoods.)

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Retracing the footsteps of H.H. Thomas: a review of his Stonehenge bluestone provenancing study
Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer
Antiquity, May 2018.

Published online: 31 May 2018

Abstract

The long-distance transport of the Stonehenge bluestones from the Mynydd Preseli area of north Pembrokeshire was first proposed by geologist H.H. Thomas in 1923. For over 80 years, his work on the provenancing of the Stonehenge bluestones from locations in Mynydd Preseli in south Wales has been accepted at face value. New analytical techniques, alongside transmitted and reflected light microscopy, have recently prompted renewed scrutiny of Thomas's work. While respectable for its time, the results of these new analyses, combined with a thorough checking of the archived samples consulted by Thomas, reveal that key locations long believed to be sources for the Stonehenge bluestones can be discounted in favour of newly identified locations at Craig-Rhos-y-felin and Carn Goedog.


REFERENCES

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10 comments:

TonyH said...

I see Richard Bevins is the author for correspondance.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I think that Richard and Rob seem to alternate the honour.....

Neil Wiseman said...

Hi gang (of two),
I had benefit of reading the above review prior to its release. One of the authors leaned more toward the denigration of Thomas for the lack of follow-up. I begged to differ with regard to a couple of points, and so Thomas was presented in a less-caustic light.
Thomas essentially wandered through that part of Wales as a much younger man, picking up rocks and ruminating on the similarities between them and those at Stonehenge. But he never went back and subsequently went about living his life.

Twenty years later he learned (through a request) that others were about to publish an in-depth analysis and decided to nip it in the bud by publishing his own analysis, based on a thesis he'd cooked up when he was younger.

He got the source-locations wrong, but not the vicinity. But in no way could his published supposition be construed as hubris, rather for wanting to be remembered for something he would never have achieved in his present, somewhat mundane career. And thus he is.

Was Thomas the sharpest tool in the shed? By no means, but what was essentially an extended stroll through the wilds of Pembrokeshire by a man who was enjoying the scenery, turned out to be a watershed event in provenancing the Blues at Stonehenge. The details of his position paper are flawed, yes. But the overall thesis turns out to be spot-on.

Best,
Neil

BRIAN JOHN said...

Neil -- you imply that HHT was a bumbling amateur who wandered around just looking at things. He was not-- he was a professional geologist who worked for the BGS and who was involved in all of the key memoirs for South Wales, as well as writing assorted specialist papers published in learned journals.

Neil Wiseman said...

On the contrary, Brian, I imply no such thing. Thomas was very accomplished. But when he wandered around Wales as a younger man, he had not yet risen to his later position.

TonyH said...

Gang of TWO? Not based upon the number of folk visiting this site each day!! Welcome to the UK in a few days, Neil. Enjoy reading the book - MANY people already are, a few days after official publication. Incidentally. a friend (another glacial hypothesis champion) has just received his SECOND copy via the national bookshop, Waterstones. That was near Bournemouth and Souuthampton, so all you professional archaeologists and students based at Southampton and Bournemouth now know they can do the same.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Neil is just being mischievous -- we get over 11,000 page views per month, so there are presumably quite a few followers out there, tuning in when it suits them......

Neil Wiseman said...

Thank you Tony. It'll be my second visit in 9 months. The Stones at Solstice. Oh ... joy.
Is it possible we have a mutual friend in Bournemouth? The gent I know is currently visiting the Emerald Isle, but reports favorably on the book.

You've made quite a splash this time, Brian, I must say. Several people have contacted me, breathlessly announcing this 'New Idea!' from some guy in Wales with two first names ...
You have readers, my friend -- and some of them have voices.
Another mutual friend of ours in Brum is also, er, reading it. We have a lunch date on the 19th and I expect a full report. I'll pick up my copy from Waterstones.

I won't have time to make it to Wales this visit, Brian, so you're off the hook from this annoying troll. Maybe see you in September.

Best wishes to all,
Neil

BRIAN JOHN said...

You a troll, Neil? Never -- your comments are far too well-informed and well-considered. And always welcome.

You might just have to order the book from Waterstones -- that esteemed company has not (so far) ordered the book for its "hub" so that all branches can stock it, and as I understand it each order is dealt with separately. But the more people who ask for it, the more likely it is to be stocked. It's a tough commercial world out there.......

Let me know when you do manage a trip to Wales, and we can take a look at a few key sites...

TonyH said...

Wonderful if we can encourage Waterstones to stock the new BJ book via its central "hub". Then all those shy archaeologists may obtain it "anonymously" without Brian finding out they are buying copies!!