How much do we know about Stonehenge? Less than we think. And what has Stonehenge got to do with the Ice Age? More than we might think. This blog is mostly devoted to the problems of where the Stonehenge bluestones came from, and how they got from their source areas to the monument. Now and then I will muse on related Stonehenge topics which have an Ice Age dimension...
THE BOOK 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.... To order, click HERE
Friday, 12 October 2018
Waun Mawn and the great spotted dolerite hunt
The diggers have gone -- but in the aftermath there are plenty of stones which can be examined
This is from the 2017 Report and funding application from MPP, on behalf of the project called
"The Welsh origins of Stonehenge" [RFF-2017-23]
Principal Investigator: Michael Parker Pearson
Professor, University College London, Institute of Archaeology
"The main discovery was that four standing stones in an arc at Waun Mawn, above a source of the River Nevern, are the likely remains of a prehistoric stone circle, most of which was dismantled and removed in prehistory (fig.6). Its 80m-long arc suggests a former diameter of c.115m, which would make it the largest stone circle in Britain except for the outer ring of Avebury. Although excavations in 2017 failed to obtain a date for the stone circle’s erection or dismantling, its stone sockets were emptied and the stones removed before the onset of peat growth. We are currently awaiting radiocarbon dates from the base of the peat, though it is likely to have started forming in the Bronze Age."
This was of course a considerable over-egging of the pudding as far as the significance of the 2017 work was concerned, but when applying for research grants a man has to do what a man has to do.........
As we have mentioned before, one of the main assumptions built into the "proto-Stonehenge" hypothesis is the supposed link between Waun Mawn and the "monolith quarries" at Carn Goedog and Rhosyfelin. The map showing the links has been widely used. In his lectures MPP has taken it for granted that multiple monoliths were transferred from the quarries to Waun Mawn and used there in a vast stone circle which existed for c 400 years before being dismantled and moved, lock, stock and barrel, to Stonehenge. Further, it is widely assumed that around 80 bluestone monoliths were used at Stonehenge -- and further assumed by MPP that some of them might have been used temporarily at "Bluestonehenge" as well.
"Oh! what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!"
Enough of poetry -- the main point, if one has scientific inclinations, is that it is incumbent upon MPP and his colleagues to prove that maybe 50 spotted dolerite monoliths and maybe 30 foliated rhyolite monoliths were present at one time at Waun Mawn. They carry the burden of proof, and they have to deliver.
On two separate occasions I have hunted across the dig site (which I now think involved c 2000 sq m of excavations), looking for chips, packing stones or even "forgotten monoliths" made of either spotted dolerite or foliated rhyolite. I cannot be 100% certain, because I cannot know what has been found by the diggers and sent off for geological identification -- but I have not found a trace of either rock type. (Spotted dolerite is fairly easy to spot, in the field, since the whitish crystal clusters are more resistant to weathering then the "matrix" of the rock, making them stand proud. So the rock surface tends to be lumpy or knobbly..... unlike the smooth surface of stones made from unspotted dolerite.) There are plenty of unspotted dolerite boulders, slabs, and pillars all over the place, and many dolerite cobbles and smaller pebbles too -- but they are all local. There are no rhyolite pillars or monoliths, standing or recumbent. There are some rhyolite and volcanic ash cobbles and stones, but they do not seem to be identical to those outcropping at Rhosyfelin. In this area the ice has come in from the west and north-west; so "erratic material" from either Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog would be a good indicator of human transport. But there is nothing.
I'm not sure why this little pile of stones was left on the turf. I assume that they have been gathered up and interpreted as "packing stones" from one of the supposed stone sockets? They are made of dolerite, volcanic ash, rhyolite and meta-mudstone -- all quite local.
On this geological test alone, the proto-Stonehenge hypothesis is rejected.
One final thought. Dave mentioned to me that one idea being bounced around is that bluestone monoliths might have been stored at Waun Mawn without actually being planted into the ground. I love it! I have this picture in my head of lovely rows of elongated bluestone monoliths on the open moorland, with 50 neatly arranged spotted dolerite monoliths over by here, and 30 foliated rhyolite monoliths over by there, with a sales rep offering them (with free delivery, of course) to the highest bidder..........
Once these fantasies get a hold of you, there is no knowing where they will lead you.