There has been quite a discussion about bluestones and glacial transport on on Austin Kinsley’s Facebook page, starting on 1st Dec 2019, with many comments from the great and the good. I won't use any names here, because that would make the discussion rather personal, but below we itemise and discuss the seven points initially posted by somebody who presumes to know quite a lot about Stonehenge and about the supposed human transport of the bluestones.
As we know from our ongoing discussions over the years, on and off this blog, there are still people out there who are prepared to take all this human transport mythology seriously. The trouble is that many of them don't know the territory and tend to read things rather selectively........ as Tony has pointed out in the discussions on Auston's page. And let's remind ourselves -- there is not a shred of hard evidence in support of the idea of long-distance human transport of bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge, either by land or sea.
So here we go:
1. Where's all the other bluestones on the Salisbury Plain? Surely a glacier wouldn't have brought only the precise number of them required at Stonehenge -- numbers that are significant to the structure. The various other examples of full-sized stones in the area have clearly been robbed from the site over the centuries.
Response: this is an absurd point, and I cannot for the life of me understand why people are still making it, after all the advances of recent years. Forget the "immaculate Stonehenge" with 82 bluestones and 82 sarsens. There is no evidence that Stonehenge was ever completed. I'm not alone in saying this. As Cleal and others have pointed out over and again, we have no idea how many bluestones or sarsens were originally present at the site. As far as the bluestones are concerned, we know there are 43 -- represented as boulders, pillars, slabs, and stumps. There may be a few more stumps, not yet discovered. We know that they were moved about and repositioned many times. It is far more logical to suggest that there never were enough bluestones to finish "the Stonehenge project", and that after playing around with assorted stone settings over many centuries, the builders (maybe the descendants of the originators) just gave up and walked away...... This argues for the use of glacially transported erratics which were systematically collected up and used -- until there were none left in the Stonehenge landscape.
2. While sampling the various types of stone isn't allowed at the site, the volume of chips found in the wide area would easily correspond with the presumed number of present and missing stones. There's lots of visual evidence that points to stone-bashing throughout the life of the monument. See also the 'Stonehenge Layer'.
Response: The suggestion that the "volume of chips" somehow corresponds with the presumed number of missing stones does not survive a moment's scrutiny. Some mathematics please! What is the volume of chips that we are supposed to accept? Remember -- we have no idea how many "missing or destroyed" monoliths there may be. What would be the total mass or volume of those hypothetical missing stones? Figures given by Ixer and Bevins for "debitage volumes" are seriously (and deliberately?) misleading, since they are based on a limited number of excavations and sampling exercises. About 50% of the surface area within the stone settings has never been excavated, and until that area has been investigated speculation about "debitage volumes" is meaningless. In any case, we have no idea how much of the debitage may have come from smaller stones -- mauls, hammer stones, packing stones and scattered small erratics -- rather than from destroyed monoliths.
3. The vacant stone-pipe at Rhosefellin more than suggests it was removed by humans -- no glacier would select a single example from that face and leave the others intact. Despite what Dr Johns says, the site was a well-used quarry from as far back as the Mesolithic. The petro-chemistry of that pipe matches Bluestone-44, that stone having been sampled before the present rules applied.
Response: Ah -- Rhosyfelin! A lovely spot. Right on my doorstep. Now we are seriously into the realms of fantasy. "The vacant stone pipe" or "monolith extraction point" (as MPP likes to call it) does not exist. It is a MPP invention, conjured up out of thin air by the good professor when he was told that some of the debitage at Stonehenge was made of a foliated rhyolite which came from within a few square metres of a geological sampling point at the tip of the Rhosyfelin rocky spur. That piece of "spot provenancing" is hotly disputed, as described in my book -- and I do not know of a single independent geologist or geomorphologist who accepts it. And of all the senior academics who have visited the site with me, not one of them accepts that the configuration of the rock face at the "extraction point" gives any indication that a bluestone monolith was taken away from here. On the contrary, detailed surface research shows that there have been several phases of rock breakage off the face, controlled by intersecting fractures, over many millennia. Some of the fracture edges are fresh, and others are very abraded and weathered. See this post:
The so-called "extraction point" at Rhosyfelin. It has had a complex history, with small chunks and slabs of rock breaking off on many different occasions. In this respect this site is no different from any other part of the rock face. Click the image to enlarge.
On my blog, if you enter "monolith extraction point" into the search box, you will find other entries as well.
The assertion that this was a well-used monolith quarry back into the Mesolithic is, as Mr X knows perfectly well, hotly disputed in my book and in two peer-reviewed scientific papers which he and all of the MPP team know all about, but have studiously ignored. This is not just bad manners -- it is bad science too, on the part of a group of academics who now have so much invested in their spectacular quarrying hypothesis that they cannot abide the thought of anybody questioning -- let alone disproving -- their "evidence".
The bit about bluestone 44 is an invention, as others have pointed out. Very careless. The writer should have checked his facts more carefully.
Brian John, Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes (2015a). "Quaternary Events at Craig Rhosyfelin, Pembrokeshire." Quaternary Newsletter, October 2015 (No 137), pp 16-32.
4. In the 1920s HH Thomas was wrong about a possible source being Carn Meini -- they are now known to include Carn Goedog and probably Bedd Arthur. There is a lot of archaeological evidence surrounding these sources.
Response: The geological evidence does indeed suggest that Carn Meini (Carn Menyn) was probably not a source of Stonehenge bluestones -- although Profs Darvill and Wainwright (the latter sadly no longer with us) refused to accept the geological evidence. The dolerites (spotted and unspotted) are now thought to have come from other outcrops including the Carn Goedog sill -- but most definitely not Bedd Arthur. The latter is not a rock outcrop but a stone setting including small locally-derived monoliths; nobody has ever claimed that it was a source for Stonehenge monoliths. More care, please.
5. There is a marked difference in size and shape between the outer bluestone ring and the inner horseshoe. This strongly suggests they arrived at different times -- the outer ring almost certainly near-original, with the taller versions being installed after the Trilithons went up, much much later. How likely is it these were collected from deposits of the near-environs in such precise order?
6. I'm pretty familiar with the work of Rob & Richard -- Rob being a personal friend, as you know. Neither has published anything that suggests agreement with the glacial transport theory, while both privately scoff the idea. See also Rob's recent work on the Altar Stone.
The idea of glacial transport has been thoroughly examined and found to be implausible. It's not the conspiracy of prevailing thought -- it's very well established.
Campbell, S., Scourse, J.D., Hunt, C.O., Keen, D.H. and Stephens, N. (1998) Quaternary of South-West England, Geological Conservation Review Series, No. 14, Kluwer, London, 439 pp.