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

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Kindle edition of "The Stonehenge Bluestones"

Here is a reminder that if you are intimidated by the price of the paperback edition of my book (fantastic value at just £15) you can get the full book in the Kindle edition for just £6.99.  Like most other "print replicas" of complex full-colour books in Ebook or Kindle editions, it's bit clunky here and there, from the point of view of the reader, and some of the formatting is difficult to replicate -- but on the whole the transfer to a digital format has worked better than expected.  Amazon has improved the conversion and uploading technology a lot in the last couple of years.

Here is the link to the Amazon web site:

Latest reviews:

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Stonehenge. I really enjoyed the read as it was never one-sided and quite funny in places. Listening to other people's theories was much more interesting even though most believed it a there was nothing else in offer by anyone else hoping to find the answers to the mystery of stonehenge not to mention the stones. It was far more likely these stones were built where they was found.

Great study of Stonehenge. Written for the layman that wants a better understanding of the building of Stonehenge.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Carn Briw stone collection


I have posted on Carn Briw before.  It's the Bronze Age (?) burial mound on the common to the south-west of Carningli.  As I have pointed out before, it's a classic example of a mound built of locally sourced materials -- gathered up from a scatter of "stone takes" or pits from a radius of about 50m of the burial site itself.  I came across this excellent photo taken for RCAHMW by Toby Driver on one of his winter flights.  The pock-marked moorland surface is beautifully shown.  The biggest of the pits is almost a metre deep and almost 2m across, but most are a lot smaller than that.  So availability of stone may well have been one of the prime reasons why this burial site is where it is -- this is essentially a periglacial block field covered in till and frost-shattered bedrock debris, partly masked by soil and vegetation.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Experimental archaeology: staggering new experiment reveals truth about Stonehenge bluestone transport


News has just reached us of a staggering new experiment conducted in conditions of some secrecy,  at a location in the heart of Bluestone Country, during the Pandemic lockdown.  Purely by chance, the Bluestone Brewery is not very far away.  A carefully selected team of stone pullers,  chosen for their strength and ingenuity, was assembled and after a detailed briefing from a senior archaeologist who shall be nameless, they embarked upon what must surely be the definitive piece of Stonehenge experimental archaeology.  It’s great to see some serious scientific work at long last, after all that storytelling. 

The stills above are taken from a rigourously  assembled video film of the experiment, which will no doubt find its away into the National Museum archives.

From an intensive examination of the footage, we can safely say that we now know what actually happened all those years ago. First, find your stone and give it a good wash. Next, have a few beers. Next, build your sledge and get the stone onto it with the aid of a JCB. Next, move it about 50 yards, or until you get thirsty, whichever is the greater.   Next, try to move it to Stonehenge.  Next, give up in disgust. Next, stick it up in the field where you found it, with the help of the JCB.  Next, potter off and have a few more beers. Now you know.

The full scientific paper relating to this enterprise will in due course be published in Antiquity, or the Sun or some other learned publication.  We look forward to that.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Blogger photo gallery

There are now literally thousands of photos on this blog site.  If you want to scroll through them, in order to find something or other, you can find my photo galleries here:

One problem is that once you find a photo, you can't go straight back to the post in which it was featured.  That's a big defect in the Google indexing system.  Anyway, please take a look and let me know if there are any problems!

PS -- Sorry that this link does not seem to work properly.  Working on it........

Friday, 4 December 2020

Wicklow Ice Dome

This is a very interesting paper, to which I shall return, since it tells us quite a lot about what might have happened on the other side of the St George's Channel..........


Vertical dimensions and age of the Wicklow Mountains ice dome, Eastern Ireland, and implications for the extent of the last Irish Ice Sheet
Colin K. Ballantyne, Danny McCarroll, John O. Stone
Quaternary Science Reviews 25 (2006) pp 2048–2058
31 January 2006


Patterns of erratic distribution show that the Wicklow Mountains formerly supported an independent ice cap or ice dome. Geomorphological mapping of the upper limits of evidence for glaciation (ice-scoured and moulded bedrock, perched boulders) and the distribution of features indicative of prolonged periglacial conditions (tors, frost-shattered rock, blockfields) indicates that along the main axis of high ground erosive warm-based ice buried all but the highest (725m) summits and over-ran adjacent lower peaks and cols. The presence of gibbsite in soil samples from above the inferred upper limit of glacial erosion and its absence in all samples from below this limit is consistent with the geomorphological evidence and implies removal of gibbsitic soils below 725m by glacial erosion during the last glacial stage. Cosmogenic 10 Be exposure ages for rock outcrops above the inferred upper limit of glacial erosion yield pre-last glacial maximum (LGM) ages of (>) 46.9 +/- 3.0 ka to (>) 95.9 +/- 6.1 ka, whereas rock outcrops on summits over-ridden by warm-based ice give post-LGM ages of 18.2+/- 1.2 to 19.1 +/- 1.2 ka. All geomorphological and dating evidence thus indicates an LGM age for the ice dome. The thickness of the ice dome and limited lateral dispersal of erratics indicate that at the LGM the Wicklow ice was encircled by and confluent with thick, powerful ice streams moving SE from the Irish Midlands and southwards down the Irish Sea basin. This conclusion is irreconcilable with the traditional view that the last Irish ice sheet terminated at the ‘South Ireland end moraine’, but consistent with recent proposals that the last ice sheet was much more extensive than previously believed, and over-ran the south coast of Ireland.

Darvill and Wainwright Chapter

Many will be unaware that the big chapter on Neolithic and Bronze Age Pembrokeshire, written by Tim Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright, is available as a PDF here:

It's Chapter 2 in the big first volume of the Pembrokeshire County History, published in 2016 with a price tag too high for most people to cope with.......  It's a very comprehensive chapter, beautifully illustrated, but already looking dated.  We may take it as the establishment view of things, while accepting that the TD/GW tribe had (in 2016) certain differences of opinion with the MPP tribe.  I did a two-part critique of the chapter here:

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Skara Brae and Banc Llwydlos

I hesitate to suggest that we might have a treasure like Skara Brae up here in the uplands of north Pembrokeshire, but there are interesting similarities.  For a start, the size of the two "villages" is similar.  There are similarities in layout too, with a tight cluster of circular and rectangular dwellings and connecting passages designed for mutual protection and community living for up to ten family groups: 

Both of the sites are exposed and windswept.  At both sites, the natural or easiest building material was stone, since we assume a shortage of timber resources.  At Skara Brae using stone was certainly easier, since the stone slabs there were easy to obtain, carry and use.  Rounded erratic boulders, slabs and cobbles at Banc Llwydlos were not all that easy to use, so the "tidy architecture" of Skara Brae could not have been replicated, no matter what the age of the Banc Llwydlos settlement might be.  But at the latter site there was clay available locally -- in the till deposits around the site and in the thin lacustrine deposits in the Brynberian Moor depression just a few hundred metres away -- and this could have been used in walls for packing spaces and windproofing, as well as adding stability.  Making pottery too.....

What we don't have at Banc Llwydos are the sands and the fish.......... but probably quite abundant hunting and gathering resources in a landscape that might have looked something like this.....

"Climax" vegetation on Banc Llwydlos, within a small fenced enclosure designed to keep animals away from a spring-fed water supply point.  This is what the landscape might look like without the sheep and ponies.  Rowan, willow and blackthorn are thriving, as are heather and bilberry.  All of these are suppressed by grazing and burning for gorse clearance.

Let's assume that wattle and daub walls were used at Banc Llwydlos above the bouldery foundations.  What about roof structures?  I know that most of the reconstructions of Skara Brae assume conical and steeply-pitched roofs over the individual houses, supported by pillars and cross members.  But how well founded are those assumptions?  I remember reading many years ago that the multiple huts at sites like Foed Drygarn and Carningli probably did NOT have steeply pitched conical roofs, partly because those would have been very vulnerable in strong winds, and partly because with their large surface areas they would have been very heavy, requiring extra building skill and a lavish use of scarce resources.  It would have made more sense on those hilltop locations to build low domed roofs with pillar supports and a relatively simple structure of interwoven long timbers, with a cover of thatch or skins, or both.  I like this reconstruction of a Skara Brae house, with a very low conical or ridged roof.  Something like this would have suited very well at Banc Llwydlos...........

I'n not terribly bothered how old the Banc Llwydlos settlement turns out to be, but I am quite intrigued by the POSSIBILITY that we have a rather significant site up there on Mynydd Preseli......... 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

The Banc Llwydlos settlement


Grid reference: SN 08957 32973.  Altitude: 275m.  Grassland sloping northwards.  The features are identified with the letters used by Peter Drewett in his original sketch plan, but three additional features are now identified.  There seem to be ten hut circles.

I managed to visit the "village site" this morning, and it's absolutely gorgeous over there.  No wonder some tribal group thought it would be a nice place to live -- well sheltered from the south and west.  There's a a gentle slope to the north, and a dry and grassy bank littered with huge erratic boulders.  It's an old moraine, with abundant large and small stones readily to hand for the building of embankments and walls and platforms.  And just a few metres away, we find a gurgling brook with plentiful water throughout the year, and incised into the moraine with very little chance of flooding over onto the settlement site.

The ford, seen from the west.  The old fence posts and fencing wires were put there to protect a water supply tank and sluice just to the left of the photo.

The steep-sided valley of the Afon Pennant, just to the north of the settlement site.

Two of the hut circles with walls c 50 cm high, and now well turfed.

Traces of terracing or platforms constructed at the outer (northern) edge of the site.

I'll repeat the Dyfed Archaeology record here, for convenience:

Mawrth 2010 March 2010
By F. Murphy, M. Page, R. Ramsey and H. Wilson

Archwilio record:


SUMMARY A settlement complex including at least seven hut circles surrounding a square enclosure and yard, situated on the northeast facing slope of Banc Llwydlos.

LONG DESCRIPTION A settlement complex including at least seven hut circles surrounding a square enclosure and yard, situated on the northeast facing slope of Banc Llwydlos at 270m above sea level. Indentified from aerial photography in 1990, 2009 saw the first site visit and this recorded a settlement complex of possible prehistoric date. The complex includes seven hut circles that are spread around a small square shaped enclosure. The square enclosure measures approximately 6.0m E-W by 5.0m and has an entrance on the north. The entrance leads out to a small 'yard' area that has an opening on the east into a larger rectangular 'yard' area measuring 18m E-W by c.6.0m. These yards appear to have been constructed on a platform to create a level area on the sloping ground, and much of the settlement has the appearance of being somewhat terraced into the hill slope. The hut circles vary from 5.5m to 3.5m in diameter. All the features are defined by low, spread, stony earthen banks that have an average height of 0.3m and an average width of 1.3m. All the banks are grass covered and many have large stones protruding through the turf.

That's a pretty good description, and I have little add apart from saying that the small square enclosure is not necessarily the focal point of the settlement.  Because the whole site is so old, the walls are well covered with turf, and in some places it is difficult to know what is man-made and what is natural.  Only excavation will reveal the truth.  But what I quite like here is the "planning" of this communal site, with passageways and yards, and platforms or terraces as well.  It's not a defended site, and there are no traces of ditches or embankments. 

How old is the settlement?  I suppose that it might have been occupied over a long period, but the best bet might be that it originally dates from the Bronze Age or maybe earlier........  the Iron Age sites that we know about tend to be larger and heavily fortified (as at Foel Drygarn, Carn Alw and Carningli), or in places where farming could take place.  But here hunting, gathering and stock grazing were the only options.

If MPP or anybody else wants to come and do some digging in this area in the next few years, please come and do it here, so that we can start to get a handle on what was going on in the good old days when building with stone was the great thing..........

PS. Here are a couple of reconstructions of Neolithic dwellings.  There are now plenty of them in outdoor museums and heritage centres (Stonehenge is just one) across western Europe. 

At Banc Llwydlos we have bouldery terrain, and so the hut builders have naturally used boulders and cobbles to provide the foundations for the timber posts, and also extra protection /insulation in this rather windy environment.