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Wednesday 8 June 2022

Are there more Newall striated erratics?

Section C13 -- photo of the Atkinson dig in 1964.  This is where Hawley was excavating in 1924.  At bottom right corner, bluestone 34.  Next to it, stump 33f, and to its left, at an angle, stump 33e.

Because there is a specific mention of four small erratics coming to light in the 1924 Stonehenge dig, we tend to assume that the "Newall erratic" is one of those -- but I am not sure.  In his report on the 1924 digging season, Hawley says:  "From time to time pieces of foreign stone have been found with signs of working upon them, and this season four have come to light that merit description."  They were all found in the "upper layer", c 25" below the surface.  Kellaway (having spoken to Newall) also refers to "a few" erratic stones carrying striations, all of which had been examined by Engleheart and Dale, and all considered to have been glacially transported.  Tim Daw reproduces a photo from Hawley's report, suggesting that a stone at the extreme left (circled red) was the one described by Kellaway and examined by Harrison and others in the IGS. I don't think that's correct -- it looks much too elongated. That might be one of the others -- now assumed lost.  

We know that Hawley and Newall were only interested in pieces of bluestone -- and presumably bluestone boulders and packing stones -- if there were signs of working on them.  All the others were thrown away.  Julie Gardiner (in the big 1995 Stonehenge volume by Cleal et al) reports that only 10% of finds were kept by Hawley-- so 90% were thrown away.  That is a tragedy -- and who knows how different the "establishment story" of Stonehenge might have been if priorities had been different.  So only 3,675 pieces of bluestone survive in the collections at Salisbury Museum and elsewhere, we can assume that 33,000 other bluestone pieces are in the waste trenches that were used as a repository for everything "uninteresting".

The site excavated by Hawley in 1924 is now classified as site C13, cut into a segment of the bluestone circle and adjacent to sarsen No 8.  It was also excavated by Atkinson in 1964 -- but by then most of the bluestone bits had been removed and thrown away! But in any case, from the photo at the head of this post we can see that there is a lot going on here -- with bluestone fragments and boulders all over the place. 

Stumps 33e and 33f (quite close to bluestone 34) are classified as altered volcanic ashes, belonging to Volcanic Group A in the Ixer / Bevins classification, although there has been some speculation that the stones might actually belong to Rhyolite Group A-C.  The problem is that these stumps have not been sampled, in spite of featuring strongly in two well-recorded digs. They are both crude flaky slabs, not pillars, and are "rubbish stones" that would not have been used if anything better had been available. Stump 33e in particular is an anomaly,  aligned in a direction that appears to make no sense -- almost perpendicular to the circumference of the bluestone circle.  Hawley was puzzled by it, and on p 239 of the 1995 Cleal et al volume on Stonehenge the authors appear similarly confused!!  

It's not known where the Newall boulder came from with respect to these stumps, but it cannot have been far away.  Is the boulder of the same -- or similar -- rock type as the stumps?  We shall see, in due course......... but on the basis of visual appearance alone, I would hazard a guess that the Newall boulder has nothing to do with the stumps.  The stumps are fragile and heavily fissured and foliated -- and the boulder is a single massive block with no signs of fracturing along lines of weakness. I'd guess that its provenance is quite different.

In conclusion,  we can be certain that there were other striated bluestones that were turned up and turfed out.  The question is this -- did Newall save any of these?  And if he did, where are they?

The site of Hawley's dig (C13) in 1924 (Fig 120, p 219 of Cleal et al, 1995.  Stones 33a, 33b, 33c and 33d are missing; stones 33e and 33f are present as broken and damaged stumps.  


It should be noted that to the north of stone 33 (dolerite) there are three stumps (32 c, d and e ) that have been claimed (on visual grounds) to be linked to Rhosyfelin. Stump 32e cannot be linked to Rhosyfelin, because it is made of dolerite, but there is some focus on stones 32c and d -- with MPP claiming that his imaginary "extraction point" in his imaginary quarry could have provided the stranding stone now known as stone 42. That's a problem, since stone 42 is made of dolerite.  Perhaps he meant stone 44?  But that's dolerite too.  Or maybe 32d?  It''s all a bit of a muddle.  Parker Pearson claims that the stone extracted from his "extraction recess" had dimensions 40 cm x 45 cm -- but that is pure fantasy.   There is no way a stone with that sort of cross section could have come from the very small "gap" at Rhosyfelin that has featured so heavily in the media.....

Nonetheless, stump 32d is the one claimed by Ixer and Bevins as being a possible Rhosyfelin monolith............ hmmm, we shall see, since that one too is classified by Cleal et al (1995) as being made of spotted dolerite.  Yet another case of too much fantasy and too little science.


Tony Hinchliffe said...

Please remind our readers who Engleheart and Dale were. You say they agreed the stones had been GLACIALLY transported.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Engleheart pops up quite often in the records -- suggest you type "Engleheart" into the search box. He was Wilts secretary of the Society of Antiquaries. He expressed opinions about the Boles Barrow bluestone and he clearly examined Newall's stones and found striations on them. it was reported that when HTT gave his famous lecture in 19021 he looked at HHT'[s stones that he had brought with him and was convinced that some were striated....... In 1923 he wrote a letter to the Observer saying that sea transport of the bluestones was very improbable, and that land transport was a little less improbable but nonetheless highly unlikely. His letter is weird -- it seems to be supporting glacial transport without actually saying so! Maybe he was just a wimp like all the rest of them..... afraid of going against the establishment line..........