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

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Bluestone "declassification" -- have the geologists lost the plot?

Not long ago I took the geologists to task for suggesting that the Altar Stone should be "declassified" as a bluestone because they now think it might not have come from Wales.  This is the ultimate manufactured absurdity -- maybe designed to divert attention from all the things they have got wrong over the past decade.  

The term "bluestone" is daft enough as it is, but it is just about acceptable if it is used as a shorthand label for "any stone at Stonehenge that is not a locally collected sarsen stone."  For years Ixer and Bevins have been trying to redefine the term to mean "any non-sarsen MONOLITH at Stonehenge" while getting into a frightful tangle by talking about multiple bluestone fragments that cannot be shown to have come from any monolith since there are no known close geological matches.  So imaginary or fantasy monoliths are included as bluestones as well. At the same time, they very conveniently ignore any "inconvenient" fragments of rock found at Stonehenge that do not fit into any of their designated "geological types" that are in themselves artifices. As I have said many times before, that is illogical and unscientific.  Nobody knows how many rock types there are at Stonehenge, and to some degree it depends whether you are a lumper or a splitter, but we would probably all agree that there are far more than a dozen.  Just read the literature since 1991 to confirm that........

We are never going to sort out what happened at Stonehenge unless we evaluate ALL of the foreign material at Stonehenge and try to work out how it got there.  And that includes assessments of packing stones, mauls, hammerstones, boulders (like the Newall Boulder), cobbles, axes and knock-offs, fragments and flakes.  It's intellectually lazy to simply assign all the inconvenient bits and pieces to a category called "adventitious".

Now, in this latest bizarre twist, Ixer and Bevins seem to want to assign to themselves the authority to determine what is a bluestone and what is not -- and have decided that you cannot refer to something as a bluestone unless it has come from the area within and around Mynydd Preseli.  

It's all a mess, and they know it.  

I had hoped that the ides of "bluestone declassification" was a mementary aberration, and that the geologists would promptly forget about it. But now up pops another publication, with the involvement of another team of geologists.  Quote:

"The Altar Stone is a grey-green micaceous sandstone, otherwise known as Stone 80. It is anomalous in its composition, size and weight when compared to the other bluestones. A very recent publication by a team of geologists, which included Prof. Bevins and Prof. Andò, proposes that the Altar Stone be declassified as a bluestone. Based on X-ray and Raman analysis in the laboratory on fragments of the stone using a Renishaw inVia Raman microscope, they hypothesise that the stone did not originate from the Anglo-Welsh Basin, as previously thought. Instead, there is strong correlation between the Altar Stone and sandstones in northern England or Scotland."

So it looks as if the "declassification of inconvenient Stonehenge bluestones" is going to be pushed as the next great Stonehenge debate, led by the heroic team of geologists who like to refer to themselves as "the pet rock boys".  It's even more ridiculous and sterile than some of the debates that have gone on in glacial geomorphology in the past, relating to the labelling of lithological units.   Don't get me going again on the "Penfro Till Formation" (invented by Prof David Bowen) which does not actually seem to exist, or on the labelling of certain other deposits in the glacial sequence of Southern Britain......

1 comment:

Tom Flowers said...

Can anybody tell where grey-green micaceous sandstone can be found in Britain? I would like a small sample of it on my mantlepiece.