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....
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Saturday 11 November 2023

The EH version of Stonehenge geology

Here we go again.  Somewhat belatedly, the Independent has picked up on the latest press release from Bevins, Ixer & Co on the origin of the Altar Stone:

New mystery over origins of Stonehenge after remarkable discovery

For the past 100 years, the Altar Stone at Stonehenge was thought to come from south Wales - but new research provided a new theory 

Alex Ross

Remarkable discovery? Well, however Richard Bevins spins it in his quote for the media, the geologists have NOT discovered that the Altar Stone did not come from Wales, as I have explained in my scrutiny of the paper:

They have hypothesised that the Altar Stone might not have come from any of the locations that they happen to have sampled -- while acknowledging that there are huge variations in the ORS strata which mean that even sampled locations my not be reliably represented in the data base. Sophisticated analytical techniques and impressive diagrams in learned papers cannot compensate for sampling shortcomings.  They may or may not be right in what they say, but this is a speculation, not a discovery.

Then we see this in the press report:

“It’s broadened our horizons,” said Dr Jennifer Wexler, from English Heritage. “We’ve gone from believing we had two types of stone [bluestone and sarsen], now we have three from different places. This opens up a whole new exciting look at the origins of Stonehenge and possibly new connections to other regions of Britain.

“During the late Neolithic age people were coming from places, some a long distance away, and were bringing things from places which were important to them. Now we are looking at a new area people brought stones to Stonehenge from.

“The new study offers a ‘fingerprint’ from the Altar Stone which teams will now look to match with somewhere in the country, it is like a big detective job.”

The stones brought to Stonehenge were believed to have been pulled over sledges and trackways probably sing large teams of people, or potentially even using animals such as oxen and cattle, said Dr Wexler.

Even by the debased standards of the printed media, this is pretty appalling nonsense.  There are not two "types of stone" from two different places. According to the geologists, even the sarsens are quite variable, having almost certainly come from several different locations.  And as for the bluestones, no matter whether you are a geological "lumper" or "splitter", you have to agree that they have come from around 46 different locations (if you count all the foreign clasts of all sizes from the Stonehenge landscape) or around 22 different locations (if you count just the monoliths and the related debris). 

And the stones "brought to Stonehenge" ??  Oh dear oh dear -- don't get me going on that one.......... and don't get me going either on the question "When is a bluestone not a bluestone?"..........

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