Archaeologists Feud Over Second-Hand Stonehenge Theory

15 12 2015

The ink wasn’t even dry (or the bits weren’t even embedded in the Cloud) yet on the 2 Comments about a new theory that Stonehenge once stood in Wales before being moved to Wiltshire when a cry rose up from other archaeologists who claim that it was glaciers, not humans, that pushed the monoliths to their current resting place in Wiltshire. Who’s right, who’s wrong and what’s the betting line on the fight?

Stonehenge-585x306

The feud started with a report last week in the journal Antiquity that archaeologists from University College London (UCL) identified two quarries in Wales that matched some of the bluestones at Stonehenge. The more controversial part of the report was their belief that the stones were made into a monument in Wales which stood for a few hundred years before being toppled and moved to England, making Stonehenge what some were sacrilegiously calling a “second-hand monument.”

Just a week later, Dr. Brian John, Dr. Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes thumbed their noses at their peers in a paper published in the journal Archaeology in Wales where they stated that there are “no traces of human intervention in any of the features that have made the archaeologists so excited.”

Path and distance the bluestones would have had to travel from Wales to Wiltshire

The stone of contention in this argument is foliated rhyolite debris – fragments of thinly-layered volcanic rock that were found at both sites, prompting the UCL team to declare that they came to Glastonbury with the bluestones from Wales. Dr. John’s team says the Irish Sea Glacier brought the foliated rhyolite debris (a great name for a heavy metal band) 500,000 years ago.

While Dr. John’s team agrees that the Welsh outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin show signs of human campgrounds, there’s no evidence the Neolithic humans were quarrying monoliths and building a miniature Welsh Stonehenge. In fact, he suggests that the features the UCL team thought were evidence of quarry activity were actually made by the archaeologists themselves. As Dr. John eloquently puts it:

An expectation or conviction that ‘engineering features’ would be found has perhaps led to the unconscious fashioning of archaeological artifices.

Archaeologists at the site in Wales - are they finding evidence or creating their own?

Ouch! But Dr. John doesn’t stop there.

On the contrary, there is substantial evidence in favour of glacial transport and zero evidence in support of the human transport theory … We think the archaeologists have been so keen on telling a good story here that they have ignored or misinterpreted the evidence in front of them. That’s very careless. They now need to undertake a complete reassessment of the material they have collected.

Dr. John has taken the lead. Back to you, team from University College London.

Article by Paul Seaburn | Mysterious Universe

The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales, ‘amazing’ finds suggest

7 12 2015

Stonehenge News and Information

‘Evidence that bluestones were quarried in Wales 500 years before they were put up in Wiltshire prompts theory that Stonehenge is ‘second-hand monument’

Archaeologists at one of the Stonehenge quarry sites in Wales. Photograph: UCL Archaeologists at one of the Stonehenge quarry sites in Wales. Photograph: UCL

Evidence of quarrying for Stonehenge’s bluestones is among the dramatic discoveries leading archaeologists to theorise that England’s greatest prehistoric monument may have first been erected in Wales.

It has long been known that the bluestones that form Stonehenge’s inner horseshoe came from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, around 140 miles from Salisbury Plain.

Now archaeologists have discovered a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, to the north of those hills, that match Stonehenge’s bluestones in size and shape. They have also found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted but left behind, and “a loading bay” from where the huge stones could be dragged away.

Carbonised hazelnut…

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Have archaeologists found Stonehenge quarries?

7 12 2015

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Bluestone open spread.jpgThey certainly think so – not all, but two important ones. I went to visit their excavations in Pembrokeshire this summer, and was sufficiently impressed to ask them to write about their discoveries for British Archaeology. You can read their report with many photos – including this fabulous opening shot by Adam Stanford – in the new magazine later this week. Digital on Wednesday December 9 (as an App and in web form) and print in the shops on Friday. Copies for Council for British Archaeology members and magazine subscribers are on their way.

Carn Goedog M Pitts.jpgExcavations at Carn Goedog (photo M Pitts)

In the meantime, here is the UCL press release.

Stonehenge ‘bluestone’ quarries confirmed 140 miles away in Wales

Excavation of two quarries in Wales by a UCL-led team of archaeologists and geologists has confirmed they are sources of Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’– and shed light on how they were quarried…

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Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales, ‘amazing’ finds suggest

7 12 2015

‘Evidence that bluestones were quarried in Wales 500 years before they were put up in Wiltshire prompts theory that Stonehenge is ‘second-hand monument’

Archaeologists at one of the Stonehenge quarry sites in Wales. Photograph: UCL

Archaeologists at one of the Stonehenge quarry sites in Wales. Photograph: UCL

Evidence of quarrying for Stonehenge’s bluestones is among the dramatic discoveries leading archaeologists to theorise that England’s greatest prehistoric monument may have first been erected in Wales.

It has long been known that the bluestones that form Stonehenge’s inner horseshoe came from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, around 140 miles from Salisbury Plain.

Now archaeologists have discovered a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, to the north of those hills, that match Stonehenge’s bluestones in size and shape. They have also found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted but left behind, and “a loading bay” from where the huge stones could be dragged away.

Carbonised hazelnut shells and charcoal from the quarry workers’ campfires have been radiocarbon-dated to reveal when the stones would have been extracted.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson, director of the project and professor of British later prehistory at University College London (UCL), said the finds were “amazing”.

“We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” he said. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.”

The dating evidence suggests that Stonehenge could be older than previously thought, Parker Pearson said. “But we think it’s more likely that they were building their own monument [in Wales], that somewhere near the quarries there is the first Stonehenge and that what we’re seeing at Stonehenge is a second-hand monument.”

There is also the possibility that the stones were taken to Salisbury Plain around 3200 BC and that the giant sarsens – silicified sandstone found within 20 miles of the site – were added much later. “Normally we don’t get to make that many fantastic discoveries in our lives,” Parker Pearson said. “But this is one.”

Parker Pearson heads a project involving specialists from UCL and the universities of Manchester, Bournemouth and Southampton, among others. Their findings are published on Monday in the journal Antiquity alongside a new book by the Council for British Archaeology titled Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery.

Prof Kate Welham, of Bournemouth University, said the ruins of a dismantled monument were likely to lie between the two megalith quarries. “We’ve been conducting geophysical surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis throughout the area and we think we have the most likely spot. The results are very promising. We may find something big in 2016,” she said.

The long-distance transport of the bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge is one of the most remarkable achievements of Neolithic societies. The archaeologists estimate that each of the 80 monoliths weighed less than two tons and that people or oxen could have dragged them on wooden sledges sliding on rail-like timbers.

Parker Pearson said people in Madagascar and other societies were known to have moved such standing stones long distances and that doing so created a spectacle that brought together communities from afar.

“One of the latest theories is that Stonehenge is a monument of unification, bringing together people from across the many parts of Britain,” he said.

He recalled the moment he looked up the near-vertical rock-face and realised that this was one of the quarries. “Three metres above us were the bases of these monoliths that were actually sitting there ready simply to be lowered out of their recesses,” he said.
“It’s the Ikea of Neolithic monument building. The nice thing about these particular outcrops is that the rock has formed 480 million years ago as pillars. So prehistoric people don’t have to go in there and bash away … All they have to do is get wedges into the cracks. You wet the wedge, it swells and the stone pops off the rock.”

 Article source:  (Guardian News)
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A vote in a Wiltshire field about drainpipes

3 12 2015

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Woodhenge view 1.jpg

The last time I visited Woodhenge, the site of a great ritual timber structure near to, and of the same age as, Stonehenge, there was a small community notice on the back of a road sign. ‘BEWARE!’ it read, ‘THIEVES OPERATE IN THIS AREA!’

They do indeed, and they’re not just after our ‘mobile phones, wallets and bags’. Some time in November a pair of bronze plaques that told the visitor about the site were prized off their concrete pillar and taken away.

Woodhenge plaques.jpg

It may not sound much if you don’t know the site, but it would be dreadfully sad if the plaques were not seen again. We don’t know of course, but it’s unlikely that whoever took them understands (or understood) their significance. They have no market value – a tiny amount of metal, and they are too recognisable to be sellable without being caught. If you’ve got them…

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Film promoting Stonehenge tunnel released by public bodies

2 12 2015

A YEAR after the Government announced plans to build a 2.9km tunnel under Stonehenge three public bodies have released a film promoting the benefits of burying the A303.

Film promoting Stonehenge tunnel released by public bodies

Film promoting Stonehenge tunnel released by public bodies

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage hope that construction of the tunnel will improve wildlife and nature at the World Heritage Site.

Ian Wilson, Assistant Director of Operations for the National Trust in Dorset and Wiltshire, said: “We really hope the film brings to life the very real benefits that a tunnel could bring to the Stonehenge Landscape, for people and for wildlife.

“A full scheme has yet to be designed, but the Trust supports the Government’s proposals in principle and we are committed to engaging with Highways England and others to ensure that any scheme will be fully and carefully considered and assessed.”

Alex Rennie,Source: Salisbury Journal

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