Saturday, 25 September 2021

Geophysical survey at the Waun Mawn Standing Stones.

In 2018, Bournemouth University’s Archaeological Consultancy, was commissioned by Mike Parker Pearson to carry out a programme of geophysical survey at the Waun Mawn Standing Stones.
In comparing the results of the two techniques, discrete responses have been identified across the survey area. Analysis of aerial photographs, however, reveals that many of these anomalies align with geological and potential archaeological features. Based on the results of the geophysical survey and the proximity of the site to several known archaeological features, the archaeological potential of the site is deemed to be medium.

The follow up report: The original Stonehenge? A dismantled stone circle in the Preseli Hills of west Wales - Mike Parker Pearson, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Timothy Kinnaird, Dave Shaw, Ellen Simmons, Adam Stanford, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Clive Ruggles, Jim Rylatt, Kevan Edinborough

Friday, 24 September 2021

Craig Rhosyfelin Reports 2011 - 2015

(Picture Tim Daw)

A quick search of provides summaries and links to the Craig Rhosyfelin excavations of 2011 - 2015 
Craig Rhosyfelin 
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 115069
Trust : Dyfed
Unitary authority : Pembrokeshire
NGR : SN117362

In 2011, several archaeological works including excavation and a geophysical survey were carried out at Craig Rhosyfelin as part of the ‘Stones of Stonehenge’ Project.
The excavation demonstrates unequivocal evidence for the prehistoric quarrying of Stonehenge-sized monoliths from a source that can be matched definitively with the ‘rhyolite with fabric’ recovered from Stonehenge.
Craig Rhosyfelin has proved to be a prehistoric monolith quarry at the precise spot identified geologically as a source for Stonehenge bluestone. Further excavation will provide more evidence for the methods of quarrying and moving bluestones.
Parker Pearson, M. et al. , 2011 , The Stones of Stonehenge Project: Investigations in the Nyfer (Nevern) Valley in 2011 ©
In 2012, a excavation was carried out at Craig Rhosyfelin as part of the ‘Stones of Stonehenge’ Project.
In September 2012 an excavation of over 200sq m was carried out against the foot of the outcrop along its northwest face.
Parker Pearson, M. et al. , 2012 , The Stones of Stonehenge Project: Investigations in the Nyfer (Nevern) Valley in 2012 ©
In September 2013 most of the 2012 excavation trench was re-opened, and excavation continued.
Parker Pearson, M. et al. , 2013 , The Stones of Stonehenge Project: Investigations in the Nyfer (Nevern) Valley in 2013 ©
In 2014, Excavations were carried out at Craig Rhosyfelin as part of The Stones of Stonehenge Project. The aims of investigation in 2014 were to investigate any evidence of what methods were used to move megaliths from the quarry to their next destination. To complete excavation of the various quarry installations within the area opened in 2013. To further investigate the Mesolithic prelude to Neolithic use of the outcrop.
In conclusion, Excavations at Craig Rhosyfelin in 2014 have provided evidence of clear zonation within the megalith quarry. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the degree of pre-quarrying landscaping, with an upper and a lower platform, the latter revetted with a drystone retaining wall. It is also noteworthy that there was a small occupation area and hearth associated with this activity although without any evidence for stakeholes or postholes that might indicate the former presence of a roofed structure.
Parker Pearson et al , 2014 , The Stones of Stonehenge Project: Interim Report 2014 ©
In 2015, Excavations were carried out at Craig Rhosyfelin as part of ‘The Stones of Stonehenge’ Project. The aims of investigation in 2015 were to extend the excavation trench at Craig Rhos-y-felin beyond the edge of the quarry and to complete excavation at Craig Rhos-y-felin of the various features within the area opened in 2014.
In conclusion, a hollow way was found leading away from the stone-built jetty that was interpreted as a ‘loading bay’ for transferring monoliths onto their wooden sledges. The narrow dimensions of the hollow way reveal that rollers cannot have been used; timbers laid in the direction of movement are the preferred interpretation.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Clarissa Frances Miles - An overlooked early Stonehenge Photographer.

 Who was Clarissa Frances Miles - pioneer photographer of Stonehenge? Described by @MartynBarber2 as "a friend of the Antrobuses" who gives her address as Amesbury Abbey when claiming copyright for her photographs, now at the National Archive.

"born in 1860 at Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England.1 She was the daughter of Colonel Charles William Miles and Maria Susannah Hill" -

For more research by Martyn Barber see:

seems to have 46 photos - DZSWS:1986.7412/58 (search Stonehenge 1901 )

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Durrington Walls Palisade Enclosure -the 1952 excavations.

 The July-October 1954 edition of the Antiquaries Journal has an interesting write up of the 1952 excavations at Durrington Walls which I have not seen referenced before.

Stone, Piggott and Booth discovered a row, mostly a double row, of post holes that held posts when the bank was raised. They only excavated a 68 yard length so how far round the circle it went is unknown. The details are in the images below.

In 2016 excavations in the bank tested the "superhenge" theory and found that large posts had been in place before the bank was raised in the middle of the bank - for details see:  

It would have been interesting to have discovered if the outer post row extended to the areas where the massive posts were.

A note on the journal - this edition was missing from the Wiltshire Museum library and I was lucky enough to be given it and donate it to them. It was unopened or intonso so I took the liberty of using a plastic card - better than a knife - to open the pages to take the photos for my notes. There is still a lot to learn from old reports which are too often left unread in search for the new.


Saturday, 1 May 2021

1865 missing paper - Cunnington: the Geology of the Stones of Stonehenge

All editions of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine (1855-2013) are freely available online at

The passage below is in Vol X 1865 – it refers to a paper read by Cunnington at the Eleventh Annual meeting :

No. XXVIII. JULY, 1866. Vol. X.


Account of the Eleventh General Meeting, at Salisbury, 13th, 14th and 15th September, 1865


Mr. Cunnington F.G.S. next read a paper on " the Geology of the Stones of Stonehenge," in which he first pointed out the many erroneous statements which had been made on this subject, some having described the stones as foreign marble resembling that -of Carrara; others as formed of artificial matter, moulded to the original forms; and others again as a species of coarse freestone. These various statements having been satisfactorily refuted, he proceeded to explain that the outer circle and the large Trilithons at Stonehenge as well as the whole of the circles at Avebury, were composed of sarsen stones : the sarsens found so abundantly in Wiltshire, more especially in the Clatford valley of North Wilts, being the remains of sandy strata once lying above the chalk, the softer portions of which have been washed away, leaving these rocky masses on the surface. He then referred to the smaller circle and inner oval, and pronounced all these stones to be primary igneous rocks and of foreign origin, the altar stone is a fine-grained micaceous sandstone. From the facts adduced, Mr. Cunnington argued that Stonehenge was not originally erected either as a sepulchral monument, or as an astronomical calendar. This paper will however be found in extenso in the Magazine, and need not therefore be anticipated here.

I can't find a copy of Cunnington's paper. The WANHS archive copy has a couple of interesting marginal notes in pencil.

Next to the final sentence “The paper will be found in extenso in the Magazine, and need not therefore be anticipated here.” Someone has written “Where?”

The same person (presumably) has written in the margin a few inches higher up “See Vol XVI – p71-74 –reported by Long”.

I have looked at the reference in Vol XVI which says “ But upon this subject, there is no one who deserves a hearing, and a more attentive hearing , too, than Mr Cunnington, F.G.S., who has devoted so much time and thought to the study of the geological character of the Wiltshire megalithic structures. He says, in a paper “on the geology of Stonehenge,” read at the Salisbury meeting of the Wilts Archaeological Society 1865: “We are indebted to Mr Prestwich, the treasurer of the Geological society, for the exact determination of the stratum from which the ‘Sarsens’ are derived (vide Journal of the Geological society).” (thanks to a volunteer library researcher for this)

This seems to have been the earliest geological  paper on the origin of the stones of Stonehenge, it would be interesting to see a copy of it.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Stonehenge Cart Tracks?

Landscape and Monuments
Mike Parker Pearson, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas, Chris Tilley & Kate Welham | 2020

Within this book there is a discussion and diagrams of the Cart Tracks or Wheel-Ruts that were discovered within the Avenue at Stonehenge and that overlie the periglacial grooves.

Cart tracks should, I think, come in pairs which are the right width apart, and at first sight the figure doesn't show this:

It appears they follow the lines of the fissures rather than being independent features. I can only presume the fissures are softer ground and so rut more.

The oft repeated myth that railway lines are the same width apart as carts and chariots wheels does have a bit of truth to it. The width of cart tracks will be between 1.2 and 2 metres with the usual width about 1.4 - 1.5m. 

So do these features have these properties. On closer examination it seems that they do as I have tried to show with paired parallel lines. It isn't as clear as might be hoped for and some crushed stone in the bottom of the ruts would have been helpful.

Click to embiggen

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

A smooth flint disc, a pessoi?

I have written about the bluestone pebble found in Durrington which is fully reported in "Along Prehistoric Lines: Neolithic, Iron Age and Romano-British Activity in the Former MOD Headquarters, Durrington, Wiltshire" By Steve Thompson and Andrew B. Powell  Published by Wessex Archaeology, 2018 and summarised at .

 "A discoidal 'bluestone' object with heavily ground and flattened edges was found in the tertiary fill of the northern terminal of Romano British ditch 6256 (slot 5145), 7 m from the intersection of the two Late Neolithic posthole alignments (at posthole 5047). The object, which has a rounded trapezoid shape, is 64 mm wide, 67 mm long and 18 mm thick. It is made from a slab of stone that has developed a light grey surface patina, although a fresh break in one corner suggests a poorly developed conchoidal fracture and is a dark grey colour when freshly worked."

Elsewhere at Durrington in another Romao-British context there were found: "18 pottery disks clipped into roughly circular shapes. Suggestions for their use include spindlewhorl production, gaming counters or even ‘pessoi’ for cleaning after defecation."

Pessoi are rarely mentioned as a use for lithics and ceramics though before the luxury of Andrex they were commonly used. Elsewhere pessoi discs are described as 3-10.5 cm in diameter and 0.6-2.2 cm thick. Pessoi, Greek for pebble, is the correct term for lithic ones but is often used for pottery ones, which are also called Ostraka (Ostrakon sing.), which were "re-cut from old broken ceramics to give smooth angles that would minimise anal trauma". Ostraka have the added bonus that you could scratch the name of a person you wanted to Ostracize on them.

The Durrington Bluestone is exactly the right shape, size and context to be one, I wonder whether this posh souvenir from Stonehenge was one?

As an update as I was walking the dogs on the path where occasionally I find a bit of Roman pottery I noticed with fresh eyes a flint disc. I have seen something similar before, it has a crudely worked edge which is smooth rather than either a cutting edge or a bashing edge as most flint tools are.

 After a quick wash I couldn't resist some fundamental experimental archaeology. Not wishing to risk anything valuable I used some Marmite Peanut butter and my fist and as the Greeks had it three wipes with a stone are enough. 


I am now wondering if many of these objects have not been recognised in collections. But it would be an odd hobby to take up looking for them..