Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Stonehenge Cart Tracks?

STONEHENGE FOR THE ANCESTORS: PART 1
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 https://www.wessexarch.co.uk/our-work/mod-durrington .

 "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..

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

The Great Bluestone Provenance Hunt – 2020 Update

I note elsewhere that there are worries that the bluestone bloodhounds haven’t been testing enough rocks to justify their assertions that the sites so far identified as sources of the Stonehenge non-dolerite bluestones (SH38 40 46 48) and the Craig Rhosyfelin-like outcrops are unique. Similar criticism has been made of the Sarsen sourcers. Sampling will always have this criticism and the familiar cry of more test and tracing is voiced endlessly.

But with Bluestones and Sarsens it seems that the coverage has been more than reasonable so far and any further refinements will be building on firm foundations.

The Whispering Molinia tells me that MPP had a remarkably successful 2020, considering.., and many more boxes of rock samples are off to be analysed so that nearly 250 potential bluestone locations that will soon have been checked against the Stonehenge references. They have been snuffling up and down the streams that flow around Craig Rhos-y-felin leaving no stone unturned.  I look forward to learning the results.

 


Areas sampled for bluestone rocks up to the end of 2020

Monday, 22 February 2021

Bluestone Arse Wipe

I was asked about the rumours of a second Bluestone pebble found in the Durrington Larkhill area.
The archaeological report on the imputed find spot in Larkhill doesn't seem to support the rumours:""An archaeological evaluation conducted in 1999 immediately adjacent to the site (WA 95) revealed a few features such as gullies, building footings and a trackway, although they were all thought to be modern in date." and I can not find any other report of such a find.
Unless an actual report surfaces I think we can put this down to crossed wires.

The bluestone pebble found in Durrington is fully reported in  a report I have;  
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 https://www.wessexarch.co.uk/our-work/mod-durrington and here.

"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.



Further, thin section petrography shows the artefact to be manufactured from rhyolite with a 'sub- jovian' texture, texturally one of the most extreme (and hence characteristic) of the Craig Rhosyfelin rhyolitic rocks. In hand specimen, this rock-type would be very distinctive.
Relict flake scars confirm that the blank was subjected to rudimentary bifacial flaking around the edges, although it is less certain by how much the sides of the object result from flaking or are products of natural fracture. The edges of the object are all heavily ground, with a distinct flattened facet around the circumference. This flattened facet is a sufficiently recurring feature of similar objects of the type to indicate that it was an original feature and not a subsequent alteration to the edge. Grinding also extended across both sides of the object by as much as 11 mm from the edges.
The function of the object remains unknown; "

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? 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Eric Ravilious Wiltshire Landscape - Where is it?

 




The location of the 1937 painting by Eric Ravilious titled Wiltshire Landscape is argued over. He painted it when staying near Andover and was being driven "out across Salisbury Plain" 
https://jamesrussellontheweb.blogspot.com/2014/06/eric-ravilious-wiltshire-landscape.html

It is usually thought to be on the road from Alton Barnes to Horton. As I live on that road I would be thrilled if it was but even allowing for artistic licence it isn't.

All the junctions on that road are crossroads with tracks to the downs opposite the roads to the villages. The one exception is the western turning to Stanton St Bernard which is now a crossroads but the track is modern - the 1922 map doesn't show it. But the turning had allotment gardens alongside it.
The trees on the left are also far too close for that location as well, and the road never had telephone wires along it. The boundary between the Marlborough and Devizes exchange is there and there was and still isn't any connection along that road, annoyingly for me as I'm the last house on the Devizes exchange and the Marlborough line has fibre Broadband which I lust after.

The shadows in the picture are indistinct and don't give a clear indication of direction, but the telegraph pole maybe throwing a shadow.

Having looked at all the possible roads I am convinced the nearest in appearance to the junction is the turning to Wilsford off the A342 which is on the road to Andover from the northern parts of Salisbury Plain.

The 1922 map shows a T junction with a Guide Post  in the right place and an open field opposite the turning. The hills to the right and the spring line trees on the left are very similar and the hills in the distance  are  a close match.  

I can't find a better match.