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" 

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.  

Monday, 9 November 2020

MPP at Waun Mawn - Diwrnod Archaeoleg 2020 Archaeology Day


Waun Mawn: a former stone circle near the bluestone quarries for Stonehenge by Prof. Mike Parker Pearson. 

In 2017 and 2018 the Stones of Stonehenge Project, led by researchers from University College London and the universities of Southampton, Bournemouth and the Highlands & Islands, carried out excavations at Waun Mawn in North Pembrokeshire to discover if the four monoliths there are all that is left of a prehistoric stone circle. These four monoliths – three of them recumbent and one still standing – form an arc which previous archaeologists have suspected may be remains of a circle. Our excavations discovered a further six empty sockets around the perimeter, revealing that this stone circle was originally 110m in diameter. This makes it one of the largest stone circles in Britain and the same diameter as the ditch around Stonehenge. The team have also been able to establish its age by radiocarbon dating and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) profiling and dating.

- - - - 

Waun Mawn: safle cerrig cylch blaenorol ger y chwareli cerrig glas ar gyfer Côr y Cewri gan Yr Athro Mike Parker Pearson (yn yr iaith Saesneg) 

Rhwng 2017 a 2018 ddaru brosiect Cerrig o Gôr y Cewri, wedi ei arwain gan ymchwilwyr o Brifysgolion Coleg Llundain, Southampton, Bournemouth ag yr Highlands & Islands, cloddio Waun Mawn yn ogledd Sir Benfro. Pwrpas y cloddio oedd darganfod os dim ond y pedwar monolithiau ar y safle oedd ar ôl o’r cylch cerrig cynhanes. Mae tair o’r monolithiau yn orweddol, tra bod un dal yn sefyll, gyda’u gilydd yn ffurfio arc mae archaeolegwyr yn y gorffennol wedi dynodi i fod yn olion o gylch flaenorol. Mae’r cloddio diweddar wedi darganfod chwech socedi cerrig ychwanegol o gwmpas y perimedr, sydd yn dadlennu fod y cylch crwn ar y safle wedi bod yn 110m o ddiamedr yn wreiddiol. Mae hyn yn gwneud y cylch crwn yma yn un o’r rhai mwyaf yn Prydain a’r un diamedr a’r ffos o gwmpas Côr y Cewri. Mae’r tîm hefyd wedi sicrhau oed y safle yn defnyddio dyddio carbonradio ag methodoleg dyddio a phroffilio ymoleuedd cyffroi optegol. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020



Landscape and Monuments 

Mike Parker Pearson, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas, Chris Tilley & Kate Welham 

ISBN: 9789088907029

More details and read for free at:

For many centuries, scholars and enthusiasts have been fascinated by Stonehenge, the world’s most famous stone circle. In 2003 a team of archaeologists commenced a long-term fieldwork project there for the first time in decades. The Stonehenge Riverside Project (2003-2009) aimed to investigate the purpose of this unique prehistoric monument by considering it within its wider archaeological context.

This is the first of four volumes which present the results of that campaign. It includes investigations of the monuments and landscape that pre-dated Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain as well as excavation at Stonehenge itself. The main discovery at Stonehenge was of cremated human remains from many individuals, allowing their demography, health and dating to be established. With a revised radiocarbon-dated chronology for Stonehenge’s five stages of construction, these burials can now be considered within the context of the monument’s development. The different types of stone from which Stonehenge is formed – bluestones from Wales and sarsen silcretes from more local sources – are investigated both at Stonehenge and in its surroundings. These surrounding monuments include single standing stones, the Cuckoo Stone and the Tor Stone, as well as the newly discovered circle of Bluestonehenge at West Amesbury beside the River Avon. The ceremonial Stonehenge Avenue, linking Stonehenge to Bluestonehenge, is also included, with a series of excavations along its length.

The working hypothesis behind the Stonehenge Riverside Project links Stonehenge with a complex of timber monuments upstream at the great henge of Durrington Walls and neighbouring Woodhenge. Whilst these other sites are covered in a later volume (Volume 3), this volume explores the role of the River Avon and its topographic and environmental evidence.

With contributions by: Umberto Albarella, Michael Allen, Olaf Bayer, Wayne Bennett, Richard Bevins, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Chris Casswell, Andrew Chamberlain, Benjamin Chan, Rosamund Cleal, Gordon Cook, Glyn Davies, David Field, Charles French, Robert Ixer, Neil Linford, Peter Marshall, Louise Martin, Claudia Minniti, Doug Mitcham, Bob Nunn, Andy Payne, Mike Pitts, Rebecca Pullen, Julian Richards, David Robinson, Clive Ruggles, Jim Rylatt, Rob Scaife, Ellen Simmons, Charlene Steele, James Sugrue, Anne Teather, Sarah Viner, Tony Waldron, Katy Whitaker and Christie Willis

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Macro Photos of Stones 53 and 54

 Steve Marshall has kindly provided some macro photos of the surface of Stones 53 (purple-grey) and 54 (orange) 

Stone 53

Stone 54


Friday, 28 August 2020

Stones of Many Colours

Beside the road at Clatford Crossroads just to the North East of West Woods there is a lovely Sarsen enclosure, probably a Pound. Obviously crafted from local stones it displays the wide variety of the colours and crusts of the Sarsen stones. It would fascinating to see the results of a PXRF on them.