Friday 30 December 2011

Neath Barrow Mystery Solved - It's Robin Hood's Ball (Probably)

C Greenwood's map of Wiltshire dated 1820 shows"Neath Barrow" close to Robin Hood's Ball on Salisbury Plain.
This barrow doesn't show up on any other map I have to hand.

Comparing the map to a modern OS map leads me to believe it is actually the Causewayed Enclosure now known as Robin Hood's Ball and maybe an associated tumulus that it is referring to. The name was originally applied to the wood and then transfered to the enclosure.

Click on Maps to get larger versions.

Further investigation found that Neath Barrow was one of the original triangulation points for the Ordnance Survey:

The details are available in this book;

An account of the operations carried out for accomplishing a trigonometrical ... By William Mudge, Isaac Dalby, Thomas Colby, Great Britain. Ordnance Survey

Annoyingly the relevant map Plate VII isn't fully scanned - though presumably others will have a copy.

I'm not sure I understand the angles and distances figures in the attached scan

But I have mapped one place that is the stated distance (32882 feet) from the Beacon Hill Trig Point. - It is also about the right distance from Red Horn Hill, because that distance is given from Red Horn Clump which I don't know the exact position of.

There seems to be a second distance from Beacon Hill given (32869) feet, which is strange. And I am only guessing the Beacon Hill measurement is from where the Trig point was put up.

Frustratingly close to accurately pin pointing the Barrow,

View Neath Barrow? in a larger map

Robin Hood's Ball was the name given to a small circular copse of wood just to the north west of the earthworks. It is probable that over time the name came to be associated with the enclosure instead.

It all points to Neath Barrow being the original name for the enclosure. And before Colt Hoare et al dug it over the barrows on the northwest side it may well have been more impressive.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Dem bluestones | The Times

Dem bluestones | The Times: "Contrary to a recent archaeological report, the arguments for the Stonehenge glacial transport theory still stand
Sir, It is misleading to suggest that new evidence on bluestone provenance freezes out the Stonehenge glacial transport theory (Norman Hammond, “Bluestones glacier theory is now frozen out”, Dec 17). Many bluestone types at Stonehenge do not match the Pont Saeson outcrop. The arguments for glacial transport still stand: varied bluestones, many sources, and glaciers capable of removing large erratics from Pont Saeson and other areas.
Dr Olwen Williams-Thorpe
Senior Visiting Fellow, Open University, Guisborough, N Yorks"

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Bluestone Source Map (one of the sources at least)

View Larger Map

137 miles as Joe the Crow would fly to Stonehenge. Not a hard fact to check but beyond most of the journalists in their pitiable reports this week.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

CultureLab: Augmented monoliths: Stonehenge goes digital

CultureLab: Augmented monoliths: Stonehenge goes digital: "Ever wanted to stand at the centre of Stonehenge at summer solstice and appreciate the site’s beauty without the accompaniment of tourists or druids? Well, now you can. A new augmented reality app gives users a unique perspective on England’s famous standing stones.

Produced by the University of Huddersfield, UK, and developers Ribui, the Stonehenge Experience iPhone app lets users explore a virtual version of the famous site."

Monday 19 December 2011

National Museum Wales Press Release On Origin Of Bluestones

News | National Museum Wales:
New geological discovery paves the way for further insight into the transport of Stonehenge rocks

A new paper in Archaeology in Wales, produced by Dr Rob Ixer of Leicester University and Dr Richard Bevins of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales confirms, for the first time, the exact origin of some the rhyolite debitage found at Stonehenge. This work could now lead to important conclusions about how stones were transported from Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge.

Over a period of nine months, Bevins and Ixer have been carefully collecting and identifying samples from rock outcrops in Pembrokeshire to try and locate the provenance of rocks that can be found at what is today, one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites.
Their recent discovery confirms that the Stonehenge rhyolite debitage originates from a specific 70m long area namely Craig Rhos-y-felin near Pont Saeson. Using petrographical techniques, Ixer and Bevins found that 99% of these rhyolites could be matched to rocks found in this particular set of outcrops. Rhyolitic rocks at Rhos-y-felin are distinctly different from all others in South Wales, which gives almost all of Stonehenge rhyolites a provenance of just hundreds of square metres.
Yet, the story progresses. Along the Rhos-y-felin crags, the rhyolites are distinctly different on a scale of metres or tens of metres. This has enabled Bevins and Ixer to match some Stonehenge debitage samples to an even more precise locality at the extreme northeastern end of the area.
What this means is that the area is now small enough for archaeologists to excavate to try and uncover evidence for associated human activity so providing another strand of the story of how the stones from Pembrokeshire reached Stonehenge.
Dr Richard Bevins of Amgueddfa Cymru said:
“Many have asked the question over the years, how the stones got from Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge. Was it human transport? Was it due to ice transport? Thanks to geological research, we now have a specific source for the rhyolite stones from which to work and an opportunity for archaeologists to answer the question that has been widely debated. It is important now that the research continues.”
In addition the level of work carried out at Rhos-y-felin confirms that the four remaining above surface rhyolite and dacite orthostats at Stonehenge do not come from Rhos-y-felin and work is in hand to determine if their source can be identified.
Dr Rob Ixer of Leicester University added:
“Being able to provenance any archaeologically significant rock so precisely is remarkable, to do it for Stonehenge was quite unexpected and exciting. However, given continued perseverance, we are determined that we shall uncover the origins of most, if not all of the Stonehenge bluestones so allowing archaeologists to continue their speculations well into a third century.”

Date: 19 December 2011

Sunday 18 December 2011

Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle - News - Archaeology - The Independent

Scientists discover source of rock used in Stonehenge's first circle - News - Archaeology - The Independent:

The work - carried out by geologists Robert Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales - has pinpointed the source as a 70 metre long rock outcrop called Craig Rhos-y-Felin, near Pont Saeson in north Pembrokeshire. It's the first time that an exact source has been found for any of the stones thought to have been used to build Stonehenge.

The discovery has re-invigorated one of academia's longest running debates - whether the smaller standing stones of Stonehenge were quarried and brought all the way there from Pembrokeshire by prehistoric humans or whether they had already been plucked out of ancient rock outcrops and carried all or part of the way to Wiltshire by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

Archaeologists tend to subscribe to the 'human transport' theory, while some geomorphologists favour the glacial one. The debate is solely about Stonehenge's early/smaller standing stones (often known collectively as 'bluestones') - not about the larger ones (most of the so-called 'sarsens') which were incorporated into the monument several centuries later.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Bluestones theory is now frozen out | The Times

Bluestones theory is now frozen out | The Times:
Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent
December 17 2011 12:01AM
The long-running debate about the origin of the Stonehenge “bluestones” and how they got to Salisbury Plain some four millennia ago has taken another turn: a precise quarry source for much of the Stonehenge rock has been pinned down to a few square metres in southwestern Wales. This supports the notion that the bluestones were taken by human agency all the way from Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire, rather than helped along their way in the Ice Age by glacier transport.
“The glacial theory is frozen out by this new evidence,” Dr Rob Ixer of Leicester University told The Times. If the stones had been transported east of the Bristol Channel by glacial action, a much wider range of sources would be expected. The pinpoint sourcing that has now been done argues strongly for human quarrying and transport of the bluestones, whatever the motivation and precise route employed.........
Three major rock types and two minor ones can be identified within the “bluestone” range using both the entire stones and waste chips known as debitage which result from trimming the slabs on site at Stonehenge. The three major groups, originally thought to be from different geographical sources, can now be shown to be from the same locale.
The area of the new find lies at Pont Saeson on the northern flank of the Preseli Mountains, long known as the general source of the bluestones, some 6.5 kilometres (four miles) from Newport in north Pembrokeshire. The discovery follows the use of zircons included in the rocks to identify an area near Pont Saeson as one likely source of Stonehenge material by Dr Ixer and his colleague Dr Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales.
“Almost all — 99.9 per cent — of the Stonehenge rhyolitic ‘debitage’ can be petrographically matched to rhyolitic rocks found within a few hundred square metres at Pont Saeson and especially to those found at Craig Rhosyfelin.
“However, it is possible in a few cases, where the petrography of these Welsh in situ rocks is so distinctive, to suggest an even finer provenance to within square metres, namely to individual outcrops,” Ixer and Bevins report in Archaeology in Wales.
The outcrop itself is some 70 metres long and has many tall, narrow slabs up to two metres (6.5 feet) high as the dominant feature, splitting off from the parent rock and reminiscent of the Stonehenge bluestones. One of the Stonehenge shafts, known as SH32e, can be matched very closely to this outcrop, and must have been quarried there, not transported by a glacier.
The dispute over natural versus human transportation for these elements of an early and important phase of Stonehenge now seems to be settled —as Ixer says, the glacial theory is out cold.
Archaeology in Wales Vol. 50 pp 21-31

The full story is available behind the paywall at The Times - or summarised by Mike Pitt here

Sunday 11 December 2011

The Unfinished Stonehenge

Wiltshire Heritage Museum Events: "LECTURE: The Stonehenge Landscape Project
2:30 pm, Saturday, 10 March, 2012

Recent Analytical survey and investigation in the World Heritage Site, by David Field."

This is a repeat of the lecture I went to yesterday - highly recommended if you can make it.

One titbit revealed is the absence of stoneholes for some of the missing sarsen stones. I'm sure we will hear much more about this in the near future so I won't steal their thunder. But if we can't find the stoneholes those sarsens weren't stolen or broken up but never erected...

Winter Solstice Sunrise alignment at Stonehenge

Winter Solstice Sunrise alignment at Stonehenge: "there is a deliberate Winter Solstice Sunrise alignment through Stonehenge, making use of a notch in Stone 58 to target a position on Coneybury Ridge where the sun rose in 2500BC."

Impressive find - I'll be there on the morning to try and see it.