Friday 30 May 2014

Darwin, Stonehenge and Worms

The Sinking of great Stones through the Action of Worms. 

When a stone of large size and of irregular shape is left on the surface of the ground, it rests, of course, on the more protuberant parts ; but worms soon fill up with their castings all the hollow spaces on the lower side ; for, as Hensen re- marks, they like the shelter of stones. As soon as the hollows are filled up, the worms eject the earth which they have swallowed beyond the circumference of the stones; and thus the surface of the ground is raised around the stone. As the burrows excavated directly beneath the stone after a time collapse, the stone sinks a little. Hence it is, that boulders which at some ancient period have rolled down from a rocky mountain or cliff on to a meadow at its base, are always somewhat embedded in the soil ; and, when removed, leave an exact impression of their lower surfaces in the under-lying fine mould. If, however, a boulder is of such huge dimensions, that the earth beneath is kept dry, such earth will not be inhabited by worms, and the boulder will not sink into the ground.....

At Stonehenge, some of the outer Druidical stones are now prostrate, having fallen at a remote but unknown period ; and these have become buried to a moderate depth in the ground. They are surrounded by sloping borders of turf, on which recent castings were seen. Close to one of these fallen stones, which was 17 ft. long, 6 ft. broad, and 28 inches thick, a hole was dug ; and here the vegetable mould was at least 9 inches in thickness. At this depth a flint was found, and a little higher up on one side of the hole a fragment of glass. The base of the stone lay about 9 inches beneath the level of the surrounding ground, and its upper surface 19 inches above the ground.

A hole was also dug close to a second huge stone, which in falling had broken into two pieces; and this must have happened long ago, judging from the weathered aspect of the fractured ends. The base was buried to a depth of 10 inches, as was ascertained by driving an iron skewer horizontally into the ground beneath it. The vegetable mould forming the turf-covered sloping border round the stone, on which many castings had recently been ejected, was 10 inches in thickness ; and most of this mould must have been brought up by worms from beneath its base. At a distance of 8 yards from the stone, the mould was only 5 inches in thickness (with a piece of tobacco pipe at a depth of 4 inches), and this rested on broken flint and chalk which could not have easily yielded to the pressure or weight of the stone. A straight rod was fixed horizontally (by the aid of a spirit-level) across a third fallen stone, which was 7 feet 9 inches long ; and the contour of the projecting parts and of the adjoining ground, which was not quite level, was thus ascertained, as shown in the accompanying diagram (Fig. 7) on a scale of 1/2 inch to a foot.

 The turf-covered border sloped up to the stone on one side to a height of 4 inches, and on the opposite side to only 2 inches above the general level. A hole was dug on the eastern side, and the base of the stone was here found to lie at a depth of 4 inches beneath the general level of the ground, and of 8 inches beneath the top of the sloping turf-covered border....

 From The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits: by Charles Darwin

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Stonehenge Missing Acres

I noted that there was a discrepancy in areas, and I couldn't work it out so I jotted down some notes.

Cecil Chubb gave 30.730 acres which were part of Ordnance Survey parcel number 22 to the Nation.  See

Old Ordnance Survey Maps  - from - show how the various bits of land were measured at various times.

Including the byway the parcels are measured at 29.09 acres in 1924 and 29.01 in 1939. It is worth noting that the old A344 is given a different parcel number before and after the Deed of Gift as parcel number 12. (click to enlarge map) so I presumed it should not have been included in the original measurements.

(English Heritage could be just relying on the principle of "ad medium filum" to now manage the roadway.)

So we have 1 3/4 acres missing.

But if the roadway was included in the acreage gives the part of parcel 12 which adjoined the original (halved to only take it to the middle) as just under an acre. And if the same exercise is undertaken on the A303 a similar amount can also be added. (Width of the road may have changed over the years so complete accuracy is impossible).

So problem solved? And proof that the original gift of land included the roadways to their middle line?

Tuesday 13 May 2014

MidWinter Solstice Sunrise Alignments at Stonehenge

Some time ago I postulated that the Great Trilithon was skewed by the builders of Stonehenge so that not only did the Midwinter Solstice Sunset shine through its centre (the Midsummer Sunrise is on the same alignment) but that the Midwinter Solstice Sunrise was also aligned to the angle of the stones, and therefore the Summer Solstice Sunset as well.

More details are at and in my Stonehenge and the Winter Solstice leaflet.

By twisting the Great Trilithon across the main axis they cleverly acknowledged the two angles.

(Previous posts on this blog extensively examine whether Stone 56 was re-erected in the right place and whether 55 was in line with it - I'm happy that they both were. to the North East of the stone hole for the fallen Stone 55 there are two sarsen packing stones, which are marked on the plans below. The show how Stone 55 was in line with the re-erected 56 and provide further proof - see for details.)

The Altar Stone also lies at this twisted angle across the axis - see    Of course we aren't sure if the Altar stone was originally in this position or not, but there is at least a possibility that it was. Quite a strong possibility I think.

To the north east of the Altar stone there are two post holes which we know little about, they may be part of a structure or simple post holes, further north of them has been so excavated in previous centuries we will never know. These posts are again on this same twisted alignment.

The outer Bluestone circle is badly damaged at the axis and largely unexcavated, but it seems to again be twisted to the alignment.

The end of the inner Bluestone Horseshoe has been damaged by the fall of the great trilithon. The central stone, stone 67 lies flattened on the ground but the two either side of it survive in damaged form.

The easterly stone, stone 66, has a tongue on it and the stump of it lies under the edge of Stone 55. I show pictures of it at

The westerly one, stone 68 has a groove down its length and stands leaning as shown in . Because of its lean it is mapped on the plan north of its original position. If it was restored to the vertical it would be further to the south.

The two stones define the shape of the end of the horseshoe. It was again twisted to the same Midwinter sunrise alignment.

The plans below show the main alignment down the middle, this is the famous solsticial one for the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

I have indicated these five possible twisted alignments, all of which point to the midwinter sunrise, and midsummer sunset.

None on their own is complete proof that this twist was deliberate, and some are more certainly original than others. But all the features that cross the main axis are either perpendicular or at this angle; an angle that was marked in other monuments of this age.

Cleverer people than I could do Baysian analysis of this but when something happens five times I recall the words of Auric Goldfinger; “'Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it's enemy action.'”

(There may well be other features also so aligned such as those noted in and )

Please click the plans to enlarge them. Plans are based on ones from Cleal et al.

UPDATE - 17/5/14  Standing alone in Stonehenge yesterday it struck me that the alignment of 66 - 68  etc may just be aesthetic rather than alignments per se. When the Great Trilithon was upright and dominating the centre it would have looked odd if the smaller stones in front of it were not at a symmetrical distance in front of it. Thus these other alignments may be seen as confirmation that the Great Trilithon was erected at the angle observed above. 

Original Position of Stone 68

Stone 68 is leaning, but it is useful to note where it probably originally was. The original centre spot depends on how deep the stone is into the ground and how it is tilted. Gowland excavated the base of 68 and measuring the middle of the base to the middle of the ground level plan gives a lean of about 15 inches or 38 cm. I believe it would be fair to place it in line with the break between 55a and 55b when the plans are measured.

Stone 66 can be seen in these photos just under the edge of 55b.

The reason for the lean can be seen in old photos.

The Stones of Stonehenge

"A site with a page devoted to each stone at Stonehenge.

This website is a work in progress toward that end. Not all stones currently have pages, but eventually they will have."


Sunday 11 May 2014

An Extra Stone at Stonehenge is Spotted

A surprise - Stone 66 is visible. I'm not sure if it is where a bunny has scratched or if I just have never noticed it before, but the beautiful smooth domed bluestone top is partially visible.

(Of course it means I will have to update the page as well now.)

From Atkinson Stonehenge 1979 edition

The Hidden Face of the Altar Stone

A couple of snaps of the Altar Stone where it lies protected from visitors' feet under Stone 55. I was surprised how rough it looks, it is described by Atkinson as being finely worked. Of course, I could only see a small section which was partially covered by soil, which a four legged furry friend had been disturbing, so looks may be deceiving.

But if it is a roughly hewn rather than finely worked does this mean it is more likely to  have been vertical once or not?

More on the stone at

It is cromulent to embiggen the pictures by clicking them.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Twisted Stone 10, a problem solved.

I noticed that Stone 10 is marked as being twisted out of a true circular position.

From the current EH guidebook, circle added.

From Cleal et al

Stone 11 is out of line because it is leaning outwards, but 10 has never been restored or moved so it seems to be in its original position. Examining it on the ground the twist is quite obvious, and I have spent quite a few hours chewing over the problem as to what it could mean. Could it be related to the idea of 11 being an entrance way?

This morning the solution came to me thanks to one of Adam Stanford's Aerial Cam photos.

The ground level may be twisted but the top with the two tenons is exactly right. What amazing engineering!

Click to enlarge any picture.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Stone 66

From Cleal et al  

The published picture is misleading to me because it seems to be printed on its side. By turning it I can make sense of it.

Stonehenge Stone no. 66
Mr.R. S. Newall (1952).
The Antiquaries JournalVolume 32Issue1-2, April 1952 pp 65-67

From Atkinson Stonehenge 1979 edition

Monday 5 May 2014

The False Mortise Holes on Stone 156

On what was the top of Stone 156, which was the lintel on top of the Great Trilithon, there are two holes which roughly correspond to the mortise holes on the bottom of it. It is normally accepted that they were mistakes, that the stonemasons started chipping out the holes and then someone said," No, turn the stone over."

I'm not convinced, other theories are that they may have held the bottom of a second storey of trilithons or that they may have held burning pots, though no heat fractures have been found.

But whatever, I have been requested to post some pictures of them:

Click to embiggen

Sunday 4 May 2014

Summer Solstice 2014 at Stonehenge Arrangements

Celebrating the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Stonehenge is an ancient prehistoric site and has been a place of worship and celebration at the time of Summer Solstice since time immemorial.

During Managed Open Access for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, we support all individuals and groups conducting their own forms of ceremony and celebration providing that they are mutually respectful and tolerant of one another. It is a place seen by many as a sacred site - therefore please respect it and those attending.

English Heritage continues to work closely with the many agencies and people from all sectors of the community and we would like to thank them for their help and support.
Parking and entry to the Monument will be free, subject to the Conditions of Entry. Please do not arrive at the Solstice car park or Stonehenge in advance of the opening times listed below.

Please note: As Summer Solstice this year occurs on a Friday/Saturday, the roads around Stonehenge will be very busy. We strongly advise visitors to leave their cars at home and travel to Stonehenge using public transport. See Travel for further information.

You can also follow @eh_stonehenge on Twitter for travel updates on the night.

Timings for Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

19.00 hours (7pm) Friday 20 June
19.00 hours (7pm) Friday 20 June
06.00 hours (6am) Saturday 21 June
08.00 hours (8am) Saturday 21 June
12.00 hours (12 Noon) Saturday 21 June

We hope the weather will be kind and wish you a peaceful and celebratory solstice.

Sunset and Sunrise

Sunset and sunrise occur at the following times:

Sunset on Friday 20 June 2014 is at 21.26 hrs (9.26pm)

Sunrise on Saturday 21 June 2014 is at 04.52 hrs (4.52am)

Thursday 1 May 2014

Puddingstone Meeting and Field Trip

Puddingstone and related silcretes of the Anglo-Paris Basin - geological and archaeological perspectives
Date: 16 - 19 May 2014 Burlington House, London

The meeting will cover puddingstones and silcretes of similar age in both the Hampshire and Paris Basins, and the weekend field trip will include East Hertfordshire/Essex, then Saint-Saƫns and Sotteville in Northern France. It is anticipated that both the meeting and the post-conference field trips will lead to further co-operative research between archaeologists and geologists.
Speakers include:

  •  Tony Brown 
  • Chris Green 
  • Jenny Huggett 
  • Bryan Lovell 
  • David Nash 
  • Mike Parker Pearson 
  • Florence Quesnel 
  • Jane Tubb 

Full details can be found within the draft PDF programme.

Registration: Deadline: Friday 14 March 2014

I await the papers with interest.


Barclay, Edgar. Stonehenge and Its Earth-Works. With Plans and Illustrations. London: D. Nutt, 1895.

Fascinating and well illustrated book on Stonehenge.

Free to browse at

or downloadable from

Click to embiggen