Monday 16 February 2015

Where the missing Sarsens went?

One of the mysteries of Stonehenge is what happened tothe missing Sarsens. Assuming it was complete somewhere in the order of 300 tonnes of sarsen stone is miising. Apart from the edge damage caused by visitors it seems that complete stones were removed and that they were chosen from within the monument for some reason. Why take that lintel but leave the easier to remove fallen stone here? The stones don't seem to be present in any local buildings and it seems to odd to suggest they were broken up for roadstone when the easier pickings of the bluestones don't seem to have been so.

Julian Richards has suggested that one reason that sarsens were removed was for the stone to be used for producing grinding querns. There is very little stone in neighborhood suitable for stones to grind grain with and some sarsen stone types are very suitable, other less so. So a source of excellent source material may have been irresistible in the later Bronze Age, and a quern manufactory set up.

"East of (north Fargo) plantation the field system corresponds with an area of later Bronze Age activity identified by extensive surface collection in the winter of 1980-81 and subsequently sampled more intensively (Richards, J 1990 The Stonehenge Environs Project. HBMC: London ). The surface scatter consisted of pottery and large quantities of burnt flint and burnt and broken sarsen, including quern fragments, and was interpreted as a small nucleated area of later Bronze Age settlement, lying within the area of regular field"

Research Department Report Series 82-2011
Sharon Bishop


  1. You gotta be kidding Tim?

    Amesbury Abbey was the most likeliest culprit and after the dissolution the stone could have gone anywhere including the nearest listed house to Stonehenge, West Amesbury House which has stone quoins and garden walls covered with sarsen stonework!!

    And as for Julian's 'grinding querns' (if you had a choice) well the bluestones are a better stone than Sarsen for grinding - as its harder.


  2. I would point out that West Amesbury House doesn't seem to have any visible sarsen stonework, though it is rumoured to have some internally, which I doubt.

    Also sarsen is much harder than the various types of bluestone and can have the ideal granular texture for grinding, unlike rhyolite for instance.

  3. You may be right about West Amesbury House - I'm no stone expert, but looking at a similar site 'Old Sarum' you find Sarsen stone in the foundations of old Salisbury cathedral (probably from an old stone circle that would have been located on the site) as they are not as good as limestone for carving but make very good foundation blocks.

    Seek out the location of the original Amesbury Abbey and look for the foundations if they still exist - pound to a penny you find your Stonehenge Sarsens!!



  4. pound to a penny you find your Stonehenge Sarsens!!

    When does the book close on those odds? (not sure how many pennies I can get into a honda without doing the suspension in)