Wednesday 18 December 2019

Stonehenge Bluestone Glaciation Pontification

Dr Brian John takes aim on his blog at a mystery man who raises doubts about John's theory that glaciers brought the bluestones to Stonehenge, or at least somewhere near by, by answering some questions put to him. He claims "there is not a shred of hard evidence in support of the idea of long-distance human transport of bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge, either by land or sea." Taking absence of evidence as evidence of absence he declares it must obviously be glaciers then. has the full question and answer but briefly, the questions put first, the meat of Dr John's answers for brevity's sake next in italics and my own short thoughts afterwards.

1)Where's all the other bluestones on the Salisbury Plain? Surely a glacier wouldn't have brought only the precise number of them required at Stonehenge...?

Response: this is an absurd point, and I cannot for the life of me understand why people are still making it, after all the advances of recent years. Forget the "immaculate Stonehenge" with 82 bluestones and 82 sarsens. There is no evidence that Stonehenge was ever completed.....It is far more logical to suggest that there never were enough bluestones to finish "the Stonehenge project", and that after playing around with assorted stone settings over many centuries, the builders (maybe the descendants of the originators) just gave up and walked away...... This argues for the use of glacially transported erratics which were systematically collected up and used -- until there were none left in the Stonehenge landscape.

So not a single bluestone left unfound in a till deposit? Really? No little ones that weren't big enough to be erected? No pebbles? That is stretching the bounds of believability.

2. While sampling the various types of stone isn't allowed at the site, the volume of chips found in the wide area would easily correspond with the presumed number of present and missing stones. There's lots of visual evidence that points to stone-bashing throughout the life of the monument. See also the 'Stonehenge Layer'.

Response: The suggestion that the "volume of chips" somehow corresponds with the presumed number of missing stones does not survive a moment's scrutiny. Some mathematics please!...

OK. Roughly to get order of magnitude, 30 two tonne stones missing (above ground). 60 Tonnes of Bluestone. Stonehenge layer covers roughly 120 square meters. Stonehenge layer is the debitage from making trinkets so assume wastage at a quarter the of weight, but if trinkets are made elsewhere, as bluestone debitage found elsewhere might suggest, halve that. So the expected weight would be in the order of 1/8 tonne per square meter - 125kg per square meter (1/8 of 60 tonnes spread over 120 square meters) . The layer is 350mm thick of which a large proportion is bluestone, say equivalent to 50mm of it. Which would be 130kg of bluestone at a 2.6 tonne cubic meter density. Very, very rough maths but as a first pass to get an idea of magnitude not too far off.

3. The vacant stone-pipe at Rhosefellin more than suggests it was removed by humans -- no glacier would select a single example from that face and leave the others intact. Despite what Dr Johns says, the site was a well-used quarry from as far back as the Mesolithic. The petro-chemistry of that pipe matches Bluestone-44, that stone having been sampled before the present rules applied.

Response: Ah -- Rhosyfelin! A lovely spot. Right on my doorstep. Now we are seriously into the realms of fantasy. "The vacant stone pipe" or "monolith extraction point" (as MPP likes to call it) does not exist....

You say, he says. Shall we just say the jury is out on whether the monolith was levered out or fell out? But that doesn't tell us much about how it made the rest of the journey. The question of the quarrying is a different one to the transport and conflating the two is unhelpful.

4. In the 1920s HH Thomas was wrong about a possible source being Carn Meini -- they are now known to include Carn Goedog and probably Bedd Arthur. There is a lot of archaeological evidence surrounding these sources.

...most definitely not Bedd Arthur. The latter is not a rock outcrop but a stone setting including small locally-derived monoliths; nobody has ever claimed that it was a source for Stonehenge monoliths. More care, please.

No comment to the archaeology around Carn Goedog I note.

5. There is a marked difference in size and shape between the outer bluestone ring and the inner horseshoe. This strongly suggests they arrived at different times -- the outer ring almost certainly near-original, with the taller versions being installed after the Trilithons went up, much much later. How likely is it these were collected from deposits of the near-environs in such precise order?

...I strongly disagree that the stones arrived at different times, as a result of two distinct stone-collecting expeditions. There is no evidence to support that contention. There was no "precise order." I agree that the stones have been rearranged many times, and my reading of the evidence is that in the last re-setting the "best" of the bluestone assemblage (including the tallest and most elegant pillars) were selected for the horseshoe, and some of them were carefully worked and embellished.

Sorry, having spent many hours in close communion with them they are an as obvious two different sets of stones as one could wish for. There are no intermediate members of the sets.

7. Show me evidence of a glacially entrained Welsh Bluestone south of Bristol.
The idea of glacial transport has been thoroughly examined and found to be implausible. It's not the conspiracy of prevailing thought -- it's very well established.

Response: If you don't mind me saying so, that is an arrogant and dismissive statement put out by somebody who does not know the literature. Can Mr X please tell us which experts have found the glacial transport idea to be implausible?....Mr X needs to do some enlightening Christmas reading. On the matter of glacially entrained bluestones south of Bristol, he just needs to buy a copy of my book...

So no answer to the key point: "Show me evidence of a glacially entrained Welsh Bluestone south of Bristol"

So still no evidence of bluestones being brought by glaciers to the English side of the River Severn, and once you accept, which he does, that the builders of Stonehenge could manoeuvre the stones a short distance then it is logical that could have moved them hundreds of miles. It is just a question of time.

I think we have moved on from Atkinson's view that the builders of Stonehenge were “howling barbarians, practically savages,” and acknowledge them as skilled tenacious craftspeople who had no need of a deus ex machina in the shape of glaciers, aliens or Merlin. So until we see a shred of evidence that glaciers brought the bluestones across the water we are entitled to ignore the Glacial transport theory. The question has rightly been put but there are no observations to support the hypothesis of glacial transport nor has the null hypothesis, that they were transported by humans, as many other stones at that period were and as even they were on part of their journey, been put in doubt by any observations.

Conclusion: There is not a shred of hard evidence in support of the idea of long-distance glacial transport of bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge, either by land or sea.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Inter-visibility of Causewayed Enclosures

(Original post from 2016) I am puzzled why the Causewayed Enclosure of Rybury Camp, which is above where I live, is skewed off the top of the hill. Because of the later Iron Age banks, which are centred on the top of the hill, it is hard to immediately see this. It means that the camp would have been invisible from the Pewsey Vale. But it struck me that it also means it faces Milk Hill to the east. Knap Hill to the east of Milk Hill also faces Milk Hill. Early Ordnance Surveyors used the sight line from Milk Hill to Neath Barrow, as Robin Hood's Ball was then called, to the south. And Windmill Hill by Avebury is just down the valley to the north.

Alastair Oswald is investigating "A sense of place: sensory perceptions of Neolithic causewayed enclosures in their landscape contexts"and notes : "The observation that many causewayed enclosures ‘tilt’ across the contours, with the result that their viewsheds are restricted by higher ground, was first made by Isobel Smith more than forty years ago (Smith 1971, 92). Smith interpreted this phenomenon as evidence that each monument was designed to be intervisible with a specific lower-lying area, perhaps equating to a 'territory' exploited by its builders. Despite a subsequent increase in the number of known upland sites, the observation still holds good for many, so Smith’s inference has been amplified (Oswald et al. 2001, 91-102) and is now accepted by key authorities (Healy 2004, 31; Mercer 2009, 766; Whittle et al 2011, 12)."

I have Anquet's OMN on my system which allows me to plot route elevations, which give sightlines and it seemed that at the very flat summit of Milk Hill there was a possibility to find a place where all four were visible, though Robin Hoods Ball being 18 km away the visibility of it may be considered more theoretical to the naked eye.

There is, it is a very small area, there is permissive public footpath across the field to the summit so I urge you to find it for yourself, and with the right camera a much better photograph than my panorama may be possible.

(2019 Update) - Since this was first published another causewayed enclosure has been discovered at Larkhill and checking the elevations it appears that it too would have been visible from the same spot. Five causewayed enclosures visible from one place.

Click to enlarge

Monday 21 October 2019

Heritage at Risk from The Crown

Embiggenable by clicking

The Heritage at Risk map - check the link to get yours.

The red dots are heritage assets that are at risk and the details are linked. Sadly many are declining, on the Marlborough Downs it is mainly from animal burrowing and in the surrounding area it is from arable farming. In the area on the map the arable farms are mainly owned by the Crown. As landlords shouldn't we expect better from them?

I have put in a FOI to ask.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Stonehenge for the Ancestors Book Prelaunch Offer.

Stonehenge for the Ancestors: Part 1

Landscape and Monuments

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

ISBN: 9789088907029

Imprint: Sidestone Press | Format: 210x280mm | ca. 520 pp. | The Stonehenge Riverside Project Volume 1 | Language: English | 202 illus. (bw) | 190 illus. (fc) | Keywords: Stonehenge, archaeology, prehistory, Neolithic, Britain, Megaliths, Stone circles, Standing Stones, Bluestone, Sarsen, Avenue, Landscape, excavation | download cover

Publication date: 20-12-2019 (according to the publisher) 20 Sept 2019 according to Amazon.

€64,95 on the publishers website for the prelaunch paperback or £90 on Amazon (but that might change on launch)

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 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 of 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, based on 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

See the other volumes in the Stonehenge Riverside Project Series



1. Introduction
The Stonehenge Riverside Project
Background to the project
Implications of the hypothesis
Research aims
M. Parker Pearson, J. Pollard, C. Richards, J. Thomas C. Tilley, K. Welham and P. Marshall

2. Fourth millennium BC beginnings: monuments in the landscape
The landscape of the fourth millennium BC – (C. Tilley, W. Bennett and D. Field)
Geophysical surveys of the Greater Cursus and Amesbury 42 long barrow – (K. Welham, C. Steele, L. Martin and A. Payne)

3. Fourth millennium BC beginnings: excavations of the Greater Cursus, Amesbury 42 long barrow and a tree-throw pit at Woodhenge
The Greater Stonehenge Cursus – (J. Thomas)
Amesbury 42 long barrow – (J. Thomas)
Investigations of the buried soil beneath the mound of Amesbury 42 – (M.J. Allen)
Stonehenge Lesser Cursus, Stonehenge Greater Cursus and the Amesbury 42 long barrow: radiocarbon dating – (P. D. Marshall, C. Bronk Ramsey and G. Cook)
Antler artefact from the Greater Cursus and Amesbury 42 long barrow – (G. Davies)
Pottery from the Greater Cursus and Amesbury 42 long barrow – (R. Cleal)
Chalk artefact from the Greater Cursus – (A. Teather)
Lithics from stratified contexts of the Greater Cursus – (B. Chan)
Lithics from the ploughsoil of the Greater Cursus – (D. Mitcham)
Lithics from stratified contexts of Amesbury 42 long barrow – (B. Chan)
Human remains from Amesbury 42 long barrow and the Greater Cursus – (A. Chamberlain and C. Willis)
Charred plant remains and wood charcoal from the Greater Cursus and Amesbury 42 long barrow – (E. Simmons)
Woodhenge tree-throw pit – (J. Pollard)
Pottery from the Woodhenge tree-throw pit – (Rosamund M.J. Cleal)
Lithics from Woodhenge – (B. Chan)
Faunal remains from Woodhenge – (C. Minniti, U. Albarella and S. Viner)
Charred plant remains and wood charcoal from Woodhenge – (E. Simmons)

4. The Stonehenge bluestones: excavations at Stonehenge and environs
The bluestones at Stonehenge – a reappraisal – (M. Parker Pearson and C. Richards)
Aubrey Hole 7 at Stonehenge: Trench 39 – (M. Parker Pearson, B. Chan, C. Casswell, M. Pitts and J. Richards with R. Ixer)
Fargo bluestone scatter – (C. Richards, J. Pollard, D. Robinson and M. Parker Pearson)
Airman’s Corner pit circle – (M. Parker Pearson)

5. Bluestonehenge at West Amesbury: where the Stonehenge Avenue meets the River Avon
Research background and pre-excavation investigations – (M. Parker Pearson, K. Welham, C. Steele, A. Payne, L. Martin, D. Mitcham and C. French)
Archaeological excavations of Bluestonehenge within West Amesbury henge – (M. Parker Pearson, R. Nunn and J. Rylatt)
Radiocarbon dating of Bluestonehenge and West Amesbury henge – (P. Marshall, C. Bronk Ramsey and G. Cook)
Neolithic and Beaker pottery – (R. Cleal)
Lithics from stratified contexts – (B. Chan and J. Rylatt with P. Pettitt)
Other artefacts of stone, antler and bone – (M. Parker Pearson with G. Davies and R. Ixer)
Faunal remains – (C. Minniti, U. Albarella and S. Viner)
Charred plant remains and wood charcoal – (E. Simmons)

6. Sarsens at Stonehenge
Stonehenge reworked – sarsen construction – (C. Richards and M. Parker Pearson)
The sarsen-dressing area (Trench 44) – (B. Chan and C. Richards)
The flint assemblage from the sarsen-dressing area – (B. Chan)
Sarsen stone from Trenches 44 and 45 – (B. Chan)
Sarsen-working at Stonehenge – (K. Whitaker)

7. Sarsens in the Stonehenge landscape
Sarsen origins within the landscape – (C. Richards, K. Whittaker, M. Parker Pearson, C. Tilley and W. Bennett)
The Cuckoo Stone – (C. Richards)
Geophysical surveys of the Cuckoo Stone – (K. Welham and C. Steele)
Lithics from the ploughsoil – (D. Mitcham)
Excavation – (C. Richards)
Cuckoo Stone radiocarbon-dating – (P. Marshall, C. Bronk Ramsey and G. Cook)
Lithics from stratified contexts – (B. Chan)
Antler artefacts from the Cuckoo Stone – (G. Davies)
Faunal remains from the Cuckoo Stone – (C. Minniti, U. Albarella and S. Viner)
Charred plant remains from the Cuckoo Stone – (E. Simmons)
Wood charcoal from the Cuckoo Stone – (E. Simmons)
The Tor Stone, Bulford – (C. Richards)
Geophysical survey of the Tor Stone at Bulford – (K. Welham and C. Steele)
Extraction and erection of the Tor Stone – (C. Richards)
Charred plant remains and wood charcoal from the Tor Stone, Bulford – (E. Simmons)

8. The Stonehenge Avenue
Geophysical surveys – (K. Welham, C. Steele, N. Linford and A. Payne)
The Stonehenge Avenue at Stonehenge (Trench 45) – (M. Parker Pearson and R. Pullen)
Geology, geomorphology and buried soils – (M. Allen and C. French)
The Stonehenge Avenue Bend ((Trenches 46, 47, 48, 57, 58 and 59) – (D. Robinson and O. Bayer)
The Stonehenge Avenue’s ‘northern branch’ (Trench 56) – (M. Parker Pearson and A. Teather)
Radiocarbon dating of the Stonehenge Avenue – (P. Marshall, C. Bronk Ramsey and G. Cook)
Lithics from the Avenue in front of Stonehenge (Trench 45) – (B. Chan)
Lithics from the Avenue bend and the Avenue’s ‘northern branch’ – (B. Chan)
Lithics from the ploughsoil of the ‘northern extension’ – (D. Mitcham)
Chalk artefact – (A. Teather)
Charred plant remains and wood charcoal from the Stonehenge Avenue – (E. Simmons)
The orientation of the Stonehenge Avenue and its implications – (C. Ruggles)
The Avenue’s construction and purpose – (M. Parker Pearson)

9. Stonehenge and the River Avon
Along the River Avon – (C. Tilley and W. Bennett)
The Avon palaeo-channel – (C. French and M.J. Allen)
Palynology – (R. Scaife)

10. The people of Stonehenge
Human osteology – (C. Willis)
Radiocarbon dating of human remains from Stonehenge – (P. Marshall, C. Bronk Ramsey and G. Cook)

11. Radiocarbon dating: the Stonehenge modelling and results
P. Marshall, C. Bronk Ramsey, G. Cook and M. Parker Pearson

Monday 5 August 2019

Gunsite Road Archaeology

The iconic farmhouse scene from Saving Private Ryan was filmed on Gunsite Road, West Kennett. With Wiltshire standing in for Iowa. The farmhouse and barn were temporary props.

On a walk over to the West Kennet Palisade excavation I took a moment to pinpoint the location - marked with a star.

Archaeology from 1998 was complemented by an older find at the spot of a pure black flint hammer stone of a far earlier date.

My short walk from All Cannings had already passed an Iron Age midden, Hill Fort, Causewayed Enclosure, Bronze Age Dykes, an ancient Sheep Fair ground and mediaeval sheep walk features and a 1950's Firing range to say nothing of the views of barrows, mounds and stone circles. It is quite an area for exploring.

Gunsite Road - also known as Gunsight Road or Lane - the Ordnance Survey call it Gunsite which as it was a site for guns when there was a firing range there is logical and in line with the common usage at the time. The National Trust and Historical Monuments Record use Gunsight which until a few minutes ago I also preferred as a commoner word, but I have changed my mind and now vote for Gunsite, and Road rather than Lane.

Monday 8 July 2019

Golfhenge - the planning statement extracts.

Statement – Archaeology & Cultural Heritage Land north of The Packway and east of Larkhill Former Stonehenge Golf Centre Phase 4 Date: December 2017

Air photos were obtained from the Historic England Archive in Swindon. The earliest photo (1924) showed the landscape prior to the construction of the sports pitches and with small arms ranges terraced into the hillside on the west side of the site. One small area of possible military trenching was also shown. No evidence of archaeological remains was identified on or around the site. An undated photo taken a short time after the construction of the sports pitches, demonstrated by the lack of trees around the boundary, shows a series of features consistent with probable Prehistoric ring ditches and in-filled linear earthworks immediately to the east of the site. By 1943, a USAF air photo shows a well-established sports pitch that is clearly terraced into the hill on its southern side and built up with fill materials to the north. By 1954, a photo shows that the trees around the site are maturing along their present lines. The historic maps consulted show open downland on the 1887 Ordnance Survey 6” First Edition, which is how it remains until the 1923 revision (published 1941) which shows the “Recreation Ground”. Neither maps shows any record of antiquities on the site.

 Archaeological works undertaken in support of the Phase 3 development have identified limited archaeological remains; however, a hengiform that included a ring ditch with a ring of large postholes encircling it was identified immediately north of the north-east corner of the Golf Centre.

An archaeological watching brief was undertaken by Wessex Archaeology during geotechnical investigations (Wessex Archaeology report 11598.1.01). This demonstrated that the whole hilltop had not been truncated during construction works and that a cut and fill method had been employed to level the playing fields, prior to their conversion into the Golf Centre. However, no archaeological features or deposits were identified during the watching brief.

While it was anticipated that the terracing of the sports pitches into the hill top may have truncated part of the site, the use of fill materials to level the pitches was anticipated to have potentially protected archaeological remains in other parts of the site. In addition, the nearby remains indicated high potential for archaeology to be present on the site. As a result, an archaeological evaluation was requested by the Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, to better inform the planning application. The evaluation was to include trial trenching, equal to a 5% sample of the site area.

The archaeological evaluation of the proposed Phase 4 site was undertaken in December 2017. While no evidence for archaeological finds, deposits or features was identified across the greater part of the site, one trench, in the north-east corner of the site, revealed a large posthole and section of curved ditch. The trench was extended and revealed remains indicative of a hengiform similar to that seen in Phase 3, and this was confirmed by a further trench that showed more of the arrangement of ditch and attendant postholes very similar to that recorded in Phase 3.

Discussions with the Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service have indicated that either full excavation or preservation by design would be acceptable but that the latter option would entail more evaluation to better characterise the monument prior to its reburial. Full excavation has potential to provide extra information relating to the Phase 3 hengiform, which was lacking in any dateable material, and to the relationship between these two, similar monument. Discussions with Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service indicate that there will be no objection to the planning application but that an archaeological condition will the recommended, so that appropriate levels of mitigation, including the treatment of the hengiform, will be undertaken. A Written Scheme of Investigation for the excavation is currently in preparation by Wessex Archaeology for Lovell.

UPDATE - Wessex Archaeology kindly supplied this description: Hi Tim, one of two hengeforms fully excavated and recorded during the Army Basing Programme. They occupy a ridge of high ground and may be integral components (possibly earlier) of a linear (probable Bronze Age) barrow cemetery visible via Google Earth immediately to the east.

Golfhenge Stone Holes and Alignment Speculation

More on the hengiform that seems to have been uncovered on the site of the Larkhill Golf Range in 2018  and is now built over. See for more. The ditch with eight pits around is in the excavated square within the tree girt area, the small hengiform at the top right was previously known about.
Click to embiggen

I haven't found  any official reports of it and so this is just based on public aerial photos.

The Bing aerial photo from 2018 isn't as clear as the Google one but shows the ditch is about 14m across and the eight holes are about 1m in diameter. More like stoneheles than post holes? Or just pits?

The pits to the north east are wider apart than the other three pairs but there is no noticeable entrance. But if that is the entrance then it is close to the summer solstice sunrise direction which is handily marked on the planning documents constraints plan in yellow.

What a shame it is now under a housing estate, I await the reports on it  with interest.
Comparisons with Bluestonehenge and other circles in the area are obvious, if a little premature at this stage. See the excellent for more on those.

The planning statement

Sunday 7 July 2019


Stephen Cogbill noticed this intriguing excavation on Google Earth.

It is within what was the Larkhill Golf Driving Range at Larkhill which is now being built over.

Details of the planning permission is at 

As to what what the hengiform is, we will have to wait for the reports.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Durrington Walls Sarsen Burials

Higham, R., & Carey, C. The Durrington Walls Sarsen Burial relocated and reconsidered. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Magazine, 112, 74-84. (2MB PDF) discusses the curious case of two sarsens with burials at Durrington Walls that have disappeared and whether they are actually just one stone that moved.

In Colt Hoare's Ancient Wiltshire Vol. 1 page 172

In the rudest times other modes of burial, besides the barrow, were adopted. We have an interesting proof in an interment which was lately discovered above Durrington Walls, by a shepherd, who in pitching the fold, found his iron bar impeded in the ground : curiosity led him to explore the cause, which proved to be a large sarsen stone, covering the interment of a skeleton, with whose remains the articles engraved in TUMULI Plate XIX, were deposited, viz. a spear head chipped from a flint, a small hone or whetstone, a cone and ring of jet like a pully, and two little buttons of marl or chalk, all bespeaking an interment of the earliest date.

For more information see Simon Banton's  (search for Durrington Flat Grave.)

A stone then appears on maps on the high ground to the west of Durrington Walls but then disappears early in the twentieth century. It doesn't appear on earlier maps or on the map in Colt Hoare's book.

OS Surveyed 1877-78 (maps from )

However the 1923 revision no longer marks it.

However a "Stone" appears just off The Packway to the top left of the the 1920's map, but is this the sarsen stone, or even a sarsen stone?

Higham and Carey interpret this as the Stone described in: 

Durrington Walls, or Long Walls : By P. Farrer
I may say that there is a great deal of Romano- British pottery visible about 100 yards south-west of the Walls, with many pits and trenches. This was evidently the  site of a considerable settlement and the pottery extends for some  distance southwards, to a point at least 150 yards from the S.W. corner of the work.
I also found four fragments of ware of the same period close to,  and apparently dug by a rabbit from underneath the sarsen that  lies about 350 yards from the earthwork. Presumably this is the stone mentioned by Colt Hoare in Ancient. Wilts, Vol. I., p. 172, but he uses the vague phrase "above Durrington Walls," From the pottery and from the pale and chalky nature of the soil thrown up I should judge that here was the site of an interment. Rabbits must have a reasonable depth of soft stuff for their workings, and it is very rare in this locality to find undisturbed chalk sufficiently friable to permit of rabbits burrowing therein, while still more rarely does enough soil overlie the chalk for rabbit buries. It has been suggested that this was a stone intended for Stonehenge, but dropped on the way, a ridiculous idea, for who would bring a stone about 6 feet x 5 feet X 3 feet 6 inches, weighing at least 5 tons, to within two miles of their destination and then leave it ?

So is this second stone with its Roman-British pottery the same stone as the Shepherd's stone with a neolithic burial under it? Farrer suggests that the stone has not moved from above its interment. 

Higham and Carey propose that Farrer's stone is the Shepherd's stone that had been moved to the edge of the field to ease cultivation. However I think they mistake the description of it being "above" Durrington Walls to mean to the north."However, this reference does provide the only description of a sarsen stone immediately north of Durrington Walls including its dimensions"

I wonder if the effort of moving a five ton stone uphill across the field would have been considered worthwhile at such time, others such as the Cuckoo Stone were just left. The ditch of Durrington Walls a little way downhill from the Shepherd's stone was used as a dump and being a lazy farmer I would have just pushed it to that edge if I were have to moved it. The ditch there is full of later military camp detritus which would cover any stone dumped earlier.    Farrer's stone also sounds a lot larger than a buried burial covering slab, especially one that a Shepherd was able to dig under. My thought is that maybe the stone was left exposed and then was covered in and reburied, either naturally or for farming purposes, which would explain its appearance and disappearance from the maps. Higham and Carey suggest it may have been moved as part of the development of the camp.

But it is a fact that the Packway stone wasn't marked on maps until the Shepherd's stone disappeared. It is also remarkable that it has disappeared again, unless it is hiding in the brambles. Where has it gone? Was it even a sarsen stone?

A fascinating mystery that Higham and Carey have produced a excellent paper on and one that suggests further research would be worthwhile.

UPDATE Aug 2021 - it occurs to me that the Cuckoo stone is about 350m South West from Durrington Walls and of the the size that Farrer's stone is described as. And it is known for a Romano-British burial. Farrer doesn't state that his stone is SW of Durrington Walls but its description follows other observations of that quarter. I think he may just be describing the Cuckoo Stone.  Farrer's substantial stone was about 2m x 1.5m by 1m in modern money - the Cuckoo stone is the same. 

3D Stonehenge from Aerial-Cam

A stunning collection:

Stonehenge Landscapes, retrospective and current photogrammetry of landscapes, excavations and stones associated with Stonehenge. Much of the data was gathered on the Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP 2006 - 2009) and the Stones of Stonehenge Project (SOS 2011 - 2017). Related projects and sites such as Robin Hoods Ball, Marden, Durrington Walls (2016) and Salisbury Museum are also included.

Stonehenge LiDAR Archaeology Landscape by Mark Walters on Sketchfab


Friday 21 June 2019

The Numbers at the Summer Solstice Event at Stonehenge

The Background to The Alcohol Ban And Car Parking Charge at the Summer Solstice Event at Stonehenge

In 2016 English Heritage imposing changes to the way the Summer Solstice event was run. This blog was written to see how EH has portrayed the problem they wanted to solve, and how 2016's pronouncement differs from previous reports. (Updated 2019 to reflect the historic nature of the post - It was originally published 10 June 2016).

7/4/2016 English Heritage said it had seen more "drunken and disrespectful behaviour"(1) as "Solstice attendance numbers are increasing every year". (2)

The numbers of attendees and arrests (where I can find the figures) from contemporaneous sources for the summer Solstice event at Stonehenge since open access was introduced in 2000.

Year - number of arrests - estimated crowd - (ref, see below)

2000 - ? - 8,000 (20)
2001 - ? - 10,000 (20)
2002 - 11 - 22,000 (19)
2003 - ? - 30,000 (18)
2004 - ? - 21,000 (17)
2005 - ? - 21,000 (16)
2006 - 4 - 18,700 (14)(15)
2007 - 4 - 24,094 (14)
2008 - 15 - 30,000 (12)(13)
2009 - 37 - 36,500 (3)
2010 - 34 - 20,000 (4)
2011 - 20 - 18,000 (5)
2012 - 37 - 14,500 (6)
2013 - 22 - 21,000 (7)
2014 - 25 - 37,000 (8)
2015 - 9 - 23,000 (9)
2016 - 3 - 12,000 (21)
2017 - 7 - 13,000 (22)
2018 - 0 - 9,500 (23)
2019 - 4 - 10,000 (24)

2014 - "Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge (, believes all sides have come a long way since the days of the exclusion zones, describing today's event as a "peaceful celebration enjoyed by many thousands".
She puts their success down to a "close working relationship" with the druid and pagan groups as well as Wiltshire Police." (10)

2015 "23,000 people went to Stonehenge to watch the summer solstice sunrise this morning but the General Manager of the site, Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge (, says that is fewer than she was expecting. She added that the celebration was a calm and peaceful one that passed off with relatively few problems" (11)


(This is a referenced version of the reports at the request of an English Heritage employee)

To indicate the weekend effect this is  the numbers averaged by day of the week - but there isn't really enough data points and the general decline overshadows it.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Ribbed and lubricated, how to slide without wood.

Stone 59

How the stones of Stonehenge were dragged to the site is of constant fascination. The title of this note was a scribbled message I left myself that I had to remember what I was thinking about late at night when I wrote it.

On Orkney excellent work was done showing how lubricated ground worked better than rollers under a moving monolith - .
They used seaweed but dewey or rotting cut grass on hard ground is like ice as I know to my cost.

Flat stones have a high drag factor and also slide sideways on any cross slope, so just throwing an idea out there would ribbed stones, like the strakes on a boat's hull, reduce friction and provide directional stability?

Could it have been done without the rollers, or sledges and frames we presume were needed?

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Stonehenge Parchmarks 17 18 19 20

When the parchmarks of 2013 showed up I crept onto site one morning with a stepladder and ranging rod to take some close vertical photos.  The size and shape of the parchmarks strongly suggests that they were for stones rather than just marker posts used to set out the circle, I think.

Recording the parchmarks 

The first photo taken

Stonehole 17

Stonehole 18

Stonehole 19

Stonehole 20

Tuesday 14 May 2019

The consistent, not "warm", springs of Blick Mead

David Jacques describing Blick Mead "The springhead and springline water temperature is a steady 10-13 ºc all year. The experiments that confirmed this observation were conducted by Pete Kinge of QinetiQ using fixed thermal imaging cameras and by Tim Roberts."

This steady consistent temperature provides the useful property of unfrozen water for drinking by the wildlife as well by humans and also encourages early grass growth for grazing. Blick Mead would have been one of the larger such spring fed pools in the area. The consistent temperature in a grove of trees would also provide for the panting hart cool water and shade in the summer.

But these are not "warm" springs as usually understood. Warm springs or thermal springs are those where hot water from great depths in the Earth rises to the surface. Blick Mead's springwater is at the normal temperature of groundwater, with maybe a slight increase in temperature over neighbouring springs as the water is coming from under a greater depth of chalk than at them as the land rises steeply directly behind Blick Mead. (Groundwater temperature varies with depth - the ground temperature shows seasonal fluctuations to depths of about 15 m where the temperature is approximately equal to the mean annual air temperature(8 - 11° C in the UK). Below this the ground temperature increases at, on average, 2.6 °C per 100 m due to heat flowing from the interior of the Earth. Mean temperatures at 100 m depth in the UK vary between about 7 - 15°C.)

Webb, B. W. and Zhang, Y. (1999), Water temperatures and heat budgets in Dorset chalk water courses. provides a good understanding of similar waters and references for further research.

"Two reaches were investigated in this study. The reach on the tributary of River Piddle at Wateston Manor, Dorset, UK (National Grid Reference SY 723956) was located  c 10 m below the main spring which feeds this watercourse. ... The River Bere at Bere Heath. Dorset, UK is a larger water course which is underlain almost entirely by upper chalk. It rises in a number of springs and is fed by a borehole, and most of the How passes through watercress beds in the upper reaches. The channel in the study reach (National Grid Reference SY 723956) flows through cattle ….Measurements were made on a total of 28 days in February and March, 1994 and 12 days in July. 1994"

But there is a hint that there might actually be thermal springs nearby.

Just up river from Blick Mead is the site of English Heritage's first choice for a Stonehenge Visitor Centre - the planning documents have a wealth of Archaeological and geological information. 

"The chemistry of the groundwater has been analysed in one sample obtained from BH8. The results of this indicate that the water has a pH value of 6.7 a temperature of 16.2°C, conductivity of 780µS/cm a total hardness of 338mg/l and a saturation of -42mg/l.
In consideration of these results the temperature of the groundwater at this location was unexpectedly high...." 
Appendice A10.4 - Extract From Geotechnical InvestigationsReport On Groundwater Conditions 

Details of the testing are hard to find but it seems to have been taken in the spring and there is a suggestion that the groundwater is being contaminated by rain  falling on the surface stripped area. But even it is only one sample the "unexpectedly high" temperature of the groundwater near Blick Mead is intriguing.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Has Mike Pitts found the last missing stonehole?

On Twitter:

Mike Pitts @pittsmike Apr 7

The promo video for a #Stonehenge exhibition in Kansas City includes an extraordinary aerial film clip showing the best photographic record I’ve seen of the parch marks revealed in summer 2013.

Tim Daw @TimothyDaw 7:33 AM - Apr 9, 2019

@pittsmike you have spotted Stone 24 (possible) stone hole - I have looked at lots of aerial shots and not seen it. In 2013 I looked hard for it and couldn't see it, ony could imagine it. Congratulations.

Sunday 31 March 2019

Concrete Prehistories: The Making of Megalithic Modernism

Concrete Prehistories: The Making of Megalithic Modernism

Helen Wickstead, Martyn Barber
Issued Date: 2 Sep 2015


After water, concrete is the most consumed substance on earth. Every year enough cement is produced to manufacture around six billion cubic metres of concrete . This paper investigates how concrete has been built into the construction of modern prehistories. We present an archaeology of concrete in the prehistoric landscapes of Stonehenge and Avebury, where concrete is a major component of megalithic sites restored between 1901 and 1964. We explore how concreting changed between 1901 and the Second World War, and the implications of this for constructions of prehistory. We discuss the role of concrete in debates surrounding restoration, analyze the semiotics of concrete equivalents for the megaliths, and investigate how concreting became meaningful in interpretations of prehistoric building activities. The archaeology of megalithic concrete illustrates the untimeliness of concrete as a technology that entangles ancient and modern.


Tan Hill Experimental Firing Range

In the 1950s there was an experimental artillery firing range on the Marlborough Downs - Gunsight Lane in West Kennet is presumably named after its use or construction for the range. On Tan Hill there were telegraph posts running along the Wansdyke and what I remember as a flag pole. There was also a strange thick (two or three inches) iron plate that had been used as a target. Seeing two inch holes through it impressed me as a child.

31 March 2019 - I was pleased to find a pole, the plate and the concrete base of the scaffold all still there.

Plate, concrete base and the top of Silbury Hill in alignment.

The concrete plinth on Google Maps

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Chubb's 400 yard Mystery

When Cecil Chubb gifted Stonehenge he put some conditions in the Deed , the third one was;

Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises.

I have wondered why, and if I have been told I can no longer remember, did he stipulate a a 400 yard radius circle rather than just say "within the premises"?

A quick sketch shows his 400 yards almost covers the whole of his gifted land apart from the tips of two corners. Is that deliberate?

Of course within a few years the curators houses had been built with in the 400 yards so it appears his wishes were ignored from the earliest of days.

And ironically he chose the one stone in the landscape that was then moved, to the other side of the road.

The Deed -