Sunday, 2 October 2022

The latest scientific consensus on Stonehenge and Glacial Transport - there is no evidence of a link

There seems to be some confusion as to what the latest scientific consensus by the relevant experts in glaciation is with regards to Stonehenge.

TL;DR summary:  They acknowledge their models aren't quite working with how far the ice spread out into the Celtic sea, but when they tweak the current model to correct that it brings ice down into the south west of England where there is no evidence for it apart from a hypothesis of glacial erratics at or on their way to Stonehenge. They prefer the hypothesis that they are missing an input in their model and if that was corrected the model would match the reality better, which doesn't include glaciers in the south west of England.   

Maximum Glaciation

The relevant paragraph:

An egregious mismatch occurred at 26 ka, where the modelled grounding line position of the Irish Sea Ice Stream fell 150 km behind that indicated by the geological evidence (minimum reconstruction, Fig. 6; Scourse et al. 2021). We experimented with various nudges to the model to try and prevent this underrun but they resulted in significant overruns of other parts of the ice sheet, notably with the SW Peninsula of England (Cornwall and Devon) and much of the English Midlands becoming glaciated. The final choice of model run (Fig. 6) is therefore a compromise that mostly fits the wider empirical limits, but underruns in the Celtic Sea. The alternative choice of accepting a model run that reached the shelf edge in the Celtic Sea but also glaciated the SW Peninsula and parts of the English Midlands would have interesting implications for the long-standing hypothesis that some of the stones of Stonehenge may have been transported, at least partway as glacial erratics (e.g. Judd 1902; Scourse 1997; John 2018; Pearson et al. 2019). Although this may indeed be accommodated by earlier more extensive glaciations, we suggest however, that a process, forcing, or feedback is missing in the numerical modelling we present here and that once discovered would enable sufficient ice advance in the Celtic Sea without exceeding ice limits elsewhere. For example, Scourse et al. (2021) suggest that a non-steady oscillation (surge) arose as a release from the build-up of ice behind a topographic constriction in the Irish Sea. We further speculate that the drainage of lakes on the ice stream surface, or floods from subglacial lakes, may have temporarily facilitated faster ice flow and ‘over-extension’ of the ice margin by locally increasing basal lubrication. 


Clark, C.D., Ely, J.C., Hindmarsh, R.C.A., Bradley, S., Ignéczi, A., Fabel, D., Ó Cofaigh, C., Chiverrell, R.C., Scourse, J., Benetti, S., Bradwell, T., Evans, D.J.A., Roberts, D.H., Burke, M., Callard, S.L., Medialdea, A., Saher, M., Small, D., Smedley, R.K., Gasson, E., Gregoire, L., Gandy, N., Hughes, A.L.C., Ballantyne, C., Bateman, M.D., Bigg, G.R., Doole, J., Dove, D., Duller, G.A.T., Jenkins, G.T.H., Livingstone, S.L., McCarron, S., Moreton, S., Pollard, D., Praeg, D., Sejrup, H.P., Van Landeghem, K.J.J. and Wilson, P. (2022), Growth and retreat of the last British–Irish Ice Sheet, 31 000 to 15 000 years ago: the BRITICE-CHRONO reconstruction. Boreas.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Gruesome Discovery in a Well House near Stonehenge

Wiltshire Coroner's Inquest March 29th 1918 

Soldier Found in a Well

Gruesome Discovery near Stonehenge

Last week the body of a soldier, who had evidently died at Christmas, was found at the bottom of a well near Stonehenge. He was a pioneer in the Building Section of the Royal Engineers, named William John Hamilton (link to his details), and 43 years old. His home was in County Tyrone, Ireland.

Sapper J Duncan, of a Building Section of the Royal Engineers, stationed at Stonehenge Camp, stated that on Christmas Day, 1917, he was in the company of Hamilton and a sapper named M’Cool. They left the aerodrome at Stonehenge at about 9pm and went to their camp, which was about 20 minutes walk away. Hamilton occupied the same hut as he did, and they both went in. About 9.30pm the man left the hut, and on finding he was not there the following morning witness reported the matter to the corporal. Hamilton had only four pints of beer as far as he could remember. He would not say he was drunk ; he walked straight on the way to the hut.

Private Frank Smith, Hants Regiment, stationed at Durrington, said he was walking near Stonehenge on March 17th and passed a well there. He went up to it because he noticed a round brick building with a thatched roof. There was a doorway partly filled up with a hurdle. He found there was a well, and thinking there might be a body in it on account of the strong smell he reported the matter when he returned to camp.

Corporal W A Bone, Hants Regiment, said he put a hurricane lamp into the well on March 19th, in consequence of instructions, and saw what appeared to be a body, with brass buttons on the clothing. He telephoned to the civil police at Amesbury. If it had been dark and he had gone to this place for shelter witness said he thought he might have fallen in, as he did not know there was a well.

PC Norris gave evidence as to the recovery of the body from the well, which was from 40 to 50 feet deep, and contained two or three feet of water and mud. Hamilton’s hands were in his overcoat pockets. He had in his possession a purse containing 6s 9¾d. The man described on the identity disc was posted as a deserter on December 26th.

Replying to the Foreman, witness said there was a space of about two feet all round the well, the diameter of the opening of which was from six to eight feet. There was a beam over the top of the well. He had seen the building before, but did not know it covered a well.

(Click pictures to embiggen)

Old Ordnance Survey Maps show three wells near Stonehenge and one near Springbottom Farm, the latter was a substantial building in an enclosure - pictured and described in Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Avenue and Stonehenge Bottom as was the one near Larkhill in Stonehenge Bottom which is also described in the report. The rectangular roof of it can just be seen in this 1904 photo from Salisbury Museum 
The Well House which the New Visitor Centre has been built over is mapped as a square structure and is not very close to Stonehenge.
The Well House to the south of the A303 at Stonehenge bottom is however a small round building as described in the Inquest report and most likely to be disused. It is probably where William Hamilton sadly drowned on Christmas Day 1917.
Wiltshire Museum has a late Victorian painting (DZSWS:2015.1004) of such a well house near Stonehenge. Though the stones in the picture seem to have been repainted or added later, they fit the view from this well house in Stonehenge bottom with a sunset. The painting is to be restored and I look forward to seeing it refreshed.

Click pictures to embiggen

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

The Latest Science of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) of Britain and Ireland

There are some very out of date maps and theories circulating about the extent of the glaciers of the ice ages, much of it sadly spread by Stonehenge conspiracy theorists. It isn't hard to make sure only the latest and best information is used as the basis for any discussion. Here are a couple of pointers. 

The Devensian British-Irish Ice Sheet 

The Devensian British-Irish Ice Sheet was a large mass of ice that covered approximately two thirds of Britain and Ireland around 27,000 years ago. All of Scotland and Ireland, most of Wales, and most of the north of England was underneath the ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum. This ice sheet retreated and shrank after 27,000 years ago, and had completely disappeared by 11,300 years ago

An excellent introductory site

For a recent comprehensive review: Chiverrell, R.C. and Thomas, G.S.P. (2010), Extent and timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in Britain and Ireland: a review. J. Quaternary Sci., 25: 535-549.

And for the very latest including information about the Welsh Ice Cap and the Preseli Hills please see this chapter:

Philip D. Hughes, Chris D. Clark, Philip L. Gibbard, Neil F. Glasser, Matt D. Tomkins, Chapter 53 - Britain and Ireland: glacial landforms from the Last Glacial Maximum, Editor(s): David Palacios, Philip D. Hughes, José M. García-Ruiz, Nuria Andrés, European Glacial Landscapes, Elsevier, 2022, Pages 407-416, ISBN 9780128234983, (

Friday, 2 September 2022

Erratic speculation doesn't solve Stonehenge mysteries.

A STONEHENGE mystery has been solved, according to an expert, after a "smoking gun" discovery was made to provide the "missing piece" of the puzzle.

"A giant bluestone erratic just discovered near Mumbles, on the south Gower coast, has been hailed as one of the most important glacial discoveries of the last century since it proves beyond doubt that the Irish Sea Glacier was capable of carrying large monoliths of dolerite rock from Pembrokeshire up the Bristol Channel towards Stonehenge."

And so on...

Green dolerite erratic carried on Irish Sea Glacier from Preseli to Mumbles c 19000 years ago. Stone such as this was used to construct Stonehenge.

But seven months after this publicity barrage the analysis of the erratic still hasn't been made public. We don't know what the rock is geologically, or where its likely source is  It may well be a bluestone from Pembrokeshire but there is no proof of that yet, no data supports it is the same as Stonehenge stone. It is intriguing and may be significant but until the hard work is done it is just a fantasy to claim it has solved a Stonehenge mystery.  

As another Stonehenge scholar has said about a similar case:

"we have a duty to mull over this question: "How is it that a narrative so unsupported by hard facts and so far removed from reality was accepted by so many people as one of the great archaeological finds of the century?...Apparently nobody noticed that the article was seriously deficient in hard data and overloaded with speculations and rash assumptions...So they all went full steam ahead, gloriously oblivious to the fact that they were spreading a wildly irresponsible myth dressed up as serious research. Were they all stupid, or were they all just too busy and too swept along by the own hype to seriously examine the content that they were feeding to the public?..

Thursday, 1 September 2022

The Altar Stone Sample Provenance

Current Archaeology's article on the rediscovery and analysis of Stonehenge Bluestone samples found in museums -  - features a fascinating labelled specimen from the Altar Stone in Salisbury Museum. This fragment ties other samples that can be fully analysed back to the Altar Stone and hence allows those samples to be used to hopefully determine in the future the source of the stone.

Linking the sample to a documented excavation gives it provenance and trustworthiness.

Click to embiggen

The label reads to me and Mr Simon Spencer:
Portion of the underpart of the Altar Stone at Stonehenge - taken by Mr Brown of Amesbury while excavating in the summer of 1844 to ascertain if any interment there - no traces of such discovered - The search was made at the request of a Swedish gentleman who was deputed* by an Antiquarian Society of that Sweden to obtain the skeletons. The relic agrees** with the particulars I had from Mr Brown March 19 1845 RAB 
The Altar is of Blue Lias and …… about 18 inches in the gr(ound.) 
 *or entrusted or instructed? **or annuntiate? 

An account of the excavation appeared in WANHS Vol 16

Mr. Joseph Browne gave to Dr. Thurnam the following account of a digging in front of what is called the altar-stone by Captain Beamish, who undertook the exploration in order to satisfy a society in Sweden that there was no interment in the centre of Stonehenge :
"Some years ago, I do not remember the year, but it was that in which Mr. Autrobus came of age [? 1839], and that there were rejoicings at Amesbury, an officer from Devonport, named Captain Beamish, who was staying at the George Hotel, having obtained the permission of the proprietor, made an excavation somewhere about eight feet square and six feet deep, in front of the altar- stones digging backward some little distance under it. I remember distinctly the hole being dug through the chalk rubble and rock. Nothing was found excepting some bits of charcoal, and a considerable quantity of the bones of rabbits. Before the hole was filled up, I buried a bottle, containing a record of the excavation."

The Newall Boulder - Not a Glacial Erratic

Current Archaeology has a fascinating article about the "rediscovery of a series of rock samples collected during the Victorian period has allowed new analysis of some of the stones of Stonehenge. By Rob Ixer, Richard Bevins, Nick Pearce, and David Dawson".

One of the more interesting parts is the final putting to bed of the theory that the so-called Newall Boulder is a glacial erratic. A theory that was first raised in 1991 by G A Kellaway in "The older Plio-Pleistocene glaciations of the region around Bath." - Hot Springs of Bath, pp 243-41 

The excavation of this rather small boulder was described in Col. Hawley's 6th Report Jan 1926 Vol V1 No.1 The Antiquaries Journal, and it may actually be pictured in the ground (middle extreme left).

Following its rediscovery in Salisbury Museum it has has be re-examined and the results are: "rhyolitic tuff (which) shows all the key characteristics needed to assign it to Rhyolite Group C from Craig Rhos-y-Felin in north Pembrokeshire, over 170 kilometres south of North Wales – the ‘glacial striae’ are in fact seen to be linear expressions of the internal fabric of the rock, or slickensiding, along one joint plane."

When the news of its rediscovery was first made public along with the thoughts that it might be a rhyolite with striae on it I was reminded of a very similar boulder pictured at Craig Rhos-y-Felin in John, Brian & Elis-Gruffydd, Dyfed & Downes, John. (2015). OBSERVATIONS ON THE SUPPOSED “NEOLITHIC BLUESTONE QUARRY” AT CRAIG RHOSYFELIN, PEMBROKESHIRE. Archaeology in Wales. 54. 139-148.  

Photo by Brian John

With a touch of photoshop the picture of the Newall Boulder can be superimposed on that photo and it can be seen that the shape of it is exactly as it might have been at the quarry where it originated. No glacial transport needed to explain its shape.

It was brought from Pembrokeshire along with the other bluestones. Nothing about it supports a glacial transport theory.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

New Prehistoric Carvings identified at Stonehenge?

Gavin Leong and Matthew Brolly from the School of Applied Sciences University of Brighton have a couple of fascinating papers out that show how using Terahertz light which "lies between infra-red and microwaves so has unique properties which enables it to pass through objects and to transmit images and compositional (spectroscopic) information that is ordinarily hidden" and a neural network to recognise lichen covered carvings, without harming the lichen has shown early success.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Neil Wiseman


Neil  Wiseman

Neil Wiseman  

He will be sadly missed by the Stonehenge Community as well as by me personally. 

Thursday, 11 August 2022

Bowls Barrow also known as Boles Barrow - Colt Hoare's Description from Ancient Wiltshire


In this ride I shall ascend the hills at the back of Sir William A'Court's demesne, and proceed over Nanny Down towards Bowls Barrow. At the upper end of Heytesbury field and near the summit of the hill, is a flat barrow ploughed over, which Mr. Cunnington opened in 1800, and found about a foot under the surface, a layer of flints that extended nearly over the whole tumulus, intermixed with fragments of thick and coarse pottery; and was much surprized in finding ten small brass Roman coins of the Emperors Constantine, Valentine I. and II. and Arcadius, together with some pieces of the fine red Samian pottery. From the discovery of these articles, viz. first, the rude pottery, and afterwards the fine Samian ware, and coins, we may conceive this to have been occupied both by the Celtic and Romanized Britons.

On the summit of the hill we meet the great track-way, and crossing it come to a large tumulus named BOWLS BARROW; its length is one hundred and fifty feet at the base; its width ninety-four feet, and its elevation ten feet and a half, though it appears to the eye much higher; the broad end points towards the east. This large barrow was opened by Mr. Cunnington in 1801, and attended with much labour. He began by making a section of considerable width and length across the barrow near the east end, and at the depth of two feet nine inches found a human skeleton lying south-west and north-east, and with it a brass buckle, and two thin pieces of the same metal. Towards the centre of the barrow, were two other skeletons interred, with their heads towards the south, and one of them lying on its side. The interior parts of the barrow were composed entirely of white marl stone to the depth of four feet and a half: this was succeeded by a ridge of large stones and flints, which extended wider as the men worked downwards. At the depth of ten feet and a half, which was the base of the barrow, was a floor of flints regularly laid, and on it the remains of several human bodies deposited in no regular order. It appeared therefore, that they had been thrown together promiscuously, and a great pile of stones raised length-ways along the centre of the barrow over them. This pile (in form like the ridge of a house), was afterwards covered with marl excavated from the north and south sides of the barrow, the two ends being level with the plain. Although four men were employed for three days, they could not explore more than the space of about six feet by ten; yet in this small portion they found fourteen skulls, one of which appeared to have been cut in two by a sword. It is rather singular, that no fragments whatever of pottery, charred wood, or animal bones, were found in the course of the above operations.

At a subsequent period Mr. Cunnington made a second attempt on this tumulus, by opening more ground both at the east as well as west end; at the former he found the heads and horns of seven or more oxen; also a large cist close to the skeletons; but owing to the great height of the barrow, and the large stones continually rolling down upon the labourers, he was obliged to stop his operations.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Are these two of the missing stones of Stonehenge?

If Stonehenge was completed as is usually depicted there is now in the order of 300 tonnes of stone missing. (The visible stones are estimated to weigh 681 tonnes.)

No one can account for the "missing" stone, broken up bits that have been recovered and can be estimated to remain on site are under a tonne, and despite the oft-repeated stories of souvenir chunks being taken none have ever turned up in collections apart from scientific and museum ones.

There are no buildings nearby that have sarsen or bluestone fragments and when the nearest road was excavated no sarsen had been used to make it up.

There is an obvious attraction to the idea that the stones we see there are largely the only stones that were ever there and the monument was uncompleted. 

But we may also just not be recognising where the stones went. Maybe the Sarsens were turned in to quern stones -  and the bluestones into pessoi 

A third theory is that Stonehenge was completed in other materials.

Could the uprights and lintels have been originally crafted in massive tree trunks which were replaced by stone as monoliths became available? 

Or could another stone have been used? In 1997 Dr. Olwen Williams-Thorpe claimed there was evidence for there having been a limestone monolith at Stonehenge, but there seems to be very little evidence to back that up. Only a tiny proportion of lithic material recovered from the Stonehenge Layer in the monument and nearby is of a local sandstone or limestone. There is no evidence of such a monolith, let alone a number of them been broken up.

Which is a pity as a standing stones at Berwick St James have long been thought to be from Stonehenge but they are "Tisbury / Chilmark Stone. A single thin section was made and the rock is a biospararenite, a slightly glauconitic, slightly sandy fossiliferous shelly limestone with abraded bivalve debris." - Dr R Ixer. Not a sarsen as has been thought. 

There are also some similar large stones at Elston lining a hatch in a water meadow a short distance from Stonehenge.

 Photo S Banton

Could these be parts of  the missing stones of Stonehenge?  I would place the idea in the unlikely but possible category. There are, of course, much less likely theories that are commonly believed so it does not harm to float this one.


Monday, 8 August 2022

The Missing Limestone Monolith of Stonehenge

In 1997 Dr. Olwen Williams-Thorpe claimed there was evidence for there having been a limestone monolith at Stonehenge, and it was in their previous paper:

Williams-Thorpe, O. ; Green, C. P. & Scourse, J. D. (1997). The Stonehenge bluestones: Discussion. Authors' reply. In _Science and Stonehenge_. pp. 315-318.

I can only find a claim to limestone fragments in what I take to be the previous paper. Am I missing something?

 Thorpe, Richard & Williams-Thorpe, Olwen & Jenkins, D. & Watson, J. & Ixer, Robert & Thomas, R.. (2014). The Geological Sources and Transport of the Bluestones of Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 57. 103-157. 10.1017/S0079497X00004527. 

I think a few limestone fragments aren't enough to claim there was a monolith, presumably of the size of one of the standing stones. Is there anymore evidence?

Saturday, 6 August 2022

The Boles Barrow Bluestone

With Boles Barrow about to be excavated attention is being drawn again on the so called Boles Barrow Bluestone now back in Salisbury Museum after appearing at the British Museum. I have written about it before -

A better examination as to its history is to be found at which concludes:

The so-called Boles Barrow Bluestone in Salisbury Museum is the only foreign rock from south west Wales found in Wiltshire not at Stonehenge that can be considered more than a fragment. Yet the archaeological context of the specimen in the Salisbury Museum is uncertain and cannot be considered secure evidence in any argument.

The Boles Barrow Bluestone remains elusive.

The bluestone was sampled in 1990 by the Open University team and the results can be found in:

Thorpe, Richard & Williams-Thorpe, Olwen & Jenkins, D. & Watson, J. & Ixer, Robert & Thomas, R.. (2014). The Geological Sources and Transport of the Bluestones of Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 57. 103-157. 10.1017/S0079497X00004527. 

(Copies of the paper seem to have leaked on line - but I'm not going to link to it)

Silbury Hill Bluestone Descriptions by Rob Ixer

Three preselite-spotted dolerite samples from the summit of Silbury Hill and a single flake from the Alexander Keiller Museum. They were from sub-soil and topsoil excavated material; all four appeared to have been flaked.


photo - Rosie Ixer

The three struck flakes of preselite-spotted dolerite from the Preseli Hills vary slightly in the amount and size and density of their characteristic pale spotting. In two very similar samples (1.6 and 2.2g) pale pinkish grey spots 0.5 to 0.7mm in diameter are present in hand specimen and in the third, the largest sample, similar size spots are visible in polished thin section but not in hand specimen.

Petrographically the third preselite is a highly altered ophitic dolerite now comprising clinopyroxene-altered plagioclase-altered iron titanium oxide minerals with abundant secondary chlorite and epidote. It has millimetre diameter, metamorphic alteration spots that carry characteristic chrome-rich spinels.

The transmitted and reflected light petrography of this sample is almost indistinguishable from that belonging to preselites from Carn Menyn and members of the SH33group.

The size, shape and macroscopical lithological characteristics of the 1968–70 spotted dolerite flake from the Alexander Keiller Museum suggest that it belongs with the three more recently excavated, spotted dolerite flakes found on Silbury Hill. The metamorphic spots are slightly larger but this is not of significance.

Although none of the flakes could be fitted together all four could have been struck from a larger artefact. They do appear to belong together.


Thursday, 28 July 2022

Anti-Bird netting at Stonehenge - the details of the trial.

 After the unexpected kerfuffle following my tweet about the anti-bird netting at Stonehenge I asked for details of the "trial, conducted in consultation with Historic England, "closely monitored over a year's cycle" which is being undertaken on the effects of the anti-bird netting installed in September 2021 under some of the lintels at Stonehenge". 

The response:

"English Heritage have confirmed that during the Stonehenge Lintels project last year we went to some lengths to protect the lichens on the stones and discussed how we might reduce the amount of bird excrement mainly from the rooks. We did not have a specific report written on this but it was discussed with the lichenologist who advised us about the protection of the lichens during the works and also the geologist who had recently studied the sarsens.

Following further discussions with the Inspector of Ancient Monuments (Historic England) we decided to trial inserting powder coated mesh into three of the many recesses under the lintels without any fixings which we could monitor along with the mortar that had been replaced. The mesh will be checked in September along with the works in general and a decision made then about whether or not to remove it. There is no plastic netting anywhere at Stonehenge as we are aware that birds can get caught up in it. We are very protective of the wildlife at Stonehenge. Following consultation with the specialists involved it was felt that we should look to prioritise the protection of the stones themselves and the protected lichens in situ.

As the trial is not yet complete, English Heritage do not hold any results. Please be aware that we cannot keep information requests open indefinitely, however if you wish to place a further request in the future you are more than welcome to do so."

The information they have released is below, click to embiggen:

The Works emails:

The Lintel emails.

Scheduled Monument Consent is not a replacement for Planning Permission

Custodians of Scheduled Monuments know that Scheduled Monument Consent (SMC) is required for most works and other activities that physically affect a scheduled monument. In practice this is a very strict regime under which very little, if any, disturbance of the monument is possible without consent, apart from activities covered by Class Consent and which are most commonly relied upon are those relating to agriculture, horticulture (gardening) and works urgently needed in the interests of safety and health.

SMC is separate from the statutory planning process. However, the two processes can run in parallel if planning permission is also required for proposed works to a Scheduled Monument - (Source).  It is analogous to Listed Building Consent, it is an additional consent needed not a replacement to the normal planning permission requirement.

Planning permission is also needed if the work being carried out meets the statutory definition of ‘development’ which is set out in section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. In this Act, except where the context otherwise requires, “development,” means the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.

The categories of work that do not amount to ‘development’ are set out in section 55(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. These include building operations which do not materially affect the external appearance of a building. The term ‘materially affect’ has no statutory definition, but is linked to the significance of the change which is made to a building’s external appearance.

It seems that obtaining an SMC has been too often an excuse to not to also obtain Planning Permission, and to avoid the democratic overview that the planning system provides and the obtaining an SMC doesn't. Planning permission approval also provides environmental protections and a range of conditions can be applied.

If any cases come to mind now or in the future remember the appropriate remedies are available. 

Remember this is not legal advice - I'm not a lawyer and it is worth what you paid for it, nothing. It is just my opinion.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Bats at Stonehenge - absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I was surprised to learn from a Freedom of Information request that English Heritage believe that there are never any bats at Stonehenge: " there has never been any evidence of bats within the stone circle, neither physical or anecdotal. During planning applications for the new visitor centre in 2009, ecology surveys were carried out, and no evidence of bats was found. Therefore it was not deemed a necessary use of funds to commission a bat survey in 2021. "

This was a response to a query as to whether a bat survey had been undertaken before bird netting was installed in the trilithons in 2021.

The bat survey of 2008 can be found at in the planning bundle for application  S/2009/1527 on the Wiltshire planning portal

It doesn't find any bats at the Stone Circle, because they didn't look there!

The nearest they looked was at Durrington Down and Fargo Wood, where there were lots of bats. 

English Heritage also had a Bat survey  in 2003  which can be found in the planning bundle for Planning Application S/2004/0001

The conclusion for the Stonehenge Landscape : All ten species of bat were recorded regularly with only one species recorded fewer than 10 times during the 2003 surveys. The bat assemblage is assessed as being of National Importance due to the species diversity, the level of use by foraging and commuting bats and the number of roosts found during relatively limited surveys.

Again they didn't survey the actual Stone Circle but bats were found close to it.

For a more recent bat survey Highways England has done one on the route of the A303 in 2018

They monitored the A303 including the drove crossing point by the Stone Circle - "Crossing point 2018_3"

"A total of 18 bats were recorded at crossing point 2018_3 throughout the six survey visits. Species recorded included common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, serotine, noctule and an unidentified bat."

So bats have been recorded north and south of the Stone Circle but the absence of evidence at the circle has been taken to be evidence of absence of bats in the ancient ring of stones with its quiet nooks and crannies, just perfect for a bat to rest in.

"Absence of a record does not mean there are no bats. It could mean there is no survey data available for that location. 

A survey is needed if one or more of the following applies: distribution and historical records suggest bats may be present.. the development site includes buildings or other built structures,.. that provide roosting opportunities for bats 

All bat species are designated and protected as European protected species (EPS). EPS are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. 

It is an offence to: damage or destroy their breeding sites and resting places (even when bats are not present) possess, control or transport them (alive or dead) 

It is also an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to intentionally or recklessly: disturb bats while they occupy a structure or place used for shelter or protection obstruct access to a place of shelter or protection 

Several species of bats are listed as rare and most threatened species under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006). You must have regard for the conservation of Section 41 species as part of your planning decision.

The definitive book - Bat Roosts in Rock: A Guide to Identification and Assessment provides this handy guide to the law:

Friday, 22 July 2022

Waun Mawn is like a box of chocolates

The latest Waun Mawn paper - citation below - is an excellent example of the self-correcting nature of good science. Researchers have continued to analyse the data and have changed their hypothesis as they report the new results. There is no gotcha about this. As John Maynard Keynes is reputed to have said, but it was probably Paul Samuelson more recently, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” 

I do have one quibble with it though.

I think Nick Pearce's statistical analysis doesn't go far enough and downplays the probability of Waun Mawn stones being used at Stonehenge.

The paper presents a full worked examination of the probability of the missing stones, the eight that are thought to have been removed, being of Lladron origin. There being no Lladron stones at Stonehenge this is the equivalent of any Waun Mawn stones being moved to Stonehenge.

This calculation is based on the the choice of stones to be removed being completely random. This a necessary and useful first calculation to make but it doesn't go far enough because we can make the valid prior assumption that before choosing a stone to take the physical and or spiritual characteristics of the stone would have been assessed.

On Christmas Day afternoon when the the Quality Street tin is passed around you know there were twelve chocolates left at lunch time. Now when it is your turn to choose there are just four Orange Cremes left.

Is it a valid to assume that the original twelve were all Orange Cremes?

No. You can reasonably assume that the Purple ones and the Green triangles would have been preferentially chosen before the Orange Cremes. The twelve could have been any mix that included four Orange Cremes.

I think the same applies to the Waun Mawn stones. The probability that some were removed to Stonehenge is not properly described by the calculation in the paper. What the true probability is and whether they actually were is another matter.

Incidentally the same applies to the stones removed at Stonehenge, why were some removed completely and other left alone? It is unlikely to be a completely random choice. 

Contents of our Quality Street tin Xmas 2021


Richard E. Bevins, Nick J.G. Pearce, Mike Parker Pearson, Rob A. Ixer,

Identification of the source of dolerites used at the Waun Mawn stone circle in the Mynydd Preseli, west Wales and implications for the proposed link with Stonehenge,
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports,
Volume 45,
ISSN 2352-409X,

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

That Stonehenge is a "second-hand circle" story - the science is here.

TLDR summary - Probably not from Waun Mawn.

Excellent to see science that is open minded and self-correcting.  

Richard E. Bevins, Nick J.G. Pearce, Mike Parker Pearson, Rob A. Ixer,
Identification of the source of dolerites used at the Waun Mawn stone circle in the Mynydd Preseli, west Wales and implications for the proposed link with Stonehenge,
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports,
Volume 45,
ISSN 2352-409X,

Abstract: A Neolithic stone circle at Waun Mawn, in the Mynydd Preseli, west Wales, has been proposed as the original location of some dolerite megaliths at Stonehenge, including one known as Stone 62. To investigate this hypothesis, in-situ analyses, using a portable XRF, have been obtained for four extant non-spotted doleritic monoliths at Waun Mawn, along with two weathered doleritic fragments from a stonehole (number 91). The data obtained have been compared to data from spotted and non-spotted dolerite outcrops across the Mynydd Preseli, an area known to be the source of some Stonehenge doleritic bluestones, as well as data from in-situ analysis of Stone 62 (non-spotted dolerite) and ex-situ analysis of a core taken from Stone 62 in the late 1980′s. Recently, Stone 62 has been identified as coming from Garn Ddu Fach, an outcrop some 6.79 km to the east-southeast of Waun Mawn. None of the four dolerite monoliths at Waun Mawn have compositions which match Stonehenge Stone 62, and neither do the weathered fragments from stonehole 91. Rather the data show that the Waun Mawn monoliths, and most probably the weathered stonehole fragments, can be sourced to Cerrig Lladron, 2.37 km southwest of Waun Mawn, suggesting that a very local stone source was used in construction of the Waun Mawn stone circle. It is noted that there is evidence that at least eight stones had been erected and subsequently removed from the Waun Mawn circle but probability analysis suggests strongly that the missing stones were also derived, at least largely, from Cerrig Lladron.

Monday, 18 July 2022

£100 up for grabs

Elsewhere I posted "give me the details of a single glacial stone that is in its natural placement, or reliably recorded before being humanly moved, on Salisbury Plain. A bet: I'll give £100 to your favourite charity if you can and £100 to mine if you can't, from you."

The world's leading expert on Salisbury Plain Glacial Erratics has refused to take the bet but insists there are lots of them.

My response: "Put up or shut up"

If you know better claim the money.

Friday, 15 July 2022

Detmar Blow and the Meteorite - Andrew Ziminski's Theory.

In 2013 I theorised that the big pit in front of the middle trilithon may have once held the Lake House meteorite.

The Lake House Meteorite a 92.75kg stone landed about 30,000 years ago, no crater has been found so it may have been onto the Ice Age ice at that time, and may not have been anywhere near Stonehenge. About 10,000 years ago it was exposed to the elements and started weathering. About 4000 years ago it was buried in the local chalk before being dug up in probably Victorian times.

My theory was that this strange stone was brought to Stonehenge very early on, it was buried in the holiest central position in recognition of its unique qualities. A generation or so later it was decreed that some leader's tomb, or other place was more fitting for it and so like the Stone of Scone it was moved to please the leader. This involved excavating the pit to find and remove it. The pit was then filled in and the bluestone horseshoe erected.

I think the pit isn't for erecting something or burying something, it looks more like a quarrying pit used to extract something heavy that was already buried  in front of the Great Trilithon. To bury or erect a stone a steep sided hole fits the purpose, but to drag something out a shallow slope is needed, in the absence of lifting gear,

Our Victorian diggers then found it in its secondary burial place in a barrow.

It is remiss of me that I have not mentioned Andrew Ziminski in his brilliant book The Stone Mason refines this theory by wondering if instead of Rev.Edward Duke or his ilk finding it in a barrow in the early part of Victoria's reign it was actually found by Detmar Blow in the big pit in the centre of Stonehenge. Detmar Blow was not only entrusted with the 1901 remedial work at Stonehenge, which involved with Gowland the excavation to the edge of the big pit as they straightened Stone 56  but he was also in charge of restoring Lake House in 1898 and subsequent work there. The theory being that it was found and removed in 1901 during Gowland's excavations by Blow and taken to Lake House as a curio.

There doesn't seem to be any record of the meteorite at Lake House before 1905 so Andrew's theory is appealing.

Stonehenge by Mike Parker Pearson in Chapter 8 p.129 - 132 discusses the large pit in the centre of Stonehenge:

He pieces together evidence about it from excavations by Atkinson, Hawley and Gowland and concludes it dates to 2440-2100 BC, after the Great Trilithon was erected and that it was filled back up in prehistory because a bluestone was set into it as part of the inner oval of bluestones.

Atkinson thought it was the ramp for the erection of Stone 56 - photos below - but MPP shows it wasn't. The dark area of the ramp can be seen on the side of the excavation leading down towards the base of 56 but  it is too shallow to be of use and doesn't join up to Gowland's excavation around the base of 56.

MPP declares the purpose of this huge pit, estimated as 12 metres long, 5 metres wide and 2.4 metres wide to be a "complete mystery". The size is very approximate as edges haven't been found.