Friday 18 March 2022

1916 - The Glacial Drift Question

From the 1916 Stonehenge guidebook - the key question that the Glacial Drift theorists still can't answer.


While the Sarsens usually awake the greatest interest by reason of their bulk, and the problem of how a primitive people was able to deal with them, a far greater problem is presented by the small uprights, or Foreign Stones, the like of which cannot be matched within a hundred miles of Salisbury Plain, while some can only be found upon the continent of Europe. Fragments carefully removed and submitted to mineralogists have made this fact abundantly clear, and consequently it is possible to arrive at the very definite conclusion that Stonehenge is certainly not a "Wiltshire " monument, and probably that it is not even "British" at all.

Where have the stones come from? One school of writers ventures to suggest Kildare in Ireland. Others suggest Wales, Cornwall, Dart moor, Shropshire, or Cumberland, where similar rocks are to be found, though perhaps not absolutely identical in character. Yet another theory advanced is that the Foreign Stones were transported to the plain as boulders of the "glacial drift." It has even been stated that the gravels of the district contain small pebbles composed of rock similar to these mysterious Foreign Stones. The statement has indeed been made, but as yet no Wiltshire geologist has produced one of these pebbles of which so much is written, and so little seen.

These Glacial Drift theorists, further account for the absence of these foreign stones elsewhere than at Stonehenge, by yet another theory, that they, like most of the Sarsens, have all been used up for millstones, gateposts, and road metal.

There are many millstones and gateposts in Wiltshire, but where is there one which corresponds in any way to the upright Foreign Stones at Stonehenge? The production of pebbles from the gravels of Wilts, or of a specimen gatepost or millstone would at once settle this question. Unhappily this tangible evidence is wanting, so, alluring as the Glacial Drift theory may appear, it must reluctantly be set aside for want of convincing evidence.

Finally, there seems every reason to believe that the small upright stones are "naturalised aliens. from abroad, and that is why they have been described at the commencement of this section as "Foreign Stones." It must not be taken for granted that the small upright stones at present standing represent all the foreign rocks employed. Probably they are merely the hardest and most durable of those used in the original structure, the softer and more friable examples having disappeared entirely, owing to the action of the weather, and possibly also to the assaults of the unchecked relic-monger, who until recent years could with his hammer collect souvenirs with impunity.




Curator of the Salisbury museum with Plans and Illustrations by HEYWOOD SUMNER.F.S.A.


Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd Price 1/3 net



Thursday 3 March 2022

Stanenges, where stones of wonderful size have been erected after the manner of doorways.

Keeping time at Stonehenge - Timothy Darvill - - may not have "solved the mystery of Stonehenge" by detailing how the sarsens may have been used as quotidian markers but it has brought to attention one of the puzzling features of the sarsen ring. 

As far as we can tell, the ring being incomplete, the ring seems to be marked into three equal portions by "entrances". The well known one on the solstitial alignment; by stone 11 it being noticeably thinner than average and only half height, the stone having been broken; and by stone 21. Stones 21 and 22 form the posts of the accidental trilithon nearest the path. 

Click to embiggen - Stones 21, 22, 122 

From the paper: Plot showing the spacing and size of stones forming the Sarsen Circle (figure by T. Darvill). 

Having spent hundreds of hours standing near it I became convinced that it was an entrance because of the width of the gap and the dressing of the stones. The lintel has a false keystone appearance and the uprights maybe vertical grooves.

However it would have been the trilithon of the fallen 20 and 21 that would have been either side of the theoretical Darvillian gap that would mark one of the three divisions of the circle. So this isn't the trilithon we should be looking at. 

Of course if the central trilithon wasn't twisted there would have been a sightline across its front between the two lesser doorways, but it was and so there wasn't. 

Not a solution to Stonehenge but another intriguing nugget that may help build a more complete understanding.