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 - Photo by Richard Bevins from the paper

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 RHB 
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."

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