Monday 15 April 2024

Summary of the 2024 Lunar Alignment Investigation

 

Unveiling the Celestial Connection: Stonehenge and the Moon




The Major Lunar Standstill

Stonehenge, that ancient and enigmatic monument on the Salisbury Plain in England, is renowned for its solar alignments. However, did you know that it may also have a deep connection with the Moon? In the year 2024, a rare celestial event known as the major lunar standstill is set to occur. But what exactly is this phenomenon?

  • Major Lunar Standstill: Unlike the sun, which follows a roughly annual cycle, the Moon’s movements are more rapid. Moonrise and moonset shift from their northernmost to southernmost limits and back within a month. However, there’s more to the story. Over approximately 18.6 years, the limits of moonrise and moonset change significantly. The major lunar standstill marks the time when the northernmost and southernmost moonrise and moonset are farthest apart.

Stonehenge’s Lunar Clues

  1. Early Phase of Stonehenge: Between 3000 and 2500 BCE, long before the massive stones were erected at Stonehenge, people were burying cremated remains in the surrounding ditch and bank. These cremations clustered in the southeastern part of the monument, pointing toward the most southerly rising position of the moon. Interestingly, three timber posts were set into the bank in this direction.

  2. The Station Stones: Stonehenge originally had four Station Stones, although only two remain today. These stones align with two extreme positions of the Moon. The long axis formed by these stones also shares the same orientation as the southernmost moonrise during the major standstill. Was this alignment deliberate? And if so, what purpose did it serve?

  3. Enduring Connection: The Station Stones might have played a role in measuring out the sarsen circle around 500 years after the site was initially used for cremations. This suggests a compelling and enduring link between the lunar cycles and Stonehenge’s architecture.

Investigating the Phenomenon

  • Collaboration: English Heritage, along with experts from Oxford, Leicester, and Bournemouth Universities, as well as the Royal Astronomical Society, is embarking on an investigation. They aim to study the alignment of Stonehenge’s ancient stones with the moonrise and moonset during this almost once-in-a-generation event.

  • Debate and Discovery: Researchers continue to debate whether Stonehenge’s lunar alignments were deliberate and how they were achieved. This year provides a unique opportunity to explore and unravel the mysteries of this ancient site.

In summary, Stonehenge’s relationship with the Moon goes beyond mere speculation. It’s a celestial dance that has captivated humanity for millennia. As the major lunar standstill approaches, we eagerly await new insights into the ancient monument’s lunar connections.



References:

  1. Daily Mail: Rare lunar event sheds light on Stonehenge’s connection to the moon
  2. The Guardian: Once-in-a-generation lunar event to shed light on Stonehenge’s links to the moon
  3. MSN: New Hampshire businesses gearing up for Monday’s solar eclipse, increased tourism
  4. English Heritage: Stonehenge Major Lunar Standstill

Saturday 13 April 2024

Stonehenge: Sighting the Sun by Clive Ruggles, Amanda Chadburn

Stonehenge: Sighting the Sun by Clive Ruggles, Amanda Chadburn - Books on Google Play is available as an ebook (£40)  or  £32 from https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/book/10.3828/9781802074673 

The printed version will be available at the end of May.



Stonehenge is one of the most famous ancient monuments in the world and its solar alignment is one of its most important features. Yet although archaeologists have learned a huge amount about this iconic monument and its development, a sense of mystery continues about its purpose. This helps fuel numerous theories and common misconceptions, particularly concerning its relationship to the sky and the heavenly bodies. A desire to cut through this confusion was the inspiration for this book, and it fills a gaping hole in the existing literature.
The book provides both an introduction to Stonehenge and its landscape and an introduction to archaeoastronomy—the study of how ancient peoples understood phenomena in the sky, and what role the sky played in their cultures. Archaeoastronomy is a specialism critical to explaining the relationship of Stonehenge and nearby monuments to the heavens, but interpreting archaeoastronomical evidence has often proved highly controversial in the past. Stonehenge: Sighting the Sun explains why. It makes clear which ideas about Stonehenge are generally accepted and which are not, with clear graphics to explain complicated concepts.
This beautifully illustrated book shines new light on this most famous of ancient monuments, and is the first in-depth study of this fascinating topic suitable both for specialists and for anyone with a general interest.
Source: Publisher




Woodhenge Unveiled: A Surprising Sibling of Stonehenge

Dr Amanda Chadburn in the pre-publication publicity for her and Clive Ruggles book: Stonehenge: Sighting the Sun has been talking to the Daily Telegraph about Woodhenge

The ebook is available for £40 at: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=Nff-EAAAQBAJ or £32 from https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/book/10.3828/9781802074673

“We’ve dated different parts of Woodhenge and ... discovered that it was a two-phase monument and that its solstice-aligned timber rings were earlier, constructed around 2600BC – and is therefore broadly contemporary with the sarsens at Stonehenge."

“It’s significant because it proves that Stonehenge was not a one-off within the landscape.

“It shows that people who held their ceremonies or religious rituals in these monuments were looking at the sun in a similar way [at the same time].”



In their book, the academics write:“Some of the most common misconceptions about Stonehenge concern its connections with the heavens… As a result, a bewildering collection of contradictory accounts about Stonehenge and its ‘astronomy’ are available in bookshops and online.”

Dr Chadburn said: “People have said it was used to predict eclipses or it was aligned on the equinox. People claim all kinds of astronomical alignments for Stonehenge, but when you examine them very critically, the evidence doesn’t back that up.”

Sunday 7 April 2024

A Wiltshire Thatcher - not just Rock and Roll, also Rocks.


Click to embiggen


Within the Wiltshire Museum exhibition - A Wiltshire Thatcher – a Photographic Journey through Victorian Wessex there are is delightful section of Stonehenge pictures, both the original 1892 ones and comparison ones taken this year on similar equipment, with a video looping to show the process.

Well worth a visit, with many other fascinating pictures on display including the iconic Wiltshire Thatcher:




 

Thursday 28 March 2024

The Journey of the Bluestones


 https://app.suno.ai/song/ea33976a-7b2c-4268-a5ec-084e8f8cd499/ 

[Verse]

Carryin' them heavy stones, all the way from Wales

Crossin' rivers, valleys, and rugged trails

Heartache in our bones, sweat drippin' down our backs

But we kept on pushin', ain't nothin' that we lack


[Verse 2]

Across rocks mud and chalk we trudged along

Feelin' the weight, feelin' everything goin' wrong

But we had a vision, a grand design

Stonehenge in our sights, ready for the divine


[Chorus]

Oh, the bluestones, they were heavy as can be

But we carried them with grit, for all the world to see

From the valleys of Wales to the plains of Stonehenge

We brave souls, we were caught in the Waun Mawn bluestone revenge


Wednesday 27 March 2024

King Arthur Vs Dennis the Peasant

A quote seen online; "To assume that the tribes of West Wales had the technical skills, the mental maps, the motivation, the manpower and raw material resources, and the leadership to make 80 or so monolith transporting expeditions by sea or overland is to enter a quagmire with no escape..... I have argued many times before, the great mass of the population at the time were not driven by rituals, belief systems, political aspirations or economic ambition but by things that were much simpler -- the need for warmth, clothing, food, safety and comradeship within secure family groups. It was all very utilitarian. The locals inhabiting the slopes of Mynydd Preseli  would have had much in common with Dennis the Peasant. They would have had no knowledge at all of Stonehenge, which was at that time in any case just a circular earthwork no more significant than hundreds of others. They would have had no reason to cart lots of stones from here to there, involving a stupendous logistical challenge. They would in any case not have known how to get there."

I am happy to be in that quagmire, I'm with Dennis - I believe that the builders of Stonehenge were just as capable as us and had all the skills and knowledge to transport the stones to Stonehenge. There must be a word for someone who believes a different bunch of people to your own aren't as capable as you are.

But maybe I'm misjudging the writer who by likening the tribal members to Dennis the Peasant, who famously objects that King Arthur unfairly treats him like an inferior and then eloquently demonstrates  an erudite constitutional knowledge, is making that point about stereotyping.



Monday 25 March 2024

Links between Distant Pots

Having noted Richard Bradley's paper on Links between Distant Monuments I am reminded of the similar linkage shown by Grooved Ware.  Perhaps even stronger evidence of the archipelago wide links.


Revisiting Grooved Ware Understanding Ceramic Trajectories in Britain and Ireland, 3200–2400 cal BC Mike Copper, Alasdair Whittle, Alison Sheridan  ISBN: 9798888570326

Following its appearance, arguably in Orkney in the 32nd century cal BC, Grooved Ware soon became widespread across Britain and Ireland, seemingly replacing earlier pottery styles and being deposited in contexts as varied as simple pits, passage tombs, ceremonial timber circles and henge monuments. As a result, Grooved Ware lies at the heart of many ongoing debates concerning social and economic developments at the end of the 4th and during the first half of the 3rd millennia cal BC.

Stemming from the 2022 Neolithic Studies Group autumn conference, and following on from Cleal and MacSween’s 1999 NSG volume on Grooved Ware, this book presents a series of papers from researchers specializing in Grooved Ware pottery and the British and Irish Neolithic, offering both regional and thematic perspectives on this important ceramic tradition. Chapters cover the development of Grooved Ware in Orkney as well as the timing and nature of its appearance, development, and subsequent demise in different regions of Britain and Ireland. In addition, thematic papers consider what Grooved Ware can contribute to understandings of inter-regional interactions during the earlier 3rd millennium cal BC, the possible meaning of Grooved Ware’s decorative motifs, and the thorny issue of the validity and significance of the various Grooved Ware sub-styles.

The book will be of great value not only to archaeologists and students with a specific interest in Grooved Ware pottery but also to those with a more general interest in the development of the Neolithic of Britain and Ireland.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Experimental Archaeology and Neolithic Architecture

Experimental Archaeology and Neolithic Architecture: Between Design and Construction  - John Hill



 "Our understanding of the construction processes involved with British Neolithic architecture needs further investigation. The people were preliterate and there is no archaeological evidence of written or pictorial information regarding construction. So how could they build complex monuments like Stonehenge without a plan?

This book argues that the Neolithic builders used rudimentary techniques to plan before building their monuments (circa 4000 – 2500 BC) – essentially, using ropes to set out the physical design of any structure they intended to build, whilst finger reckoning numeracy dictated how their measured ropes were folded to position the monument’s features. Finally, they used the sun’s shadow at midday to achieve orientation.

To support this premise, the book offers both the results of the author’s “rope experiments” and instructions for repeating them. Importantly, this form of experimental archaeology delivers a unique approach for understanding the nature of complex Neolithic architecture. Essentially, the book explains the mental processes involved between design and construction."


All looks very interesting - there is a sample available - and as I have shown how folded ropes could be used to set out the inner horseshoe of Stonehenge - https://www.sarsen.org/2024/01/how-to-set-out-stonehenge-sarsens.html I hope to read it. Though at over £70 it might be a bit much for my wallet.

ISBN: 1-0364-0021-2

ISBN13: 978-1-0364-0021-7

Release Date: 1st May 2024

Pages: 215

Price: £72.99

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2024

Tuesday 19 March 2024

An Update on Glacial Ice Extent and Erratics

At last the latest findings about the extent of the Last Glacial Maximum and the Glacial Erratics has been published.

The map below is self explanatory and so is the conclusion: High relative sea level during MIS4 and 3 (Marine Isotope Stages) coincident with adjacent calving ice sheet margins provides an explanation for the rafted giant erratics found around the shores of southern Britain and Ireland.

The article is free and open source:

Scourse, J.D. (2024), The timing and magnitude of the British–Irish Ice Sheet between Marine Isotope Stages 5d and 2: implications for glacio-isostatic adjustment, high relative sea levels and ‘giant erratic’ emplacement. J. Quaternary Sci. https://doi.org/10.1002/jqs.3611 

 ABSTRACT:  The extent, chronology and dynamics of the pre-Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 last British–Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS) are not well known. Although the BRITICE-CHRONO Project has detailed the maximum extent and retreat phases of the last BIIS for the period after 30 ka and into the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the Project identified several pre-existing datasets and generated new data that implied glaciation pre-dating the LGM but which post-dated the Last Interglacial (Eemian; MIS5e); these data are reviewed here. There are no dated till units but are other indicators clearly indicative of glaciation: deep-sea ice-rafted detritus flux into the adjacent NE Atlantic, cosmogenic rock-exposure age dating from glaciated surfaces in Wales and the island of Lundy (Bristol Channel), and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages of proximal glacifluvial sequences on the Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides) and in the Cheshire Basin. Taken together these indicate BIIS inception during MIS5d, growth into MIS4 and evidence for dynamic retreat–advance phases during MIS3. OSL evidence for high relative sea level indicated by raised beaches in southern Ireland during MIS4 and 3 at a time of lowered glacio-eustatic sea level indicates substantial glacial isostatic loading, explained by the early growth of the BIIS during the last cold stage. High relative sea level during MIS4 and 3 coincident with adjacent calving ice sheet margins provides an explanation for the rafted giant erratics found around the shores of southern Britain and Ireland.


Clickable

FIGURE 1 Location map. Cores MD01‐2461 (Porcupine Seabight), MD95‐2006 (Barra Fan), MD04‐2822 (Rockall Trough), MD04‐2829 (Rosemary Bank), CE18011_VC2 IRD (Porcupine Bank) and DSDP 548 (Goban Spur); Isles of Scilly, BRITICE‐CHRONO MIS2 maximum ice limit, Lundy, Snowdon/Glyderau, Suianebost (Lewis), Glacial Lake Pickering, Glacial Lake Fenland, Courtmacsherry, Howe's Strand, Broad Strand, Fethard, Arclid and Porthleven. [Color figure can be viewed at wileyonlinelibrary.com]

Wednesday 6 March 2024

New lead isoscape map for archaeological provenance studies in Great Britain

 I was asked again about "Pigs from Scotland at Stonehenge" - the latest science says; "no".  For details see:



A contoured map of (A) 206Pb/204Pb isotope compositions. Superimposed over this contour map is the outcrop area of the Chalk Group. Chalk underlies much of southern Britain but it does not host much lead. Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database rights 2022. BGS © UKRI.


Links between Distant Monuments

Reviewing Richard Bradley's Antiquity Article: Beyond the bluestones: links between distant monuments in Late Neolithic Britain and Ireland http://dx.doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2024.3 I am struck by the concise way he sets out the long distance links. Whilst the degree of probability for each link that it actually existed varies I think taken together this paper establishes the long distance mindset of the prehistoric builders of monuments.

Well worth reading. 



I have scribbled his links onto the map in the paper to give a visual idea of the links he discusses: 


The table from the paper: 


Click to embiggen

 

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Antiquity Article: Beyond the bluestones: links between distant monuments in Late Neolithic Britain and Ireland

Richard Bradley writes: "Recent research has considered the relationship between Stonehenge and sites in south-west Wales, raising questions about whether the first monument at Stonehenge copied the form of an earlier stone circle at Waun Mawn and how the relationship between these sites was connected with the transport of bluestones between the different regions. But Stonehenge and Waun Mawn are not the only prehistoric sites in Britain and Ireland that share architectural elements and hint at social connections across vast distances of land and sea. This debate article explains how the questions raised about these Late Neolithic monuments can and should be applied to other monumental complexes to explore this insular phenomenon".   







Links:

Bradley, R. (2024) ‘Beyond the bluestones: links between distant monuments in Late Neolithic Britain and Ireland’, Antiquity, pp. 1–8. doi:10.15184/aqy.2024.3.

Monday 29 January 2024

What about the Bluestone pXRF studies?

The recent paper on Stonehenge Sarsen Debitage* ends with this conclusion:

"Our key message is that studies attempting to use surficial (pXRF) analysis to provenance any excavated artefact must demonstrate that weathering processes following burial did not significantly alter the primary chemical signature of the material before any meaningful provenance interpretations can be made."... "Any future attempts to provenance excavated dolerite fragments at the monument (likely derived from the in situ dressing of megaliths and/or the removal of flakes in more recent history) must consider differences in the weathering regime experienced by the buried fragments, exposed potential outcrops and standing stones. Due to its mineralogical composition, dolerite is more susceptible to chemical weathering than sarsen. Thus, one should expect differences in weathering to be much more significant between buried dolerite fragments exposed to subsoil weathering, and dolerite outcrops and megaliths exposed to differing intensities and durations of subaerial weathering."

This obviously could be thought to apply to the existing analysis of the bluestone dolerites, and any other non-sarsen stone.

So is there a problem?

Firstly, apart from the Newall boulder (https://www.sarsen.org/2023/07/the-erratic-that-came-in-from-cold.html), all the pXRF analysis has been on exposed Stonehenge stones comparing to exposed Welsh rocks, so they are like for like comparisons. And the Newall boulder was further analysed to show it was part of a broken monolith from Craig Rhos‐y‐Felin** 

Secondly the geochemistry revealed by xPDF is only part of the story. The recent Ixer, Bevins et al papers have also used petrology, understanding the matrix of the rock, to identify sources.

For instance in Bevins, Richard & Ixer, Robert & Webb, Peter & Watson, John. (2012). Provenancing the rhyolitic and dacitic components of the Stonehenge landscape bluestone lithology: New petrographical and geochemical evidence. Journal of Archaeological Science. 39. 1005–1019. 10.1016/j.jas.2011.11.020 the authors showed how Craig Rhos‐y‐Felin rhyolite had been misidentified as microtonalite, the geochemistry was very similar but the petrography different. This holistic approach to identification instills confidence. 

But the big difference is in the nature of the stones. Sarsen is over 99% silica, it is the white Wonderloaf of rocks. The various bluestones are complex rocks with other compounds in great abundance in them. So the presence of a small amount of chemical changes from weathering is important on Sarsen but not for bluestone. As Rob Ixer says; "A smear of marmite on plain buttered toast would be tasted but the same smear on jalapeno-anchovy toast would add nothing."

So the valuable lesson of the problems of using pXRF on Sarsen for sourcing studies doesn't cause worries about the reliability of the recent Bluestone papers, and is unlikely to be a problem in the future. 



David Nash responds:  Interesting thoughts but I wouldn’t be quite so confident about work on dolerite orthostats. These would have had fresh faces when quarried, and then slowly weathered at Stonehenge. The surfaces of comparator outcrops in Wales would have been weathering for much longer. This means that the Preseli outcrops are likely to be more altered by weathering than the comparatively fresh orthostats. Plus the weathering environment in wales will be different to that of Salisbury Plain. PXRF work needs to bear these differences in mind.

Local and exotic sources of sarsen debitage at Stonehenge revealed by geochemical provenancing,
T. Jake R. Ciborowski, David J. Nash, Timothy Darvill, Ben Chan, Mike Parker Pearson, Rebecca Pullen, Colin Richards, Hugo Anderson-Whymark,
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 53, 2024, 104406, ISSN 2352-409X,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104406.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352409X24000348)


**Lithological description and provenancing of a collection of bluestones from excavations at Stonehenge by William Hawley in 1924 with implications for the human versus ice transport debate of the monument's bluestone megaliths: DOI:10.1002/gea.21971
Richard Bevins  Rob Ixer  Nick Pearce  James Scourse  Tim Daw
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/share/author/YUUAUVRWBNTZTPSQVBGM?target=10.1002/gea.21971

Sunday 28 January 2024

Possible Stonehenge Debitage Sources

The two "exotic" sources Nash et al identify as possible sources for sarsen at Stonehenge are Stoney Wish near Ditchling Sussex and on the side of the A272 near Bramdean in Hampshire.

To help identify them here they are:



Click pictures to embiggen

For a source of monoliths the geochemistry, the petrography (the internal matrix of the stone) and the form of the natural rocks has to match. West Woods still has large boulders despite years of breaking and removal that are the size of some of Stonehenge's stones. Do these sites match up to this or as the paper suggests are they sources for small hammerstones or similar sized stones?  

There is a question mark over where the Bramdean stones originated as the circle of stones seems to date from about 1845   - https://pastrambles.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/the-bramdean-circle-of-stones/   erected by "Colonel George Greenwood of Brockwood (formerly Brookwood) House, a large property down the lane on the other side of the crossroads...there are two possible explanations of the Colonel’s motivation for building the it in 1845 or thereabouts: “One…is that he wished to see how long it would be before they were regarded as relics of the ancient past – this is commonly said of them today. The alternative is that they were a demonstration of the power of his tree-lifter”. The tree-lifter was the Colonel’s invention for transplanting trees up to 30 feet in height with their ball of earth intact, a feat the apparatus apparently made possible for a single individual to do at a rate of one tree per day. The somewhat aptly-named Colonel Greenwood was very enthusiastic about the importance of trees to the landscape and wrote a book in 1844 called The Tree-lifter, Or a new method of transplanting forest trees,....Colonel Greenwood is said to have excavated local archaeological sites and was a keen geologist referred to as ‘the father of subaerialism’, ascribing the greater inequalities in the earth’s surface to atmospheric influences. ..It was said in his obituary that “had he fallen amongst geologists in early life, instead of amongst ‘thoroughbreds’, he would doubtless have occupied a leading place among men of science”. ... Incidentally, the colonel is buried nearby at All Saints church, Hinton Ampner, his grave stone a recumbent sarsen which stands out pleasingly amongst all the more traditional ones.


 

A few thoughts on the 2024 Sarsen Debitage Paper

Local and exotic sources of sarsen debitage at Stonehenge revealed by geochemical provenancing

T. Jake R. Ciborowski, David J. Nash, Timothy Darvill, Ben Chan, Mike Parker Pearson, Rebecca Pullen, Colin Richards, Hugo Anderson-Whymark,
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 53, 2024, 104406, ISSN 2352-409X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104406. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352409X24000348)


An exciting addition to Stonehenge Research, identifying the sources of the stones not only satisfies the Stonehenge completist but also provides hints into the society that built it. The paper is very thorough and open and deserves study, even if the technicalities are beyond your ken.  

The authors have been admirably restrained in drawing conclusions about the sources of the debitage but it is worth emphasising the shortcomings they admit to. This is very much a preliminary paper and the tentative sources are just that.

The first problem is that they are using only twenty sample sites to compare with, the sites are detailed in David J. Nash et al. , Origins of the sarsen megaliths at Stonehenge. Sci. Adv.6,eabc0133(2020). DOI:10.1126/sciadv.abc0133  

Click to embiggen

There is much more work to be done in sampling and plotting the variations in Sarsens before there can be confidence that all potential sources or areas are known.

Secondly because of the well explained constraints they were working under the analysis had to be purely geochemical, whilst it isn't quite true that Coal and Diamonds are the same geochemically the principle that identification needs more than just the chemistry is valid.

These points are known and acknowledged by the authors but in the excitement of considering how and why sarsen may have come from across southern Britain to Stonehenge they need to be born in mind.

That long distance transport of stones and maybe even soil, Silbury?,  was a Neolithic practice is well known, but this study points to where new archaeology research may be fruitful.

There is one small inconsequential archaeological error I think I noticed in the paper. The position of excavation STH08 is erroneously plotted. I believe it is nearer the red rectangle I have overlain below.



As I blogged before it is a shame the excavation report* doesn't include a plan so it might be a problem if the plan becomes the record that is referred to in the future.

*(The Antiquaries Journal, 89,2009,pp1–19r The Society of Antiquaries of London, 2009 doi:10.1017⁄s000358150900002x. First published online 21 April 2009)   

Friday 26 January 2024

Local and exotic sources of sarsen debitage at Stonehenge revealed by geochemical provenancing,

David Nash et al have released a new paper on the Sarsen Sources of Stonehenge:



T. Jake R. Ciborowski, David J. Nash, Timothy Darvill, Ben Chan, Mike Parker Pearson, Rebecca Pullen, Colin Richards, Hugo Anderson-Whymark,

Local and exotic sources of sarsen debitage at Stonehenge revealed by geochemical provenancing,

Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports,  Volume 53, 2024, 104406, ISSN 2352-409X,

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104406.

(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352409X24000348)

Abstract: The application of novel geochemical provenancing techniques has changed our understanding of the construction of Stonehenge, by identifying West Woods on the Marlborough Downs as the likely source area for the majority of the extant sarsen megaliths at the monument. In this study, we apply the same techniques to saccharoid sarsen fragments from three excavations within and outwith the main Sarsen Circle to expand our understanding of the provenance of sarsen debitage present at the monument. Through pXRF analysis, we demonstrate that the surface geochemistry of 1,028 excavated sarsen fragments is significantly affected by subsurface weathering following burial in a way that cannot be overcome by simple cleaning. However, we show that this effect is surficial and does not have a volumetrically significant impact, thus permitting the subsequent use of whole-rock analytical methods. Comparison of ICP-AES and ICP-MS trace element data from 54 representative sarsen fragments with equivalent data from Stone 58 at Stonehenge demonstrates that none are debitage produced during the dressing of this megalith or its 49 chemical equivalents at the monument. Further inspection of the ICP-MS data reveals that 22 of these fragments fall into three distinct geochemical ‘families’. None of these families overlap with the geochemical signature of Stone 58 and its chemical equivalents, implying that sarsen imported from at least a further three locations (in addition to West Woods) is present at Stonehenge. Comparison of immobile trace element signatures from the 54 excavated sarsen fragments against equivalent data for 20 sarsen outcrop areas across southern Britain shows that 15 of the fragments can be linked to specific localities. Eleven of these were likely sourced from Monkton Down, Totterdown Wood and West Woods on the Marlborough Downs (25–33 km north of Stonehenge). Three fragments likely came from Bramdean, Hampshire (51 km southeast of Stonehenge), and one from Stoney Wish, East Sussex (123 km to the southeast). Technological analysis and refitting shows that one of the fragments sourced from Monkton Down was part of a 25.7 cm × 17.9 cm flake removed from the outer surface of a large sarsen boulder, most probably during on-site dressing. This adds a second likely source area for the sarsen megaliths at Stonehenge in addition to West Woods. At this stage, we can only speculate on why sarsen from such diverse sources is present at Stonehenge. We do not know whether the fragments analysed by ICP-MS were removed from (i) the outer surface of Stones 26 or 160 (which are chemically distinct to the other extant sarsen megaliths), (ii) one of the c.28 sarsen megaliths and lintels from the c.60 erected during Stage 2 of the construction of Stonehenge that may now be missing from the monument, or (iii) one of the dismantled and destroyed sarsen megaliths associated with Stage 1 of the monument. With the exception of the fragment sourced from Monkton Down, it is also possible that the analysed fragments were (iv) pieces of saccharoid sarsen hammerstones or their pre-forms, or (v) small blocks brought on-site for ceremonial or non-ceremonial purposes.

Keywords: Stonehenge; Sarsen; Silcrete; Geochemical provenancing; pXRF; ICP-AES; ICP-MS


David kindly explained the findings on X (née twitter) 


First, we analysed 1,028 sarsen fragments from 3 trenches dug at Stonehenge in 2008 using pXRF to see if there were differences within and between the trenches. In short, there weren't, due to subsoil weathering effects. Morale: don't bother using pXRF for this sort of thing.

Second, we analysed 54 sarsen fragments from the 3 trenches using ICP-MS. This is where it gets interesting. Comparison of the geochemistry of fragments against data for 20 sarsen outcrop areas across southern Britain shows that 15 fragments can be linked to specific areas.

Eleven sarsen fragments were likely sourced from Monkton Down, Totterdown Wood and West Woods on the Marlborough Downs (25–33 km N of Stonehenge). Three fragments likely came from Bramdean, Hampshire (51 km SE of Stonehenge), and one from Stoney Wish, East Sussex (123 km SE).

You might be thinking "Wow, Neolithic people dragged sarsen boulders all the way from Hampshire, East Sussex and other sites on the Marlborough Downs to build Stonehenge, not just from West Woods!" Not quite. Calm down, calm down.

We cannot tell if the fragments are from extant megaliths, or from stones from earlier phases of Stonehenge, or stones that have been removed. It is also possible the fragments were from saccharoidal sarsen hammerstones, or stone brought to Stonehenge for some other reason.

There is one exception - a sarsen fragment sourced from Monkton Down that we know (thanks to expert refitting by Ben Chan) was part of a 25.7 × 17.9 cm flake removed from the outer surface of a large sarsen boulder, most probably during on-site dressing.

We're pretty sure this boulder isn't on site today, unless it is stone 26 or 160, which have a different chemistry to the other extant sarsens. However, it adds a second likely source for the Stonehenge megaliths in addition to West Woods. I'll leave it there. Happy reading!

Sunday 21 January 2024

How to set out the Stonehenge Sarsens - a workbook by Tim Daw

A practical guide to setting out a replica of the sarsen stones of Stonehenge, suitable for school, college or research purposes. By providing a method insights into the building of Stonehenge and the skills of the neolithic builders are gained.

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.10572.59520

https://www.academia.edu/113831164/How_to_set_out_the_Stonehenge_Sarsens_a_workbook_by_Tim_Daw

One Drive Link




The best way to understand a concept is to have to explain it and teach it so this workbook has helped me, I hope it helps others. Any problems getting a copy from the links above give me a shout.

Friday 12 January 2024

Sexagesimal Stonehenge and the Bush Barrow Lozenge

Sexagesimal Stonehenge – The Geometry of the Stonehenge Sarsen Trilithons.

Tim Daw*

 

Sexagesimal Stonehenge and the Bush Barrow Lozenge - Tim Daw

      Stonehenge is a mystery that attracts explanations which range from the banal to the fantastic. To claim a new theory is original, interesting, and credible is to set a high hurdle. This brief note presents what is believed to be a new geometric design that is simple, elegant, and intriguing.

      The positions of the five sarsen trilithons of the inner horseshoe at Stonehenge can be explained by a simple plan of chords based on the sixty points of the outer sarsen circle. This layout provides an accurate geometry for aligning to all the solstitial sunrises and sunsets.

      The same geometry is exhibited by the Bush Barrow Lozenge.

 

Thursday 11 January 2024

Fantasy Quarry?

 

Carn Goedog on Mynydd Preseli - Brian John

A paper has been uploaded to Researchgate claiming: Carn Goedog on Mynydd Preseli was not the site of a bluestone megalith quarry

"This paper examines the hypothesis that Carn Goedog, a prominent tor on the north 5lank of Mynydd Preseli in Pembrokeshire, Wales, was the site of a Neolithic quarry from which Stonehenge bluestones were extracted on a large scale. The dolerite sills in the area are geochemically heterogenous, with multiple outcrops. Claims of !precise provenancing" of Stonehenge spotted dolerite fragments to Carn Goedog are questionable.. Geomorphological studies on the tor reveal that pillars suitable for use as monoliths are restricted to a few small areas, difficult to access. Frost-shattered blocks dominate. Many have sub-rounded edges, suggesting long-term weathering and redistribution by glacier ice. Moulded and smoothed surfaces indicate that the influence of overriding ice has been considerable. At Stonehenge, most of the bluestones are abraded boulders which look like glacial erratics. Examinations of the supposed !Neolithic quarry" site reveal that all of the "engineering features" are natural. Stone artefacts owe nothing to quarrying activities, but point to a history of intermittent occupation. Soft shale "wedges" supposedly used for extracting pillars from the rock face are natural and ubiquitous. Radiocarbon dating effectively falsifies the quarrying hypothesis. There was no Neolithic quarry at Carn Goedog, and if blocks of spotted dolerite were extracted and transported away from the vicinity of the tor, the agency was glacier ice." (sic)

That is probably all you need to read, no evidence that bluestones were transported by glaciers, presumably to Salisbury Plain, is offered.


Wednesday 10 January 2024

Sexagesimal Stonehenge – The Geometry of the Stonehenge Sarsen Trilithons

Sexagesimal Stonehenge – The Geometry of the Stonehenge Sarsen Trilithons.

(Updated draft)

Tim Daw*

 

Sexagesimal Stonehenge and the Bush Barrow Lozenge - Tim Daw

      Stonehenge is a mystery that attracts explanations which range from the banal to the fantastic. To claim a new theory is original, interesting, and credible is to set a high hurdle. This brief note presents what is believed to be a new geometric design that is simple, elegant, and intriguing.

      The positions of the five sarsen trilithons of the inner horseshoe at Stonehenge can be explained by a simple plan of chords based on the sixty points of the outer sarsen circle. This layout provides an accurate geometry for aligning to all the solstitial sunrises and sunsets.

      The same geometry is exhibited by the Bush Barrow Lozenge.

 

Tuesday 9 January 2024

The All Cannings Plough

The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading has a plough from All Cannings in its collection. It was used on what was my farm many years ago. It has a wooden mouldboard, probably made of elm. By coincidence a photo of the plough is part of the Salisbury Museum collection.

Wooden mouldboards were favoured by the ploughmen,  Albert and his son George Tilley,  when the clay was wet and heavy, they claimed it didn't stick as much.

A story I was told was that when a new mouldboard was sent up from the Hiscocks in the village Albert was affronted that the the "boy" was sent up to fit it. He claimed it didn't draw true so old man Hiscock was summoned to put it right. As he left the workshop he picked up a handful of shavings. After the visit Albert boasted how he knew it needed fettling, so young Hiscock asked his dad what he did. "Just scattered the shavings around".






Champion ploughman Nelson Tamblin demonstrates his skills at the World Ploughing Championships in Shillingford, Oxfordshire, in 1956, using a plough drawn from The MERL collection (MERL 60/1475).


Sunday 7 January 2024

The Marshes of the Pewsey Vale

The route the sarsens, and maybe the bluestones, were brought across the Pewsey Vale to Salisbury Plain was, in my opinion, largely governed by the necessity of staying on the firmer dryer land.

The present damp weather provides a snapshot of the land still liable to flooding despite the many drainage and canalisations of rivers. These are the remnants of the large marshy areas that filled the vale.

My suggested route from West Woods to the top of Redhorn Hill via Marden looks the best.




Source https://check-for-flooding.service.gov.uk/

Friday 5 January 2024

The Limeslade Bay Erratic discovery

Limeslade Bay Glacial Erratic


Upon a shore where waves in tempest churn,
A hulking mass of stone, unyielding, lay,
Its surface rough, by ocean's wrath in turn
Made stark and bare, where storms hold their sway.

Within its heart, a tumult seemed to bide,
A hollow drum where roars and rumbles deep
Did echo forth, as though history's tide
Had found a voice within its stony sleep.

And yet, for all the sound and fury pent
Within its depths, no meaning could be found,
No whispered lore, no message heaven-sent,
Just empty noise upon the wind-whipped ground.

So lies the stone, a monument to strife,
A hollow shell where echoes mock at life.


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.

Two years today after this wonderful discovery of a large erratic deposited on a rocky coast by an ice floe we still haven't been allowed sight of the analysis which may reveal where it was plucked from to be dropped in Limeslade Bay. We continue to await with interest.