Thursday 28 March 2024

The Journey of the Bluestones 


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


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 - 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. 

 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.


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]

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 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