Saturday 8 June 2024

Stonehenge revisited: A geochemical approach to interpreting the geographical source of sarsen stone #58 - Review

In the best traditions of science another team, (Hancock et al, 2024) has reanalysed Nash et al's data from the sourcing the Stonehenge Sarsen paper (Nash, D. J., Ciborowski, T. J. R., Ullyott, J. S., Pearson, M. P., Darvill, T., Greaney, S., Maniatis, G., & Whitaker, K. A. (2020). Origins of the sarsen megaliths at Stonehenge. Science Advances, 6(31), 1–8. . Data that was freely shared with them.

Nash et al compared the chemical analysis of Stone 58 of Stonehenge with sarsens across southern Britain and found the nearest match was West Woods near Marlborough.

Their analysis generally agrees with Nash's except they disagree over the accuracy of the probable sources identified. As Nash et al state there isn't a precise match and Hancock et al believe there is more uncertainty in the results and wouldn't say West Woods is close enough to be proclaimed as the source.

They conclude: "None of the 60 sarsen samples from 20 locations represents a clear match for the three chemistries measured from the Phillip's core sample out of stone #58. Notwithstanding, we can use the Phillip's core data to eliminate potential sarsen source samples from a large number of the selected sites based on significantly different trace element chemistries. ...

Based on the chosen elemental concentration data, the Wiltshire sites of Clatford Bottom (site 3) and Piggledene (site 4), with West Woods (site 6) a distant third, are, along with three other sites, potential sources of stone #58, even though none is geochemically identical..."

The weakness of both papers is, as they both admit, more, many more, samples are needed. And more samples are and will be gathered.

But their reanalysis of the data is well done and presented and to be commended.

However when they stray out of their lane and start theorising about glacial transport of sarsens their unfamiliarity with the historical geology of southern Britain is painfully exposed. Their source material seems to be mainly a sensational magazine article.

It is a shame when papers such as these feel the need to bloat themselves by adding conjectures from outside the authors' areas of expertise. They unnecessarily weaken their argument and damage their own reputations.   

The magazine source

Hancock, R. G. V., Gorton, M. P., Mahaney, W. C., Aufreiter, S., & Michelaki, K. (2024). Stonehenge revisited: A geochemical approach to interpreting the geographical source of sarsen stone #58. Archaeometry, 1–19.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps this location has already been thoroughly covered:, more at (Orpbit, posted 12 June, 18.03)


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