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Bluestone … still up in the air

19 January 2012

Contrary to some reports in the media the situation regards the bluestones is not cut and dried as far as human transportation is concerned. This seems to be another of those consensus theories that has very deep roots and cannot budge – but a little nudge, or an attempt at a nudge, appeared in The Times of January 7th 2012, under its 'Archaeology' label, a small side reel to the more important story, from a newspaper perspective, of rich young gentleman of 18th century Britain losing their tourist trifles as a result of capture of the ship carrying them by the French Navy. The relevant story harks back to a piece published by The Times (same label) on December 17th, which concerned the discovery of the actual rock outcrop that a few of the blue stones came from, at a site near Preseli but close to the coast (as it now exists). It caused a media feast that claimed it proved the human transportation theory. However, in the latest piece, Olwen Williams-Thompson disputes the media take, saying it does not confirm the idea that the stones were transported by humans in boats and she says the Ice Age glaciation theory is the most likely manner in which the stones ended up on Salsibury Plain. This is because the stones do not come from a single source, or conform to a single rock type. The stones come from multiple sources, dolerites, rhyolites and sandstones and therefore could have been dislodged and moved by ice from a variety of sites somewhere in the west of Britain. The big problem for the glacial theory is whether or not glaciation reached Salisbury Plain and the hinterland between it and Pembrokeshire – for how long, and when? She says glaciation east of the Bristol Channel is a fact – but it possibly lasted for just a short time, as little as a thousand years? That is not a very long passage of time in the grand geological perspective of the Ice Ages, 100,000 year events strung over a few million years. The claim, unsurprisingly, is backed up by modelling. The veracity of the claim revolves around the fact the stones have their origin in diverse outcrops, not necessarily always located near the Preseli mountains. Did the Stonehenge people transport stones from several localities or were they erratics obtained from the immediate area around Stonehenge? Why is the argument confined to glaciation versus human transportation – why not water? 

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