Stonehenge Removals

14 Feb 2021

William has sent in several links, including this one at ... which concerns the blustones which were originally set up around the circumference of the earthen henge. Later, they were incorporated into the bigger stone circle constructed from local sarsens. The blue stones are small in comparison to the sarsen uprights and lintels etc. See also  ... and the one with lots of pictures and extra explanatory text, ...

Basically, the story is derived from a new TV programme on Stonehenge, featuring the admirable Alice Roberts along  with the archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson. It appears to be an expansion of his theory regarding the origins of Stonehenge as featured in his book, 'Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Henge Mystery' Simon and Schuster: 2012. The title was a bit over the top and reflects the general hooha surrounding the monument, which always seems less impressive when seen close up. It is worth big bucks to the tourist industry so we should not expect anyone to downplay its importance. In fact, most of the goings on at Stonehenge post date the erection of the bluestone circle, several hundred years later. However, the origin of the bluestones has been one of the mysteries that have intrigued archaeologists and geologists, over the years. Probably not so much as far as the general public are concerned as they see the sarsen circle as the most impressive feature of the monument. Would much pen and ink have been spent if stonehenge was just a circle of blue stones around the circumference of a circular bank and ditch arrangement. Probably not. They are dwarfed by the sarsens.

Parker Pearson's theory is that the blue stones were quarried in the Preseli mountains, or hills, in Pembrokeshire in West Wales, and transported overland to Salisbury Plain. In contrast, the geologist Brian John, in his book 'The Bluestone Enigma: Stonehenge, Druids and the Ice Age' [2010], likens them to erratics that were transported to Salisbury Plain by ice [a glacial snout], although one could envisage water as a mode of transport, as in meltwaters. Both points of view have points in favour. In legend, however, the stones were transported from Ireland by a magician, or wizard. This story may reflect a bit of real history as in the post Roman period a lot of Irish migrants washed up in West Wales as a result of rising water levels in Ireland. There is also a common Celtic mythology base and a pre Roman connection via migrant farmers along the western European Atlantic coastline. On the other hand, there is no reason why erratics with an origin in the Preselis, and other rockscapes in Wales, should not have been transported by ice and water. Not all the bluestones have a common origin, or colour. That requires explanation.

The crux of the TV programme, and Mike Parker Pearson's theory, is that a stone circle formerly situated in the Preselis, was transported to Salisbury Plain and re-erected there, together, presumably, with migrants. However, he adds - some of them. In other words, he recognises not all the blue stones come from the quarry in the Preseli Mountains. The theory also revolves around the date the bluestone circle at Stonehenge was set up - which used to be around 3000BC. This date is somewhat earlier via the new calibrations of IntCal13 and IntCal14, not that far away from the C14 derived date, around 3500BC - so there is a bit of juggling by the archaeologists. Excavations  back in 2017 were inconclusive and this was followed by a comprehensive geophysics survey of the area around the projected former stone circle in Wales. This included radar, magnetotrometry sounding, earth resistance, and electro magnetic induction. They came up with no affirmative evidence, either way. So, in 2018 they stripped off the turf layer at the stone circle to get at the holes in which the stones were formerly situated. They found 6 bempty holes that once houses stone uprights of some kind. They then compared these with the stone holes at Stonehenge and claim to have found at least one match. However, contrary to what the media are saying they do not think all the bluestones originate from this one quarry and this one former stone circle. This is because the bluestones do not all have an origin in the Preselis, and some of them are distinctly different and come from other locations. Hence, the line is peddled that they have to find other former stone circles in Wales that were robbed of uprights and taken to Salisbury Plain. This sounds rather strained in comparison to the glacial movement theory - which we may not cannot be proven, either. One suspects this storyline will go on for quite some time until one story is considered more likely than the other. Archaeologists appear to prefer the idea of physically moving stones from Wales to Stonehenge, in the historical period, whereas the geologists are hampered by way of an older origin, and the disappearance over time of erratics, used in buildings and walls etc by farmers as well as construction workers.

Mike Parker Pearson also points at a similar alignment in both stone circles. This is probably a red herring but I suppose the television people liked the idea of bringing in the midsummer sunrise idea. It is not surprising they are both aligned to midsummer, or midwinter in the opposite direction, as most stone circles are the same. The idea was  to find a fixed point in the calendar, a particular point in time during the year, and what was going on at that time in the sky. In this case, the midsummer period coincides with the June Taurids, a point of possible danger to the people of Britain and elsewhere.

Mike Parker Pearson also makes the point today's archaeologists do not know a lot about the bluestones at Stonehenge. A lot of them are buried in the grass that has grown and receded and grown again, or they are  buried and have never been seen for centuries. The last time most of the bluestones could be actually looked at and studied was in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then they simply go by what was written and observed at the time. The Phys Org piece mentions another factor dredged up by the archaeologists, a drop in population around 3500 to 3200BC in Wales. However, this conveniently ignores that there was a drop in population right across Britain and Ireland at this time. An epidemic has been blamed, even an early outbreak of the plague. In the aftermath circles became common, replacing concentric rings and oblong monuments. What that means nobody knows. One has to guess. The same period was coeval with a mass migration of peoples from the steppe zone - into Europe in the west, to the borders of China in the east, and into the Near and Middle East in the south - and various other  channels of folk migration. This movement of people did not necessarily spill over into Britain - presumably as it was an island. Later in the third millennium it did, the arrival of the Beaker folk [an amalgamation of the steppe people with those already living in Europe]. The Beaker folk are thought to  be responsible for the big changes made at Stonehenge, such as the sarsen arrangement that can still be seen there. It is a bit of a tangled web. We may also note, in favour of the archaeologists theory, that the genome of one or two skeletons at Stonehenge appear to point at an origin in Wales, it has been suggested. One would have to do a wider study of skeletons from graves around 3000BC in order to substantiate it as a fact of life, as people at this time, it is thought, lived a semi transhumance lifestyle, somewhat like pastoralists.