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Glaciers, not ancient people, moved Stonehenge from Wales to Wiltshire

It’s a question that has plagued archaeologists and stone enthusiasts for centuries: what’s the deal with Stonehenge?
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No one has ever been quite sure where the famous circle of giant bluestones came from or how they came to be arranged in such a precise formation in the wilds of Wiltshire.

A recent paper from researchers at UCL suggested that the stones were collected in at quarries Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin around 5,000 years ago, then dragged from Wales to Wiltshire by men.

But archaeologists writing the Archaeology in Wales journal says that UCL got it all wrong.

This newer report says there are “no traces of human intervention in any of the features” that the UCL researchers “so excited”.

Instead, the Arachaeology in Wales paper’s authors, Dr Brian John, Dr Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes, think they have evidence that suggests the rocks were moved by glaciers.

Accusing the UCL team of getting carried away by a good yarn, Dr John wrote, “There is substantial evidence in favour of glacial transport and zero evidence in support of the human transport theory.

“We think the archaeologists have been so keen on telling a good story here that they have ignored or misinterpreted the evidence in front of them.

“That’s very careless. They now need to undertake a complete reassessment of the material they have collected.”

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Archaeologists Feud Over Second-Hand Stonehenge Theory

Stonehenge News and Information

The ink wasn’t even dry (or the bits weren’t even embedded in the Cloud) yet on the 2 Comments about a new theory that Stonehenge once stood in Wales before being moved to Wiltshire when a cry rose up from other archaeologists who claim that it was glaciers, not humans, that pushed the monoliths to their current resting place in Wiltshire. Who’s right, who’s wrong and what’s the betting line on the fight?

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The feud started with a report last week in the journal Antiquity that archaeologists from University College London (UCL) identified two quarries in Wales that matched some of the bluestones at Stonehenge. The more controversial part of the report was their belief that the stones were made into a monument in Wales which stood for a few hundred years before being toppled and moved to England, making Stonehenge what some were sacrilegiously calling a “second-hand monument.”

Just…

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Current Archaeology Awards 2016

The Heritage Journal

As the calendar year draws to a close, it’s time to cast your votes for the annual Current Archaeology Awards.

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This is especially important if you’re a regular reader of the magazine as the awards are designed to reflect the interests of the readership, but if you’ve not read the magazine, happily that doesn’t preclude you from casting a vote!

As in previous years, there are several categories to vote for:

  • Research Project of the Year
  • Rescue Dig of the Year
  • Book of the Year
  • Archaeologist of the Year

The nominations for each award are as follows:

Research Project of the Year

  • Digging Sedgeford: A people’s Archaeology
  • Burrough Hill: Signs of Life in a Midlands hillfort
  • Vindolanda: Revelations from the Roman frontier
  • Bannockburn: Scotland’s seminal battlefield rediscovered
  • Recapturing Berkeley Castle: One trench, 1,500 years of English history
  • Rewriting the origin of the broch builders: Exploring fortifications and farming at Old…

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Stonehenge stones ‘spent centuries erected in Wales’ before being transported

Some of the stones used to create Stonehenge may well have been first erected in Wales, a new study has suggested.
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Some of the stones used to create Stonehenge may well have been first erected in Wales, a new study has suggested.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of quarrying for the world heritage sites’ bluestones in Pembrokeshire – 500 years before they were erected in Wiltshire.

They believe the most likely explanation is that the stones were first used in Wales before being transported 140 miles to Salisbury Plain where they formed part of the monument’s inner horseshoe.

Geologists have known since the 1920s that the bluestones were brought to Stonehenge from somewhere in the Preseli Hills but only now has there been collaboration with archaeologists to locate and excavate the actual quarries from which they came.

Stonehenge was built during the Neolithic period, between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.

Both of the quarries in Preseli were exploited in the Neolithic, and Craig Rhos-y-felin was also quarried in the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago.

Project director Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “We have dates of around 3,400BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3,200BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2,900BC.

“It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view.

“It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.”

The discovery has been made by a team of scientists from UCL, the universities of Manchester, Bournemouth and Southampton, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, and Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

Professor Kate Welham, of Bournemouth University, believes the ruins of any dismantled monument are likely to lie somewhere between the two megalith quarries.

“We’ve been conducting geophysical surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis throughout the area and we think we have the most likely spot,” she said.

“The results are very promising – we may find something big in 2016.”

The Stonehenge bluestones are of volcanic and igneous rocks, the most common of which are called dolerite and rhyolite.

The scientists identified the outcrop of Carn Goedog as the main source of Stonehenge’s ‘spotted dolerite’ bluestones and the outcrop of Craig Rhos-y-felin as a source for one of the “rhyolite” bluestones.

The special formation of the rock, which forms natural pillars at these outcrops, allowed the prehistoric quarry-workers to detach each standing stone with a minimum of effort.

“They only had to insert wooden wedges into the cracks between the pillars and then let the Welsh rain do the rest by swelling the wood to ease each pillar off the rock face” said Dr Josh Pollard, of the University of Southampton.

“The quarry-workers then lowered the thin pillars onto platforms of earth and stone, a sort of ‘loading bay’ from where the huge stones could be dragged away along trackways leading out of each quarry.”

Radiocarbon-dating of burnt hazelnuts and charcoal from the quarry-workers’ camp fires reveals that there were several occurrences of megalith-quarrying at these outcrops.

The megalith quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills, and this location undermines previous theories about how the bluestones were transported from Wales to Stonehenge.

Previous writers have often suggested that bluestones were taken southwards from the hills to Milford Haven and then floated on boats or rafts, but this now seems unlikely.

“The only logical direction for the bluestones to go was to the north then either by sea around St David’s Head or eastwards overland through the valleys along the route that is now the A40,” said Prof Parker Pearson.

“Personally I think that the overland route is more likely. Each of the 80 monoliths weighed less than two tonnes, so teams of people or oxen could have managed this.

“We know from examples in India and elsewhere in Asia that single stones this size can even be carried on wooden lattices by groups of 60 – they didn’t even have to drag them if they didn’t want to.”

The new discoveries may also help to understand why Stonehenge was built.

Prof Parker Pearson and his team believe that the bluestones were erected at Stonehenge around 2,900BC, long before the giant sarsens were put up around 2,500BC.

“Stonehenge was a Welsh monument from its very beginning. If we can find the original monument in Wales from which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far,” he said.

Further excavations are planned for 2016.

The findings, Craig Rhos-y-felin: A Welsh Bluestone Megalith Quarry For Stonehenge is published in the journal Antiquity

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Christmas in Wiltshire

Looking for something different this Christmas?

The VisitWiltshire tourism website is a great source of ‘things to do this Christmas’ in Wiltshire;

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