Bluestones dated to 12,000BC
(and could be from Ireland)
By Dean Talboys
In the 1920s the most extensive excavation and restoration on record was
undertaken at Stonehenge offering the opportunity to answer many
questions, none least of which was the origin of the so-called
As petrographer to the Geological Survey, Dr. H. H. Thomas would have
been aware of the distribution of the variety of stones foreign to
Stonehenge (around Great Britain at least) and in 1923 placed their
origin in the Prescelly Mountains, Pembrokeshire, Wales. In his opinion
this location offers not only petrographically identical rocks but also representations of all varieties of the Stonehenge Bluestones in the
immediate neighborhood. Thomas also points to the importance of the area
as one of the richest collections of megalithic remains in Britain which
was brought to his attention by the writings of the late Revd. W. Done
Bushell who describes Prescelly as a 'pre-historic Westminster' and its
southern slopes as 'a land of circles' where exist traces of at least
eight stone circles. Even the sandstone used in the so-called "Altar
Stone" at Stonehenge was traced to an area of coastline in Wales
associated with the Prescelly-Stonehenge route. This is typical of the
totally unscientific way in which the archeological interpretation of
Stonehenge is reinforced.
Let's prove Prescelly was the source of the Bluestones by looking for
the other foreign stones in the same place!
Who decided that all the stones
had to come from one location in the first place, and why?
Are the dolerites unique to
Prescelly and, if not, to what extent are they distributed across
the country (or the European continent for that matter)?
Prescelly is not exactly 'on the way' to Stonehenge by any
route, so is there evidence in favor of obtaining individual types of
stone from more accessible sources?
Are there any other areas where the
varieties occur in combination and, apart from Prescelly, where are the
closest possible sources for (say) 75% of the stones?
To what extent was Thomas'
conclusion influenced by prevailing opinion for the source was, as
had been expected for 150 years, in the deposits of igneous rock
lying to the west of Stonehenge (1)?
There are many more examples of such
'scientific license' in
Observatory, facts and features which have been overlooked in
the ongoing effort to place Stonehenge in a very British
Neolithic landscape. Yes, the spotted dolerites are almost certainly
from Prescelly but in limiting the search for other stones to this area
they may be missing other important connections.
More recently Professors Timothy Darvill and Geoffrey Wainwright have
undertaken a minor excavation of Stonehenge in an attempt to provide a
date for the arrival of the Bluestones on site.
The Profs believe these particular stones were important in Neolithic
times for their medicinal properties and, having mapped quarries in the
Prescelly Mountains, claim that the dolerites (of which the inner oval
of Bluestones at Stonehenge is comprised) derive almost wholly from a
rocky outcrop at the summit of a broad ridge and the rhyolites and tuffs
(which together with dolerites are found in the outer Bluestone circle)
appear in the surrounding volcanic dykes. The petrology may be beyond
doubt but the healing quality of these stones is not. In 25 years of
studying the region, local expert and internationally published author,
Robin Heath, has never come across any firm evidence to suggest that the
Bluestones were revered in recorded history, let alone prehistory, as
having healing properties any more than other wells across the British
Isles and cites a local farmer in challenging Wainwright's 'extensive
research' of the aforementioned dolerite outcrop (2). The Profs failed
in the search for a date but did open the lid on another archeological
oversight covered in
Stonehenge Observatory - the site has been subjected to major
re-orderings in the past which casts doubt on its age.
If Prescelly is the source of the
stones the next question must be,
Even if the 4 ton stones were imbued
with magical powers it still does not answer the question why anyone
would want to transport eighty of them over a distance of at least 140
miles when it is clear that the Prescelly 'land of circles' already
offered extensive health facilities. Did they represent the spoils of
war to invaders from Salisbury (a battle I would have lost willingly at
the thought of taking the prize home)? A legend of stones having been
erected in memory of soldiers fallen in battle is credited to Geoffrey
of Monmouth, a 12th century clergyman obsessed with the wizard, Merlin.
These stones, originally from Africa, were brought by magic from their
current location on Mount Killaraus in Ireland to Stonehenge. From his
description of their size it would appear the author is referring to the
massive Sarsen stones, however, he also claims that their original use
was in curing ills (by bathing in water that had been poured over the
stones) which ties in with the Bluestone's medicinal powers. Bluestone
was also used extensively in the production of axe heads and battle axes, and
dolerite in general was popular as far afield as Egypt where it was used
to make tools, but if Bluestone was prized for anything more than this
could we not expect to see more evidence of its use at other prehistoric
sites? Stanton Drew in Somerset (on the route from Prescelly), The Rollrights in Oxfordshire, Lamorna
in Cornwall and Arbor Low in Derbyshire are all (more or less) as close
to the Prescelly Hills as Stonehenge yet contain only locally acquired
granite, limestone and shale. Neither is there evidence of Bluestone
having been used in the construction of neighboring Neolithic sites at
Silbury, Avebury or Durrington Walls -- not even a token altar stone.
Whatever the reason for their presence the Bluestones serve as yet
another feature to set Stonehenge apart from every other megalithic
This does not seem to matter to archeologists who have decided the
period in which Stonehenge belongs and again, as with every other
feature unique to the site, all subsequent research has been directed to
proving Neolithic Man capable of its construction, in this case, the
transportation of Bluestones from Prescelly using the most rudimentary
of vessels (again without success). According to Professor Olwen
Williams-Thorpe there is little evidence to support the use of anything
but local stone in the construction of megalithic structures (3). She
supports the idea, originally put forward by Professor J. W. Judd in
1901, that the Bluestones were ripped from their beds and deposited by
glaciers (4), however, it is a view widely disputed by geologists and
archeologists. D. Q. Bowen, Professor of Earth Sciences at Cardiff
University, used Chlorine-36 dating to show how at least one sample of
igneous rock from Stonehenge was first exposed to the air 14,000 years
ago (5). This contradicts heavily the retreat of glaciers from Salisbury
Plain from which we could expect a date more in the region of 400,000
years. Thorpe and colleagues were quick to respond (6); Chlorine-36
dating gives an estimate of the length of time that a rock surface has
been exposed to the atmosphere, by measuring the amount of Chlorine-36
produced by exposure of the rock to cosmic radiation. If the rock or
surface has been covered or buried, the date obtained will reflect the
reduced time of exposure to air. Thus a Chlorine-36 date may reflect
either recent exposure of a surface due to processes such as frost
shattering, or an original exposure date. Bowen also sampled the
surfaces of outcrops at Carn Menyn, the 'known' source of dolerites in
Prescelly, returning dates one thousand years before the Bluestones are
supposed to have arrived at Stonehenge. What does this mean?
The lack of any activity at the Prescelly quarry before, during and
after construction of Stonehenge combined with the very early date of a
sample from the site is clear indication of the
Bluestone’s use in another, much earlier setting.
[Left: Stonehenge Post and Stone Holes from The Stonehenge Observatory]
The rings of Q and R Holes at Stonehenge are further evidence that an
initial stone structure had been relocated. The holes, set in two
concentric circles within the larger Sarsen circle, originally held the
Bluestones but this otherwise symmetrical design was never completed.
The central axis of the design, like the later Sarsen setting, is
aligned in the general direction of sunrise at the summer solstice and
there are even examples on site of Bluestone Trilithons.
It is inconceivable to presume anyone capable of designing and building such a
structure would miscalculate the amount of stone
required or simply abandon construction three-quarters of the way
through in favor of a more ambitious design in local Stone, so something
must have happened to change their minds; perhaps a cargo was lost, the
journey became too perilous or the original site became inaccessible.
Still the question remains,
[Right: Aerial view of Dowth Site Q composed from Google Earth]
distance are never obstacles when it comes to selecting material (7).
The decision to use Bluestone and their source are irrelevant to the
location of Stonehenge; its current orientation towards sunrise on
the summer solstice and the
relationship between Sun and Moon marked by the much later addition of
four "Station Stones" equally so.
The site was chosen for its geographical
similarity to the original location of the Bluestones at Dowth in
Ireland. This henge, overlooked by every other author on the subject of
Stonehenge, is also set on the northeast face of a gently sloping hill close
to a river (the Boyne). Its bank remains intact at a width of 6m (20ft)
and height of 3-4m (13ft), the same dimensions as the original bank at
Stonehenge, and, like Stonehenge, is punctuated by an entrance at the
Perhaps there is an element of truth in the legend of
Merlin and the Stones, after all, legends are usually corruptions of the
truth over a long period of time, but did the stones originate from
Africa? Well, only an archeologist would deny it outright without proof!
Ironically, the Dowth henge is as close to Prescelly as is
Stonehenge and on a route that can be traversed almost entirely by water.
Another possible source of stone closer to Dowth and equally accessible
by sea is Slieve Foye, a mountain of igneous outcrops behind the coastal town of
Carlingford, 40km to the north. Has it been the subject of 'extensive
Read the full explanation of why the Bluestones were moved from Dowth to
Stonehenge over 13,000 years ago in the remarkable book,
The Stonehenge Observatory
Topology is not the only reason for choosing Stonehenge as a site for
the relocated Bluestone structure. The most important factor restricted
possible locations to within a zone no more than 1-2km (1 mile) north or
south of the latitude of Dowth.
New! Stonehenge Stones Cast Serious Doubt over
Archeological 'Sequence of Construction'
The Stonehenge Observatory
Chippindale, C., Stonehenge Complete, p185.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS IN STONEHENGE BLUESTONE SHOCK,
THORPE, R.S. & O. WILLIAMS-THORPE. 1991. The
myth of long-distance megalith transport, Antiquity 65: 64-73.
Judd, J. W., Archaeologia Volume 58 p117
Bowen 1994: 211; Hawkes 1994; British
Archaeology News 1995.
Jenkins, D. Graham; Jenkins, Judith; Watson,
John S.; Williams-Thorpe, Olwen, Antiquity,
December 1, 1995
Talboys, D., The Stonehenge Observatory, p67.
Talboys is a consultant systems analyst. His book,
The Stonehenge Observatory, is available for immediate download in PDF
format from the web site. The printed version is due for release in the