thinking about archaeology

A short blog about axe blades carved onto Stonehenge megaliths

After Hugo Anderson-Whymark commented that the 1969 photo in my last blog showed axe blades picked up in the English Heritage laser study (and not “new”, as I’d suggested), I had a closer look. I was expecting him to be right. Now I’m not so sure.

Here is the result of comparing a few images. At the top, I’ve pasted all the carvings described by Abbott & Anderson Whymark (2012) on stones 5, 4 and 3 onto one of my photos. The colours show axes described before 2003 (red) and additional ones they found in 2012 (green) (the 2003 date stems from an article by Tom Goskar and colleagues in British Archaeology Nov 2003/73, in which they found a few new carvings in a trial laser study). I located the carvings by matching the stones’ edges, which at this scale is quite accurate. It creates an impressive effect – bearing in mind the possibility that the carvings may originally have been painted.

The key to matching the 1969 photo is a fine bit of graffiti on stone 4, carved in 1866 by one H Bridger from Chichester, West Sussex. You can see it on the left of this photo from Atkinson’s book (1956):

atkinson-21

Here is the graffiti in one of my photos (lower left of centre):

I’ve marked three changes in angle on the right edge of the stone, which I’ve also marked on the 1969 photo below:

axes-1969 rings

And finally the lower part of stone 4 with all the carvings:

stone 4

You can’t see it in the photo, so I’ve marked the approximate site of Bridger’s graffiti (the lichen patterns help in all this). So are those axes in the 1969 photo also in the 2012 laser plan? They could, and this would make sense, be the two larger ones at the top recorded before 2003. But are they in the right place? The left photo below is looking straight at the stone, the right looking up from below. The clarity of the carvings in the 1969 photo would suggest the laser study would hardly have missed them. I do feel, however, that a higher resolution survey would be useful.

stone 4 R edge

To close, here’s a photo of the three blades on stone 3 showing very clearly in TV floods at night in 2000:

stone 3 axes

One response

  1. Steve Hill

    Glad the y ve finally got around to the carvings! I ve always felt there were loads of them. More to be found, i m sure, in among the weathering. But where are the ancestors, i wonder? I imagine they may be looking on somewhere.

    Also, have they checked the lintels? Maybe it s not all frost damage up there..i know there are “cupmarks” on top..but a nice frieze would be good!

    There should also be more daggers, esp on the NNE stones.

    I think the carvings may well have been painted.. The stones were designed to be awesome…not bare… Not a Methodist Chapel! And some of them were designed to sparkle, i think…

    Interesting stuff,

    steve hill

    February 11, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s