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):
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:
And finally the lower part of stone 4 with all the carvings:
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.
To close, here’s a photo of the three blades on stone 3 showing very clearly in TV floods at night in 2000: