Thanks for visiting. This site is about archaeology, and things that catch the interest of an archaeologist who is lucky enough to work in journalism: I often get to see and hear about amazing things before the rest of the world does, and to meet the people who find them. I work for my own company (Digging Deeper Ltd), and fortunately for now I am pretty busy, so what you will find here will be selective.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos in this blog are by me, and my copyright.
Digging up Britain, free talk & book signing at the Stonehenge visitor centre February 12 SOLD OUT
Digging up Britain, Wiltshire Museum, Devizes February 15 SOLD OUT
Digging up Britain, free talk & book signing at the Bexley Literary Festival February 27 SOLD OUT
Digging up Britain, Marlborough LitFest September 28 SOLD OUT
Digging up Britain (interview), Ilkley Literature Festival October 12 SOLD OUT
Digging up Britain, British Museum Members November 4 SOLD OUT
“The many journeys of Hoa Hakananai’a”, British Museum free lunchtime lecture, November. POSTPONED, apologies
Digging up Britain, Hay Festival Winter Weekend December 1
‘Whose ancestors are buried at Stonehenge?” Bristol Museum Winter Lecture Series, December 6
“100 Years of Digging at Stonehenge: a Centenary Lecture”, at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre June 13
“Brian Graham: Towards Music”, exhibition in Salisbury Museum January 26: opening address
Society for Museum Archaeology Annual Conference, Sheffield November 2: keynote address
CBA Archaeology Day and AGM London, November 6: panel session on public presentation and image of archaeology
British Academy, Reflections on Archaeology February: possibilities for a strong unified voice for archaeology
Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology July: chaired panel discussion about major excavations
Stonehenge and Avebury WHS 30th Anniversary Conference, Devizes November: on discussion panel
Richard III Society Triennial Conference April: Digging for Richard III
CBA Wessex June: Early guides at Stonehenge
Richard III Society, London & Home Counties Branch June: Digging for Richard III
Beaminster Festival, Dorset June: Digging for Richard III
Theatre Royal Bath June: Stonehenge
Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology July: chaired panel discussion, An object that changed my life
Pacific Island Research Network conference, UCL Archaeology September: Hoa Hakananai’a
CBA trustees Stonehenge visit October: after dinner talk on opportunities and challenges facing British archaeology
Art Fund, London October: Digging for Richard III
Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society October: Digging for Richard III
The National Archives Kew, Writer of the Month November: Digging for Richard III
National Portrait Gallery June: Digging for Richard III
Ashmolean Museum July: Digging for Richard III
Marlborough Literature Festival September: Digging for Richard III
Ilkley Literature Festival October: Digging for Richard III
Theatre Royal, Bath November: Digging for Richard III
National Public Radio Weekend Edition November 2014, with Rachel Martin: Digging for Richard III
After many enjoyable years as a student in London (UCL) I started out as a professional archaeologist and museum curator, directing excavations at Stonehenge and elsewhere. I left that to write, photograph and travel, and in the event to help open and run a groundbreaking and very busy vegetarian restaurant (Stones, in Avebury). We closed the restaurant in 2000, since when I have worked as an editor, writer and broadcaster specialising mainly in archaeology while continuing to conduct original research (I returned to dig at Stonehenge in 2008, and recently led a new study of the large Easter Island statue in the British Museum).
I have written trade books such as Fairweather Eden (Mail on Sunday non-fiction choice), Digging for Richard III and Digging up Britain; features for most UK newspapers and for magazines such as Wanderlust, BBC History, New Scientist and the American Archaeology; and research articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature, Antiquity, World Archaeology and Journal of Archaeological Science.
I hugely enjoy working for TV and radio (I have written a drama and have presented a couple of archaeology-themed series on Radio 4), as I do public speaking. Among TV projects in which I have both appeared and for which I have been consultant are Murder at Stonehenge for Channel 4 and Stonehenge Live! for Channel 5.
In 2009 I was one of 2,400 people to take part in Antony Gormley’s One & Other in Trafalgar Square, London, when for one hour I was able to create a museum of 700,000 years (as it was then!) of British archaeology on the empty statue plinth (the “fourth plinth”). I edited Salon, the Society of Antiquaries’ fortnightly online newsletter, until 2020, and I continue to edit British Archaeology magazine after more than 15 years.
I am a recipient jointly with Maev Kennedy of the British Archaeology Press Award, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and a director of Antiquity Publications Ltd. I am an exhibited photographer, and passionate about arts in general.
69 thoughts on “Welcome”
I am interested in finding out what happened to the Foamhenge Stonehenge model made for the Channel 5 TV programme. I know it was on ebay. Was it sold, and if so are you able to tell me who to? I am interested in trying to set up a sound installation using loudspeakers to recreate the acoustic environment of Stonehenge, but this would be really effective actually set inside the foamhenge replica somewhere. Anyway, if you can help at all I would be very interested. You can see my research into the acoustics of Stonehenge at soundsofstonehenge.wordpress.com and other work at AMBPNetwork.wordpress.com . I have been discussing my work with some of the Sheffield Stonehenge Riverside Project people, Mike PP, Ben Chan, Jim Rylatt and the like. If you have a moment and can drop me an email that would be great.
I am a senior lecturer in music technology at Huddersfield University
I’m asked this every so often, and the best I can do is repeat what I recently said to a BBC TV drama producer. I so wish I could tell you where Foamhenge is and you could use it, but my understanding is that it was some time ago disposed of. It was carved from blocks of expanded polystyrene. It was on eBay, but despite a few claims made to the media, when it came down to it noone bought it (noone was ready to pay the transport cost). The haulage contractor who was temporarily storing it (in an outside railway cutting, I believe) eventually got rid of it. There do seem to be a few megaliths still around (I think the National Trust in Avebury may have one or two, and English Heritage had one at Stonehenge in 2008) but the bulk of it has gone. It was created by Crawley Creatures in a big shed in Bicester, for Darlow Smithson Productions. A lot of effort went into making it as true to life as we could achieve (bearing in mind we were imagining a complete monument and not a ruin, and that even now no detailed survey of the surviving stones exists), and it would have made a wonderful educational display inside some huge building. Sadly not to be.
Hi Mike, I just finished your book and greatly enjoyed its focus on the monument itself. I think, though, that this comment from a site about fur traders is important: “An explorer naturally wishes to travel as far as possible by water.” (wiki, Canadian Canoe routes) In a world without the wheel, paddling is so, so much easier than carrying of dragging. I see a canoe culture as a little like a car culture. If you can carry your goods by canoe, you do. And a fancy dugout would be like a Porsche. You could even decorate it for special occasions as the Haida may have done.
Good point. We’re in different worlds here, however, partly the culture and landscape, partly the things being moved. On the first, for European explorers in Canada, sea and rivers were routes into lands they didn’t know, and canoes were developed by native peoples for whom water was a key resource – under the ice in the far north, following salmon runs on the west coast and so on. In Neolithic Britain rivers are small and the key resource was land, for growing food. On the second, even the smallest Welsh stones are larger than a single canoe could think of carrying.
Hi! I want to know about the wereabouts of the “Mana”!? Is she still floating somewhwre?
I am a very interested hobbyhistorian!
Carl Blom, Sweden
That was a question I asked myself some years ago. The last Routledge owner entry in the Lloyds register of yachts was in 1919, and in 1920 the owner is listed as the Earl of Dundonald. In 1923 she goes to DC Klugman, and in the last Lloyds entry (1925) she is attributed to DC Klugman of Rua Theophalo, Ottoni, Rio de Janeiro. J van Tilburg (Among Stone Giants, page 204) says she was destroyed by fire under Klugman’s ownership on September 1 1923.
Wonderful to run across your blog this a.m., Mike. It’s been a number of years since reading Hengeworld – and your kind response when I emailed thanks c. 2003. Exciting news this morning about the boy with the amber necklace. Thanks again for your fine work. Helps keep rustics out in the provinces like ourselves informed.
I was wondering if Silbury Hill might be in a place from where, at the top of the hill, a voice or trumpet like instrument could create echoes bouncing back from the surrounding hills. Also, is the path which winds up the side contemporary with it’s building, or do you think it had another way up.
I was watching the PBS program Nova “Stonehenge” that you were a part of, I was watching the gentleman who were trying to move the weight of a large stone with a bearing type rail, which they were have some problems, the hold time I said “its too complicated”, you even said the same thing, but I don’t think that they were not all wrong, especially the “jumping jack” shape stone balls, that’s when I remembered about a hobbyist (Wally Wallington) who’s hobby is to move large 10 ton concrete blocks and even 15 ton barn by him self.
Maybe the pointed balls where used like machinist’s jacks or points, being a Tool Maker, tradesmen use them too hold up odd or rough shape weldments/casting to be machined. Wally shows moving a stone on a flat surface, but these jumping jacks stone could have been used on a flatten notch timbers.
Anyway please take a look.
W.Wallington has a website:
“The Forgotten Technology” http://www.theforgottentechnology.com/newpage1
You tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCvx5gSnfW4&feature=related
Hello Mike. As another reader mentioned above, I too recently came across your site- with great excitement, I might add! I have read and re-read Hengeworld to the point where my copy needs to be laid to rest. In my opinion, humble though it is, of my library of Stonehenge-related books (and there are nearly 30 so far), yours is the ‘cleanest’, and most accurate (again, i.m.o) of the lot. It has become my reference for all the others.
I see Hengeworld quoted by others as well, none the least Dennis Price of the wonderful Eternal Idol site. http://www.eternalidol.com/
There is an actual point to all this! Have you perhaps heard any news concerning more detailed work at blue-henge ? In particular, have there been any casts made of the stoneholes, to compare to the dolerites standing just over 1.5k away ? There was much made that this was likely the site from whence the ‘extra’ bluestones were ‘stored’: it would be wonderful to have this confirmed.
with kind regards,
Glad you liked Hengeworld Bob, though it’s getting out of date almost by the day now (I like to think that just about everything in the paperback edition stills stands, but there is much to add from new work; the only bit that needs to be completely rewritten is about the sequence of megaliths at Stonehenge, which I’ve written about elsewhere on this site).
No physical casts were made of the pits at “Bluehenge”, but a 3D laser scan was taken of the topography, which could I imagine be used to make a physical model.
Hi Mike, just watching the Stonehenge program on SBS tonight. Surely, if the natural runway linking the stonehenge monument with the river, as if froze and filled with ice, may have allowed a very large stone to be moved over it. Ice is slippery.
Makes sense, Possible. Thanks for your study,
Julia Starr, Australia
It sounds a plausible idea, Julia – at least many people seem to think so, and have written to me suggesting it (quite why now, I don’t know). In practice, however, I think ice is very unlikely to have played any significant role in stone moving, for several reasons.
The principal one is that it was never cold enough for the ground to be sufficiently frozen for this to work. There was a time when Salisbury Plain was tundra, and the ground permanently frozen. But the last permafrost in southern England melted well over 10,000 years ago, and the first time anyone moved stones to Stonehenge was only 5,000 years ago (as we now think; we used to say 4,000 or so years ago, but now most of us think the first stones arrived at the beginning of the site’s history, which is well dated – so we’re unlikely to say that stones arrived before then).
Essentially the weather when Stonehenge was built was not that different from today’s. There might have been the odd very cold winter, and standing water could have frozen to a depth of 10cm or more, but as today that would have been rare – and hardly something that could be planned into a complex organisational schedule that is likely to have run over several years, and been driven by politics and religion (when did they ever wait for weather?).
Even an exceptional ice cover would have done no more than make things worse for moving a stone. The big ones are massive, and would have smashed through the ice, pushing out the mud underneath, while people and animals trying to do the moving would have slithered on the mess. And this is when it’s very cold, the days are short and fresh food supplies are short.
You need to remember too that the stones had to be moved for much greater distances than the length of the Stonehenge Avenue, or the valley leading up from the river.
If there was a season for moving stones, it’s more likely to have been late summer or early autumn than winter. The days are still long, it’s comfortable to be outside, and wild foods are in good supply. The cereal harvests will all be in, and the labour demands of farming are at their lowest. This may also have made it easier to access the best routes, as there would no longer be crops on the ground that, other things being equal, would need to be avoided.
I’m currently writing on an essay about “what different interpretations of Star Carr can tell us about the mesolithic as a discipline” and stumbled upon one of your very first articles. I enjoyed reading it but was surprised that this was the only time that you took part in the discussion.
Now that we know that Star Carr is not just the small area that Clark excavated, do you have any new thoughts about it?
Have you ever tried to actually do some more excavations in that area to find evidence for a larger settlement or tried to encourage someone to search for it?
I’m horrified to see I wrote that paper (1) over 30 years ago! And you’re right, I haven’t contributed to the continuing debate, and neither have I excavated there. But I have followed it all with interest, and perhaps one day I might return to it, as I do think there are things to say. Not the least of which is to repeat the driving point behind my article, which is often missed.
Things are different now, but when I wrote about Star Carr, Grahame Clark was still active, and had recently published his own reassessment of his original dig (2). I was a student, and Star Carr and Clark were both new to me – and I thought both were wonderful! No one had apparently written about the site other than Clark himself, and I was warned that to do so was treading on hallowed ground. Yet there were fundamental flaws in his argument, so cleverly presented, that the site was a red deer hunters’ winter camp.
Most of the antler – the key seasonal indicator in Clark’s thesis – was industrial waste or hunting kit, so the deer could have been killed at any time. Stripping out such antler from calculations had a big effect on the relative amounts of meat supposedly contributed by different animals. This misrepresentation of the significance of red deer at the site was also noticed by Seamus Caulfield, and unknown to each other, we must have been writing about it at the same time (3).
The waterside location was (of course rightly) treated as the reason why so much organic material survived at Star Carr. But why the stuff should have been in the water in the first place was never questioned. This was what most puzzled me about Star Carr. It was hearing Henry Hodges (who was a lecturer at the London Institute then) talking about antler technology, and how antler is commonly soaked in water to soften it for working, that gave me a possible solution: it was an industrial site where water was needed. It made sense that hide working might also have benefited from the water, as well as antler (and who knows what else?). The hides could have been there just for cleaning, but I added the chemical treatment – perfectly plausible – because World Archaeology had a chemistry themed issue coming up, and I’d heard the editor was looking for articles.
In all the stuff since written about Star Carr, I have yet to see a sensible alternative explanation for why there should be so much industrial waste, gathered together in a relatively small area, in or close to the water.
1 “Hides and antlers: a new look at the gatherer-hunter site at Star Carr, North Yorkshire, England”, World Archaeology 11 (1979), 32-42
2 “Star Carr: a case study in bioarchaeology”, Addison-Wesley 1972
3 “Star Carr – an alternative view”, Irish Archaeological Research Forum 5 (1978)
Thank you for the quick reply!
I was already wondering how you made it into World Archaeology being that young AND going against Clark… Did you get any harsh comments about your article after it was published?
I was too shy (or wise) to ask Clark what he thought of it, so I never knew, but I can’t imagine he was impressed! I remember there being a lot of positive interest from outside the UK.
You can now find this paper on Academia.com (http://www.academia.edu/993422/Hides_and_antlers_a_new_look_at_the_gatherer-hunter_site_at_Star_Carr_North_Yorkshire_England). I note it says there the original paper was prepared in 1974, which makes 30 years ago seem quite recent…
I have been doing some research on the geometry of Stonehenge. I am trying to find the most accurate survey thet defines the the stones and holes that form the concentric circles. Along with the elements that are within the Sarsen Circle. I have found much on line. However I wanted to get the most accurate. I have come across the surveys done by English Heritage. Is it possible to get a copy of those surveys? I have just found your website and am enjoying the read. If you could help I would greatly appreciate it.
I had to do a bit of asking around about this (my thanks to Dave Field, amongst others). As I suspected, the best (possibly the only?) modern surveys of Stonehenge are owned by English Heritage, including a survey of the stones it commissioned from MJ Rees and Co in 1989.
The Historic Plans room archives at the National Monuments Record, Swindon (NMR), should be able to supply digital or paper copies for a basic fee: contact details here. A photogrammetric survey carried out in 1993 by Paul Bryan, English Heritage, and a recent scan carried out by Greenhatch Ltd should be available before too long.
As far as published plans go, the best source (as for so much of Stonehenge archaeology) is Cleal et al 1995 (Cleal R, Walker, K & Montague, R 1995. Stonehenge in its Landscape: Twentieth Century Excavations. London: English Heritage Archaeological Report 10). This study was prepared by Wessex Archaeology, but they used existing surveys by English Heritage, and there are some very nice fold out plans.
I will follow up on these leads.
Just a quick personal note to say Hi Mike! Just finished watching one of your great TV programmes here in Australia, and seeing you reminded us of your visit to Tonga all those years ago. Very best wishes, Diana, Steve and Pesi Brown from ‘Otea
Diana, lovely to hear from you, I hope you are all well. And I hope your memories of Tonga are all as good as mine!
Hello Mike, I would like to express my gratitude for your wonderful book, Hengeworld. My copy has a permanent place on my headboard! Although my Stonehenge book collection is substantial, there are only two I read and re-read, Hengeworld and Stonehenge in its Landscape.
Love the site, very well thought out, simple and clean interface, yet rich in content.
Cheers from Canada 🙂
Apologies Mike, in my haste to scribble down a few lines I did not bother to scroll back… seems I have posted in the recent past.
While I am here (again!), I would ask if you have any plans to ‘update’ Hengeworld ? WIth so many wonderful new discoveries, the work of the SRP, I imagine there is enough material to fill a new version, notwithstanding MPP’s new book.
Five years later and still no updated Hengeworld! I will do it one day if I get the chance, there is so much more to say (it would be a new book more than an update), but I can’t see the point in writing a book about the archaeology of Stonehenge while so much new research is in progress, making your book out of date while it’s being printed. It’s all going to slow down before long.
It’s a long time since we went wandering around sites in the fields around Bognor together. You may recall that I was living in a house full of Australians back then. Well now I live in Australia, am retired,,and am catching up with the interests of my mis-spent youth.
After reading Francis Pryor’s books, and noting his several mentions of your work, I found a copy of Hengeworld in a secondhand bookshop a couple of days ago. I must say it’s very good and I’m glad to see your hard work back in the ’70s came good.
All the best
There is a drawing of a magnificent handaxe from the Boxgrove dig in your Fairweather Eden book. I wanted permission to use it in my forthcoming book – The Return: Human Nature and the Regeneration of Eden. The publisher apparently no longer exists. I found an artist named Julian Cross in google, but he isn’t the same artist that did the drawing. I can send you hardcopy of it if I have a P.O. box. Given your work, you may actually be interested in my book.
All the best,
Sept. 2, 8PM Pacific time
Julian Cross’s fabulous drawing of that handaxe (like his other artefact drawings in the book) was prepared for the Boxgrove Project, so I suggest you contact them. They have a website run by Matt Pope at http://boxgroveproject.wordpress.com, where you can find contact details (check Stone tools for an extraordinary photo of a table-full of axes). Much of the important work at Boxgrove has still to be published in academic detail.
Is it possible Stonehenge is the Round Table of Legend(it does look a bit like one), are the re excavated bone fragments of 50ish individuals from the blue stone holes of Stonehenge 1 the knights of the Round Table, with the two towers of merlins mound and silbury castle we need to re examine Arthurian legend in an earlier Neolithic age, I have some concerns about the level of security of these ancient relics, they could be a lot more valuable than thought, if the university were slack and they get stolen they are likely to be the most unpopular scientists ever. They should certainly be in a safe and with alert security. I will email the university my concerns, it maybe a tenuous thread but if I can follow others can and the hunt for excalibur should absolutely not be left to the bounty hunters
I too watched the show “Stonehenge” and I would like to make a comment.
Currently I am building a BlueJay sailboat in Australia – upside down.
Bending over and turning my head to see the right side view I noticed
how much this boats bottom resembles an ice sled – water is just melted ice right ?
So I think I managed to somewhat get inside the head of the designer
(I didn’t see snow until I was in my early fifties)
And to understand ancient peoples we have to look at a problem
from their “workman like” view.
Not that I ever wanted to build a Stonehenge but if you asked
me to move those stones for you – and armed with my basic idea
of boatbuilding – I would first cut the FLAT keel and mount the stone on it,
using logs I would roll to the mudflats and begin building the boats sides
around it on the low tides.
– The length of the keel spreading the 2 tonne weight easily
I would never go to sea in it, instead I would have it tethered to the shore
with ropes and walk it around to the river (rowers would still be necessary)
Arriving at the site I could dismantle the boat and use the keel to
slide the stone – or other purpose – whatever
Remembering these people might have worked after the years harvest and
got the job done over a number of years.
No problems – if I had the time me. my wife and our two sons could get the job
done eventually but if we had some psyched up believers to help it
would be a no brainer !
The more I bother to think about the ancients the more obvious their work
becomes. Where there is a will there is a way.
By the way I know this henge pre-dates the druids but the term
“knowing the oak” (if that’s a real term) probably refers to the working of the oak
for a result like this and not some mysterious knowledge they possessed.
I won’t looses sleep over it any way 🙂
all the best,
I am writing a new book about Stonehenge and you have two photographs that I would very much like to use. The first is of Aubrey-7, opened during the 08 excavation, and the other is of you and Richard Atkinson crouched at the road’s-edge dig for Stonehole-97 in 1979.
How would I go about obtaining terms/permission for these images?
I see you are speaking at the Theatre Royal Bath in a weeks or so’s time. Unfortunately we can’t manage to get there. Are you speaking anywhere else in the UK in the next few months please? Best Wishes Caroline
That’s the last event scheduled for this year, Caroline. If you click on the Richard III tab at the top of the page, you’ll find a list of what I’m doing. Next up after Bath is an interview to be broadcast on NPR across the US, which you will be able to listen to online; and I have a couple of talks lined up for next year. Thanks for asking. Mike
I just wanted to post how very much I enjoyed your appearance on a video I only recently viewed, “Mysteries–The Stonehenge.” I am sure it is wuite old, but it was very interesting.
My dear wife and I just last week fulfilled a lifelong ambition and visited Stonehenge. It was fascinating, and viewing the TLC video in which you appeared made it even more interesting. Thank you!
Thanks Bernie! I’m pleased you were able to see Stonehenge after the recent on-site changes, it is so much a better experience now than it was.
I have always been a fan of your documentaries on Stonehenge.
However, I am always amazed that the best brains in the world have yet to solved the issue of ‘how the stones were moved’.
I am currently having a novel being written based on a storyline I wrote 30+ years ago. The story is about the last ever bluestone becoming lost and, therefore, why the purpose of Stonehenge was/could never be realised.
How the stones where moved (not necessarily just the bluestones) I thought I’d share my thoughts on how this feat was easily accomplished.
I hope you will find the attached ‘instructions’ on interest and would welcome any comment you may wish to make on my idea
Stonehenge – a revolution in design
(Explanation from my book being written: ‘Unsung hero’s)
We’ll never truly know the purpose of Stonehenge, who built it and why. Even more so is the question how the stones were transported from their source. Was it aliens? I doubt it.
Archaeologists and scientists, still argue to this day, how such a feat was possible – believing that they were dragged along on rollers over many miles. However popular this theory is, it remains a contentious and controversial subject to this day.
Man may have invented the wheel, but it took Stonehenge for it to evolve from!
If I was faced with such a monumental task, my idea would be simplistic in its execution. This is how, I believe, the Bluestones where moved:
List of requirements:
One large ‘Bluestone’ – a few tons is OK
2 x heavy duty, very long continuous hemp rope
Animal hides – enough to cover the stone
Long leather bindings – lots and lots.
Water – to soak the leather bindings
Logs – enough to wrap around the stone
a hot bed of ash
A strong workforce
1 – Select stone to be transported. Remove from ground and set to rest on two supports, one each end, leaving enough room to gain access underneath.
2 – Wrap stone with thick animal hide and tie with wet leather bindings. When the bindings dry, they will tighten the hide.
3 – Make a bed of hot ash. Later, this is to be placed underneath the stone to dry out the binding securing the wood to the stone.
4 – Place dry seasoned logs longitudinally to the upper surface part and fill in with smaller branches to make a semi circular cross section. Bind tightly with wet soaked leather or rope hemp. Allow to dry. Repeat several times until the bundle is solidly bound. This process may that a few days.
4 – Roll stone 180 degrees and repeat.
5 – Make two very long and strong ropes of hemp (or similar).
Rope is made of individual lengths (with loops at each end) linked together to make one continuous loop. Any part of the rope that shows signs of breaking or breaks, during use, can swiftly be replaced.
Along the rope, knots are tied. Sections are joined by passing each end through a loop and then locked using with a sturdy piece of wood – which is also used to help pull on the rope.
The loops at each end of the rope also allows a large stake to be placed through to provide extra leverage needed to pull it up hill.
6 – Wrap the rope around the stone once. This will cause the rope to self tighten when pulled.
1 – Pull on the continuous rope.
2 – Direction is controlled by pulling more on one rope than the other.
3 – To pull up hill: Insert long stakes through the joining loops of the rope. With the stake planted in the ground, pulling on the stake would draw the rope forward thus roll the stone.
4 – To stop – let go.
Although this idea has yet to be tried and tested, I see no logical reason why it would not.
May I say first of all how much I enjoy your blog (and books).
I wonder if you have any thoughts on the authenticity (or otherwise) of the Grimes Graves Venus? I’ve recently written about it, in very amateurish style, on my blog, Icknield Indagations, The consensus seems to be that it’s a fake; I wonder if you have any insider knowledge of its story? And do you know if there are any scientific tests that might establish its status?
Hi Mike: I don’t know whether you remember me from Usk in 1971. Since I last saw you, I’ve worked for the Palestine Exploration Fund, and then for the Middle East Department of the British Museum, from which I retired earlier this year. Helen and I visited Leicester Cathedral and the Richard III Centre this afternoon, where I found your book. I see you’ve done even better! Congratulations! P.S.: The book is a great read!
Ah, the digging years! Hi Rupert, glad you liked the book. Things didn’t work out too badly for us, did they? Never a dull moment in archaeology!
Just want to say how much I enjoyed your Richard III book (updated paperback)! The excavation has been a great thrill for me – have been to the Visitors’ Centre and the cathedral – as I never imagined he would be found. I’m glad to see you call out the lack of professionalism of Langley and co., which was just plain embarrassing and undignified. I’ve heard Richard Buckley speak about the dig, and Bob Savage is an old friend.
Dear Mike, just looked you up after seeing the end of the PBS programme on moving the stones of Stonehenge. I’ve always wondered why nobody seems to consider the stones would be easier to move in a hard winter. Sledges on very hard ground, frost or light snow with sufficient animal or people effort would seems to be a better time to do it. It would be tpugher on the workforce but they are living in the conditions anyway. Would welcome your thoughts.
Hi Chris. This idea is suggested every so often, but the major obstacle is the sheer weight of the larger stones. I commented on this in some detail in response to a query from Julia Marr, above, a few years ago.
thanks for your reply. I did have a look at your reply to Julia and agree that iced rivers are not the answer. I’m not wedded to the idea but there are some things to consider as follows:
You don’t need a particularly hard winter to make ground so hard it’s virtually undiggable (for want of a better word). If you place something heavy on frost or snow it will turn to water and give you a natural lubricant between the hard ground and whatever supports the stone. As long as you can overcome static friction you can keep something moving with comparatively little force. It works under skis and cars and we’ve moved my 2.5 ton 4×4 with two people with the brakes on, so a blue stone seems possible.
Re day length – if you can move something twice as far in half the time day length wouldn’t be an issue. Late summer or autumn would need folks to be gathering the natural harvest and take you late in to the year. And I presume they would be getting the ground ready before winter. Winter (Dec- March) would, presumably, be a time of little other activity so you might as well drag stones across the country! Also, once the harvest is in you have a ready food supply and could cache along the route.
As I say, not wedded to the idea but there are a number of things going for a winter move. And, our ancestors would have discovered slippery surfaces long before they discovered the sledge or the wheel. I think it’s too easy to decide it’s the wrong time of year when all the reconstructions are done in the summer sunshine. The only thing I’m saying is, if you wanted to move the stones in the winter could you do it and would it be easier.
Stonehenge a revolution in design
We’ll never truly know the purpose of Stonehenge, who built it and why. Even more so is the question how the stones were transported from their source.
Archaeologists and scientists, still argue to this day, how such a feat was possible believing that they were dragged along on rollers over many miles. However popular this theory is, it remains a contentious and controversial subject to this day.
Man may have invented the wheel, but it took Stonehenge for it to evolve from!
If I was faced with such a monumental task of moving large stones, my idea would be simplistic in its execution.
This is how, I believe, the bluestones (and possibly the larger ones too) where moved:
The shape of the stone would be changed to resemble a gigantic roller using packing of timber, and animal hide.
If you would like more info on the breakdown or instructions on how they were prepared and method of transportation, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to forward it to you.
Although this idea has yet to be tried and tested, I see no logical reason why it would not.
Mechanically, this method would prove to be more practical and be far more efficient than using wooden rollers to move the same weight over any variety of ground condition.
For larger stones – ones that weight 10’s of tonnes – a mat of logs woven together could be used to wrap the stone turning its irregular slab shape to a cylindrical one that would resemble a huge garden roller.
I look forward to you thoughts on this.
Mike, i have organised a batch of research notes to be sent to Neil Guiden at English Monuments regarding the Great Year Circle feature. Do try to get a copy. Start at the back in the last half of Holy Grail. All conclusions up to others. If you see Ros tell her Neil has a copy for her put aside. Thank you.
Transporting the bluestones by sea. The Egyptians transported their obelisks by submerging them in the water and then attaching them to the boat. Stone in water weighs a third of its weight in air. The prehistoric boat at Hull museum is clearly made for sail and a bluestone slung underneath would make a great counterweight. I can’t visualise people paddling a raft with a huge stone stowed on it.
Hello, I watched the documentary curiosity stonehedge. I couldn’t help but think if them blue stones did come by boat (which I believe to be correct) Another way you could prove this theory although my be rather expensive, If there was 80 blue stones transported to the destination then how many boats most of sank ?. As i dont believe they would of had a 100% success rate, I would of thought they would of had some sink with in the first 5 miles for instance, as once the stones in that’s when you would know if your boat was good enough, some must not of made it, even at 20% that’s still 16 blue stones that could be in the sea, if some sort of sonar ground mapping could be done the boats that did sank would be long gone by now, but them stones maybe still there just under lots of sediment so if their all in the sea in theory it’s extra if not near 99% confirmation,
Hi, I think you are absolutely correct in making that assumption. When they built the Severn bridge I did hear a stone was found and was later transported to Bristol. I also agree with you that the stones where not moved on sledges and ball bearings. My theory is that they were wrapped with matetial to turn the stone to take a cylindrical shape. It was then ‘rolled’ using rope. I am happy to outline my idea in greater depth should you wish to get in touch.
Fully understand the reasoning of the above, and it’s logic. My theory of the later part of the journey of the Stones from the river Avon to Stonehenge is quite simple,, The Stone Age builders waited for Winter !! and when all the “pockets” in the road way froze over ,,they simply SLID the stones over/along the road way . A number (not all) of the stones had accumulated during the summer months at the river bank , waiting for the Winter ,,this process may have taken place over a number of years, I do not accept the theory that the stones were moved on a sledge, using stone ball bearings,, Regards John Denis Fay (facebook) Retired now living in Ireland
Hi John. Interesting theory but one I do not remotely accept due, in main, that the climate can be disappointingly unreliable. If no snow showed each winter, the back log would stifle progress. Also, pressure would be placed to ensure the structure was completed by a certain celestial event. I can go into greater detail should you wish to contact me.
Just wondering if you ever found out what happened to the Peakirk Cross?
That’s a good question Hannah. When i get a moment I’ll see what I can find out and post back
Michael, please ask EH’s Neil Guiden to see if he has any spare copies of the research ‘The Ark of Noah, The Holy Grail’ on the A303/360 route. If you don’t want to believe the information…fine but it is food for thought regarding the chance to save the most precious section of all regarding totally uniqiue & irreplaceable World Heritahe archaeology that could be destroyed by heavy plant in just 5 minutes. Thank you
Mike, what about the three pits Parker-Pearson excavated for Nat’l Geographic, that had 3 stones together in each, OBVIOUSLY phallic –a lingam with two round smaller stones beside it, anatomically correct position. Mike’s wife showed me the pics at an SAA meeting a few years ago, told me that the Geographic forbad him to publish or publicize the phallic pits (no sex please we’re english).
I got your blog link while searching for something else, am very happy to find it. You might also comment on Gordon Freeman’s discovery of equinox niche in the side of one of the standing stones, such that at equinox a ray of sunlight comes through the niche to the Heelstone. Freeman is an excellent scientist (physics/chemistry) and careful observer, in Edmonton, Alberta; Parker-Pearson et al. won’t do him the courtesy of going over to look at the niche he predicted and found. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org [kinetics is his special research area]
I’m an American archaeologist who does history/philosophy/sociology of science of archaeology, as well as anthropology of No. Am. First Nations, you can Google my books on Amazon, see the controversial ones. Thanks!
Hi Alice, good to hear from you. I’ve enjoyed reading your work over the years. I can’t comment on Mike PP’s phallic stones, which I don’t know about. The final reports on the Riverside Project’s excavations are due over the next year, so we’ll see what they say. They are going to be very interesting, and I’ve no doubt MPP et al will write whatever they feel like!
I first discovered alignments at Stonehenge in Gerald Hawkins’ book, which i remember reading with excitement at school. But I still think the only one we can be reasonably sure about is the solstice line. It’s not just at Stonehenge but at other monument in the landscape around, and it’s caught by several different features at Stonehenge itself (including some that are not alignments, such as the distinctive way the great trilithon stones are carved and finished). As for the others, all depend on a few points (often two) and have nothing to differentiate them from hundreds of other possibilities offered by so many pits and stones. That’s not to say of course there weren’t other alignments that meant something to people, but I don’t think we can demonstrate any. That doesn’t worry me. I don’t think our inability to say whether or not alignments other than the solstice one can be proven or not, has a serious impact on how we might think about and understand Stonehenge, which remains endlessly fascinating!
all best, Mike
I have a question about the Sanctuary and the troublesome post holes of rings D and E. I have just read Stuart Piggots “Timber Circles: A Re-examination” in which he put forward the idea (which has now fallen out of favour) that the Sanctuary was a multi-phased roofed structure. In it he states that the only non double holes in the D and E rings where D5, E6 and E8, and accompanies this with a ground plan showing all the holes of the E ring as been double except for the aforementioned E6 and E8. However this plan differs from the plan drawn by Maud Cunnington in her report of the excavation as she only shows E3 and E4 as being possible double post holes. As Maud Cunningtons plan is the definitive plan of the excavation is Piggots plan wrong and if so where did he get the idea that most of the E ring posts were double?
As the only other person to have excavated the Sanctuary I wondered if you could shed any light on the possible double post configuration idea. Having read your report of the excavation I know that E4 showed signs of recutting, removal and replacement of posts and was difficult to interpret but wondered if there was a similar situation in E3 and E5 which were also excavated.
The quick answer to this is that much as we’d like it to be otherwise, we are never going to know exactly what structures were raised at the Sanctuary or when.
The three pits Piggott refers to in those two rings as single rather than double postholes are the only circular ones in Cunnington’s plan: while she draws only two pits in ring E with an inner step, all but two of them are more or less oval rather than circular. We can imagine that Piggott assumed all the oval pits were double pits, regardless of Cunnington’s identification of a step – and Piggott would have been aware that her excavation of the site was not conducive to subtle recording.
This interpretation was to a certain extent confirmed in our 199 excavation when we re-excavated E3, E4 and E5. We found these pits, even without most of their original fill which had been removed by Cunnington (but significantly not all), revealed themselves to be more complex than the 1930 excavation had suggested. My report shows you what we found. A good test of Piggott’s theory would be to re-excavate D5. As my report explains, I had planned to do that. We found the site more complex than we had anticipated, with far more finds, and given we would have to rush it I decided to leave D5 for future excavation, not least because what we found suggested my original hypothesis – that this was also an oval pit – was strengthened. If this is right, this is a particularly rare and precious part of the site.
Watched your investigation into the “Avebury Barber-Surgeon” on YT recently.
I think you have missed the obvious.
This man was thrown into a pit dug for one of the stones.
Implication: he was considered to be of pagan origin in some way, as were the stones – hence their burial.
Such burials outside the churchyard were ordained, according to your informant, for inter alia, “Manifest Usurers” – ie jews.
He was buried with the implements of a jewish tailor, ie scissors and bodkin.
The cut on his head was probably the result of persecution which has been the lot of the Wandering Jew for millennia.
Perhaps, but I’m not sure why scissors should be Jewish and why a Jew would be associated with anything pagan?
Good book, ‘Digging up Britain’
In Chapter 8, Cannibals, did you consider the relevance of the discussions in Herodotus? In 3.38 the Callatiae eat their dead parents and find the Greek practice of burning them disgusting, and in 4.26 the Issedones eat their dead parents, cleaning and gilding their skulls as ornaments
I recently visited the Sanctuary and noticed that there are 43 concrete marker blocks in the A ring instead of 42 as per the excavation plan with the additional concrete block placed between A8 and A9 (in a due north position). As the only large concrete block missing at the site is X1 I am wondering/assuming if this is the block that has been moved, probably as a prank as I can’t think of any other reason to reposition it. I believe it may have been in this position for several decades, my reasoning of this is that I have been visiting the site for nearly 30 years and I have always wondered why there was no block marking X1, also I can’t believe it’s taken me all this time to notice. Just wondered if this had gone unnoticed by EH and archaeologists or if it was known about but no one has got round to putting it back in place.
I also noticed that the site is slowly losing many of the smaller markers in the B and F rings, something which has been going on for some years now as more seem to disappear every time I visit. In the B ring there are only 27 of the 32 small marker posts and of the 27 present 6 have been pushed into the ground so that the painted top is at ground level and only noticeably when you are close to them. The F ring is suffering the most as it is missing 5 of its 8 markers. As the smallest markers at the site it is not surprising that these have been damaged or removed more than the other rings.
Any insights you may have on this would be gratefully received.
P.S. I did message you on your Instagram but then noticed that your last post was 2016 so have assumed you’re no longer engaged with this platform.
Hi Robert. I don’t know the answer to this (it’s been some time since I’ve been to the site). If you look at my excavation report from 2001 (https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/135939#page/11/mode/1up) you can see a plot of concrete markers done then by Dave Field, and also a plan (fig 7) where I showed the somewhat distanced relationship between markers and excavated Neolithic pits (one of them had been broken by machine mowing, cemented back together twice, and replaced quite a way off)
Many thanks for the prompt reply. I have just realised that the errant marker is actually between A7 and A8 (close to the east side of A7), and not between A8 and A9 as I previously mentioned. This is verified by Davids plan meaning it looks like it has been in this position since at least 1999 so would appear to have gone unnoticed for a long time. However Davids site plan has actually raised more questions for me because it shows features that I have not seen before on other plans of the site.
There are 5 features in question and all are marked as post holes on the plan:
1. A pair sit either side of the A ring to the north opposite A9
2. Another pair sit outside the eastern side of the site above X2 (one of which appears to be in the same position, or very close to the missing X1).
3. One sits just inside the A ring in the SE sector next to A21.
The two pairs I mention in point 1 & 2 above both seem to be the same distance apart (lines drawn between them would form a rectangle), plus the post in point 3 seems to be inline with the pair in point 2. I’m assuming that the survey was above ground only and if so do you know how David determined that these were post holes. As there are no markers in these positions and nothing is shown on the 1930 excavation plan I was wondering if these might have been triangulation points for the survey or something similar to do with the 1999 excavation? If not do you know why they are on the plan?
Sorry for more questions.
That is a plan of concrete markers as they were at the time
One last thought, is it possible a large concrete marker was used to mark post hole 7a?
Thanks for your input