Conundrum 3 – Dating of the Monument

(Book Extract………………………………. The Great Stonehenge Hoax)

Could Antler Picks build these Monuments

The Problem

The first time real science could be used to date the ancient monument was when archaeologists   ‘carbon dated’ the antler picks found within the ditch of the site – as it was assumed that these were the tools used to dig the ditches, which they had been discarded as a ‘ritual’ to the bottom of the trench once it was completed.  Since then, archaeologists have attempted to justify these dates with all new finds on the site and have rejected as anomalies all other radio carn dates that don’t match its ‘established’ timescale.

The Solution

A type of tool found widely among the sites of Neolithic communities in North-Western Europe.  They are formed from a red-deer antler from which all but the brow tine has been removed; the beam forms the handle, and the brow tine the ‘pick’.  They were used for excavating soil and quarrying out stone and bedrock.  The marks left by their use have been detected on the sides of ditches, pits, and shafts.  Experiments suggest that they were used more like levers than the kind of pickaxe swung from over the shoulder.  (Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology)

If you read any book or watch a program about archaeology and the construction of their monuments and sites, you will hear the experts talk about finding antler picks in the general vicinity and linking the structure with these objects.  As the description above indicates, these ‘tools’ are from red deer, which shed these natural growths annually.

According to archaeologists, this was the primary tool of prehistoric people – a natural resource that became a handy tool in excavating the ditches and digging holes in the chalk bedrock that surrounded most of their sites.  This is where the Victorian term ‘antler picks’ originates and still exists today, but for an unknown reason, this tool has now changed its use  (but not its name),  as archaeologists have now realised that if these ‘antlers’ were used to cut into hard bedrock chalk, they would leave blunt ends and scars from flint re-sharpening, which there is no evidence. 

Yet, if you look at any prehistoric report about the monument’s construction, you find a degree of ‘acceptance’ that antlers were used as the primary source of digging out the chalk downlands.  For example, here is a typical report from English Heritage’s ‘bible’ (Stonehenge in its landscape, 1995, Cleal et al.) and the use of Antler picks.

Typical Antler
Typical Antler
Typical Antler

“Over 130 antler implements are known to survive from excavations by Gowland, Hawley, and Atkinson et al.  Antler implements have frequently been associated with Neolithic and Early Bronze Age monuments in Britain located on chalk or limestone, and it is generally assumed that they were the principal implements used in the digging of ditches, postholes and stone holes.

In a paper on the Neolithic, engineer Atkinson (1961) wrote, “the tools used – antler picks, bone wedges and occasionally stone axes – are well-known and require no further discussion.  However, some of the generalisations made in the literature about antler implements require modification in the light of the finds from Stonehenge.”

The Victorian Archaeologists found antlers all over Stonehenge, particularly in the ditches that had filled up over the years.  So, the conclusion ‘was that no other tools’ – apart from antlers and bone parts had been used as these were the only remains found.  However, the only part of the antler that could successfully break the solid chalk is the harder ‘tines’.

English Heritage Display of Finds from Stonehenge showing Antlers with broken and not blunt tines
English Heritage Display of Finds from Stonehenge showing Antlers with broken and not blunt tines

The problem with the tines is that they all grow the same way, and so they would not naturally allow a clean strike at the chalk bedrock if used like a ‘pickaxe’ unless you removed two of the three tines.   And hence the ‘gobbledygook’ sorry line in the Atkinson’s report which says that “methods of modification and the forms of the picks are more varied than has been hitherto appreciated”.

If we are the seeing systematic use and preparation of these tools (as has been suggested by archaeologists in the past), we should first see two clean cuts with a stone axe or cutter to ‘prune’ the antler and then secondly blunt and reshaped tines with compression strikes from a stone or another blunted instrument on the antler stem behind the tine spike – but we don’t!

Atkinson's Antler Pick
Atkinson’s Antler Pick

Of the 118 antler picks found at Stonehenge, 82 antlers had the harder tines attached.  Of the 82 with tines – only 25 had the other two smaller tines removed to make them usable; this is only 21% of the antler finds.   Moreover, none of the 25 picks that could have been used had compression marks or signs of sharpening.

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