Conundrum 8 – The Stonehenge Layer

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

Chips are Us

The Problem

During the limited excavations at Stonehenge undertaken in the early parts of the last century, archaeologists were amazed by the number and scattering of the bluestones scattered and lying within the soil at Stonehenge. The number of stones was so great that the archaeologists called it the ‘Stonehenge layer.’ Chippings from the facing of the stones (particularly the larger Sarsen stones would be expected), but the more significant number of chippings came from the smaller, less frequent Bluestones, which has baffled the experts even today.

The Solution

Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology at Bournemouth University, has revealed research that he believes shows that Stonehenge was an ancient healing place.  In his book, ‘Stonehenge: The Biography of a Landscape’, the Professor cites that human remains excavated from burial mounds near Stonehenge reveal that many of the buried had been ill before their death.

Darvill also suggests that these remains are not those of local people but of people who had come travelled from far and wide.  For example, the Amesbury Archer, the name given to one of the remains identified, originated from what is now known as Switzerland.  The Professor believes that Stonehenge would have been predominantly used during the winter solstice when our ancestors believed it was occupied by Apollo, the Greek and Roman God of healing.

However, I would suggest that not the gods alone at Stonehenge encouraged people from across the known world to travel such vast distances.  Another feature of Stonehenge still survives today is the legendary Bluestone.

Bluestones are unexceptional, igneous rocks, such as Dolerite and Rhyolite.  They are so-called because they take on a bluish hue when ‘WET’.  Over the centuries, legends have endowed these stones with mystical properties.

The British poet Layamon, inspired by the folklore accounts of 12th Century cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote in 1215:

The stones are great

And magic power they have

Men that are sick

Fare to that stone

And they wash that stone

And with that water bathe away their sickness

This ancient poem clearly shows that the sick would BATHE away their illnesses.  I find it surprising that Professor Darvill never linked this revealing poem to his hypothesis.  Recently, findings by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University have revealed a smaller version of Stonehenge, confirming the link between Bluestones and WATER.

The BBC reported that:

About a mile away from Stonehenge, at the end of the ‘Avenue’ that connects it to the River Avon, archaeologists have discovered a smaller prehistoric site, named – appropriately, after the colour of the 27 Welsh stones it was made of – ‘Bluehenge’.  The newly discovered stone circle is thought to have been put up 5,000 years ago – which is around the same time work on Stonehenge began – and appears to be a miniature version of it.’

Bluehenge moved to the edge of the river Avon
Bluehenge moved to the edge of the river Avon

Hawley discovered another exciting aspect of the moat at Stonehenge was the number of ‘craters’ found at the bottom of the ditch.  These craters were large enough to have accommodated quite large Bluestones.   Hawley, in one particular part of the Moat, found a two-metre wide hole which he described as a post hole – this, however, is too big for a post, but it could easily have been a stone hole as its size and shape were similar to the remaining standing Bluestones we see today in front of the Sarsen Stone circle.

It should be remembered that Bluestones aren’t the same size as the Sarsen Stones; they’re much smaller; an average visitor to the Stonehenge monument may quite quickly scan over them without really noticing their presence.  Archaeologists currently believe that their small size is because they are what remains after the damage by souvenir hunters over the years. 

But I propose that they may have not been small when brought to Stonehenge originally, for they have little to no building quality but as a healing agent to be placed at the edge and in the Moat to initiate their medical remedy.  As an indication of how these stones were initially used, archaeologists have identified a colossal amount of Bluestone chippings covering the entire site at Stonehenge, 3,600 in fact, so many they call the soil surrounding which contain these shards ‘The Stonehenge Layer’.

I would suggest that just as we enjoy adding a variety of salts to our baths today, so did the Mesolithic people – they would have added a small amount of Bluestone chippings into the moat as he bathed.  Their healing qualities would have been enhanced by chipping the Bluestones and revealing the inner core.

The traditional view of why these quantities of Bluestone chippings are abundant is that they were ‘worked’ upon and reshaped to fit the holes that had already been prepared.  This seems completely illogical – why would anyone in their right mind undertake the gruelling task of working on this burdensome stone to fit into the holes when it would have been so much easier to have dug the chalk soil first to accommodate the shape of the stones?  Another traditional view is that the many chippings found were remnants from ‘dressing’ by reshaping these Bluestones. 

We know that the more massive Sarsen Stones were dressed on the inner side of the stone circle, as the flake marks are still visible – but there is no evidence to date that the bluestones were also dressed.

Given that archaeologists believe that the Bluestone chips exist only because of the re-working by our ancestors or the results of Victorian souvenir hunters, it would be interesting to compare their number (3,675) to the number of chippings discovered from the softer, easier-to-break, more famous and more plentiful Sarsen Stones, which we know were re-worked.

Stonehenge Layer showing disproportionate number of chippings
Stonehenge Layer showing disproportionate number of chippings

You would think, proportionately (251 cubic metres of Sarsen Stones v 28 metric metres of Bluestones), there would be a lot more Sarsen stone chipping to Bluestones – but you would be wrong!!  Only 2,173 Sarsen Stone pieces have been found despite over nine times more Sarsen Stones than Bluestones.

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