Where did the Stonehenge bluestones come from? Scientific advances are allowing us to pinpoint the outcrops that they were quarried from with ever-greater accuracy. Rob Ixer, Richard Bevins, and Duncan Pirrie describe some of the latest thinking.
It is little surprise that geology initially evolved as a British science, for within a set of smallish islands the British Isles have been blessed by an almost unseemly range of rocks of all ages. Beneath our green and pleasant land sits a varied mineral wealth that has been exploited for four millennia (metals) and tens of millennia before that (lithics).
In this month’s Science Notes, we turn to one of the most immediately recognisable monuments in the world – Stonehenge – examining how the origin of its bluestones was taken for granted for so long, and how it shows why research is ever evolving, and never absolute.
Geology has few laws, but the most encompassing and important is the late 18th- to 19th-century Doctrine of Uniformitarianism – ‘the present is the key to the past’ – and generally this is still accepted as true. ‘Historical scientists’ (aka earth scientists), who try to interpret ‘the deep past’, continue, as naive realists, to practise in this belief/ knowledge, as it works well.
Geological form and process fundamentally underpin archaeology, but many archaeologists only have a patchy understanding of it – or even a fear of the sedimentary unknown. John Allen’s book is therefore hugely welcome, and it fills a long-neglected gap.