Here’s a selection of screen shots from a number of US Westerns and/or their billboard advertising..
Note the recurring feature: bows, arrows, defensive timber stockades (US cavalry forts etc).
So what’s this got to do with Stonehenge you may ask? Answer: everything, I now maintain (after some 7 years of study and deliberation), but on one condition: that one starts with ‘proto-Stonehenge’. namely Stonehenge in its infancy. I now believe that the bow and arrow largely explains why Stonehenge looks the way it does.
I intend in this posting, under its new “arrow-dominated” title to briefly summarise why. The key concept is “Stonehenge – built in progressive stages, primarily as a defence against Neolithic bows and arrows. More detailed arguments can wait till later. Please be patient.
This posting will be assembled in short instalments. Expect more later in the day,
2nd instalment (approx 10:00am)
Here’s a screen grab from a US-based website showing Stonehenge in 3 stages of development:
Splendid and helpful though the schematic diagrams are, they lack two important pieces of information.
First is absence of an alleged timber palisade in the first of the three (showing the simple beginnings of the Stonehenge site).
I shall (with sincere apologies) give a somewhat lengthy quotation from just one of several sources that back uop my belief that the important addition has been omitted. It’s from Brian John’s “The Bluestone Enigma” (more about those bluestones later). I have highlighted the key passage in red:
Under “Earthworks and Pits” (page 15):
The stone monument at Stonehenge is only about 30m in diameter, and it is all too easy to forget that it lies at the centre of a much larger (and older) circular enclosure about 110m in diameter and bounded by a ditch. Most of the chalk dug from this ditch was thrown up on the inside to form a low embankment, now much eroded. The embankment, in its heyday, might have been just over 1.5m high, shining white and thus quite spectacular. This was the “The First Stonehenge”, dated to about 3,000 BC. On the crest of the embankment, excavations have revealed post-holes which may indicate that there was a timber palisade or barrier running round the whole circumference of the site (ed. which is why I have added “stockade” to this posting’s keywords. Oh, and the immediate next section re bluestones and Aubrey Holes from Brian John’s account will come later.).
A timber stockade from the word go, mounted on top of a chalk embankment. What’s more the embankment is INSIDE the ditch, contrary to the standard design of British “henges”, which have an interior ditch and an exterior bank (the latter usually taken to mean that the standard Neolithic-era henge (of which there are said to scores, if not hundreds) was not intended to serve a defensive purpose, but merely to screen what was happening inside. Doesn’t the combination of an interior bank AND that circular palisade aka stockade immediately imply a DEFENSIVE role for proto-Stonehenge. If so, for what purpose? So who or what was the perceived threat?
Before addressing that question, let’s mention briefly the other omission from the schematic diagrams, namely any indication of scale (though alluded to in the above quotation). What’s missing are the DIMENSIONS of the site, that often surprise those who make the journey to Salisbury Plain to see a world-famous monument. They are, to put it baldly, diminutive to say the least – the stone circle being, yes, a mere 30 metres of so in diameter. Even the much wider chalk/ditch embankment, over 3 times that, is, needless to say, a mere 100m or so in diameter!
Here’s a quickly cobbled-together labelling of the final phase of Stonehenge in the above trio of schematic diagrams, inserting those dimensions, (yellow font) plus some other additions (red and blue font) that will then be introduced and explained.
So what do the red and blue lines represent? Answer: the crucial part of the new Model 2 being unveiled on this site, namely ARROW TRAJECTORIES, fired from the not-to-be quickly dismissed Neolithic bow by encroaching enemy forces.
Let’s now take a quick look at the splendid and informative 6-page pdf available online, provided by Stuart Prior back at the turn of the century. It concerns a Neolithic bow recovered from Somerset peat, then reconstructed, then tested for strength and range.
Here’s an image of the reconstructed so-called “Meare Heath” bow being used to fire off just one of hundreds (nearly thousands) of arrows:
Here’s Stuart Prior’s own words as regards range, which one can then put alongside the Stonehenge dimensions. Already I hope the significance of the red and blue additions to the third schematic will be quickly apparent, seen against the ones I’ve added below!
The finished bow was firstly taken to The Roebuck Archery Centre at Gussage Saint Michael, Dorset. The poundage of the bow was measured and found to be 42lb at 28”. On the outdoor range a dozen arrows were shot over 25m and every arrow hit the target!
… the bow was then taken into the field to try some distance shots. It was found that the bow was accurate up to about 100 yards (90m). … it was capable of shooting an arrow further than this , but not accurately.
Yes, but for the added palisade, an enemy archer, maybe creeping up undetected as far as the outer ditch could have fired off arrows capable of accurately hitting targets at least as far as the centre of “proto-Stonehenge”. Not for nothing was a chalk embankment and palisade/stockade devised as a first line of defence, keeping the ensconced occupants safe (we”ll speculate on their likely identities later – whether farmers. soldiery, VIPs etc later). So the short range trajectory, shown in red, on that third schematic was rendered invalid even in the first of the three, once the embankment/palisade was installed.
But that would not have ended the threat to those occupants. Oh no! Why not? Because an alternative strategy could be adopted on the part of the enemy archers. Stay 50 metres or more away from the external ditch, and fire off arrows at a steep angle of ascent into the air that then arch down on a steep trajectory onto the occupants, striking the tops of heads and shoulders as well as torsos! The steep upward and downward parabolic trajectory is shown in blue!
So what additional protection could be installed to protect from those arching arrows following the blue fired-from-a distance trajectory (as used so effectively we’re told in the 14th century by the English against the French at the Battle of Crecy!). The answer is in the third schematic! Install an outer circle from uprights AND capping lintels. (More on the precise mode of taking effective refuge later). But don’t stop there. For added protection, at least of VIPs, install a second innermost oval or horseshoe with still more of those lintelled trilithons, albeit non-continuous. It’s then a matter for those under attack to see from which direction arrows arrive, if or when falling into the interior of the stone circle, and then to re-position themselves accordingly between particular pillars that are further shielded, or partially so, by others in the adjacent arc of the circle.
Oh dear. What about that ‘solstice celebration’ malarkey ? How can one celebrate a solstice when having to dodge in and out of pillared archways to stay safe from incoming arrows? Did our Stonehenge forbears maybe negotiate with the enemy in advance, to be allowed one or at most two days-off in the year (longest or shortest) when they could be allowed to let their hair down?
More (maybe) to follow later in the day… But the main message has been transmitted … albeit in summary form . I now await verbal and written arrows to fall towards me from the internet skies – at varying angles – whether shallow and well-targeted, whether steep and somewhat hit-and-miss!
Footnote: Model 2 (Stonehenge initially a defence against enemy arrows) came as a development of my New Year’s day posting elsewhere.
Model 2 proposes that the first-generation bluestones, lugged all the way from west Wales, prior to arrival and usage at Stonehenge of the much larger nearer-to-hand sarsen stones, were used en route as a kind of in-transit and/or overnight air raid shelter (probably of a VIP, against, guess what (?). Answer: enemy spears and ARROWS!
Apols – this next passage is somewhat wordy, being a difficult area to address in a strictly scientific manner. (Indeed, I’ve shed my scientific hat for this section, for reasons that should soon become apparent):
So who or what needed defending at Stonehenge, right from the start of the site’s inception, and why invest so much time and effort in installing all those pillars and lintels? A VIP seems improbable, given the isolated location of the site some 3km or so from the nearest settlements of any size (Durrington to the NE, Amesbury to the E).
A clue is provided by the presence of those deposits of cremated bone. It is they among other things that have led to Stonehenge being described as a Place of the Dead. But it’s invariably assumed that it was a ceremonial funeral site. Indeed some say the predominance of adult male bone suggests it was used to dispose of the elite of local society. But there’s a contrary indication: why the disposing of crushed cremated bone in various pits and post holes, with lack of any grave goods etc. That’s hardly consistent with ceremonial disposal of an elite.
I have an alternative suggestion to make.
Salisbury Plain was populated by farmers growing crops and tending livestock. But a different type of occupant was never far away, namely the hunter-gatherer, concealed for the most part in the forested areas adjoining the Plain. The livestock – sheep, cattle, pigs etc- must have been a huge temptation, especially if all that was required was a well- aimed arrow, and a quick retrieval of the family’s evening meal taken quickly back to the woodland setting.
The farmers needed a means of deterring the poachers of their livestock. How? I suggest that a Plains quasi-military ‘Police Force’ was set up on the edge of the Plain, from which patrols went out to spot and apprehend would-be poachers.
Then what? The poachers would have been shown little mercy one suspects in the Neolithic era, indeed no mercy whatsoever if wishing to make an example of them, as a deterrent to further would-be poachers. They were escorted back to Stonehenge. Might they have been summarily executed, then cremated, their ashes being crudely disposed of, e.g. mixed with chalk for backfill in this or that pit?
We thus have an explanation for inherited terms like “Slaughter Stone” and maybe “Altar Stone”, with assumptions of human sacrifice when in fact it was summary punishment.
Is there any evidence that Stonehenge might have served so severe a role? Yes, I do believe there is, and indeed suggested it back in 2012. It’s to do with those so-called “carpentry joints” used to lock the pillars and lintels together.
Nobody would go to all that trouble merely through sentimental attachment to alleged timber-constructed predecessors of megalithic Stonehenge. As indicated I’ve suggested entirely different reasons, the first being to create a rigid interlocked structure that would resist being tugged over by ropes deployed by raiding parties intent on destroying the monument. But why? There would need to be a strong motive to attack and attempt to destroy Stonehenge. Such a motive would exist if it had (a) served a the headquarters for a Salisbury Plain police force with hunter-gatherers in their sights and (b) when caught in the act, dishing out summary execution sentences.
Tempers would be raised even more if there had been any display of the captured e.g. by suspending them from lintels, putting them on full display, whether living or dead.
Apols for having to inflict this gory scenario, but it seems likely, given the huge clash of lifestyles between pastoralists and hunter-gathers living on or close to Salisbury Plain.
What I described above is not a ‘serious’ proposal for why Stonehenge existed. It’s merely to indicate that the scenario of a small albeit prominent addition to the landscape need not defy explanation. One possible scenario has been described. There are no doubt several others worthy of consideration, though whether any are better than others will no doubt need a further input of new archaeological findings..read stroke of good fortune.
Tuesday Jan 21, 2020
Today I’m taking a close look at the internet entries for the so-called “Stonehenge Archer”, questionably relevant I say to what I’ve said thus far. If nothing else, it will show why one must never rely on a single internet entry if one’s to get a balanced overall picture.
Let’s start with the Salisbury Museum, which houses the skeleton of the Stonehenge Archer.
I’ve added some highlighting to what you see above, indicating which parts of the above I consider important to my “arrow-based” origins of the Stonehenge site:
Yes, All of it is important, every single word. Note first of all the labelling of the age, as determined by radiocarbon dating of the non-cremated skeleton, in which the organic collagen connective tissue is still preserved – as “Late Neolithic”. Why emphasise “Late Neolithic” for the skeleton’s age at time of death (2,400-2200)BC. Go to the wikipedia entry on the Stonehenge Archer and you will see why.
Incredible! The man was interred with flint arrow heads with him, and indeed in him, yet he’s described in the very first sentence as “Bronze Age”! How misleading can you get?
Let’s now see what the Salisbury Plain authority, Prof Mike Parker Pearson has to say (and not say) about the Stonehenge Archer in a brief entry in his 2012 book (“Stonehenge – Exploring the Greatest Stonehenge Mystery”).
From MPP, Page 195/196
“The last burial at Stonehenge during the third millennium BC, probably after the cremations had ceased, was the inhumation of a young man in the outer ditch close to the north-east entrance. This burial took place at some point during the period 2400-2140 BC. This young man was buried with an archer’s wristguard but no Beaker. Remarkably he had been shot three times or more from different directions. There are marks on his bones where they have been grazed and punctured by arrows, and three barbed-and-tanged arrow-heads were found in the area of his body cavity. Known as the Stonehenge Archer he was a local man according to his isotope signature.
“Archaeologists have long speculated whether the Stonehenge Archer was a human sacrifice, a clandestine murder victim, or an executed criminal. He might have been a prehistoric Julius Caesar, assassinated in a bloody coup, a ruler toppled and executed by an angry mob, or even a war leader, surrounded in battle and filled full of arrows. When we put the Stonehenge Archer into the wider perspective of Stonehenge as a place of burial – a cemetery in use for hundreds of years – it is enough to describe him simply as the last person to have been buried at Stonehenge during its heyday.”
“Executed criminal”? More than likely I would say! Shame there’s no information thus far (at least that I have seen) as to whether the intact skeleton plus accompaniments (notably the wristband) were those of a Stonehenge defender (unlikely – given the unceremonious ditch burial) or those of a local hunter-gatherer, either attempting to poach livestock or fire off arrows at the occupants of Stonehenge.
Let’s take a look at yet another source of info re the Stonehenge bowman, this time not off the internet.
It’s the relevant section from the English Heritage “Stonehenge Visitor Guide” which I purchased on site at its shop when visiting in 2012. I’ve included the preamble, seeing as how it places the Stonehenge Archer within a useful time frame . (The Archer section has been highlighted in red).
PEOPLE OF STONEHENGE (Page 38/39)
The 1,000 years before construction started at Stonehenge had seen great changes in people’s lives, as farming gradually replaced a life of hunting and gathering wild foods on these rolling chalk uplands. This change meant settling down and investing in land, with the consequent ideas of ownership and territory. This was the time, in the earlier part of the Neolithic era (or New Stone Age) when tools were made of wood, stone or bone and when simple pottery vessels were made and used. It was also when long barrows and causewayed enclosures were built , communal monuments whose existence suggests and organized society, the presence of leadership, and the ability to communicate with large and possibly far-flung communities. The increasing emphasis on farming would also have ensured regular food supplies, freeing up part of the labour force for these essentially non-productive activities.
Stonehenge was built and presumably used over a period of at least 1,400 years, a huge length of time that saw considerable changes in the way prehistoric people lived their lives. The simple earthwork enclosure was started towards the end of the Neolithic era but we know little of the people who built it. We know more of the everyday lives of those who raised the stones nearly 500 years later, as their small neatly built houses have been found at Durrington Walls. From these it is possible to learn more about their diet and perhaps the organization of their society.
There are however, three remarkable human burials, discovered at Stonehenge itself and nearby, which provide which provide a fascinating insight into the great changes that were taking place at the time the stones were being raised.
In 1976 an excavation in the ditch at Stonehenge revealed a human skeleton buried with several finely worked flint arrowheads, some with their tips broken off, and a wrist protector made of stone, likely to have been used by an archer. The arrow were of early Bronze-Age style and the man who dies in about 2300 BC, soon became known as the Stonehenge Archer.
Examination of the bones showed that he was a local, aged about 30 and that he had met a violent death. The missing tips of the flint arrowheads were found embedded in his bones, so the arrows were not his possessions but the cause of his death. But even though he died violently, perhaps as a sacrifice, he was given a careful burial, a place that was by that time perhaps the most sacred place in the British Isles.
(ed: “Sacred”? Hmmm! You would say that, wouldn’t you, EH? Shades of that minimally-documented “solstice celebration” ! I’ll now attach what follows regarding the so-called Amesbury Archer, if only for the contrast it provides with that of the approximately contemporaneous Stonehenge counterpart. The two are often confused on the inernet, especially in image files).
The discovery in May 2002 of another burial in Amesbury, about 5km (3 miles) from Stonehenge, provides a stark contrast to the one from Stonehenge. The Amesbury Archer discovered during excavations on a building site, had the richest grave ever discovered from the time of Stonehenge. The man, aged between 35 and 45 years old, had been buried in about 2400BC with an astonishing collection of artefacts. This was the time when the first metals, copper and gold, were being introduced from continental Europe, alongside a distinctive type of decorated pottery vessel known as Beaker ware. In his grave this man had three copper knives and no fewer than five Beaker pots, two stone wrist protectors, 16 finely worked flint arrowheads, and a pair of gold hair ornaments, the earliest gold to be found in Britain. He also had what appears to be a small stone anvil. Bone analysis shows that this man was not local, but was born somewhere in the Alps, most probably in what is now Switzerland. So he may have been one of the first to introduce metalworking to Britain, a skill that would have earned him enormous prestige and wealth.
More to follow shortly …
I think that will do for the present posting, with its off-the-wall idea (correction – off the stockade arrow-bounce). I’ll wait to see what reception if any the new thinking gets from the existing “Stonehenge-focused internet websites” but have no great optimism where that’s concerned (nuff said) or even Establishment Academe (about which the less said the better).
Next posting? it will be here, on this site. It may address some of the trickier issues, like the timber and bluestone antecedents at Stonehenge and elsewhere ( Stanton Drew, Woodhenge, ‘Bluestonehenge’ etc. that somehow have to be accommodated within the new conceptual framework, namely Stonehenge as combining both an OFFENSIVE and (accordingly) DEFENSIVE role (the latter against enemy arrows, whether aimed directly or steeply arching down from above. ) .
Here’s a foretaste of what’s to come:
Time methinks to shelve once and for all those fanciful notions re ‘solstice celebration’ harking back to William Stukeley in the early 18th century. One needs to reinvent oneself , oh English Heritage/Stonehenge Visitors Centre (especially) even if your cash registers fall quieter for a whil . Put simply : get real! Tell things the way they are, correction, were, 5000 or so years ago. There were two entirely different lifestyles, attempting to live peacefully (or not so peacefully) side by side, clashing intermittently over the course of centuries, in which both microlith flints and megalithic stones each played a central role.
This final image (internet plus my MS Paint additions) should need no captions:
Postscript: on the same day I tack a mention of Stanton Drew onto the end of a posting, I find that the site is highlighted this very evening on the Brian John site (which these days I studiously ignore for the most part, or at best gloss over, for numerous reasons I shall keep to myself for now). Leaving aside the current politics re Brexit etc etc on the latest posting, it only makes reference to Stanton Drew’s stone circle – no mention of the 9 concentric circles of timber posts that once existed. I could try posting a comment, if only to plug this current posting, but shan’t. Wouldn’t want to be accused of merely plugging a current posting, would I? That’s even assuming my comment made it through BJ’s stringent filter as to what is relevant to his (narrow) take on Stonehenge and its bluestones (glacial transport of bluestone alleged ‘erratics’ to Salisbury Plain or nearby.. Nope, I’m staying clear of the BJ site, now and probably forever… Let’s not mince our words: in purely scientific terms, it’s frankly the pits, banging on endlessly about how we’re all wrong, failing to present hard evidence to back up his own fanciful notions, even if skilfully expressed.
For those visitors here wishing to have a preview of my next posting (maybe not for a week or two) then see the artists’ impressions of those closely-spaced 9 concentric circles of timber posts at Stanton Drew. They are displayed when one enters (stanton drew timber ) into Google, and then clicks on the image files.
Impressive, yes? Purpose? It’s been given here in this posting.