Today’s BBC-article – “Stonehenge: First residents from west Wales”

At last, the mass media (well, the BBC at any rate ) are beginning to home in on the real (thus far unmentionable purpose!)  that Stonehenge and other megalithic sites  almost certainly served in Neolithic society, 5000 years ago :

bbc stonehenge wales strontium cremation



Function of those mighty stones, aka megaliths, first of which (those lighter Welsh bluestones, pre- more local sarsens ) were lugged all the way from west Wales?

Answer – bird-attracting excarnation, aka initial defleshing  -pecking away – of a recent deceased loved one, aka ‘sky burial’ – a preliminary to fuel-efficient cremation.

No, not pleasant to contemplate. But then, neither were the alternatives, like difficult and inefficient cremation of an entire corpse.

Solution: let the gulls etc get a look in first, at a dedicated, fit-for-Neolithic- purpose, easily visible-from-afar site, one where the avian scavengers  would feel safe  from ground-based predators and other scavengers – and indeed welcome.

More later… like the preference for those  igneous, non-sedimentary bluestones…  Ringing tone when struck – not too different from church bells?  Why use a ringing rock?

It’s a topic I touched on briefly some 6 months back:

Think need to alert  hungry local bird life each time there’s a new offering …

If new to this site, then here’s a link to my audacious thinking on the REAL purpose of Stonehenge and other sites (stone circles, standing stones, dolmens etc).   I believe that megaliths were deemed an essential part of the furniture required for an efficient bird-attracting, bird-retaining place to permit pre-cremation excarnation. Cremation was deemed the appropriate means of body disposal, but  NOT difficult and time-consuming  whole body cremation! Thus the need for preliminary excarnation (“sky burial”).


Saturday Aug 4, 2018

Am presently reading “The Megalithic Monuments of Britain and Ireland” by Prof. Chris Scarre of Durham University. (How I wish I’d discovered his splendid fact-jammed book sooner , the English language version of which was first published in 2007, preceded by one in French). Warning: it’s quite heavy-going in parts…

IMG_3655 chris scarre book cover


My next posting will take some of the many gems of observant detail from the book that backs up my thinking re Stonehenge and indeed megalithic  monuments in general (whether the good prof’ agrees with me is another matter!).

For now, here’s a foretaste of what’s to come. Below is a a schematic diagram from Page 60 (Chapter 2, “Scotland”).

Did my neighbours hear the yell of delight when I came across that two part diagram on  the Tomnaverie Neolithic site, due west of Aberdeen, and the accompanying caption?

tomnaverie stone circle large scale google

Google map – Tomnaverie Stone Circle, Scotland

It shows its  initial design, serving simply it seems as a “cremation pyre”, but later converted to a more complex “recumbent stone circle” without the on-site cremation focus, but with added timber posts instead.

chris scarre tomnaverie

Page 60, “The Megalithic Monuments of Britain and Ireland” by Chris Scarre (2007, Thames and Hudson)


“Recumbent stone”? Ring any bells?  Like the description applied to a certain “Altar Stone” many hundreds of miles south?

Why would a cremation pyre be replaced with a circle of timber posts AND a flat recumbent stone? Sea change in technology, with the focus on making cremation quicker, simpler, more fuel efficient?  Go figure…

Oh, and note the final sentence in my cut-and-paste with its reference to stone circles in general that feature a recumbent:

“Often the recumbent  is of different geological material from the other stones of the circle and contrasts with them in colour”.

Again, ring any bells?

Update:  Tuesday 16th April, 2019

Here’s  another fascinating insight into the background of the folk who constructed Stonehenge approx 3000BC. Again, it’s hot from the press, appearing on the BBC News website just 7 hours ago:


BBC stonehenge dna anatolia mediterranean 16 april 19


DNA analysis suggests that the builders hailed originally from Anatolia (modern day Turkey), having used the Mediterranean first to settle  in Iberia, then moving up through France, and probably accessing Britain via the west and southwest. It’s a fascinating article – which I strongly recommend. (Oh, and it fits with the ideas regarding the true role of Stonehenge advanced on this site these last 7 years (ritualized excarnation of the newly deceased – avian -assisted – as a preliminary to defleshed bone cremation – but those gory details can wait – facts come first).







About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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2 Responses to Today’s BBC-article – “Stonehenge: First residents from west Wales”

  1. Colin Berry says:

    PS: have just googled to see if anyone else has made a connection between: (a) the trilithons of Stonehenge and (b) older dolmens of similar geometry – arch-like, with two uprights and a cross-piece.

    Answer – YES! Here’s the site!

    Why is that visual correspondence not routinely recognized and commented upon, at least in abundant Stonehenge literature?

    Why the seemingly visual blind spot, bar the one or two hard-to-find exceptions (unless entering narrowly-specified terms into web searches)?

    Why do we allow our Establishment archaeology – and its commercial associates – to blinker us in this manner?

    I say it’s time for root-and-branch reform of the UK’s self-serving Establishment archaeology … both academic and commercial.

    Both emanate a bad, bad smell… probably driven for the most part by what academe – and pay booths – consider is most likely to attract income.

    PS Guess what? I’ve just come across an article in the tabloid Express. It has an academic proposing a link between Stonehenge and… guess what? Yes, dolmens.

    You read it here first – see my previous comment on this thread, posted several days ago, reiterating the common purpose that I deduced many moons ago, one that links megaliths, henges, stone circles etc. But the Express article makes no reference to that common theme – ritualized excarnation…

    You’ve finally caught up, Establishment sindonology. Well, nearly so. You’re still not telling the whole story. Now start including the taboo e word….

  2. Colin Berry says:

    I’d been neglecting this site of mine for some time – the renewed interest from the two most recent commenters getting me thinking again about the site’s basic message. That can be summarised in just two words: ritualized excarnation.

    No, it’s hardly dinner table conversation – but the same could be said for anything to do with disposal of the dead.

    What truly amazes me now is the number of “mysteries” that surround so much to do with Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain, with resort by professionals to vague romanticized versions of this or that.

    I have just this minute scribbled 8 topics that match that description:

    1. Those mysterious dolmens, aka cromlechs, aka passage tombs, despite there being some 30,000 of them in Korea, surely not all “astronomical observatories”.

    Link 1 (more to follow)

    2. Mysterious “Seahenge” (with a brief mention of “excarnation” on an early BBC report.

    Link 2

    3. Mysterious timber circles, a forerunner of more permanent standing stones and stone circles, equally mysterious.

    Link 3

    4. That noted La Varde (Guernsey) archaeological site, splendidly reported on by Jenny Cataroche and Rebecca Gowland – co-existence of a mysterious stone circle with sizeable deposits of cremated bone – with, shhh, evidence of initial excarnation not necessarily by beak ….

    Late addition – see this thread for megalithic mumbo jumbo!

    Link 4

    5. Mysterious henges, largely a speciality of prehistoric Britain, with their forerunners – the mysterious causewayed enclosures

    Link 5

    6. Mysterious stone circles within mysterious henges

    Link 6

    7.The so-called “heel stone” at Stonehenge, believed to be there from the start (not brought in): bird-like (beaked etc) but given a name that distracts from an interpretation based on pagan practice. Instead it’s given a mysterious name, inspired no doubt by early Christians. heel being a reference to a friar and the Devil’s stone (!!!!!), that ludicrous name being retained to this day by archaeology professionals! Rarely if ever a reference to that ‘beaked head’…

    Link 7

    8. Mysterious Silbury Hill (functioned related somehow to that of the gigantic but still mysterious Avebury stone circle(s) – a short distance away).

    Link 8

    (Now there’s a surprise: when I tested this link to my own generalist science site, up popped a pale imitation saying that the site was “not secure”!
    I suspect dirty tricks, but we’ll see – that blogspot/blogger site, set up in 2009, has been the repository of any number of postings across a wide range of topics. So why hasn’t its owner (me!) NOT received a communication from the internet host (Google) notifying me of a problem. of the reasons for a downgraded status? I shall try contacting Google – seeking an answer, but am not hopeful of getting a reply – given past experience).
    Postscript: have just added this as a comment to my most recent sciencebuzz posting:

    sciencebod said…
    This site, set up in 2009, with scores of postings, has now had its site address labelled “not secure”. Reason? One can only guess, but I strongly suspect it’s because I have refused to supply a mobile phone contact number, either to the host (Google) or to the sign-in portal (AOL).

    Unless or until one or other of those internet giants (Google or AOL) email me with (a) a proper explanation and (b) an apology, there will be no further new postings on this site.

    If new comments appear, with my being notified of their arrival, then I will try to respond promptly, at least while the facility to do so remains unimpeded.

    But I will not cooperate with any internet giants that for no good reason label this site as “not secure”, based on their own obscure or self-indulgent criteria.

    Note the m word that intrudes occasionally in this account, and in the archaeological literature with monotonous regularity. Note the rare appearance of the e word.

    Let’s not mince our words. The e word is largely taboo where our Establishment archaeology is concerned, aided by English Heritage, a compliant media etc.

    I say it’s high time the e word was broadcast loud and clear as the unifying principle, one that removes the element of mystery from all 8 of the listed items.

    One thing’s certain: the internet, more specifically blog site, does NOT do the business. One or two tentative contacts with the media have proved a total waste of time. All one gets is a blank look, as if to say: “What planet are you on?”. Answer: Planet Earth, with feet planted firmly on the ground. Can you say the same, Establishment archaeology, mainstream Google-flagged MSM, leading megalithic internet portals (which shall remain nameless for the present)? 😉

    The longer I live, the more I puzzle the seemingly blinkered nature of our society, its prehistoric character especially. I suspect most folk simply don’t want to be taken out of their comfort zone, don’t want removal of the wool that has been pulled over their eyes for centuries, happy to live with “heel stone” rather than “bird stone” (with its e-word implications).

    Private Eye used to summarise it beautifully: “This septic isle…” its heading for a long-running series of jaundiced ‘takes’ on modern society, in which the s word substituted for “sceptred”.

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