Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 21 September 2014
How to build Stonehenge
Last night, me and H.I. sat down to watch both episodes of the latest documentary on Stonehenge using catch-up.
For the last five years, a team from Birmingham University and Germany have been carrying out an electronic survey of the vast area around the monument, using sonar-type detector gadgets, towed behind tractors and quad-bikes, which also sent out mapping information to satellites using what must be GPS.
The results were spectacular, showing up hundreds of other large structures and henges which have been all but ploughed-out, covering an area of many square miles. A phenomena whereby grass goes a patchy brown when struggling for water during drought, showed the exact position of the handful of missing stones that formed the uprights to Stonehenge, but what happened to these 40 ton blocks remains a mystery.
Any unanswered questions were handled in the usual way - barely thought-out conjecture which jumps to ludicrous conclusions illustrated by low-paid actors and extras. If you believe this stuff, then you will also believe that Britain was populated by a load of unwashed hippies who - although so skilled that they could fashion beautifully intricate arrowheads from unforgiving flint and conduct brain surgery with flint implements - could not sew to save their lives and dressed in rags and festering animal-skins.
Archeologists spend so much time staring minutely at stuff, that they never see the bigger picture - unless it is displayed on a large screen right in front of their noses.
The country's leading expert on the massive 'Sarsen' stones which make up the bulk of Stonehenge, took us to the Sarsen Valley (about a mile from Avebury which, although about 10 times larger than Stonehenge, was never mentioned once) where these monoliths lie around in their hundreds, waiting to be dragged 30 miles away to - but not down - the A303, having been dumped there by a melting glacier.
She walked to one prone stone and said with great authority that this rock was so hard that it could only be worked using the same stone, then she picked up a small boulder and began bashing the surface of one against the other. In about 20 seconds - quite a long time to be smashing a five pound lump of stone up and down with both untrained arms - she had enough pale dust to fill about half a thimble.
How the hell can an experienced archeologist ignore all the flint tools that have been collected from the area, and proclaim that the builders would have shunned them in favour of a method which was pretty much useless, using a material the same hardness as the very stone they wanted to carve? The thing is that almost nobody associates axes with stone - they universally believe they are only used against wood. I have about six steel stone-axes in my toolkit, and I use them often.
The unintelligence of modern archeologists lies in the fact that they refuse to ask anyone about something who might know better than them, for fear that it would blow their personal theory about something else, and they cannot bear to have that happen. They would rather appear to be stupid.
There then came the inevitable reconstruction of the method used when transporting the 40 ton blocks the thirty miles to the Stonehenge site.
A handful of filthy hippies struggled and strained with a half-ton pebble which was laid on a log sledge, pulling it backwards with a suspiciously modern-looking hemp rope, falling over every six feet or so and looking as though they were going to drop dead from exhaustion at any moment, which they probably were.
The two runners of this sledge were simple poles with bark still attached, which hadn't even been cut at an angle, and ploughed deeper and deeper into the earth with each pull on the rope. You would have thought that anyone who could lay-out and build an astronomical monument as impressive as Stonehenge, would at least have some rudimentary grasp on the practical theory of sledges, and how their use depends on cutting down friction as much as possible, wouldn't you?
Just off the top of my head, if someone came to me and asked me to manually move a forty ton block of stone a distance of thirty miles over rough ground, I would immediately have a picture in my head of the smoothest wooden runners on a sled as possible, and a series of equally smooth, moveable planks to run them on, which would be constantly lubricated with water as they were shifted from back to front in relay. I know this because I have actually done it, albeit with a two ton block, not forty. Rollers do not work on rough ground.
They should have come to me as advisor for this part of the program, but it was fun to see a load of besmirched hippies falling over in the mud and earning every penny of their fees for doing it. I can just see the blank looks on their faces as they queued up in front of the catering van on the windy plain.
"You look like you want sugar in your tea. Am I right?"