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Chapter 2 Journal Activity

Links to Preseli and possibly Paviland?


When? - When people erected the Totem Poles around 6,500 it suggests to me that they were already putting down a very public marker. In the Northwest American First Nation settlements, such poles are frequently placed in a prominent position at the entrance to a settlement and often represent beliefs, legends, historic events and family lineage as well as providing a means of cementing the bonds within the group through their cultural identity. Given that the area may have been inhabited more or less continually for 9,000 years and if one allows for 4 generations in each one hundred years there would have been 100 + generations of births and deaths by the time the totem poles were erected. I would be like my family living in the same spot since the Bronze Age.
The first change to the landscape that we are aware of at Stonehenge in 3,100 BC was in the form of a double bank and single ditch enclosure I can only surmise that this was brought about by a change in the belief system, possibly introduced by newcomers, maybe an Evangelical preacher (Neolithic Billy Graham?) or by word of mouth from group to group.
The subsequent Wooden structures a hundred years or so later might suggest sky burials or some other form of ritual associated with the dead providing an inner sanctuary where rites could be performed in private, not necessarily for the elite but an opportunity for immediate family to say goodbye.
The arrival of the Bluestones 400 years later seems to be a complete mystery unless there is a connection across both the years and the miles which has been maintained (see – By whom). The movement of these stones as well as the Sarcens and Triathlons shows that the builders of this monument had an excellent knowledge of engineering, they really understood their environment and how to use it to their best advantage. I understand that the Bluestones have special properties which give it a feeling of ‘warmth’ and there are suggestions that the original blue stones formed a circle in Wales, possibly somewhere near the quarry, before being dismantled and taken to Wiltshire.

By whom? - Could the builders of Stonehenge be the decedents of The Red Lady of Paviland? I take as the starting point the fact that Southern England and far beyond was not as affected by the ice sheets of the last glaciation quite for as long as was once thought which can be seen in these images of maps produced by Sheffield University - - and a little later in this map which illustrates the area of land available for hunting by 16,000 BC This suggests that groups of hunter gatherers could have had access to the area for many millennia prior to the Mesolithic.

We know that the Red Lady of Pavilland (a young man in his early 20’s) was buried approximately 30,000 BP which suggests that the whole of the coastal fringe may have been inhabited throughout the last ice age and the large assemblage found with the burial in Goats Hole Cave suggests that the group had some sort of belief system burying their dead in a ritualistic way and the cave is a relatively short walk to the Preseli Hills.

How? - I think there have been many attempts to show how the various stones were moved and all are equally good and equally bad but what remains is that the builders were determined to get them to their eventually destination and in this they succeeded. However, I was told by a lady who took part in an experiment in the 1980’s as part of the Stonehenge Environs Project that she was part of a team of students who tried to move a replica stone using wooden rollers and ropes, this had been only partially successful and in her opinion and that of other students, it would have been much easier if they had lifted the turf, wet the chalk and pulled it over the slurry which forms on wet chalk – something to consider? but only in areas of chalk grassland.

Why? – I believe this landscape was being settled by those first visitors to Blick Mead around 9,500 BC and was used long before by a group or groups who were moving round the landscape and saw a wide area of Southern England as ‘their’ hunting territory. It was rich in all types of game, gave them everything they needed for shelter and warmth as well as a relatively mild climate. When we look at other nomadic and semi-nomadic cultures they all seem to have an area of their territory which is sacred for the dead, where people or just their bones are laid to rest and which can be visited at certain times of the year. The fact that human bones have been found at Stonehenge suggests that burial was a part of their practices and although we do not know if everyone was buried I lean to the view that they were. Given that there were other groups of people living alongside the River Avon would they have just left the bodies of their loved ones to float off downstream? I think not.
Also, the introduction of pottery suggests influences coming in from beyond the local area so one assumes that this has come about because of a new wave of settlers and also begs the question of how people are able to move across the English Channel? If they are able to navigate the Channel then maybe they are able to construct sailing vessels which can transport the Bluestones from Preseli? I feel we often underestimate the ability of our distant ancestors.


almost 2 years ago

A very interesting and well written piece. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and found the link to the maps of glaciation in the British isles very educational.

almost 2 years ago

Thank you for the glaciation maps. It is very helpful to my understanding to have a visual to study. I also whole-heartedly agree with your comment that we moderns tend towards underestimating our ancient ancestors!!! This retired teacher gives you an A++. Thank you for taking the time to be so thorough!

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