Monday, April 25, 2016

Stonehenge can be thought of as a Flintstone-era funeral parlour. Its sales pitch was soul-releasing sky burial AND, by way of bonus, a compact take-away package of cremated bones.

 Yes, Stonehenge had a VIP tourist not so long ago who unlike us plebs was allowed to go inside the stone circle with those amazing lintels, raised up some 4,500 years ago with nothing but primitive technology.

Look to your left, Mr. President!  Maybe your people didn't tell you about the "elephant in the room".  (Or hovering just out of sight in the background, thanks to an unholy alliance between academia and manipulated mass media).
It was widely reported, needless to say by the media, for which sad to say this blogger has less and less time.  Why? Because apart from a near total absence of critical faculties, publishing anything dished out by news agencies and even our esteemed  publicity-seeking, fund-seeking academia, the mass media are anti-blog, and have been for many a long year, having quickly perceived the blogging community as a threat to their own desire to maintaining a monopoly not just on the reporting of current affairs, but interpretation too. Did you know that inside every MSM journalist, there's a highly erudite sage fighting to get out, permitting no competition whatsoever from the Great Unwashed of the blogosphere?

 Arguably Google is anti-blog too, judging by the second-class treatment accorded to our postings, at least by Google (like striking out one’s main search terms (Appendix 1), or heading lists of returns with eBay and Amazon ads that are no longer even labelled as ads etc (Appendix 2).

So there’s no attempt today to mimic a so-called 'factual, authoritative' media science report, despite this blogger being a retired professional scientist. This is essentially an ideas-fest.

 See also his specialist Stonehenge/Silbury Hill site

Nor will there be any attempt to make this posting Google (or other search-engine)- friendly. Where new uninhibited thinking is concerned, or in my case, not-so-new thinking (Appendix 3) search engines have degenerated year-on-year into a sick parody of the original, with wikipedia and its ideas-censoring thought-police not far behind (Appendix 4 in preparation)

This posting will attempt to tell it the way it is about Stonehenge and other ‘iconic’ sites scattered around the Wiltshire Neolithic theme park. There will be no sentimentality, no obfuscation, no attempt to engage in airy-fairy mystification – as archaeologists routinely do, seizing on some tiny artefact, building up an entire Universe, then wasting no time in rushing to the media with their “breakthroughs in our understanding”, their “profound new insights” bla bla.

To show my contempt for this endless media circus of obfuscation and/or lazy (or grant-provider-friendly) glossing-over and misinterpretation, I shall post this intro right now, despite this posting lacking any real content thus far. That will come as a drip-feed in the next few hours, maybe the next few days, and will be totally uncompromising in spelling out a clear message that the public does not, and probably never will get from that unholy fudge between academia and the compliant mass media. Basically it will flag up what this blogger considers (after some 4 years of research and reflection)  to have been the REAL purpose of Stonehenge and nearby sites. Nope. I don’t intend to stage-manage, or keep folk in suspense. So what briefly was its real purpose?

Stonehenge was the endstage development of what had been evolving by way of timber post circles initially, followed by stone circles over centuries, probably millennia, culminating in Stonehenge and its gobsmackingly ambitious OTT (literally) lintels, a stupendous feat of engineering if ever there was, given the limited technology available.  But let's not mince our words: it was NOT designed  as a landscape folly: it had a strictly utilitarian purpose, functioning as a durable, all season two stage cadaver-processing plant.

Stage 1:  speeded-up release of the Neolithic soul, as then perceived, from its confining prison of mortal flesh via “sky burial”  i.e  defleshing of the bones (by scavenger birds) followed by:

Stage 2 : cremation of the semi-cleaned bones, providing grieving relatives with a compact keep-sake, either for taking home, or, if more important, for internment in one of those many round or long barrows that punctuate the open Wiltshire plains and chalk uplands, still visible to this day, still with their stored bones, sometimes cremated, sometimes not.

Think of Stonehenge as a dual purpose site: bird sanctuary (the more voracious species of scavenger birds that is – rooks, crows, ravens, maybe those versatile, adaptable gulls too) AND late-stage crematorium (excarnated bones only, NOT entire body).

(Aside: I'm in discussion right now with the erudite Ken West MBE about the pros and cons of different scavenger birds as likely (or unlikely) agents of excarnation, my having discovered his brilliant and inspirational think-pieces, e.g."Stonehenge and Sky Burial" through googling (about which more later, probably a new posting).

 Yes, the target skeleton and bones did finally come clean. Pity that academia and the media refuse to do so where Stonehenge is concerned. I repeat: Stonehenge and its precursors were almost certainly conceived as bird sanctuaries serving as skeleton/bone-recovery plants. The technical term for it, rarely appearing in the media, and even quite difficult to track down via internet searching is that unmentionable E word. It’s EXC _______   N, which becomes EXCISION read marginalization/sidelining/de facto censorship in media reports. 

Yes, as indicated earlier, there’s an elephant in the room, correction, giant Neolithic outdoor funereal parlour,  where reporting of latest research findings from our Neolithic sites is concerned, and its name begins with that letter E. 

See my (obviously home-made) irreverent ‘photoshopping’ of the Obama visit to Stonehenge.

Here's another in the same vein, a foretaste of still more to come, this posting as indicated being a work in progress.

I say again, Mr. President. Look to your left! The agents of that poetically-named SKY BURIAL, Mother  nature's agent of so-called hands-off  "passive excarnation",  still frequent the site to this day. But don't expect academia or the timid unquestioning  "science reporters" in the mass media to so much as hint at the real reasons for Stonehenge's existence. Reputations are at stake (to say nothing of future research funding?)

Yup,  more to come. Much more, a series of snippets selected from the recent newspapers and internet sites, at best, factoids not facts, more often than not, though if the truth be told, better described as downright 'fictionoids', like those carved "duck figurines" unearthed just two miles from Stonehenge, or that similarly  nearby "House of the Dead" (allowing in some but not all Press releases a fleeting reference to the E word, it having reassuringly "preceded" Stonehenge, length of time unspecified) but which was probably not a house at all,  but a screened proto-Stonehenge, i.e. roofless bird sanctuary  without the bolt-on, afterthlought bone-crematorium.  ;-)

Yes, we''ll be back with those two for starters. Watch this space (if you dare!).

Apols btw for typos. Tracking them down takes time and effort, and I'd rather publish (and possibly be damned) and leave the correcting them for now.

New addition: Monday, 16:45

From the Mail, October 2011. Do they look like ducks to you? Nope, didn't think so...
Those "duck figurines":

The research was done by The Open University. It would appear that the description “ducks” was provided from that source. The Mail has not questioned that description, nor any of the other media outlets I’ve read so far. Yet the reaction on blog sites has been immediate and rightly sarcastic which mirrors my own.  Why describe them as “ducks”.  One website immediately entered (birds) after “ducks” and rightly so.(ref to follow).

Does it matter? Yes. Anything that shares a headline with “Stonehenge” and is a new type of artefact is important. The Mail is vague about precisely how far from Stonehenge, saying “near”. How near?

I had to browse a number of sites to find where precisely. It’s at “Vespasian’s Camp” just 1 mile east of Stonehenge with we’re told the bed of a spring. One’s left to assume that’s the original source of “water” into which the carved figurines were said to have been tossed  as an 'offering' .  (Evidence?). Vespasian’s camp, btw, is  fancifully named after a Roman commander, later emperor, which is a totally misleading name for the location, it being an Iron Age promontory 9soory to be so vague - am still researching the precise nature of this landscape feature). Again, one has to do one’s own rooting around.

Have discovered for googling that Ice-Age/bluestone specialist Brian John’s site did a posting on the birds, back in 2011, attracting some 74 comments in all (!) I’ve now read them all, some (not all) being quite thought-provoking.  I’m willing to bet that not a single “science reporter” has done so, and there’s no response either from academe, certainly no one from the Open University.

This blogger’s views on those “birds”? No, they don’t look in the least bit like “ducks” and I consider it extraordinary that the Open University chose that description, not merely because it sentimentalizes prehistory ("oh look, little ducks, how cute!")  but more seriously because it pre-empts serious debate as to what birds represented and, more importantly, for what purpose – artistic, religious or even utilitarian.

Yes, utilitarian. Here’s where one has to get speculative. Both look ‘bottom-heavy’ as if designed to be that way. Why? The low centre of gravity means that if knocked and tilted,say by a real bird taking a closer look and inquisitive peck,  they would probably tend to return to the vertical. Might they then have been designed as decoys, intended to attract other birds who mistake them from afar as their real cousins, or even come in to sate their curiosity?

Had these “decoys” been found closer to Stonehenge I would have suggested they were indeed decoys designed to attract birds, scavenging ones especially,  to the site, given its identification as an excarnation site.  Being two miles away does not of course invalidate that conjecture.

But keeping an open mind, and framing a possible hypothesis, means that future archaeologists should now be on the lookout for more of these figurines ESPECIALLY at any site with present or previous standing stones or timber posts, i.e.  ones with this blogger’s putative “bird perches”, maybe decoy-baited as an avian attention-grabber.

New addition: Tuesday April 26

The so-called  "House of the Dead ". (But where's the evidence it was a house, or even had a roof?)

We now shift to the Woodhenge site, or rather to some private land just 450m SW of it.

Don't expect to see a house. In fact don't expect to see anything. Here's a description (my highlighting) provided by the Historic England site:

The (long barrow) monument includes a levelled long barrow aligned north east-south west located some 450m WSW of Woodhenge on Countess Farm and situated on a west facing slope. The barrow is now difficult to identify on the ground. However, the ditches which flank the mound of the long barrow on its western and eastern sides, from which material was quarried during its construction, survive as buried features and are visible as parchmarks.

The red patch is the location of the long barrow on an OS map, with Woodhenge just visible as a collection of dots top right. The aerial view beneath is the satellite photo from Google Earth.

Now be prepared for a surprise, dear reader, since this unpromising-looking site was the subject of a blaze of publicity in 2014, after the magnetometer survey carried out by a joint team from Birmingham and Vienna, under the project name "Hidden Landscapes".

Here's a composite of the graphics that were carried in national newspapers, BBC documentaries ec.

What you see what some reports describe as a reconstruction of a 'mortuary house' aka "House of the Dead".

Reconstruction from location of post holes: the 'House of the Dead' 450m SW of Woodhenge.

The first thing to note is the odd way this "house" tapers on its long axis. It's described as "trapezoid" in shape, with only two sides, or rather ends, parallel to each other. Isn't that somewhat odd for a house? Yes, but we're assured that such structures have been described by archaeologists on the Continent, so that's all right then. But why would anyone want or need to have a tapering house?

What I haven't said so far is that the evidence for this house with its ridge roof rests on finding postholes. It's not entirely clear how much surviving timber was left - possibly enough for radiocarbon dating. But it's the number and position of those post holes that concern us now. They are shown we're told in the diagram, top left. From that the full above ground structure is 'visualized' (top right).
So what's the evidence for that roof then?

Lets's take a closer look at the 'footprint' of those postholes.
The first thing to notice is that the conspicuous solid white circles are NOT the footprint. They are the position of IMAGINED tops of timber supports. Leaving aside the question as to how their heights could be known, given that most if not all the timber had rotted away, it's important to realize that the pattern one sees, which at first sight might just possibly be suited to supporting a roof, looks entirely different if one descends from each solid white circle to the BASE of the supports.
Here's a close-up to which I've added yellow arrows.

Two of the supposedly taller "roof supports". Roof supports? Really?

In fact those taller post indicated, shown with their 3D rendering, are NOT in the right position to support the highest part of a ridge roof. They are NOT in the midline, but tucked up against the side of the structure, as can be seen by tracing back to the bases.

In fact, when one looks ate the number and distribution of the post HOLES one sees that they are :

1. In the wrong places to support the roof

2. In the wrong places for the inside of what is claimed to be a "house". Who would want or expect to navigate a forest of support poles when stepping inside a house, regardless of the function of that so-called house?

So, take away what would appear to be an entirely imaginary roof, and what is one left with? Not a house, that much is certain. One is left with a sturdy stockade of butted up posts inside of which is that scattered array of posts with no obvious function, and still an impediment to anyone inside.
But there's a clue, and it involves that E word, which to their credit the archaeologists have deployed, despite being less than 2 miles for Stonehenge where any mention of the E word is strictly taboo, or so it would seem, surveying the media and internet sites. Yes, it's E for excarnation, and here's a quote showing the site was not just viewed as a "mortuary house", which I consider a hastily-chosen and misleading misnomer:

Here's the account from the Guardian, one of just many i could have chosen, with a quote from the Viennese co-director:

One of the most striking monuments to emerge from the survey was a 33 metre-long burial mound containing a massive wooden building whose timber foundations – and a giant upright blocking its entrance – were spotted in the soil. Predating Stonehenge, the building is thought to have been a house of the dead where bizarre burial rituals were played out. "The rituals included exposure of the dead bodies, and defleshing on a large forecourt," said Wolfgang Neuber, at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute. The house was later covered in chalk and finally became a curious white landmark."

I say, steady on old chap. This is England. You can't just go slipping that E word into the conversation, not when talking to meeja. You have to obfuscate, to say nothing of consulting with your Birmingham opposite number on the delicate matter of 'grantsmanship'. Now  it would be entirely different were you to be hosting an obscure blog, like this one. Then you can say pretty well what you want, provided you stay clear of libel actions.

So, to the 64000 question: what was the purpose of that one-time open-air stockade, then ignominously covered over with a chalk and soil capping to become just another of those barrows that punctuate the plaisn and downs of Wiltshire, and even later to be ploughed level with the surrounding fields it would seem?

Answer: I say the site was a timber prototype for Stonehenge, that it was designed as a bird sanctuary, offering a sizeable number of tallish bird perches, maybe a couple of metres high,  on which flesh-scavenging species  (crows, ravens, gulls etc) could rest and intermittently feed on the corpses of the newly dead.

Why tapered ("trapezoid").  There may be a mundane explanation: the constructors may have realized they had insufficient timber to make it a perfect rectangle, so decided to economise by tapering the long sides to make the far end smaller than its opposite number. I'd want to taper too, while waiting for metal axes and saws to be invented...



My first search term ("stonehenge") has been crassly scored out from all the returns shown, allowing entries  of an IRRELEVANT commercial nature, though NOT flagged up as ads. Google is now in free fall re its original mission statement.

Again, the first search term has been deleted, and the first 3 returns are blatantly commercial. One of my postings finally gets a look-in, thanks to the coupling of stonehenge with a new descriptor (mine) i.e. bird perch.  This blogger's posting would not appear under a simple "stonehenge" search were it not for added descriptors. Google would much prefer to select and clutter up its pages with wacky click-bait ephemera whose prime purpose is clearly to drive e-commerce, it's real raison d'etre (forget the whiter-than-white guff).

Further appendices in preparation.

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