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New study upends prevailing theory on transportation of Stonehenge bluestones

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A new study, published in the Quaternary Newsletter journal, suggests that the Bristol Channel was a glacial transport route.

This is evidenced by a large glacial erratic discovered in Limeslade Bay, which has its origins in North Pembrokeshire. A glacial erratic is a glacially deposited rock or boulder that differs from the native rock types.

The Limeslade erratic is an igneous rock made from dolerite, first discovered in 2022 on a limestone shore platform below the high tide mark. The erratic cannot have been derived from anywhere in the bay area, since the Gower Peninsula is almost entirely made up of Carboniferous and Devonian sedimentary rocks.

According to Dr Brian John, an author and retired geomorphologist and university lecturer, the Limeslade erratic was carried eastwards up the Bristol channel by a powerful glacier during the Ice Age.

“The ice stream responsible for entraining and then carrying the massive boulder originated in the Irish Sea, as part of the huge British and Irish Ice Sheet. It flowed across Pembrokeshire from the NW towards the SE, and then swung eastwards up the Bristol Channel,” said Dr John.

This theory is supported by other examples of glacial erratics found around the shores of the Bristol Channel, which has a direct bearing on the debate about the transportation of the Stonehenge bluestones.

The Stonehenge bluestone assemblage consist of at least 30 different rock types, many of which have the characteristics of long-abandoned glacial erratics.

The prevailing theory, proposed by geologist Herbert Thomas in 1923, suggests that the bluestones were transported from the Preseli Hills to Salisbury Plain by our Neolithic ancestors. Thomas argued that glacial transport was “impossible,” noting that the glacier ice at that time only extended a short distance beyond the south coast of Pembrokeshire.

According to Dr John, this assumption overlooks substantial evidence of extensive glaciation and that the ice actually reached the edge of the Celtic Sea shelf, over 200 kilometres beyond the Isles of Scilly. Dr John suggests that the ice must have extended as far eastwards as the Somerset Levels and the Wiltshire chalk escarpment.

Dr John said: “The geological evidence shows that the Limeslade boulder has probably come from somewhere near the north Pembrokeshire coast, but not from Mynydd Preseli. This confirms that the overriding ice picked up erratic boulders and debris from many different locations. Some boulders were carried for short distances and others for hundreds of kilometres before being dumped.”

“Our Neolithic ancestors may have been heroic. But they were not stupid — and it’s likely that they gathered up the bluestones which they discovered on Salisbury Plain and used them more or less where found,” said Dr John.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : Brian John, 2024. An Igneous Erratic at Limeslade, Gower & the Glaciation of the Bristol Channel. Quaternary | https://www.qra.org.uk/quaternary-newsletter/quaternary-newsletter-current/

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Elite Petén style structures found near Kohunlich

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Construction works for a road in Section 7 of the Mayan Train have uncovered elite Petén style structures near Kohunlich in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Kohunlich is a large Maya polity that served as a regional centre along the trade routes through the southern Yucatán.

The site was first settled around 200 BC, with the majority of its monuments being built between AD 250 to AD 600 during the Early Classic Period.

The city features elevated platforms, plazas, pyramids, and citadels, all enclosed by palace platforms. The layout of Kohunlich was carefully arranged to direct drainage into a network of cisterns and a massive reservoir for rainwater collection.

Construction works for a road on the periphery of Kohunlich have resulted in the discovery of elite structures in the Petén style, a distinct type of Maya architecture and inscription style.

Archaeologists have identified seven structures in total, interpreted to be elite homesteads of a domestic nature that were used for agricultural activities.

Most of the structures have a rectangular plan and vaulted rooms adorned with decorative Petén style elements.

Given their archaeological importance, experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have registered the monuments for protection.

Consequently, the planned route of the road has been redirected to preserve the structures in situ, where they will be preserved and open to the public in the near future.

Excavations also unearthed various archaeological materials, including ceramics, shells, fragments of human bone, and objects intentionally buried as offerings likely during the construction of the homesteads for protection.

Header Image Credit : Maya Train

Sources : National Institute of Anthropology and History

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Gold foils discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs

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Archaeologists from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities have discovered rare gold foils during excavations at Tel El-Dir.

Tel El-Dir is a burial complex in the area of Egypt’s Damietta Governorate. The site contains various burials and tombs from the 26th Dynasty (664 BC to 525 BC), the last native dynasty of ancient Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC.

Excavations of 63 mud brick tombs and pit burials have revealed a large collection of funerary offerings, including rare gold foils depicting Ancient Egyptian deities, and foils shaped like symbols associated with good fortune and protection.

The team also found foils in the shape of tongues, a tradition that enabled the deceased to speak before the court of Osiris in the afterlife.

Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

The discovery follows on from a previous haul in 2022, where archaeologists excavating at Tel El-Dir found gold foils depicting Isis, Bastet and Horus (in the form of a winged falcon), as well as foils in various shapes.

According to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, many of the tombs contained funeral pyres, imported and local ceramics, and Ushabti statues (figurines placed with the deceased to serve them in the afterlife).

The excavation has also yielded a large number of funerary offerings, such as protective amulets, figurines, coins, and a mirror.

Speaking on the finds, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities explained that the objects confirm that Damietta was a centre of trade during ancient times, and provides new insights into the burial practices during the 26th Dynasty.

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Sources : Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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