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The Bluestones

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News from our friends
Stone handaxe
THIS small handaxe is one of the most beautiful in the British Museum. It is made from quartz with attractive amethyst banding, a difficult material from which to make tools because it is extremely hard. The toolmaker would have had to hit with considerable force and accuracy to remove flakes. Such a high degree of difficulty makes the thin, symmetrical shape of this piece a masterpiece of the toolmakers’ art.
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The Bluestones
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The next phase began with the arrival of the Bluestones, somewhere around 2 400 BC. These stones, weighing up to four tonnes, were sacred to the Beaker people, so called for the distinctive pottery found in their graves. The Beakers were responsible for the stone stages of Stonehenge; they were in prehistory between 2 400 BC and 1 800 BC, a transitional people between the end of the New Stone Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age. They were travellers who sought metals, and the Preseli mountains of South Wales had special significance for them. These mountains, 130 miles from the monument site, were the source of the Bluestones, which came from ten sites within an area of a few kilometres. There is reason to suppose that some of them were erected in a circle elsewhere, either in Wales or on Salisbury Plain, before their final resting place was reached.

To reach the Plain it is thought the stones travelled a 240 mile journey, by raft or dugout from Wales up the Bristol Channel and then on the rivers of Southern England to Salisbury, and along the Wiltshire Avon to West Amesbury, the closest to Stonehenge that there is any water.

The theory that the stones arrived naturally, during the glaciation period of the last Ice Age has been discarded. If the glaciers brought them they were remarkably selective and brought no other foreign stones as they moved across the prehistoric landscape. Some bluestones have reportedly been discovered on the riverbeds along which they would have travelled, seemingly evidence they did come by water and that some of the rafts sank en route. For some reason this stage of building was never completed, a double circle of post-holes were dug but the bluestones were erected in a double three quarters of a circle, and then taken down to be used at the final stage of the monument.

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