Preseli dolerite bluestones: axe-heads, Stonehenge monoliths and outcrop sources

Williams-Thorpe, Olwen; Jones, M. C.; Potts, P. J. and Webb, P. C. (2006). Preseli dolerite bluestones: axe-heads, Stonehenge monoliths and outcrop sources. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 25(1) pp. 29–46.



Chemical compositions and magnetic susceptibility data were compared for 12 dolerite bluestone implements including axes, axe-hammers and battle-axes, 11 Stonehenge monoliths (chemical data only), and potential source outcrops in Preseli, South Wales. Most of the studied artefacts are of spotted dolerite, a small number being unspotted dolerite. Bivariate graphs, discriminant analysis and t-tests were used singly and in combination to show, respectively, that the implements found at sites in England are mainly similar to Stonehenge monoliths, while the implements found in Wales have a variety of compositions and are much less similar to Stonehenge monoliths. The dichotomy between English and Welsh dolerite bluestone implements could be explained by exploitation of different Preseli outcrops or erratic assemblages derived from them. A small number of spotted dolerite implements have previously been shown to have chemical compositions atypical of and marginal to Preseli, suggesting the possibility of a source of spotted dolerite outside Preseli. Previously published analytical data in combination with the new implement/outcrop comparisons presented in this paper support derivation of the majority of analysed Stonehenge monoliths at one particular outcrop within the group of four identified by Thorpe et al. 15 years ago. Analysis of all the extant bluestone monoliths at Stonehenge (now possible using non-destructive methods) would allow progress in identifying monolith outcrop sources, and in understanding the links with the bluestone axe trade.

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