CHAPTER 3

THE MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS OF ENGLAND


While still working in Brazil and browsing the web for craters, circular
structures, megaliths and related topics, I inevitably came around to
viewing images of the megaliths and henges of Western Europe, in
particular the massive blocks that have gone into the standing stone
circles of Avebury and Stonehenge. I became convinced that I could see
similar textures and shapes in the megaliths to those in the rocks that I
had been examining in the diamondiferous ejecta deposits in Brazil and
that are described in the impact-generated deposits of Belize (Figure 2-
14).

Returning to England in 2002, I soon made a beeline to Avebury where
unlike at Stonehenge, the “sarsen stone” megaliths may still be examined
close-up. My suspicions were readily confirmed, as the sarsen stones are
an incredibly tough quartzite and show abundant annealed fractures,
clusters of deep, often perfectly circular (in cross section) tubular cavities,
rounded edges, glazing, iron oxide rinds, often confined to one or two
faces, Hertzian fracture rings, large hemispherical indentations and
intruded foreign matter, all features that are seen in impact ejecta. Some
archaeologists and “New Agers” believe that they can see human faces,
replicas of human genitalia and all sorts of wondrous artefacts on the
stones, but it is quite clear that the majority of these superficial features
are natural, including their overall dimensions as well as the “cup marks”
or “cupules” of the archaeologists. Artificial shaping of the sarsens at
Stonehenge is almost entirely restricted to the crude mortice and tenon
jointing of the trilithons and possibly some minor squaring up of the
lintels. The sarsen material is simply too tough to “carve”, even with
tools made of modern alloys. In the absence of concentrated hydrofluoric
acid rain, the numerous broad hemispherical indentation hollows, the V-
shaped cross sections of annealed fractures and the trumpet-shaped
flaring of otherwise cylindrical impact cavities, must be attributed to
atmospheric ablation during ballistic flight, rather than “weathering” or
human effort. Due to the intense heat created by impact, the sarsen
stones actually became malleable, explaining the annealed and often
curved fractures, deep penetration by colliding particles and the overall
“plastic” appearance.

Figures 3-1 to 3-5 illustrate most of the features referred to above. It is
widely believed that those hollows that are not “carved cupules” are
“weathered-out” plant roots in the original sand deposits that are thought
to have been the origin of the sarsens. While there is some evidence of
fossil root-like matter in some of the smaller stones, it may be shown that
they were ablated, or burned out during ballistic transportation.
However, the larger holes were created by collisions with smaller
particles while the hot megaliths were still in flight in the ejecta curtain(s)
(Figure 3-6). Figure 3-7 shows two examples of preserved impacted
matter. As an example of fossil matter in sarsen stones, Figure 3-8 shows
remains of two animal bones that have been largely burned out during
ballistic flight.

Figure 3-1. One of the sarsen megaliths of the main circle at Avebury.


Located at the top right of 3-1a, 3-1b shows five impact hollows having various
depths of penetration and angles of incidence of colliding particles. Note how the
iron oxide crust has largely been flayed off, but still survives in the flared mouths of
the hollows.


Located at lower right of 3-1a, 3-1c shows abundant Hertzian fracture rings
developed on a surface so smoothed by atmospheric ablation that lichen cannot take
hold.


Located at lower left of 3-1a, 3-1d shows faintly rifled impact hollows at varied
angles, some surviving iron oxide crust and a generally ragged appearance, believed
to represent the trailing edge to the megalith during much of its ballistic travel.


Figure 3-2. Various megaliths of the Avebury monument to show the overall plastic
appearance and the V-shaped flaring of fractures due to atmospheric ablation during
ballistic flight.



In 3-2d, striations and impact hollows indicating much of the ballistic flight of the
stone was with the upper left part being the leading edge. Incidentally, this megalith
is known as the “Barber Stone”, as an itinerant barber-surgeon was squashed
beneath it in the early 14
th
Century, while helping topple it for break-up for masonry
work.


Figure 3-3. Looking NW along the main megalith circle towards the heart of Avebury
village. The second stone shows heavy fracturing created in the initial cratering
process, yet the coherence of the megalith as a whole indicates that extreme heat
flooded the target rocks immediately prior to ejection. Note the curving,
discontinuous nature of the fractures in the first stone and the V-shaped flaring of the
fractures, the latter caused by in-flight ablation.


Figure 3-4. The wobbly rectangular shapes at Stonehenge stand in strong contrast to
the stones at Avebury and, indeed, to any other collection of sarsens seen anywhere.
Whereas the shapes are believed to be largely artificial by the archaeologists, close
examination shows the same impact hollows caused by mutual interference in the
ejecta curtain, the same V-shaped flaring of discontinuous fractures caused by in-
flight atmospheric ablation and some faces of the megaliths show thin coatings of
secondary iron oxide; all natural features of ejecta blocks. Even in detail, the super
square shapes of the lintels of the trilithons may be shown to be natural, probably
reflecting jointing and stratification in the precursor target rocks.


Figure 3-5. Several of the recumbent megaliths of Stonehenge, such as the Heel Stone
shown here, are far from square and show all of the signs of the impact ejecta origin
of other sarsens stones around England. As an aside, try fitting this stone in the
mind’s eye into the scenario on the Martian surface shown in Figure 9-5.


Figure 3-6. Various examples from the Avebury monument and nearby Marlborough
Downs to show that the “cupules” are neither “carved” nor “weathered-out roots”
but rather were created by mutual collisions of particles in the ejecta curtains, while
the now incredibly hard and tough sarsen stones were still hot and malleable. Note
radial fractures around the head-sized hole in 3-6c.







In 3-6e, note the double indentations, where spalling of the harder, congealing shell
to the megalith has taken place around impacts by relatively small projectiles.


Figure 3-7. Occasionally, impacted particles may be found at the termini of impact
pits. 3-7a shows a shattered cobble of flint impacted into sarsen, while 3-7b shows
remnants of an iron oxide projectile in the left hole. Beware, though; the used
batteries, cheap rings, polished quartz pebbles, chewing gum and wrappers, etc., left
by the New Age folk as votive offerings during the summer solstice, should not be
confused for the real thing!




Figure 3-8. 3-8a shows a short row of standing sarsen stones in the more southerly of
the two inner circles at Avebury. Note the curved, discontinuous fractures, with
characteristic V-shaped cross sections, in the first and third stone, as well as the
partial iron oxide coatings on the three front stones. In the first stone there are two
grooves forming a V-shape. In close-up (3-8b) two separate fossil bones, possibly
mammalian rib bones, are seen to have been partially burned out during ballistic
flight.




Looking beyond the megaliths stood in circles by ancient people, it is
instructive to examine smaller stones in field walls, barns, churches and
homes in the villages, towns and farms in those parts of southern England
where „wild‟ sarsen stone occurrences are noted. In the village of
Avebury, for example, there are some stones incorporated into walls
dating back to medieval times, that with their iron oxide crusts, deep
circular indentations, Hertzian rings and overall rounded appearance
(Figures 3-9 and 3-10) could have come from the diamondfields of Brazil
or from around some well documented impact craters in Europe.

Figure 3-9. Two mini-sarsens built into medieval walls in Avebury village. Note
oxide crusts, Hertzian fracture rings, circular and elongated impact pits, as well as
overall rounding.




Figure 3-10. The very numerous tiny pits in 3-10a may well be due to the ablation
penetration of fossil root matter, but the deep grooves and striations and the overall
iron oxide coating point to this mini-sarsen (the only seating provided at the Avebury
bus stop) being a complete ejecta block. The dimples and partial oxide coating in 3-
10b were acquired in ballistic flight.




Many archaeologists who show any interest in the actual origin of the
sarsen stones, and who are prepared to think beyond the mystical, suggest
that they may be glacially transported erratics. Others tend to promote
the explanation favoured by the British Geological Survey (BGS), that
the stones are isolated, silicified remnants of a once more or less
continuous sand deposit, that in early Tertiary times was draped up-hill
and down-dale on top of the Upper Cretaceous Chalk. (Note that the
BGS uses the term “hardpan silcrete” for the sarsen stones – see “silcrete”
in Chapter 6.) The provenance of this pure silica sand on top of the pure
carbonate uplands is not explained by the BGS. Neither explanation may
be supported in the field at any of the several locations in southern
England where sarsen stones have been preserved in their original
positions, free from the ravages of Ancient Brits and the builders of
churches, houses, field walls, gateposts, roads, railways, bridges, sea
defences and canals in later times. Figures 3-11 to 3-16 illustrate areas
where sarsen stones remain unmolested.

Figure 3-11. “Wild” sarsen stones preserved to the west of Lockeridge village, 4.5
km SE of the Avebury stone circles. Note the flared hole passing right through the
stone in 3-11c, which must be contrasted with the sharp edges at the broken end of the
stone.






Figure 3-12. Sarsen stones at the Valley of Stones in Dorset, over 100 km SW of
Avebury. The flint-rich material seen in 3-12a and 3-12b is somewhat whimsically
named “Hertfordshire Puddingstone” where found in areas north of London and
where it is never found in outcrop – just superficial blocks, like the sarsens. In the
nearby village of Portesham, large sarsens were simply built over or around; a huge
lump lies in the middle of the school playground, on the other side of the street from
3-12c. It is worth noting that the stones shown in 3-12a and 3-12b lie at 185 metres
ASL, whereas those in the Portesham village lie at 65 metres, with 1.5 km distance
between the two sites. In 3-12a, there is nothing to indicate that the stones have
suffered downhill transportation by the freeze-thaw processes so often cited for their
local concentration. Indeed, although there appears to be a concentration along the
valley floor, the centre of the scene marks a concentration of stones in an ill-defined
line coming up the hill towards the viewer. Note also the large hemi-spherical impact
hollow in the larger foreground stone in 3-12a.




Figure 3-13. A field of preserved sarsen stones at Fyfield Bottom, 4 km ESE of
Avebury village. The stone in 3-13b was certainly not shaped by “weathering”!




Figure 3-14. Sarsens sitting shallowly on a flat field of dark loam (see mole hills) at
Ashdown House in Berkshire, some 23 km NE of Avebury. 3-14b clearly shows relict
stratification.




Figure 3-15. The most extensive area of preserved sarsen stones, still resting more or
less where they landed following ballistic emplacement, is in an area known as
Overton Down, immediately to the east and northeast of Avebury. The megalith in 3-
15a is the size of a small bus. 3-15b shows a variety of shapes and degrees of oxide
coating. The plastic appearance of some sarsens is readily seen in 3-15c. It is not
uncommon to see a string of sarsen stones as in 3-15d. The rounded plastic nature of
the large stone in the foreground should be contrasted with the angularity of the stone
just beyond it.








Figure 3-16. Also on Overton Down. Shows the densest cluster of “wild” sarsens
that I have found anywhere. The strange cut-off in sarsen distribution at the break of
slope is repeated along a distinct line extending 2 km to the SE. An explanation is
still sought.


3-16b shows some differences in lithology within the cluster of 3-16a, with three
blocks of more yellow sarsen. There is considerable contrast in the shapes of the
stones, with sharp edged stones adjacent to rounded, plastic shapes.


I have collected seven samples of sarsen stones from widely separated
locations in southern England and have prepared thin sections for
microscopic examination. In all of the samples, shocked quartz
(diagnostic of the effects of impact or underground nuclear testing),
exhibited by numerous secondary planar laminae, varies from detectable
to abundant (Figure 3-17). Some reluctant specialists claim that some
secondary planar features in quartz may also be generated by intense
tectonic deformation, rather than impact shock. However, such an
explanation would hardly serve for lumps of rock sitting lightly on top of
the Chalk in this little-deformed terrain.

Figure 3-17. Planar deformation features (most are distorted due to multiple
impacting) in quartz grains from various samples of sarsens, indicate moderate shock
and are diagnostic of an impact origin. Quartz in thin sections of un-shocked rocks is
water-clear. Note that 3-17d and 3-17e represent the same field of view, with 3-17d
using cross polarised light and 3-17e using plain polarized light.


So, if the sarsen megaliths of the Avebury stone circles and of
Stonehenge may be shown to be artificial arrangements of blocks that
were left lying around the countryside by ballistic means, what about the
legendary “bluestones” that make up a lesser portion of the Stonehenge
monument? The word “bluestone” is collectively applied to various
volcanic and sedimentary lithologies used in the monument, including 32
spotted and unspotted dolerites, 5 rhyolite tuffs, 2 micaceous sandstones
and the single green sandstone block known as the „altar stone‟. As
entirely similar lithologies occur in the Preseli Hills of North
Pembrokeshire in SW Wales, which lie approximately 225 km to the
WNW of Stonehenge there is general agreement that the bluestones came
from there. But, how were they transported?

Some archaeologists (and even some geologists) have called for glacial
transportation of the bluestones, however, anyone familiar with what
glaciers powerful enough to transport morainic material for such
distances can do to soft rock formations such as the Chalk would never
even dream of such a mechanism.

An alternative mechanism for bluestone transportation; that is by human
effort, has been championed for some time now and has been the subject
of several popular documentaries and numerous learned papers.
However, efforts to replicate heaving the stones overland to the sea coast,
humping them onto rafts for sea and river transportation, ready for the
long slog up to the Salisbury Plain, have ended in early failure.

I recently paid a brief visit to the Preseli Hills and the surrounding
lowlands and I found precisely what I expected to find. Ignoring the finer
grade material, there are two types of megalithic occurrences present in
the region. Type A are those usually rather angular blocks that are
derived from numerous tor-like outcrops and which are confined to the
steeper slopes surrounding the outcrops. Gravity can only distribute them
so far before they reach their natural angle of repose, that is, in the
absence of any fluidisation processes such as tsunamis (tidal waves) or
seismic shaking, both of which may have been periodically operative for
reasons given below. The second type of megalith, Type B, is strewn all
over the place, regardless of topography. These are usually sub-angular
to rounded and some have distinctive shard-like or „axe head‟ shapes.
That some, be they lying on scree slopes of the Type A occurrences or
lying in a clump of boulders in a flat field, have significantly different
lithologies to their immediately adjoining neighbours, strongly suggests
that they are blocks ejected from large impact craters. In many cases, the
shapes of these megalithic blocks and their erratic distribution are
strongly reminiscent of the sarsen stones.

Figures 3-18 and 3-19 illustrate the distinction between Type A and Type
B megaliths.

Figure 3-18. The Pentre Ifan dolmen is built with Type B megaliths as are the bases
of all of the boundary hedges between pastures that were once strewn by stones of all
sizes. The Type A megaliths are true scree-type material derived by erosion and
gravity from such tors or carns seen in the distance.




Figure 3-19. In the foreground pasture in 3-19a there are three cows and two very
large Type B bluestone blocks. Smaller stones have been moved aside to form the
bases for the boundary hedges. All of the hedges seen on the rolling hills in the
background have similar stone bases. These stones and those of the scenes below
could not have arrived in position by normal erosional and gravity processes, nor
were they glacially transported: 3-19b and 3-19c show nearly level pastures where
the Type B stones have been left exactly as they landed following ballistic flight.




What is suggested, then, is that both the sarsen stones and the bluestones
ended up on the Salisbury Plain by ballistic means. The location of
impact craters responsible for the ejected material will require detailed
provenance studies, but there is undoubtedly plenty of room for them in
the English Channel, the Bristol Channel, the North Sea and the Irish Sea,
in all of which, deep arcuate embayments, underlain by the requisite
lithologies, would constitute prime candidates. Returning to the specific
problem of the ballistic mixing of sarsen stones and bluestones in the
vicinity of Stonehenge, it must be recognised that a great deal of the
primary evidence has been modified, because such hard, erosion resistant
material was a godsend to earlier builders. However, the rocks have not
evaporated and a systematic study of stone walls in a narrow swath of
terrain between the Preseli Hills and Salisbury Plain will definitively
prove the contention presented here.

Like some of the megaliths in the diamondfields of Brazil, the sarsen
stones and the ejected bluestones of Wales show by their superficiality on
the landscape that they are of geologically very recent origin. As the
sarsen stones, in particular, show abundant signs of having been heated to
many hundreds of degrees, it would be reasonable to expect charred
vegetation to have been trapped below them. Judicious lifting of some
wild sarsens in a variety of locations may well provide carbon for
accurate dating by the Carbon 14 method.

Although still a work in progress evidence is emerging from around the
margins of the North Sea and on the Isle of Wight that the impacting took
place at the end of the Pleistocene and that the sarsen stones are impact-
generated “spall plates”, derived from the Barton Sand unit of Late
Eocene age.

If indeed I have shown that there is an impact generated origin for the
sarsen stones and the bluestones, then I believe it would be appropriate to
re-examine scores of other monumental stone circles, avenues, dolmens
and stand-alone monoliths, not only in western Europe, but many other
locations worldwide for a similar origin of the stones.

One parting shot, before moving on to other topics: William Stukeley, in
his documentation of the Avebury stone circles in the 1720s, presented a
panoramic engraving, viewing the scenery of the monuments looking to
the North (Figure 3-20). The outer stone circle is shown with the two
inner circles, as well as two somewhat serpentine appendages; the
southwesterly-trending Beckhampton Avenue and the southeasterly-
trending West Kennet Avenue. Roughly centrally disposed between the
ends of the two avenues is the conical Silbury Hill, reputedly the largest
artificial mound in Europe. Is it just possible (and I admit to being
somewhat out of my depth here) that the Avebury stone circles and
avenues are monuments to a catastrophic collision of a comet with Earth,
the awesome memory of which was verbally passed down the
generations, the story originating from a few survivors from distant parts?
What is more fitting than a monument made of the very products of the
horrific occasion; the ejected blocks that mercilessly rained down upon
the people for a brief but highly memorable period? At the time of
construction of the monument, the 6 metres deep trench and the outer ring
mound were of shining white chalk rock – perhaps symbolic of the
periodic, then ever-nearing approach of the comet itself. Could the
serpentine avenues have represented the comet tails, albeit somewhat
embellished by repeated story telling? The only other object in the
firmament that was brighter than the comet was the Sun, which could be
represented by the conical hill of gleaming white chalk, Silbury Hill. No
more fanciful than the icons to and the deification of Japanese and
American aircraft by the peoples of Papua-New Guinea, even if a lot
more hard work!

Figure 3-20. William Stukeley’s engraving of the Avebury scene.



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