Stonehenge Bluestone Quarry Slab
Stonehenge Bluestone Quarry Slab
Above: Front of the Specimen Card
This specimen is a custom-cut mini slab of dolerite bluestone recovered downstream from the quarry at Craig Rhos-y-Felin located on the northern flank of the Preseli Mountains near Pembrokeshire, Wales. Recent petrographic studies have closely linked chippings from these dolerite bluestones to the bluestones installed at Stonehenge roughly 4,500 years ago.
Above: Mini slabs in a rather dramatic setting.
Each mini slab is unique. They vary in size and shape. As pictured, the slab is housed in a small acrylic specimen jar which is housed within a glass-topped riker display case. The case measures 4"x3"x1". A small information card is also included.
"The stones are great, and virtue they have." ~ Laȝamonn, Brut, 1190 CE
Above: Stonehenge today.
Of the numerous megalithic stone structures found throughout the British Isles and Continental Europe, Stonehenge is arguably the most famous. This ring of iconic stones was likely set in place around 2,500 BCE as part of a series of monuments, burial grounds, and ritual sites built in the same area over the course of thousands of years.
Above: Plan of the central Stone Structure at Stonehenge as it survives today. Stone numbers are those conventionally used in the recent literature and following Petrie, F. 1880. (Image Credit: Anthony Johnson, 2008)
The concentric rings of local Sarsen stone and Welsh bluestone that we identify today as Stonehenge were erected between 2400 and 2200 BCE, and replaced earlier wooden structures, but Stonehenge is actually part of a massive complex of monuments, burial grounds, and ritual sites.
Two primary types of stone were used to create Stonehenge: large, sarsen stones, composed of local silicified sandstone, and smaller 'bluestones' of Welsh origin. Recent petrographic studies have closely linked chippings from the dolerite bluestones at Stonehenge to the quarry located at Craig Rhos-y-Felin.
Above: The quarry at Craig Rhos-y-Felin with archaeological excavations exposing thousands of years of human activity layer by layer. (Image Credit: Mike Parker Pearson)
Located on the northern flank of the Preseli Mountains near Pembrokeshire, the Craig Rhos-y-Felin quarry was an active site for thousands of years, with the earliest known human encampments dating to 8,500 BCE. Research suggests that stones extracted from this quarry migrated from site to site, "borrowed" for different uses, and radiated outward over time until being used at Stonehenge some 140 miles away.
Above: Rough Bluestones
This practice of “borrowing” of stones has been a question of some debate for decades. Numerous studies of other megalithic sites have shown clear evidence that ritual stones were moved as populations migrated to new regions. As further confirmation of this hypothesis, a 2018 study of genetic material from remains found at Stonehenge indicates that the people who erected the stones were indeed from the same part of Wales before they themselves were replaced by a new wave of migrants from Europe as part of the expansion of the “Beaker Culture.”
The region around Craig Rhos-y-Felin is home to many megalithic structures, and myths abound about their use and purpose. One particular location not far from the quarry is known as Bedd-yr-Afanc, or “Grave of the Water Monster”. As legend has it, a creature living in the flowing waters of Afon Brynberian was pulled from the river, slain, and buried in a large tomb made from slabs of rock. In reality, Bedd-yr-Afanc is a Long Cairn, a single passage from which five smaller burial chambers branch.
Bevins, Richard E., Nick JG Pearce, and Rob A. Ixer. "Stonehenge rhyolitic bluestone sources and the application of zircon chemistry as a new tool for provenancing rhyolitic lithics." Journal of Archaeological Science 38.3 (2011): 605-622.
Pearson, Mike Parker, et al. "Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge." Antiquity 89.348 (2015): 1331-1352.
Pearson, Michael Parker. Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery. Simon & Schuster, 2012
Lawson, Andrew J. Chalkland, an archaeology of Stonehenge and its region. Hobnob Press, 2007
Cleal, Rosamund M.J., Walker, K.E. and Montague, R. Stonehenge in Its Landscape: Twentieth Century Excavations. English Heritage, 1995
Olalde, Iñigo, et al. "The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe." Nature 555.7695 (2018): 190.
Snoeck, Christophe, et al. "Strontium isotope analysis on cremated human remains from Stonehenge support links with west Wales." Scientific Reports 8.1 (2018): 10790.
Above: Back of the Specimen Card