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tempus fugit

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Thursday 26 January 2012: Bluestones

Returning from my walk just as the sun was setting, I noticed the evening glow reflected in the west-facing windows of the house.

Back in the day, when this was a working farm, the walls were rendered and painted white in traditional style. Then, in an effort at gentrification, the coating was stripped off to reveal the stonework (and the old sash windows were replaced with these irritating small-paned ones).

The bare walls are less weatherproof but reveal that the house was constructed using the same Pembrokeshire bluestone that went to form part of Stonehenge over 4000 years ago. The hard igneous rock, which has a distinctly navy-blue hue when wet, is dolerite from the Preseli hills a few miles to the southeast of here. Some of the individual outcrops from which the Stonehenge boulders originated have been pinpointed.

However, the means by which the bluestones travelled the 150 miles from the Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire (and across the Severn estuary) is the focus of a massive dispute. One camp holds to the old theory that in times of yore prehistoric folk rolled the 60 four-ton boulders down the mountains and manoeuvred them across country, partly by sea, all the way to Stonehenge using nothing but their bare hands and maybe logs underneath. The other group believes that this is rubbish and the bluestones were transported, millions of years earlier, on glaciers that conveniently dropped them in the area where the henge was later built. A sample of the differing opinions can be read here.

The dispute has been vitriolic. Both the two main proponents on either side live in this area, only a few miles apart. A friend of mine who went to interview one of them was astounded by the puerile jibes with which he ridiculed his opponent. I have in mind the scenario for a who-dunnit in which one, or both of them, are found dead at the foot of a bluestone crag... Sherlock Holmes would get his teeth into that!

Last week I received a request from a professor of architecture at MIT to use this photograph I took of the source (or one of them) of the Stonehenge bluestones. He wants it for a book he's writing to be called First Societies: Architecture Culture History and I'm promised a copy when it's published. For now, I'll just go on living in them.

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