23 March, 2012

Twelve reasons why Stonehenge was a building

Stonehenge was a building.  That’s it, no mystery. If it was a rectangle this would not be an issue, but British Prehistoric buildings are predominantly circular from this period onward. 
The rings of postholes at Stonehenge [Y, Z, Q, and R holes] are often ignored, or are thought to be redundant stone holes, but it is just one of a group of concentric timber structures known from various periods in British Prehistory.  Like Woodhenge, Durrington Walls, Mount Pleasant, and The Sanctuary, Stonehenge was a large timber building.  This was tentatively recognised by Tim Darvil in 1996, who called them Class Ei structures.[1]  

What I am arguing:
A: Stonehenge is a class Ei Timber structure.
B: The archaeological footprints of class E structures share geometric, proportional and structural features, all of which are consistent with their being roofed buildings.

While each of these structures is unique, they are sufficiently similar in their spatial arrangements, in over a dozen ways, that are best explained by the requirements of architectural solutions directed at supporting a timber roof.  All these structures have been discussed in earlier articles.[2]
These arguments are made on the basis of the spatial distribution and relationships of the archaeological plans, and are demonstrated by accurate technical diagrams.

The twelve reasons why Stonehenge was a building
1. Context: For north-western Europe, a wet windy temperate zone with cold winters, for viable mixed sedentary agriculture,  a robust and complex built environment is required, as well as a range of specialised skills and technologies to manufacture and maintain it. From the Neolithic period onwards, and all through prehistory into historical periods, posts have been set in the ground as the foundation of buildings and other aspects of the built environment, such as fortifications. This is how configurations of postholes of similar size and depth are normally understood and interpreted in European archaeology.
2. Form: These Class Ei structures are based on a system of 5 rows of posts; this is the form of roof evident in the Neolithic. All of the observations below are consistent with an attempt to create a roof based on this model. Each of these round buildings is built like a  Neolithic long house turned in a circle. They are annular, with the tighter circles probably having been covered with a central cone. Not all have 5 rings of posts: Stonehenge has 4 plus a circular wall, while Woodhenge and Durrington Walls have additional rings on the inside of the circle.
3. Later examples: These Class Ei structures are known from the late Iron Age, as at Naven Fort, dated to where it has a proto historical context. The pattern is also evident in the layout of the Dark Age ringfort at Lissue.[3]  This clearly argues that concentric rings of posts are a technological solution to roofing circular spaces.  Stonehenge is simply a particularly unique variation on a type of large building.
4. Proportion: For a roof of this form to ‘work’, it must be proportional and be composed of parallel elements at different heights. Viewed in section, this is broadly the case:
·        Line of posts central to an inner and outer ring.
·        Flanked posts for an arcade [not at Stonehenge, however]
·        Each rafter pair is nominally supported by five horizontal parallel timbers [10 posts], with a tie running across the base.
·        The complexities of this geometry are covered by reasons below [Interlace theory].

5. Posthole depth: In this form of roof, the ridge at the top is supported by posts, and this explains why the central row of posts is usually the largest and deepest.  This does not preclude a set of larger posts on the inside of this, depending on how the roof in the centre of the structure was fashioned.

6. Scale: Class Ei buildings are about 50’/15m across the roof; this is the traditional width for large timber buildings in Britain. Much subsequent development in architectural technology was directed towards pushing these limits, and creating space less encumbered with posts, perhaps reaching one climax with Westminster Hall, [68’(20.72m)].

7. Oak timber building: The growth pattern of young oak trees dictates the availability of suitable timber to form continuous timber components like rafters and ties, when the tree is neither too thick at one end, nor too thin at the other. For practical purposes we can think of a 50’ /15m tree trunk tapering, this being the best timber commonly available. [2]

  •  Some individual timbers may be considerably longer, up to and even over 60’; these can be split from the trunks of larger, more mature trees, just as in medieval buildings. 
  • Prehistoric builders may have had an advantage in terms of natural forest resources.
  • This limit is also reflected in the size of roundhouses.[2]
  • Trees of this size/age range are represented in the diameter of postholes. 
8. Posthole diameter: [Tapering ties]: Postholes in the outer ring are larger than those in the inner ring, because the lowest horizontal timber, a 50’ tie, is thick at one end and thin at the other, and this is reflected in the size the post [hole] that supports it.  These structures always have their smallest posts in the centers.
9. Structural detail: Spans: So it can be supported, the path of each of the horizontal ties across the base of the roof, directly between the corresponding inner and outer posts, will pass next to, but not through, the intervening post. The maximum unsupported timber does not exceed c.25’.  At Stonehenge the ties would be supported by the center posts of the Z holes, and then by the Sarsen ring.

10. The Sarsen Ring: This is a perfectly serviceable load-bearing wall. It is:

·        Levelled
·        Engineered to a high standard
·        Concentric with rest of timber structure
·        Positioned like an arcade
·        Implies the presence of a load [roof]

11. The Trilithons: These are a load-bearing post and lintel component;

·        Levelled
·        Positioned at the centre of gravity of a conical roof based on the inner post ring [R].  

12. Woodhenge: 
This is not a circular building, but it is the exception that proves the rule: it is based on a Lozenge, a difficult and singular shape to roof, yet it still works as a building. This geometry is shared with the Bush Barrow Lozenge and other motifs of this period.

Advanced considerations

Once it is understood that these structures are buildings, further consideration of their scale and circular geometry makes it apparent that they cannot be simplistic in design. Accurate three-dimensional modelling and testing has to consider more complex issues, and Interlace Theory was developed to model and understand structures with curving roofs supported by post rings. 

13. Structural geometry: [Interlace Theory]; Interlace properties: By joining the posts of a ring to each other at different intervals, the parallel elements at different heights and angles necessary to facilitate a curving multilevel roof are created. Longer elements are higher on the widening outside surface of the roof, but lower on the inner surface.   It also increases the rigidity and strength of the structure by:
·        Creating a series of interlocking polygons
·        Interlock with the next post ring

14.Assembly: At its most basic, each section of roof can be thought of as five parallel pieces of wood supporting a rafter pair, each element supported by posts in the post rings. They could be assembled by starting from the lowest section of roof; from a pair of posts in the outer ring and a set of parallel elements in the inner ring. The adjacent sections sharing one of the original posts would have to be slightly higher, and so on until a high side is reached.
    ·        As you have to start with a tie, the intervening posts that support it would have to be in place first.
    ·        The inner ring[s] and roof is a scaled down version [reflection] of the outer roof shape.
    ·        It is possible to build such a structure in two directions starting at a low point.
    ·        It ensures that each part of the roof is at its own unique height preventing special conflicts in a roof that turns in on itself.
    ·        This implies that these structures had a higher side, and therefore the high part of one post ring probably roughly corresponded to the lower posts of the next ring, and so on, allowing for a continuous build in the horizontal timbers. 
    ·        Think about bricklaying or basketry: This is a system of assembly for tree trunks, joining the posts together continuously, like '70s string art, using timber instead of string, and posts rather than nails.

    Stonehenge is unique, but so are all the other structures discussed. However, despite this, they have a series of features in common which could not be coincidental, and that are entirely consistent with the proposition that class Ei buildings were roofed.  There are still more reasons I could give, but it would become abstracted and technical. The Advanced Considerations are already well into architectural model making.
    There is no archaeological evidence that these structures were not buildings, only a prejudice in existing narrative. However, a lack of structural understanding and appropriate research to resolve the issue cannot serve as argument that these particular assemblages of postholes are the product of a unique, unprecedented, and undocumented religious ritual created to explain ‘Timber Circles’. Nor is circularity sufficient ground to infer a simplistic relationship with the Stone Circles of earlier periods.

    Clearly, this challenges the current academic narrative, with its emphasis on the perceptions, belief, rituals, and cosmologies of ancient peoples,  none of which is implicit in the evidence that is recovered by archaeology.
    Reverse engineering structures works by deduction: building models that work, discarding the ones that don’t.  This research did not set out to prove anything, and certainly did not set out to understand Stonehenge and other Ei buildings. That has been a by-product of testing ideas about postholes that started as an enquiry into Iron Age and Roman timber buildings back in 1990.

    The scale of these structures clearly implies they were built at the limit of what was considered prudent by builders in Prehistory. This is a craft that was several thousand years old, and by this period we have evidence of a new elite who would normally be expected to express wealth and power in the built environment.

    My presumption is that Stonehenge  was a temple built to house the Bluestones.  The unprecedented use of a stone load-bearing wall, and pillars in the centre, is  a technological approach reminiscent of Mediterranean Europe, suggesting imported craftsmen. But this is only the very pointy end of a much larger wedge.  
    The real interest lies in the many other buildings that can be understood in detail, and the new light this can shed into the nature of the prehistoric built environment.

    The detailed understanding of how these structures worked and were assembled, briefly summarized above, allows the building of a virtual timber-by-timber reconstruction using CAD technology, and I will be discussing this in my paper at the  CAA 2012 Conference at Southampton.

    Sources and further reading
    [1] ’Neolithic houses in northwest Europe and beyond’’ (1996) Neolithic Houses in North-West Europe and beyond (Oxbow monograph 57) [Paperback]. T.C. Darvill (Editor), Julian Thomas (Editor) [Fig 6.9] 

    [2] Previous Articles on this site:
    Bronze Age Architecture; Woodhenge 
    Interlace Theory; Understanding Woodhange
    Debunking the myth of Timber circles
    Stonehenge and the Archaeology of the Prehistoric Roof 
    [3]  Lissue Ringfort; http://www.lisburn.com/books/historical_society/volume6/volume6-4.html
    [Last Accessed 29/09/11]


    Nick Helmholdt said...

    Excellent post! I thoroughly enjoyed your detailed hypothesis about Stonehenge. So much of the popular culture pushes us to view the builders of Stone henge with purely spiritual beliefs as the motivation for building the structure.
    The first of your twelve points was the most salient for me: this part of the world requires some form of shelter from the elements. I am very interested in prehistoric structures in the cold regions of the planet. These buildings are a testament to human ingenuity stretching back before the creation of writing and many other technological innovations.
    I sincerely appreciate how much detail you put into your analysis of this topic. One question that lingers for me is this: if this is a vernacular style of building why aren't there other stonehenge-like remains nearby? Perhaps the answer is tied to the social history of the builders of stonehenge rather than the technology needed to build it.
    Thanks again for putting together an insightful post.

    Anonymous said...

    Hi Geoff,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog. Fascinating stuff. If you're correct about it being a building and you add in what Steven Waller refers to as the acoustic properties of the stones, then it could well have been a magical place to visit - maybe with the acoustics of a cathedral! That would make sense as to why people would travel so far to visit.
    Keep up the good work.

    Bob said...


    Good post well done!

    I do have some doubts on the overall design, but not the concept. I don't believe the Q & R holes would have been used as there seems to be a half circle facing the NW and a different earlier structure.

    The fact they used stone rather than wood as at Woodhenge is another factor - Sarsen stone is 'cheap', easy to find and use and has no 'religious' qualities unlike bluestone, indicating that it is indeed perfect as a foundation stone.

    Therefore, the central trilithons would also be foundation stones and used as part of the roof structure rather than the Q&R post holes.

    Consequently, as it has been constructed to take a much heaver weight than a simple wooden construction (with the mortise and tenon joints in the stone lintels to reduce movement). So I think therefore, central roof should be added.


    Anonymous said...

    Interesting post.

    Is your work sufficiently advanced for you to be able to rule out, or argue against, other possible interpretations of the monument?


    Anonymous said...

    Your ideas are being discussed here:

    megalithic forum

    Geoff Carter said...

    Thank for all for your contributions; I have been away for a few days at CAA – which has restored my faith in archaeology, well done Southampton University.

    Nick; The sanctuary, [which also houses a small stone circle,], Durrington Walls and Woodhenge are all in the same area. But Stonehenge is exceptional in its technological approach, and employment of stone, but only in terms of the existing local craft tradition, this suggests foreign craftsmen, hired or gifted, working with local timber builders/architects. In this context it has to be borne in mind that Southern Britain can control the trade in Tin, and copper from the Irish Sea, and thus, it was a key component in the wider European Bronze Age economy.

    Anon – Eric, exactly how I felt about research, it becomes different prospect in a wooden building.

    Robert - I need the QR holes – seriously you can’t have them, my model would fall down!! - There is a stratigraphically earlier post ring on a similar circuit, as I am sure you know. And as we have discussed, there is more detail that could be added to the plan, but I am only saying that it is a building at this stage, which a big step for most people.

    Anon – Jon, Yes, I think technically accurate evidence based structural modelling is the highest level of interpretive proof available, with Woodhenge with over 150 points to make work consistently as a building, you have a very high % probability that your model is correct – at least in the sense that you have proved it is a building. Until I can do proper engineering CAD Models I don’t know, how ‘sure’ I can be about the details.

    Anon; Thanks, I think that while this does conflict with people’s visual conditioning, given time and some open minds, most cultural stakeholders in Stonehenge can adapt their ideas to this understanding, [But I have not read your link yet – always risky!]

    dustbubble said...

    One of the commenters on "megalithic forum" that anon cited thinks the phasing of the Q&R holes precludes them from integration with the stones.
    Although how they can know that escapes me, maybe the Darvill/Wainwright 2008 report gives a clue?

    I'd always assumed that someone who told me that Atkinson told them he'd "lost" the manuscript of the excavation report "on Hamburg Station" was right.
    So not much chance.

    Although I haven't seen Cleal et al.'s concatenation of relevant stuff either!
    You'd be surprised ( OK well probably not) where an odd bit of draughting paper with a crucial section drawing can turn up ;¬)

    I'd take a very sour view of any excavator's sequence on that site, especially from the '50s, given the proprietors apparently spent so much time mucking about dragging stuff hither and thither, and constantly fiddling with the Bluestones?

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Dustbubble,
    Thanks for the very good points;

    1] The site has very little stratification - so relationships are few. Q&R holes are later than the Sarsen ring, but this would have to be built first; it is the lowest element in the structure. It can be later by a day!
    2] Dating; Postholes are not depositional features;they are dug to contain a post that will rot away; any finds are not necessarily 'primary'.
    3] Trying top 'date' or 'order' the structural sequence on the basis of these finds is not very reliable.
    4] There is no evidence that these holes Y Z R & Q] ever contained stones.
    5] As an archaeologist I reserve the right to disagree fundamentally with the sequence of moving Bluestones, as this is not implicit in the evidence.
    5] Arguments about ware on the lintels from the timber are also erroneous; see my section drawing; I illustrate posts rising from the lintels, - a small square mark might result. Buildings are, by definition, usually rigid, and won't ware holes in the stones.
    [6] The idea of a posthole timber building with a stone load baring wall is an unusual design, perhaps ill advised, and not necessarily suspenseful!
    [7] This analysis is based on its relationship to similar timber structures, and I would not have advanced it on the basis of SH alone.
    I hope this answers some of those points, but Stonehenge has been subject to belief based explanations for so long, arguments about the sky, moon and sun, are seen as evidence.

    dustbubble said...

    Aye I saw the "timber-wear" post, but it seemed churlish to point out the 1000s of years of weathering, which may not have completely erased the BA and later graffiti on the sides, but I wouldn't like to bet on the top surfaces.

    Geoff Carter said...

    . . . I should not look, and I never join in - I'll talk to anyone here. However, "why put a roof on the sky" was an argument that any post-processualist would be proud of!
    If the whole sky, or all water, etc was sacred, it is very hard to monetize; sacredness has to be rationed, bounded, and often enclosed, or how can you exploit it.
    NB. Sea Henge - A fake relic, a prehistoric Turin shroud.

    dustbubble said...

    Oh oh, I just looked over my comments, and it might seem as though I'm being a bit snotty over anon's link.

    Not a bit of it. Enthusiastically received. Bless you for giving a ****!
    Feedback is king, really.

    Archaeology is, despite the public perception and the best efforts of the po-mo mystifiers and woo-merchants currently in front of the shop, as democratic as physics, cooking, fixing cars, mathematics, or swordfighting.
    Or carpentry (my current trade).

    Archaeology's not difficult. A monkey could do it, literally (and don't I just know it).

    But ...
    ... people who run their mouths off about the basic technical precepts had better be able to walk the walk, or ...

    Which, people, is why Geoff gets my vote in these matters. I read his stuff. All of it (gasp!).
    You want to argue? Get your ducks in a row, pal.
    Falsify it, and show your working, or GTFO.

    And thanks again, anon, for the link. Everybody's equal, in prehistory.
    At least somebody cares :(

    (Hey! It's still Saturday night here. Not April 1st yet!)

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Dustbubble, Thanks for the vote of confidence, and reading my stuff - all of it - as you can probably tell - I haven't read all of it!

    I hope that the previous articles on this, and other topics, do show the evolution of my ideas, I could go back and retro-fit my latest conclusions to earlier articles, but I am careful not to.
    There is always more detail, diagrams, and observations, at one point I had 17 reasons Stonehenge was a building - and was thinking of going for 18 - but how much detail does the reader want.

    While Archaeology may not be that difficult, it's results can be difficult to understand; the skill is in recovering and recording the data well enough so that future generations will be able to understand it.

    PS.Re; "woo-merchants"; is that 'woo-merchants' - as in that famous
    prehistoric hymn "woo woo woo - let's wave at the sky" ?

    Altogether now "woo woo woo - let's wave at the sky" [rpt]

    Feanor said...

    Hi Geoff,
    Just stopping by to clarify a couple of things for you. Firstly, it was I who posted the "... roof on the Sky" and associated remarks on the MP Forum. Secondly, though I had to look up the term 'post-processualist', I must take pains to address that I am hardly what you'd refer to as a 'Stone-Hugger', et.al. The 'Sky' interpretation is not mine, rather what I feel the Builders were thinking at the time. Symbology, spirituality, astronomy, and a clean grasp of engineering, with architectural forethought -- all blend together to create this enigmatic edifice. It was obviously meant to been seen as a Stone Structure, unencumbered by the trappings of a roof-system, however elegant. No one needs to be a Druid or a Forest Elf to make these connections or distinctions.
    As mentioned in one or the other of my lengthy essays on the MP Forum, it would be easy to sell me the idea that Woodhenge or many other sites had a kind of roof. This is not a new idea and the evidence is rife for it to be true.
    However, the Stonehenge complex is much more far-reaching in scope than merely Stones in a circle stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Certainly there are many interpretations, but the point is that in making these extraordinary claims, extraordinary proof should be forthcoming.
    Sequencing the Holes is key to any over-arching theory, to be sure, and it's been made abundantly clear that the holes required by your theory would all have to have been installed during a similar era.
    Unfortunately, this is not the case.
    The Q&R holes certainly predate the Sarsens on the order of about 350 years, while the Y&Z gouges were (poorly) dug +/- 400 years after the Sarsens were erected.
    Please review Atkinson's copious photographic record of the 1958/'59 excavations of the SW Trilithon. There you will see a relatively vast area exposed down to the chalk, and how the Q&R's are overlaid by the Trilithon itself. Additionally, you'll see where other Bluestones were previously placed. Reviewing Cleal's rather top-heavy tome is another invaluable source.
    I hope this clarifies some points.
    Best wishes,
    Neil, aka: 'Feanor'
    1 April 2012

    Anonymous said...

    Yes, looking through your site, I'd echo Neil's comments. If the interlace theory is valid, it appears to have the wrong input data for the Stonehenge monument.

    But I don't know what interlace theory is: It's something I've never heard of. If you think it's a worthwhile idea, it may be worth opening it up to scrutiny on a place such as the MP: A blog is a good place to showcase an idea but it's not somewhere that you'll get a detailed critique (unless you happen to be someone like Mike Pitts in which case the above doesn't apply).

    Hope this doesn't sound too harsh. It's an interesting concept and it may have legs with a bit of tweaking, but at the moment it's impossible to tell.


    dustbubble said...

    "akhen3sir", from Mike Pitt's comments a couple of years ago.
    “Also, is the view now that the Q&R bluestones were standing contemporaneously with the Trilithons and Sarsen Circle, I’d understood the Q&R holes pre-dated them, even if only slightly, based on the stone hole for one of the Sarsen uprights cutting into them?” in regard to the statement
    in the post
    “At least 75 large sarsen stones from the Avebury area, about 20 miles (32km) to the north, are dressed at Stonehenge. They are then arranged at the centre of the earthwork circle in a horseshoe-plan setting of five tall trilithons (two uprights and a lintel, like a pi) surrounded by a ring of 30 uprights linked by curved lintels. Between the trilithons and the sarsen circle is an arc of bluestones, standing in pits known as the Q and R Holes.”

    No I don't have access to the NMR to sift through the site record squinting at the pics. Care to fill us in?

    Anonymous said...

    "Also, is the view now that the Q&R bluestones were standing contemporaneously with the Trilithons and Sarsen Circle, I’d understood the Q&R holes pre-dated them, "

    Interesting link: Perhaps the simplest response to the Q&R (the first bluestone circle) question is to look at Mike Pitt's reply, where he gives the answer to the question:

    "You are right, there is a big time gap between the first bluestone circle and the big megalithic monument in the centre."

    dustbubble said...

    Yerbutnobut .. Pitts is I think referring to the outer ring of bluestones in the Aubrey Holes? (.. innit? I get muddled easily. Don't pull your punches, the facts is all we want).

    Hold on I think I might have spotted it.
    (from Antiquity 81:313(2007), 617-639)
    " ..the hole of sarsen Stone 3 cuts through the fill of Bluestone Q Hole 4 (Cleal et al. 1995: 177, 192, figs 92 & 140). This places the two comb-decorated Beaker sherds from Phase 3i (found in the fill of bluestone Q Hole 5) unassailably in the period before 2480 BC (at the end of the date
    range for Phase 3ii), most probably around 2550 BC if they were introduced into the bluestone hole when the bluestone was pulled out, prior to the stones of Phase ii being

    This poses a major problem for any Beaker chronology .."
    So an a priori assumption that the Q hole ever held a stone requires merely the redating of the entire beaker phenomenon in the Isles.

    What could possibly go wrong? :¬D

    Not like it could be derived rubbish getting into a post-pipe after a timber had been pulled?
    Using opposed pairs of those A-frames that MikePP likes so much? I can't remember if it was Durrington or Mt Pleasant where there was no problem at all about the remaining unburnt, and very, very chunky palisade logs being hoiked out of the ground like bad teeth, towards the end of the site's life. No discussion of method IIRC.
    So that photo in Ros Cleal's thing needs a bit of looking at, I'd say. Looks like a smoking gun, but ..

    dustbubble said...

    Aye there you go. From that same Mike Pitts blog post.

    “First stage: 3000–2935BC

    Aubrey Hole and ditch

    Circular ditch and bank ring some 100m in diameter, with the main access to the north-east and a narrower entrance to the south, enclosing 56 pits (the Aubrey Holes) which hold standing Welsh bluestones.”

    And yet here's some spiffy reconstructions claiming to be based on the selfsame Cleal &al. info.

    “ The first stones to be set up within the henge earthwork are thought to be the bluestones (Phase 3i). The original layout appears to have been a pair of concentric semicircles with an average diametre of 25 metres in the centre of the monument with an opening towards the southwest. This setting has been determined by the excavation of two sets of stones pits known as the 'Q' and 'R' holes. ”

    OK what's Lawson's mob got to say about it? It's on their manor. So in 2008 the story is

    “Following the phasing proposed in the definitive excavation report on the 20th century excavations at Stonehenge by Ros Cleal, Karen Walker and Becky Montague, the first stone setting at Stonehenge was Phase 3i.

    This was a double arc of bluestones in what are known as the Q and R holes. Richard Atkinson had previously thought that they had formed concentric circles but there is only evidence for an arc, perhaps with other settings where the arc was not continued. Apart from the bluestones there is a much larger sandstone from Wales at Stonehenge. Known as the Altar Stone, this stone probably came from near to Milford Haven on the coast to the south of the Preseli Hills, and it may have stood as a large standing stone in this phase. When this setting was built is not known for certain, nor when it was dismantled though a sherd of comb decorated beaker pottery was found in the backfilling of one of the stone holes (Q5).”

    IE because one of the Q holes is apparently cut by a sarsen setting, a similar hole next door is good for a date for that event because there's a couple of scraps of beaker somewhere in the fill.

    but by 2010 Mike Pitts (who is The Man on this stuff) is saying the bluestones were plonked out by the bank first.

    'Scuse me. I'm just stepping outside for a bit of a scream. After that I shall mostly be .. drinking.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Neil
    Thanks for taking the time to read my article and commenting, cutting to the chase – I am a very rational archaeologist, and my work is centred on understanding postholes; I have no view on peoples’ beliefs about Stonehenge or its place in their cosmology; my concern has been that archaeologists invent beliefs and project them onto the minds of dead people. . [post-processualism – Mike Parker-Pearson for example] We do it all the time in our culture, but it has no place in archaeology.

    I have good reason for disregarding the phasing of the site, argued above, and I don’t think anything in the archaeology seriously undermines my case. The argument is based on it being similar to other structures of the period, which are exclusively postholes structures.
    My proof would be the general model is geometrically accurate, technically within the limits of other buildings built at the time. It could be rebuilt as a CAD model, but this would not be a priority, since the Timber/posthole examples are more typical and instructive. This would constitute a ‘proof’, as it would be a consistent model based on point data [over a hundred postholes].
    I recently a paper on the at CAA conference at University of Southampton, as this an appropriate venue; understanding postholes effects many periods in most countries, and is much bigger topic than SH.

    Hi Jon,
    Interlace Theory explains how roof are constructed using post rings, usually arranged concentrically. It is a tool for understanding the special relationships in postholes.
    For it to be relevant to Stonehenge you would have to accept that Y Z Q and R features contained wooden uprights. On the other hand that they conform to this essentially predictive model convinces me that are contemporary postholes.
    It is a system that just happens to work, along with more general considerations, for Stonehenge, it was not something I set out to prove or investigate.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Just for the record, and this is suposition, as I only do the posts; I thing the building was built on an existing site, and while it was built to contain the Bluestones, they may have been there already. There may even have been a small building before, and after this main phase.
    In a traditional Stone Circle setting - a wide open stone ring - the Aubrey Holes could be the original monument.
    Placing the stones in a new confined and controlled space marks a change of use and 'ownership', which seems entirely appropriate in the context of the Early Bronze Age.

    Anonymous said...

    You thinking of West Kennet and other "destruction","sealing" and "blocking" malarkey from about this time?

    Oh and BTW is your email b0rked?
    I'd like to chat a bit more, but realise I'm prob. coming across as an exasperating troll, monopolising the comments.

    dustbubble said...

    ... a troll who can't work the u/n thing, even.

    Anonymous said...

    Interlace Theory explains how roof are constructed using post rings, usually arranged concentrically. It is a tool for understanding the special relationships in postholes.

    I may not have explained that well. Let's say, for the sake of example, that I had a business reason to want to employ someone to undertake an analysis of the type you suggest on this web-site: How would I know what 'interlace theory' is and, more specifically, how would I be able to evaluate the business case for any such analysis?

    The root of what you're doing seems to be 'interlace theory'. Other than that you are an archaeologist, how do I separate you out from anyone else who has an interesting website?


    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Jon
    Almost all the articles on this site are about postholes, and understanding built environments in general.
    Interlace is discussed in http://structuralarchaeology.blogspot.com/2010/07/39interlace-theory-understanding.html, but it is quite dificult to illustrate and describe [so that a reader will will be inclined to read it].
    It is about 'spatial' relationships [not special!]. it was deduced from building 'on paper' architectural models for complete structures like Woodhenge, Mount Pleasant etc. It is one of a set of observations about these structures detailed above - 12 reasons.... - notice that it is reason 13 reflecting the fact that it is not as self evident in the evidence as the other 12.

    As this comprises drawing lines between posts, it is repeatable and can be applied to other structures, so anybody with the time can explore these ideas for themselves; further, it can also be modeled in 3D, although this would be a complex research project.
    How you sell this depends on who is buying and what their objectives are; this research is about how archaeologists interpret postholes, it is not about Stonehenge or megalithic structures.

    How to differentiate TSA from other sites?
    I blog because my PhD at Newcastle was blighted by 'post-processual' archaeology - many universities have paid academics to make up beliefs, religions and cosmologies to explain complex archaeological structures. As a result they have no understanding of more rational issues such as how timber structures work. I funded my own Phd so it was hard to continue when your tutor blackballs you for not writing about 'Iron Age Building Cosmologies' - how people we have never met perceived building we have never seen !
    Thus, I have made my research available to everyone who has the interest and time to understand it, and it is written and illustrated with that in mind.
    Thus, you have to use your own judgment in evaluating the ideas, baring in mind that many of the ideas deconstructed in my work are peer-reviewed.
    I don't want belief, I want people to understand why these ideas work.

    dustbubble said...

    You could always get thousands of 220 mil. chopsticks from the cash and carry.
    Ignore the squareness of them, it's the taper we're pursuing here. Just guessing that it might be about right.
    Or get some of the round ones if you wish, but they're a bit pointy and strange.

    Sheet of Kingspan or the like from the builders' merchant, I dunno, used to be about 30 notes the last time I looked.

    Print or draw out your site plan at say, 1:70 (makes your chopstick fifty foot long (-ish)). Stick it onto the building board, poke the sticks fat-end-down into the plan. With any luck the excavator might have bothered to take the odd datum in the holes, so you can use that too.

    Key thing is probably to ensure they're dead plumb. And to trim the thick end off when cutting to length.

    A bit tricky getting a hot-glue gun in among all that lot, and personally I'd die of tedium having to notch them and poke pegholes and the like in them with an Archimedes drill, and stick bits of cocktail sticks or veneer pins or something in.

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks Geoff

    The link to your interlace theory appears to produce a type of design associated with forms of structure more commonly known as hyperboloids. Hyperboloids are occasionally used in some types of statement roof structures particularly where reinforced concrete is the material of choice. Generally they are used less often with materials such as steel and timber because of the inherent structural inefficiency caused by the conflict between chord layers (which doesn't apply to the layering of the steel zone in reinforced concrete works). Interestingly, there is a hyperboloid wall structure designed to show children how they work at Herstmonceux.

    Given that the people who constructed buildings in the Neolithic would have had restricted access to technology (to cut and shape materials), what do you believe is the reasoning for them not using the simplest and most efficient structural form?


    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Jon
    I would argue that it is a simple form of structure; it is perhaps different from a hyperboloid in being composed of horizontal and vertical components, although the function is to support rafter pairs at a particular angle.
    In the previous post [ http://structuralarchaeology.blogspot.com/2010/02/38-bronze-age-architecture-woodhenge.html ] I explain why a simplistic approach to modelling these structures does not work. It was testing simple models that I came to deduce how they might work – and this gave rise to interlace theory, as it solves both the geometric and structural issues with this form of roof.

    We have to be careful second-guessing peoples structural understanding; in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age roofs the centre ridge is supported – we know that this is unnecessary in a structural sense, but we also have to think about assembly - how would you get a ridge piece to the top of the roof?
    Thus, it is important to understand what was built, rather than why it was done this way. It has been my experience that prehistoric buildings are over engineered, made as strong as practical. You build so that it won’t fall down, ‘Simplicity’ in structural engineering develops with experience.

    Point 14 in my reasons that SH was a building details, very briefly, how an interlace structure could be built, - the underlying ‘knit one pearl one’ of putting trees together. The resulting structure appears complicated as it is circular with multiple axes, but the underlying system is simple.
    This is period without drawn plans and written instructions; a simple underling methodology would be required to layout these foundations on the ground, and create a structure that is self-supporting from the outset.
    The technology and approach has to be seen in terms of what had gone before in terms of roof design.[This is a series of articles on this topic].
    This very much reverse engineering from a plan with 150+ fixed points in the foundation; it is my view particularly with Woodhenge that if you find a solution to creating a roof it most likely correct and not the result of coincidence.
    On final technical point, the way these ‘interlace structures work each set of roof supports [chords] occupies it own unique set of levels in the structure, avoiding spatial conflicts in a roof that turns in on itself [ie. a narrowing cone in centre where the rafters converge]. Think of string art.

    Hi Andy [DB]
    I have thought long and hard about this; I have used green garden canes/sticks for modelling, timber ramparts [timber wall], even tried it on TV documentary. This is fiddly enough – and there are no timber/timber joins in that model. I wish it was simple, but it would be a significant investment in time.
    It is the joints that are problem, there are upwards of a dozen elements [beams] connected to each post; the system has to accommodate reverse engineering; it has to simple to dismantle and rebuild, since you won’t get it correct first time.
    It would be easiest to simulate in ‘string art’, with very long nails, as that is how the ‘assembly’ worked, the horizontals were assembled like a continuous sting weaving between the between the posts. [If you get what I am saying, and visualise then these are the keys to the kingdom].

    CAD and some VR rendering would be ideal since this could be tested distributed, shared, and presented in various formats.

    Anonymous said...

    ‘Simplicity’ in structural engineering develops with experience.

    It certainly does. You seem very sure of your structural reasoning. Have you ever verified with a structural engineer that the models you've developed makes sense to their eyes?


    Geoff Carter said...

    An engineering CAD model would settle it; that is a question of resources.
    I gave a paper about this in front of a professor engineering the other day . . . .

    Anonymous said...

    An engineering CAD model would settle it; that is a question of resources.

    CAD models are useful but only insofar as they can show how a structure fits together. More importantly, I think it would be worth your while getting validation that the evaluation methods proposed really do produce designs which are the most efficient use of resources: Given the population's limited access to technology for working the materials available, it is unlikely that they would purposefully chose to use inefficient designs.

    It's worth thinking about methods of erection but don't go overboard on this because it can lead to mistakes: Temporary works are evaluated using a wholly different way of thinking.

    It's worth doing this now because, if you get archaeological validation and then, at a later date, the engineering profession says that your designs are unworkable, you will lose all impetus on the project.

    I gave a paper about this in front of a professor engineering the other day . . . .

    Good. Make sure you get a comment from the correct field: Civil or Structural engineering. Comment from other fields will be a waste of your time.

    I'd also seriously consider re-working your Stonehenge model. There appear to be quite a few structural discrepancies in the design that this method produces.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Points taken.
    Inefficiency is a relative concept; an 'A' frame truss would be an efficient solution, but it would not be used in these parts for about 3000 years.
    The problem in the academic sphere is finding people with the correct mix of skills, the interest, and ultimately the resources.
    If I was rich non of this would have happened.
    I should emphasis that Stonehenge is probably fifth on the list of structures to model. It is far too anomalous to be tackled first.I have discussed only a few important examples of these structures, but there are others to be considered.

    Anonymous said...

    The problem in the academic sphere is finding people with the correct mix of skills, the interest, and ultimately the resources.

    That can be a problem. Unfortunately it's up to you to make it worth their while. One significant problem is that your Stonehenge model, from a structural point of view, doesn't make sense as it stands. This is likely to increase your website traffic but will not help you to find people with the right skills: People with the right skills can instantly spot all the discrepancies and anomalies; which might make them believe that the basis of the theory might not be sound (and thus lead to no offers of help).

    Catch 22; Chicken and egg etc. You might want to think about researching, and possibly contacting, a chap called Bruce Bedlam if you end up staying with the Stonehenge/Roof solution.

    dustbubble said...

    Oh by the way, here's a tip that a nice lady showed me recently.
    To counter the Hordes of Anonymous, do like what I does, and drop down the "Choose an identity" menu (below) to Name/URL. [Ignore the URL bit, it'll just show brackets].

    That way one can sign and distinguish one's post from the top, without having to sign into some confounded account.
    Only discovered this after I ditched All Things Google at the end of Feb.

    You can use any old name you like, but it helps to keep them the same. Makes searching a breeze, as this is promising to be a fairly lengthy thread.

    Feanor said...

    Codified Cultural Beliefs are frequently reflected in the form of monumental structures. They indemnify an inclusive system of thought so well established that many man-hours of labor – sometimes measured in the millions ― are expended in creating them. Decades, possibly centuries, of study and observation are made to ensure that the principles of the monument remain constant, actual and logical.

    One of the things I have always found fascinating about Stonehenge is that since the inception of a simple ditch & dike, through the complex Sarsen configuration ― including all the elaborate engineering learning curves ― the premise of its function never changed. It was a Temple to the Sun.
    This represents about 1,250 years.

    Observing from the 21st century it is important to grasp that passage of time and how commonly overlooked the remarkable premise remains. Thinking back over a similar span of our own history, one scratches his head in attempting to find an unchanged corollary belief system.

    To this, some might say: “Times change and people learn.” Agreed. Who among us still believe that Earth is the center of the Universe? (We all did till about 400 years ago). Or that disease is retribution for sin? (~1750?). Most of our languages are far different than they were, even in the 1100’s. (Read Chaucer without a thesaurus!) Great Gothic Cathedrals built in the Middle Ages reflect beliefs that were held to be constant and resolute, but who builds Cathedrals anymore? Moving forward, we then built bridges, spires and palaces. Now we build banks, insurance towers, government buildings and exposition centers. These are our current Statement Monuments and are based upon the requirements of political, economic and social beliefs. Notice how few represent any pantheon of religion today.

    In the last two- or so thousand years it’s been the growth of technology that has impacted our belief-systems. But in Neolithic times, the belief-system necessitated the growth of technology.

    The simple thread that runs through Stonehenge remains its design as a Sun Temple. From its earliest days of 56 holes inside the perimeter and the peculiar array of posts in the middle, through the various bluestone arrangements, and on to the impressive Sarsen Construct, the Solstice alignments didn’t ‘get-figured-out-as-they-went”. The long-established idea simply became more sophisticated as time and technology grew greater.

    You can introduce Ancestors, elaborate Cosmologies or weird sight-lines all day long for all I care. Don’t even finish it if you like. Surround it with screening hedges and fences. Dig 60 aimless gouges and then wander off. Bury commoners and royalty inside and out ― burn ’em or chuck ’em in whole. Put old animal skulls and used antler picks in the ditch. Build a sexy Avenue to instill Wonder upon approach. Carve axe-heads and daggers in it till you’re blue in the face. You might even suspend a solar disco ball above it and lean tin mirrors against the bluestones ― bring it all, I say!

    But you cannot put a roof on it.
    By intent and design, the fact remains that the Citadel of Forever was always open to the Sky.


    dustbubble said...

    Neil said:“But you cannot put a roof on it.”
    Sez who?
    Stuff the Ancestors, don't care.
    Why doesn't that .. thing .. with the sticks that Geoff just showed us just .. work?

    Planning Regs.?

    Geoff Carter said...

    I appreciate that you have a strong belief about the origins and functions of the monument, but buildings can have alignments and windows that can exploit the sun, or other astronomical events, and are are a more convenient basis for worship.

    dustbubble said...

    Geoff said: “ ... exploit the sun, or other astronomical events ... ”
    LOL WUT. Sun? I thought you said Stonehenge is in England?

    Remember when the Eclipse was supposed to happen down Cornwall some years back?
    And the fuss over The Aurora last winter?

    I'm surprised the farmers round here haven't been found chewing their shotguns in the kitchen the last 4-5 years. Been like living under a vast cement slab. In a fridge. In a cesspit. And that's just the summer.
    You could make a fortune, selling hooky NVGs from The Wars here.
    Fair enough, I suppose you got a better chance in the winter, 'cos it's dark all the time, and the rain comes in lumps. Just brush it off, eh?

    Sub Boreal times or not, the Atlantic will be blessing the Isles with its droppings for all eternity. Or as good as.

    [Cool. My 1st Captcha word was "conan"]

    Anonymous said...

    Why doesn't that .. thing .. with the sticks that Geoff just showed us just .. work?

    Geoff's building system is equal spans either side of the "Z" holes (to the apparent "Y" or "Q / R" posts). A very unnecessary feature of the design is the outer Sarsen ring, which adds obstructions to the internal environment. Another unnecessary feature appears to be the inner trilithon horseshoe and the bluestones.

    In other words, the design makes no sense unless you remove the stones from Stonehenge.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Anon - you make an interesting structural point,presumably in relation to spans, but there is more to it; Prehistoric builders are fairly consistent in their ratio of posts per unit area of roof, and the sarsen ring was required to transfer the roof load, as there are fewer posts than might be expected for such a big roof.
    I have written about this in post 23 in relation to Iron Age buildings. Class Ei structures have similar ratios, it is yet another way that I know they are buildings.

    Anonymous said...

    and the sarsen ring was required to transfer the roof load, as there are fewer posts than might be expected for such a big roof.
    I have written about this in post 23 in relation to Iron Age buildings. Class Ei structures have similar ratios, it is yet another way that I know they are buildings.

    Then your drawing needs to be re-worked? It might be useful to consider having a ridge line over the sarsen circle and re-arranging the strutting so that the load gets conducted to the sarsens.

    If you put north-light style trusses over the Y and Z posts (shallower angle facing the exterior), with a 'ring' beam at the apex of the truss: Then span purlins (beams) from the sarsen lintels to the apex beam, much more load will be conducted to the sarsens and you'll be able to argue a half-decent explanation for the Y and Z spacing.

    You'll also be able to argue, with this arrangement, that the sarsens receive more line load than the Y or Z ring (not by a huge factor but it'll be better than what you've got).

    However, it still won't give a reasonable explanation why the sarsen ring is (and was) so heavy.

    Anonymous said...

    Coming back to this again: I'm impressed by the confidence you have in your methodology Geoff.

    If I've understood, you have developed peer reviewed, science based methods which allow you to determine whether a building superstructure would have existed from an evaluation of its post-hole substructure?

    Does the method need engineering input (of the type described above), or does your system predict the super-structure model without requiring structural interpretation?

    dustbubble said...

    Now that's more like it, Anonymous. "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight", as they used to say.
    See. :) I'm beginning to swither over your way now, and I'm starting to freak out about the roof loadings.
    In which pitch is the killer, as far as yer basic triangle of forces is bothered.
    As Peter Reynolds discovered :(

    And what in the heck are you proposing as the weather surface, Geoff?
    Shingles? Not a problem, radial cleft english oak? Best in the world, mate, best in the world. Lot of holes, mind. Used ta hang 'em with sheep metacarpals, barns and such.
    Didn't bother the saxons and the norse none, for their mead-halls, though.

    Turf shares the problem with shingles in that if it's not laid flat enough, (and that's some serious bark/board underlay too), just visualise the whole lot avalanching down the roofslope to the valleys/eaves. Wet through with rain, of course, being England and all. Howmany tons, did you say?

    Problem solved, if you let it knit together Western Norway/Swiss-style, kept alive due to the aforementioned endless accursed downpour, chuck a couple of mountain goats up there between Feb. and November. And drop the pitch to something silly, like Roman or Attic.
    Gothic slope, not a chance. Ridge would be about eight miles high, anyway.
    Thatch. Again, southern England is the Daddy for expert thatching, always has been. Reed, longstraw, got it coming out your ears.
    But I simply can't begin to imagine how much that would heft in at. And it would never dry out completely.

    Anonymous, could you promise to remain the only Anonymous on the board?
    That way I can follow your arguments, when it all kicks off round here. I'm quite interested now.

    dustbubble said...

    @The Original&Best Anonymous: The Sarsen Ring was so heavy, because it was just too much work/too "expensive" in their economy, to justify dressing all those rocks down to a gloss surface, Platonically-perfect, Egyptian-style. (OK Later, but the methods weren't a million miles apart. Nor the social system, it appears. "Unnecessary pyramids" and all that.

    Geoff Carter said...


    Nothing on this website is peer reviewed; it is all referenced and most of the arguments are based on the published plans of structures, which are readily available and easily verified.

    My relationship with ‘Academic’ Archaeology is governed by two factors.
    Money – I do not attract funding so any research I do is worthless
    Money – I can no longer afford to pay fees to a university and finish by PhD

    It is also important to understand theses are complicated issues, and have been greatly simplified by employing Academics to invent Beliefs cults and cosmologies to explain complex archaeological data; much to chagrin of people who do archaeology for a living, and the detriment of our international reputation.

    As a result, my PhD was Blackballed because I was not writing about how people perceive buildings in the Iron Age – people we have never met, buildings we have never seen, this Iron Age Building Cosmologies is ‘peer reviewed’ so Newcastle University saw no possible problem with this.
    Why do you need to know about buildings if you can see the world through the eyes of dead people?
    While a great many academics are expert on these thing we don’t find, having Attended the CAA conference at Southampton, were I was invited to speak, I have realised that there archaeologists who know what a tie does, capable of working in a collaborative and engineering conscious environment, so there is hope.

    Essentially what my research is about is what happens at the top of posts, the statements I have made represent what I think I can demonstrate with a reasonable degree of objectivity, about the creation of roofs within a specific cultural timeframe.
    Essentially if you can make an oval building like woodhenge with a over 150 postholes work consistently within a set a guide lines – then the argument about whether it is a building is won.

    Stonehenge is a rather odd corner of a much bigger technological picture, and while it is exceptional, it still conforms broadly to the pattern of timber buildings in the Prehistory.
    The roof load is usually carried by symmetrical arcades either side of the ridge, The sarsen ring is in the position of the inner arcade. Nobody had built one like this before, it may not have been a success.

    Anonymous said...

    And what in the heck are you proposing as the weather surface, Geoff?

    It would have to be something which leaves no trace? Shingles or thatch might be suitable.

    The Sarsen Ring was so heavy, because it was just too much work/too "expensive" in their economy, to justify dressing all those rocks down to a gloss surface

    Wouldn't it be easier to leave out the sarsen ring? This has virtually no haulage expense, as the immediate area used to be partially forested, and leaves you with much larger usable open spaces within the building.

    Anonymous said...

    Essentially what my research is about is what happens at the top of posts, the statements I have made represent what I think I can demonstrate with a reasonable degree of objectivity, about the creation of roofs within a specific cultural timeframe.

    If it's got no scientific basis, isn't it just your interpretation? Why is that any different to the academics who insist (or imagine) it is related to astronomy?

    From what you've said, your work appears, at least at first sight, to be seeing the world through the eyes of dead people??

    What USP makes your work different?

    Anonymous said...

    could you promise to remain the only Anonymous on the board?

    It's a promise. But now that Geoff has stated, albeit in jest, that I do not attract funding so any research I do is worthless, it's difficult to see a reason to take an interest in Geoff's theory because this will always be hanging around as a rebuttal to any work he does: Saying this type of thing is a severe commercial mistake.

    Geoff Carter said...

    I have presumed that the roof was thatch or shingles; detailed modelling may resolve this.
    It is important to understand these structuress as architecture, and not about minimal effort or resources, rather it is about maximum effect.

    I am not going to argue about 'science' in this context.
    I have taken a great deal of time and over 100,000 words to discuss these issues in small bite sized chunks.
    I have a simple set of propositions which I can test by modelling; the models are verified by studying their geometry and structural stability.
    It works by deduction, and is repeatable, measurable, and complex structures can be proved by a full CAD engineering model, not just in plan and section.
    I think that a detailed structural model you can test in 3D is about a 'scientific' as you can get given the nature of the base data set, and offers higher levels of certainty than ideas about belief and perception.
    Many of the arguments above can be measured with a ruler from the original site plan.

    While peoples belief would be flattering, I am trying to develop is understanding through a more systematic and objective methodology for dealing with postholes.

    Building can have astronomical, cardinal and other alignments, in fact this might be regarded as normal for architecture.

    Geoff Carter said...

    PS; academic value is determined by funding that individuals attract based on their previous exams etc.

    Commercially valuable is something else, if you want ground breaking documentary, or to improve the quality of the research base of your institution that is different.

    Many institutions in Britain have invested heavily in faith based post-processual archaeology, which is often incompatible with an evidence based approach, so it is not in their interests to invest in research that undermines existing approaches.
    TSA has many important commercial implications.

    dustbubble said...

    OK thatch. I can live with that. What sort of width is Cressing Temple Cart Lodge? Doesn't appear much more than 20ft. And it's blown down a couple of times recently.
    Radically different, futuristic mediaeval roof-carpentry, of course, but thatch be thatch, boy.

    dustbubble said...

    These fellows seem fairly sanguine about the structural integrity of the stuff, though. And that's one heck of a roof on the hotel. I like the odd Dutch/Mansard thing further up, lots of different angles.
    Fair enough, they're using fancy modern fixings, but
    “ ..a hotel in Kinvarra, County Galway. You are looking at the largest thatched roof in Ireland. During the 100+ mile per hour winds of the 1998 St. Stephen's Day storm, not a reed was out of place. This despite the serious damage done to many slate roofs in the area. ”

    I hear it's been known to rain on occasion, in Galway.

    dustbubble said...

    OK we'll just call it a done deal on the thatch then, until somebody cries foul?
    And Denmark.
    7lbs/sq.ft., those Irish Guys reckon, using their cheating modern methods, like the Danes.

    dustbubble said...

    Ops! B0rked that last. But there's plenty to choose from in Denmark

    Geoff Carter said...

    From memory - Cressing Temple wheat and barley barns were originally thatched, and tiled at a later date, note the steep roof pitch. [They are 39'and 45' wide.]

    dustbubble said...

    Cheers Geoff.
    Ooo looky! A fact
    “The British Standard BS648:1964 'Weight of building materials' provides a reed thatch loading figure of 8.5lbs per sq ft (41.5kg/m2) for a 1ft thick thatch&#8221: and a pitch somewhere north of 45degs?

    Forseti said...

    When Fathers 4 Justice did their demo on Stonehenge I seem to remember some photographs of the top surface of the lintels. There were some features - sockets for timber? I can't find the photos now.

    Thatch - would a layer of thatch a foot thick be necessary? When we thatched one of the Glastonburys at Butser with our home grown wheat (Spelt; much finer and shorter than modern thatching wheat) we used a very thin layer because we had so little. It was still very weather proof, and was replaced only because the timber structure underneath was not stable. I suppose it lasted about 5 years.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Forseti
    Thanks for the comment - Sorry for the delay- I have been offline for a week.
    Yes there are possible 'sockets' or similar features viable in the top of the sarsens.
    I think the point I would make about thatching/ experimental reconstructions is that Ancient builders would be looking to make the best building they could, not the simplest or the one that used least resources.
    Traditional buildings are built to the highest standards appropriate to their context; the structures we are discussing would be the most important buildings of their age, and would be build to an appropriate standard.
    Timber architecture is just as 'architectural' as stone or brick building.

    dustbubble said...

    OK you win Geoff. Thatch it is.
    And it doesn't have to be a foot thick, wasn't suggesting that it was, just that's the figure BS648 gives for the purposes of estimating, because it's a cubic foot.
    As Forseti rightly points out, you'll lay as little as you think you can get away with.
    Like this
    and this
    What's that, about six inches?

    Laminated Timber Panels said...

    There are never going to be definite answers to the questions of the history of Stonehenge. The structure it seems, is meant to be a mysterious clue about ancient people of the world, without letting on too much about them. Stonehenge is a miracle, a mystery, like the ancient world sites that are its peers: the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico. It is less a historical novel than a pre-historical novel, and is the perfect description of such a building. Stonehenge is overwhelmingly a visual experience.

    dustbubble said...

    ... except in the dark.

    Geoff Carter said...

    ........and it's a bit naff looking from the West.

    Wholesale Log Homes, Inc. said...

    People have to make up their own minds, based on the evidence, not on opinions or groundless speculation.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Thank you WHL INC, I hope what I have presented is the evidence, is the technical drawings and assembly specifications, which are appropriate to the materials [ English Oak], and available technology.
    Sadly, for all concerned Archaeology, as taught in many British Universities, is no longer evidence based.

    Canadian Homes said...

    Amazing!! It stands as a timeless monument to the people who built it.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Thanks, Importantly, it a monument to rational engineering, reflecting the cultural circumstance and politics of its age.

    Aryan Smith said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Unknown said...

    There may even have been a small building before, and after this main phase.
    Roofing Sunrise

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Mac,
    Good point; it is my current understanding there was initially an all wood building which is replaced with the stone wall/stanchions phase. What happens after this phase I can't tell; but as you are in the trade, you may be aware that a building with two different foundations systems [stone / wood] might not be a good idea, since they react differently under loading and to changes in environmental conditions.

    DDeden said...

    11,600 yr old Jordan structure, w/ postholes and horseshoe-like form

    Geoff Carter said...

    Thanks for that - I will download it; wow - That is an Ice Age aisled building - tremendous!

    Martha said...

    As a non-archaeologist (I'm also not an engineer), some of the points in this discussion are beyond my understanding. However, I think one argument can be done away with rather easily: The argument that Stonehenge was not roofed because it was a temple to the sun. There are a number of sun temples in other parts of the world that are assumed to have been roofed.

    In fact, when there are columns, they are usually assumed to have been built to support a roof, as at the Parthenon or the Temple of Luxor. Otherwise, why build columns?

    Of course, the stones at Stonehenge (which I, alas, have not seen, except in pictures) may not have been roof columns.

    One way to test whether they were, or were not, roof columns, is to test whether they COULD HAVE supported a roof, using the materials and knowledge of the time.

    Of course, it's also possible that columns were built to support a roof, but it didn't work out as planned and was never completed or fell down soon after completion. There may, or may not, be evidence of that, but it not relevant to the intent.

    So, as I see it, Geoff can demonstrate that Stonehenge COULD HAVE been roofed.

    And we can say that in in England's climate, it's possible, even probable, a temple WOULD HAVE been roofed.

    A temple is a place of worship, but in another sense, it is a "home" for the god. Thus the Israelites of the Old Testament had a "holy of holies" where the high priest came into contact with Jehovah, even though in their theology (as we understand it), Jehovah could not be "contained" in such a place. To build a temple is to say the the god, "See, we honor you. We have built you a fine house. Come live with us."

    Stonehenge could have served as a sun temple even had it been roofed.


    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi MArtha
    Thank you for your [conditional?] support - I have always thought it would require a 3d model to win the argument objectively, belief being something entirely different.
    Who or what it was dedicated to is irrelevant to the evidence of it being a building,which is inherent in the spatial distribution of the archaeological features.
    I think there was there was a biblical tradition of alters on 'high Places', isolated peaks, and some non-conformists in the Pennines tried a bit of outdoor worship, [not to mention druids], but by and large worship is best in a building.

    DDeden said...

    Hi Geoff

    I agree it's evidence of a building, fully covered or not.

    Take a look at the photo here, note the circles of postholes (the big stone T's on the right are the metrorail (modern) which I ride occasionally)...Miami is just above sea level, maybe they bored postholes in limestone for stilts

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi, by coincidence I have been working with colleagues in the states on the structural archaeology of some Native American buildings. It is interesting architecture, and quite different from N European which is only to be expected.

    james said...

    Top web site, I hadn't come across idlemendacity.blogspot.com earlier during my searches!
    Keep up the superb work!

    Christof Berg said...

    Dear Geoff,
    today I visited Stonehenge and in the exhibition was struck by a small object found in Normanton Down Barrow. You can see pictures of it in the English Heritage Stonehenge catalogue on pages 40 and 46 (German edition - hope the pages match the English version). It is a small disc-shaped box, diameter ca. 100 mm, described as incense burner and is usually depicted together with the "grape cup". I was wondering if anybody ever saw this as a possible miniature model of stonehenge with a roof: the outside wall looks like a circle of rectangular slabs and the top is conical with a pattern that might be interpreted as tiling. I am familiar with Asian archaeology, and in China it was not uncommon to use miniature houses as burial gifts. Unfortunately the shape of the roof would not quite match your theory, because it would be rising to the middle (without a rift), but I thought you might want to look into it.
    I'm looking forward to your comment, keep up the unorthodox work!

    Anonymous said...

    Someone else came to a similar conclusion, i guess about 20 years ago, he had it as a giant beech roundhouse with, iirc, a closed roof but some open sides, i thought it made a lot of sense then, still do.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Christof [& Johnm]
    Thanks for the contribution; I am not able to look this up at the moment but I have reached similar conclusions about some gold disks - Although I would add; 1] I understand that there were many significant buildings in this period - not just SH.
    2] I have not yet fully defined the overall shape of the SH roof.
    3]. Circular motifs BA rock carvings may be buildings if such inscriptions served as maps.
    I am working on these buildings at present and may return to this topic - but I will check up on this particular object asap.

    Christof said...

    Hello, thanks for answering so quickly. It' s hard to find good pictures of said object on the internet, but I dug up one that is pretty close to the original here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19130/19130-h/images/imagep081.jpg
    I still recommend the catalogue for a closer look on the details.

    Unknown said...

    I've always been amazed that people can look at one more obvious stone foundation of a building, and pretend there were no walls filling in the spaces between the standing rocks, and no roof, just ignorant cave-men in loose animal skins dancing around waving spears, "worshiping" mythical spirits. Where do people get this? When you see ancient stones in a geometric pattern, it is normally the remains (foundation) of a building. This has always been true and remains true to this day. here in California, if I go out into the desert and find a geometric pattern of rocks, it always marks the foundation of what was once a building. Why would Stonehenge be any different? Why do you think the tops of the lintel stones are all the same height? Why do you think they are called "lintel" stones (meaning the top of a window or door)? Why the support stones in the center, if not to help support a second story (and probably a roof)? Can you say "second story"? Yes there was a second floor above the first. The usual scenario is the smaller stones filling in the walls between the upright stones were all taken away by succeeding generations, for use constructing and repairing other buildings, and only the stones too big and heavy to move remain. Why is any of this mysterious? Do we see the remaining pillars of a Greek temple and assume it had no roof and was constructed as mere useless pillars, used only for dancing around under the stars? Come on.

    Tobb said...

    Hi All,

    Great discussion, I haven't ran through all the comments on here but has the question been asked or perhaps attributed to any discussions that Stonehenge may not have actually been finished? The thought occurred when someone on this thread had pointed out the'mystical' element of Stonehenge and why there were no other stones present on the site to validate their argument that this was indeed a building. I'm sure there are multiple theories however and I look forward to your engagement, if any! I have never paid Stonehenge much attention in fact. I reviewed a photo recently and immediately thought that this was in fact a building that may have had support/wall fillers that were not made of stone and consequently degenerated with time however please also see point 1. I would like to also comment on the post made in July 2017, although it is not aggressive, I believe that one may speculate with a superstitious mind if they so wish. Why? Because we do not have an answer and all of this is speculation until proven. I myself am not superstitious or believe in a mystical factor with Stonehenge however that does not mean I am right, only confident in my logic but becoming exasperated, (with a hint of belittlement) instead of understanding and accommodating does not make an individual want to support your way of thinking. Food for thought, have a lovely day whenever you may be reading this!

    eric massimo goodman said...

    I have been saying for years to anyone who might be interested that Stonehenge looks like it should have a roof.All it takes is wooden beams from the outer lintels to the higher inner lintels and you have the basis of all the wooden roundhouse type buildings of antiquity.It would seem to be providing a covering for the bluestones .To imagine it without a roof seems almost ridiculous to me.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Thanks for the contribution; I have to agree with the common sense argument; I think it is easy to win, but as an archaeologist I have had to develop a higher standard of proof, which I am confident I have achieved.
    I would also caution against wooden buildings of antiquity - they are usually imaginary in nature and not a true reflection of the evidence - in the same way Stonehenge is represented with people waving at the sky.

    eric goodman said...

    Dear Geoff,I agree that you have made a considerable effort at establishing some level of proof.I am with you in accepting the idea of a roof and have over the years been amazed at the response from some fairly eminent Archaeologists at my suggestion that a roof seemed a pretty reasonable conclusion.One other speculation that crossed my mind was the idea of having a fire in the centre which would cast shadows of the bluestones ,and the central uprights onto the outer wall of sarcens.Anyone processing around the inside of building would also cast shadows that would make for quite a visual show on the walls ,metaphorically uniting the past and present.Now that of course is pure speculation even though from mans earliest cave dwelling days the shadows cast by fire would have been an ever present part of life.

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi Eric,
    IMO Neolithic, and in this case Bronze Age religion, when practised in temples is essentially theatrical; costumes, props and lighting.
    The Blue stones are interesting, in that I suspect they have been taken from an earlier Neolithic circle, an open air setting, and placed inside a temple; the interest is in the politics and symbolism of this move.
    Your point about caves is an important one; shadows at night are just part of life in buildings heated by fires and lit by lamps.
    Temples have to be different; think of the sense of smell and the use of incense.

    Gabrielle_Ellise said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    edclinic said...

    I thoroughly enjoyed your detailed hypothesis about Stonehenge. So much of the popular culture pushes us to view the builders of Stone henge with purely spiritual beliefs as the motivation for building the structure. Very interesting!

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi thanks for comment,
    I have to agree[!] - [ironically] we tend to project our aspirations and ideals onto the past; currently eco-warriors living in harmony with nature in their rustic gazebos; Stonehenge is the hub around which prehistory revolves -a hollow at the centre to accommodation all manner of belief systems.
    The Past also has a visual culture which precludes such ideas.
    Academic archaeology is faith based, and while I can demonstrate this a "legal" standard, you are free to think anything anything you like in the comfort of your own university.

    implantytorun said...

    Hi! I saw you answer some questions! I was wondering, where did you get so much information about that? Is this something like university knowledge or you use library books or something? Just little bit interested in :)

    Geoff Carter said...

    Hi, good question . . .
    It's part of PhD research methodology - applied to this type of structure. It's way too advanced for UK Universities, I had to have it peer reviewed in the the US.
    It'a not in a book beyond the basic methodology; it's the application of methodology to archaeological datasets.
    In the UK, Archaeology is not a science, it is a faith based literary construct, which people reproduce to gain academic merit.
    This is new research based on Data, not on previous opinions.
    Any Questions?

    Anonymous said...

    Hi, I think you need to see this youtube video where this channel thinks a roofed Stonehenge is a new idea, he clearly has not read your blog.

    NEW THEORY: Did Stonehenge Originally Have Walls, a Roof and a Balcony? | Ancient Architects

    Geoff Carter said...

    Thank you for your comment; this does crop up every so often - there was an article in the papers recently, however they are not really evidence based in the sense that they cannot relate it to other similar structures or the architectural tradition that came before and after this oddity.

    I wrote this 10 years ago and I am still working aspects of the engineering of buildings in this period, of which Stonehenge is one of the simpler since temples are basic if ornate structures, not helped by use of stone; stone structures are usually rectilinear for a reason.

    My work sets it in a wider architectural context.
    I am working on a video - but you have to take the viewer through from the Neolithic - AND back from their contemporary experience of timber buildings components, to give them some understanding of timber structures; you are not taught this at University, you are just given culturally inappropriate and fundamentally racist tropes about primitive buildings and cultural evolution with their roots in the 1930's.

    However, show someone a picture of the past and they are happy - seeing is believing.

    Mueue said...

    Almost identical with Sarmisegetuza temples from Romania. Even the dimensions are identical

    Geoff Carter said...

    Neolithic longhouses are consistently the same width across Europe; this is all coming from the same architectural tradition, so I expect a degree of commonality; There are Dark Age building built using the same Engineering Technique.
    The focus on Stonehenge is not helpful, as it is particularly atypical.

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