Alternative Altar Stones? Carbonate-cemented micaceous sandstones from the Stonehenge Landscape

Rob Ixer, Richard Bevins, Peter Turner, Matthew Power, Duncan Pirrie

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

    Abstract

    The six-tonne recumbent Altar Stone is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the Stonehenge bluestones, differing markedly from the others in size, tonnage, lithology and origin. It has therefore had more than its fair share of speculation on all of these aspects and many questions remain: was it always recumbent, was it a singleton or half a twin, where did it come from? Clearly it is not from the Preseli Hills hence the debate as to its geographical origins for over a century. However, any provenancing of the Altar Stone must rely on a detailed and accurate lithological and petrographical description. New descriptions of material labelled ‘Altar Stone’ held in museum collections and a re-evaluation of suggested Altar Stone debitage using automated scanning electron microscopy and linked energy dispersive analysis using QEMSCAN technology suggests that modification of the published petrographical descriptions is needed. A new ‘typical Altar Stone’ description is provided including the presence of early cementing barite and a better characterisation of the clay content. These new data should continue to narrow the search for the geographical origin of the Altar Stone, one that is expected to be at the eastern end of the Senni Formation outcrop, an outcrop that reaches as far east as Abergavenny in the Welsh Marches.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages1-13
    Number of pages13
    Volume112
    Specialist publicationWiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Keywords

    • Stonehenge
    • Altar Stone
    • Senni Formation outcrop

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