Millennia-Old Quarry Site for Stonehenge Stones Damaged and Looted
BBC reports that archaeologists and conservationists have been extremely concerned lately and keep reminding visitors to the Preseli Hills located in Wales to leave ancient sites and monuments as they find them. Why? Reportedly, many ancient rocks at protected sites in Pembrokeshire are being constantly moved, damaged or stolen by visitors.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority Seeks Help
Archaeologists and conservationists have been alarmed recently, after it was discovered that rocks from Foel Drygarn and Carn Menyn (formerly called Carn Meini) are being removed or taken away by visitors who may be unaware of their protected status and significance. The Preseli Hills has been occupied for thousands of years, with prehistoric monuments sitting in a landscape of natural cliffs and crags. The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Last month, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority asked for the help of Pembrokeshire College Army Preparation Training students to repair one of the cairns of Foel Drygarn and record the damage of hammered and chipped stones at Carn Meini.
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Foel Drygarn Hillfort, a late Bronze Age/early Iron Age hillfort in the Preseli Hills with three bluestone cairns at the summit. (CC BY NC-ND 2.0)
Delun Gibby, a community’s archaeologist stated as BBC reports, “The group began at Foel Drygarn by repairing holes in the cairn that had been created by walkers wanting shelter. This Bronze Age site is a scheduled ancient monument, so creating shelters is actually damaging the monument. We have now in-filled the holes to stop them getting deeper. At Carn Meini we found a number of stones that had been hammered and a stash of broken up bits of bluestone. It may well be that people have no idea that it's against the law to move or damage these stones."
An example of spotted dolerite stones that are being taken illegally from the sites (CC BY 2.0)
Carn Meini’s Claim to Fame
Carn Meini’s claim to fame is that its dolerite rock is the famed bluestone that was used to build the inner ring of Stonehenge. However, that is a topic of debate among archaeologists. In 1923 the petrologist Herbert Henry Thomas proposed that bluestone from the Preseli Hills corresponded to that used to build the inner circle of Stonehenge, while geologists would later suggest that Carn Meini was one of the bluestone sources. Recent geological work, however, has shown that this theory is probably wrong.
Frost-shattered rocks on Carn Menyn (Meini), Pembrokeshire, Wales (CC BY SA 2.0)
The widely accepted theory nowadays suggests that the bluestones at Stonehenge and fragments of bluestone found in the Stonehenge "debitage" have come from multiple sources on the northern flanks of the hills. Further details of a recent contribution to the puzzle of the exact origin of the Stonehenge bluestones were published by the BBC in November 2013. Furthermore, there are a few more theories which propose that bluestone from the area was deposited close to Stonehenge by glaciation. The debate about how the stones were transported – by man power or by glacier – continues to this day and as it seems it will continue for many more years to come.
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Bluestones at Carn Meini (CC BY SA 2.0)
The “Looting” at the Site Needs to Stop
In 2016, experts and enthusiasts on both sides of the argument joined the Park Authority in order to persuade visitors to leave the landscape as they found it, after pieces of bluestone were taken from Carn Meini. Richard Vaughan, a National Park Ranger that organized the recent repair work said as Western Telegraph reported, “The Army Preparation group did a fantastic job, they were very efficient and great to work with and we’d like to wish them all the best with their future,” while he reassured that visitors to the Preseli Hills will continuously be reminded from now on to leave ancient sites and monuments as they find them.
Top image: Mynydd Preseli hills and Waldo Williams memorial stone. The famous hills from where the bluestones of Stonehenge originated, pictured with the memorial monolith to poet Waldo Williams, 1904-1971 (CC BY SA 2.0)