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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Newall's Mound

 On the Avenue, with Stonehenge on the skyline.  Note that there are a lot of surface undulations..... how were they made?

I was rather intrigued when I came across a reference in MPP's new book (p 242)  to a strange feature called Newall's Mound.  Apparently it is just to the east of the Avenue, and maybe somewhere near the Elbow?  Anyway, according to MPP, Atkinson and Evans cut a trench into it in 1978 -- and it is referred to as a "small raised feature."  It's made of heavy clay mixed with natural flints -- so today it would probably be labelled as "clay-with-flints. "  It's about 1.5 m thick, and MPP refers to it as a periglacial feature (?? really??) associated with a solution hollow about 5 m across.  In MPP's words:  "....created in Ice Age conditions not far south of the glacier's limit."

Leaving aside for the moment MPP's apparent conversion to the idea that there was glacier ice not far away from Stonehenge, I am rather intrigued by this deposit.  Apparently John Evans discovered a buried early post-glacial soil and thought that the clay deposit had been thoroughly "bioturbated" by tree roots.  Apparently Mike Allen and Charly French considered that the tree roots and the bioturbation had been responsible for preserving the mound as a raised feature while the rest of the surrounding area of clay-with-flints had been eroded away or smoothed down by the processes of erosion.  I do not find this at all convincing -- I'd like to know why it is considered that bioturbation rather than cryoturbation was responsible for the "churning up" of the deposit.  Evidence please?

I am also intrigued by the thought that a mound of clay-rich material should have been deposited over a solution hollow.  Over solution hollows you normally get pits or depressions, since that is where solutional processes are concentrated, and where subsidence occurs.  Instead, we have a raised feature in the landscape -- not very prominent, admittedly, but clearly prominent enough to have been given a name.........

I'm in the dark here, since I do not even know the exact location of this feature.  Can anybody enlighten me?  Did John Evans ever publish his research?  Mike and Charly, if you are out there, can you please convince me that this is not a small morainic feature and that glacial processes might not have been involved at some stage in its formation?

22 comments:

TonyH said...

There are other aspects of Parker Pearson's report of the so-called Newall's Mound in his recent book that I find of great interest. We may call this The Welsh Connection (though no, this time it isn't with the Preseli Hills this time!).

It emerges from Parker Pearson's statements that his colleagues on the Stonehenge Riverside Project's work at The Avenue, Messrs French & Allen, were both students of Welshman John Evans, presumably at Cardiff University, where, we are told elsewhere, Evans was Professor of Environmental Archaeology (Richard Atkinson was also at Cardiff of course.) MPP says "Here was a textbook example of a geological feature of the sort John loved" and "Mike Allen and Charly French were delighted to see the re-excavated solution hole. Both had been John's students and knew it well from his lecture slides."

TonyH said...

"Did John Evans ever publish his research?" Perhaps he did. Newall's mound featured in his lecture slides (page 243). And on page 239, Parker Pearson talks about how two of Atkinson's trenches, dug in 1978, had been properly recorded, and even published, by Evans. Newall's Mound was cut into in 1978 by Atkinson and Evans. We are then referred to "Evans 1984" in the bibliography. This is, as you will see, Brian, a reference to a WANHS Magazine article, "Stonehenge - the environment in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age and a Beaker-Age burial". WANHS Magazine, 78, 1984, 7-30.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I used to see John Evans occasionally at conferences -- and he had a nice little cottage at Aber Bach. He knew his stuff, but he was not a geomorphologist....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

If the Newall's Mount is at the end of the Avenue Elbow, as you believe, this 'clay-with-flints' earth mount sitting on top of a 'solution hollow' supports my working hypothesis the Avenue was an egress meltwater stream for the retaining basin I speculate existed at Stonehenge and draining at River Avon.

Kostas

Anonymous said...

"Note that there are a lot of surface undulations..... how were they made?"

Moles, they do kick up a lot of interesting stone pieces!

PeteG

Myris of Alexandria said...

Moles No they don't!!
Bits of tat for the G......s
M

TonyH said...

A check via the Search Engine has revealed for me:-

ANTIQUARIES JOURNAL, September 2012 Article by (amongst others) Mike Allen and Charly French [also MPP, etc, etc]:-

Durrington Walls to West Amesbury by way of Stonehenge: a major transformation of the Holocene landscape.

Perhaps Myris of Alexandria may be able to conjure up the text or the guts of this article? I believe he may have connections with the required SALON.

Allen is listed as Visiting Fellow at Bournemoth University; he also runs his own Environmental Archaeology consultants company.

Geocur said...

Fwiw. The recent Antiquaries Journal paper is mostly concerned with sediment , palaeosols , pollen and mulluscan .No mention of Newall's Mound .for the avenue the profile = prs 50-52 .paleosol type turf and rendzina ,and truncated rendzina , mollucan data = open grassland and interpreation =thin calcareous grassland soils ,truncated by the removal of turf ,pre 2000 cal bc .

TonyH said...

Thanks, Geo. Mike PP, incidentally, refers to Professor John Evans as 'snail Evans', to distinguish him from lots of other archaeological Evanses, as he "became the leading specialist in land molluscs" (page 239).

TonyH said...

The word "geomorphology" occurs only once, as far as I've managed to discover, in the WHOLE of MPP's book. He uses it to describe the re-use of what he terms a natural feature at Durrington Walls henge as a "freak of geomorphology".

There, the Neolithic avenue or 'road', consisting of rammed flint constructed on top of "an entirely natural surface of exposed flint fragments that had formed in the bottom of of the dry valley or coombe that ran from the Southern [wooden] Circle to the River Avon.

Parker Pearson then goes on to ask whether a similar natural coincidence [viz. the periglacial stripes leading away from the Heel Stone} could have also dictated the placing of Stonehenge.

But just one use of the noun geomorphology does tend to beg the question, wouldn't a professional Geomorphologist have been a useful to your multi-disciplinary SRP team, Mr Pearson? And it's not too late to remedy that.

Maybe we should all write to the National Geographic, one of his primary sponsors, and point out his [and therefore by association their] glaring ommission of one of the main skills of the all-round Geographer, that obtained from geomorphological training.

TonyH said...

Going back to the Sept. 2012 Antiquaries Journal article, go to:-

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/display Abstract?fromPage=online&aid=8698761

There is an abstract there which fails to mention Newall's Mound. I must have walked pretty close to it, but was insufficiently observant to take in its possible glacial significance.

Charles French's Cambridge & Email addresses are displayed;also Mike Allen's and other contributors. There is a person called Scaife from Southampton University's Geography Dept who might be worth contacting with regard to the missing geomorphological research.

Geocur said...

John "snail " Evans was by all accounts quite a character ,one story I heard recently still has me smiling thinking about it ,not repeatable on a family web site , more rock n' roll than malacology .
Mpp has a wee hint in the recent book but that was relatively tame .

Anonymous said...

Brian,

A question and a favor, if you please.

As a geomorphologist and geologist, what sense do you make of the “clay-mixed-with-flint” phenomenon? How does this come about and what does it tell us about the landscape?

For those of us not as familiar with your backyard areas and the backwoods regions of the UK, could you please include a “map with a dot” indicating the locations of the places you post on?

Thanks,

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- I have asked you many times before to read before you post, and to show some willingness to do your own research. I already have masses of info on my blog about clay-with-flints. Just use the search facility on the site -- it works well! As far as locations are concerned, I cannot add a map with every post -- and if you are uncertain about a location, just ask Google..... I do have lots of maps on the site already, associated with various posts.

Timothy Daw said...

EH published a Research Paper on The Avenue which discusses the Mound in some detail - http://services.english-heritage.org.uk/ResearchReportsPdfs/031_2012WEB.pdf

EH don't seem to tell anyone about their research papers which no one knows about them. I have tried to create a full list of the online Stonehenge ones at http://www.sarsen.org/2012/11/english-heritage-2012-research-reports.html

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thank you Tim -- that's a very useful reference. The text isn't terribly enlightening -- but we can see Newall's Mound at point (g) on Fig 12, very close to the "elbow' in the Avenue. From the report it is obvious that there are many micro-features across this area -- some man-made and others natural.

Geocur said...

Pages 35-36 of the report do provide an alternative view to that in the MPP book i.e "part of a field boundary lynchet..."

TonyH said...

Just a point of information: David Field (who helped write the Avenue Reserch Paper Tim has just mentioned) retired from English Heritage's Swindon office in 2012. He is an active member of WANHS's Archaeological Field Group based at Devizes.

TonyH said...

Pages 3 and 4 (Geology) of the E.H. report also talk about the structure and possible formation of the Mound.

Anonymous said...

Brian,(responding to your comment on 12 November 2012 08:24)

I do and have done some googling before posting. But I failed to use the Search in your blog! My bad! You are right! You have lots on 'clay-with-flints'! Clearly you are as intriqued by this as I am!

In one of your posts (“Clay-with-flints and Chalky till” on Dec. 7, 2009) you quote from the same wiki article I read!

“... Clay-with-Flints is developed over an area which is just beyond the limits of the ice sheets of the Glacial epoch, ... heavy rain, snow and frost, may have had much to do with the mingling...”

Clearly, the mingling of clay and flint involved water. The question is how? Meltwater streams, perhaps?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, there are lots of little hummocks in this photo -- many of them might relate to the presence of molehills. But the larger features, like the bank running across the avenue, are probably caused by natural processes as yet undetermined...

TonyH said...

There is a brief summary of Mike Allen's findings in the Stonehenge Landscape as a whole [as part of the MPP-ed SRP], at Dennis Price's blogsite:-

http://www.eternalidol.com/?p=7267

under the heading "Stonehenge & Avebury seminar at Devizes" [submitted by the late Alex Down]