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The Bowmen and the Bluestones
The Preseli Hills, source of the Stonehenge bluestones, lie within one of the highly radiogenic areas in which the Boscombe Bowmen were born.
This may be a coincidence, but it seems highly probable that the men and their families were involved in the movement or migrations associated with or established by the movement of the bluestones.
Why were the bluestones brought from Wales?
Centuries of speculation have not yielded a definitive conclusion. But some things now look more likely.
One possibility is that a stone circle was brought from Wales. One of the very few places that an oval stone setting similar to the Stonehenge Bluestone Oval can be found is high in the Preseli Hills at Bedd Arthur. A similar oval setting is known at The Churchyard on Skomer Island, just off the south-west coast Pembrokeshire.
Even if the similarity between Bedd Arthur and Stonehenge is not a coincidence, there are many, many, more bluestones at Stonehenge than in the stones of these other oval settings. The transport of a single monument to Stonehenge does not seem to provide the complete solution for the Stonehenge bluestones.
Earlier writers have looked to the connection between metalworkers prospecting for ores. David Clarke wrote of Beaker period warriors ‘who may have had the Prescelly stones brought along the copper/gold route to Wiltshire and to Stonehenge’. Clarke was thinking of people who used a later style of beaker pottery (his Wessex/Middle Rhine type). These people were thought to be invaders.
In south-west Ireland there is evidence for copper mining on Ross Island in County Kerry that started between 2,400-2,200 BC. Beaker pottery has been found in the mines. Both metallurgy and Beaker pottery were introduced to Ireland at this time. It seems likely that the same group of people introduced both.
In Britain the earliest metalworker, the Amesbury Archer, an incomer from central Europe, lived between 2,400-2,200 BC. All these dates, from Stonehenge, from Ross Island, and the Amesbury Archer, lie in the earlier part of second half of the 3rd millennium BC. At Stonehenge, Beaker pottery is associated with all the major stone settings.
In trying to explain why the bluestones were moved, Richard Atkinson suggested that for travellers between Wales and Ireland, Carn Menyn was a landmark from land and sea; and a sacred place.
‘I believe, therefore, that the awe-inspiring character of Prescelly Mountain is alone sufficient to account for the special significance of the rocks which crop out along its crest.’
The legend related by Geoffrey of Monmouth in about 1136 in his Historia Regium Britanniae that Merlin the Wizard brought the stones to Stonehenge by transporting a stone circle from Ireland retains elements of the original story.
The legend tells of travel, of transformation. And of magic.
Today we can tell that the stones of Stonehenge were brought from the west to transform an existing temple.
The families of the Boscombe Bowmen brought the bluestones with their own hands.
Men like the Amesbury Archer travelled from afar to Stonehenge. They brought the new and magical skill of metalworking in their hands and their head.
Then, metalworkers could change rock to metal, a change of substance and colour, by the magic of fire.
Now, it seems more and more likely that the builders of Stonehenge transformed a timber monument to one in stone by bringing the stones back from the route of their voyages to an island of metals.
An island that lay where the sun set in a blaze of copper gold.