B1 Intermediate 30 Folder Collection
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Have you ever wondered how the people who built Stonehenge, may have moved the stones?
Well so have we.
Here at Stonehenge we've been running some experimental archaeology projects for a couple
of years. Last year, we tried to move a stone about the size of one of the lintels using
rollers. This year we're going to be testing our new timber framed sledge to move the same
The project we're doing today is an experimental archaeology project and that involves using
well researched authentic tools made in the correct way. Using the techniques that we
can find in the archaeological evidence to produce the sledge. And the idea is that by
combining those known methods and techniques we can try and get to some of the unanswered
questions that surround this kind of site. First of all we have to take these whole logs
and split them down into usable timbers and we do that with wooden wedges and really it's
a case of driving a wooden wedge into the log and actually controlling where the split
runs to make the shapes we want. We then have to reduce it in length and we're doing that
with our stone axes, cross cutting them which is actually probably the hardest thing to
do because you're working directly against the grain of the wood. And then the final
process is to use an adze, and you actually swing that between your legs and it skims
off the surface of the wood. So we're using the adzes to turn a sort of pie-shaped quarter
of a log into a rectangular timber, so that we can actually start to joint it really precisely.
So we don't know how long it would have taken them to build a sledge like this but
the only way we can try to get to that answer is to time everything we're doing and then
that will give us some idea as to how long it might have taken. So the lessons we're
learning from this project are that first of all we're modern humans and our volunteers
understandably on day three are just getting used to the tools so they're producing surfaces
and they're using tools well but there is a long, long way to go before we reach the
level of sophistication of Neolithic carpenters.
I find this whole subject really fascinating because actually we tend to see the stone
remains of the late Stone Age but actually what we're missing is that incredible timber
infrastructure that must have gone with it and so we can see the sophistication of the
mortise and tenon joints at Stonehenge itself but to create the frameworks that must have
put those stones in place they would have been using similar joints and even more advance
joints in the timberwork they were doing. So in short I think we always underestimate
the sophistication of people, not just in the Neolithic but further back into the Stone
Age, simply because we're no longer capable of using the tools to the same degree that
they would have used them every day. We haven't started at the age of six or seven. We haven't
made our own tools and got used to exactly how they work. So we're always sort of approaching
it from five steps behind where they would have been.
So once the carpentry has been completed we take our 16 different pieces of timber and
we have to construct them around the monolith. So the sledge is now finished and what we've
found during the course of this project is that it's about five times slower to use
a stone tool than it is to use a metal tool. So the aim of the sledge is to test it of
course, so what we've got planned is a course, and we're going to drag the sledge down
a course that is measured and we're also going to try and drag it on grass so we want
to test all of those things and get the public involved to really see whether it would be
efficient or less efficient to use a sledge.
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Building a Neolithic Sled | Prehistoric Technology

30 Folder Collection
Summer published on April 28, 2020
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