The Foreign Stones
While the Sarsens usually awake the greatest interest by reason of
their bulk, and the problem of how a primitive people was able to deal
with them, a far greater problem is presented by the small uprights,
or Foreign Stones, the like of which cannot be matched within a
hundred miles of Salisbury Plain, while some can only be found upon
the continent of Europe. Fragments carefully removed and submitted to
have made this fact abundantly clear, and consequently
it is possible to arrive at the very definite conclusion that
Stonehenge is certainly not a Wiltshire monument, and probably that
it is not even British at all.
Where have the stones come from? One school of writers ventures to
suggest Kildare in Ireland. Others suggest Wales, Cornwall, Dartmoor,
Shropshire, or Cumberland, where similar rocks are to be found, though
perhaps not absolutely identical in character. Yet another theory
advanced is that the Foreign Stones were transported to the plain as
boulders of the glacial drift. It has even been stated that the
gravels of the district contain small pebbles composed of rock similar
to these mysterious Foreign Stones. The statement has indeed been
made, but as yet no Wiltshire geologist has produced one of these
pebbles of which so much is written, and so little seen.
These Glacial Drift theorists, further account for the absence of
these foreign stones elsewhere than at Stonehenge, by yet another
theory, that they, like most of the Sarsens, have all been used up for
millstones, gateposts, and road metal.
There are many millstones and gateposts in Wiltshire, but where is
there one which corresponds in any way to the upright Foreign Stones
at Stonehenge? The production of pebbles from the gravels of Wilts, or
of a specimen gatepost or millstone would at once settle this
question. Unhappily this tangible evidence is wanting, so, alluring as
the Glacial Drift theory may appear, it must reluctantly be set aside
for want of convincing evidence. Finally, there seems every reason to
believe that the small upright stones are naturalised aliens from
abroad, and that is why they have been described at the commencement
of this section as Foreign Stones. It must not be taken for granted
that the small upright stones at present standing represent all the
foreign rocks employed. Probably they are merely the hardest and most
durable of those used in the original structure, the softer and more
friable examples having disappeared entirely, owing to the action of
the weather, and possibly also to the assaults of the unchecked
relic-monger, who until recent years could with his hammer collect
souvenirs with impunity. In this connection, there is a story afoot
that a hammer was kept upon the mantelpiece of a well-known hotel in
Salisbury, which was reserved for the use of those intending to see
Stonehenge, who might be wishful to bring back some convincing
evidence of their visit.
In all probability these foreign stones originally numbered
forty-five. To-day there are but thirty.
A complete lithology of the stones made by the late Professor J.W.
Judd, in 1901, reveals the following rocks as comprising those used in
the construction of Stonehenge.
1. Sarsens.--Coarse and fine-grained Sandstone similar to the
Woolwich, Reading, or Bagshot beds. This stone is used for
the Trilithons, Hele Stone, a recumbent stone known as the
Slaughtering Stone, and two small stones set north-west
and south-east of the circle. It is of local origin.
2. Ophitic Diabase.--(Some porphyritic.)
3. Highly altered basic Tuffs, and agglomerates (calcareous
chloritic schists).--Only one stump now remains.
4. Altered Rhyolites and Dacites.--Only fragments of this rock
have been revealed during Mr. Gowland's excavations in 1901.
At one time doubtless there was a whole upright of this
material, but its striking appearance and fracture has
probably led to its demolition by generations of souvenir
hunters. Other fragments have been found in the barrows once
within sight of Stonehenge, but now destroyed by cultivation.
5. Sandstones, Grits, and Quartzites.--The Altar-Stone belongs
to this class. It is interesting to note that Professor
Maskelyne has pointed out the similarity between the Altar
Stone at Stonehenge, and the Stone of Destiny in the
Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey.
6. Grey Wackés.--Fragments only of these stones have been
discovered among the chippings incidental to the dressing of
the stones before erection.
Their absence at the present day is not a matter for surprise, as
stones of this class weather badly, and when exposed to the
action of frost and cold rapidly disintegrate.
7. Argillaceous Flagstones and Slates.--As in the case of the
Grey Wackés, fragments only of these stones exist to tell the
story of the uprights which have vanished under atmospheric
8. Glanconitic Sandstone (possibly Upper Greensand?).--Traces of
this rock have been discovered at Stonehenge by Mr.
Cunnington. Professor Judd suggests the possibility of a
boulder of this material having been found and used by the
builders of Stonehenge.
9. Flints.--These of course are naturally found in abundance
throughout the district. Most of those found within
Stonehenge are broken fragments struck off in the process of
repointing flint chisels during the erection of the circle.
The above catalogue of stones may not convey very much to the ordinary
visitor, and has only been inserted for the sake of completeness; or
for the information of geologists who may be concerned with this
aspect of the history of the monument. The conclusions to be drawn
from such a list, however, are not without interest to the general
reader. From the varied fragments found, it is apparent that some six,
or perhaps seven, different classes of stone were used for the small
uprights, but that only the harder and more durable rocks (the
diabase, rhyolite, etc.) have survived. The softer rocks (basic tuffs,
grey wackés, flagstones, and slates), being more easily broken, have
fallen victims to the souvenir hunter, and to the action of the
weather, rain, and frost. Originally, as has already been stated, the
foreign stones numbered forty-five, disposed as follows: thirty in the
outer circle, and fifteen in the inner horseshoe. To-day only nineteen
exist in the outer circle, and eleven in the inner horseshoe.
A very striking proof that many of these foreign stones have
disappeared, is to be found in the wide gaps which exist to-day in
certain parts of the circle. That such gaps were originally filled by
standing stones is beyond question, indeed, the base of a schistose
stone (see Class 3 in the Lithology above) was actually discovered by
Mr. Cunnington in the course of his investigations into the nature of
the rocks composing Stonehenge. It is highly probable that careful and
scientific excavation may add greatly to our knowledge in this
There is yet one other point of interest in connection with these
foreign stones. On entering the circle from the north-east (the usual
path taken by visitors) a recumbent foreign stone will be noticed on
the left-hand side, which has two cavities worked in it. This is the
only worked foreign stone in the whole monument, and at first sight
these cavities may possibly suggest themselves as mortise holes
similar to those on the Sarsen trilithons, to be described later. It
has even been suggested that the small uprights once carried imposts,
or lintel stones similar to the trilithons, on the evidence of this
one stone. Such a theory, however attractive, should be accepted with
due caution, for the cavities on the stone are far from the ends, and
situated too close together to justify a comparison with the existing
Sarsen trilithons of the outer circle. This stone has never yet been
explained and its position defined, consequently it is omitted from