Blog Post

The Rivers of the Past were Higher – an idiot’s guide

Fifteen years have elapsed since I introduced what some might label a ‘revolutionary’ concept, a brainchild born from my earlier explorations in archaeology. My investigations, particularly the graphical representation of 50 sites encompassing Stonehenge and its surrounding barrows, revealed a striking pattern: all these locations consistently occupied the upper 30 percentile, perched halfway up a hill or higher for the uninitiated. (The Rivers of the Past were Higher – an idiot’s guide)

The Rivers of the Past were Higher – an idiot’s guide
The Raised Waters of the River Avon brought first the Bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge and then the Sarsens from nr Avebury

Remarkably, this mathematical observation had hitherto escaped recognition and exploration. Driven by this revelation, I delved into rigorous research, meticulously documenting the intricacies of this anonymity. My findings, encapsulated in the academic thesis ‘The Post-Glacial Flooding Hypothesis,’ comprised over 50,000 words and an exhaustive list of 125 peer-reviewed references. The extensive nature of this work aimed to assure the academic community of its substantive and well-researched foundation, even if the content proved somewhat challenging for the average archaeologist, relying as it did on mathematical and hydrological principles.

At its core, the thesis presented a straightforward proposition: the book contended that the conspicuous elevation of these archaeological sites was, in essence, a consequence of a singular phenomenon—the historical enlargement of rivers during the post-glacial period.

Peat Flooding
The reason we have more Peat than most countries is that we had more bogland in the past due to the raised river levels

The book substantiated this argument through a series of case studies, scrutinising prominent rivers, including the Thames, the largest river in Britain, and the Avon, intimately connected to the Stonehenge region in Wiltshire. By presenting these cases, the intention was to underscore a fundamental truth: rivers were more expansive in the past, and their ongoing diminution is a legacy of the last ice age.


A decade and a half have elapsed since I embarked on this intellectual journey, disseminating my ideas through the country’s largest archaeological blog site, with an extensive collection of over 250 essays on the subject and its related themes. Complementing this textual endeavour is a video channel featuring over 100 visual examples, alongside the production of 2 to 3-hour documentaries. Furthermore, a thriving Facebook discussion group boasting over 3.5k members serves as a forum for dialogue and exploration.

mesolithic stonehenge hd lidar i
I have shown on these videos past landscapes using LiDAR

Yet, despite this substantial body of work and the wealth of resources available, I find myself perennially confronted with the same inquiries. It appears that even a six-year-old, armed with a penchant for delving into literature rather than fixating solely on captivating visuals, could grasp the answers to these persistent questions. This post, driven by a sense of exasperation, serves as a direct address to those individuals who, perhaps in their formative years, were more inclined to ‘pick their noses’ than to absorb the basic principles underlying the landscape upon which they tread.

Consider this an impassioned diatribe directed squarely at those who persist in arriving at nonsensical conclusions despite having an abundance of information at their disposal. It’s more than a mere plea; it’s a passionate appeal for a more thoughtful and engaged interaction with the material. I extend an invitation to transcend the surface allure of visually appealing content and, instead, delve into the substantial and foundational content that underpins the science of hydrology.

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Fifteen years on and still people refuse to read the literature and ask foolish questions as a consequence

It is disheartening to observe the prevalence of numerous archaeology-focused Facebook sites that seemingly disregard content depth, opting instead for a concentration on ‘pretty pictures.’ This trend raises questions about the mentality of hobbyists within these communities, as there appears to be a disproportionate focus on simplistic and superficial aspects of the science. Such a trajectory has contributed to a noticeable decline in the quality of discourse over the last decade. This call is a plea for a shift towards more rigorous engagement and a return to the foundational principles that underlie the pursuit of knowledge in hydrology and archaeology.

For those who possess at least half a functioning brain or have already grasped the essence of the hypothesis, now might be the time to divert your attention elsewhere. Close the blog, shut down the screen, and perhaps make yourself a cup of tea. This moment is reserved for an earnest attempt to re-educate those individuals who, regrettably, fall into the category of societal morons, lacking the inclination or effort to comprehend the intricate principles of hydrology.

Eight frequently asked questions of Idiots

  • If the sea level were at this height, we wouldn’t have all drowned in the past?
page 14 stonehenge flood
People don’t understand the difference between sea level and river levels

At the heart of the book lies the exploration of hydrology, unravelling the intricate science behind the creation and flow of rivers within the landscape. The book contends that rivers derive their flow from aquifers embedded in the bedrock and not rainwater as shown in school textbooks. The interplay between the bedrock and the topography of the terrain dictates the path of these aquifers, manifesting as flowing water through natural springs. It’s crucial to emphasise that the elevation of a river is entirely independent of sea level.

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, a prominent television archaeologist, despite the simplicity of this hydrological principle, seemed to have missed the mark in the past. Instead of delving into the literature, this individual relied on the book cover, dubbing our most significant site ‘Stonehenge on Sea.’ This nickname, however, is a misnomer, as it fails to grasp the essence of the hydrological theories presented within the book. It serves as a poignant reminder that even figures of renown can occasionally overlook the foundational principles, emphasising the importance of a thorough engagement with the scientific content rather than relying on superficial impressions.

  • I thought sea levels in the past were lower so how can rivers be higher?
Sea Level changes
It took 15 thousand years for the ice water to melt – where did you think it was before it entered the sea?

Indeed, during the last ice age, sea levels experienced a substantial decrease of approximately 65 meters. This phenomenon can be attributed to the alteration of precipitation patterns, where typical rainfall transformed into snow due to the prevailing colder climate. The consequence was a lack of snowmelt contributing to river systems, resulting in the accumulation of snow on the land and the formation of massive glaciers, some towering over two miles in height.

The intriguing question that remained unanswered for some time was the fate of the vast volume of water released as these glaciers melted during subsequent periods of warmer climate. Previous geological perspectives, occasionally cited by archaeologists, suggested a gradual overflow into the sea over just several hundred years, without overly interfering with the landscape. However, contemporary models of sea-level rise challenge this notion, revealing a more intricate reality.

Recent studies indicate that sea levels continued to rise for approximately seven thousand years after the major glacial melt. This extended timeframe offers a nuanced understanding of the complex processes involved. The gradual increase in sea levels over millennia is a key factor in explaining the transformation of Doggerland—a landmass that once connected Britain to mainland Europe—into the North Sea. The new models of sea-level rise shed light on the prolonged and dynamic nature of post-glacial environmental changes.

  • If this river was that high, why aren’t all rivers close by that same height?
When it overly rains only the old rivers of the past overflow – guess what happened when the ice melted 10k years ago

The conventional notion that water simply runs downhill, seeking a common level such as lakes or the sea, oversimplifies the intricate dynamics of river systems. The science of hydrology imparts a more nuanced understanding of rivers and their flow patterns, a complexity often overlooked in elementary school models designed for simplicity.

Rivers, in reality, are intricate networks formed by multiple points of water connectivity, extending beyond the simplistic concept of rainwater as the sole source, as commonly portrayed in elementary education. Advanced studies in hydrology reveal that rivers intricately mirror the contours of the landscape, responding to various water sources that sustain their flow even when rainfall is scarce. Aquifers, for instance, can release water into the landscape at diverse elevations, challenging the simplistic notion that river water seeks a common level. In essence, the idea of rivers conforming to a uniform level is fundamentally flawed when scrutinised through the lens of hydrological science.

  • Is this fact or just what you think?
PGFH 3D Book long web
The Hypothesis of 50K words with 125 peer-reviewed references – three times larger that a PhD thesis

The genesis of my hypothesis stems from three decades of immersion in higher education, personal research, and on-the-ground exploration of the landscape. This conceptual framework, born out of my intellectual journey, has been formalised in an academic thesis fortified by an extensive backbone of over 125 peer-reviewed references.

In scientific discourse, ideas find their roots in the minds of individuals, and my hypothesis is no exception. I am open to addressing inquiries and engaging in discussions on the subject, recognising that scientific progress thrives on the critical examination of concepts. The scientific principle that guides this process necessitates more than subjective opinions—it demands qualified counterarguments, substantiated by references for accuracy. This commitment to rigorous evaluation mirrors the collaborative and iterative spirit intrinsic to scientific exploration.

  • I’ve walked this route often and found no water?
offa before
Today we have the lowest water table in history – hence the dry landsacpe on hills

The misconception that the landscape has remained relatively static over the past 10,000 years is a product of historical and archaeological oversimplification. A prime example is the Sahara Desert, which, 10,000 years ago, was a lush rainforest teeming with elephants, lions, tigers, and giraffes. The transformation from this verdant landscape to the arid desert we see today is evidenced by archaeological findings, such as animal bones preserved in the sand. This serves as a stark reminder that landscapes are dynamic, undergoing substantial changes that may challenge our contemporary perceptions.

Indeed, the transformation of landscapes over millennia is vividly illustrated by the shift in the east coast of Britain over the last 10,000 years. Empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that, during this time frame, the east coast featured lush vegetation extending seamlessly to Europe, creating a continuous landmass. The stark contrast with the contemporary landscape, characterized by a substantial water body, serves as a compelling indicator of the dynamic and ever-changing nature of our surroundings.

offa after edited 1
But in prehistory the water table was much higher so flooded often

This reversal, where once-continuous land is now submerged beneath water, aligns with the overarching idea that landscapes are not static entities. Instead, they undergo continual processes of change, shaped by environmental factors and geological forces. The empirical evidence observed along the east coast of Britain stands as a tangible testament to the feasibility of hypotheses that consider the fluidity and evolution of landscapes over extended periods, underscoring the dynamic nature of Earth’s geological history.

In the context of rivers, the water dynamics of the North Sea, Irish Sea, and English Channel have played a pivotal role. Over thousands of years, rivers that once flowed into these seas gradually diminished, contributing to the formation of the North Sea. This prolonged process has resulted in a reduction in the water table in elevated areas, leading to the drying up of springs that once characterised these regions.

Contrary to the simplistic notion of water inevitably running downhill, the intricate dynamics of aquifers challenge this idea. When aquifers were at full capacity, numerous springs could release substantial volumes of water, maintaining a constant level even as it flowed to lower elevations. The Thames River serves as an illustration, continuing to flow without emptying as it descends to lower levels and eventually reaches the North Sea. This underscores the need to recognize the multifaceted nature of hydrological processes in understanding the evolution of landscapes over time.

  • Why would people push boats to the top of a hill?
Kayak 2
Prehistoric ‘cross-dykes’ were used to drag boats from once water source to another

The prevailing misconception that the landscape has endured as a static entity over the past 10,000 years is indeed a result of historical and archaeological oversimplification. A crucial aspect of challenging this notion is the recognition that the topography we perceive today does not faithfully represent the features of the past.

According to our hypothesis, rivers played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape, and evidence suggests that the Thames, for example, was once significantly larger than its present dimensions. Our findings indicate that at one point, the Thames may have been 3,000 times more extensive, a staggering revelation that transforms our understanding of the region’s historical hydrology. Imagining this ancient Thames as ten times wider than its current form allows us to envision a vastly different landscape, with implications for the existence and appearance of hills in the past.

Contrary to the current perception of hills, our hypothesis suggests that these elevated features would not have existed in their present form. Instead, they might have appeared more like islands within these expansive, elongated rivers. Earthworks along the shorelines of these ancient rivers could have defined the contours of these elevated features, shaping a landscape vastly different from the hills we observe today. This challenges the static representation of hills and underscores the dynamic interplay between rivers and topography over millennia.

  • There is no geological evidence for larger rivers of the past?
Page 141 BGS map Avebury
These BGS Maps grossly under estimated deposits as they are based on bore holes that are few and far between

The substantial evidence indicating that rivers were larger in the past is compelling, with British Geological Maps providing valuable insights into the historical growth of rivers. The delineation of superficial deposits on these maps serves as a tangible record, outlining the expansive extent of rivers in times gone by.

Moreover, the presence of ‘river terraces’ further bolsters this evidence. These features, far from being created hastily in geological terms, develop over extended periods, often spanning hundreds if not thousands of years.

Avon vallet terraces
Empirical evidence shows that once the rivers were much higher in the past – the only question is when?

 A notable case study highlighting this phenomenon is the River Avon, where ten river terraces bear witness to the river’s historical dimensions. The indication that, at one point, the River Avon was tens of kilometres wide and over 100 meters above the current sea level is a testament to the dynamic and transformative nature of rivers throughout geological history. Such geological features provide a tangible snapshot of the expansive past dimensions of rivers and contribute to our understanding of the ever-evolving landscape.

  • I have a PhD in archaeology, and nobody told me of this at university.
13 things that dont make sense a
Qualifications are lovely – but they are guarantee of ‘inflability’ archaeology is fall of bad science

In my view, archaeological degrees, while interesting, have historically lacked sufficient scientific elements to provide conclusive insights into the subject. In the twenty-first century, being a ‘Good’ archaeologist demands a multifaceted skill set that spans various disciplines to accurately comprehend the past.

In my perspective, the absence of a robust knowledge of hydrology in archaeological training is notable. Relying solely on a team for expertise in hydrology can lead to gaps in understanding and hinder the ability to discern misleading or outdated information. In this era, I believe that archaeologists should go beyond traditional boundaries and possess a comprehensive understanding of various disciplines.

A critical aspect of this multidisciplinary approach is a thorough grasp of dating methods and their applications and limitations in different environments. Working knowledge of both Carbon and OSL dating is indispensable in navigating the nuanced chronologies of archaeological sites. Additionally, familiarity with contemporary mapping techniques, such as LiDAR, is crucial. As LiDAR emerges as a cornerstone modern tool, archaeologists must understand how to manipulate raw data, including exaggerating scales for maximum visualization. LiDAR, being an invaluable tool, offers detailed insights into the past appearance of a site, making it an indispensable asset for archaeological investigations in the present era.

Presently, it appears that these critical aspects are not adequately integrated into existing or past PhD programs in archaeology, rendering the qualification somewhat redundant in addressing the complexities of contemporary archaeological research. There seems to be a pressing need for a more holistic approach, one that recognizes the interdisciplinary nature of archaeological work in the twenty-first century and equips archaeologists with the diverse skills necessary to navigate the intricacies of the field.

Further Reading

For information about British Prehistory, visit for the most extensive archaeology blogs and investigations collection, including modern LiDAR reports.  This site also includes extracts and articles from the Robert John Langdon Trilogy about Britain in the Prehistoric period, including titles such as The Stonehenge EnigmaDawn of the Lost Civilisation and the ultimate proof of Post Glacial Flooding and the landscape we see today.

Robert John Langdon has also created a YouTube web channel with over 100 investigations and video documentaries to support his classic trilogy (Prehistoric Britain). He has also released a collection of strange coincidences that he calls ‘13 Things that Don’t Make Sense in History’ and his recent discovery of a lost Stone Avenue at Avebury in Wiltshire called ‘Silbury Avenue – the Lost Stone Avenue’.

Langdon has also produced a series of ‘shorts’, which are extracts from his main body of books:

The Ancient Mariners

Stonehenge Built 8300 BCE

Old Sarum

Prehistoric Rivers

Dykes ditches and Earthworks

Echoes of Atlantis

Homo Superior

For active discussions on the findings of the TRILOGY and recent LiDAR investigations that are published on our WEBSITE, you can join our and leave a message or join the debate on our Facebook Group.