THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click
HERE

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Those fantastical quarries -- here we go again........



The National Park's favourite archaeologist will be in St David's on Thursday evening to regurgitate the same old story about those wonderful "quarries".  His unshakeable conviction is more than a little bizarre, and it appears that he is intent upon completely ignoring the opinions of those of us who know a little about geology and geomorphology.......  it appears that MPP does not read the literature, unless he wrote it himself.



A talk by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson:

Stonehenge, the Welsh Connection

Thursday 2 June
6pm - 8pm, Discovery Room
Oriel y Parc, St David's

Excavation of two quarries in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire by a UCL-led team of archaeologists and geologists has confirmed that they are sources of Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’ and shed light on how they were quarried and transported. “We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” says Professor Parker Pearson. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument – somewhere near the quarries – which was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire. Stonehenge was a Welsh monument from its very beginning. If we can find the original monument in Wales from which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far…”

£5 per person
Booking Essential: 01437 720392

Monday, 30 May 2016

The dead of Stonehenge -- more about bluestone use


Diagram from the article, showing the Aubrey Holes and (red dots) the location of cremated remains


Christie Willis, Peter Marshall, Jacqueline McKinley, Mike Pitts, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Richards, Julian Thomas, Tony Waldron, Kate Welham and Mike Parker Pearson (2016). The dead of Stonehenge. Antiquity, 90, pp 337-356
doi:10.15184/aqy.2016.26
http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0003598X16000260

Abstract

The assemblage of Neolithic cremated human remains from Stonehenge is the largest in Britain, and demonstrates that the monument was closely associated with the dead. New radiocarbon dates and Bayesian analysis indicate that cremated remains were deposited over a period of around five centuries from c. 3000–2500 BC. Earlier cremations were placed within or beside the Aubrey Holes that had held small bluestone standing stones during the first phase of the monument; later cremations were placed in the peripheral ditch, perhaps signifying the transition from a link between specific dead individuals and particular stones, to a more diffuse collectivity of increasingly long-dead ancestors.

Conclusion
Our research shows that Stonehenge was used as a cremation cemetery for mostly adult men and women for around five centuries, during and between its first two main stages of construction. In its first stage, many burials were placed within and beside the Aubrey Holes. As these are believed to have contained bluestones, there seems to have been a direct relationship between particular deceased individuals and standing stones.
Human remains continued to be buried during and after Stonehenge’s second stage, demonstrating its continuing association with the dead. Most of these later burials appear, however, to have been placed in the ditch around the monument’s periphery, leaving the stones, now grouped in the centre of the site, distant from the human remains.
Stonehenge changed from being a stone circle for specific dead individuals linked to particular stones, to one more diffusely associated with the collectivity of increasingly long- dead ancestors buried there. This is consistent with the interpretation of Stonehenge’s stage 2 as a domain of the eternal ancestors, metaphorically embodied in stone (Parker Pearson & Ramilisonina 1998; Parker Pearson 2012).


This is an interesting article which re-examines the cremated bone debris in some of the Aubrey Holes and which brings together the radiocarbon dating of many samples. The authors show a strong clustering of cremated bone samples over a five-hundred year period starting around 5,000 yrs BP, and they suggest that the practice of cremation may have come from Ireland, where cremations started somewhat earlier.  The authors repeat the thesis that the cremated remains were placed in the stone sockets of the Aubrey Holes which had previously been occupied by bluestones.  In other words, the old stone sockets were used as a cremation cemetery.  So clearly the authors are agreeing with the hypothesis that the bluestones were present in the Stonehenge landscape, and were being used in stone settings, before 5,000 yrs BP.

However, I cannot see any evidence in this paper to suggest that the 56 Aubrey Holes actually were used in association with an early  bluestone setting -- there is just an assumption that the holes are approximately the right size to have held small monoliths.........  That's not evidence -- it's supposition.

Also, I cannot see any evidence in this paper which supports this conclusion:  Stonehenge changed from being a stone circle for specific dead individuals linked to particular stones, to one more diffusely associated with the collectivity of increasingly long-dead ancestors buried there. This is consistent with the interpretation of Stonehenge’s stage 2 as a domain of the eternal ancestors, metaphorically embodied in stone (Parker Pearson & Ramilisonina 1998; Parker Pearson 2012). 

A stone circle for specific dead individuals linked to particular stones??  There is nothing here to support that contention.  In fact, it would be easier to argue that the bluestones had no significance whatsoever, if (as the authors contend) they were taken away so that the socket holes could be used for something else.  There is mention of Hawley's observations that some of the cremated bones seem to have been placed in smaller holes adjacent to certain Aubrey Holes (such as AH 7) while they still contained stones;  this is an interesting point, and it would have been interesting if the authors of this new paper had explored it further.

And as for the point about "the collectivity of increasingly long-dead ancestors" and "the domain of the eternal ancestors, metaphorically embodied in stone" --  that is all no less fanciful than the healing stone hypothesis of Darvill and Wainwright.

The point also needs to be made that this article tells us nothing at all about either bluestone transport or the picking up of bluestones in west Wales and elsewhere.  So there is no relevance for the glacial / human transport debate.  But MPP and his colleagues are clearly, in this article, seeking to promote the idea that the bluestones were highly revered -- and of course this feeds into their ideas about why Neolithic tribesmen would have gone to all that trouble in "quarrying" bluestones from their source areas in the far west.  That's the narrative, and they are sticking to it.......


Friday, 27 May 2016

Y-frame haulage mechanics


This latest stunt, designed specifically to grab media attention,  tells us nothing about long-distance stone transport that we didn't know already.  It also gave MPP and Barney Harris a chance to flag up, once again, their unshakeable conviction that they have Neolithic Quarries at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, whatever the evidence may show.   Clearly the view is that the juggernaut will not be diverted by some pipsqueak geomorphologists and geologists who fail to see the noble works of man when they look at them -- so the best tactic is completely ignore whatever inconvenient material may have appeared in print.

Anyway, there are a couple of interesting features of the new experiment.  First, the "rollers" are not rollers at all, but 2m lengths of timber cut lengthways in half with the aid of a circular saw.  So they have a flat face which rests on the ground, and a semi-circular upper surface which stays put when a heavy sledge is pulled across it.  Fair enough.  That means the point of contact is very small, and friction is reduced.  But could somebody please explain to me how vast supplies of logs 2m long would have been neatly sliced in half in the Neolithic?  And what sort of effort might have been necessary in order to strip off bark and remove all of the stumps of smaller branches, using just stone tools?

The Y-shaped sledge is also something very peculiar.  How many trees are there in this world that have symmetrical  forks with two equally weighted or developed trunks gently spreading away from an initial single trunk? 

And then there is the interesting method of placing the stone with its long axis not in the direction of travel but perpendicular to it.   This may be OK for a stumpy stone up to 2 m long, but some of the Stonehenge bluestone pillars are longer than that, and to transport those in this fashion would have led to huge unstability, and everything would have deteriorated into chaos on rough or sloping terrain. Even more of a problem on a side slope.   You could overcome this problem to some degree by having TWO Y-frame sledges side by side, with a long pillar strapped across both of them -- but then you would also need split logs twice as long to rest on the bumpy ground beneath.

Now here's a nice idea.  Let's get all those jolly students and their logs and Y-frame away from their leafy London park and down to Pembrokeshire to re-do the whole experiment on the boggy moorland near Brynberian........ and I and some other hostile natives could turn up and throw stones at them, just for fun! (Is that allowed by the health and safety people?)








Gordon Pipes and stone rowing



This is from the Heritage Journal web site.  Hadn't covered this experiment from 2005 before.  All very nutty and jolly.  Keeps people out of mischief, I suppose. Nice flat lawn, as usual, carefully manicured and smoothed poles, good solid rectangular block of concrete, and beautifully shaped timber beams on the ground, presumably cut and planed at the local timber yard for maximum efficiency.  No expense spared.  Why don't these hearty experimental archaeology gangs ever try to replicate real world situations, with bogs and terrain littered with boulders, forests, steep slopes, fast-flowing streams, fierce wild animals and hostile natives throwing stones and spears?  Now THAT would really be fun........

-------------------

How DID they move the bluestones?

26/05/2016 in Experimental Archaeology, Stonehenge
https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/how-did-they-move-the-bluestones/

An experiment by University College London has just shown that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected. According to Prof Mike Parker-Pearson: “It was a bit of a shock to see how easy it was to pull the stone.”

It reminded us of experiments starting in 2005 organised by Gordon Pipes, a carpenter from Derbyshire and a member of Heritage Action. He formed a group of interested amateur antiquarians, including mainly our members, called ‘the Stonehengineers’ and staged a demonstration (appropriately, at the National Tramway Museum) of a method he believed may have been used. He called it “stone rowing” and his idea was that lifting the stones on levers and moving them along in a series of short steps would involve less friction and therefore require less effort than hauling them on rollers – so far fewer people could have been involved.

Subsequently, joined in by many well-known archaeologists Gordon demonstrated both stone rowing and traditional hauling methods at the Channel 5 Stonehenge Live event. The spectacular feature was that about thirty people were easily able to pull a 14 ton block (equivalent to 3 or 4 blue stones) uphill.  As we wrote at the time …..

“It became clear that hauling could be made far more efficient than had previously been demonstrated, particularly by using far smaller rollers. In the end the consensus was that both methods might have been used – hauling for level, solid ground and rowing for when the ground was problematic or steeply sloping. It was certainly felt it would be difficult to imagine stones being manoeuvred around corners or over streams or lined up to precise positions without a degree of rowing being used.”

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Whatever happened to the great stone lift?


.......... so all those nice enthusiastic people at UCL decided not to lift a stone at all, but to pull it along on the lawn instead.......

Couldn't resist this pic when I saw it!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Isles of Scilly -- where are the meltwater deposits?


These are interesting images of the Isles of Scilly.  The first is a NASA image, and the lower one shows the position of the coastline about 5,000 years ago.  The area shown green on the map was not inundated by the rising sea level until after this date -- and maybe this is where all the meltwater deposits are located.  No matter where the actual maximum extent of the Devensian ice might have been, the ice must have come in from the NW (ice flow is almost always broadly perpendicular to the broad alignment of the ice front).  Some of the other geomorphologists writing about the Scillies seem to have assumed that the ice must have flowed from the NE towards the SW, but that defies all the glaciological rules!

The actual ice edge, when seen in detail from a satellite, must have been crenellated or fingered, with lobes of ice flowing into the straits between the islands.  I have reconstructed this ice limit on an earlier post.  Because the ice was rather thin, when it wasted away almost all of the meltwater flow must have been within these lobes, and largely at the base of the ice.  So we have to assume that the meltwater deposits which must have been laid down as the ice melted away are all beneath present sea level, in the area shown green on the map.  They must also have been reworked and redeposited by wave action as the sea rose, and some of the material must have been incorporated into the modern sandy and gravelly beaches that fringe the islands.  I am not aware that any work has been done on this yet -- but some coring of the sediments within this area might yield interesting results.


Foel Drygarn


Wow -- what a fabulous image.  Courtesy Bluestone Coast and Country / Visit Pembrokeshire / Pembrokeshire CC.  It' a winter photo, with the sun casting long shadows on the northern flank of Mynydd Preseli.

Students move one-tonne stone!!



Breaking news!  Amazing.  And to prove that they really did it, it's on the BBC web site.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/video_and_audio/headlines/36364498

Strange how the world is endlessly fascinated with this sort of stuff.  Obviously nobody told them that Atkinson and his tame schoolboys did it all before, back in the 1950's.  It didn't prove anything then, and it proves nothing now either, especially since this was an extremely small stone on an extremely flat piece of lawn.

Ah well, one mustn't object to a few students having a pleasant afternoon out, in a London park, in the sunshine........ after all, I've done a bit of stone pulling myself, back in the good ol' days of the Millennium Stone Project......

Monday, 23 May 2016

More on the glaciation of the Isles of Scilly

 The Little Popplestones morainic ridge on Bryher -- one of the glacial landforms which suggest where the Devensian ice margin was located either at the time of maximum extent or slightly later.

Many thanks to Prof Danny McCarroll for sending a PDF of his new paper. It's a very interesting one, making many valid points. I'll do another post on its implications. For the moment, there's an interesting section devoted to the Isles of Scilly. This is what Danny says:

I know of only one place in the British Isles where it is possible to stand in the landscape and see clearly where the limit of glaciation lies, and that is the Isles of Scilly. The ice limit is clear because the islands are formed entirely of granite and have only been glaciated once, so that south of the ice limit erratics are completely absent. The Island of St Marys, for example, has no erratics and on the southern coast of St Martin’s, less than 3 km to the north they are also completely absent. Walking the few hundred metres northward over the moorland of St Martin’s, however, reveals a very gradual transition marked only by the appearance of a few scattered pebbles of mixed lithology. The same transition occurs on the adjacent island of Tresco. On the northern shores of both islands erratic pebbles are abundant and on St Martin’s, at Bread and Cheese Cove, there is even a small remnant of glacitectonized sediment (Hiemstra et al. 2006). The available dating evidence suggests that the ice limit on Scilly was produced during the last glacial cycle (Scourse 1991; McCarroll et al. 2010; Chiverrell et al. 2013). The important point here is that the position of the ice margin on Scilly, irrespective of age, is revealed only by a light dusting of erratics; there is no clear geomorphological evidence. If Scilly had been glaciated more than once, and erratic pebbles were widespread, I doubt that the present limits would even be visible.
Trimline Trauma: The Wider Implications of a Paradigm Shift in Recognising and Interpreting Glacial Limits
Danny McCarroll
Scottish Geographical Journal, 2016
Published 27 Feb 2016
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14702541.2016.1157203


-------------------

As I have pointed out to Danny in a private message, there are a number of important inaccuracies in that paragraph.  My points of criticism are as follows.

I know of only one place in the British Isles where it is possible to stand in the landscape and see clearly where the limit of glaciation lies, and that is the Isles of Scilly.  You can't see it all that clearly --you only pick it up through careful fieldwork and mapping of erratic distributions and sediments.  As I have said before, James Scourse and others claim to be able to see a difference between the glaciated tors and the unglaciated ones -- but that is actually not at all easy in the field.  In any case, when we do pick up a line it does not mark "the limit of glaciation"  -- it simply marks the greatest extent of Devensian ice.


The ice limit is clear because the islands are formed entirely of granite and have only been glaciated once, so that south of the ice limit erratics are completely absent.   This is wrong.  The islands have been glaciated at least twice.  Erratics are not completely absent outside the Devensian limit.  There are masses of them, when you look for them in the sediments exposed along the cliffline.....

The Island of St Marys, for example, has no erratics.......... That is not correct.  There are plenty of erratics on the island -- as described in previous posts on this blog.

.........and on the southern coast of St Martin’s, less than 3 km to the north they are also completely absent. I suspect this is an unwise statement! I didn't have a chance to explore the south coast in detail, but there are bound to be erratics there, as there are everywhere else. 

Walking the few hundred metres northward over the moorland of St Martin’s, however, reveals a very gradual transition marked only by the appearance of a few scattered pebbles of mixed lithology. The same transition occurs on the adjacent island of Tresco. On the northern shores of both islands erratic pebbles are abundant and on St Martin’s, at Bread and Cheese Cove, there is even a small remnant of glacitectonized sediment (Hiemstra et al. 2006). The available dating evidence suggests that the ice limit on Scilly was produced during the last glacial cycle (Scourse 1991; McCarroll et al. 2010; Chiverrell et al. 2013). The important point here is that the position of the ice margin on Scilly, irrespective of age, is revealed only by a light dusting of erratics; there is no clear geomorphological evidence. I'll go along with most of that.  The light dusting of erratics seen on the ground surface within the Devensian limit is quite marked on Tresco, St Martin's and Bryher.  But there are glacial landforms in the Scillies, as I have indicated here:

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/glacial-landforms-on-isles-of-scilly.html 

The old moraines at the northern tip of St Martin's are pretty convincing, as described by Hiemstra et al in 2006.  And there are at least two moraine ridges on Bryher too.  I think they mark retreat stages / readvances, not the outermost ice positions.  But there certainly is geomorphological evidence which needs to be interpreted.    

If Scilly had been glaciated more than once, and erratic pebbles were widespread, I doubt that the present limits would even be visible.  Well, it's clear that the islands HAVE been glaciated more than once, and that erratic pebbles are widespread.  Nonetheless, it is still clear that there is a Devensian limit that can be picked up, largely because of the associated glacial landforms and because all of the coherent glacial sediments observed seem to relate to this most recent glacial phase.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Murky Preseli



Nice pic of Preseli -- courtesy Phil Morgan.    Very moody.  At a guess, I reckon it's on the south side of the ridge, between Carn Meini and Foeldrygarn.  Correct, Phil?

The great bluestone lift


 The eight-tonne bluestone monster from Rhosyfelin -- did they really aim to carry it away without sledges or rollers?  Hmm -- maybe not....


This wizard wheeze is now all over the media -- presumably as part of the MPP hypothesis that big bluestones are so easy to carry that they did not need to be moved with rollers or sledges from Preseli to Stonehenge.  I'm surprised that Barney thinks it will take 40 to 50 people to lift a one-tonne stone -- I should have thought that 20 people could do it rather easily, depending on the shape of the stone and how heavy the lifting accessories (poles, timber frame etc) are.  Maybe there will be carefully orchestrated excitement over how few people are required, as against what was anticipated......

Of course, a group of people carrying a smallish stone for a few metres arounf Gordon Square is one matter.  Carrying eighty 2 tonne or 4 tonne bluestones all the way from Preseli along the proto-A40 road is quite another.

 
 -------------------------
Stonehenge experiment needs volunteers to help lift one tonne block
by StonehengeNews

Take part in Stonehenge experiment: How many people does it take to lift one block?

Anyone who has wondered what it took to lift a piece of Stonehenge into place has a chance to have a go themselves in a mass experiment.

Experts from University College London are seeking volunteers to help them lift a replica stone using prehistoric technology and brute strength.

Doctoral student Barney Harris, who is organising the event in Gordon Square near the UCL campus on Monday (23 May), said he believed it would take 40 to 50 people to lift a single stone, which at one tonne is half the weight of the smallest block at Stonehenge.

Mr Harris said: “We will be using a model of a sledge that might have been used, but other than that it will be people power. It’s on a much smaller scale than the real thing, but it will help us work out what it took to create it.”

The event, from 2pm to 4pm, is one of 80 being held during the university’s Festival of Culture next week.
Article Source: The Evening Standard

As part of the UCL Festival of Culture participants will have the chance to become part of an experimental team that will attempt to transport a large replica Stonehenge stone using Neolithic technology.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Bronze Age red deer antlers found at Borth


These splendid antlers attached to a skull found on the beach at Borth (from a mature male red deer) were thought, a few months ago, to be at least 4,000 years old.  But they have now been radiocarbon dated, and martin Bates and colleagues at Lampeter are surprised to find that the animal died only about 3,000 years ago.

That's surprisingly recent.  It doesn't necessarily mean that the inundation timescale for Cardigan Bay is wrong, since the skull and antlers were found in a channel (a river exit or maybe a tidal stream channel?) cut into older deposits including peat beds and the submerged forest.  So within the channel and on the channel flanks there may be organic remains that differ in age by several thousand years.

It will be interesting to read more about this find when it is fully written up.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Talk to the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists -- summary




Neolithic bluestone quarries:  the making of a modern myth?

Brian John
Paper presented to the Spring Day Scool of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (Wales Group) at Machynlleth, 13th May 2016

1.  A reminder of what the word "myth" actually means.  It can mean a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.  On the other hand it can mean a falsehood, fiction or half-truth, deliberately and aggressively promoted for reasons that may not be immediately apparent.  Which of these definitions might be appropriate here?

2.  Summary of the bluestones at Stonehenge -- 43 stones of many different shapes, sizes and lithologies.  In what remains of the bluestone horseshoe, spotted and unspotted dolerites, and in the remains of the bluestone circle, many other lithologies.  When the debitage, packing stones and litter are included, there are certainly close to 30 stone sources represented, including (in the orthostat assemblage) ash flow tuffs, ashes, calcareous volcanic ash, micaceous sandstones, and calcarous sandstone; and in the debitage, rhyolites and dacites.  The majority of the orthostats are not pillars, but slabs and boulders with irregular shapes and heavily weathered surfaces.

3.  With respect to the "bluestone enigma" there are three essential problems. First, at source: how were they picked up.  Second, en route:  how were they carried?  Third, at destination:  how were they emplaced?   Unfortunately, the transport issue has become the obsession.....


4.  The glacial transport hypothesis is well articulated by Judd, Geikie, Lewis, Jehu, Kellaway, Williams-Thorpe and others, and is adequately supported by ground evidence of erratics and deposits as far east as Somerset.  It is also supported by glaciologocal modelling.  Current maps of ice limits for the Anglian and Devensian are in need of revision in the light of recent discoveries (for example, relating to the Isles of Scilly, Lundy and Dartmoor).


5.  The human transport hypothesis initially proposed by Thomas, and then elaborated upon by Atkinson, Parker Pearson, Castleden, Uncle Tom Cobbley and All, is not supported by ANY ground evidence.  Abundant routes have been proposed.  The basic argument seems to be to cite spectacular achievements like Macchu Pichu, the Pyramids, the Easter Island heads, Grand Menhir de Brise, Newgrange etc, and to follow it by saying “If they did all that, they probably did this too, since glacial transport was impossible.........”  Even geomorphologists like Chris Green, James Scourse, Chris Clark, and David Bowen have signed up to this strangely unsatisfactory style of thinking.

6.  On the basis that nothing is agreed on the bluestone transport issue, it should be placed to one side and declared irrelevant for the purposes of determining the entrainment / monolith pickup mechanisms.  So what is the evidence on the ground?  First, we need to look at the Bevins / Ixer provenancing work done within the last ten years.  In their search for bluestone provenances, they have concentrated on the Fishguard Volcanic Series and on the dolerite intrusions on the northern flank of Preseli.  Key locations are Carn Meini, Carn Goedog, Rhosyfelin, Carn Alw, Cerrig Marchogion, and Foel Drigarn.




7.  Bevins and Ixer claim to have shown that Carn Goedog (not Carn Meini) is the most likely source for most of the spotted dolerite orthostats at Stonehenge, and they have supported -- in print -- the idea that there is a bluestone quarry at Carn Goedog.  This is unwise, since the spotted dolerites at Stonehenge are quite variable, both in the standing stones and in the debitage, and the bulk of this material could have come from anywhere on the "Carn Goedog sill" which runs across country towards Carn Alw in the NE and which also seems to be related to the outcrops at Cerrig Marchogion to the SW.  The provenancing is accurate to within 5 kms or so, but to claim greater accuracy is asking for trouble.  http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/more-thoughts-on-carn-goedog.html

8.  The Carn Goedog quarrying debate.  This is an extensive hillside tor made of spotted dolerite, in a tumbledown state as a consequence of damage by overriding ice and by frost action and rockfall / scree formation mechanisms.  Parker Pearson and his team appear to have decided -- on the basis of guidance from the geologists -- that there has to be a Neolithic quarry here.  Their excavations, especially in 2014 and 2015, on the south flank of the tor, in the col between the rock outcrops and the hillside above, have apparently revealed the following features: pillars, flat slabs, pavements, fireplaces, wedges, recesses, split monoliths, trestles, ramps, redeposited soil layers................  Accordingly it has been announced that this is indeed a crucial Neolithic quarry from which hundreds of monoliths have been removed.  However, examination of the so-called engineering features by geomorphologists have shown that all of them are entirely natural and unexceptional.  There are signs of intermittent occupation, backed up by radiocarbon dates, but this does not mean that there was active quarrying here.  It should also be noted that -- in spite of a meticulous search -- there are no artifacts like picks, wedges, levers or hammerstones,  no pottery fragments, no blades, axes or hammer heads, and no working floors with concentrations of worked bluestone debris.  The description of the "discoveries" in "British Archaeology" is based entirely on assumptions, unsupported assertions and speculations, with no serious attempt made at any stage to describe features or sediments carefully prior to scientific analysis and interpretation. This is not how research should be done or reported.

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/parker-pearson-et-al-on-carn-goedog.html




9.  Bevins and Ixer claim to have shown that the bulk of the foliated rhyolite "debitage" at Stonehenge has come from near the tip of the Rhosyfelin spur, with their spot provenancing accurate to "within a few square metres."  The basis of this claim is a close match between the "Jovian fabric" revealed in thin sections of fragments from Stonehenge and another thin section of a sample from point 8 in Bevins's sampling programme around Pont Saeson and Craig Rhosyfelin.  The match is close, but the fabrics in the samples are certainly not identical, and all of the geomorphologists who have visited the site have questioned the claim made by the geologists.  Examination of the tightly packed foliations, fracture patterns and rock faces at Rhosyfelin reveals that the foliation layer exposed at point 8, carrying a typical and unique "petrographic signature", could also be exposed across c 40 sq m of the adjacent rock face and could also have been exposed in the past across country for a considerable distance -- kilometres, rather than metres.  It could also have been exposed on higher parts of the crag that have now been removed by ice action and rockfall mechanisms.  In other words, the claim of "spot provenancing" with this extraordinary degree of accuracy was premature, to say the least......

10.  The Rhosyfelin quarrying debate.   From the beginning, Parker Pearson and his colleagues have demonstrated an unshakeable belief that this is a Neolithic bluestone quarry, worked specifically for the purpose of obtaining and transporting bluestone monoliths for Stonehenge.  Over five digging seasons involving the removal of hundreds of tonnes of sediments and the meticulous recording of stone positions within "archaeological horizons", the ruling hypothesis has been that this is "the Pompeii of prehistoric quarries."  No geomorphologist has been actively involved in the work, and free advice from geomorphologists has been rebuffed.  The significance of the Quaternary sedimentary sequence at the site has been systematically ignored.  From the beginning, two features have figured prominently: the so-called recess near the tip of the spur from which a bluestone monolith is supposed to have been extracted, and a large (8 tonne) slab of stone a few metres from the rock face which has been referred to as "intended for export but for some reason abandoned."  The "extraction recess" is a fantasy, presumably based upon the guidance given to the archaeologists by geologists Bevins and Ixer.  The recumbent slab "fondly referred to as "the picnic table") is bigger than other slabs in its vicinity, and it is so heavily fractured that it cannot possibly ever have been a candidate for removal from the site.  It is simply a component of the accumulated rockfall debris, and is in all respects unexceptional.  Undeterred, the archaeologists have "discovered" the following features:  The quarry face, The quarry spoil bank, The proto-orthostat, Props and pillars, The stone rails, Scratched rock surfaces, The monolith extraction point, The working surface, The haulage pathway, The storage platform, The revetment, The export trackway, The vertical stone fulcrum, Packed sediment supports, Hammer stones, and The standing stone socket. As noted by John, Elis-Gruffydd and Downes in two papers, these features have all been carefully examined by geomorphologists, and all have been found to be perfectly natural features consistent with the sediment sequence and the interpreted sequence of events between the Devensian glaciation and the present day.  The landforms and sediments (including rockfall accumulations, Devensian till, fluvio-glacial gravels and slope deposits including colluvium) are typical of those seen in other parts of Pembrokeshire; among the most interesting features are the signs of a high-energy and very unstable ice-wastage environment at the end of the Devensian glacial episode.  There are now more than 50 radiocarbon age determinations for the site,  from organic materials scattered through the sediments.  They show a pattern of intermittent occupation of a camp site since the Mesolithic, but none of the dates does anything to suggest quarrying activity here, and indeed there are no finds of hammer stones, antler picks, pottery, axes or other tools or artifacts that one might expect to find in a "favoured quarrying location." 

11.  This paper outlining the "discoveries" at Rhosyfelin is heavily criticised, on the grounds that it is not a publication that follows normal research publication protocols but is simply an exercise in ruling hypothesis confirmation:  Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge.   Antiquity, 89 (348) (Dec 2015), pp 1331-1352.   It is surprising that the two geologists have allowed their names to be used as second and third authors, since their own research papers are generally meticulously presented and carefully written.............  It is also surprising that the paper was passed for publication by its editor and referees, since it must also damage the reputation of "Antiquity" journal.


12.  So now we have four key papers:


Brian John, Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes (2015). "Quaternary Events at Craig Rhosyfelin, Pembrokeshire." Quaternary Newsletter, October 2015 (No 137), pp 16-32.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283643851_QUATERNARY_EVENTS_AT_CRAIG_RHOSYFELIN_PEMBROKESHIRE

Brian John, Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes.  2015. OBSERVATIONS ON THE SUPPOSED “NEOLITHIC BLUESTONE QUARRY” AT CRAIG RHOSYFELIN, PEMBROKESHIRE".  Archaeology in Wales 54, pp 139-148. (Publication 14th December 2015)
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1215/071215-stonehenge-bluestone-quarries
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286927485_Photo_Gallery

Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge.   Antiquity, 89 (348) (Dec 2015), pp 1331-1352. 

Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Schlee, D., and Welham, K. (2016).  "In search of the Stonehenge Quarries,"  British Archaeology,  Jan/Feb 2016, pp 16-23.


.......... and a fundamental disagreement about the interpretation of the same field evidence by geomorphologists on the one side and archaeologists on the other.  The geomorphologists have tried to employ the Occam's Razor principle by using the most parsimonious explanations possible for the features on the ground, in the light of their own experience of glacial and periglacial environments and related sites in West Wales.  They have seen NOTHING in the features exposed in the dig sites at Carn Goedog and Rhosyfelin to convince them of any Neolithic quarrying activity, and NOTHING in the published reports by the archaeologists to cause them to revise their conclusions.

13.  Whatever the archaeologists might say, there remain many fundamental problems with the quarrying / human transport scenario, as summarised here:

★  There is no sound evidence from anywhere in the British Neolithic / Bronze Age record of large stones being hauled over long distances (more than 5 km or so) for incorporation in a megalithic monument.  The builders of Neolithic monuments across the UK simply used whatever large stones were at hand. 
If ancestor or tribute stones were being transported to Stonehenge, why have all of the known bluestones come from the west, and not from any other points of the compass?  Were belief systems and "local politics" quite different to the north, east and south? 
  There is no evidence either from West Wales or from anywhere else of bluestones (or spotted dolerite or Rhosyfelin rhyolite in particular) being used preferentially in megalithic monuments, or revered in any way.  The builders always used whatever was available to them in the vicinity, and it can be argued that stone availability was a prime locational determinant for stone settings. 
  If long-distance stone haulage was "the great thing" for the builders of Stonehenge, why is there no evidence of the development of the appropriate haulage technology leading up to the late Neolithic, and a decline afterwards?  It is a complete technological aberration. 
The evidence for Neolithic quarrying activity in key locations is questionable.  No physical evidence has ever been found of ropes, picks, levers, wedges, rollers, trackways, sledges, abandoned stones, quarrymen's camps, working floors or anything else that might bolster the hypothesis.  The so-called “engineering features” are entirely natural.  
  The sheer variety of bluestone types  (near 30 when one includes packing stones and debris) argues against selection and human transport.  There cannot possibly have been ten or more "bluestone quarries" scattered across West Wales. 
  Bits and pieces of experimental archaeology on stone haulage techniques (normally in "ideal" conditions) have done nothing to show that our ancestors could cope with the sheer physical difficulty of stone haulage across the heavily-wooded Neolithic terrain of West Wales (characterised by bogs, cataracts, steep slopes and very few clearings) or around the rocky coast.  
  Neither has it been shown that the Stonehenge builders had the geographical awareness and navigational ability to undertake long and highly complex journeys with very heavy loads.   
  And if there was a "proto-Stonehenge" somewhere, built of assorted local stones and then dismantled and taken off to Stonehenge, where was it?   The mooted "Preselite" axe factory has never been found, and neither has the mythical Stonehenge precursor. 
  Analyses of bluestone monolith stone shapes does not suggest that elongated “pillars” were preferred.  Slabs, stumps and boulders of all shapes and sizes are highly suggestive of a glacial erratic assemblage.
★  There is no reason why Neolithic people should have gone to the trouble of actually "quarrying" large monoliths from difficult locations such as Carn Goedog and Rhosyfelin when there were thousands of suitable rocks, of many different types, littering the landscape round about -- just waiting to be picked up.

14.  It therefore appears that there is such a determined promotion of the Neolithic quarrying scenario by this team of archaeologists (and geologists) that we are indeed looking at a "myth-making" process.  In print, John, Elis-Gruffydd and Downes have already accused the archaeologists of selective sediment removal and of the creation of their own "archaeological artifices" which have then been cited as "evidence" in support of their central hypothesis.  How close this comes to malpractice is for other archaeologists to decide.

 Indiana Jones and the Quarry of Gloom  -- and he's the only one clever enough to see it......


Friday, 13 May 2016

Into the Lion's Den, and out again, unscathed........



I know some of my fellow bloggers are interested in my talk given today to the Spring 2016 Day School of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists in Machynlleth.  I was given 45 mins to say my piece and to deal with questions and comments, and I expected to be subjected to a ferocious assault from the archaeology establishment.  But although there were around 30 people there, maybe there were no members of the establishment present, and I was given a very easy and friendly ride.  No hostile comments, and no difficult questions to deal with -- and on the contrary, there were a number of comments reinforcing the points which I made.  I came away from the meeting rather convinced that within the archaeology profession there are more than a few people who have major reservations about the manner in which MPP and his colleagues conduct their research and publish their findings.  As I have found on previous occasions when I have addressed professional archaeologists, several of them came up afterwards and said:  "Thank you for all of that.  You have said things than needed to be said......."

What did we say earlier on about the Emperor having no clothes, and the necessity for somebody to point it out to those who for a whole variety of reasons maintain a state of petrified silence?  But why are the professionals so timid that none of them does anything to criticise -- on the record -- some of the nonsense that appears in print?  Are they all scared to death of the big establishment figures, and all scared of having their job prospects negatively affected if they demonstrate any capacity for critical thought?  If so, that's a sad commentary on the state of British archaeology.  Criticism should be coming from insiders, not from outsiders like me.


http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-emperor-marches-on.html

When I have had a good night's sleep, I'll try to summarise the main points made in my talk in the centre devoted to the memory of that great patriot and revolutionary Owain Glyndwr.




Monday, 9 May 2016

The Myth Makers



I've been invited to give a short talk later this week to the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists Spring Day School at Machynlleth.  No idea how many people will be there, but I assume that nearly all of them will be professional archaeologists.  So it will be fun to talk on the topic of "Neolithic Bluestone Quarries - the Making of a Modern Myth."  When I sent my title in, there was a question mark at the end of it, but that seems to have disappeared.......

It will be good to present some of the evidence which led Dyfed, John and me to write and publish those two short papers at the end of last year.

Will report further, after the meeting.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Rhosyfelin -- more on the "monolith extraction point"


 Prof Mike Parker Pearson shows visitors where the "monolith extraction point" is, near the outer end of the Rhosyfelin spur.  Photo: The Duke.

We have had a lot of discussion on this site already about the accuracy -- or otherwise -- of the "spot provenancing" by Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins by which they claim to have fixed to within a few square metres the origin of certain foliated rhyolite fragments found at Stonehenge. 

This is just one of my previous posts:
http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/rhosyfelin-some-geological-questions.html

MPP refers to "the removal of the rhyolite pillar from its recess" and thinks that he knows exactly when that happened, because carbonized hazelnut shells dated to 4590 BP and c 4667 BP, were found in a small occupation layer just 1.5 m away from it. That is about as logical, as I have pointed out, as dating a sea cave in the cliffs to six years ago because a piece of flotsam with a date of 2010 on it is found on the beach nearby.   In the Antiquity paper by MPP et al, there is also a claim that signs of wedges and levers have also been found in the recess:

Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge.   Antiquity, 89 (348) (Dec 2015), pp 1331-1352.
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1215/071215-stonehenge-bluestone-quarries 

As Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd, John Downes and I have argued in print, the "recess" (which isn't really a recess at all) is an extremely unlikely place from which a monolith might have been taken,  and it is also unlikely that the rhyolite fragments from Stonehenge came from here anyway.  Both the geologists and the archaeologists have been swept along on a wave of euphoria, and have forgotten to look critically at the evidence on the ground.  I took another look at Rhosyfelin yesterday, and this is what I observed.

1.  Petrography.  Bevins and Ixer's sampling point density is inadequate for the degree of precision claimed.  A close reading of their texts, and a close examination of their published thin sections, suggests that some of the Stonehenge foliated rhyolite fragments might have come from other outcrops in the Pont Saeson area.  Furthermore, the geologists do not appear to have considered the possibility that the fragments at Stonehenge have come from parts of the crag which have been entirely removed by glacial erosion.  The foliations in the local rhyolite rock are for the most part very thin indeed -- some are less than 1mm thick, and in places wafer-thin flat flakes have broken off the parent rock along foliation planes:


Wafer-thin flakes of foliated rhyolite found in areas where the rock has been weathered.  These are approx 1 mm thick.  Does every foliated layer (and there are many thousands of them) have its own petrographic signature?

The geologists have not told us, in spite of being asked several times, whether each foliation or thin layer has a characteristic signature which is different in some measurable way from the layers above and below it.  If each layer does have a "signature" that can be picked up through petrography and petrology, presumably it can be followed laterally in all directions along the plane.  That means you should be able to pick it up wherever that foliation layer outcrops -- metres or even kilometres distant from the point at which it was first recognized.  Or do these characteristics change laterally along the plane?  If so, by how much do they change?  None of the published thin sections from the rhyolite fragments at Stonehenge matches precisely the sample taken from point 8 near the tip of the crag, as we have pointed out before.

The other thing which I noticed on yesterday's visit is that the foliations exposed at the surface  in MPP's 2m "recess"are approximately the same ones that are exposed about 8 m away along the rock face, on the other side of a large slab which projects out by about 25 cms.  There is an area of exposed rhyolite approx 8 m long and 4 m high (32 sq m) from which the Stonehenge fragments might have come.  Even further along the face, the same fracture plane is exposed, adding at least another 10 sq m to the "potential source area."  Finally, we have to get rid of the myth that the Rhosyfelin rock face coincides with a single fracture plane.  There are partial exposures of foliated rhyolites on sections of multiple fracture planes, making this a wonderful "field laboratory" for rhyolite enthusiasts.


This section of the face exposes multiple fracture planes which are close to the foliations exposed in the "recess" off photo to the left.  The foliated rhyolite fragments at Stonehenge are just as likely to have come from this section of the face, if they did not come from exposures of the same layers hundreds of metres if not kilometres away, or from exposures long since destroyed.

Anyway, I am more convinced than ever that the Stonehenge rhyolite fragments cannot be provenanced to "within a few square metres" at Rhosyfelin, and that the geologists have been carried away by their work -- which is quite impressive enough and which really did not need to be over-sold.

2.  Rock mechanics.  Prof MPP clearly thinks that a coherent pillar or monolith could have been levered off the rock face at the position of his famous "recess" and then carted off to some proto-Stonehenge in the neighbourhood before making its way to Stonehenge.  A brief examination of the rock face in the vicinity is enough to dispose of this idea once and for all.  There have been many posts on this blog about the Rhosyfelin fracture patterns, including this one:

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/craig-rhosyfelin-seriously-cracked-up.html

I have also made the point that even the larger blocks and slabs of rhyolite lying around in and on the rockfall debris at the site are riddled with cracks which would make successful human transport away from the site extremely unlikely.  The "picnic table" is a case in point -- I suggested about a year ago that any attempt to move it would result in it falling to pieces, and that it was the most useless bluestone ever.

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/the-famous-rhosyfelin-proto-orthostat.html

Well, I have looked at that "recess" again and have discovered that the rock face displays at least 13 crossing fractures.  Some are quite substantial, and others are hairline cracks.  They can all be traced across to adjacent rock faces, and they run in all directions.  One big fracture plane has been exploited by natural processes to create a "back slope" at the base of the "recess"  -- this is not unique, but it has caused MPP to refer to a "notch" which he thinks was used to lever a monolith away from the face.  Any slabs or blocks that have come away from the face hereabouts will have been riddled with the same fractures, and my guess is that they have fallen away in bits and pieces, and have ended up as rubble.


Close-up of part of the "monolith extraction recess" at Rhosyfelin, showing at least ten intersecting fracture planes.  Anything falling from this location would have been similarly weakened, and the likelihood of a coherent monolith being taken away from here is effectively zero.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Cambrian basal conglomerate boulder at Tafarn y Bwlch



There are a great many rock types that I do not recognize in the field, but one that I'm pretty secure about is the Cambrian basal conglomerate (Caerfai series) that outcrops in the area around Caerfai and St Non's in the St David's Peninsula.  I learned to use it as an erratic marker when I was doing my doctorate field research in 1962-65.  It's pretty spectacular, reddish or purple or pink in colour, with a vast range of coloured pebbles contained within it.  It's right at the base of the Cambrian series of rocks, overlying Pre-Cambrian volcanics.  There's nothing like it anywhere else in west Wales, and I think it's pretty unique in the British Isles too; there are other "basal conglomerates" in the Harlech area, Anglesey and other parts of North Wales, and in the Midlands, but I gather that they do not look the same........

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I came across a boulder of red Cambrian basal conglomerate today, at the base of an amazing new hedge bank being built by a very clever young Polish fellow at Tafarn y Bwlch, where a new Visitor Centre will be built over the coming months.  He's not sure where the boulder came from, but probably it came from the Pantgwyn Quarry near Moylgrove -- the source of the great bulk of the fluvioglacial cobbles and boulders brought into this site:


I think we can discount the idea that this boulder found its way from St David's to the northern flank of Mynydd Preseli either as ship's ballast or through some other form of human interference.  So it must have been transported by some natural agency or other -- and glacier ice has to be the most likely candidate.  But that means ice flowing from the SW towards the NE.  Hmmm -- quite a puzzle.  Must give the matter some more thought........

Could there be other outcrops of this rock far out in Cardigan Bay, or in St George's Channel?

In the meantime, if there is any geologist out there who knows one Cambrian basal conglomerate from another, please get in touch or post a comment!

============

Postscript

I have found boulders of this conglomerate before, in the base of the old chapel at St Non's:

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/st-nons-and-stonehenge.html

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The National Park -- still peddling falsehoods



NPA staff seem to be determined to stand on their heads and do other assorted gymnastic tricks in order to peddle jolly tales and avoid the truth......

A few months ago I reported on the manner in which the Pembs Coast NPA is marketing Craig Rhosyfelin as a key part of its strategy to show that the "prehistoric heritage" of this area is second to none.  See this:


http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/rhosyfelin-marketing-begins.html

and many other posts on this blog about the National Park's cavalier attitude to the truth and to sound science.  Just type in "National Park" into the search box.


Back in October I wrote to the top brass to complain about the inaccuracies in the "short walk" leaflet relating to Rhosyfelin, and was assured that corrections would be put in hand.  I happened upon the leaflet again today, to discover that nothing has changed:

http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk/default.asp?PID=401&ID=256

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Craig Rhosyfelin source of the Stonehenge bluestones
Short Walk

On p 1. LOOK OUT FOR: Craig Rhosyfelin crag, source of two of the bluestones from the inner circle at Stonehenge

On p 2.  This craggy outcrop of stone lies within a deep secluded valley. It is here that a number of the famous bluestones were quarried and later taken to Stonehenge – most probably by land on sleds hauled by oxen.

"Craig Rhosyfelin source of the Stonehenge bluestones" ??  That is absolute nonsense, and the NPA knows it.  It has not even been shown to be the source of one bluestone monolith, let alone all of them.

"Craig Rhosyfelin crag, source of two of the bluestones from the inner circle at Stonehenge".....  Again, absolute rubbish.  Where did the "two" come from?  There is no evidence in support of that figure -- and it appears to be based on a rather foolhardy bit of speculation some years ago by Rob Ixer or Richard Bevins.  But they made it clear that in the absence of sampling on assorted stumps at Stonehenge, there is nothing to go on.  From the inner circle?  That is crazy too, since the Rhosyfelin crag is made of foliated rhyolite, and the inner circle bluestones are made of dolerite.  What sort of world does the writer of this leaflet inhabit?  Does he know anything about anything?

"It is here that a number of the famous bluestones were quarried and later taken to Stonehenge – most probably by land on sleds hauled by oxen."  Well, we all know that the Rhosyfelin "quarry" owes more to fantasy than to hard evidence, and that the whole quarrying idea is looking very shaky indeed.  At best, it can be described as a "postulated" quarry, with a rider added that earth scientists see here nothing other than a natural rock outcrop.  By land?  On sleds hauled by oxen?  Again, wild theorizing backed up by zero evidence.........

Does the PCNPA have any regard to its reputation?  It seems not.

Grr -- I shall now go and plant some runner beans and think beautiful thoughts........

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Cromlech Challenge




On a number of occasions in the past I have referred to Steve Burrow's book called "The Tomb Builders".  Here is one post, from 2011:

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/inside-neolithic-mind.html

Essentially, Steve's research leads him to believe that all of the cromlechs in Wales were built from stones simply collected from the vicinity - from handy broken rock outcrops, from bedrock stone litter in the landscape, or from glacial erratics.  I know the Pembrokeshire megalithic monuments pretty well, and from my limited experience, I think Steve has got it right.  I would extend the "local stone use" thesis to Bronze Age standing stones as well.

So here is a challenge.  Does anybody have any evidence that can be used to undermine this assertion?   If so, let's hear about it..........

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Gordon Childe and the political unification theory



Thanks to Tony for pointing this out -- an MPP reference from 2013 in which he refers to Gordon Childe (1957) as the possible originator of the political unification theory as an explanation of the "fantastic feat" of removing 80 or so bluestones from west Wales to Stonehenge.

I'm not sure that what Childe was saying was all that original -- after all, Atkinson was arguing on similar lines in his famous book on "Stonehenge" in 1956 -- and HH Thomas, back in 1923, also pondered on the degree of "civilisation" that might be needed across western and southern Britain to provide a suitable context for the feats of our heroic ancestors.

The whole idea is nonsense, of course, because it is all based on circular reasoning.  The stones were indubitably moved by man, and therefore there must have been a high civilisation and a degree of political stability in order for the great project to have been completed successfully, and because a condition of "sacred peace" existed, it would therefore have been possible for people to move stones over great distances if they had wanted to.  And so on, and so on.  If, on the other hand, you have the temerity to doubt that the stones really were moved by man, the whole fantastical theory is nothing more than a damp squib, since there is nothing left to show its essential correctness.  Back to the drawing board.

Anyway, the extract is reproduced below.  Then we also have another statement (from 2013) of MPP's unshakeable conviction that Rhosyfelin is a Neolithic bluestone monolith quarry:  ".......we are currently excavating the quarry for one of the rhyolite monoliths whose debitage has been found at Stonehenge."  Talk about jumping into boiling hot water feet first ------ but some people pretend that they feel no pain!  And in the 3 years since 2013, things have moved on rather dramatically, with the quarrying hypothesis coming under unprecedented scrutiny because the "evidence" in support of it just does not hold up.

ARTICLE
Parker Pearson, M.  2013.  Researching Stonehenge: Theories Past and Present.   Archaeology International, No. 16 (2012-2013): 72-83, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/ai.1601
Researching Stonehenge: Theories Past and Present
Mike Parker Pearson

From p 74:  It had long been known that Stonehenge’s smaller monoliths – the bluestones – originated in the Preseli hills of west Wales and Childe theorized that their long-distance movement must have been the result of a cooperative effort that could only have taken place under special conditions: ‘This fantastic feat ... must illustrate a degree of political unification or a sacred peace ...’ (Childe, 1957: 331). This insightful observation, just like those of Petrie and Evans, was then forgotten by both archaeologists and the public at large.

MPP on p 80:  The conventional narrative about bringing the bluestones from the Preseli hills in west Wales includes their quarrying on the southern edge of those hills at Carn Meini (also known as Carn Menyn) and dragging them southwards to Milford Haven for transport by boat towards Salisbury Plain.  In contrast to this orthodox view, recent geological research by Rob Ixer (UCL Research Fellow) and Richard Bevins (National Museum of Wales) suggests that many of the bluestones came from the north side of the Preseli hills (Ixer and Bevins, 2011; Bevins et al., forthcoming). At Craig Rhos-y-felin in the Brynberian valley, a tributary of the Nevern, we are currently excavating the quarry for one of the rhyolite monoliths whose debitage has been found at Stonehenge (Fig. 7).

Monday, 2 May 2016

Is Rhosyfelin a designated RIGS site, or is it not?



This is a post from last December,  following confirmation from the Pembs Coast National Park and the new body called Geodiversity Wales that all the paperwork was now in place for Rhosyfelin, and that the designation was formally adopted.

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/rhosyfelin-rigs-designation-is-confirmed.html

But now it appears that the process is still not complete, and my colleague John Downes has had a couple of messages which lead us to believe that nobody in PCNPA headquarters is in any hurry.  First of all, there was a mix-up over the map, air photo and photographic record which somehow went astray, and once that was sorted out there was a further message saying that "a formal consultation by the Authority on the proposal is needed before an update to the supplementary planning guidance is formally approved."   The NPA plans to group the consultation on this (RIGs) supplementary planning guidance update with other supplementary planning guidance documents that need updating rather than carrying out two separate consultations.  Apparently "the second guidance document is a complex joint one we are preparing with Pembrokeshire County Council.  My best guess would be an approval for consultation in September October 2016..........."

Note the wording.  "An approval for consultation" -- not an approval of the designation. I am not sure whether this process is in tune with either the letter or the spirit of the law.  I doubt it.

The delicate art of procrastination.   How shall we put this?  From the beginning, there has been a certain lack of enthusiasm for this designation from the National Park, since some individual staff members had already gone on the record to extol the virtues of Rhosyfelin as a key Neolithic quarrying site, and to flag up the importance of Pembrokeshire in UK archaeology.  As I have said before, to hell with the truth -- the PR value of the Rhosyfelin "bluestone quarry" is far too great for the PCNPA to let go of it.

Mike's Gospel comes to the city of St David's



Here we go again. Prof MPP is obviously still hoofing around giving the latest version of the
bluestone quarries talk, and now he is star attraction in the summer programme at Oriel y Parc in St David's.  The gallery is owned by the National Park, and Park staff are the ones who presumably invite speakers to come along and give talks.  I have given talks there in the past, on various topics.

There are two things that interest me here.  One, this seems to be exactly the same story told by MPP last September, before Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd, John Downes and I published our two papers which fundamentally challenged almost everything about the MPP quarrying story.  So nothing seems to change, and one has to assume that he has decided to completely ignore the points we have made in the peer-reviewed literature.  Second, why is the National Park promoting the talk in this way, using words which ignore the fact that there is a major academic dispute going on here? Surely they must know that there is a strong disagreement between earth scientists and archaeologists on the quarrying issue, and this this calculated promotion of a very partial -- and very unreliable -- narrative does no favours to the National Park's reputation?  It's not as if they can claim ignorance --  I have been after them for years about the "marketing" of cockeyed narratives, in a prolonged -- if somewhat one-sided -- exchange of letters with NPA archaeologist Phil Bennett.

Of course, MPP is a regular at the National Park's big annual archaeology event -- so maybe the NPA top brass think that having promoted the bluestone quarrying story for so many years it's now too late to change policy and admit that the "quarries" at Rhosyfelin and Carngoedog may be nothing more than the product of somebody's rather fertile imagination?

By the way, over the winter Glen Peters, the owner of Rhosygilwen mansion, wanted to set up a "bluestone quarrying" debate in the Oak Hall as part of the winter programme.  I agreed immediately to take part.  In spite of trying hard over many weeks, and contacting many of the key players in the MPP team digs, he could not get a single archaeologist to present the "quarrying" case.  So the idea has fallen by the wayside..........


=======================

Mike Parker-Pearson : Stonehenge the Welsh Connection
Thursday 2 June 2016
6-8pm
Discovery Room

A talk led by Archaeologist Mike Park Pearson on his finds and discoveries relating to Stonehenge and the Bluestones of Pembrokeshire.

Excavation of two quarries in the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire by a UCL-led team of archaeologists and geologists has confirmed that they are sources of Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’ and shed light on how they were quarried and transported. “We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” says Professor Parker Pearson.

“It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument – somewhere near the quarries – which was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire. Stonehenge was a Welsh monument from its very beginning. If we can find the original monument in Wales from which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far…”

£5 per person
Booking Essential: 01437 720392