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....
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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Hell Bay Moraine, Bryher, Isles of Scilly

There is a bit of discussion about the nature of a ridge of large boulders that runs part of the way across a narrow peninsula of land leading to Shipman Head on the Isle of Bryher.   I need to revise my opinion!

This is what I said in my working paper:

The Hell Bay Moraine on the west side of the headland runs straight downslope, and is made of a jumble of erratic boulders and slabs mixed with angular blocks of local origin.  This feature is shown on topographic maps as "castle ramparts" -- or as an Iron Age or Bronze Age defensive feature.  However, initial examination suggests that it is natural.  The boulders and slabs are much larger than those normally used in defensive ramparts, and many of them are faceted and abraded. 

I have been scrutinizing the satellite imagery, and I have enlarged a section of it above.  What we can see in the centre of the photo is a ridge made up of a litter of very large blocks.  Some of these may have moved downslope from the granite outcrops at the top of the photo.  The cliffs are just off the edge of the image. But I am still convinced that most of this material is contained within a very large moraine.  But look carefully to the right of it and you can see two roughly parallel lines of smaller boulders, with a continuation southwards in the form of an accumulation of even smaller blocks -- just the sort of material that Iron Age people all over Britain used for building their fortified defensive banks.  This was completely invisible to me on the ground when I walked across it -- maybe the vegetation was more extensive and higher than when this image was taken.

So now I think that I'm correct, and so are the archaeologists.  Moraine AND a man-made defensive feature.

So there we are then.  Nice compromise.

Stonehenge as it might have been -- or maybe not....

Stonehenge 2,800 BC, copyright Peter Dunn.  Gouache on Art paper.  Original for sale.

On this blog we are always happy to help the poor and needy, and having had my attention drawn to Peter Dunn's very skilled artwork I'm happy to help him to sell some of it.  Info here:

and here:

The illustration above presumably shows Peter's interpretation of what Stonehenge looked like in its pristine or "perfect" form.  There are a number of notable features.  The Altar Stone is shown as a big upright slab or pillar.  Then we have a small bluestone circle contained within the setting of sarsen trilithons.  We have two mini-trilithons made of bluestones -- that's a fair assumption, since some of the working on dolerite bluestones suggests this sort of usage at some stage.  Then we see a sort of mini-avenue of bluestones flanked by a double bluestone setting -- and I wonder where the evidence for this has come from. 

My main problem with the portrayal is the assumption that all of the bluestones in the bluestone circle and around the mini-avenue were pillars.  We know that they were not.  Most of them were boulders and stumpy slabs.  And as we have said before, there is nothing to show that Stonehenge was ever completed, with this stone setting or any other.

The tip of the Rhosyfelin spur

Somewhere out on the tip of the Rhosyfelin spur is the location of sampling point number 8 -- where the characteristics of the foliated rhyolites were deemed by Ixer and Bevins to be identical (sort of) with the characteristics of some of the foliated rhyolite debitage at Stonehenge.  None of the slides made from the samples are identical, but that did not stop the geologists claiming that they had provenanced some of the fragments at Stonehenge "to within a few square metres."  The rest, as they say, is history.

Of far greater importance is the  character of the bedrock surface here.  Quite spectacular.  Click to enlarge the photo.  Many of the rock surfaces are heavily weathered and abraded, suggestive of either ice action or (more likely) an episode of intensive abrasion by heavily-charged glacial meltwater in a dead-ice environment.  There is similar abrasion on the rock surface at the base of the spur, which is what leads me and various colleagues who have visited the site (I hesitate to call them senior academics since Myris will get upset) to think that meltwater -- possibly flowing subglacially -- has at some stage in the Devensian flowed over the spur and down the small channel on the right under hydrostatic pressure.  What are the dates for this episode?  Maybe the samples collected for cosmogenic dating will help us to tell the story.

Cosmogenic dating at Rhosyfelin

The "pseudo-proto-orthostat" at Rhosyfelin.  It is a rock-solid certainty that the two weathered surfaces shown here will have greater exposure ages than the surface on which the bucket is sitting.

Last month I reported on the planned sampling programme at Rhosyfelin -- and it is pretty certain that the sampling has now been done by Derek Fabel, with MPP and Richard Bevins in attendance.  Interestingly, a few weeks ago I received a message from a quite senior academic unconnected with the dig that my involvement (or even suggestions for sampling locations) would not be welcomed since those involved "know what they are doing."   Let's hope so.  All will be revealed in due course, but I really do hope that Derek has taken samples designed to test the minimum ages of some of the weathered surfaces and some of the surfaces affected by rockfalls, as well as the famous "recess" from which MPP thinks a bluestone pillar was extracted somewhere between 6,000 yrs BP and 5,000 yrs BP.

I have already done many posts on this blog about the potential -- and the pitfalls -- of cosmogenic dating in general, and the 36Cl method in particular.
One previous post:

Of course, all dates from this site will be MINIMUM DATES, since whatever is measured by way of cosmic bombardment on specific rock surfaces will simply represent the period of time that has elapsed during which those surfaces have been open to the heavens.  We cannot know the extent to which said surfaces have been affected or covered by seasonal snowbanks, standing water, a temporary regolith, vegetation (bracken, gorse, brambles, shrubs and trees) or even rockfall debris;  there may have been many episodes, quite unconnected to human interference, when the "cosmic clock" has been stopped.  So we will always get minimum ages for the exposure of surfaces.

In those circumstances, it will be very difficult indeed to accurately date block removal and headwall exposure in a place like Rhosyfelin, in a thickly vegetated environment.  The top of Carningli would be, in theory, a much better place in which to get sensible age determinations!  A date of 5,000 yrs BP on a Rhosyfelin rock surface, for example, might falsely suggest that there was an "event" at that time such as the physical removal of a block.  On the other hand the block might have been eroded away or taken away much earlier that that, followed by centuries or millennia of overshading by gorse bushes or shrubs or even burial beneath rubble or soil.  Then a rockfall or landslide, or even a wildfire,  might expose the surface to cosmogenic bombardment and weathering for the first time.......  To make matters even more complex, evergreen overshading plants such as gorse or conifers will cut off most radiation whereas plants that die back or lose their leaves in winter will allow winter light to penetrate to the ground beneath them.

In this context it is not surprising that 36Cl and 10Be dates are often very erratic, as discovered by Danny McCarroll and his colleagues when they undertook a dating programme on rock surfaces in west Wales in 2010:

Exposure-age constraints on the extent, timing and rate of retreat of the last Irish Sea ice stream.
Danny McCarroll, John O. Stone, Colin K. Ballantyne, James D. Scourse, L. Keith Fifield, David J.A. Evans, John F. Hiemstra, Quaternary Science Reviews (2010) 1-9 

The Carningli dates were all over 100,000 yrs BP, and the dates from rock exposures on the north Pembrokeshire coast came out at over 35,000 yrs BP.  Danny and his colleagues were greatly exercised, in their discussions of the dates, by the problem of "inherited ages" on rock surfaces that had been intermittently or partly eroded by overriding ice.

 So cosmogenic dating of rock surfaces is far from perfect, but better than nothing.  One date, from MPP's famous recess, may give us some guidance on the likelihood of quarrying and the reliability of the block removal hypothesis, but a spread of dates from maybe 20 sites would give us much more data to work with.

Just for fun, here is a list of the possible MINIMUM dates that might be obtained from various parts of the Rhosyfelin spur.  For the heavily weathered and abraded surfaces (for example, at A) we might well get exposure ages of over 100,000 years; for areas at the base of the rockface (areas marked D) that have been eroded by meltwater or ice and then covered by accumulated rockfall debris and tree growth, we might see exposure ages of less than 10,000 years; for areas high on the crag in the "gorse and bracken zone (marked C) we might get ages less than 18,000; and for areas on the rock-face subject to post-Devensian rockfalls (marked B) we might see a wide variety of exposure ages, ranging from 18,000 years to the present day.  The "freshness" of the rock surface should give a guide.

The dates are eagerly awaited.........

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Back to normal service

Thanks for the patience during the breakdown of the mail service!  It was a password authentication problem -- a typical Apple Mac issue.......

If I have missed any submitted comments, apologies.  Some messages might have come in and been accidentally dumped while I was sorting things out.  Anonymous messages will ALWAYS go straight into the bin -- I don't even get to see them.

By the way, since some were asking for reports of the MPP talks last week, I got this today from a very senior (retired) academic: 

"We very much enjoyed your talk at Castell Henllys last week. We also attended the talk the following day by Mike Parker Pearson which was interesting but had a far more uncritical, one might almost say sycophantic, audience. The debate at the end of your talk was enjoyably extensive and pointed by comparison. It was especially disappointing that despite the juxtaposition of the two talks and theories MPP did not even acknowledge the existence of an alternative to his view."

So there we are then.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Mail problems

Apologies if there have been any comments submitted in the last 24 hours -- my mail programme is giving problems -- nothing in and nothing out.  Please bear with me -- working on it!


Saturday, 24 September 2016

Meini Gwyr

 Illustration from Pam Figgis's book on Prehistoric Preseli

We have been thinking about what the archaeologists were hoping to find at Pensarn when they started their dig a few weeks ago.  Tony has mentioned possible matches in Anglesey.  Maybe they were hoping to find something like this?  This is Meini Gwyr, close to the Glandy Cross petrol station, at SN14172658.  At present all you can see is two small standing stones and a faint raised embankment or circular cairn with a lower area in the centre.  But the excavations revealed an interesting structure with at least 17 standing stones, a passage down the middle, and kerbs or revetments.  There do seem to be segments and kerbs like this at Pensarn as well.......

This site is of course interesting because it is a part of the Glandy Cross complex, flagged up as one of the most important Early Bronze Age ritual complexes in West Wales.  Herbert Thomas knew about it, and of course this is the same area as his "Cilymaenllwyd" which he speculated as being the possible location for a proto-Stonehenge.  So MPP and his colleagues are by no means the first people to think about a large stone monument being erected in Pembrokeshire and then shipped off later to Stonehenge for some mysterious reason or other...........

The trouble is that in spite of much searching, no circle of sockets of other evidence has ever been found for a big stone circle in this area -- and neither has anybody found a stone working area or "Preselite" tool-making factory, although both have been mooted many times over the years.

From the Coflein web catalogue of sites in Wales:

Site Description
This is an interesting example of an embanked stone circle, a monument type not common to south Wales. Its occurence here shows that the Glandy Cross area was of exceptional importance in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The circle consists of a broad, low, roughly circular bank 36.6m in diameter with a narrow entrance on the west. There is no ditch, and excavations by Grimes in 1938 confirmed there had never been one. Two stones of an original 17 still survive on the west side, 1m and 1.7m high respectively, standing 6.5m apart.

Information from Rees, S. 1992, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales - Dyfed, Cadw/HMSO, page 38.
For fuller discussion see: T. Kirk and G. Williams, ‘Glandy Cross: A Later Prehistoric Monumental Complex in Carmarthenshire, Wales’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 66 (2000)

T. Driver, RCAHMW, 16th April 2010.


More info (Dyfed Archaeological Trust):

Meini Gwyr, also known as Buarth Arthur, is an embanked stone circle probably dating to the transition between the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods. The site is likely to have been used for religious rituals.
According to a late 17thC account by Edward Lhuyd, there were then fifteen stones in the circle ranging in height from three to six feet, but a further seven or eight were thought to have been 'carried off'. Apparently, there was also an entrance lined by smaller slabs.

The site was partially excavated in 1938 by Professor W.F. Grimes. Unfortunately most of the records were destroyed in a bombing raid on Southampton in 1940. The plan is based partly on ground and air photographs of the excavation. Grimes established that the circle, some 60 feet in diameter, originally consisted of 17 stones which, like the two surviving ones, were set at an angle into the inner slope of the bank about 3 feet height and 120 feet in the external diameter, with no trace of a ditch. The excavations confirmed that the entrance through the earthwork was formerly flanked by upright stones, set in a trench. The bank was set with stone curb extending for some 30 feet on either side of the entrance, in front of which was a clay-filled pit containing a large quantity of charcoal. There were no features or finds recorded from the interior, though this was only partly examined. Some fragments of early Bronze Age pottery came from a hearth set in a deep depression on the southeast bank.

Meini Gwyr stands at the centre of 'West Wales' most important complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual and funerary monuments, lying on a ridge-way linking the wester end of the Preselis to the eastern Cleddau river and Milford Haven. This was a route by which the bluestones for Stonehenge may have been transported. Included in the complex are several Bronze Age burial mounds and cairns or various forms, and a 'henge' monument (akin to early elements at Stonehenge). Also, there is the site of 'Yr Allor' ('The Altar') comprising two, formerly three standing stones some 200 yards west of Meini Gwyr and apparently known by the 17thC. These stones may be the remains of a chambered tomb.

Carn Meini, a source of the bluestones lies only 3 miles to the north. The site's name - 'Meini' ('large stone') and 'Gwyr' ('crooked') may refer to the varying size, shape or angle of the stones set in the circle. These were not 'bluestones' but another form of volcanic rock. Many such boulders are found locally and were originally deposited by glacial action. The alternative name 'Buarth Arthur' ('Arthur's Yard') is an example of a common legendary association of this figure with prehistoric stone monuments and is not regarded as significant.

Erratic boulders or quarried blocks?

 One of the slides used in my talk at Castell Henllys the other evening.

The Myris Challenge!  Our beloved colleague Myris seems to think that all sensible geomorphologists would have a problem with my description of these bluestone boulders, slabs and blocks at Stonehenge as "typical glacial erratics" that would not look out of place close to any modern glacier front.  There are plenty of other photos on the "Stones of Stonehenge" web site, here:

Look in particular at the photos for stones 31 to 49.......

So let's have a straw poll.  Do YOU think these stones look more like ancient glacial erratics, or Neolithic quarried blocks?

Stones in Wales, Wood in Wessex (again)

Tony reminds me of this post from 2012 -- was it prophetic in some way, given all the new stuff about Durrington Walls etc?  We had quite a good discussion when it was originally posted, but when we look at the quarrying obsession again, we have here a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why there was no need for quarrying in Preseli in association with Stonehenge, and why there was no need for the great Neolithic political unification as envisaged in the MPP narrative.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Stones in Wales, Wood in Wessex

 Above -- Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire.  Megalithic culture and big stones at the core of a now-removed long barrow.
Below:  White Barrow, Wilts.  An earthen barrow that may have had a timber internal structure.

I was struck, when reading one of Aubrey Burl's books the other day, by the extraordinary lag that occurred between the use of big stones in megalithic monuments in Brittany, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on the one hand and in Wessex on the other hand.  Big stones started to be used in all those former places around 6,000 years ago, but while a megalithic culture was flourishing on the Celtic fringe, the people who lived on and around Salisbury Plain carried on making timber monuments (were their trees bigger and better?) and long barrows made almost entirely with chalk rubble and soil, with a few stones chucked in if they happened to be handy (as at Boles Barrow).  Often they are referred to as "earthen barrows" although some of them incorporate sections of stone walling -- generally using small stones.  I have found some references to incorporated sarsens -- but very few.

I think I have this right -- no doubt I will be corrected if I don't -- but Burl mentions that of the 66 long barrows in the Stonehenge area only one (Tidcombe and Fosbury 1) has a fabricated stone chamber made out of sidewalls and capstone.  West Kennet uses much bigger stones, and has a date of around 4,900 yrs BP.  So the portal dolmens, passage tombs and variations were built over a wide geographical area in the Celtic Fringe, with only the Cotswold-Severn tombs impinging onto the chalklands of Salisbury Plain.  This situation persisted for almost 1500 years, if we accept that the first stone settings at Stonehenge were not put in place until about 4500 yrs BP.  Around about the same time, big stones were used at Avebury -- and after that, a megalithic culture then carried on alongside an earth-moving culture and a timber using culture.  In the centuries around the Late Neolithic - early Bronze age transition, all three elements were incorporated into the big civil engineering projects of the Salisbury plain tribes or family groups.

Then, in the west and north, people got fed up with using big stones in tombs and moved into a "standing stone" phase instead, putting up rows, circles, ovals and pairs all over the place, not to mention thousands of single standing stones as waymarks, memorials, territorial boundary markers, cattle scratching stones, or whatever.

To summarise -- it seems to me that for about a thousand years, between 6,000 yrs BP and 5,000 yrs BP,  big stones were used as a matter of course in burial chambers around the Celtic Fringe, but not on Salisbury Plain.  Why?  It's not that there weren't plenty of big stones lying around in the landscape -- David Field, Aubrey Burl and others have commented on the fact that there were sarsens littered across the chalklands.  (I would argue that somewhere there were lots of erratics as well, but leave that to one side for the moment.....)  People chose not to use them, but to continue with digging ditches, making ridges and embankments and putting vertical posts into the ground.

This does not argue for close cultural ties between the Salisbury Plain community and the communities of the Celtic Fringe.  When, finally, a stone-based megalithic culture arrived on Salisbury Plain, it lasted for 500 - 600 years and was something of an aberration, with the creation of a rather wacky monument called Stonehenge, using woodworking techniques (tongue and groove joints, mortise and tenon joints etc) on stone -- and mimicking and developing the things people had been doing for many generations with big timber posts.

Very strange......and this does have a bearing on the likelihood of the Stonehenge people knowing anything at all about bluestones, the uplands of Preseli, and the routeways between West Wales and Salisbury Plain.  There was clearly not complete cultural isolation, because stone axes and other trade goods were being exchanged all the time, but I would argue that that trading activity was more or less random, opportunistic and quite small in scale.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Dyffryn Stones

The Dyffryn Stones (courtesy RCAHMW)

I am still mystified as to why anybody should ask Facebook to remove those images from the Pensarn dig that were posted up by Emyr Jones and myself.  Anyway, they are gone, and have not returned in precisely their original form, although what is out there is out there, and I have put two of the images back onto my Facebook page so as to inform and educate those who are interested in such things. 

In our speculations on what the archaeologists might have been looking for in the current dig, we made a reasonable stab at it by suggesting they were looking for a Neolithic passage grave surrounded by a stone circle which could then be labelled as a "proto-Stonehenge".  This would also fit nicely into the MPP thesis that the stones would be invested with significance since they were set up around "a place of the dead" -- and could thus be linked with Stonehenge, which is also seen as a place of the dead.  This would then be a reason for those old Neolithic folks to cart away these "stones of the ancestors" as tribute stones all the way to Stonehenge, to be built into the monument around 5,000 years ago.  Emyr also picked up on something like this when he talked to the diggers, and indeed MPP has suggested as much in his talks.

In the event, what we have at Pensarn, by the look of it, is a Bronze Age cist burial site maybe with a sharp edge or kerb and maybe segmented internally as well.  A serious disappointment to the quarrymen.  But all will be revealed in due course, if the news and image blackout allows........

So what were the diggers hoping for?  Something like the Garn Ochr Cairn, I suspect.  It's a bit confusing because it is also called Henry's Moat, the Dyffryn Stones, the Dyffryn Syfynwy Stones and the Dyffryn Circle.  It is classified as a ring-cairn or henge.  It lies between Tufton and Rosebush, on the southern flank of Mynydd Preseli, at grid ref SN05922845.  In the NP Figgis book it is site number 33.  Here is the link to the Coflein record:

From the air - a Toby Driver photo (RCAHMW)

Site Description

Garn Ochr Cairn is a greatly disturbed and much denuded round cairn some 21.3m in diameter and surviving to only 0.5m high. It was contained within a ring of thirteen orthostatic - earthfast - stones, although only ten remained in 1966, two of which were prostrate. The stones are up to 2.0m long.

This is probably a prehistoric funerary or ritual monument. It has been supposed that there was originally a burial chamber within the ring although there appears to be no evidence for this. Three stones, now gone, some 12m to the north-east, were seen as evidence for a burial chamber.

Sources: RCAHMW & M Pembrokeshire Inventory (1925), 118 No. 313
Daniel 'The Prehistoric Chambered Tombs of England and Wales (1950), 204 No. 38
Driver 'Pembrokeshire: Historic Landscapes from the Air' (2007), fig 65

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Greenland ice sheet trimline

A fabulous photo of the edge of the Greenland ice sheet, showing a very prominent trimline between a landscape of weathered rock and reasonable vegetation cover, to the left, and a landscape of newly exposed and "clean" rock in the centre of the photo.  On the lower version of the image I have added one white line for the position of the trimline, and another showing the current ice edge.  Sadly, I don't have info on the length of time that has elapsed between the advanced ice edge position and that of the present day.....

The image is from somewhere in SW Greenland.

Kaldalon Glacier, NW Iceland

Kaldalon Glacier.  Images by FlashXXX (top), Matthias Klaiber (middle) 
and Yutta Wyrt (bottom)

Kaldalon Glacier is an outlet glacier from the Drangajokull ice cap in NW Iceland (Vestfirdir).  I'm posting these three gorgeous photos, for no other reason that they make me come over all nostalgic.  This glacier was the first one I ever studied, back in 1960 on my first student expedition.  My old friend David Sugden and I even got a "learned" paper out of it, published in Geografiska Annaler.  It wasn't that learned, but the editor published it, I suspect, just to encourage us because we were only 20 years old at the time!  Happy memories -- it is a truly magical valley.  The name means "cold lagoon"........

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Six digging seasons and what have we learned? Nothing at all.....

After six digging seasons (2011-2016) by the archaeologists involved in the Great Bluestone Quarry Hunt, what have we learned about the Neolithic and the Bronze Age that we didn't already know?  I can't actually think of anything.......

If anybody can think of something, please let us know.

The best we can say about the so-called quarries at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog is that no undisputed evidence of quarrying has been found at either site, and that the interpretations placed upon things by the archaeologists are hotly disputed.  The radiocarbon dates do nothing to support the idea of Neolithic quarrying, either at Carn Goedog or at Rhosyfelin.    So let's leave those "quarries"to one side, and look at what else has been discovered.  Organic remains and traces of human occupation have been found at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, but all that is entirely predictable, since there are abundant nearby traces of Neolithic burial sites and Bronze Age features too -- and it has been known for many decades that hunting parties involved in a hunting and gathering economy over many thousands of years moved about, camped in sheltered places, and used those sheltered "favoured places" over and again.  They caught fish, hunted wild animals, and ate berries and hazel nuts.  They used hearths for their fires.  They needed cutting tools and other weapons, and needed to manufacture them or trade them.  There is nothing about the occupational or sedimentological/stratigraphic evidence either at Carn Goedog or Rhosyfelin that can be lebelled as "exceptional" or "significant".

In parallel with this particular wild goose chase, we have had others.  The search for a Neolithic quarryman's village took the diggers to the settlement site beneath the crags at Carn Goedog -- and drew a blank.  The search for a Neolithic ceremonial centre somewhere in the Nevern valley has taken the diggers to Castell Mawr and to Felindre Farchog -- and drew a blank in both cases.  The search for a proto-Stonehenge circle of standing stones took the diggers to Waun Mawn -- and drew a blank.  There was talk of something at Bayvil, something else at Felin y Gigfran, and those sites may or may not have been investigated.  Then there was going to be "something big" at Pensarn, and the current dig has revealed a Bronze Age burial site to add to the fifty or so that we know about already in the Preseli area.  In advance of each of these investigations, there have been heavy hints of exciting work and monumental discoveries to come, as we have pointed out before:

Each summer, in his annual lectures here in Pembrokeshire, Prof MPP announces where the next giant leap forward will be, thus keeping public interest simmering along nicely over the dark winter months, during which the grant aid for the next dig is secured.  It's called news management and public relations, combined with commercial awareness.

The only interesting new information to come out of this whole quarrying fiasco is the news that some of the foliated rhyolite debris at Stonehenge is quite closely matched to the rock type identified around Rhosyfelin and Pont Saeson.  That is a piece of noteworthy provenancing news -- but the research was done by geologists Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer, and not by archaeologists.

How much has this wild goose chase cost the taxpayer, and how much harm has it done to the reputation of archaeology and the reputations of those involved in the quarry hunt?  Only time will tell.  But the time has come, I think, to stop the flow of public funds into this particular research project and to spend the money on something more sensible.  No doubt all those involved in these six seasons of digging are all perfectly competent archaeologists -- but it's sad to see so many people involved in the meticulous observation and "signification" of insignificant things (such as the precise positioning of stones in glacial till and rockfall deposits) and swept along by something that is best described as corporate delusion.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Pensarn turns out to be a Bronze Age cist grave site -- as expected

 Photos:  thanks to Emyr Jones

So all is revealed.  Thanks to Dave for alerting me to this info published yesterday by Emyr Jones on his Facebook page:

So, the archaeologists that have been looking for the sources of the Stonehenge Bluestones are back again at the moment. They finished their dig at Careg Rhos Y Felin last year and were also excavating up at Carn Goedog. Towards the end of last years dig I got them interested in the fact that 2 of the very local farms have a ridiculous amount of huge gate posts and whilst taking their photographer around to look at them, we spotted (in fact he spotted) a bit of a lump in one of the fields... They did their Geophys scanning over the field and began to get rather excited that their was indeed what looked like a passage grave footprint in the field....
They came back a few weeks ago and this is where their excavations have got this year. Pretty quickly it became obvious that this wasn't a Neolithic passage grave as they were hoping but is instead a Bronze age cerb cairn or ring cairn. I've kept quiet about it as in the middle was a capstone, which would have covered the original burial and they have been a little worried about anyone trying to open this prematurely...
They opened the burial chamber on Friday and excavated it over Friday and Saturday, there were quite a lot of cremated bone fragments and a few bits of pottery but nothing particularly exciting otherwise. Never the less this is still a fantastic piece of archaeology, a unrecorded bronze age tomb, just on top of the hill, a few fields above my house.

From Emyr's photos, it looks as if there might be more than one burial site, since there seem to be several clusters of stones with traces of walls here and there.   Hence the ring cairn idea.  Emyr mentions one cist covered by a capstone, with cremated bone fragments inside.  It will be interesting to see if other capstones and cists are still to be found.   The stones used appear all to be local rhyolites,  dolerites and  quartz lumps -- all gathered in the immediate vicinity.  There do not appear to be any standing stones, although there is one in the next field.

So the "something big" referred to by Kate Welham turns out to be rather small after all, as predicted on this blog a few weeks ago.  The site appears to have nothing to do with the Neolithic, or with bluestone orthostats, or with quarries, or with Stonehenge, or with Rhosyfelin.  This will not stop MPP waxing eloquent about the fantastic flowering of prehistoric culture in the Preseli area, which (in his mind, at least) explains why people would want to cart 80 bluestones all the way along the A40 road to Stonehenge, as ancestor stones or tribute stones during a process of political unification.  The story telling will go on and on..... but will the diggers please now go away and leave us in peace?

And have we now heard the last of "proto-Stonehenge"?  Let us pray that we have.....


In the comments after the Facebook entry, we find these remarks:

They reckon there could be another 3 or 4 in the surrounding fields also...
They're going to leave those for some serious Bronze age researchers, they're still looking for a neolithic site that's had it's stones robbed to take to Stonehenge... They may look at Bedd yr Afanc next year.

Oh dear, they don't give up easily, do they?!!


I just found this quote (about the proposed proto-Stonehenge) from MPP in an article in The Telegraph, in June, round about the time of his Hay Festival talk:

“Why dismantle an original monument? We’re wondering if it actually might have been a tomb with a surrounding stone circle which they dismantled. If that were the case they were basically carting the physical embodiment of their ancestors to re-establish somewhere else.  Their idea of packing their luggage was rather more deep and meaningful than our own. They are actually moving their heritage, and these stones represent the ancestors. They are actually bringing their ancestors with them."

So this makes it very clear that what MPP and his team were hoping to find at Pensarn was a Neolithic tomb with a surrounding stone circle.

I'll do another post on this proto-Stonehenge idea..... 

Rhosyfelin in its regional stratigraphic context

It should not come as any sort of surprise, but the Quaternary stratigraphy at Rhosyfelin is exactly what we would expect from an inland site affected by the Devensian glaciation.  Here are some diagrams from ancient history (well, from 1970, when I published my "Pembrokeshire" chapter in the Glaciation of Wales book) which show the regional context:

There are of course some regional and local variations dependent upon environmental conditions.  But essentially, the Late Quaternary stratigraphy inland (where clearly we are not going to find raised beaches)  is everywhere dominated by a sequence of deposits numbered 4-8 on the above table.  The Lower Head is a stratified cold-climate slope deposit containing substantial rockfall debris where cliff breakdown was going on in the vicinity; the Irish Sea till and local equivalents represent a real glacial episode in which Devensian ice affected much of Pembrokeshire; the fluvioglacial sands and gravels, with occasional boulder beds and inclusions of flowtill, represent the wastage phase of the Devensian ice; the Upper Head and "rubble drift" accumulated during cold climate conditions following final ice wastage with some reworking during the "cold snaps" referred to as the late-glacial Zones 1 and 3; the sandy loams, colluvium and blown sand are for the most part Holocene materials whose precise characteristics (degree of stratification etc) are determined by local slope and environmental condition; and at the ground surface we find a modern soil horizon infiltrated by root systems and high in humus.

Now let's look at two sections, one from Aber-mawr South and the other from Rhosyfelin:

In both of these sites, the Lower Head is very blocky indeed, with large boulders and slabs that have fallen off the cliffs set in a matrix of finer broken rock materials.  In both cases, these rockfall materials are intercalated with glacial and fluvioglacial materials, indicating that rockfall debris was picked up by overriding ice and also by meltwater, and that rockfalls continued whenever the adjacent rock face was exposed to periglacial processes.  As far as the Upper Head and stratified slope deposits are concerned, they are naturally coarsest close to the rock face and more dominated by sands, gravels and colluvium further away.  A lot of the material in these layers has come from underlying glacial and fluvioglacial materials, and this is why I coined the term "rubble drift" to differentiate it from the "cleaner" upper head deposits elsewhere.

 As I have said before, stratigraphy does not lie, and if you are able to employ an objective eye at Rhosyfelin you will see that there is nothing remotely unusual about this sequence of deposits.  The Holocene deposits contain organic materials and also signs of intermittent human occupation, as we would expect of a sheltered camping and hunting site.  Where on earth did the idea come from that the stratified slope deposits are "archaeological layers"?  They are nothing of the sort.  They are entirely natural, and are located exactly where we geomorphologists expect them to be.

Clutching at hazel nuts

Just to avoid confusion, this pic does NOT relate to Rhosyfelin.  It comes from Google images, showing some carbonized hazel nut shells, and I thought it was rather nice.....

I have been reading (once again) the paper by Parker Pearson et al, which purports to make the case for Neolithic quarrying at Rhosyfelin.  I have been paying particular attention to the dating section of the paper, in which the authors have to make the best of a pretty miserable situation, given that the abundant radiocarbon dates tell us a lot about intermittent occupation but nothing at all about quarrying.  As we all know, the famous "pseudo-proto-orthostat" which was invested with great significance (or "significated", as Tim Darvill might put it) when it was discovered, in conjunction with all that stuff about Pompeii, turned out to have nothing at all to do with the Neolithic, since there are Bronze Age organic materials beneath it.  So it is now deemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the Stonehenge bluestone settings, but presumably with another, later, stage of bluestone extractions with stones maybe intended for local use.

So where does the case for the Neolithic quarrying of this site come from?  On searching through the paper and looking at the sampling points for the dated organic materials, the whole case for the Neolithic quarry seems to rest on this statement:

The most probable dates associated with the removal of the rhyolite pillar from its recess are 3500–3120 cal BC (SUERC-46205; 4590±30 BP) and 3620–3360 cal BC (OxA-30502; 4667±30 BP), both at 95.4% probability, provided by carbonised hazelnut shells from the small occupation layer just 1.5m away from it. (p 1345)

I can hardly believe how unscientific this all is.  For a start, the "removal of the rhyolite pillar" is as wild a piece of speculation as you are ever likely to see in print.  We have examined it many times previously on this blog, so we don't need to do it again.  But the dating bit is really staggering in its incompetence, since a few carbonised hazel nut shells from a Neolithic occupation layer "just 1.5m away" are being used to prop up the whole gigantic edifice of the "Neolithic Quarry".  I have said it before, and I will say it again -- this is just as daft as finding a 20 year old Fairy Liquid bottle on the beach at Newport and claiming that the cave in the nearby cliffs was eroded by the sea 20 years ago.

There is no other dating evidence from Rhosyfelin to support the thesis of Neolithic bluestone quarrying.  I suspect that far into the future, this Antiquity paper will be shown to generations of archaeology students during their ongoing studies of white elephants and pseudo-science.  But another part of me thinks that maybe this is all part of a jolly jape, designed by a multi-talented team to test just how naive and gullible the public and the media (not to mention the archaeology establishment) actually are........  So all hail the rollicking pranksters for managing to get away with it for five whole years without being rumbled!


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.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bluestones and the houses of the holy -- new article by Tim Darvill

 Here is a new article from Tim Darvill, containing a lengthy section on the bluestones and their part in the evolution of the stone monument.  It's a nicely written and coherent account of what went on at Stonehenge, aimed maybe at people who are more interested in ideas than facts.

TD suggests (of course!) that between 50 and 80 bluestones were imported from Wales around 2500 BC or 4500 BP. That's a thousand years later than the date suggested by MPP.  This was for a double bluestone circle or arc.   The Prof does not seem to think that there were bluestones in the Aubrey Holes earlier than that.  Later on, he thinks the bluestones were removed from this initial setting and re-set on at least three more occasions, including a bluestone oval of c 25 monoliths and a bluestone circle of  40-60 monoliths created around 2270 - 2020 cal BC.  He suggests that more bluestones might have been brought in.   He also says:  "It is possible that one final reworking of the bluestones was planned when the Y and Z holes were dug between 1630 BC and 1520 BC outside the Sarsen Circle (Cleal et al. 1995, 256–265). With 30 holes in each ring, mimicking the 30 stones of the Sarsen Circle, they could have accommodated some or all of the remaining bluestones, but in the end the sockets were left empty."

TD thinks that right from the very beginning, bluestones were put up and then taken down and used for tool making or for the distribution of sacred lumps of rock.  Look at pp 105-116 for much more detail.

Another quote: 
The disposition of the various bluestone lithologies in the Stage 4 monument suggested to Richard Bradley that these elements of the monument were essentially a microcosm of the landscape of southwest Wales (Bradley 2000, 92–95), an idea developed and expanded as the complexity and diversity of stone sources within and around the Preseli Mountains became clear from new fieldwork (Darvill 2006, 136–141). Now it is clear that the central Bluestone Oval comprises only dolerites from outcrops on the high ground of the eastern Preselis, while the Outer Bluestone Circle includes dolerites from these same areas interspersed with rhyolites and tuffs from outcrops on lower ground around the central ridge.
Not only is the pattern of lithologies different between these two components, but also the preservation of the stones. The pillars of the Outer Bluestone Circle are very fragmentary, many are missing, and they do not seem to have been very consistently shaped. By contrast the dolerite pillars of the Bluestone Oval were well finished, graded in height from the lowest in the northeast to the tallest in the southwest and survive rather better.

All just as fanciful as the writings of MPP, albeit with a different emphasis.

As one might expect, the emphasis here is on Stonehenge as a sacred place, although there is less than one might expect about healing stones and hospitals.   That having been said, TD cannot resist repeating this hoary old piece of nonsense:

In Wales water flowing from outcrops providing contributions to the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge have long been considered to have healing properties. On the main Preseli ridge the outcrops around Carn Menyn are associated with enhanced spring- heads, some of which have been significated through the application of rock art (Darvill and Wainwright 2011, 2014). Carn Goedog, an important source of pillarstones (Bevins et al. 2014; Parker Pearson et al. 2016), stands above springs feeding the Afon Brynberian. While to the north of the ridge the well-explored outcrops of Craig Rhos-y-felin which appear to have been a key source of rhyolites (Ixer and Bevins 2011b; Parker Pearson et al. 2015, 2016) stand beside the Afon Brynberian and less than 1km from the holy well (Ffynnongroes) at Crosswell, Meline (F. Jones 1992, 215). At Stonehenge itself there is a long tradition that pieces chipped from the stones there had a curative effect (Grinsell 1975), and the connection between the site and water in Stonehenge Bottom and the River Avon was formalized by the construction of the Avenue at just the time that bluestones were introduced into the central setting.

 This is of course sheer invention:  "In Wales water flowing from outcrops providing contributions to the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge have long been considered to have healing properties."  Why do people keep on telling lies, even after it has been pointed out by those who know these hills that there is NO tradition of healing springs in the eastern Preseli area?

TD thinks that the Boles Barrow bluestone was taken to Heytesbury from Stonehenge in prehistoric times and built into a much earlier long barrow as part of the process of blocking its entrance.  That seems rather fanciful, as does the attempt to explain other bluestone fragments in "inconvenient" contexts as stones taken from Stonehenge and put in other places so as to spread their magical or sacred qualities -- in other words for ritual purposes.  Hmmm...........

In short, a strange mixture of erudition and fantasy, with a sprinkling of falsehoods.  There is nothing here to show that there was human transport of the bluestones.  It is simply assumed.  There is nothing to show that Stonehenge was ever complete, or that there ever were 80 bluestones in the stone settings.  All that is assumed too.  And there is no consideration of the possibility that the bluestones were simply picked up in the local area, or that the builders of Stonehenge had not the faintest idea where they had come from. Another assumption seems to be that the bluestones were all pillars -- which they clearly were not.   The guiding principle seems to be, as ever:  if you are short of facts, throw in an assortment of assumptions and fantasies, and with a bit of luck people will think you are giving them a reliable history.


Timothy Darvill (2016) Houses of the Holy: Architecture and Meaning in the Structure of Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK, Time and Mind, 9:2, 89-121.
DOI: 10.1080/1751696X.2016.1171496
To link to this article:

Stonehenge in central southern England is internationally known. Recent re-evaluations of its date and construction sequence provides an opportunity to review the meaning and purpose of key structural components. Here it is argued that the central stone structures did not have a single purpose but rather embody a series of symbolic representations. During the early third millennium this included a square-in-circle motif representing a sacred house or ‘big house’ edged by the five Sarsen Trilithons. During the late third millennium BC, as house styles changed, some of the stones were re-arranged to form a central oval setting that perpetuated the idea of a sacred dwelling. The Sarsen Circle may have embodied a time-reckoning system based on the lunar month. From about 2500 BC, more than 80 bluestones were brought to the site from sources in the Preseli Hills of west Wales about 220km distant. Initially arranged as a Double Circle they were variously rearranged at least four times over the following centuries. The diverse lithology of the bluestones reflects the landscape from which the stones derived so that the monument embodied a microcosm of the distant land. Associations with water and healing suggest one reason why Stonehenge became such a powerful place in prehistoric times.

Tracing the origins of a wild goose chase

I'm still trying to find out where the claim for incredibly accurate "spot provenancing" at the northern tip of Craig Rhosyfelin came from, and I have been re-reading this article, which geologist Rob Ixer is presumably proud of,  given that he has has kindly placed it on the Academia web site for all to read.  It still makes me cringe when I read it, four years after its publication.  I know that it is just a "popular" article  written for simple geologists who may not know much about archaeology, but it is really very dubious indeed. 

"Very detailed sampling" at Rhosyfelin?  It is not very detailed at all -- there may have been, in 2012, a dozen or so samples taken from the rhyolitic outcrops around Rhosyfelin and Pont Saeson,  and subjected to petrography and geochemical analyses, but we have no idea from the published slides what the full range of foliated rhyolite fabrics might be, or how widespread the jovian fabric found near the tip of the spur might be.  I have asked over and again on this blog for an assessment of the full lateral extent of the "signature" that has caused all the fun and games, but have had no response.  So a plea to the geologists Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins -- can we please have all of the thin sections published on the Academia or ResearchGate web site (as "supplementary data") so that we can see for ourselves what has led you to your conclusions?

If there are lots of other thin sections from lots of other sampled sites in the vicinity since 2012, let's see them too.  It's very easy to upload supporting images onto these academic web sites.  I have done it, so I know the process.   Show, don't tell, if you want to convince me and other sceptics. 

The site in question is not site 9, but site 8.

Are the Stonehenge foliated rhyolites with fabric identical to those from this site?  No, they are not.  they are similar -- that is the best that can be said.

" almost impossible provenance of ten squares metres."  All of the earth scientists who have visited the site with me are agreed that this is an unsupportable claim, since the geologists do not know where the layer with the sampled signature currently outcrops, or where it might have outcropped in the past, prior to erosion of the crag.

"The archaeologists were told where to dig."  So the geologists are to blame for everything.......

"They (MPP et al) found, just a few metres from site 9, a large proto-orthostat, a large joint block set for its journey to Salisbury Plain."    I still cannot believe that this sentence, packed full with unsupportable assumptions, came from a professional geologist.

"..........the discovery of the first secure Stonehenge-related quarry site, confirming that man moved the bluestones."  Comment -- ditto.

It might sound a bit mean-spirited to go after one particular geologist in this way, particularly since Rob has been very willing to engage with others and debate matters openly, in a way that one can only applaud.  But this is actually a very serious matter, since over and again the archaeologists say "This quarrying business?  We are just archaeologists -- and we have taken professional guidance from Ixer and Bevins -- and THEY are the experts who know what they are talking about, and who have told us this is a quarry......."

Time to retract that wretched article from "Mineral Planning", Rob? 


This is a key passage:
"Subsequently matching the distinctive‘rhyolite with fabric’ debitage (first seen in Stone’s stones) from Stonehenge to very detailed sampling along the Welsh outcrop showed that rocks from the extreme north-east of Craig Rhos-y-felin (‘site 9’) were identical to Stonehenge rhyolites showing the‘Jovian’ texture. This suggests an almost impossible provenance of ten squares metres. The archaeologists were told where to dig. In September 2011, Professor Mike Parker-Pearson of Sheffield University and his team cleared the vegetation from the northern end of Craig Rhos-y-felin and excavated. They found, just a few metres from site 9, a large proto-orthostat, a large joint block set for its journey to Salisbury Plain. So the contents of a 60-year-old box led to the discovery of the first secure Stonehenge-related quarry site, confirming that man moved the bluestones."

Digging into Stonehenge’s past
The provenance of Stonehenge’s rocks has been a subject of heated debate for many years.
Rob Ixer explains how the contents of a small box led to the discovery of the first secure Stonehenge-related quarry

Issue 143 / October 2012, page 13
Mineral Planning

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Both sides of the bluestone quarry debate

Here we are -- the NPA has just put these posters up, relating to the two talks next week.  Roll up, folks, for the fun and games!  As far as I am concerned, what the punters will get is straight-down-the-line observations and parsimonious interpretations of the evidence on the ground.....

Revisions to Isles of Scilly glaciation paper

I have made some revisions to my working paper on the Isles of Scilly in response to comments already received from readers.  So, thank you to those who have been in touch!

I quite like this method of "democratic" digital publication via the pages of ResearchGate.  A researcher who publishes via the normal peer-reviewed journal route is stuck with the version which goes into print.  The only way to respond to criticism (or indeed helpful comments) is to work via the journal's "letters" page or to await a paper from somebody else, and then to respond to that via yet another article.  That process is cumbersome and time-consuming. However, if a writer goes down this digital route,  if he / she is not too fond of what has been written, it is possible to make changes in response to comments about lack of clarity or to respond to new information from other researchers.    This can be done, very easily, over and again just by deleting an old version of a paper and uploading a newer one.  It's important that each version should have a date attached.

We may see more and more of this, as the bigger journals impose higher and higher charges for publication.  For a non-affiliated researcher like me, the conventional journal route is more and more difficult -- although to their credit some journals still do allow the free submission of articles.

As for quality, a writer who goes down the "working paper" route must of course take responsibility for ensuring adequate peer review and rewriting.  If he/she takes that issue seriously, there should be no issues relating to reliability and "academic worth".

Let's see how things evolve......

Monday, 12 September 2016


No particular relevance here, except that I had to share this!  One of the most beautiful polar photos I have ever seen -- just look at the extraordinary translucent quality of the light.....

A photo by Janet Little -- very early morning among the icebergs in Hall Bredning, Scoresby Sund, East Greenland.  Top photographers do manage to catch scenes like this every now and then -- but they have to be there, at the right time, with the right equipment!

New online paper: Carn Goedog is NOT a Neolithic quarry

Here is another online working paper which addresses the claims made by Mike Parker Pearson and others in popular journals (ie without peer review) relating to the tumbledown tor of Carn Goedog, on the northern flank of Mynydd Preseli.  I wanted to submit the article to Current Archaeology magazine, with a view to possible publication as a letter or as a short article, but the editorial team has ignored my attempts at communication, so here is my short piece as an online publication.  I hope it will be of interest.

Please cite as follows:

Brian John (2016).  Those "bluestone quarries" -- the manufacturing of a modern myth (Greencroft Working Paper No 3).  ResearchGate online publication.
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.23379.17446

It is unclear whether the Parker Pearson research team ever will publish a learned paper on Carn Goedog, but if they do, I hope they will have the good grace to address the issues raised in this short working paper.

If there are any points which anybody wishes to raise, by all means get in touch or raise them via this blog.

Note:  We know that Carn Goedog has been used as a source for stones within the last few centuries.  There are historical records of chapel-goers and farmers taking pillars and blocks from here for use as building stone and gate posts.  This paper strictly relates to the proposed use of Carn Goedog as a quarry in prehistoric times.

New online paper: Rhosyfelin is NOT a quarry

As readers of this blog will know, the debate about Rhosyfelin has been going on mostly off the record, or in press releases, or on this blog, with very little in the way of discussion in peer-reviewed articles in learned journals.  Well, some journals are more learned than others......  there have been a number of articles and editorial comments in Current Archaeology and British Archaeology, but those articles are not peer-reviewed, and we can forget about them on the basis that they are written to promote new research findings and pet theories to a readership of non-specialists.  So they are by definition neither balanced nor independently scrutinised.  As far as I can gather, they are largely written by invitation.  So what are we left with?  Three papers, as follows:

1.  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)

2.  Brian John, Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes (2015).  "Quaternary Events at Craig Rhosyfelin, Pembrokeshire."  Quaternary Newsletter, October 2015 (No 137), pp 16-32. (November 2015)

3. Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-LucSchwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge. Antiquity, 89, pp 1331-1352 (7th December 2015)


The three papers were published within the space of a month, so they were all in the publishing pipeline at the same time, and there was no possibility of cross-citations and no opportunity for the authors to assess the reliability of opposing arguments or indeed the reliability of cited evidence.  As every reader realises, there is not much common ground between the geomorphological interpretation of Rhosyfelin and that of the archaeologists.  At some stage, each of the two teams needs to assess the reliability of what the other team is saying -- you cannot simply potter on by ignoring the "inconvenient" views of other specialists.  On this blog I gave a thorough assessment of the paper from the Parker Pearson team back in December 2015:

In my summary, I said:  I am mystified that this paper (by Parker Pearson et al) has found its way into print in a prestigious journal, since it comprehensively ignores all the protocols of scientific publishing and since it is simply an exercise in ruling hypothesis confirmation.   I still think that.  Anyway, some of the contributors to the blog suggested I should write an article for submission to Antiquity in which I expressed my reservations in diplomatic language!  Anyway, in the spring of 2016 I wrote a short article with a few added illustrations and submitted it to the journal for consideration,  not really expecting it to be accepted, for reasons that are not too difficult to discern!  I made some substantial alterations to the text on the basis of one peer review, and then the revised text was reviewed by at least two other reviewers (not of my choosing) and by the editor before being formally rejected.

The grounds for the rejection were that the article contained too much material which was already published in other articles.  That's true -- some of the information is of course contained in our articles published in Quaternary Newsletter and  Archaeology in Wales.  But I had included it, in summarised form, because if I had failed to produce any hard evidence I would most certainly have had the article rejected on the grounds that it was entirely negative and that it failed to provide any data or arguments to back up my criticisms of the paper from the MPP team.  Anyway, I did not want it just to be a tirade directed at another piece of work, and I wanted an archaeological readership to encounter just a little geomorphology............

I am still rather bemused by this "no repeat publication" ruling by the editor, since the first part of the MPP group's paper (the first four pages were clearly written by Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer) consists entirely of geological material already in print.  So repetition and citation are apparently OK for some, but not for others.

What to do next?  Well, the editor has now invited me to submit something brief that can be used to stimulate a debate -- with very serious limits on the number of words available.  MPP and his colleagues can then come back at me with whatever points they want to raise.  That's OK -- I may well go along with that suggestion.

But in the meantime, what to do with the paper as submitted and rejected?  There would be no point in sending it to another journal, since it was written FOR the journal Antiquity and would make little sense anywhere else.  For better or for worse, I have now published it online as a "working paper."  This means it becomes available for people too see and to comment on, and I can alter it if anybody points out mistakes or pieces of unfortunate phraseology.  Does it have any "status" or "academic value"?  I leave that for others to judge, but I quite like the "democratic publishing" process that is now possible, thanks to the web and online publishing platforms like ResearchGate.  In the process of making revisions I have taken on board all of the comments from the Antiquity editor and my own referees and those chosen by him -- and I thank all of them for their help in improving the manuscript.  It is now as reliable, I think, as anything you are likely to read in a learned journal anywhere.

If anybody wants to cite it, please use the following format:

Brian John (2016).  Craig Rhos-y-felin is NOT shown to be a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge.  Greencroft Working Paper No 2, August 2016.  Online ResearchGate publication.
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.11635.12322