What should one do when one knows something about something, and somebody else goes into overdrive in the promotion of what is, to put it mildly, somewhat unreliable? Keep a dignified silence? Look the other way? It's a bit of a dilemma when somebody gives three talks in rapid succession in the community, and then writes two articles in a widely circulating magazine, leading to all sorts of people saying to me "Did you know that the Welsh Stonehenge has been discovered?"
I groan inwardly and suppose that I have to respond, just to protect the community of people who are interested in Stonehenge but who do not necessarily know much of the detail.
Paul Sanday, of whom In have written before, is hoofing about giving his talks, and in this month's Pembrokeshire Life Magazine he has an article called "The Day I found the Welsh Stonehenge". Paul calls himself a geologist, and I leave it to other geologists to assess his credentials. Where are you, Myris?
Anyway, I'll try to be quick. Paul's starting premise seems to be that there is some sort of conspiracy to keep the truth hidden away, and he argues that there are in the north Pembrokeshire area "three hidden things." This is all rather in the style of the Welsh Triads -- you know how it goes -- involving the three immortal drunkards of Wales, the three wise birds, the three one-legged heroes and so forth. Is there a triad celebrating the three jolly geologists, I wonder?
The first hidden truth, according to Paul, is that the rectangular bluestone numbered 36 at Stonehenge (the one with the mortise holes) was actually shaped and used originally in a bluestone trilithon in the Welsh Stonehenge and then reburied at Stonehenge by Atkinson to keep it from public view. Oh, dastardly deed! The second hidden truth is that the Welsh Stonehenge is actually at Castell Mawr, near Castell Henllys, which we have discussed many times on this blog. Paul describes breathlessly the manner in which he and his dog "stumbled upon it", apparently quite ignorant of its size and characteristics and unaware of the fact that it is perfectly obvious on Google Earth imagery, heavily studied and perfectly well described in the literature....... Paul says he went hunting for it, and found it in more or less the "right" place in relation to the position of the "mines" used for the extraction of dolerite, spotted dolerite and unspotted dolerite monoliths. Amazing! And the third hidden truth is a pillar of spotted dolerite which he found in a hedge somewhere between the Welsh Stonehenge and the spotted dolerite "mine". Apparently Paul has failed to notice that there are hundreds of spotted dolerite gateposts and monoliths scattered across the countryside of north Pembrokeshire, perfectly visible for all to see. Chris and I visited and photographed just a few of them a few months ago, and I put some photos onto the blog.
Other things? Where do I start and stop? Paul reproduces in his article something referred to as an "early plan" of Stonehenge, rather in the style of rough sketch map leading treasure seekers to a chest of gold coins on Treasure Island. Actually it is not an early plan at all -- it is certainly not a copy of the John Wood plan of 1740, and since it has the Petrie numbering system on it, and refers to "blue stones" and "sarsens" it must be rather recent! Is it a map made for a school project by some enthusiastic young person?
Paul refers to the "River Avon bluestone circle" as if it is established fact. As we know, it is nothing but speculation, with no evidence for any bluestone use close to the river. Paul refers to the arrival at Stonehenge of 75 bluestone "uprights" around 2800 yrs BC, and clearly thinks that at some stage thereafter the monument was "immaculate", with all assumed sarsens and bluestones tidily in place. As we all know, that is nothing but an assumption.
Paul refers to a "rhyolite mine" identified by geologists Ixer and Bevins at Rhosyfelin, and "spotted dolerite mines" at Carn Menyn, Carn Goedog and Cerrigmarchogion. If he has ever visited any of these places, he will know that there are not even quarries to be seen, let alone mines. There is a photo accompanying the article which Paul claims to have been taken at a "rhyolite outcrop below Carn Goedog" -- but it sure wasn't taken anywhere near Carn Goedog, since there is a well-wooded slope in the background.
On referring to previous visits to the "Welsh Stonehenge" site at Castell Mawr, Paul reports that over the past few years one archaeologist, one archaeoastrologer and one astronomer had visited it. Is it really possible for anybody in this neighbourhood to NOT know that the MPP team was digging there in 2012, and that they found nothing of any value? They looked for stone sockets but failed to find any. Does he not know that Mytum and Webster have described the site in detail? There has been speculation that there might be a henge monument buried beneath the Iron Age defensive features, but there is no evidence (as far as I know) in support of this idea.
Paul claims that the amount of rock excavated from the ditch at Castell Mawr is exactly the same as the amount of rock excavated from the Stonehenge ditch; apparently he has "developed a formula" for doing the calculation........ The fact that the Stonehenge ditch was cut around 5,000 years ago and the Castell Mawr ditch was cut during the Iron Age (around 3,500 years later) is apparently immaterial. In fact, Paul thinks all the dating is wrong, anyway. In his view the Welsh Stonehenge was built at Castell Mawr in the Mesolithic, and that this all had something to do "changing sexual relationships between men and women......" The mind boggles.
Now Paul is thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise £10,000 so that he can protect and preserve Castell Mawr and open it to the public with an attached research centre for "like-minded people".......
He claims that Prof Geoff Wainwright has given him great support and encouragement -- I am not sure that I believe that!
Oh dear -- I think I need to lie down in a darkened room for a while.