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....
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Monday, 31 August 2015

Felindre Farchog enclosure





Apologies to Pembs Hist Soc -- I thought they were referring to an enclosure called Castell Mawr.  Probably it is this one, which is actually on the valley floor:

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/413007/details/FELINDRE+FARCHOG,+ENCLOSURE/

Thanks to Geo for pointing this out.  You can easily find it on Google Earth or "Where's the Path?"

So there will be some digging there in September -- I wonder if Castell Mawr has been abandoned?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

All aboard the fantasy waggon.....




One of our esteemed contributors has alerted me to this.  Copied below.  On the Pembs Hist Soc web site, they even used one of my illustrations, which I thought was a bit cheeky.  But in my magnanimity I forgive them. (Of course, I use other people's illustrations all the time!)

This is all news to me, since I am not a member of the Historical Society, although their journal has published articles by me in the past.

Isn't it amazing how even sombre and steady historians get swept away by the mythology of the day?  Just look at these bits from the blurb:

Prof MPP "...... has been working at both ends of the conundrum, and in conjunction with scientists and geologists has succeeded in pinpointing the precise origins in the Preselis of some of the Stonehenge bluestones."  Not sure that the good Professor has done any of that,  and I'm not sure what exactly is meant by "precise".......

"CARN GOEDOG and CRAIG RHOS-Y-FELIN, have been identified by geologists Richard Bevins (National Museum of Wales) and Rob Ixer (University of Leicester) as sources for some of Stonehenge’s bluestones. Craig Rhos-y-felin, a remarkable rhyolite outcrop, provided probably just one monolith; the geologists have been able to identify the precise spot it was taken from."  Dodgy statement from top to bottom.  A little less certainty might just have been a good idea......


At Carn Goedog "......... evidence has been found for removal of many pillars from this site in the Neolithic period."  What?  What evidence?

"At the foot of Carn Goedog are numerous hut platforms........"  Numerous?  Four or five, maybe, and "a few" might be a rather better expression...... but I feel a village coming on.

So there we go.  When the fantasy waggon is rolling, look how easy it is to hop aboard and enjoy the ride! Yahoo!!

Luckily I am elsewhere on Saturday, meeting up with a book club in New Quay.  But if anybody else wants to go along, I'm sure you would be very welcome.

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When Faith moved Mountains

Field Trip with Prof. Mike Parker-Pearson

Saturday, 5 September 2015
http://www.pembrokeshirehistoricalsociety.org/index.php/news/events/41-when-faith-moved-mountains

If you have been following the Stonehenge story in recent years, then this field trip is not to be missed.

The mysterious and improbable link between Pembrokeshire and Stonehenge has given rise to many hotly contested theories. For over 90 years, ever since the source of the bluestones in that enigmatic monument was traced to the Preseli Hills, controversy and speculation have reigned.

Over the last few years, Professor Mike Parker-Pearson of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, has been working at both ends of the conundrum, and in conjunction with scientists and geologists has succeeded in pinpointing the precise origins in the Preselis of some of the Stonehenge bluestones. This year he is excavating at three Pembrokeshire sites and has very kindly offered to give us a guided tour of them.

Two, CARN GOEDOG and CRAIG RHOS-Y-FELIN, have been identified by geologists Richard Bevins (National Museum of Wales) and Rob Ixer (University of Leicester) as sources for some of Stonehenge’s bluestones. Craig Rhos-y-felin, a remarkable rhyolite outcrop, provided probably just one monolith; the geologists have been able to identify the precise spot it was taken from.

High on the Preselis, Carn Goedog has been identified by Richard and Rob as the dominant source for Stonehenge’s spotted dolerite monoliths and evidence has been found for removal of many pillars from this site in the Neolithic period. At the foot of Carn Goedog are numerous hut platforms, one of which is being excavated to see if it was associated with the Neolithic quarrying.

The third site we will be visiting is at FELINDRE FARCHOG, on the valley floor of the River Nevern (Nyfer) where a circular enclosure is being excavated to find out if it dates to the Neolithic.

The itinerary:

Meet at the Salutation Inn, Felindre Farchog at 10.00 a.m.
Visit the excavation there.
Go on to Craig Rhos-y-Felin.
Return to the Salutation for refreshments (approx. 12.00 p.m.) and to hear a short talk from Mike on the discoveries at Carn Goedog for the benefit of those not able to make the journey.
Approx. 1.30 p.m. the Carn Goedog party leave, weather permitting. This site is a 45 minute trek each way over steep rough ground. While I am sure some of you are well able to cope with hill walking, please note that you do it entirely at your own risk. The Society cannot be held liable for any loss or injury.

Please contact the Secretary, Ann Sayer (01348 811614 or ann.sayer@btinternet.com) if you would like to join all or part of this field trip.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

More geomorphologists visit Craig Rhosyfelin


Dr Rick Shakesby, Dr John Hiemstra and Dr Simon Carr in good form at Craig Rhosyfelin yesterday.  Following the encouraging note from the Quaternary Research Association for members to take a look at the dig site, it's gratifying that a number of specialists in glacial geomorphology and related disciplines have now made visits.   Some have visited in my company and others have been there independently, including at least one group with students. The more the merrier!

Next week, I gather that Prof MPP and his team will move in and start the 2015 dig season. I really hope that while it is going on, more geomorphologists will take the opportunity of calling in and passing on their thoughts as to the nature of what they are looking at.......

I have no information as to what will happen to the site at the end of the 2015 dig.  It will be helpful if at least part of it is left open so that some proper geomorphological research can be undertaken.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Red sandstone erratics at Newport



I went for a walk on the shoreline of the Nevern Estuary yesterday (while my car was failing its MOT test) and when I wandered across the exposures of till exposed between HWM and LWM I was once again amazed by the frequency of red sandstone erratic cobbles and pebbles.

The colouring varies from purple through red towards the pink end of the scale, and the rocks vary in texture too -- some are coarse and some are fine-grained. But I did not see anything resembling a true red marl.  Some cobbles are more like gritstones than sandstones.

So where on earth have they come from?  I doubt that they can be from any of the Old Red Sandstone outcrops in the UK, since there is no evidence (so far as I know) of ice movements from any of those areas towards North Pembrokeshire.  The cobbles cannot have come from the red and purple Cambrian Sandstones of the St David's area either -- since that would have involved ice moving from the SW towards the NE.

So one has to assume that the sandstones are from the Lower Cambrian deposits around the Harlech Dome in North Wales -- maybe carried initially by Welsh ice flowing westwards of south-westwards from the Welsh Ice Cap, and then picked and transported southwards by the Irish sea Glacier.  A nice little puzzle.....

Note added:  With regard to the Harlech Dome rocks, they are the right age, but are they the right colour?  Hmm -- as far as I can see from some investigations,  there are no red sandstones in the sequence.  More and more intriguing.

Meltwater moulding of rock surfaces


I thought this was worth sharing -- an amazing image of the moulded bedrock floor of a subglacial meltwater channel -- near the snout of Bruarjokull in Iceland.

These "moulding" features are not often seen, but they do occur at Rhosyfelin, and I am still not sure whether they are very old (ie associated with the cutting of the meltwater channels, probably in the Anglian Glaciation) or relatively young (ie associated with the Late Devensian meltwater flowing in the vicinity at the time of the deposition of those torrential meltwater deposits near the tip of the rocky spur).

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Expanding settlement in Wales



Here are three more maps from the SEA6 report (2005).  The maps are ten years old, but still pretty accurate.  They show the extent of settlement, so far as we can interpret it from archaeological traces, in the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.

The Palaeolithic lasted for a very long time, and the main cave sites are associated for the most part with the outcrops of Carboniferous Limestone.  People were certainly living in Wales around the time of maximum ice extent during the Devensian (23,000 - 20,000 yrs BP).  They lived close to the ice edge, and probably at times within sight of it, and prior to the maximum extent of the Welsh Ice cap and the Irish Sea Glacier they must have lived within the "glaciated area" as the ice advanced and forced them southwards.  Many of their settlement sites will have been obliterated or buried -- some will certainly be discovered in the future.

By the time of the Mesolithic people must have re-established themselves right across Wales.  Did they live preferentially close to the coasts?  Maybe, because movement was easier there, and because fishing could supplement food supplies, but we see that there are also many settlement sites far inland, and I assume that there must have been thousands of others -- maybe also including Rhosyfelin?  Some will have been ephemeral, and others must have been permanently occupied.

In the Neolithic there were hundreds if not thousands of settlement sites all over the place.  There is not much evidence that the coast was preferred......

All of this evidence summarised in the maps must be interpreted with caution, since much of it is based upon "chance" discoveries, and agricultural practices within the last few centuries have certainly obliterated vast numbers of sites.  So in some areas an assumption that Neolithic people preferred uplands or "wild places" must be taken with a pinch of salt......

Another Doggerland map


This is a really good map which represents Doggerland rather more accurately than some others.  Courtesy National Geographic.  It suggests that the maximum extent of this "expanded British Isles" occurred around 18,000 years ago, and that by 10,000 years ago Doggerland was already much diminished in size. 

There are lots of factors to take into account in working out how big this dry and ice-free area was -- isostatic depression, eustatic sea-level rise as water was returned to the oceans, the actual extent of glacier ice and snowfields, and even the extent of marshes and lakes, which must have been very extensive at times.  Perhaps we should also give a name to the vast area to the South-West as well -- incorporating the Celtic Sea and the English Channel, and even extending well south into the Bay of Biscay. Suggestions on a post-card please.......