Unravelling the mysteries of Stonehengehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81owUAZJ4Qk
All credit to him for covering a lot of territory in about 30 mins. Not a lot in the talk that was new -- and MPP employed his usual technique of making it appear that all sorts of things are self-evident when in reality they are highly contentious. Thus it was presented as self-evident that Stonehenge was a "place for the ancestors"; that Durrington Walls contained the settlement camp for the builders of Stonehenge; that the bluestones were in the Aubrey Holes before they were taken and used in other settings; that the so-called "periglacial fissures" determined the alignment of the Avenue and the precise positioning of the stone monument; that Neolithic monuments were preferentially built in concordance with natural features or astronomical alignments; that if there was a religion in the Neolithic it was a "religion of place"; that Craig Rhosyfelin was the site of a Neolithic bluestone quarry; and that the catchment of the River Nevern was so special that it encouraged the collecting of monoliths for the building of a revered stone circle at Castell Mawr which was then transported lock stock and barrel to Stonehenge shortly after 5,000 years ago. All of those things are worthy of debate -- but MPP is a man who likes to decide what his story is on the basis of very thin evidence indeed.
That all having been said, there were a few interesting snippets in the talk:
1. A very comprehensive set of data from the teeth and bones of animals in the Durrington Walls "barbeque middens" (more than 70 samples) suggests that the animals (mostly cattle and pigs) came from all over the UK -- including Scotland, Cornwall and the Midlands -- but not from Pembrokeshire. Prof MPP made one rather spurious connection between one pig tooth and South Wales generally, but that was not convincing. One does need to ask why, if Pembrokeshire was so special that people carted 82 bluestones from there to Stonehenge, there are apparently no animal remains that have come from the same area as the stones? After all, by this theory hundreds if not thousands of men must have made the journey with the precious stones -- if people travelled with their animals from everywhere else, why did the Pembrokeshire travellers not do the same?
2. The organic samples from Craig Rhosyfelin which are going to be used for radiocarbon dating were sent off to the laboratory on the very day of the lunchtime lecture. So they will be available in 2014. They may tell us if and when there might have been human activity at Rhosyfelin -- but whether they tell us anything about "quarrying activities" is another matter entirely. Human occupation of the site does not indicate that there was any quarrying going on; in my view it is much more likely that this sheltered location was a favoured camping / hunting site, maybe over many centuries.
3. It is now apparent, according to the good Prof, that the bluestones were not dragged or rolled or trundled, or even taken by boat, from Castell Mawr to Stonehenge. They were CARRIED by large groups of men using long poles on either side and a sort of sling holding the stone in the centre. In answer to a question, MPP said that 50 men -- 25 on each side -- could easily carry a monolith weighing 2 tonnes across country, on the land route that he now favours. If you have enough replacement gangs to take over when one group tires, there is logistically no problem. That is apparently all perfectly fine in India, and therefore it is fine in Neolithic Britain as well.
So there we are then.