Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Friday, 5 August 2022

A nice little glacial erratic


This is a nice one -- posted on Facebook today.  A perched block in Finland, reputed to weigh 500 tonnes.......

Silbury Hill bluestones


Thanks to Michael Fordy for sending this photo of one of the small bluestone fragments found in the topsoil at Silbury Hill.  It's on display in the museum at Avebury.   I have enlarged it and cropped the image, so it is now slightly fuzzy -- but although there was some discussion a while ago about the possibility that this might be a hornblende schist, it looks to me very much like a small fragment of spotted dolerite.  I'd go with this identification until somebody informs me otherwise.

I'm not sure whether this is the same piece of bluestone as that photographed by Pete Glastonbury, and published on this blog 12 years ago.  It looks as if it might be a different fragment -- but made of the same rock type.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Waun Mawn study has 5,000 reads

I have noticed that my Waun Mawn study has now reached 5,000 reads on Researchgate.  That makes it one of my most popular articles -- and it's particularly gratifying because this is a sober study which takes a careful look at the evidence in the ground and seeks to explain it in the most rational way possible.

In the article I also take a look at the three seasons of fieldwork by Mike Parker Pearson and his team, and examine some of the claims made in various publications.

I have updated the article occasionally, and we are now on the ninth version, with changes made in response to new developments and evidence, and comments received from readers.  That's the beauty of "working papers", as distinct from journal papers that are frozen in time and that are out of date effectively as soon as they are published.  Now I will have to do a tenth version, in response to the recent papers which demonstrate that I have been right all along, that there are no links between Waun Mawn and the fantastical "bluestone quarries", that there is no "lost circle",  and that there is nothing here showing any association with Stonehenge.. 

All in all, it's nice to see that there are readers out there who want to see sound fieldwork and scientific scrutiny instead of the latest version of bluestone mythology.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Waun Mawn -- tis but a scratch!


With the appearance of the new Waun Mawn paper and the demise of the fantasy that MPP and his colleagues have been flagging up for a decade or more, it's worth reflecting for a moment on what the authors have NOT done.

1.  They have not apologised for a vanity project (as Tony rightly calls it) or for a vast piece of interpretative inflation which has misled many thousands of people who love Stonehenge and its story.

2.  They have not acknowledged that there were dissenting voices from the beginning, with many of us warning them that the evidence just did not stack up.

3.  They have not cited my major contribution to the Waun Mawn debate - namely the article called "Waun Mawn and the search for proto-Stonehenge" published almost 18 months ago on Researchgate and now read by almost 5,000 people.  (They will probably argue that they only cite peer-reviewed material and will ignore the fact that they frequently cite references which are not in standard learned journals.)

4.  They have not retracted their belief in a "giant lost circle" at Waun Mawn, and refer several times to eight missing stones in spite of the scepticism expressed by Pitts, Darvill and others.

5.  They have still not studied the geology of the Waun Mawn area, and in searching for the provenance of the Waun Mawn stones and fragments they have sampled only tors and smaller crags from which stones might have been fetched.  This is a somewhat bizarre and unscientific assumption.

6.  They have not changed their views on the "bluestone quarries" at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, and insist in referring to them as established facts while failing to mention that they too are disputed.

7.  They have not accepted that their radiocarbon dating evidence from the investigated sites is so poor that it falsifies their hypotheses rather than supporting them -- and they pretend that they have sound radiocarbon evidence for a "quarrying episode".  

8.  By concentrating on a few unspotted dolerite fragments from site 91 in the Waun Mawn excavations, and pretending that these are somehow exceptional, they  fail to acknowledge that the whole landscape and its superficial deposits are littered with bits and pieces of locally derived unspotted dolerite.  This has been pointed out to them over and again, but they do not pay attention.......

9.  The authors have demonstrated in this article that they have just not done enough local fieldwork to do justice to a project on this scale.  That might sound strange, given the manpower thrown at three seasons of digging and at many sampling trips for geological analyses, but it is blatantly obvious from this paper.  

10.  And finally, the authors do not acknowledge any role for natural processes either in the shaping of the Waun Mawn landscape, in the formation of the local sediment sequence, or indeed in the moving of lumps of stone.  Their naivety in matters geomorphological explains some of the spectacular errors they have made in their bluestone provenancing work.

All in all, I am not very impressed.  This is yet another paper that is technically skilled but very unscientific.  As usual, it is packed with unsupported and unsupportable assumptions which should have been picked up in any decent refereeing process.


PS.  Here is my somewhat more sober (and scientific) assessment of what  the evidence on the ground at Waun Mawn actually shows:

Friday, 22 July 2022

The stones are made of blue cheese.......

You should cry, I suppose, but you might as well laugh.  I have been looking at some of the social media reactions to the latest paper from the MPP team, on Waun Mawn, released recently with no media fanfare whatsoever.  That latter point is interesting in itself.......

Anyway, while most of the comments have been from people who are distinctly unimpressed with the Waun Mawn pantomime, there are a few who think it is all perfectly wonderful, demonstrating commendable "open mindedness" on the part of the research team, and showing an ability for "self correction."

It's as if Parker Pearson, Bevins, Ixer and the rest of them had come up with an amazing and radical theory that the Stonehenge bluestones are made of blue stilton cheese, with the theory published in a learned journal and  accompanied by carefully-planned saturation media coverage.  Alice does a wacky TV programme featuring MPP in the pouring rain, persisting with the "astonishing" theory in spite of the scepticism of lesser mortals. Public acclamation follows, with nobody daring to say that the theory is nonsense, out of deference to the reputations of the researchers.  Eventually, with the researchers becoming aware that the public is getting restless, they embark upon an ambitious and expensive project which results in the publication of a wondrous learned article in a reputable journal, with highly complex graphics and tables, which proves that the bluestones are actually made of stone.  This results in further acclamation from near and far, with commentators remarking on the open mindedness of the researchers who have been so willing to scrutinise their old theory and to find it wanting........ "Great work!" they say. "Science at its best!  Hypothesis testing as it should be done!"  And so on......

Funny old world......

And if you think this team is open minded, think again.  MPP, Bevins and Ixer (and various others) have put forward wildly eccentric theories concerning bluestone quarrying, lost circles and so forth which have been heavily criticised by myself and others -- but they have steadfastly refused to acknowledge any dispute and have ignored and refused to cite any evidence (even that contained in peer reviewed journals) which happens to be inconvenient.   Those are signs of closed minds, not open ones.

And as for the "self correction" bit, the Parker Pearson "lost circle" was questioned and heavily criticised by me and other people in journals and in social media, and my working paper about Waun Mawn was published on Researchgate back in March 2021.  This laid out in great detail the evidence on the ground and questioned many of the assumptions and interpretations of MPP and his research team.

Even in the new paper, Bevins et al refuse to acknowledge any of the dissenting voices, and pretend that they themselves have initiated a re-examination of their original very silly theory without any prompting from anybodys else.  In reality, they had no option other than to do this expensive and time-consuming research because they have remained inside their tight little bubble and have been impervious to the advice given to them by others. This was their last-ditch attempt to find some evidence that would stand up in court, and of course it was a miserable failure.  Sad, and more than a little pathetic.

If you want to find out how NOT to do research, look no further.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

The collapse of the Waun Mawn fantasy

Reproduced from the article.  Key locations in the fanciful Waun Mawn narrative.  There are many more rocky outcrops than those shown.  Note that there were no sampling points close to Waun Mawn -- a serious research defect.

Well, it's always nice to be vindicated.  I said from the beginning that the Waun Mawn narrative developed by Parker Pearson et al was not far short of being an elaborate hoax, and so it has proved.  Virtually everything that I said in my Waun Mawn article  (now read by almost 5,000  people) has been proved correct, by the very same people who have promoted the "lost circle" fantasy so energetically over the past few years.    Just a reminder of what I said, on the basis of hard evidence on the ground and a knowledge of the local topography and geology:

Anyway, a new article has appeared on Researchgate over the last few days -- it is due to be published in October 2022.  It is one of the most futile and bizarre papers I have ever seen in a learned journal.   It is nonetheless a very important paper, not because it contains anything unexpected, but because it finally demonstrates that the Waun Mawn "proto-Stonehenge" fantasy is dead and buried, with not a shred of evidence to support it.  That is in spite of the frantic efforts of the people who wrote this paper.  It is a highly complex and technical piece of work, but its findings are essentially very simple indeed.

First, the details:

Bevans, R.E., Pearce, N.J.G., Parker Pearson, M., Ixer, R.A., 2022. Identification of the source of dolerites used at the Waun Mawn stone circle in the Mynydd Preseli, west Wales and implications for the proposed link with Stonehenge. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 45 (2022) 103556.


A Neolithic stone circle at Waun Mawn, in the Mynydd Preseli, west Wales, has been proposed as the original location of some dolerite megaliths at Stonehenge, including one known as Stone 62. To investigate this hypothesis, in-situ analyses, using a portable XRF, have been obtained for four extant non-spotted doleritic monoliths at Waun Mawn, along with two weathered doleritic fragments from a stonehole (number 91). The data obtained have been compared to data from spotted and non-spotted dolerite outcrops across the Mynydd Preseli, an area known to be the source of some Stonehenge doleritic bluestones, as well as data from i11-sint analysis of Stone 62 (non-spotted dolerite) and ex-situ analysis of a core taken from Stone 62 in the late 1980's.
Recently, Stone 62 has been identified as coming from Garn Ddu Fach, an outcrop some 6.79 km to the east­ southeast of Waun Mawn. None of the four dolerite monoliths at Waun Mawn have compositions which march (sic) Stonehenge Stone 62, and neither do the weathered fragments from stonehole 91. Rather the data show that the Waun Mawn monoliths, and most probably the weathered stonehole fragments, can be sourced to Cerrig Lladron, 2.37 km southwest of Waun Mawn, suggesting that a very local stone source was used in construction of the Waun Mawn stone circle. It is noted that there is evidence that at least eight stones had been erected and subsequently removed from the Waun Mawn circle but probability analysis suggests strongly that the missing stones were also derived, at least largely, from Cerrig Lladron.


Note, at the outset, that the authors assume there was a Neolithic stone circle at Waun Mawn. They blame others for identifying it as a lost circle, even though the majority view in the older literature is that there was no stone circle here. The pretence is pretty outrageous, and confusing too, since MPP himself has admitted that there probably never was a stone circle there, although our heroic ancestors might well have "intended to build one."  

As I have pointed out over and again, there is just no evidence of sockets deep enough to have held standing stones, and for the authors to pretend, in his new paper, that a Waun Mawn stone circle is an established fact is disingenuous.

Another shameless stunt pulled by the authors is the pretence that the media are responsible for the wildly exagerrated claims made about Waun Mawn.  The inflated claims made about the site are owned by Parker Pearson and his cronies, and there is no way that they can avoid responsibility for the hype and the other nonsense disseminated by TV programmes and in the press.

Anyway, back to work.  Our heroic researchers set out to find out where the four stones at Waun Mawn have come from, and whether any link can be established with Stonehenge. Using portable X-ray equipment they analysed a clutch of samples from Waun Mawn and from outcrops of unspotted dolerite which might have been sources for the present and assumed missing monoliths.  After protracted and convoluted studies (which make up the bulk of this paper), and with very splendid graphics, they conclude that none of the preferred candidate outcrops has any link with Waun Mawn, but that the Waun Mawn stones and unspotted dolerite fragments have most likely come from Cerrig Lladron.  Strangely, they only chose prominent tors and smaller crags as their sampling points, and omitted to test any of the dolerite outcrops in the vicinity of Waun Mawn itself.  That is a serious error, and I do not think that the evidence presented shows any firm link at all with Cerrig Lladron;  all the researchers have shown is that the unspotted dolerites at the site of the fantastical stone circle have probably come from western Preseli and most probably from within a stone's throw, which is what I have been telling them all the time.  I am amazed that experienced geologists can have been so ignorant of the local geology and so blind to the blindingly obvious.

There is a digression to consider a possible link with Stonehenge stone 62 -- there is another paper on that, which we have already considered on this blog.  There was no link between stone 62 and Waun Mawn, but  MPP is obviously reluctant to let the matter go.  Much ado about nothing, in that paper already published, and in this paper too.......

A huge amount of work has gone into the analyses of the Waun Mawn and rock outcrop surfaces, and I feel rather sorry for those who have spent thousands of pounds and wasted hundreds of hours in desperately seeking to prove what was always a crazy and thoroughly unscientific ruling hypothesis. Most readers of this paper will be superficially impressed by the complex graphs and graphics -- until they try and work out what they all mean.

There is one final twist.   At the end of the paper the authors embark on a convoluted "statistical analysis" designed to determine the probability of our heroic ancestors hauling away all of the valuable stones to Stonehenge or some other convenient place, while leaving behind the four rather boring local stones made of unspotted dolerite. Talk about clutching at straws!  This section comes over as more than a little pathetic, and the editor of the journal should have spared the authors' blushes by cutting it out.

So there we are then, as we say in Wales. The "astonishing" story of the lost circle of Waun Mawn, so lauded by Alice Roberts and much of the media, is dead and buried -- finally shown by the storytellers themselves to be unsupported by a single shred of evidence.

In spite of this gigantic loss of scientific credibility, the authors still insist, at the end of the paper, that there was a giant circle of stones at Waun Mawn, and that at least eight monoliths have been removed.  They still insist that there were bluestone quarries that supplied monoliths to Stonehenge, and they still pretend that there is radiocarbon evidence at Rhosyfelin and  Carn Goedog that supports the quarrying hypothesis.  Shame on them.  Shame on them too, for refusing to admit anywhere in this article that their ideas are disputed, and for refusing to cite my comprehensive Waun Mawn article published and heavily scrutinised on Researchgate.  Sadly, we are looking at the work of a group of academics who live in a permanent fantasy world in which everything inconvenient is simply denied or ignored.

Where does this leave Parker Pearson and his merry band?  I wouldn't mind betting that as we speak, they are dreaming up their next fairy tale...........


PS.  When the "lost circle" fantasy was unleashed on the world in February 2021 with a massive media blitz coordinated with the journal publishers, I responded with a review of the multi-authored article on the Academia web site.  This is what I said:

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Short paper: A glacially transported clast at Stonehenge

I have now prepared a draft paper which will be submitted to a journal for publication.  It is uploaded to Researchgate where most people will be able to access it.

I emphasise that this is an interim report based on a very rapid examination of the boulder, and some of my observations will inevitably be found to be unreliable.  I have done my best!  But I stress that what we now need is a full autopsy by forensic scientists who are familiar with geological processes, petrology and provenencing, volcanic rocks, weathering processes, and glacial entrainment and transport.  And the boulder needs to have its surfaces dated too!  

I am sure that Salisbury Museum will be happy to cooperate in this enterprise.

This little boulder could prove to be a goldmine with regard to the information that it will yield.......