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....
To order, click

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Carn Goedog working paper reaches 300 reads

In my last post I commented on the interesting phenomenon of scientific publishing on Researchgate, enabling researchers to reach a large readership rather quickly while maintaining high academic standards and while inviting scrutiny from specialists.

Well, my Rhosyfelin working paper has achieved 600 reads in a period of three years.

But now my Carn Goedog working paper is being scrutinized even more quickly, with over 300 reads in just 5 months. Most of the readers must be archaeologists,  although not one of them has challenged anything contained in the paper.

Brian John (2019) Carn Goedog and the question of the "bluestone megalith quarry"
Researchgate Working Paper, 25 pp.
April 2019

Here is another working paper, this time dealing with both of the "quarrying" sites:

Brian John (2016) Those "bluestone quarries" -- the manufacturing of a modern myth (Greencroft Working Paper No 3)
September 2016


This has had over 250 reads since publication 3 years ago.  This is the article which I was thinking of submitting to Current Archaeology magazine, but my approaches were ignored by the editorial team.  The top brass are clearly not into the publication of articles that rock the boat........

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Rhosyfelin working paper reaches 600 reads

The times they are a'changin'.............  I've just had a notification from Researchgate that my working paper disputing the  "quarrying origins" of the features at Craig Rhosyfelin has reached 600 reads.   So a lot of people out there are taking it rather seriously. That's interesting because it is not a peer-reviewed paper published in an academic journal, but something much more informal, published in order to stimulate interest and to invite comments and discussion.

It's intriguing that so many people have decided to read it, and just as interesting that NOBODY has seen fit to dispute anything contained in the article or to challenge its conclusions. The members of MPP's quarry-hunting research team who should have put up or shut up have decided to shut up.  What does that tell us about the article, and what does it tell us about them?

As we have discussed before, the fact of something being published in a "respectable journal" does not instantly ensure that it is of high quality, given the increasing trend of  authors choosing their own referees or of editors choosing friendly referees if they want something published, and hostile referees if they want to turn something down.  Scientific corruption?  Of course it is.

I have argued many times that the two peer-reviewed papers detailing the research work of the MPP team on Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, and published in "Antiquity" are so bad that they should never have been published in the first place.    Other academics agree with me.

So Researchgate gives an opportunity for a new kind of "open" publishing, in which an author can get freshly-completed or controversial work out there into an academic domain at high speed and allow it to be scrutinized as harshly or as gently as the academic community wishes. If the work is carefully assembled and presented (as I think mine is) it will be given respect.  And it will  be read.

By the way, the paper written with colleagues Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downed entitled
"OBSERVATIONS ON THE SUPPOSED “NEOLITHIC BLUESTONE QUARRY” AT CRAIG RHOSYFELIN, PEMBROKESHIRE" (December 2015) has now been read 1472 times on Researchgate.  The article entitled "QUATERNARY EVENTS AT CRAIG RHOSYFELIN, PEMBROKESHIRE" (also Dec 2015) has been read 644 times on Researchgate -- with no doubt many more readings on the QRA wen site.

And even more interesting -- shall we use the word "reprehensible"? -- is the fact that in all of the papers written by the MPP team and relating to the "quarrying hypothesis" there is not a single  mention of the fact that there is a dispute going on, and not a single citation of any of the three key articles mentioned above.   The conspiracy of silence continues........and would anybody like to give me a rational explanation for it?

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

New Atlas of fortified sites

This is a manageable image from the Atlas web site:

As the researchers say, these "defended settlements" (including hillforts and promontory forts) appear to be mostly from the Iron Age, but some are certainly older than that, and it is natural enough to assume that there were abundant defended sites with banks and ditches in the Bronze Age, which were later enlarged and adapted to changing circumstances (including changes in weaponry and the need to enclose and protect livestock.....)

Can we infer anything from the density of dots on the map?  Maybe -- hillforts occur for the most part where there are hills, and promontory forts appear mostly on coastal promontories and on river spurs protected by steep slopes on some sides.  So coastal and upland locations are obviously preferred.  But was there a more thriving culture in those areas?  That's a more difficult question to answer --  it could be argued that these features are signs of a beleaguered and marginalised group of tribes or communities, and that the real hotspots of culture and economy were far away, in the lowlands.  The arguments will go on for ever........

Press release:

Online hillforts atlas maps all 4,147 in Britain and Ireland for the first time

Dotted across the landscape of Britain and Ireland, hillforts have been part of our story for millennia and for the first time a new online atlas launched today captures all of their locations and key details in one place.

A research team based at the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and University College Cork has been helped by citizen scientists from across England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Ireland.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), they have spent the last five-years sifting and recording information on all the hillforts across Britain and Ireland. They have discovered there are 4,147 hillforts in total, and have collated details for every one on a website that will be accessible to the public – and completely free.

The result can be found here.

The survey covers England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, and the Isle of Man, with Scotland claiming 1694 hillforts - nearly half of all the hillforts identified. A staggering 408 hillforts are located in Scottish Borders alone. England follows shortly behind Scotland with 1224 hillforts, with Northumberland as a clear winner with 271.

Professor Ian Ralston from the University of Edinburgh, who co-led the project, said: 'Standing on a windswept hillfort with dramatic views across the countryside, you really feel like you’re fully immersed in history. This research project is all about sharing the stories of the thousands of hillforts across Britain and Ireland in one place that is accessible to the public and researchers.'

'It is important that our online database will be freely accessible to all researchers and interested parties', added Professor Gary Lock from the University of Oxford and co-principal investigator for the project.

'AHRC funding has enabled this extensive collection and integrating of data which will provide the baseline for much future research into hillforts at scales never before possible.'

This unique resource will provide free access to information about world-famous sites as well as many previously little-known hillforts, helping ramblers, cyclists, naturalists, and history enthusiasts discover them and their landscapes in all their variety.

Professor Lock said: 'We hope it will encourage people to visit some incredible hillforts that they may never have known were right under their feet.'

The peaceful location, abundance of wildlife, and breath-taking views from hillforts are hard to match, and with 4,171 identified and freely available, anyone can find their own favourite hillfort spot.
Mostly built during the Iron Age, the oldest hillforts date to around 1,000BC and the most recent to around 700AD.

Hillforts were central to more than 1,500 years of ancient living: with numerous functions - some of which are yet to be fully uncovered – hillforts served as communal gathering spaces. The research also shows that, fascinatingly, not all hillforts are on hills; nor are they all forts. Excavated evidence shows that many hillforts were first and foremost used as regional gathering points for trading and festivals, and some hillforts are located on low-lying land.

The online resource can be updated by the public via a wiki-style database. Through the citizen science initiative, around 100 members of the public collected data about the hillforts they visited, which was later analysed by the research team.

They were asked to identify and record the characteristics of thousands of forts. The researchers wanted information not only about the upstanding, well-preserved forts but also sites where only cropmarks and remnants show where forts once stood.

This process helped to develop the knowledge and skills of volunteers and enthusiasts. The public will be able to continue contributing to to the wiki-style database by uploading their own images and text based on their hillfort visits.

Dr Martin Poulter, Wikimedian-in-residence for the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, said: 'We have thousands of images from the public on the database. These freely reusable data and images will help to and create content about hillforts on Wikipedia, and will direct readers to links for the main atlas website.

'The database also allows users to search for customised maps focused on a particular type of fort or region of the British Isles, whilst also combining hillfort locations with other data.'

The new data will be made available to the national monuments records of Britain and Ireland and will also help heritage managers, naturalists, archaeologists and policy makers to consider how we they look after the hillforts.

The online atlas database will also be accessible on smartphones and tablets and can be used while visiting a hillfort. A physical atlas will be available to buy from the summer of 2018.


There is a vast amount of detail.  You can zoom in on the user-friendly main UK map, right in to the level of individual hillforts / promontory forts. Naturally enough, the first thing I did was check out the site I know best -- Carningli -- and I was delighted to see that the authors of the Atlas have depended quite heavily on my observations and map as originally published on Wikipedia.  I may be, in the eyes of some, a "lousy archaeologist", but there does at least seem to be some respect for my observations and my ability to record things on maps!

Monday, 9 September 2019

Video just released: The Myth of the Bluestone Quarries

I'm pleased to announce the release of a new video on the "bluestone quarries" -- filmed and edited by my grandson Finley.  He has just started as a first-year student at the University of the West of England in Bristol.  Maybe I am biased, but I think he has made a splendid job of it, and I'm really proud of him!


Certain geologists and archaeologists have claimed that the bluestones at Stonehenge were carried by Neolithic tribesmen from West Wales to Salisbury Plain. Further, they claim to have found two "bluestone quarries" in West Wales from which monoliths were extracted. Geomorphologist Dr Brian John examines the evidence on the ground, and concludes that the quarries are simply "figments of somebody's fertile imagination." He shows that the "engineering features" are entirely natural, and that the blocks of stone and other debris that ended up at Stonehenge were entrained and transported by glacier ice during the Ice Age. The quarrying hypothesis is falsified by the radiocarbon dating evidence too. The archaeologists are accused of promoting yet another Stonehenge myth........

Here is a YouTube link:

In the making of the video we were careful to keep clear of polemics and accusations of scientific malpractice, and to keep things simple and evidence-based.  I hope that Prof MPP and his team will enjoy it and accept that I know what I am talking about.

As background, if you want to read the articles which perpetrate the myth that Rhosyfelin is a Neolithic bluestone quarry, you can find them here:

On the so-called Craig Rhosyfelin bluestone quarry:

Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins, Archaeology in Wales 50, 2011, pp 21-31

This is the paper in which geologists Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer claim to have identified the source of certain foliated rhyolites in the Stonehenge debitage to "within a few square metres" on the Rhosyfelin rock face.  This claim was unreliable when it was first made, and it remains unreliable today since no new evidence has been published to support it.  (Note that they have never claimed that any of the existing fallen or standing stones at Stonehenge have come from Rhosyfelin.......)

This is the paper in which MPP and his team claim that they have discovered and analysed a bluestone rhyolite quarry used for the extraction of Stonehenge bluestones. It has been scrutinized and heavily criticised on this blog, and Prof Danny McCarroll said it was "one of the worst papers I have ever read." 

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.

These are the two papers in which Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd, John Downes and myself scrutinise the evidence for Neolithic quarrying and suggest that some of it is simply misinterpreted and that some of it is actually fabricated.  We conclude that ALL of the so-called engineering features are entirely natural.  We also question the reliability of the geological evidence presented by Ixer and Bevins.

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)

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

These are the relevant articles on the so-called Carn Goedog bluestone quarry:

"Megalith quarries for Stonehenge’s bluestones", by Mike Parker Pearson, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Chris Casswell, Duncan Schlee, Dave Shaw, Ellen Simmons, Adam Stanford, Richard Bevins & Rob Ixer. Antiquity, June 2018 .

and this paper published online:

Brian John (2019) Carn Goedog and the question of the "bluestone megalith quarry"
Researchgate: working paper
April 2019, 25 pp.

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.12677.81121
Carn Goedog paper.pdf


I am often asked whether the conclusions reached by my two colleagues and myself (and so studiously ignored by Parker Pearson and his colleagues) are shared by other geologists and geomorphologists.  You need to understand that academics are in general reluctant to go on the record relating to sites examined by other people, unless they themselves have examined those sites (and the ongoing archaeological digs) in some detail.   There is also a reluctance on the part of specialists from one discipline to get involved in digs conducted by academics from another discipline.  There is an "ownership" issue too.  It is a cause of great regret that MPP and his team have never invited the involvement or asked for the opinions of senior glacial geomorphologists either at Rhosyfelin or Carn Goedog.  As I have explained before, that immediately invites suspicion about the working practices, the intentions and the academic integrity of those involved in the digs.

So no other glacial geomorphologists or geologists have published observations or interpretations on the two sites in question. That having been said, I have visited the sites with many senior academics whose opinions I respect.  Others have visited in the company of Prof MPP.  These include Prof John Hiemstra, Prof Danny McCarroll, Dr Rick Shakesby, Prof David Sugden, Dr Richard Thomas, Prof Simon Carr, Prof David Evans and Prof Martin Bates.  I'm sure visits have been made by Dr Ken Addison, Dr Stewart Campbell and other geologists in association with the site's RIGS designation, and by Dr Derek Fabel in association with cosmogenic dating.  There have been others too, including assorted research students.  I have reported accurately that none of them has seen anything that makes them think of human quarrying. Most of them are professors or senior academics with vast field experience. If any of them wants to contradict my reporting of our conversations, the opportunity is on this blog, here and now. They have all interpreted the site as entirely natural, apart from the evidence of camp site occupation. That says it all....... so I would argue that the points made in our two papers represent a geomorphological consensus, until somebody comes along and argues otherwise.

The only comment that I am aware of, on the record, comes from Prof Danny McCarroll:

I had the pleasure to visit one of those sites, at Rhosyfelin, while the material was still exposed and was singularly unimpressed with the supposed evidence for quarrying activity; it all looked completely natural to me. At the time I thought that maybe I was just missing some subtle evidence that the trained eye of the archaeologist could discern, and that the many radiocarbon dates produced for the site would doubtless be used to critically test the quarrying hypothesis. Those dates have now been published in the journal Antiquity and in fact they lend absolutely no support whatsoever to the quarrying hypothesis; a fair appraisal would be that they actually falsify it conclusively. Unfortunately that is not the interpretation of the authors of what is, sadly, one of the worst papers I have ever read.


The offer is always open.  If anybody wants to join me in looking at either Rhosyfelin or Carn Goedog, I live just a short distance from the sites, and I'd be delighted to show you around and consider any observations or hypotheses you might want to discuss.  Just send me a message via this blog.........


PS.  I have been accused -- today, on a Facebook group page -- of being a lousy archaeologist and of failing to understand the subtleties of interpretation which the experts (ie archaeologists like MPP) employ in their work.  OK -- I probably am a lousy archaeologist, but I think I am a reasonably competent geomorphologist, and I hope that my observations and opinions might have some value for archaeologists.  Shades of the debate last time I gave a talk at the Bluestone Brewery:

From my report:

" or two members of the audience were quite outraged that I had the temerity to question the evidence presented by those terribly expert geologists and archaeologists, who were deemed to be honest and highly-skilled academics simply doing their best to collect evidence in the field. I should presumably have accorded them more respect and even deference.........

I could have reminded these good people that I am rather expert too, and know what I am talking about, at least for most of the time. But time was too tight for all that sort of stuff, so I contented myself with reminding the audience that when you do field research you are supposed to go through a process of data collection, data analysis, and interpretation before telling the world what your conclusions are. In contrast, the archaeologists who have been digging in our area for six seasons have demonstrated a cavalier disregard for the norms of scientific field research, and they deserve to be slated for it. (In fairness, the geologists have done things properly, so no problems on that score, apart with some quibbles on their interpretations.....)

I also reminded my enthusiastic critics that I have at least done MPP and his team the honour of referring to their work and examining it carefully. On the other side of the argument, from all the reports I have had of MPP's talks in the last year or two, the glacial transport thesis is simply ignored or dismissed out of hand as being "discredited." By whom, and on what grounds, is apparently never explained."

The other absurdity from that Facebook page is a comment that almost all geologists  disagree with my criticisms of the "bluestone quarries."  I assume that the writer was referring to earth scientists generally as "geologists" -- but he has clearly not read the literature or spoken to anybody other than the usual culprits.  If he was to widen his circle of contacts he might be surprised.

"The experiments presented also indicate significant excursions of wet-based ice into areas of southern England, where little evidence of recent glaciation has been found. This may not present such a major problem given that our model indicates ice was at this extended limit for less than 1 ka. The experiments also provide support for a possible glacial mechanism for the movement of Preseli erratics as a transport trajectory which overrides parts of northern Pembrokeshire and was subsequently deflected south-eastwards across the Bristol Channel into SW England, cannot be completely discounted."

'Dynamic cycles, ice streams and their impact on the extent, chronology and deglaciation of the British–Irish ice sheet.'
Alun Hubbard, Tom Bradwell, Nicholas Golledge, Adrian Hall, Henry Patton, David Sugden, Rhys Cooper, Martyn Stoker
Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 759–777

That's a very cautious statement, but it does NOT agree with the James Scourse / Chris Green / David Bowen line that glaciation some distance to the east of the Bristol Channel was "impossible", and indeed among the specialists who have analysed the evidence on the ground we can cite  Kellaway, Thorpe, Olwen Williams-Thorpe, Gilbertson and Hawkins, Keen, Hunt, Campbell, Harrison, Andrews, Stephens, Mitchell, Dewey, Maw, Croot, Bridle and a host of others.  Sure, they have not expressed views on the "bluestone quarries"  -- but their writings certainly describe an Ice Age context in which the glacial entrainment and transport of West Wales erratics by the Irish Sea Glacier was not just possible but probable.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Video: Dispelling the Stonehenge myth

I have been taking another look at the lecture which I gave an the DO Lectures series in 2010.  Nine years have passed, but hardly anything has happened to invalidate the things I said.  So here it is again -- summarising the manufacture of the myth and its shortcomings.  The only details that need correcting relate to the "bluestone sources" near Dinas and Newport -- which are now doubted by the geologists.   But the actual number of probable bluestone sources has still not changed at all -- I still estimate that to be around 30 sources.

Also, in 2010 we had heard nothing of Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog as "quarrying" locations, and Carn Meini was at that time pretty well universally accepted by archaeologists as the site of THE bluestone quarry..........

Another interesting point is that in 2010 Prof MPP was already developing his ideas about bluestones being "embodiments of the ancestors" -- so the roots of the current narrative were already taking hold and beginning to flourish.

You can either watch the lecture (about 30 mins) on YouTube here, at relatively low resolution:

or on the Do Lectures web site, as a Vimeo video, at much higher quality:

Trying to embed the video:

Your ability to watch this may depend on which browser you are using -- and which version......

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

When does a delusion turn into a hoax?

I learned the other day that a certain well-known archaeologist was upset by my use of the words "hoax", "fantasist" and "conspirators."  Well, I found that very upsetting because I am a delicate flower and because I only ever use a word if it is exactly right, as befits somebody with a scientific background.

Let's just concentrate on the word "hoax" for the moment.  Yes, I have used the word quite often with regard to the attempts by Prof MPP and his colleagues (shall we call them fellow-conspirators?) to convince the world that they have found two Neolithic bluestone quarries and a "proto-Stonehenge" stone setting in West Wales.  As readers of this blog will know, we have examined the evidence presented in support of these contentions, and have found it wanting in every important respect.  It does not withstand scrutiny, and when this has been pointed out to the MPP team in journal articles  its response -- consistently -- is simply to ignore the points raised and to reiterate the story in ever more elaborate form, with or without the help of assorted journal editors and media journalists.

The radiocarbon dates, flagged up as supporting the quarrying hypothesis, actually falsify it.

So the research team members simply refuse to engage with others who question their evidence, their working methods and their conclusions.  Whatever you may think about bluestone quarries, you might agree with me that this is not a happy scenario, since both scientific practice and academic convention are consistently flouted.  It is not a good idea to simply ignore other senior scientists who have good reputations, simply because they do not agree with you.  Even if you are a firm believer in bluestone quarries and dismantled stone circles you might agree with me that it is never a good idea to refuse to accept scrutiny.  It simply does not look good.  If this happened in geomorphology, reputations would be terminally damaged.  But in archaeology, it appears that other rules apply.

So -- are the members of this research team just deluded, and swept along on a great wave of enthusiasm which makes it difficult for them to accept alternative interpretations of the things they are looking at?  They may indeed be deluded, but most deluded academics tend to be rather diffident and tend not to shout their delusions from the rooftops.  

This is different.  MPP and his team have built their story quite inexorably over the past eight years, never once engaging with the concerns that have been raised, never admitting to a dispute in the literature, and feeding quite assiduously more and more outrageous material to the media -- and obtaining acres of media coverage from gullible journalists.

You might agree with me that this goes far beyond delusion and humorous deception.  It is actually rather malicious.  In short, it is a typical academic hoax,  meeting all of the criteria itemised by
psychologist Peter Hancock.  He has has identified six steps which characterise a truly successful hoax:

Identify a constituency—a person or group of people who, for reasons such as piety or patriotism, or greed, will truly care about your creation.

Identify a particular dream which will make your hoax appeal to your constituency.

Create an appealing but "under-specified" hoax, with ambiguities

Have your creation discovered.

Find at least one champion who will actively support your hoax.

Make people care, either positively or negatively—the ambiguities encourage interest and debate

In another post, I have made very similar points:

For a scientific hoax to be successful, it requires four preconditions:

1. A gullible public predisposed to believe in “new discoveries” — in this case, stories about the great skills of our prehistoric ancestors and the meaning of Stonehenge. In these days of alternative facts and false news, almost anything will grab the attention of the public. The mere use of the word "Stonehenge" in a press release guarantees wide media coverage.

2. A colourful and swashbuckling lead character who has a respectable past and a strong media presence. MPP is a popular figure who has been called the “Indiana Jones” of British archaeology, with a reputation for an endless stream of controversial theories.

3. A body of “evidence” cited in support of the hoax which cannot be checked or replicated by anybody else. As far as I am aware, there was no independent scrutiny or peer review of the dig sites at Rhosyfelin, Carn Goedog and Waun Mawn while MPP and his team were at work between 2011 and 2018. And the excavations have now been filled in, so that nobody can go back to them to check the cited “evidence”. Wonderful! That's a perfect scenario for a successful hoax……….

4. The ability to suppress or "drown out" anything inconvenient that might show up the hoax for what it is. This can be achieved by doing deals with big business or grant-giving bodies which see that there would be large negative impacts for them should the hoax be exposed. They will help you to promote the hoax and to suppress independent scientific research and conclusions. You can also "drown out" inconvenient expressions of concern by using your contacts to repeat the hoax in print as often as possible and to develop it bit by bit in a way that can be represented as "hypothesis confirmation." And of course you can vilify your opponents behind the scenes and use your establishment contacts to ensure that anything they write has little chance of being published. This is all very jolly as long as you are not concerned about scientific ethics.

As I pointed out, all four preconditions are amply fulfilled in this case. My own feeling is that the archaeologists were given a false sense of security and certainty by some seriously defective advice from the geologists Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer back in 2011, and that having initially celebrated the "quarry discovery" at Rhosyfelin with some rather unwise hyperbole,  they have found themselves dug in so deeply that they cannot get out without losing face.  So they plough on -- at very grave risk to their reputations -- in the hope that they will not get rumbled.  Too late, boys and girls........

For all good hoax hunters, this from Wikipedia might be entertaining:

A hoax is a falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment,[1] rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences, and April Fools' Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes.

Elsewhere, a hoax is defined as "a humorous or malicious deception."


Robert Nares defined the word hoax as meaning "to cheat," dating from Thomas Ady's 1656 book A candle in the dark, or a treatise on the nature of witches and witchcraft.[8]

The term hoax is occasionally used in reference to urban legends and rumors, but the folklorist Jan Harold Brunvandargues that most of them lack evidence of deliberate creations of falsehood and are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes, so the term should be used for only those with a probable conscious attempt to deceive.[2] As for the closely related terms practical joke and prank, Brunvand states that although there are instances where they overlap, hoax tends to indicate "relatively complex and large-scale fabrications" and includes deceptions that go beyond the merely playful and "cause material loss or harm to the victim."[9]

According to Professor Lynda Walsh of the University of Nevada, Reno, some hoaxes—such as the Great Stock Exchange Fraud of 1814, labeled as a hoax by contemporary commentators—are financial in nature, and successful hoaxers—such as P. T. Barnum, whose Fiji mermaid contributed to his wealth—often acquire monetary gain or fame through their fabrications, so the distinction between hoax and fraud is not necessarily clear.[10] Alex Boese, the creator of the Museum of Hoaxes, states that the only distinction between them is the reaction of the public, because a fraud can be classified as a hoax when its method of acquiring financial gain creates a broad public impact or captures the imagination of the masses.[11]

One of the earliest recorded media hoaxes is a fake almanac published by Jonathan Swift under the pseudonym of Isaac Bickerstaff in 1708.[12] Swift predicted the death of John Partridge, one of the leading astrologers in England at that time, in the almanac and later issued an elegy on the day Partridge was supposed to have died. Partridge's reputation was damaged as a result and his astrological almanac was not published for the next six years.[12]

It is possible to perpetrate a hoax by making only true statements using unfamiliar wording or context, such as in the Dihydrogen monoxide hoax. Political hoaxes are sometimes motivated by the desire to ridicule or besmirch opposing politicians or political institutions, often before elections.

A hoax differs from a magic trick or from fiction (books, movies, theatre, radio, television, etc.) in that the audience is unaware of being deceived, whereas in watching a magician perform an illusion the audience expects to be tricked.

A hoax is often intended as a practical joke or to cause embarrassment, or to provoke social or political change by raising people's awareness of something. It can also emerge from a marketing or advertising purpose. For example, to market a romantic comedy movie, a director staged a phony "incident" during a supposed wedding, which showed a bride and preacher getting knocked into a pool by a clumsy fall from a best man.[13] A resulting video clip of Chloe and Keith's Wedding was uploaded to YouTube and was viewed by over 30 million people and the couple was interviewed by numerous talk shows.[13] Viewers were deluded into thinking that it was an authentic clip of a real accident at a real wedding; but a story in USA Today in 2009 revealed it was a hoax.[13]

Governments sometimes spread false information to facilitate their objectives, such as going to war. These often come under the heading of black propaganda. There is often a mixture of outright hoax and suppression and management of information to give the desired impression.  In wartime and times of international tension rumors abound, some of which may be deliberate hoaxes. 

For example, this is a hoax:
A memorable and crowded meeting of the Geological Society was held in Burlington House, London, on December 18, to hear a paper read "On the Discovery of a Paleolithic Human Skull and Mandible in a Flint-bearing Gravel overlying the Wealden (Hastings Beds) at Piltdown, Fletching (Sussex),)" by Charles Dawson, F.S.A., F.G.S., and Arthur Smith Woodward, LL.D... Professor G. Elliot Smith was called on to give an account of his investigation on the cast of the cranial cavity, and he pointed out that, while the general shape and size of the brain was human, the arrangement of the meningeal arteries was typically simian, as was a deep notch in the occipital region; he regarded it as the most ape-like human brain of which we have any knowledge... There can be no doubt that this is a discovery of the greatest importance and will give rise to much discussion. It is the nearest approach we have yet reached to a "missing link," for whatever may be the final verdict as to the systemic position of Pithecanthropus erectus, probably few will deny that Eoanthropus Dawsoni is almost if not quite as much human as simian. The recent discoveries of human remains... are demonstrating that several races of man lived in paleolithic times, and we may confidently look forward to new finds which will throw fresh light upon the evolution of man. [3]

While this is the start of an article about a hoax:
The Piltdown Man was a paleoanthropological hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England. The Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni ("Dawson's dawn-man", after the collector Charles Dawson) was given to the specimen. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan deliberately combined with the cranium of a fully developed modern human. The Piltdown hoax is perhaps the most famous paleoanthropological hoax ever to have been perpetrated. It is prominent for two reasons: the attention paid to the issue of human evolution, and the length of time (more than 40 years) that elapsed from its discovery to its full exposure as a forgery.[4]


Finally, the UCL press release from 7 December 2015.
Read it carefully.  It ticks all the boxes.

New research by the team published today in Antiquity presents detailed evidence of prehistoric quarrying in the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire, helping to answer long-standing questions about why, when and how Stonehenge was built.

The team of scientists includes researchers from UCL, University of Manchester, Bournemouth University, University of Southampton, University of Leicester, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, and Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

The very large standing stones at Stonehenge are of 'sarsen', a local sandstone, but the smaller ones, known as 'bluestones', come from the Preseli hills in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Geologists have known since the 1920s that the bluestones were brought to Stonehenge from somewhere in the Preseli Hills, but only now has there been collaboration with archaeologists to locate and excavate the actual quarries from which they came.

Director of the project, Professor Mike Parker Pearson (UCL Institute of Archaeology), said: "This has been a wonderful opportunity for geologists and archaeologists to work together. The geologists have been able to lead us to the actual outcrops where Stonehenge's stones were extracted."

The Stonehenge bluestones are of volcanic and igneous rocks, the most common of which are called dolerite and rhyolite. Dr Richard Bevins (Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales) and Dr Rob Ixer (UCL and University of Leicester) have identified the outcrop of Carn Goedog as the main source of Stonehenge's 'spotted dolerite' bluestones and the outcrop of Craig Rhos-y-felin as a source for one of the 'rhyolite' bluestones. The research published today details excavations at Craig Rhos-y-felin specifically.

The special formation of the rock, which forms natural pillars at these outcrops, allowed the prehistoric quarry-workers to detach each megalith (standing stone) with a minimum of effort. "They only had to insert wooden wedges into the cracks between the pillars and then let the Welsh rain do the rest by swelling the wood to ease each pillar off the rock face" said Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton). "The quarry-workers then lowered the thin pillars onto platforms of earth and stone, a sort of 'loading bay' from where the huge stones could be dragged away along trackways leading out of each quarry."

Professor Colin Richards (University of Manchester), an expert in Neolithic quarries, said: "The two outcrops are really impressive - they may well have had special significance for prehistoric people. When we saw them for the first time, we knew immediately that we had found the source."

Radiocarbon-dating of burnt hazelnuts and charcoal from the quarry-workers' camp fires reveals that there were several occurrences of megalith-quarrying at these outcrops. Stonehenge was built during the Neolithic period, between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Both of the quarries in Preseli were exploited in the Neolithic, and Craig Rhos-y-felin was also quarried in the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago.

"We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn't get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC" said Professor Parker Pearson. "It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that's pretty improbable in my view. It's more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire."

Professor Kate Welham (Bournemouth University) thinks that the ruins of any dismantled monument are likely to lie somewhere between the two megalith quarries. She said: "We've been conducting geophysical surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis throughout the area and we think we have the most likely spot. The results are very promising - we may find something big in 2016."

The megalith quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills, and this location undermines previous theories about how the bluestones were transported from Wales to Stonehenge. Previous writers have often suggested that bluestones were taken southwards from the hills to Milford Haven and then floated on boats or rafts, but this now seems unlikely.

"The only logical direction for the bluestones to go was to the north then either by sea around St David's Head or eastwards overland through the valleys along the route that is now the A40" said Professor Parker Pearson. "Personally I think that the overland route is more likely. Each of the 80 monoliths weighed less than 2 tons, so teams of people or oxen could have managed this. We know from examples in India and elsewhere in Asia that single stones this size can even be carried on wooden lattices by groups of 60 - they didn't even have to drag them if they didn't want to."

Phil Bennett, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority's Culture and Heritage Manager, said: "This project is making a wonderful contribution to our knowledge of the National Park's importance in prehistory."

The new discoveries may also help to understand why Stonehenge was built. Parker Pearson and his team believe that the bluestones were erected at Stonehenge around 2900 BC, long before the giant sarsens were put up around 2500 BC.

"Stonehenge was a Welsh monument from its very beginning. If we can find the original monument in Wales from which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far", said Professor Parker Pearson.


Thought for the day

I don't often put up posts of this sort -- but on thinking about scientific integrity and academic protocols it just seemed rather relevant.......