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Monday, 16 November 2009

Where are the geomorphologists?



Salisbury Plain -- glaciated or not?

I still count myself as a geomorphologist, although I retired from teaching the subject many years ago. Seeking to understand the lumps and bumps, dips and dales in the land surface is still a fascinating business, and I have tried -- over the past three years or so -- to apply the principles of geomorphology to sorting out the "bluestone question." I should have thought that professional geomorphologists -- and there are plenty of them -- would have been jostling to get in their comments on the bluestone debate. OK -- they have lots to do on the teaching front, and they all have their own pet research projects to follow through -- but surely the bluestone mystery is one of THE great mysteries which has still has to be answered? And it's a classic one in which the earth sciences -- in this case geology, geomorphology and glaciology -- have a huge amount to offer, as against the fanciful theorizing of the archaeologists. We do actually have evidence on the ground, as I have tried to point out in the book and on this blog. But those geomorphologists who have had something to say (including James Scourse, David Bowen and Chris Green) have strangely simply put up the shutters and said "No glaciation on Salisbury Plain. End of story." -- without using their critical faculties to address the manifold shortcomings of the human transport theory. Can it be that they -- like the archaeologists -- are simply afraid of rocking the boat?

4 comments:

Chris R said...

It's a mystery in itself that those that sympathise with the glacial transport theory prefer to remain silent (apart from some such as Dr Olwen Williams-Thorpe). I can only imagine it's because they are frightened of negative publicity from suggesting something outside commonly accepted theories. Being controversial doesn't sit well with professional scientists, it's far easier and safer to work in the background, it always has been. Proving archeologists' theories to be incorrect is bound to upset those concerned and possibly damage their reputation. Geologists responsible for this are bound to be unpopular so where's the incentive to speak out? It's a bit like Darwin proposing the theory of evolution in a world that considered it blasphemy; it takes a brave man. Somehow we need to remove the politics from the science.

Brian said...

Yes, it's strange that many of the geomorphologists who might have useful things to say tend to keep quiet -- maybe because of reluctance to dispute the very forceful statements that have come from certain senior geomorphologists, to the effect that glacier ice COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE AFFECTED SALISBURY PLAIN. That rather definitive statement is seen, on examination, to be based on some rather dodgy science -- as I hope to demonstrate in due course. But another problem is that the evidence in the field is very subtle indeed -- we are talking about a very ancient glaciation here, loosely referred to as "Middle Pleistocene". So the evidence for it, in Somerset and Avon, is very difficult to interpret. I suspect that the main problem here is that the science is so difficult that nobody wants to make a leap of faith and say "Yes -- this area WAS glaciated!"

Unknown said...

i perceive, in the distribution of Sarcens surrounding the Stonehenge (SH) site, a vaguely-circular-ish gap, centered on SH.

Plausibly, the Sarcens at SH, were drawn, from a "litter" of Sarcens, scattered over the surface, of the Salisbury Plain, out to an average distance of about 20 miles.

If so, then the natural sockets, within which those sizey slabs of stone sat, for eons, would still be detectable, w/ surveying. Cp. the Cuckoo stone, a Sarcen near to SH, whose natural socket was identified, at the feet of the standing stone.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Unknown -- I don't like anonymous posts on this site, which have caused a lot of trouble in the past. Please use your name on any future submissions. Thanks.....