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Monday, 28 February 2011

Darvill and Wainwright reveal their secrets -- again

A subscriber to "Current Archaeology" magazine has kindly sent me a copy of the latest Darvill / Wainwright article, published in the March 2011 edition:  "The Stones of Stonehenge -- revealing secrets from the sacred circle."    The article is under the "New Research" heading -- but hardly any of it is new, since the authors have said pretty well everything already, in earlier publications and lectures.

Sacred circle?  OK - we'll let that pass.  But what is impressive is the absolute certainty of the two professors about what is, on closer examination, a rather dodgy set of assumptions and theories.  That's strange, since these ideas have already been so energetically criticised in the media that a little more caution -- or a little more evidence -- might have been appropriate.  But no -- the two professors cannot resist getting deeper and deeper into the hole they have created for themselves.  One must, I suppose, give them due credit for perserverence and self-belief.

I'll examine some of their ideas in a future post when I've had a chance to mull over the article, but I am immediately struck by the captions to the illustrations.  An elongated bluestone monolith which looks no different to hundreds of others around Carn Meini (Menyn) is labelled as "quarried, shaped, and propped at an angle waiting to be transported."  There does not appear to be a scrap of evidence for any of that.  An exposure of slaty rock on the hillside below Carn Meini is labelled as "quarry workings".   Two small rounded or sub-angular stones are labelled as "hammerstones."  A jumble of rocks around a seepage on the hillside is referred to as an "enhanced springhead."  A broken slab of spotted dolerite is referred to as a "broken part-shaped pillar stone."  Another craggy rock outcrop is called a "stone extraction site."  If this had been a peer-reviewed article, I suspect that none of that would have got past the referee........

Another thing that strikes me immediately is that the authors, while mentioning the work of geologists Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins, have failed to take on board the main point made by geologists over the past twenty years -- namely that there are so many rock types represented in the "bluestone assemblage" and in the soil layer at Stonehenge that the assumption of Carn Meini as the focal point of Neolithic interest must be questioned if not abandoned.  But no -- on they plough, with not even the briefest mention of the glacial transport theory proposed -- and well supported by the facts -- over many decades by the likes of Judd, Jehu, Kellaway, Williams-Thorpe and her colleagues from the Open University team.

At what point, one wonders, does self-confidence turn into self-delusion?

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