|Craig Rhosyfelin, a magical place -- with fairies lurking among the rocks. The dig site is just behind this crag, at the junction between the rock outcrops and the valley floor|
Patience, dear reader. This may take a little time. I am still trying to adjust to the real world again, after an evening of fairy tales in the presence of three (no, there may have been 20) learned archaeologists. The occasion was in Newport Memorial Hall, last evening, and the talk was free to allcomers, hosted by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and paid for by the taxpayer. ("Is that relevant?" I hear you cry?........ Well yes, actually it is......)
The coffee and biscuits were very nice, the displays were impressive, and members of the audience were welcomed to scan through images from the latest digs on the laptop computer set up specially for that purpose. That was very considerate of the organizers, given that not everybody has been able to visit the dig site at Craig Rhosyfelin. After a friendly welcome from a lady from the Trust, we were treated to a talk split into three parts.
Prof Mike Parker Pearson talked about Stonehenge, Bluestonehenge, Durrington Walls and other things, and about the work over the last couple of weeks at the "Carn Goedog Quarry"and the "Rhosyfelin Quarry". Some of the things he said had me hopping up and down in anguish, but I am very good at pain control. Then Josh Pollard took over, and talked in detail about the big dig during which they have found the stone shown above. There was not a moment of doubt in anything he said -- and every piece of "evidence" uncovered was neatly slotted in as supporting the story of the heroic excavation of the site by Neolithic people who were connected in some way with local stone circle building and with Stonehenge. Having established to their own satisfaction that the area was of huge significance during the Neolithic, Colin Richards took the baton and sought to answer the question: "Why was this area so important?" He assembled information from Indonesia, Madagascar and Easter Island to emphasise the sacredness of stone and the mighty efforts made by societies -- then and now -- to move stones over long distances for ritual purposes.
What interested me was the absolute certainty of the three speakers regarding their central thesis, and the utter conviction that because they are learned gentlemen with high academic positions, we just have to believe what they say and all will be well with the world. At no point was there any attempt to assemble field evidence, present it impartially, examine a number of explanations for whatever had been found, and then propose a reasonable hypothesis for future testing. Don't archaeologists do that any more?
I was also struck by the fact that there was no mention during the evening of the glaciation of Pembrokeshire and the presence everywhere of glacial, fluvio-glacial and periglacial deposits -- and the influence that glacial events might have had on their findings on the ground. They had clearly taken no advice at all from a geomorphologist -- and had nobody on their team capable of pointing out to them the simplest facts about Ice Age deposits and how they are distributed across the landscape.
At any rate, after the talks there were a number of polite questions and comments from those who did not know enough about the subject to challenge anything very much, and then I managed to catch the chairperson's eye and had a go at the three presenters. I have to admit to being a bit worked up, so I have no clear recollection of what I said, but I did accuse them of abandoning the scientific method and of twisting everything into a central ruling hypothesis that was unsupportable. I also said that nothing I had heard during the evening seemed to have any relevance at all to Stonehenge, in spite of their continuous assertions to the contrary. I also accused MPP of either misunderstanding or deliberately misrepresenting the views of those he has consulted (and especially Prof Chris Clark) relating to the extent of British glaciations -- and of repeating the nonsense that glacier ice never affected the shores of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.
Afterwards, MPP spluttered a bit, but refused to answer any of my points. Maybe he spends too much time surrounded by sycophants and students and not enough time actually discussing things with earth scientists?
So there we are -- fairy tales is what I expected, and fairy tales is what I got. Don't know whether to laugh or cry.......