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Thursday, 22 September 2011

The HQ of the Nevern Valley tribe?



If you have read my bedtime story you will be aware of the MPP theory that the Nevern Valley was home to a very powerful tribal grouping of peoples who were astute in the use of stone and the creation of magalithic structures maybe around 4500 BC.  These were, according to MPP and his colleagues, not just burial chambers -- they speculate that they were built as acts of bravado or as monuments, not meant to be enclosed or buried beneath long barrows.  That will all be debated by the archaeologists -- but I suppose one of the things driving the theory is the idea that there is a distinct Nevern Valley grouping of megalithic structures, supposedly distinct from other groups.  NP Figgis refers to this group as "The Newport Group" of six burial chambers / monuments.  Not sure that is enough evidence for talking about a whole culture which was distinctive from its neighbours, but we'll let that pass......

Anyway, in looking for confirmation that this area was home to a powerful tribe with a penchant for innovation and stone working, MPP and his colleagues have homed in on Castell Mawr (shown above) -- a very spectacular and large hillfort on a rounded summit (not far from Castell Henllys), always assumed to be from the Iron Age.  They now say that they can see signs of  a Neolithic defended village under the ramparts -- and it looks as if they plan to examine it next year to see if that can be confirmed.  Fine, as far as it goes -- but as I'm getting rather fed up of saying, this has nothing at all to do with Stonehenge.

Even if there is a nice old Neolithic village buried here, what that shows us is that Neolithic people lived here in this area -- which we knew already.  It appears that Neolithic settlement sites -- previously largely unknown in Wales -- are now popping up here, there and everywhere.  That's fine, and it shows that the archaeologists are doing a good job of pushing our knowledge of communities further and further back in time -- but I wouldn't mind betting that when the press releases from this summer's dig appear,  this will be flagged up as having more than a little to do with the Craig Rhosyfelin "bluestone quarry" and the old monument on Salisbury Plain................

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014hl0d tomorrows episode is the Bronze age and next week they are in stone age Wales, in guess where?
PeteG

Tony H said...

Am I right in thinking Toby Driver may possibly have had some contribution to discerning this Neolithic village, if that is what it turns out to be, with his aerial photography of much of rural Wales?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Doubt that Toby had anything to do with it -- this site has been well known for years -- as you can see, it's rather obvious from the air! From what I understand, MPP and colleagues think there are traces of earlier embankments under the Iron Age ones, together with realignments of the entrances. hence their reinterpretation of this site as a Neolithic one later reoccupied by an Iron Age group.

Chris Johnson said...

I am curious why you mention 4500 BC? This would seem to put the megalithic builders in the Nevern are very early.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hi Chris

Yes, I agree -- that's very early. But MPP and his colleagues are quite insistent that these megalithic structures in the Nevern Valley should really be dated to the same age as some of the very early dolmens in Brittany -- around 4500 BC.....

The evidence for that dating seems a bit tenuous -- but maybe you should ask them directly, since all I am doing is reporting what they said!

Chris Johnson said...

Thanks for the quick reply. I am still on-line.

The recent work on genetics has convinced me, at least, that the western side of these islands was settled first in the mesolithic, and that the "tribal" composition of this ancient population has remained intact since to a large extent. There was also a megalithic culture along this Atlantic fringe, as you know.

So I find the early dating logical and exciting - at least it fits my hypothesis - as long as they have some solid evidence.

Geo Cur said...

I thought the 4(in 4500BC )was a typo. Assuming the Newport six are Portal Tombs ,( there are no other monument types in the area that have been dated or belong to that period )it's difficult to see where they get that date from .Carreg Coetan has provided dates the earliest being 3778-3376 BC which is in keeping with the monument type .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Colin Richards was very clear about this date -- he was also suggesting that the capstones were selected and lifted and then supported by uprights so as to mirror key landscape features. So Pentre Ifan's capstone was deliberately placed so as to mirror the skyline profile of Carningli in the distance. I have heard that often from the wacky end of the spectrum, but never before from a "mainstream" archaeologist -- I suspect this is all part of a plan to demonstrate skilled working in stone, desire to create megalithic structures etc -- so as to support the idea of an "advanced civilisation" which might then have had "something to sell" to the Stonehenge people -- thereby leading to the great transport expedition and the "political unification" of east and west. (No, seriously -- my bedtime story a few posts back was based VERY closely on what these guys said in their lecture in Newport.)

Geo Cur said...

The phenomenology branch of the pros have been coming away with this type of things for years ,Tilley's "Phenomenology of landscapes " dates from 1994. Not only is it entirely subjective often it is clearly wrong as anyone with eyes could see. The impression I get is one of desk bound academics released into the countryside where everything is magic , hills become mountains views become vistas and everything they see is steeped in significance in relation to monuments .

Tony Hinchliffe said...

Yet Chris Tilley was one of the "band of brothers" who formed the Inner Sanctum (anyone remember this phrase from 'Round The Horne'?) of soothsayers heading up the Stonehenge Riverside Project. I think there is something that is instinctively on the right lines in phenomenology. And Richard Bradley at Reading,for example, seems to share some of its views.

Chris Johnson said...

Is there a reference/map for sea levels around pembrokeshire over the last 12000 years? I remember reading the Mabinogion years ago and about people walking from Wales to Ireland - it seemed like a fairy tale, but perhaps there was a time when it was possible.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- type in "sea level" into the blog search box, and all will be revealed...

Geo Cur said...

I have no problem with phenomenology , Merleau -Ponty in particular has brought embodiment to the fore which has added a dimension previously ignored in archaeology .We can all be considered archaeological phenomenologists just by describing our perceptions and experiences at a site , with your results equally as valid as mine or anyone else ,it just seems that those who do record these subjective perceptions arrive at exactly the type of conclusions you would expect for a 21st C study bound (except for a short digging season when they get out )bearded qualified archaeo and the blokes are no better . Being unfalsifiable and totally subjective tt's great for interpreters as you can never be wrong "well I think it looks like a sacred mountain " the river is referenced in the cursus " etc .It does have it's uses but as a condiment not a main course and I think that is how Richard treats it .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo Cur,

You asked some very valid questions. I defend your rights to the answers you seek. Since Brian has already closed that thread, I'll give you my response here.

1)It is a fact that the summer solstice marks the time of the year of greatest solar radiation on a locality. Two factors determine this. The length of day and the angle of incidence. During the summer solstice, both of these are at a maximum. Here is a link where you can read more on this:
http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/6i.html

Look for the graph further down that page that shows 'insolation' vs. 'day of the year' for various latitudes. The red graph is for 60 degrees North. 'Insolation' is the scientific term used for the intensity of solar radiation on a locality measured in 'watts per sq. meter'.

2)The direction of solar radiation on a locality is determined by the 'plane of orbit' of the Earth around the Sun. This is the direction that has to be considered here. And NOT the sun's orbit through the sky; which is determined by the Earth's spin and not by the Sun's position in the Solar System. I was wrong is suggesting this in the first place!

3)At sunrise, the locality 'breaks through' the 'plane of orbit' going from 'night' to 'day'. Thus, the direction of the 'plane of orbit' is determined by the direction of sunrise. At summer solstice, the direction of sunrise at Stonehenge is NE (more or less – don't know the exact direction). And so, the direction of the greatest solar radiation at Stonehenge will be NE/WS. This determine the gradient for the greatest solar radiation. This is the direction of the Avenue at Stonehenge.

4)This gradient for the greatest solar radiation, of course, is for every point on the surface of the ice cover I am hypothesizing existed at Stonehenge. Thus if there is to be melting of the ice at any point, it will be in the direction NE/WS, all things being equal.

We can look at it this way. Think of many imperceptible hair-thin stream-lets of water cutting across the surface of the ice all running in the direction NE/WS. All these together make up the melting of the ice surface we see.

But in places of the ice where there is a greatest propensity for melting (as would be with an ice hole filled with water) the 'hair-thin' imperceptible rivulets of meltwater channels will be sizable and visible. And these would become even more so and develop over time to the Avenue we see.

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , the Solstice as I said before is an astronomical event ,solar radiation has no place in the definition and in the case of the winter solstice the radiation is likely to be at a minimum .The amount of solar radiation at the summer solstice is also affected by weather conditions so it is as likely that there will greater amounts of radiation on days weeks either side of the solstice . The link you posted verifies what I said earlier about the greatest amount of radiation is generated when the sun is due south i.e. in the case of the a monument at the latitude of Stonehenge on the solstice 130 degrees further south than when it rose ,and not NE/SW as you suggest .This radiation will cover a greater surface area and will not be confined to a narrow corridor that happens to point in the direction of sun rise that morning .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo Cur,

Look at Figure 6i-3 in the link in my last message to you! It is the 'Insolation” vs. 'Month” graph for various latitudes. 'Insolation' is the scientific term for 'intensity of solar radiation'. What I am talking about! The graphs clearly show that the greatest insolation (intensity of solar radiation) happens at summer solstice.

These are not my conclusions. These are scientific facts! If you have issues with this, take it up with the scientists that made these graphs.

What more can I say!

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

Kostas , as I have said twice before the summer solstice is an astronomical event and is not defined by insolation . Quite often at Stonehenge the solstice does not coincide with the day of greatest insolation e.g. this year .http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/weather-failed-to-dampen-summer-solstice-2300476.html .
The graph shows the potential insolation .

The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Sorry to upset the rock collecting club, but I think you will find that the 4500BC dates are correct.

There is a clear link to a single civilisation building these sites and as the best dates are available in Brittany there is (for once) a clear logic.

If, as seen with Stonehenge, you need cooperation between districts Wales/Wiltshire you must be able to speak the same language - in anthropology that means you come from the same society (tribes came in the iron age some 3000 years later).

The dates also endorse the 'groundwater flood' (not inundation Brian!) as foot markers between camps.

RJL

Geo Cur said...

RJL , There are dates for monuments in Brittany ,Iberia and the Channel Islands , in some cases before 4500 BC , but where are the Nevern /Newport or for that matter Welsh ones ?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Robert -- not sure if you classify me as a member of the rock collecting club, but I assure you I'm not in the least bit concerned whether the cromlechs like Pentre Ifan and Carreg Samson were put up in 4500 BC or 2500 BC, or indeed anywhere in between those dates.

BRIAN JOHN said...

It looks as if some dates might be on the way -- I got the impression from Colin Richards at the Newport lecture session that there are samples from Garn Turne which will be dated. They certainly did quite a big dig there.

Byt Garn Turne is on the other side of Preseli -- it's not part of the Newport group of cromlechs.

The Stonehenge Enigma said...

Geo Cur

Because you can't find them today doesn't mean they are not still to be discovered!

The fact that Carbon Dating has been around for a long, long time, one would initially suspect that all dates for sites would have been confirmed within say 50 years - the fact is that the history of this island is gradually being turned back year after year I found quite amusing.

The truth is that (like education) not enough money is being spent on the subject and the people that are active within it are - not very good at it (unless you believe the league tables - then all our kids are geniuses but just act like idiots!!)

You ask the question 'where is the evidence' - no doubt looking for carbon dating reassurance, but these sites are only excavated at best by a bunch of dated academics supported by a bunch of kids - if you had that set-up at NASA what chance would you get of getting a rocket off the floor - let alone a man on the moon.

Remember Brian's experience with these groups - they couldn't even get a rock on a boat something the Egyptians and Greeks were doing thousands of years ago!!

RJL

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo Cur,

Nowhere have I said that the summer solstice is defined as the day of the year when solar radiation is maximum! What I said is solar radiation is maximum at the summer solstice!

This is a scientific fact! All things being equal of course.

My last post on this!

Kostas

Geo Cur said...

Kostas ,you said " solar radiation is maximum at the summer solstice "
Which is not necessarily true ,I have already mentioned a recent example , one of many , here is an exteme one .
.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer

In the real world not all things are equal and that is why the graph was prefaced with a "potential " .

Geo Cur said...

RJL , You said “I think you will find that the 4500BC dates are correct.” Then admit that there is no evidence . I suggest “correct “ is wrong and maybe “ I would like to believe “ more appropriate . Maybe one day there will be evidence for monument construction at that date in the area but until such time we must accept what we have i.e. at least 800 years later and the possibility that there never was any monument construction that early in the area . Asides about the quality of education and middle aged ,middle class ,liberal ,boozing ,bearded ,white archaeos won't change that .

Geo Cur said...

Some real data for insolation at a Latititude close to Stonehenge note how the solstice date is exceeded even into September .This year it looks like the equinox will exceed the solstice .
http://uk-meteo.ru/en/london/daily/insolation-horiz-surface/page-17

BRIAN JOHN said...

You guys are having fun going on about solar insolation etc -- but what's this got to do with Castell Mawr? Calling this one to an end, please......