Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Friday, 23 September 2011

On timid geomorphologists

In previous posts I have complained (ever so gently) about geomorphologists who refuse to intervene and tell it as it is, when eminent professors in another discipline (archaeology) trot out utter nonsense about the extent of glaciation in SW Britain.  I have even exchanged messages with one eminent geomorphology professor who insists that even if the ice of the Irish Sea Glacier did reach Somerset (which it did) that it is of no relevance whatsoever to the Stonehenge bluestone debate.  "Irrelevant?" I hear you cry.  Yes indeed -- I am reporting his words very accurately.

Well, I was reminded the other day that not all academic geomorphologists and glaciologists are so timid or so complacent.  Here is a quote from the big paper (which I have talked about before) which seeks to model the behaviour of the last British and Irish ice sheet:

"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

These guys know what they are talking about -- and they support many of the things I have been saying in previous posts about the entrainment and transport of erratics from North Pembrokeshire.  Their wording is of course quite cautious, but that's fine by me -- and their conclusions are very different indeed from those of certain academics (who should know better) who have stated on the record that the glacial transport of the bluestones was "impossible."

We are not necessarily talking about good and evil here, but the famous paragraph from Edmund Burke comes to mind:
"It is not enough in a situation of trust in the commonwealth, that a man means well to his country; it is not enough that in his single person he never did an evil act, but always voted according to his conscience, and even harangued against every design which he apprehended to be prejudicial to the interests of his country. This innoxious and ineffectual character, that seems formed upon a plan of apology and disculpation, falls miserably short of the mark of public duty. That duty demands and requires that what is right should not only be made known, but made prevalent; that what is evil should not only be detected, but defeated. When the public man omits to put himself in a situation of doing his duty with effect it is an omission that frustrates the purposes of his trust almost as much as if he had formally betrayed it. It is surely no very rational account of a man's life, that he has always acted right but has taken special care to act in such a manner that his endeavours could not possibly be productive of any consequence."

This is the famous paraphrase:   "Always remember, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

If we can agree that the perpetration of lies and the deliberate misleading of gullible people is closer to evil than it is to good, we have a point worth making......


Tony H said...

The "nonsense about the extent of glaciation in SW England" has unfortunately become embedded in folk lore. The problem is, for too many people, academics or not, folk lore has become folk LAW. Yet it needs to treated with caution as a myth on a par, for example, with the stories of Robin Hood, or, indeed, Geoffrey of Monmouth.It is, anthropologically speaking, just another example of story telling.

Constantinos Ragazas said...


What I see in your post is an ice cover of the UK and many 'pot marks' in the ice cover.

Could this be the 'ice cover with the ice holes' I have been arguing for? I ask!

Quoting from the study in your post by Hubbart, et al,

“...significant excursions of wet-based ice into areas of southern England, where little evidence of recent glaciation has been found.”

The evidence you are presenting is in agreement with my main hypothesis!


Constantinos Ragazas said...


I couldn't agree with you more!

The real challenge may not be convincing the 'eminent professors' (impossible!) but bringing people back to their 'senses'!

But as long as people think these prehistoric monuments were made by people, they will continue to believe the myths fed to them by archeologists and dismiss the science presented by scientists.


Tony H said...

Don't you think you may have a tendency towards thinking rigidly in "black" or "white"? No room for compromise ie between science and human involvement in the creation of Stonehenge, for example?

Geo Cur said...

Kostas ,who are the scientists that have shown that prehistoric monuments were not man made .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- those blue areas are not holes in the ice -- they are areas where the ice is thinner because mountain summits are close to the ice sheet surface.

Constantinos Ragazas said...


In my thinking about all this there is a role for human involvement! It's not all Nature or all Man. But the human involvement I am claiming is commensurate with the known capabilities of prehistoric people. All over the world, since such-like prehistoric monuments can be found all over the world.

My thinking remains flexible and I continue to be open-minded about all of this. But my view that Nature may be more responsible for these landmarks is just never considered. That leads me to advocate for it perhaps too much.

But if such a view leads to complete and consistent explanations, shouldn't we also be open to it? That is the more critical question!


Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo Cur,

I was thinking and voicing the frustration that Brian often expresses in this blog of how the archeologists keep denying the science that is known. That's all!

Until we consider more broadly the role that Nature had in creating conditions that people then exploited, we will continue to bent to the myths of the 'eminent professors' on Stonehenge.

Look for my response to you on solstice under the post “The HQ of the Nevern Valley tribe?”


Anonymous said...

@Tony H. Could you email me please? I have been working on something in Portishead that you may be interested in helping with.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Story telling? I agree that there is a deep social and psychological need for story telling -- to simplify a complex reality, to teach lessons about right and wrong, to encourage loyalty and truthfulness, to create a sense of belonging or community etc. I have played my fair part in telling stories in my novels! But a scientist needs a rigid awareness of what is a story and what is scientifically established fact, testable and replicable. Our difficulty may be that archaeologists do not consider themselves to be scientists -- so maybe they think they are freed from the rules that govern those of us who think that we are!