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Monday 19 December 2011

Where are the geomorphologists?

A Geomorphologist holding forth on something or other.......

Several times on this blog I have bewailed the fact that geomorphologists do not seem to be gainfully employed these days on archaeological projects -- especially on those relating to Stonehenge.  Where are they?  What are they doing if they are not doing this?  Well, I suppose many of the brighter young geomorphologists (and glaciologists) these days are working on big projects related to global climate change -- and that's fair enough.  But there are plenty of geomorphologists coming out of the UK universities with good degrees -- and an ability to make meaningful contributions to the archaeology projects currently under way.

Have any geomorphologists been employed on the recent MPP team digs at Craig Rhosyfelin, Garn Turne, Bluestonehenge, Cursus etc, and the TD/GW digs on the Preseli Hills and at Stonehenge?  We hear occasional rumours about somebody with geomorphological expertise being "consulted" -- but these shadowy figures are hard to find, and it's even harder to find anything in the literature which they have directly contributed to some of the ongoing debates.  Of course, even if they are getting stuck in on some of these digs, they will be acting as "geomorphologists in the service of archaeology" -- and will therefore be subject to exactly the same pressures as the "geologists in the service of archaeology" (like Rob and Richard) who currently publish in archaeological journals.  Of course, I would never accuse them of bias, but if you are publishing in archaeological journals, with archaeologists as editors, and for a readership of archaeologists, of course you do what you can to enhance the chances of your papers being accepted and published.  And that means a few hints here, a few conclusions there, that you might not have put in had the papers been submitted to straight geology journals..........  And without saying anything at all about the quality of the papers concerned, I wonder whether the editors of the journals concerned actually use GEOLOGISTS as referees prior to acceptance?

What we are talking about here is a very subtle process which gradually poisons the academic debate.  If geomorphologists are absent from the process of putting together research applications, from the dig sites and from the definitions of fieldwork protocols etc, and from the evening discussions by the dig teams, then bias will be introduced at the very earliest stages of a project.  That is why I was so appalled and disappointed by the Newport presentations by the team responsible for the Rhosyfelin dig -- it was clear to me (and others in the audience)  that nobody had been present to challenge internally the ruling hypothesis that drove the whole team forward.  So what we ended up with was a tidy and interesting dig but BAD SCIENCE.  This refers:
See my other posts on Craig Rhosyfelin also -- you can find them by using the search box.

So a word to archaeologists -- why aren't you employing geomorphologists on your digs?  Are you really afraid that these guys might somehow disturb your comfortable convictions about the noble works of man?  And a word to geomorphologists -- why aren't you getting involved in these big archaeology projects and seeking to convince project leaders that you have something to offer?


Bob said...


Didn't MPP employ two Geomorphologists on his 2008 project which looked at the Avenue periglacial stripes?

And was it not these 'academics' that came to the conclusion the stripes (and maybe the entire Avenue including ditches - who knows never seen the report!) were natural?

What a waste of time and four years studies/drinking.. would have been better off studying Gaelic fairy tales of the Welsh mountains or Kostas studies.


BRIAN JOHN said...

I think you may be right about the geomorphologists, Robert -- The name Charlie French comes to mind. I haven't seen any publications in that name, though...

I find your utter conviction that the "periglacial stripes" are not natural quite entertaining. I prefer to keep an open mind.

Tony H said...

CHARLY FRENCH (note the correct spelling for all you Googlers)

This is my 2nd attempt to send this.

Dr CHARLY FRENCH:DIRECTOR OF THE McBURNEY LABORATORY FOR GEOARCHAEOLOGY AT CAMBRIDGE. 'he is an expert on recovering "buried landscapes" - reconstucting the ancient terrain and vegetation from long ago. See pages 51 & 52.'

Above quote from Index of:-

IF STONES COULD SPEAK: unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge, by MARC ARONSON with the generous cooperation of MPP & the SRP.2009.

Brian, what can you tell us about this mysterious McBurney Laboratory For Geoarchaeology, and is it in any way connected to the equally mysterious and esoteric SPACES??

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, what a lot of mysteries......I'm not sure what Charly French has published, and in what specialism. Must check it out...

As for that lab, I know nothing -- and as for SPACES, even more mysterious, as I have commented before.

Tony H said...

I take your point that the brighter young geomorphs may be far away studying projects related to Climate Change etc.

As you say, there should be some left over to educate the archaeologists and/or the masses about the application of geomorphology to Professor Challenger Lost World Conan Doyle-type - mindsets on 'Stonehenge - Its Cosy Place In Our World View'.

Brian Kay is doing his Lancastrian best to popularise Physics, complete with a decent sense of humour. Surely now is the time for Geomorphology to go where no one of that ilk has gone before!! Astronomy is thankfully becoming more socially respectable and popular, and may even thankfully overtake Astrology before too long in that regard.

No reason why Geomorphs cannot stride across the landscape, kicking out those metaphorical Sacred Cows that had us all believing in a Golden Age Long Ago when intrepid noble voyagers FOR CERTAIN transported stones from West Wales, for no other reason than "because they were worth it."

I'm sure there must be a few young geomorphs who are sufficiently pleasant and/or good-looking to appear on TV, in the style of an Alice Roberts, Brian Kay, the enthusiastic Geologist Stewart, or the various younger ones on Country File. What about recruiting umbrella-clad old fashioned Geographer Nick Crane? Bet he'd be up for it! [But preferably assisted by someone younger to swell the audience figures.]

We have an increasing percentage of Graduates in the U.K., most of whom probably still possess enquiring minds. Surely they'd welcome a more PROBING approach to the accepted received wisdoms the Tabloid Press still peddle?