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Monday, 25 June 2012

Chris's Review of the new MPP book



As requested by Tom, here is Chris's full review of the new MPP book.

 =====================
Chris Johnson's review of the new MPP book

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stonehenge-Exploring-Greatest-Stone-Mystery/dp/085720730X

The author gives selected results from the extensive explorations of recent years that he has been leading. These titbits are interesting to the specialist but newcomers to the subject will find themselves lost and confused. Specialists find themselves wondering what else has been discovered that Mike Parker Pearson chooses not to mention.

The relentless pursuit of Mike's theory that Stonehenge is a graveyard becomes wearisome. Human remains are indeed present but relatively few considering the number of people involved over a thousand year period. Mike explains this by asserting that the scarcity of remains is evidence for a dynasty, a ruling elite. He fails to explain why a ruling dynasty could have exercised such control over its workers at a time when Britain was thinly populated and there were abundant natural resources such as deer to sustain any clan that did not fancy the hard work of constructing monuments.

On the positive side Mike advances good arguments for reconsidering chronology, including the placement of the Bluestones from Wales in the first phase. He makes a good case for a link with the recent excavations at Durrington Walls, but fails to address the distinct contrasts with the Avebury monument which is close by. This superficial treatment is frustrating for the serious student. Alternative theories for, say, the transport of the Welsh stones by glaciers are considered and dismissed, in this case failing to take account of the latest evidence. Likewise the theory of a healing connection with Prescelli is quickly dismissed on the basis of Mike's opinion. The book is heavy on opinion and this is not what one expects from a leading academic.

All in all a disappointing book - it could and should have been a lot better, especially considering the amount of public money that has been invested in the projects he has been leading. Still, stonehenge obsessives will find it required reading if only for the dribble of facts emerging from recent scientific work.   

81 comments:

Robert John Langdon said...

Chris

Interesting critique - remind me not to send you my next review copy!!

He's new dating evidence (and the only thing new!) seems to be the cremation in 'the chalk packing' of Aubrey hole 32.

Sadly, the history of this hole shows the original cremation found was in the 'fill' not the base of the hole found by Hawley and the second excavation by Atkinson in a hollow into the chalk a second cremation was carbon dated as 1798 BCE +/- 275.

So (depending on exact location) the chances of contamination of this sample is very high and probably incorrect - which I doubt he informs the reader.

RJL

chris johnson said...

The team seemed to be very careful on the technical side and MPP is convincing about the quality of the field work. He conveys a genuine enthusiasm.

From Dennis' site I found a good pdf called "The Age of Stonehenge" which is co-authored by most of the greats - MPP, Cleal, Pollard, Thomas, Tilley, etc, etc.

The "new" cremation burial was discovered at the bottom of Aubrey Hole 7 on the western edge and dated to 3330-2910

BRIAN JOHN said...

Therein lies the problem of archaeology. It is a humanity, not a science -- and although the quality of the fieldwork in almost all of the digs we have referred to is excellent (very careful and accurately recorded) I would class the good people undertaking this fieldwork as technicians rather than scientists. An old friend of mine, involved in quite a different field, recently bemoaned the fact that people were nowadays taught many wonderful techniques but were not taught how to be scientists. So in archaeology we have fantasy and speculation creeping in at far too early a stage in proceedings, leading to the curse of the ruling hypothesis and the abandonment of scientific ethics. The only people who can get that particular issue sorted out are the senior academics like TD and MPP who need to get scientific ethics and methods into their courses pronto. The trouble is that they are themselves far too busy fantasising and speculating, so as to maintain media interest and so as to ensure a continuing flow of funds.........

chris johnson said...

Brian,
I think you are absolutely right.

As an arts graduate myself I think you are bit unkind to us non-scientists. I was taught rigorous academic techniques at university - even more important in the genuine humanities because we have few or no measuring instruments. There is no equivalent for RC dating when analyzing Anglo-Saxon poetry.

In fact, with the amount of spurious scientific research being distributed by our universities in many fields I regret that study of arts is being discouraged currently.

Robert John Langdon said...

Chris

Thanks for that update.

Seems even more fascicle to investigate a hole that Hawley dumped the cremation remains of AH 1,4,6,7,8,9,10,12,16,22,29 and 31 - then claim it is 'new'.

If anything it shows the monument is older than the 3330-2910 BCE suggested, as a majority of the Hawley cremations were found in the 'fill' rather than the bottom of the holes - where no doubt Hawley placed his cremations for reburial - which it seems have now been dated by MPP.

At least it's further evidence to support my hypothesis - so well done MPP!!

RJL

Jon Morris said...

Finished the book. Will leave a review on Amazon. I thought it contained quite a lot of new information.

chris johnson said...

Robert,
you misunderstand. The new find in 7 is reported as genuinely new and there were sufficient people observing to be convincing.

MPP makes the observation about what else Hawley might have missed and so fantastic theories are still possible, I assume.

Anonymous said...

Concerning SH cremations … an inconvenient question.

If the 'new' cremation evidence is to be trusted, it had to be undisturbed. But if it has been undisturbed 'as was' when the cremation took place, why do we find just scant pieces of charred human flesh on some small bone chips? And why these scant remains are generally found mixed in the chalk fill and not more properly disposed at the bottom of the pit holes? Why the entire cremated remains are never found?

Surely there are better explanations for all this than the current thinking. Once we get our heads out of the pits we may even see some sensible alternatives!

thinker

Robert John Langdon said...

Chris

No I understood - I just can't believe it!!

A chalk hole is quite unique as its sides are made of white/grey chalk, cremations are black - It is suggested that although the hole was excavated TWICE in 1920 and in 1935 - no-one noted the black stuff at the bottom of the hole....

If that's the case we need to re-excavate every archaeological hole ever dug as things have been completely missed!!

I think it's more likely that the sample was contaminated by the other cremations thrown in in 1935, as it had over 70 years of rain water to settle at the base in the porous chalk.

RJL

Jon Morris said...

From memory of this item, he said that the remains had been compacted into a small hole within the chalk surface and that a dark stain to the surface was evident. This description would have been about half way into the book.

chris johnson said...

Robert, this is the point MPP makes too. You need to be lucky where you dig your trench or drill your cores.

Of course the senior archaeologists have the benefit of their wide experience so luck is less of a factor now than in the past.

I am more confident than you (and Kostas) that experience is useful in judging whether a sample sent for RC dating is legitimate or not. In the case of the riverside project there are hundreds if not thousands of trained eyes looking over MPP's shoulder on chronological assertions so I, for one, take the results he reports on face value.

MPPs book is interesting in the way he describes a very scientific approach to the digging side of archaeology nowadays. Were he a better theoretician it would be less of a disappointing read.

I'll give an example. He makes a convincing case for sarsens possibly being found close to Stonehenge before then elaborating on an origin and a route from the Avebury area, based it seems on a Stukely drawing.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

For the record, I do value 'expertise' in any area of knowledge. But rely only on the raw evidence in drawing my tentative conclusions.

Experts are people too. Their interpretations of the raw data is what I often question. As these are rooted on preconceived judgments to further their narratives.

Point at hand. If the charred bits of human flesh on small bone chips indicate cremation practices in prehistoric UK, why don't we find the whole cremated skeleton? And why these remains are generally mixed in with the chalk fill in pits? This would indicate to me contamination and sediment movement. And if so, how reliable such evidence is? Why the human cremation remains aren't found in some more intentional and respectful settings? Like buried at the bottom of the pits inside sealed bowls along with earthly artifacts of the deceased? Or any other way that reflect respect and love for the deceased?

Kostas

Geocur said...

Although Hawley hadn't fully excavated AH7 the cremation was not found in the bottom but to the side in a 10cm deep hole with a small piece of covering sarsen .

Robert John Langdon said...

Chris

I'm sure MPP is a true professional and his team of undergrads most eagle eyed.

If you have a copy of the 'bible' - Stonehenge in its environment Cleal t al - there are detailed drawings of all of excavations made on the AH holes. They are incredibly detailed showing the slightest deposits in situ and cross sections.

I await the official excavation notes and drawings to compare the exact location of this 'new' deposit in relation to the original excavation drawings - its only then will we know if something was missed or misinterpreted.

Lets hope its not too many years!!

RJL

Geocur said...

Kostas , you are relying on very limited data. What have you actually read in relation to prehistoric cremation practices ? Cremations today are treated in variety of ways from having the remains kept in an urn to the remans being thrown to the winds at a favoured spot of the deceased or just allowed to to blown from the pyre . Similarly in the past we find cremations in urns or contained in organic materials as was probably the case with the new find at AH7, others deposited with other cremated or inhumed individuals or animals and most certainly, like today allowed flung to the four winds and into the eyes of the beholders .

Anonymous said...

Geocur,

I accept your criticism of my scant knowledge re: prehistoric cremations. I based my comments on simple common sense reasoning! Perhaps you can help answer some sensible questions I have on this.

1)When the flesh burns in a cremation, what happens to the bones? Clearly these don't burn in a fire fed by just wood! So where are the bone skeletons of human cremations? Why just bits of charred flesh and bones? Where are the heads? Long bones, etc? If the cremation pits are undisturbed and therefore credible, I would expect more of the cremated skeleton bones to also be present. But they are not!

2)How exactly the cremation remains found look like? I know there is some charred human flesh still attached to small fragments of bone. How is the bone shaped? Rounded or jagged? Split or solid? Any photos of such evidence available anywhere?

3)What explaines the presence of animal bone fragments mixed in with human remains? Funerary feasting? But why throw the bones in a cremation pit of a dearly deceased?

4)If the cremation evidence can also be explained in other more sensible ways, should we?

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

For what it's worth, I enjoyed MPP's book. I couldn't see anything of significance in it that I would highlight as being either incorrect or biased.

I don't think there's any need to wait for the full papers before accepting the book's technical descriptions.

Robert John Langdon said...

Jon

I'm sure the book was a good read, but would have lacked the technical diagrams that a serious archaeologist requires to evaluate the evidence.

Similar 'cup' holes in the sides of the Aubrey Holes have been found in previous excavations - so why did they miss this one? (the sarsen stone cover is not on Hawley excavation diagram Geo, which shows the entire hole - not part!)

The more interesting questions that need to be addressed is the fact that these cavities were added to the hole - but only in some! Is this an indication of the cremations added AFTER the original use - if so the AH are much older than MPP's new estimate.

And why so little of the body was left inside - some holes had as little as 1.2 grms. They say its shows 50+ cremations or was it one body spread throughout - was the bones DNA tested to see if they are different or is it another guestimation?

RJL

geocur said...

I am not an osteologist so can’t answer your questions , but fwiw .
Fragements of skull including teeth and long bones are found in cremated remains .What remains after a cremation is not dust but burnt bone .
The remains can be anything from instantly recognisable burnt bone to various coloured ,(depending on the temperature of the pyre ) bits and pieces . Sometimes the remains were washed and cleared of any pyre material other times they were ground up ,
Charred flesh found on prehistoric burnt bone ? , anything organic that was not destroyed in the ineffectual pyre will have long gone the way of all flesh , burnt or otherwise , unless in those rare cases where it has been kept in anaerobic conditions .

Animal /human inhumations and associations in funerary practice are not uncommon , from the neonate buried on a swans wing in early Neolithic Denmark to the recent find of a woman buried with a cow ,we might expect similar in relation to cremation .

There is always room for improved understanding in any discipline , but I doubt you or I or any one on this blog have the expertise required to add anything “sensible “ to our current understanding . “ it’s God/nature wot did it “ ,notwithstanding .

chris johnson said...

Kostas,
I recommend you buy the book as Mike goes into these questions of yours in some detail.

I don't know what you mean by the current thinking. My impression is that the archaeologists have a similar list of questions and are analyzing the data before jumping to conclusions. You can imagine that this analysis is incredibly laborious and difficult with mixed-up fragments from 5000 years ago. Especially with the Hawley remains people were hoping he had bagged everything neatly with provenance clearly labelled - but he didn't.

Jon Morris said...

It has technical diagrams where necessary Robert. I didn't feel he had either under or overdone it given the market the book was aimed at.

He doesn't go into why someone would have missed the details in the past: Though I doubt that would have added to the argument.

Overall I was very happy with the way this book has been presented but each to their own? I know there's one reviewer who didn't like it at all, but the same type of negative review was also given to the excellent "Solving Stonehenge" (as it happens also by someone with an alternative theory about Stonehenge)

geocur said...

As mentioned earlier the cremation was found to the side of AH 7.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

By 'current thinking' I mean the interpretation these bits of charred human remains are evidence of prehistoric cremations. There may be other explanations for these.

For example, these could be fluvioglacial deposits of pine charcoal and skeletal remains (both human and animal) from forest fires in higher elevations.

That would answer all of my questions. The archeologists answer none of my questions. Asking me to read their books is like asking an atheist to read the Bible.

The key question here is: If these cremation remains were left undisturbed for 5000 years (and so reliable as evidence) where are the other parts of the skeletal remains?

You trust the 'experts' to have an answer. I argue if they had an answer you would have read about it in their books. Have you?

Geocur:

I am only interested in cremations at prehistoric UK. Not all over the world and at all times. Thou the skeletal remains now are often ground up to fine dust, this was not possible 5000 years ago. So we would expect to find much more of the cremated skeletal remains. But we done! Why not?

Kostas

geocur said...

Kostas ,I did mean that (British )prehistoric cremations were also ground ,it is hardly difficult .
Just as disarticulated skeleton parts are found in deposits from pits to chambers the same could be true for cremations i.e. the cremated bones are not necessarily those from a recently deceased individual but the cremation of disarticulated bones or in the case of an typical Hindu style cremation not all the cremation is included in the deposit . Funerary practice today ouwith western influence is not always simply cremate or bury , in prehistory it was even more complicated , it is almost certainly wrong to think of what we are discussing as simply a means of dealing with the cadaver problem .

Robert John Langdon said...

Well the fact it was found in the side of the hole is of even more of an interesting fact Geo.

Hawley found BA pottery, RB pottery, Sarsen FLAKES & mauls and even a bluestone axe fragment - but no sign of the Sarsen stone as suggested.

Which must mean that the excavation hole dig was too small and the sarsen stone was 'undiscovered' to one side with the cremation cavity.

BUT Hawley's excavation hole was 1.34m wide, much larger than 30 of the 34 stone holes excavated.

Consequently, if MPP is correct we must add the missing stone plus the chalk necessary to hide it - plus of course the cremation hole. AH7 will now become the largest post hole so far excavated almost twice the size of AH6 at 0.79m and one and a half times bigger than AH8 at 1.04m.

Does this not imply that the additional cavity was added AFTER the Stone hole was originally used??

Moreover, we know of similar customs with barrows where cremations are cut into the side of the original barrow at a much later date.

RJL

geocur said...

RJL , the deposit was to the side of the hole not in it .

Anonymous said...

Geocur you write,

“... (British )prehistoric cremations were also ground...”
“ … the cremated bones are not necessarily those from a recently deceased individual...”
“ … not all the cremation is included in the deposit”


How do you know such things! Are there any records to indicate this? Or more “interpretations” of the facts based on the facts you wish to be true!

Kostas

Anonymous said...

For background
"A total of 55 lithic samples ranging in weight from 0.1 to 266g were excavated from Aubrey Hole 7. They comprise a 20th century mix of backfill from the original Aubrey Hole 7 excavation in 1920 and re-excavation in 1935 plus surface material from around the pit. They came from the cremated bone layer so may have been found with one or more cremations anywhere on the site, but could just have fallen in from the backfilled soil above Aubrey Hole 7. As they have no archaeological significant internal stratigraphy (Parker-Pearson and Pitts pers com) no comment will be made about their distribution within the Aubrey Hole 7.
The majority of the sarsens from Aubrey Hole 7 have been separated from the bluestones (Parker-Pearson pers. comm.) and so the majority of the remaining lithics are dolerite or volcanic rocks."
Part of the text submitted to the Riverside memoir(s).
M (I'm back)

Robert John Langdon said...

Geo

"Which must mean that the excavation hole dug was too small and the sarsen stone was 'undiscovered' to one side with the cremation cavity."

RJL

geocur said...

Kostas , even if there were records why should we accept them when we know they can be misleading and the physical evidence might be contradictory . The evidence is all there is , we make our interpretation on that basis . If you are unaware of the evidence or unwilling to research it then you are unlikely to have a meaningful interpretation

“... (British )prehistoric cremations were also ground...”
Not all cremation deposits are lumps of bone and pyre material there are often much finer and cleaner , when they are found in an inverted buried urn with a sealing stone between contents and ground surface the assumption that they have been cleaned and ground by the people/person who deposited the urn is the most parsimonious .

“ … the cremated bones are not necessarily those from a recently deceased individual...”
Note the “ not necessarily “ Why assume that they are ?
.As mentioned earlier the quick disposal of the recently deceased by burial or cremation is not the only practice .Excarnation , mummification ,curation of entire or fragmentary skeletons , recovery of bones from a cadaver were/are all practiced . When bone from either of these circumstances was burnt it is clear it would not have been from a recently deceased individual.
If you read the lead up to the comment you will see a possible explanation . Disarticulated remains are often found as deposits , clearly there are other associated skeletal remains from the same individual that have not been included in the deposit i.e. not all of an individual is buried/deposited .In a case where these remains are burnt then “ … not all the cremation is included in the deposit”

geocur said...

RJL ,Hawley failed to get to the bottom of the AH7 but apart from that his and subsequent excavations had dug the hole to it's original dimensions.He and Newall and Young had not noticed the sarsen covering the new find but it was not in the hole or part of the hole .

Anonymous said...

Geocur,

Why double and triple the human effort digging up the facts? I trust you and others to truthfully present the evidence known. And then, as a free thinking person, I draw my own conclusions as to what the evidence shows. I do that 'provisionally', reserving the right to change my mind. So far, I have not read here or elsewhere anything to persuade me to change my views. But I do remain open minded!

You write,

“ … even if there were records why should we accept them when we know they can be misleading... “ Are you referencing 'original records'? If so, how can you dispute such records as misleading and accept the tablet recordings of modern archeologists with an agenda in mind?

“ … [cremation bones] found in an inverted buried urn with a sealing stone between contents and ground surface...”
Have such inverted buried urn been found? Where? Was the urn intact and vertically upside down? Was the sealing stone flat or ordinary? This is very interesting. Like to know more …

“Disarticulated remains are often found as deposits...”
I know! But this may have a more sensible explanation. We shouldn't use the evidence to fabricate narratives of funerary practices and then use our narratives to prove the evidence!

Geo, I follow the evidence to places where others are unwilling to go! But someone has to!

Kostas

Tony H said...

'Merlin says "a truly great read". See Daily Telegraph book review by Daisy Dunn:-

http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/2012/06/29/1533/

Jon Morris said...

I think Daisy has it about right. I've also put a review up on Amazon.

chris johnson said...

Daisy makes an unashamed plug for the book with no balance. At least she seems to have read it and it IS worth reading for us Stonehenge obsessives.

Personally I still find it disappointing because it should have been much better, even though I enjoyed it and will keep it in my bookshelf.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Thanks for blocking my last comment! A simple typo ('pissing' instead of 'passing') put it over the top and understandably inappropriate to post! My apologies …

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- I haven't blocked anything lately..... with or without the words to which you refer! Message might have gone astray? Still having a few broadband problems here in Sweden -- I have to sneak a bit of broadband width from my sister-in-law when I get the chance!

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Below is my lost comment, with the typo mistake corrected!

Tony H,
Quoting from the review in your post of MPP's book on http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co.uk/2012/06/29/1533/

“Stone, ... for commemorating the dead, wood a material for the living.”


Such self serving statements belie all the wooden crosses across many old church graveyards! Why nobody is challenging such scatological excretions passed as scholarship?

Stone has been used for the living and the dead alike from time immemorial. The Egyptian pyramids may be commemorating the dead. But Acropolis was definitely commemorating the living! MPP uses the evidence he finds to fabricate his narrative. And uses his narrative to explain the evidence he finds! Reeks of vile invalidity!

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

“Stone, ... for commemorating the dead, wood a material for the living.”

Such self serving statements belie all the wooden crosses across many old church graveyards!


If you had read the book, you would know that your quote is out of context, as is your reply.

Jon Morris said...

Personally I still find it disappointing because it should have been much better, even though I enjoyed it and will keep it in my bookshelf.

I'm not sure how he could have done that other than making the book a lot longer so that the sequence flowed more easily: There's a lot of project work from different sources covered.

I found it a bit disjointed at times because of that: Is that what you found or something else?

It's also being discussed over on megalithic if of interest.

chris johnson said...

I'll take a look, Jon.

My basic point as a former editor (first 10 years of my career) is that it is not clear WHO this book is aimed at. It is not the newcomer, clearly. And it is not the professional academic best served by facts. In between are a few stonehenge obsessives like you and me (I presume) who gratefully absorb some new information. This is a small market probably, and when people read reviews on Amazon they need some guidance whether a book fits them or not.

As an in-betweener I find myself regularly taking issue with MPP opinions on things I know about (e.g. glacial transport), while being convinced by him on things I don't know about (e.g. Aubrey holes). Perhaps if I knew more about the things I don't know about then I would be less convinced by him - if you see what I mean.

I quite like the bits where his personality shines through - e.g. his enthusiasm for field work and apr├ęs-dig but this is not a reason to buy the book.

Yes, the book is disjointed in time and space. Long Barrow times and Avebury are hardly touched. I believe the recent mesolithic finds at Vespasian's Camp are not mentioned at all

Anyway, my daughter just arrive so I'll stop.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

Do I need to read the Bible to know it's about God? And for an atheist, wont it be pointless? Except if I read it as literature! But I am, on this, not interested in reading more stories about Stonehenge. Robert's made-up stories I find more entertaining.

More to the point. Are you arguing the quote, “stone is for the dead, wood is for the living”, is not MPP's argument? That he does not use such reasoning to argue for the 'reason' for Stonehenge? What sorely is missing (along with so many other things, like 'transport') from any explanation of Stonehenge.

And what fills these gaps are more made-up stories. Through scant data points, however, we can fit any storyline we want to believe. Don't you agree?

Curiosity: Why has MPP chosen to write yet another book on Stonehenge and not publish the much requested monographs of the findings from the Riverside Project? Including the geological evidence researched by Dr Ixer?

(“The data are not mine [Dr Ixer] to release here and will appear in the series of Riverside monographs.”
18 June 2012 08:29 http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2012/06/dartmoor-ice-cap.html )

First the 'money' than the 'science'? Or is it, the 'money' before the 'science' spoils the story! The bluestones are turning green before our very eyes!

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

More to the point. Are you arguing the quote, “stone is for the dead, wood is for the living”, is not MPP's argument?

I don't remember that quote in the book. He said something similar when describing the current beliefs of people from Madagascar.

Perhaps you might consider reading the book if you want to quote from it?

Anonymous said...

Jon,

I am stating the plot of MPP's story on Stonehenge. Where he came up with that is not all that relevant. Madagascar, however, may be a culture too far!

Are you disputing MPP is using such reasoning to explain Stonehenge? If his reasoning makes sense to you, no problem. It does not make sense to me. “Stone for the dead, wood for the living”. Really?

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

Perhaps you might consider reading the book if you want to discuss it?

chris johnson said...

Kostas,
MPP gives several fact based interpretations why we can usefully see the SH landscape being divided for various purposes and meanings, although it is all 'through a glass darkly' (Corinthians 1).

As Jon advises, please read the book otherwise there is not much meaning to any discussion we might have. As I said earlier, the book contains too much opinion for my taste and almost certainly for yours - nevertheless it contains much interesting information and the opinions of MPP, certainly one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject with a unique access to data, his opinions are worth hearing even if you don't agree.

Anonymous said...

God, Jon, not the Bible! Does God exist? When 'true believers' respond pointing to the Bible, they reveal weakness in their position.

I would rather discuss MPP's theory of Stonehenge! You would rather I read the Book.

“Stoned for the Dead, wood for the living!”. A fitting epitaph carved in stone for MPP's theory on Stonehenge!

Kostas

Anonymous said...

Chris,

I respect your perspective on this. But I am too busy solving all the world's problems to read “Stonehenge for the Dead”. Whatever facts are contained in MPP's book should have been provided to the seeking public in objective monographs we have yet to see published by the Riverside Project. Not in the form of a popular book filled with opinionated interpretations and sold to the eager public for $50(?).

Kostas

chris johnson said...

Kostas,
silly me, thinking you were actually interested in Stonehenge. Good luck solving the worldly problems.

(50$ seems a high price; I paid much less)

Jon Morris said...

(50$ seems a high price; I paid much less)

Thanks to Mr Flowers, I also got an exceptionally good deal (less than £10 including postage)

Didn't last long, that offer.

Anonymous said...

OK, Chris!

You have shamed me into submission! I will read MPP's book but can't promise it will be any time soon! Not soon enough to have a discussion on it in this thread, anyway.

Kostas

Myris of Alexandria said...

Dear all
I talked to MPP (and Mrs MPP) for many hours yesterday –he is a man of great charm and personal kindness- and Mrs MPP likewise is very lovely.
So hot of’t press.
The Riverside Monographs, 4/5 of them I think, will start to come out next year.
The deadline for submission for text is Jan 2013-the delay is getting the technical consultants reports (this is an endemic problem in arch! almost every report has suffered this problem- a decade’s delay is sadly not thought of as unreasonable)-so MPP is quite swift.
He has a coherent view of what may have been happening in the Neolithic on the northern slopes and river valleys of the Preseli Mountains that he wants to test.
A visit to the cup marked stone was extremely interesting but more, perhaps much more,later…..

M. safely back in’t library-the new fire regulations are well-displayed.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Myris. I won't comment on MPP's new book since I haven't yet read it.
Re this: "He has a coherent view of what may have been happening in the Neolithic on the northern slopes and river valleys of the Preseli Mountains that he wants to test."

That is also the impression I got when I heard MPP and his colleagues presenting their research findings last summer in Newport. The trouble was, as I reported at the time, that here was so much speculation and fantasy that it was almost impossible to come to a view as to the reliability of their field evidence. The whole evening was so dominated by their ruling hypothesis that I came away from it feeling profoundly cynical and depressed about modern archaeology. My reports relating to the evening are here:



There were also many other reports on this blog around September of last year, and -- as you will all remember -- much animated discussion! At the time of last season's fieldwork, I did offer twice via Email to meet up with MPP and his colleagues for a discussion of their findings, but got no reply. After the Newport lecture, I arranged to meet up with MPP and colleagues the next morning at the Rhosyfelin dig site, but they failed to turn up...... I was not impressed.

I'll just say this -- if MPP has a "coherent view" of what happened on the northern flanks of Preseli, let's just chuck out the fantasy and see the colour of the evidence.

BRIAN JOHN said...

oops -- the URLs to my key posts seem to have disappeared. If you look back at the posts in September last year (especially around 16 September 2011) you will find my critique of the Rhosyfelin dig and that evening of fairy tales.......

chris johnson said...

Myris, it sounds like a real treat.

When I visited northern presceli recently and tried to imagine how it might have been in the neolithic with my unpracticed eyes, I would have loved the company of MPP. Brian wants evidence of course but in this case a hypothesis must come first, otherwise you are left looking at many square miles of bog and bramble with no idea where a professional might dig.

MPP reveals some ideas in his book, as I mentioned in a previous thread, but I would be fascinated to hear anything you can report from your meeting with the man himself. Tantalising ...

Jon Morris said...

I also happened by chance to be in that general area a few weeks back: Some of the minor roads near Newport are exceptionally scary to drive along, especially if you've dallied too long after sunset. Didn't realise until today that the 'Craig Rhosyfelin' site was also there.

I don't suppose you can give a bit more in the way of hints Myris?

Is the new stuff about the provenance of blue-stones (which Brian mentions and details in his report) or is there something else?

Anonymous said...

Myris,

I am concerned! I worry when people turn on the charm!

Watch out for arsonists in the Library! They care less about regulations! Posted or not.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Don't be so cynical, Kostas! Let's be generous enough to think that MPP was simply being himself and was not "putting on the charm" -- it's difficult to do that for 8 hours, anyway.....

Anonymous said...

Brian,

My cynicism is well founded! How much trust should we show someone that writes popular archeology books on Stonehenge before the science is settled?

For all we know Woodhenge may have been covered by water during the period MPP argues. Don't you think the geomorphology history of Salisbury Plain needs to be first scientifically determined BEFORE the archeology narratives are made up?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- if we waited for the geomorphological history of a site to be fully elucidated before letting loose archaeologists into the field, no science would ever get done. Thank goodness that life is not that organized!

There is always a random element in the world of research -- and long may it continue.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Dear all
Mike and Mrs Mike were exactly the same at 9pm as they were at 7am so Brian’s point is very well made. This blog and its constituent members were often on our lips (mainly my discussing the various theories proposed here (with my gloss- so truly balanced and unbiased).
We spent much of the time going through the history of the research and its future and what we believed and what would be wonderful were it to come to pass.
There is no doubt but that MPP is a straightforward, totally honest and decent person who is driven by the archaeological questions he asks himself –the fame and grant money etc are only a means to getting the archaeology done and not ends in themselves.
Richard Bevins was with us most of the day –we met at Rhosyfelin –oddly it is like Stonehenge herself- most impressive at a distance of a hundred of metre-the view from the road is grand, but slightly less so close too- it might be wood for the trees. A couple of people came to visit (they might have be Ozzies) and photo it and I can see it becoming a pilgrimage site it just needs a well/spring.
Mike is also concerned with variety of bluestones and there was much discussion as to how many were/are significant (I think far fewer than Brian but still about 10 or so) he would like to find the source of the orthostat bluestones (don’t we all) preferably with an associated Neolithic quarry and we visited a number of potentially interesting outcrops and all agreed that the task is very difficult and can only be done by systematic sampling. The rocks are pretty dreadful and so have been ignored by geologists in the main.
A main purpose of the day was to try to narrow down sampling locations and we relied heavily on Richard’s experience- there are many unsampled outcrops beyond Richard’s original PhD. Area -it is worth remembering that Rhos itself was at the very edge of that area and so not sectioned in the 1970s.
It was one of the most pleasant days that I have had for a few years and very useful and has re-inspired us all I think- it has me.
Richard and I are moving onto the ‘rhyolites with sub-planar texture’ (basic and calcareous tuff in the old nomenclature) as the next major task.
Ironically the Cup Mark stone (see blogs here) looks like an erratic and it would be very nice to know from whence it came.
It is difficult to believe how much has changed since the D and W’s May excavation at Stonehenge in May 2008 and MPP et al initiated The Riverside Project. Who gave a single thought to the northern Preseli Slopes then??

Dear Kostas thank you for your concern I have set up a committee to find suitable people to join our standing fire regulations sub-group or ‘sfrsg’ as we amusingly to call it. The standing committee on choosing the correct sand for the sand buckets (ssssg) (suitable sand standing sub-group) is working well and will soon be reporting back once we have the specialist reports. We both know what a great loss to Imperial research a fire in the Library would bring and this brings a great sense of urgency to the matter. Persepolian pyrotechnics are always in our mind.
M.
.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- good to have more details about your Grand Day Out! Forgive me if I am misinterpreting anything, but it seems to me that the Rhosyfelin visit and the discussions about other sites where quarries might be found seems to me to be entirely based upon the assumption that the human transport thesis is correct. Enthusiasm, openness and honesty (on the part of MPP or anybody else) can perfectly well be accompanied by scientific bias and a refusal to see a ruling hypothesis for what it is. We all have to be careful about that sort of thing. And I will continue to say, to whomsoever wishes to listen, that the Newport presentation by MPP and his colleagues last year was one of the most biased and unscientific presentations I have ever heard.

I am not sure why MPP chooses to dismiss the glacial transport hypothesis with such apparent enthusiasm. Maybe he talks too much to Chris Clark and too little to any other geomorphologists? He might bear in mind that I know the territory -- and the field evidence -- in North Pembrokeshire far better than Chris does, and that many years of experience might be deserving of some respect.

It's great that MPP is involved in deep discussions with Rob and Richard about the geological problems associated with Stonehenge, but with all due respect to them, they are not geomorphologists, and cannot be expected to give a reliable assessment of the work of ice either in North Pembs or across the rest of Southern Britain.

As long as MPP carries on hunting for Neolithic quarries (with or without the support of the geologists) without proper consideration of the glacial processes of entrainment and transport, he won't deserve much respect from me, no matter how pleasant a fellow he might be.

Do archaeologists spend too much time telling jolly tales to sychophants and too little time examining their theories with those who have a different take on field evidence and what it means? Quite possibly...

Anonymous said...

Brian
I am like the BBC
I am called an archaeologist's bitch by the glacial wallahs and believed to be in bed with the Devil (aka Brian John) by the archies.
So I must be doing it right.
I am as happy to look at rocks from Brian as I done in the past and am doing right now as I am from MPP etc.
I would be just as happy to show the orthostats come from the glaucophne/crossite schists of Anglesey as anywhere in Pembroke were they to do so-so far they don't.
I do not care!!!!!!!!!! at all!!!!!!! that plus my skill is why I am so valuable. I just provenence as well as I can. And for free!!
There can be and is no difference to me between Brian saying here are some odd erratics please look at them and MPP saying here is a quarry, I think, please look at the rocks. I shall say yes I recognise this rock from a SH context or no I do not recognise this rock.
I know that I am not one of the sycophants as Brian is far too canny to risk my refusal to id any present and future material for him For free!!!! I have yet to be paid any fee for any of my SH lithic work so although I may be a bitch I am not a tart (though after a couple of Blue Lagoons I could be tempted).
I make and have made no comment on glacial matters -not my field and really only of passing interest to me. I don't care how the stones got to SH never have and doubt I ever will.
I provenance. Well. C
M.

Jon Morris said...

Sounds interesting Myris.

One easier way to transport blocks of partially finished orthostat rock might be to train younger (about 30') trees to a curve, then harvest, trim and shave the young crop before slowly bending them to form permanent circles using rope and a covered steam pit: Once you have several circles with a long enough inter-lap, the ends can be pinned together using dowels (you would have to protect the inter-lap joints using something like rope) and the stone then packed and firmly wedged to the centre. This sends the external circles into tension thus making a solid protective unit which can be repaired on the move).

The roll can then be gradually pushed and levered downstream (with the roll acting as its own dam to help the process along).

Once at sea, if the roll is big enough (a volume ratio of at least 4 parts timber to one part stone), the roll can be floated out and then pulled along by boats.

If something like this were ever done, the sources are likely to be near rivers with a gradual incline: It saves all the hard transportation grind.

Shame I didn't know about the outcrop when I was in the area: Might have been worth a look at the river to see what type of transport method would look the most appropriate.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Who are these nasty glacial wallahs who call you an archie's bitch? Whoever they are, I must have words with them -- in my experience these fellows are very circumspect and polite, and do not normally sink to the level of abusing those who work in other fields..... have you done something to upset them?

BRIAN JOHN said...

River? Forget it, Jon. The river at Rhosyfelin is so small that you couldn't possibly float anything on it, apart from a toy boat. You can wade a cross it without getting your knees wet -- I imagine it would not have been that different in the Neolithic.

Jon Morris said...

Hi Brian

The idea wouldn't be to float it, but to slowly roll it so that it was manageable (using backed up water as additional pushing force). Haven't even seen the river so it's just a suggestion!

Myris of Alexandria said...

Trust me on Wednesday you could wade across the river! The ford was difficult to cross and so not attempted.

Ah my shoulders are broad and my skin is thick and I just want to look at the rocks (and do a little pontifcation).

It would be interesting to see the distribution of large erratics to the north of the Preseli Hills and what they are made of.

It could be that non-South Wales erratics deposited north of Preseli were then transported to SH NOTE no mechanism is invoked but I do draw the line at Merlin.

M.

Anonymous said...

Woops
Sorry obviously I meant could NOT wade across.
M

Anonymous said...

Myris of Alexandria,

Thank you for your assurances! I can now sleep at night knowing our great Library will not be turned to ashes!

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, it has been the wettest June since records began, so I am assured. I was wondering......

geocur said...

A post sent last week that must have got lost in the aether/jet stream or stripped of mass by Bosun Higgs .
Kostas , you don’t know even what the evidence is , you enquire and never actually do any research . I gave up responding to you over exactly that problem in relation to monuments . Stick to Geoffrey of Monmouth if you wish but evidence from excavation is different from interpretation .
Of course intact inverted urns with a flat sealing stone flat have been discovered complete with a variety of different qualities and amounts of cremation deposits . Do you think I would make such a thing up .? You would like to know more ? ,is that the same “know more “ as your interest in rock art and cursus monuments and any other area of prehistory that you commented upon with no knowledge or understanding and which I guarantee you have failed to read anything about since expressing your “interest” . Why not google “inverted urn “ or “inverted funerary urns “ ? You will find plenty of examples, even better read some of the literature . I resent the implication in your question “Have such inverted buried urn been found? “ and give up spoon feeding you only for you to ignore the content or reference and later come up with another aspect of prehistory that you know nothing about but will undoubtedly come up with some “sensible “ evidence and anthro free explanation .

Anonymous said...

Geo,

I have upset you!
Sorry!

Hug?

Kostas

Geocur said...

Kostas , being another child of the 60's , hugs take precedence over cremations .

I have just posted a pic of an inverted Vase urn which rested on a granite slab ,it was found beside the position of a standing stone and contained the cremation of a child .
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/263/broomend_of_crichie.html
scroll down about 20 pics to get a better view .There were a total of nine Early Bronze Age urns from an earlier excavation , the 2005-7 excavation discovered a futher four .

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Geo!

Checked out your pics. I accept these are authentic. The photos of 'buried inverted urns' are convincing evidence of 'buried inverted urns'.

I concede some people used inverted urns in burials. But what this has to do with Stonehenge in the Neolithic? Can we infer from your pics the few bits of bone and charcoal found at Stonehenge and RC dated to the Neolithic are evidence of cremation in the Neolithic at Stonehenge?

I think not, since there are other simple and sensible explanations for the evidence.

Kostas

Geocur said...

Kostas , if you go through the posts you will see why I mentioned the inverted urns in the first place. They were nothing to do with Stonehenge but in response to your comments .
The discovery of a cremation deposit at Stonehenge does not mean that the cremation necessarily took place at the site , nobody here suggested it did .

Anonymous said...

Geo,

I have Stonehenge on my mind! Sorry if I misread your comments. And glad we agree that “discovery of a cremation deposit at Stonehenge does not mean that the cremation necessarily took place at the site”. I would even add that discovery of a burned bone fragment may not mean cremation at all.

Kostas

geocur said...

Kostas ,
“I would even add that discovery of a burned bone fragment may not mean cremation at all.”
Of course . However in the case of a site like Stonehenge where burnt bone is obviously deposited in contexts like , pits , in and around structural components like the Aubrey Holes and bank , sometimes accompanied with artefacts like bone skewer pins and the site itself is typologically analogous to others where similar deposits are found sometimes with associated charcoal from a pyre e.g. enclosed cremation cemeteries then the most parsimonious explanation is that the burnt bone is from a cremation .

Anonymous said...

Geo you write,

“...the most parsimonious explanation is that the burnt bone is from a cremation”


Not to me! Bits of burned bone fragments tell us nothing about prehistoric burial practices. Written records might.

“... burnt bone is obviously deposited [by people]...”


This is clearly a belief!

Kostas

geocur said...

Kostas , your belief in the truth to be find in the spoken and written word is touching and naive ,although I doubt you believe everything you read or are told . There was a fairly long sentence prefacing the parsimonious quote the content of which you did not address or provide a more parsimonious explanation .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Comment from Kostas blocked to save Geo from further mental stress. This thread is now getting absurd -- and is now ended.