THE BOOK
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....
To order, click
HERE

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Rhosyfelin 2012

I couldn't get over to the dig site yesterday, but thought I'd better zap over early this morning before the hole gets filled in....  met one of the archaeologists there, and managed to have a quick look around.  Here are some of my photos:


This shows the whole dig site -- rock face to the left, rubble and big stone in the centre, and the banks cut into the thick sediments on the right.  We are looking up the slope towards the head of the gully.


This is the rock face, seen from higher up the gully.  You can see from the change in colouring just how much of it has been covered up -- before this dig -- with sediments and vegetation.  The cliff is effectively now twice as high as it appeared originally.


This is the "damaged" or "crushed" stone just beyond the downslope edge of the large stone they refer to as an "orthostat".  Yes, it is damaged, but it seems to me that the damage is no more or less than we see on scores of other stones on the site.  Is the damage fresh enough to be attributed to Neolithic quarrying activity, or is it a natural consequence of frost-shattering during one of the periglacial phases to have affected this area?


This is the enigmatic socket that has everybody puzzled.  It's a few feet across.  Did it really hold a large standing stone, or was it a storage pit or something that had another purpose?  MPP is convinced it held a stone for c 4,000 years, and that the stone was finally toppled or removed around 500 AD.  Evidence eagerly awaited...


This is the so-called "activity floor" where traces of charcoal, burnt stone etc were found.  Assumed to be traces of an Iron Age encampment.....


The deep vertical crack in the rock here is said by Richard Bevins to be the sampling point for the most accurate match yet between the Rhosyfelin crag and some (how much?) debitage from Stonehenge.  So the claim is that there is a piece of provenancing here which is accurate to within a metre or two.  I want to see chapter and verse on that, since unless you have a 1m sampling grid over a wide area it is pretty hazardous to make that sort of claim.  The that as it may, this is very skilful provenancing by Rob and Richard.  The problem is that this does not look like a place where even a small boulder has come from, let alone a massive orthostat.  If you look at the whole rock face it is incredibly smooth, and I think it is glaciated.  I think also that the great mass of the debris here has not come from the rock face but from ABOVE it -- I think that glacial and periglacial processes combined have led to a collapse or series of collapses of material that has crashed down from the upper part of the slope where there are still many gorse bushes etc.  Maybe some mountaineering is called for in the winter, when the vegetation has died back a bit.


Well well, this is all getting rather interesting........




24 comments:

Myris of Alexandria said...

Excellent set of photos very useful.
Do you have one of the rails?

The distribution of the litter is odd. The blank area ????.
Still the site becomes evermore interesting and it rains less that in the high Preselis!!
I know where I would want to continue working.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

The rails? I'll put up another picture -- if you can see them,you are a better classical scholar than I am.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian for these pictures. And for your report of the facts on the ground. The pit is a puzzle. Can you describe the material around it and bottom of it? It seems from your picture the bottom to be bowl-like hard rock surface while the sides to be softer material. Can you elaborate a bit on this? How closely this matches the size and features of the pits found at other places?

Thanks for your objectivity,
Kostas

Myris of Alexandria said...

Brian
I am confused I cannot believe that Dr Bevins would say anything about the small opened joint plane did you mis-hear him?
Reading all that the learned doctors
("to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.")
have said on the SH debitage and its comparison with the outcrops at Rhos all that these learned doctors have written is that site 8 is an exact petrographical match for the Jovian texture. Nothing more has been written.
My guess is that they might know the full extent of the Jovian texture along the rock face by their sytematic sampling but I am not aware of any statement. I would imagine also they are too careful to say too much before sampling the new exposures.
Just rejoice in their skill and caution, give praise to sublime Apollo, I know I do.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Maybe I did mis-hear. But look on the previous post -- the good people in one of the pics (including MPP) are examining this crack minutely! All I can assume is that Richard is saying that this is where his sample came from? He did make great play on the point that this was a pretty well exact match for one (or more?) of the samples collected in the Stonehenge debitage.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- the pit is indeed a puzzle. I was not able to examine it minutely -- but it all seemed to be in sediment, including the base. I imagine that MPP and colleagues will have established that the base is compacted, and therefore demonstrably pressed down by the weight of a standing stone?

chris johnson said...

My understanding is the broken standing stone fragments had been removed from the hole. There was a pile nearby which they were going to take away and try to reassemble. This is why the hole is empty in Brian's picture.

Actually there were three or four assortments of stones ready for removal off-site when I was there.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, there were quite a few stones which had been removed from their original positions and assembled on the grass adjacent to the dig.
I too gathered that some of these were from the pit. All will be revealed in due course....

chris johnson said...

Myris makes an excellent point. From what I understand Richard took a sample at point 8 which is matched with Stonehenge fragments. Just in front of the crack in the photo is a stump which the archaeologists were pointing to as a missing orthostat - so the orthostat was not in the crack but just in front of it. MPP was speculating there might be a match with the buried stump at SH (31d?) which has not been sampled yet.

Presumably the other orthostats needed to make a circle at Castell Mawr would have been extracted along the face and would have different signatures?

Plenty of detective work remaining methinks.

Listening to Richard I am amazed by the role coincidence has played in the story so far.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Looking at your photo of the 'whole dig site' in your post, I have a question. From the gentle slope of the outcrop surface shown, the many broken small stones on the ground everywhere and somewhat in a heap, the two large stones next to the outcrop surface and acting as sliding stones, and the big “orthostat stone” laying perpendicularly to these at some distance, it occurs to me: could it be these stones came sliding down from a higher elevation and above the exposed outcrop surface? Have there been any efforts to trace the source for these stones to places higher and above the exposed surface of the outcrop shown in the photo? I have many reasons to believe these stones originally came from there and were naturally broken off by weathering and slid gently to the ground below. And if such spot above the exposed outcrop surface is found, I think it would disprove any 'human quarry' theory pushed by MPP and others.

Kostas

Tony H said...

Anyone know WHERE the (hopefully), Good Academics are taking the Various Stone Fragments that they seem to have taken away for reassembly/ further investigation?

I ask because of the sheer quantity of Universities involved in, first, the Stonehenge Riverside Project, and now, presumably, the newly-titled Stones of Stonehenge Project. Will they get stuck on the M25 as they attempt successful entry into Boris' London, now that MPP is newly installed at UCL, having abandoned Sheffield?

Tony H said...

Traces of charcoal and burnt flint were also revealed near the henge-like structure MPP and colleagues excavated north of the modern A4 and the Kennet at Barrow Farm, Clatford, fairly close to the famous Manton "Wessex 1" Bronze Age barrow, during August, where I assisted. Not sure of the likely date, could be as old as the Mesolithic; there were certainly microlith arrow points found.

Does seem like some degree of 'Continuity of Settlement' or site preference is a possibility in that general vicinity, at least.

Digger said...

Regarding the 'crack in the rock' this area provided a sample which is the closest match of any for the large rectangular block found lying in the middle of the trench. The chip of Stonehenge debitage matches the very end of the outcrop, that is the downhill end. The rock face does not seem to have a matching hole for the block to have come out of, it is possible that it came from higher up, although the vegetation obscures the estimated exact spot.

The base of the pit was not cut into rock but a clean, pale yellow deposit of small thin flat rock fragments, presumably derived from the weathering of the rock face under periglacial conditions.

As Chris says, the fill of the pit which was silty material contained a number of unweathered blocks which were arranged around the edges in such a way as to leave a central space big enough for a stone some 60 x 40 cm or perhaps slightly larger to stand in.

Josh Pollard, digging it, said it was of comparable size and shape to the Aubrey hole which he excavated in 2008.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah!!!!!!!!!!!
Silent that it is here in the library I can but hear whispers from the Gods. Quite divine.
Digger is correct.
Ixer and Bevins' 2011a Rhyolite with fabric, Group C, sub-group jovian-texture, is from site 8 at the end of the rock face- it is present at SH in many places-not an uncommon (but not common)type of debitage.
I suspect that what might have been said is that the proto-orthostat can be petrographically matched precisely to a metre or so on the rock face (but not near the joint plane) and that all this precise matching has become confused and conflated.
What would be sooooo lovely would be to re-excavate SH32e and try to match that to the rock face.Were they to match that would rock the Imperial courts.
Ixer and Bevins 2012 Ferret club is out Feb 2013 and continues/completes?? the rhyolite story -before they move onto the volcanics with sub-planar textures. Only a few groups-- so far.
M

Digger said...

Yes, Myris, wouldn't it be great to get a sample from the buried stump 32e( I thought it was 32d but I expect we're talking about the same one, the central one of the three exposed by Atkinson, the broken end of which looks so similar to the way the CRF rock splits).

No doubt if it was a match, there would be great excitement, but I still don't think it would actually prove anything either way, except that it originated in Crosswell and ended up at Stonehenge - or am I being naive ?

Digger said...

Yes, Myris, wouldn't it be great to get a sample from the buried stump 32e( I thought it was 32d but I expect we're talking about the same one, the central one of the three exposed by Atkinson, the broken end of which looks so similar to the way the CRF rock splits).

No doubt if it was a match, there would be great excitement, but I still don't think it would actually prove anything either way, except that it originated in Crosswell and ended up at Stonehenge - or am I being naive ?

Tony H said...

Who is 'Digger'? A newcomer....

Wikipedia provides convincing evidence he could be of Australian WWI extraction, if so he is a rare survivor, s'truth! (though there is a WWI dig taking place near Avebury at this time!).

Wiltshire's WANHS (or as Myris prefers, The Ferret Club) has an Archaeological Field Group, within which is an 'Uncle Digger', and it could well be him, based on what flimsy evidence we have thus far.He has the right contacts and credentials it appears.. Or is he another well-known geologist or archaeologist??

Tony H said...

Anyway, whoever "Digger" is, he appears to be remarkably well-informed.

As for Josh Pollard's comments on the similarity in size and shape to the Aubrey Hole he excavated (with the help of numerous other senior archaeologists on TV), I am left no choice but to again quote the sooooo wise songwriter, Mr Paul Simon:-

"A Man Sees What He Wants To See And Disregards The Rest.." [THE BOXER]

I believe Brian had something to say about this type of deep thinking in a recent Post, no?

Myris of Alexandria said...

No
the original stone that appears in Ixer and Bevins is 32e the end rhyolite next to spotted dolerite orthostat 33 .
32d is the middle one but I and B have not published anything on it.
It is difficult-it looks like a volcanic with sub-planar texture but could be a more fissile rhyolite with texture.
32e is blocky and has a visible thin foliation similar to much rhyolite with texture debitage.
The three stumps 32c, d and e need to be sampled.
There is no agreement in the literature as to their lithology.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree that sampling is needed on those 3 stumps -- can't you prevail upon EH to allow it, for the greater good? Very simple job -- we know exactly where the stones are, and how deeply the stumps are covered. A quick bit of auguring through the topsoil, samples taken, and away within the hour, with no trace left of any disturbance. Bob's your uncle....

Anonymous said...

Seem like Brian is advocating (his comment, 11.09 of 30 Sept) a bit of New Age Soothsaying, but granted 'to augur' has two very different meanings, as Myris of Alexandria and his Grecian Gods would be all too quick to remind us!

Melvyn Bragg of Radio Four

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, the tops of these 3 stones are very close to the ground surface -- maybe less than 6" down? And presumably the plans of Stonehenge are accurate enough for somebody (even without a dowsing rod) to take a normal soil augur and hit them slap bang in the middle without causing any bother whatsoever to passing moles and worms.

TonyH said...

I think even Dave Cameron, the Chancellor, & Nick Clegg would not object to a bit of low-cost auguring, considering its potential magical "multiplier" boosting effects upon the British Tourist Industry and, therefore,the Balance of Payments.

A boost of Olympic proportions?

chris johnson said...

Now we have a health minister who believes in homeopathy, perhaps this could be done on the NHS budget in a search for the magical healing waters?