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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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Tuesday, 1 January 2013

MPP on the matter of quarries

 The big stone at Rhosyfelin at the end of the 2011 dig.  On the left edge of the stone MPP apparently sees stone rails where others see nothing...

Having dealt -- to his own satisfaction -  with glacial matters, in chapter 17 of his book, MPP moves on to consider the distribution of Preselite and other stone tools before moving to take a look at Boles Barrow and its problematical bluestone.  The discussion doesn't take us anywhere very much -- he prefers the view that the bluestone found at Heytesbury House was not the one taken from the barrow, whereas I prefer to take the view that it was.  We won't get much further with that argument........

On p 274 of his book MPP refers to Stanton Drew and Glastonbury, presumably seeking to discredit the idea that the bluestones are glacial erratics.  His arguments are rather convoluted, but he clearly misunderstands what I mean by bluestones, and he has not done his research properly on either ice movement directions or on glacial transport.  The Stanton Drew stones might well be erratics -- they do not seem to be from the immediate neighbourhood -- and I have never claimed that they "should" have come from West Wales.  All I have suggested is that the Stanton Drew stones might have come from the W or NW rather than from any other compass direction.  When the full geology of Stanton Drew is published, we will see if that suggestion is correct. With regard to Somerset and Glastonbury, MPP asks why the builders of Stonehenge would have bothered to collect stones from so far away while they ignored stones much closer to hand, on Salisbury Plain.  I do not know what he is on about here -- I have consistently argued that both the bluestones and the sarsens were probably collected up from around Stonehenge, and with regard to the sarsens at least, David Field and other archaeologists now seem to agree with me.  But then, it seems to be one of MPP's ruling hypotheses that the sarsens came from the "sarsen fields of Marlborough Downs" and that the bluestones came from the bluestone quarries of West Wales....... of which more in a moment.

Chapter 17 continues with a very polite but nonetheless dismissive analysis of the "Tim and Geoff" theory about the desirability of bluestones and their "healing properties" assumed to be associated with the locations of sacred or healing springs in the eastern parts of Preseli.  MPP gives his learned colleagues pretty short shrift -- and it's a bit unclear whether he is rejecting the whole idea of spotted dolerite and dolerite quarries or just the idea of the magical and healing rocks as desirable objects.

 Carn Goedog, beneath whose slopes MPP sees a possible Neolithic quarrymen's settlement.

We then get to the recent work of the MPP tribe in the Preseli foothills.  Here the prevailing hypothesis is that there was "a northern emphasis for the bluestone sources" and a transport route that did not involve the use of the Eastern Cleddau River, Milford Haven or the Bristol Channel.  First, MPP looks as Carn Goedog and Waun Mawn, hypothesising that there was a quarrying community living at and taking stones from the former, and a large stone circle (now dismantled) at the latter.  It appears that the "geophysical survey" failed to find any evidence for this stone circle, so that idea is now abandoned in favour of a hypothetical stone circle at Castell Mawr.  (The team was looking for stone holes at Castell Mawr in 2012, but did not -- as far as I can make out -- find any.....)  MPP refers to "heaps of broken stones" as providing evidence of recent quarrying at Carn Goedog, and also mentions a gully or depression close to the edge of a rock outcrop which contains three long stones "far away from the rock face to be something more than chance rock-falls."  In pondering whether these might be abandoned monoliths in a quarrying context, he also refers to an "excellent natural ramp" running from here down the side of the hill towards the Brynberian Valley.    Our dear professor is very good at seeing what he wants to see, where others like myself see an entirely natural and somewhat degraded rock outcrop of dolerite on the northern flank of Mynydd Preseli........

Of more interest is the idea that there are traces of nine rectangular buildings on the slopes beneath Carn Goedog, opening the possibility of a small Neolithic settlement here, maybe followed by further settlement in the Bronze Age.  I suspect that MPP will seek permission for a dig at this site in future years -- he will want to show that this is the site of a cluster of Neolithic quarrymen's cottages.

 MPP, Richard Bevins and others examining the rock face on which a precise match has been made between a sample from here with some of the rhyolite "debitage" at Stonehenge.

And so to the great adventure at Craig Rhosyfelin.  MPP says that he and his colleagues had marked it out as a probable bluestone quarry before Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins matched up some of the Stonehenge debitage with the "Jovian" fabric and other characteristics of the rhyolites at this rocky outcrop in the Brynberian Valley.  So in 2011 the team did a geophysical survey on the flank of the rock and then started to dig.  In describing the results, MPP waxes lyrical, referring to "an ancient ground surface" protected under "layers of soil washed down from higher up the valley."  Then he says:  "When we started finding hammerstones on that ground surface, we realized that we had not just a prehistoric quarry but a perfectly preserved one -- the Pompeii of prehistoric stone quarries."  Then they found the big stone in the pit, and in describing this discovery MPP becomes positively euphoric:  "Someone had left behind a monolith when the quarrying had ended.  We could hardly believe our luck. This was a smoking gun; the game was up for anyone still trying to argue that the bluestones were not quarried in Preseli during the Neolithic, and then taken to Wiltshire.

Then MPP talks of the "stone rails" and the position of the monolith "just in front of a drop in ground level" -- and uses these "facts" to suggest that the monolith (if it had not been abandoned) was about to be lifted onto a sledge or placed onto rollers........... and then he even talks of "the prehistoric track leading out of the quarry" ---- again demonstrating his extraordinary capacity for seeing what he wants to see and portraying it as established fact.   

Hmmm.... not so fast, my dear fellow.  Have you ever stopped to consider that your smoking gun might just have been used to shoot yourself in the foot?  Do you feel no pain?

To be continued....

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

No, he feels no pain, because his body is full of adrenaline owing to the euphoric state of enlightenment he has entered as the Fount of All Knowledge!

BRIAN JOHN said...

I couldn't possibly comment.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian, quoting from your quote of MPP
"[three long stones] far away from the rock face to be something more than chance rock-falls."

This is a typical example of explanations to facts on the ground distorted to fit unquestioned belief. Here, 'human agency'.

As is true of all 'true believers', the mind is closed to more simple and natural explanations. Here, the possibility these long stones slid away from the rock face upon falling on snow or ice.

Kostas