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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Sad tale from Rhosyfelin



A bit of gossip.  I have heard, quite independently, from several of those who were involved in the 2012 digs at Rhosyfelin and Castell Mawr about the prevailing ethos on site.  They had assumed, I suppose, that the digs were designed to discover whether or not these sites have any archaeological significance or not -- with respect to local prehistory at first and then maybe with the wider world.  But no -- the ethos was as follows:  "It is already established that Rhosyfelin is a quarry site, from which stones were taken to Stonehenge during the Neolithic.  Don't bother to question that assumption; any other explanation is a waste of our time.  What we are doing here is assembling evidence which supports the hypothesis.  So go forth, dig deep, and find it!"

So much for science and the scientific method.  I had hoped that with so many expert people involved, and with the use of so much scientific gadgetry, there would at least be some objectivity on the site, and some explorations of alternative hypotheses.......... for the sake of the many volunteers who were giving their time for free.   But it appears that mentions of glacial geomorphology, natural processes and erratics were given short shrift in discussions and explanations.  Two of my informants have said they were quite shocked to find "closed minds" where they had expected academic rigour.

Really, I find all that to be rather sad........

13 comments:

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Single minded closed minds can also discard dismiss and distort any evidence that does not fit their narrative. Such 'proprietary data' will simply not see the 'light of reason'. But Truth will prevail!

Kostas

chris johnson said...

It is sad. Unfortunately we live in a world where many digs are conducted after the summer holidays and before the autumn university term and on severely restricted budgets.

In this context I can understand why the dig at Rhos-y-felin was conducted under a strict regime. Otherwise we would be digging carefully through the entire UK and being respectful to whatever we find. I might like this but fear it is unaffordable. Was it not MPP who introduced the bulldozer to Durrington Walls in pursuit of the neolithic? Pressure of time and money.

Unlike Kostas, I don't think the Rhos-y-felin dig is organised with any intent to bury inconvenient evidence. I think they were quite conscientious - but let's face it, the main purpose was to establish a link between Rhos-y-felin and Stonehenge and the extent of human involvement. Any other purpose would require a much bigger budget and much more time.

When the report is published we will have a better idea of the results. Perhaps there will be no digging ever again, or perhaps there will be a bigger budget next year. I hope for the latter - meanwhile there are many interesting sites in Pembrokeshire which get no funding and very little attention.

Given the situation I congratulate MPP for getting some funding and keeping a sharp focus on what interests us all. Hopefully he had some geologists/geomorphologists engaged too.

Jon Morris said...

Was it not MPP who introduced the bulldozer to Durrington Walls

Wainwright if memory serves?

Given the situation I congratulate MPP for getting some funding and keeping a sharp focus on what interests us all.

Agreed. The problem, unless they make some sort of discovery, is that funding will dry up.

BRIAN JOHN said...

This all makes me even more sad. "Keeping a sharp focus" seems to be another way of saying "finding what they want to find, come hell or high water." Thinking of high water, are you still out there, Kostas?!!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, the commercial pressures on the MPP team and on other teams as well are enormous -- they have to get funding from the research councils or from commercial TV etc in order to mount big digs like this one, and the funding dries up if they don't come up with something SPECTACULAR. So the results are predetermined, and the evidence is made to fit the desired outcome. Result? Crap science.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

Let me try to find one more way of explaining I do not ascribe ill intent to anyone.

It is, however, characteristic of 'single minded closed minds' to unintentionally seek only what suits their purposes. Call it zeal if you like.

Is that now more clear to you?

Kostas

Jon Morris said...

So the results are predetermined, and the evidence is made to fit the desired outcome. Result? Crap science.

Could go that way. I'd like to think that it will not though. It's easy in the short term to make evidence fit an outcome. But the critics will destroy credibility if the evidence isn't really there (and they will give it a bloody good try even if the evidence is there).

I hope they do find something spectacular but can't help but feel that they're looking in the wrong place (though my opinion is based on very little information and could easily be wrong)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree, Jon -- I hope, with you, that honesty will prevail. The problem is that we don't have a simple "yes or no" hypothesis here any longer. MPP is solidly committed in print -- in his book -- to an incredibly complex and high-profile story which is built up with a great deal of hype. And there will be even more hype, no doubt, when the film crews get to work. In that context, it becomes almost impossible to resist scientific fraud. That's why am so worried. I really do wish that archaeologists would stick to simple working hypotheses, instead of going off on these mad flights of fancy. Of which more anon......

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian, come hell or high water

I doubt if hell will deter MPP. But high water I'm sure will disprove him!

Kostas

chris johnson said...

@Kostas.
Some 2700 years ago a Greek poet made a comparison between a hedgehog who knows one thing and a fox who knows many things.

Since then his basic thought - mistranslated and misinterpreted - has stimulated several philosophers but still seems to reflect an interesting difference in how people view the world around them. It is still current in my world in which people try to predict and determine the future. I miss the fox in the British Neolithic.

Brian is clearly a hedgehog - with one big idea. Is MPP a hedgehog or is he is a fox? He begins to appear like a hedgehog with his one big idea.

Very fascinating would be the hypothesis that MPP finds evidence for one SH megalith having been quarried in Prescelli, while Brian sees yet more evidence for glaciation. Brian does not need to exert himself, while MPP will doubtless conjure some proof if for no better reason than to fund more excavation.

This story will run and run - at least in 2013.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I'm not sure that I like being called a hedgehog with just one big idea. I actually have a great many big ideas, but am lacking the time and the energy to go into all of them. I have always thought of myself as a wise old bird, capable of rational thought -- maybe a snowy owl, given the tendency towards icy things. What's MPP? A koala bear, maybe? What are you, Chris? This could be fun.....

chris johnson said...

I am definitely a fox - knowing much about many things and understanding different tricks while having no overarching idea.

According to Berlin, George Washington was an typical hedgehog and he had more than one idea. So please do not be offended. Hedgehogs have a better chance than foxes for a place in history - assuming they get it right.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

Like Brian, I too think we need wise old birds to guide our sensible reason. But in the States, we prefer the bald eagle. From vast heights in the clear unbiased mind, both the hedgehog and the fox are seen far below for what they are. Stuck in the mud in a futile necessity to play their parts. One preying the other preyed upon.

You 'miss the fox in the British Neolithic'. I miss the Truth!

Kostas