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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Long History of Rhosyfelin



Since there is still effectively an information blackout on the results of the 2011 and 2012 digs at Craig Rhosyfelin, I have put together some thoughts on the basis of my own observations and photos, and on the basis of what was described by MPP and others during the two lectures in Sept 2011 and Sept 2012.

The document is too long to place on this blog, so I have dropped it into Scribd, where it can be consulted here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/150104599/A-Long-History-of-Rhosyfelin

I'm not trying to steal anybody's thunder here, but I am not alone in thinking it rather strange that not even the standard site reports from the two seasons have been made public, given that we -- the great British public -- have substantially contributed to the research work. And yet some pretty dramatic claims have been made with relation to this dig, without any peer review or independent assessment.  That does not inspire confidence.  So here is my take on what we see at the site.

This is offered not in a spirit of confrontation or controversy, but as a contribution to the debate.  I will be very happy for it to be read by all those who have dug at Rhosyfelin in the past, and by all those who may be involved in the 2013 dig as well.  Please print it off or reproduce as you wish.  If anybody has any evidence to bring to our attention, let's hear about it -- or preferably see it.  Then we can have a serious and well-informed debate.  As I imply on the document, what we have at the moment is a lot of portentious fantasising, and not many facts........

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If any organic material from any of these sediment beds should yield a radiocarbon date greater than 5,000 years BP, that would invalidate the quarry hypothesis."

The premise of your argument is incorrect. You need to qualify it.

It can still be the quarry site even at an earlier date. It just makes MPP et al, incorrect on their dates of construction.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, you are correct that there could be an earlier quarry, Anon. And there is always the remote possibility of derived ancient material being redeposited higher in the sequence. But you get the general idea -- the premise of my argument is correct. I took 5,000 BP because that is approx the age that the learned professors are now giving as the likely date for the first use of stones at Stonehenge. how old would you like the quarry to be? The further you push it back in time, the less and less likely it becomes that the technology for quarrying and moving big stones was available. A Palaeolithic quarry, maybe? Let's see those C14 dates......

Anonymous said...

MPP's self-confessed Hero is Indiana Jones - check his Amazon site. But the funding National Geographic is clearly in thrall to Mike Parker Pearson probably because of his adventurous Indiana Jones persona. Therein lies the problem for Parker Pearson's archaeologist contemporaries, looking in from the outside. Has he effectively become a National Institution, whom no-one else may criticise or challenge? Though I see even the Queen's increased expenditure is being challenged today by a few brave Republicans.

chris johnson said...

Super document and I hope you get some more data points from Professor Mike and the team.

The plot thickens. Your belief that a lot of material would have been moved by ice invites the question of where it ended up. Those who have examined the stonehenge layer seem convinced that the hand of man was involved in creating the many small fragments found there.

The archaeologists were suggesting that blocks of stone from Rhosyfelin would have been moved off-site for shaping in a nearby Welsh stone circle. Perhaps some of the raw material was created in the way you suggest, perhaps some was quarried.

I wonder what weight the enigmatic orthostat is at rhosyfelin? It looks to be bigger and heavier than those in the stonehenge collection.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris,

The 'enigmatic orthostat … at rhosyfelin' is a foliated rhyolite. There are no foliated rhyolite orthostats at Stonehenge.

You either knew that or you didn't know that. At any rate worth correcting.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Nothing to correct, Kostas. Chris simply asks what weight the "orthostat" at Rhosyfelin might be. Yes, it is a foliated rhyolite, and yes, there are fragments of very similar rock type in the Stonehenge layer. And there is no extant standing stone at Stonehenge which provides a match. Whether stump 32e or any other stump provides a match remains to be seen....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

“I wonder what weight the enigmatic orthostat is at rhosyfelin? It looks to be bigger and heavier than those in the stonehenge collection.”

Did I misread Chris's comment? Enough ambiguity here needed to be cleared up.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, it does look bigger and heavier -- and softer and flakier! Maybe MPP and colleagues have done the sums, but I reckon it might be 4 tonnes, whereas many of the Stonehenge bluestones are probably around half that. But as I have often said, there is a huge range of shapes, sizes and weights.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

I tend to agree with Anon's comment above. I don't think an RC-date earlier than 5000BP can prove or disprove anything.

I have argued before such organic material (from just about any age) could have been carried by water to this area where the samples were taken. This area seems to be regularly flooded by the nearby river just meters away. The deposits could have been brought from elsewhere.

Unless some organic samples are taken from underneath the “enigmatic orthostat” at Rhosyfelin nothing conclusive can be said. And even then all that can be known for certain is the “enigmatic orthostat” could have been quarried (by men or nature) sometime after the RC-date obtained. And if that date is say 3000BP or any other time well after Stonehenge that would completely disprove MPPs “quarry hypothesis”.

It seems to me MPP cannot make his case using RC dating. Such RC-dates, however, can be used to falsify his claims. Maybe that is why he is so silent about them.

Kostas

TonyH said...

According to the University College London's Department of Archaeology website, Professor MPP will be back at the Clatford, near Marlborough, prehistoric dig where the English strand of his "Stones of Stonehenge" current ongoing project continues there for a second season of excavation. This is from 10th to 24th August. I gather from local, Wiltshire sources he heads WNW at some point in September for his Preseli activities. I know of at least two experienced volunteer diggers who are going to Preseli to assist there. His team at Clatford (Manton) hopes to find firm evidence for a Neolithic routeway for Avebury area sarsens to be transported over the Kennet at a fordable point. It is believed they are excavating where the 18th Century antiquarian William Stuceley saw and sketched sarsen stones, roughly shaped, and seemingly abandoned long ago. They are long gone. Other prehistoric features are being investigated. More on this appears in MPP's 2012 book on Stonehenge. As far as I am aware, nothing other than what appears in his book has been revealed in printed or cyber form elsewhere, although MPP was up for an award [ dependant on Readers' votes] from "Current Archaeology" magazine at the end of 2012 for this whole Project. He must, presumably, have at least mentioned it at a Conference held by WANHS at Devizes earlier this year. Perhaps someone went to this Conference who is reading this.

BRIAN JOHN said...

271 reads of the article on Scribd so far -- I assume that must include Prof MPP and the others involved in the Rhosyfelin dig. Nobody has challenged my interpretations, or even tried to correct anything of a factual nature. Well, that's encouraging......