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Thursday 26 September 2013

The Dreamtime Pedestal

One of the more interesting ideas to come out of the MPP talk in Moylgrove recently is the one about the "pedestal" on which the big "proto-orthostat" is supposed to rest.  According to Mike, the monolith is "propped up" on a pile of stones, and shows signs of having been "jacked up" into its present position by quarrymen using long levers -- presumably made of timber or else of elongated stones such as we see all over the dig site. 

This is all very interesting, because we can see how the pedestal has evolved and appeared over the past three digs on the site.  Here are three photos, the first from 2011, the second from 2012, and the third from 2013.

You can see the manner in which the stone was originally embedded in sediments which were themselves rich in rhyolite blocks and smaller stones.  In the first year the dig went down to the base of the big stone.  In the second year much more of the finer material was taken away, and many of the big blocks surrounding the big stone were removed.  In the third year even more sediment and stones were taken away, leaving the big stone apparently in a "raised" position and exposing the stones beneath it.  Obviously they couldn't take away too much of the material beneath the stone, for fear of disturbing it and squashing a few diggers. 

Hey presto!  It's quite wonderful what you can do by removing all the stones except the ones you want to leave in place, thereby creating a wonderful pedestal with a big stone perched on top of it.  And you can then invest the pedestal with great significance, and use it to help to demonstrate to the world what a smart bunch the Rhosyfelin quarrymen were.........

Excuse me, all you guys and gals who have spent vast amounts of time recording and digging and humping away stones, but do you seriously expect people the BELIEVE any of this jacking up business?  In any case, why would your Neolithic quarrymen want to LIFT a very heavy stone which you are trying to take away downhill?


Constantinos Ragazas said...


Yet another “killer argument”! How may nails can this coffin take? This one should disturb the intellectual conscience of any fair minded person. And should raise serious questions about any other “evidence” MPP has used to make his case.

If the stone with the “grooves” lies downslope to the lying “orthostat” what's the sense to that? Why would the “orthostat” be dragged over this stone uphill? And wont these “grooves” leave corresponding marks on the bottom of the “orthostat”?

It would make the illogic even more apparent if you posted a photo of the “orthostat” and the “groovy stone” with photoshop markings showing where and in which direction these “grooves” run. And a photo showing the natural foliations of the “groovy stone”.


Anonymous said...

What is interesting from your pictures is the geological layer the 'orthastat' sits upon.

Clearly the rocks directly below are from the last glaciation and not a few hundred years ago which is verified by the level of top soil that used to cover the 'orthastat'.

Observational evidence would suggest that this 'orthastat' was placed there in the early Mesolithic and not the Neolithic as MPP was hoping. I believe that there are also rumours that carbon dating from camp fires on this site confirms this Mesolithic date.

Anonymous said...

Will be interested to see the carefully recorded stratigraphic field sections of this important exposure of Quaternary fluvio-glacial sediments.

Your description of bagged sediments Brian conjurs up visions of amateur hour and generates concerns that they have not recorded the sections and merely removed the sediment to sieve it for artifacts?

does anyone know?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon -- I haven't seen anything thus far that I would refer to as "fluvio-glacial". I'm pretty confident that we have till or boulder clay exposed in the lower part of the dig site. There may be some fluvio-glacial material further out towards the valley floor, but no sign of it yet.....

Lots of samples have been taken -- I hope some of them will be subjected to sedimentological analysis, to confirm what their origins may be.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- you have got this all wrong. MPP does not claim that the grooves on that stone were made by the big "orthostat" which currently lies on the uphill side. He claims that the grooves were made by previous traffic -- ie by stones already pulled downslope and presumably shipped off to Stonehenge..... maybe even the famous theoretical stone which was broken up to give all those lovely little pieces of Stonehenge debitage!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Anon -- I'm not sure that Mesolithic dates from the camp fire area would tell us much about the date of emplacement of the big monolith. They have taken samples from beneath the monolith -- you can see that clearly in the photos. We would not be a lot wiser whatever that date might be -- for example, if there is organic material under the stone which is dated to 8,000 BP all it would show us is that the stone arrived there later than that. If the date under the stone is 5,500 BP, all that would show is that the stone arrived after that. In both scenarios the stone could still be interpreted as a result of Neolithic quarrying, if one was so inclined......

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Thanks for clarifying this Brian. The “groovy stone” downslope from the lying “proto-orthostat” does seem to be a stone too far even for MPP's imagination. But how does his most recent “level and pivot” transport theory account for these grooves?

Of course the real mystery is – what Myris calls the killer question – what happened to this Rhosyfelin “orthostat” at Stonehenge? The foliated rhyolite fragments in the Stonehenge debitage beg for explanation. What does MPP say about that?


Constantinos Ragazas said...


I couldn't agree with you more on what Mesolithic dates of Rhysofelin can tell us about the Rhosyfelin “quarry”. And said so many times in this blog.

I would only add one further comment on this. If under the lying “proto-orthostat” several dates are obtained – say from the Iron Age to the Mesolithic and beyond – we need to take the youngest of these to argue the “proto-orthostat” could have arrived at that spot at ANY time after that!

MPP is withholding the carbon dates because these are TOO YOUNG rather than too old. Since dates postdating Stonehenge kills his “quirry theory” while predating Stonehenge only adds to the existing enigma.


chris johnson said...

I wish you would stop playing the man instead of the ball. Suggesting MPP is withholding data because it does not suit his opinion is unfounded, insulting, and reflects badly on other people who contribute to this blog when it goes unchallenged.

We are all eager to hear about the data but it is quite normal in archaeology and other science projects to publish when the work is done and reviewed. The report on the dates is not published, nor are the results in from the soil samples, the expert opinion from the official geologists and geomorphologists on the team, I have not seen the laser scans, etc, etc etc. Last time I looked there was a truck load of evidence bagged up and ready to roll and still on-site! This does NOT equal a conspiracy. You are making up stories and nasty ones at that. Brian seems to find it OK. I don't.

As a business man what I observe is that the budget is still being paid, and may be paid again for next year. It is extremely unlikely that it would be being paid if there was no solid evidence from last year's dig.

Personally I am very appreciative that MPP and others on his team DO share, as in the Molygrove meeting and actually on this blog. Nobody is forcing them to do so.

So, Kostas, please stop indulging your conspiracy theories here. It is not going to encourage anybody to take us seriously in this forum.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree with some of that, Chris -- but not all. I agree that the digging team will release the dates (all of them I hope!) when the stratigraphy is properly described and published. I hope that will be in a peer-reviewed journal, after scrutiny by some people who are capable of independent thought! I do worry that the info will appear in another book or in some report that does not have to undergo detailed examination by outside experts. And to a degree, I share Kostas's frustration that we now have three years of digs, and there has not even been an interim report which might indicate to the taxpayer that their money has been well spent. All we have is the chapter in MPP's book, which makes all sorts of claims and presents all sorts of evidence which neither you or I can scrutinize, because it was not presented in the normal scientific paper format -- problem stated, fieldwork parameters chosen, evidence collected, discussion and analysis, conclusions drawn. It would be nice to have more discipline and less secrecy.

And I'm not sure that the digging team needs to be congratulated for sharing their findings with the general public via assorted talks and presentations. These sessions are essentially marketing sessions, as you (as a marketing man) will fully appreciate....

chris johnson said...

And I agree with some of what you say too.

I have authorised several major research budgets in the last 25 years and would be amazed if there are not interim reports on this project. In archaeology terms Rhosyfelin/Castell Mawr is a big budget operation and many things are NOT happening because MPP is leading this. The reports are not public but I would be truly amazed when they do not exist.

I'll leave your remarks on marketing for another time and place. MPP in Molygrove did NOT do ANY personal marketing - no signed books to buy, not even one overhead that he had ever published a book. Only people in the front rows were aware that he had arrived straight off-site with the mud still on his trousers. Intriguing personality, but a marketing man? No..

I think he was there to keep the local community on-side so he can carry on digging. I suppose you could call this marketing but then it is on the same level as remarking that he has a driving license, another important thing for an archaeologist.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, you can market ideas and hypotheses (ruling ones) just as well as you can market products. We all do it! And of course, in some countries like the USA there is a perfectly happy acceptance that people should market THEMSELVES openly and agressively. That goodness we are a bit more reserved in the UK......

The difference between the sort of ongoing research project that I remember from my time as an academic-- and maybe the sort of things you are referring to, Chris -- and the ongoing Rhosyfelin dig is that the former were done away from the public glare. We just used to get on with it. When I had a big project in Iceland in the 1970-'s we did annual interim reports for our funders, but they were published and they were available to anybody who wanted to see them. In the Rhosyfelin case, there probably are interim reports, but why are they not in the public domain? I see no purpose whatsoever in this sort of secrecy, except to maximise the impact of the research when it is announced to the world -- maybe in a TV spectacular accompanied by a book. When that happens, will there have been any independent and hard-nosed scrutiny of the material presented as "the truth"? I wonder.....

This is, as I have suggested earlier, more like marketing than science.

chris johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Constantinos Ragazas said...

Chris you write,

”I wish you would stop playing the man instead of the ball.”

Your comment presupposes the ball is on the field for any player to play! But if the ball is all the carbon dates and other data MPP has but has not released after three years, than MPP becomes the ball.

Is it conspiratorial to argue data may be selectively used to promote a preconceived theory? It happens whether by intend or by nature. Being conspiratorial is harmless to having conspiracies. While the first alarms, the second deceives.

How long must we wait? Must all the pieces first fit the theory before we have the field data? Playing the man that keeps power/knowledge from us is playing fair!


chris johnson said...

The way things are being handled in archaeology is definitely poor marketing, and I also believe it is poor science but I am less qualified to talk about that.

The new infrastructure around Stonehenge is a case in point. SH is worth billions to the UK and yet nobody has succeeded to make the case for proper investment, not even at a time when UK has been printing its own money.

The individuals involved would be able to get more done if they were better marketeers too. Hardly any of them use twitter or the internet at all, never mind blog.

When you can sell out a venue like Molygrove with almost zero advance publicity then you have a market. The fact that you choose Molygrove as a venue shows your understanding of the market could be improved dramatically.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I will defend MPP and his team on this one -- the fact that they put on this event in Moylgrove is great -- and I fully approve of having the "local" events of the last 3 years in different locations. That shows some respect and sensitivity for the communities in which they have been working -- after all, these guy have been staying locally and drinking in the local pubs. So a lot of people have been asking "What on earth is going on down at Rhosyfelin?" It can only be good that they are at least seeking to communicate with local people by using village halls -- even if they are rather small!

chris johnson said...

I agree.

However the same result would have been achieved by having the meeting in Nevern or Newport or Crymych where there is much better access and much more parking.

If marketing was in play then I guess they look for new funding from the Lottery or maybe a corporation or wealthy locals. Who knows. I was glad there was a full moon that night so I could find my way home and relieved to see the bright lights of Nevern.

Constantinos Ragazas said...


I am not as concerned about MPP marketing either himself or his books. What concerns me MPP is marketing a theory. If we were to judge by his actions, he is more interested in getting public acceptance for his “quirry” theory than in submitting his findings for peer-review.

He has time to write a book volume and give television interviews and public lectures. But needs more time to submit his Rhosyfelin carbon dates and data for peer-review and public scrutiny? I find that unconvincing!

MPP is more interested in convincing the public through selective release of data that fits his theory than in persuading professionals and independent detractors.

The dates simply do not fit his theory and that is why he has not made them public. That is what I think! Can you think of any good reason why MPP does not release the dates he keeps? Just the raw facts. Its been three long years of waiting patiently.