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Friday, 25 April 2014

Rhosyfelin -- a plea for cosmogenic dating


I have pleaded on many occasions for some bright young researcher -- or even EH itself -- to initiate a programme of cosmogenic dating at Stonehenge, so that we can see, once and for all, how old or fresh the various surfaces of the sarsens and the bluestones actually are.  That might resolve many of the issues that we are all arguing about.

Now here's another plea -- direct to MPP and his team.  Please use some of the dosh paid over by the taxpayer to get a series of cosmogenic dates for Rhosyfelin.  It would be fascinating, for example, to know how old the rock outcrop surface is in the photo above -- it looks very old and weathered.

Sadly, parts of the rock face have been smashed up by all the heavy machinery and enthusiastic archaeologists digging here over the past 3 years, and so some parts of the rock face are no longer suitable for sampling.  But there are plenty of other surfaces that should be dated -- for example the upper and lower surfaces of the "orthostat that got left behind"; the top of the crags above the rock face; the rock face itself -- various locations;  and even some of the erratic boulders dug up from the till layer at the bottom of the sediment sequence.  And another plea -- please pull in a geomorphologist -- maybe somebody like Prof Mike Walker from Lampeter -- who could advise on which cosmogenic dating techniques to use and how a sampling programme should be organized.

Come on now -- you know it makes sense.......

Here are some other bits that should be dated:




8 comments:

TonyH said...

MPP doesn't seem to have any handy geomorphologists to call upon in his own University's [UCL] Geography Department. Prof Mike Walker at Lampeter, just up the road from Rhosyfelin, on the way to Aberystwyth, wouldn't cost much in petrol and so his employment would be a sustainable option. Wales' academics would also be involved in this important Welsh as well as United Kingdom site.

I don't think there will be any cosmogenic dating going on at Stonehenge in any hurry, but Rhosyfelin is a different kettle of fish, as it doesn't have, as yet, the same political charisma.

Surely this entire subject also requires a truly multi- disciplinary approach to satisfy the hard - working taxpayer and Daffydd Cameron.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

In the past you had serious reservations about “cosmogenic dating”. Too many variables (known and unknown) that could affect the results. Giving us wide range of dates and interpretations. Have you settled your differences here?

We already have radiocarbon dates for Rhosyfelin. Taken by MPP himself during his excavations over the last three years. But still kept secret by MPP.

Why not call for their release? These would tell us more about the feasibility of MPP's Neolithic “bluestone quarry” than the unreliable “cosmogenic dates” you now plea.

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas -- there have been great advances in this field in recent years -- I think the new techniques are mature enough to have sorted out most of the serious glitsches, and to consistently give reasonable results to workers who are very careful with their sample collecting. I think somebody needs to give it a go -- there are 5 or 6 methods to choose from, and we need an expert to decide on the best combination of methods -- at least two different methods for each site.

As for the missing MPP radiocarbon dates, suffice to say we are not the only people getting a bit frustrated.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Can there be any legitimate reason why MPP has not yet released the Rhosyfelin RC dates? How long does it take to simply report the facts on the ground?

And if MPP never publishes all the date data, but only select data points, what should the truth seeking public make of this? Can we trust any reporting here to be unbiased and objective?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

There is no point in getting furious about this, Kostas. There is nothing any of us can do, except maybe assume that if he has nothing to say, he has no dates worth reporting. Certainly all the samples he submitted last year should by now have been analysed and reported to him......

TonyH said...

Silence speaks volumes, perchance?

BRIAN JOHN said...

The lack of info on radiocarbon dates is one issue, but rather more concerning, from my point of view, is the fact that there have been three seasons of fieldwork at Rhosyfelin now, and there has been no sign of any peer-reviewed publications from the MPP team, and not even (as far as I know) any progress reports on the public record. Presumably large amounts of public money are being expended here, and I should have thought it would be a funding condition that periodic reports should be submitted each year to the grant-giving body prior to drawing on the funds for the following year. Is anybody keeping a check on whether this Rhosyfelin dig is sensible and serious, and that it is not a complete waste of everybody's time? More to the point, is it a complete waste of taxpayer's money?

TonyH said...

University College London, as an august learned academic body, certainly OUGHT to be keeping a cautious eye on "The Story of Rhosyfelin and Whether or not it Holds Water" (figuratively speaking, I hasten to add, Kostas).

UCL may enjoy receiving loads of kudos as a consequence of adding the shiny name of MPP to its payroll and letterheads just a couple of years ago or so.

On this Blog,we have been over the issue of how all the Universities are scrabbling in an undignified manner for a bigger share of a shrinking Pie. Perhaps that Bulldog of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, ought to turn his gaze upon UCL and whoever else may be using the taxpayers' money to fund this regularly - described Wild Goose Chase, whatever its benefits may be to the Pembrokeshire local economy and beyond. Damn it all, we're British aren't we? Let's have some transparent decency [Q: is that an inherent contradiction?!] in this area of outdoor public life.