It's funny, isn't it, the way that total rubbish, if repeated often enough, becomes accepted as the truth, at least by those of us who have a gullible disposition? I'm not suggesting that everything in Mike Pitts's latest article on Stonehenge (in Focus magazine, July 2014) is total rubbish, but some of it is, and you get my drift.....
The article purports to bring us up to date on the latest developments, and there is a strong emphasis on the geological work centred on Craig Rhosyfelin. But let's get two things straight here.
(1) The geologists have published several papers on Craig Rhosyfelin and the Stonehenge debitage in recent years, in peer-reviewed journals.
(2) As far as the archaeologists are concerned, they have worked for three field seasons at Rhosyfelin (2011, 2012, 2013) and there has not been a single peer-reviewed article relating to their findings, and as far as I know, not a single field report or any other description of the work done or the interim findings. As we are reminded often enough on this blog, none of the radiocarbon dates from the site has been reported, and neither have any of the other technical findings. So all we have is MPP's description of some of the Rhosyfelin "discoveries" in Ch 17 of his latest book, flagged up as being definitive evidence of quarrying activity and a link with Stonehenge, and presumably not peer-reviewed by anybody. And then a number of popular articles in glossy magazines, lectures and talks, designed to cement the "quarry" hypothesis but not actually subjected to any critical scrutiny by anybody.........
I'm not saying that the "quarry hypothesis" is wrong. I'm just saying that it has never been subjected to proper scientific scrutiny or peer review, or demonstrated to be anything other than a fantasy.
People like Mike Pitts should know better than to simply trot out all this unsupported nonsense and pretend that it is all true. He is perpetrating the myth, and he knows exactly what he is doing. I don't want to go through the whole paper with a toothcomb, but I'll give you a flavour:
1. Pitts says this: "But what if the bluestones, key to this interpretation, were not brought to Salisbury Plain by people at all, but millennia before, by glaciers? It’s an old idea, dismissed by mainstream science but still championed by a few." That is complacent, condescending nonsense. There is no other way to describe it. The glacial transport hypothesis has NOT been dismissed by "mainstream science" -- whatever that is. A few geologists and geomorphologists (for example Scourse, Green and Bowen) have expressed their doubts about the glacial hypothesis in print, and others (for example Williams-Thorpe, Kellaway, Jackson, and yours truly) have written in support of it. The debate goes on.
2. Pitts says this: "........the team found a further precise source at Carn Goedog for Stonehenge’s famed ‘spotted dolerite’. Significantly, these new sources are on slopes facing north, towards the Irish Sea. The discredited sources faced south, towards the Bristol Channel - which they would need to do if the stones had been carried towards Wiltshire by glaciers." Oh dear -- fundamentally wrong. Carngoedog is indeed the preferred source for some of the spotted dolerites at Stonehenge, but the geologists have never said that it is THE place where all the spotted dolerites have come from, and other sites are still in the frame. And where on earth does the nonsense come from regarding the "discredited sources" facing south, where they would need to be located in order to be picked up by glaciers? Our esteemed author has this totally screwed up, as he would know if he had bothered to read my article written with Lionel Jackson a few years ago, or if he had just searched this blog for the term "entrainment", or if he had read any geomorphology text book. Just to put it on the record again: the preferred locations for the deep glacial quarrying and entrainment of bedrock slabs, monoliths and other debris when the Preseli Hills were deeply inundated by ice would have been the NORTH SLOPES, and not the south-facing ones. Plucking does take place on the down-glacier slopes of roches moutonnees of various sizes, and indeed we cannot discount the possibility that erratics from these southern slopes will be identified at Stonehenge -- but where a mountain barrier is transverse to glacier flow, that flow becomes compressive, shearing happens, and the dynamics operating on the glacier bed change quite dramatically. Thrust planes are one consequence. It's a bit complicated, and it has everything to do with glaciological theory, but don't blame me for the laws of physics........
3. Here we go again on the periglacial stripes.......... Quote: "Such ‘periglacial stripes’, as
they are known, usually form a branching network. What might account for the long, straight lines?
Again for reasons that are not yet clear, but probably due to the local geology, there are three
barely visible parallel ridges in the chalk at just this site. These, suggests Allen, would have channelled water to flow straight downhill, eroding the grooves. When people first returned to Britain after the Ice Age, the stripes would have been visible on the barely vegetated ground, and later remained so, as plants grew thicker and darker over the silt-filled grooves. The significance of this, says Allen, is the “astonishing, coincidental” fact that the banks and stripes are aligned on the solstice axis....." Nobody has ever provided any convincing evidence that they are periglacial or that they have anything to do with permafrost conditions. Where we do see periglacial stripes in the cold regions, they do not form branching networks. Just three stripes and ridges? There are hundreds of them, all over the Stonehenge landscape. But at least Mike Allen refers to the work of water -- so maybe he is coming round to the idea that they are solutional rills, as I have suggested over and again on this blog. But as for the "uniqueness" of these features, I fear that I am not convinced. And as for that word "astonishing" -- shall we say that I am less than astonished........
For those who are suckers for punishment, here is an extract:
Secrets of the stones
Archaeologists think they have
finally solved the mystery of
why Stonehenge is where it
is, reveals Mike Pitts
Focus, July 2014, pp 48-52
So Stonehenge is in the centre of Wessex because
that is where, over many generations, a local group
grew to be more powerful and ambitious than its
neighbours. But what if the bluestones, key to this
interpretation, were not brought to Salisbury Plain
by people at all, but millennia before, by glaciers?
It’s an old idea, dismissed by mainstream science but
still championed by a few. To prove this wasn’t the
case, someone needed to confirm not only that the
stones really did come from the Preselis, but
also that they had been moved by people. It was
a challenge that Richard Bevins, a geologist at
the National Museum of Wales, and Rob Ixer,
a petrographer at UCL, took up with gusto.
In the 1980s an Open University project had
sampled many of the standing stones, and
matched some to Preseli sources; the scientists
concluded that the bluestones reached
Wiltshire in glaciers.
Bevins and Ixer wanted more detail. Over the past
decade they have been analysing the different rock
types at Stonehenge, including pieces from new
excavations, and in Pembrokeshire. The outcome
was a surprise. “Almost everything we believed
about the bluestones has been shown to be partially
or completely incorrect,” said Ixer.
Aided by Bevins’s expertise in the local geology,
they have identified precise bluestone outcrops,
some just a few metres across. This encouraged
Parker Pearson to seek prehistoric quarries, and in
excavations at Craig Rhos-y-felin, a small rhyolite
outcrop, he believes he has found just that - complete
with an unfinished megalith. Working with Nick
Pearce, a geology professor at Aberystwyth University,
the team found a further precise source at Carn
Goedog for Stonehenge’s famed ‘spotted dolerite’.
Significantly, these new sources are on slopes
facing north, towards the Irish Sea. The discredited
sources faced south, towards the Bristol Channel
- which they would need to do if the stones had
been carried towards Wiltshire by glaciers. The new
geology also questioned two further recent claims
about bluestones, that they had been selected either
for their imagined healing powers, or their ability to
ring musically when struck with stone hammers.
The supposed healing springs, and the outcrops
that had been tested for ringing, are at places now
seen not to have supplied Stonehenge megaliths.
I f Parker Pearson’s confidence in his quarry, as yet
undated, proves correct, then his bluestone theory is
currently the most convincing. A “powerful polity”
in southwest Wales, he argues, already raising
impressive stone circles, forged links with another
in Wiltshire, through the strongest medium at their
disposal - they shared their ancestral monuments.