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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The conspiracy of Rhosyfelin fantasists

 Glacial erratics galore at Rhosyfelin -- thrown out from last year's dig onto a waste pile, presumably on the grounds that they were of no interest.......  a certain symbolism there, methinks.

Back in October of last year, I sent this letter to Phil Bennett of the National Park Authority here in Pembs.  In spite of a reminder from me, the letter has never even been acknowledged, let alone replied to.   It's a sad state of affairs when even a body like the NPA becomes so wedded to an unsupported fantasy that it appears to care nothing for scientific accuracy........  and just as EH has a powerful commercial reason for keeping the human transport / quarrying myth alive at the English (destination) end, it appears that here at the Welsh (source) end, commercial considerations also count for more than evidence and truth.

I have sent the letter to Phil one more time..........

Dear Phil

Thank you very much for your talk to PTA last night.  It was a pity it was curtailed by those technical glitsches -- I was similarly afflicted when I spoke to the PTA about Rhosyfelin etc in a quite different venue, over a year ago.  The Rhosyfelin goblins at work again........

I enjoyed most of what you said, and would like to have raised a number of issues with you if you had stayed a bit longer!  So I'll do it now.  My points relate to Rhosyfelin.

1.  You are really rather careless in referring to the site with 100% confidence as a Neolithic Quarry.  If I may say so, that's not good practice for an experienced archaeologist -- because no matter what MPP may say about his discoveries, what he seems to have discovered is a camp site used over a long period of time, with a pile of broken scree in the vicinity.  I have seen NO convincing evidence that this is a Neolithic quarry site, let alone one that has something to do with Stonehenge, and at the very least you should reflect this uncertainty and ongoing debate in what you say to uninformed (and often very gullible) audiences.......

2.  You said that two of the standing stones at Stonehenge had been provenanced back to Rhosyfelin by the geological detective work of Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer.  NOT TRUE.    None of the Stonehenge orthostats has been traced to Rhosyfelin.  What the two geologists have done is trace some of the rhyolite debris in the Stonehenge Layer to localities in and around Craig Rhosyfelin.

3.  You referred to the big "orthostat"  as being self-evidently quarried because of the position in which it is lying.  NOT TRUE.   It is not aligned parallel with the rock face, and it is simply a large stone that has fallen from the face just like all the others above it, beside it and below it.

4.  You mentioned the fact that the orthostat had been broken and had therefore been abandoned by the quarrymen. That's an unsupportable speculation -- ALL of the stones that have come from the rock face and from the crags above it are broken, to a greater or lesser degree!  You could probably put many of them back together again if you were determined enough...........  There's nothing unusual about the big one.

5.  You referred to the big stone as being supported or underpinned by other stones, deliberately placed there by the quarrymen. That again is an unsupported assertion.  As far as I can see, the stones beneath the big "orthostat" are lying in perfectly natural -- almost random -- positions, exactly where they fell.  They appear prominent today because the archaeologists have taken away all the debris surrounding them -- in other words, what we see now is an "archaeological artifice."

6.  You referred to the scratches or striations on that stone near the lower end of the "orthostat" -- and asserted that they were not natural, but were caused by big stones being dragged across them.  NOT TRUE.  Those apparent "striations" are in my view nothing more complicated or significant than outcropping foliations,  just like the ones we see on the surfaces of many other stones in the bank of scree and rock debris.  Those "striations" run in all sorts of different directions, right round the compass, as you would expect in a jumble of fallen rocks.

I could go on, but will resist.  I know you mean well, and that you have picked up on most of the things you have said directly from MPP and the other archaeologists involved in this dig, but it really does nobody any good when mythology is perpetrated in this way.  I appreciate that you are trying to encourage people to take an interest in archaeology and to value Pembrokeshire's rich heritage, and that's entirely laudable -- but when myth is turned into "fact" with the willing assistance of you and many other professionals, it does a profound disservice to archaeology -- which comes over as being unscientific and driven by fantasies and ruling hypotheses.    Archaeology should be accessible and popular, but it should also be truthful -- and it should accord due respect to the views of people from other disciplines including glacial geomorphology.  What is going on at Rhosyfelin is much too incestuous for anybody's comfort.......  I get the impression that everybody who turns up there has come to worship at the shrine, and not to ask hard questions.

So please, when you have your sold-out big archaeology day in November, will you please encourage MPP to be rather more nuanced in his presentation than he has been in the past, and to allow for a degree of uncertainty in this business of the "Neolithic Quarry"?

All good wishes



AG said...

Hope they're taking carefully recording stratigraphic sections during their excavations; before they casually lob this stuff aside?

BRIAN JOHN said...

My impression is that yes, they are doing very careful stratigraphic recording. You can see the careful labelling of strata on some of my previous Rhosyfelin posts. Nonetheless, I suspect that boulders like these are not accorded any great respect, because they are probably too big to be hammer stones and seem to have no particular archaeological importance. Glaciation does not seem to be part of the story at Rhosyfelin, if MPP's presentations are anything to go by......