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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Rhosyfelin -- geomorphology desperately needed......

The Rhosyfelin dig as it appeared on 17 Sept 2014.  The excavation has pushed well out beyond the end of the rhyolite spur and onto the valley flood-plain.  Beneath the turf in the foreground, some rather interesting sediments are to be found.

Since I was unable to get to MPP's lecture at Castell Henllys this evening, I was unable to urge him in person to get some serious geomorphology done at Rhosyfelin, while the going is good.  The stratigraphy now looks seriously interesting, so I sent Mike a message urging him NOT to fill in the hole until the sediments have been properly assessed by somebody who knows what he / she is doing.  Sadly, I got an immediate response from Mike's Email box to say that he is not receiving messages until he gets back to base at the end of the dig -- on 23rd Sept.  Hmmm.....  Anyway, I copied the message to assorted other interested parties, so maybe two or three of them WILL pick it up and have a word with Mike to ensure that the destruction of the exposures does not happen imminently.

On the offchance that Mike may still have a laptop with him, and may take a glance at this blog, here is the message again.  Let's treat it as an "open letter" since there's nothing particularly confidential in it.  This is the message:

From:     John Brian
Subject:     Rhosyfelin -- please do not fill in the hole yet!    
Date:     17 September 2014 20:23:52 GMT+01:00
To:     Parker Pearson, Michael     
Cc:     Ixer Rob , Richard Bevins , Louise Austin , Alice Pyper , Bennett Phil , Campbell, Stewart , Howells Sid , Elis-Gruffydd Dyfed , Olwen Williams-Thorpe ,,,, Pete Crane ,

Prof Mike Parker Pearson

17th September 2014

Dear Mike

Re the current exposures at Rhosyfelin

Sorry to miss your talk this evening -- my wife needed the car, so I am confined to quarters.  But on the way home before supper I looked in on the site, and now that you are digging on the valley floor proper it's looking very interesting indeed.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it begins to look like a classic Pleistocene site, with a fascinating stratigraphic sequence which seems to stretch from the Late Devensian glaciation through to the Late Glacial and then the whole of the Holocene.  So -- congratulations are in order.

CAN I PLEASE URGE YOU NOT TO FILL IN THIS EXCAVATION SITE UNTIL IT HAS BEEN LOOKED AT BY A QUALIFIED GEOMORPHOLOGIST?  You may not want me to do it, given our rather obvious differences of opinion, but there are plenty of others who will know what they are looking at -- and if your partners from Dyfed Archaeology and the National Park and other specialists like Richard and Rob have any sense at all they will agree that a serious professional opinion is now vital.  You may have discovered the sediments from Lake Brynberian, or something like it,  and torrential fluvio-glacial deposits like the ones you have uncovered are very seldom seen in inland locations like this one.  So you have till, rockfall debris, fluvio-glacial materials, and at least  2m of very interesting fine-grained sediments above, grading up into colluvium and modern soil.  If there really was a Lake Brynberian in this neighbourhood, you should find laminated fine-grained sediments BENEATH the torrential fluvio-glacial boulders and gravels.  So please keep going down, if you have the energy and the time, in order to see if they are there...........!

I might even suggest that this site should be designated and protected -- and on that basis it needs specialist assessment before the evidence disappears!

I'm copying this to some others with an interest in this site, in the hope that you can all come to a consensus on what to do next.

Best of luck with the rest of the dig.

All good wishes



Let's hope Mike and his colleagues are able to respond positively to this request, since I  am now quite convinced of the great importance of this site for our understanding of Pleistocene landform development and chronology in West Wales. 


Davey said...

I attended the talk tonight and it followed the the expected line of a look at the stones at Stonehenge, the Bluestones, the spotted dolerites, the evidence linking them to west Wales etc. A slide appeared a few time which showed the alternate routes the stones may have traveled overland and via the coast to get to their current positions.

There was not one word about a glacial context to this, it was accepted that human transportation was the way in which they moved.

He was excited by what had turned up in the last few days of digging, firstly there was the forecourt at Rhosyfelin, there were slides indicating a shallow bowl containing rock clutter and in and around this he said that there were at least three standing stones, all packed at their respective bases by other smaller stones. The purpose of these standing stone was to act as fulcrum to stones being pried off the cliff face. The evidence being crush marks on the top of these stones.

He said that they had made a very important discovery, underneath that large slab in the foreground, they had found that it was resting on a man made terrace and in this terrace was upturned basket shaped lumps of earth and stone. He was particularly excited by these and the way he talked suggested that they were created in a similar fashion to making sandcastles on the beach.

He said that they had found the course of the river in the area of your picture and he said that there is a semi circular line of stones which was obviously man made, he described it as a revetment and went on say that it could once have been a jetty, not for putting these 2 ton stones on rafts to float down the river, it was obviously far too shallow, but to load on to sledges to carried further north.

He dated the stones coming off the cliff to 3300 years (i think BC!).

His big reveal update was the possibility of finding the new welsh henge at Bayvil, not far from Castell Mawr (which he ruled out as iron age). He described it as a segmented ? (cant recall exactly what, but there is a nice photo of a segmented ditch in a photo he showed taken by Dr Toby Driver). There had been some preliminary digging there in the last few days and they had found some pot shards (plain ware) and what he described as the best flint scraper he had ever seen and that this flint had been mined from elsewhere ad was likely to be neolithic in age. He did say that it was very early days but he was hopeful of undertaking further digs at Bayfil in the coming seasons.

He said that the importance of Bayfil is that could be the place where the Bluestones were placed for up to 400 years before they were moved lock, stock and barrel to Wessex.

That was the essence of the talk. He talked briefly about Carn Goedog and that he had discovered the sockets where 5 stones had been taken from, he showed some (rather unconvincing) slides around this.

He and some of his team that were there at the talk were still in their muddy dig clothes because of the excitement of the finds being made these last few days and delays in getting off site.

There were no difficult questions posed by the audience to his talk that last approximately 50 minutes.

He did refer to a talk in Haverfordwest on 15 November (archaeological day?) in which he will update on his progress further.

There was scant information on evidence to back up his claims and you were correct in that there was indeed a large amount of speculation.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks for that update, Davey. Very interesting. Needless to say, I don't believe any of it. Oh dear oh dear.......

Did MPP report on any radiocarbon dates?

Davey said...

He did say that they were waiting for last years radio carbon dating and explained that it was a convoluted process of applying for funding, preparing the material, it then going into a long queue (at the lab?).

There was no mention of anything about National Geographic or similar.

Think he said something about obtaining the date of 3300BC from the ancient river channel they had unearthed, but again no explanation of how this date had been precisely worked out. I might have missed something.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Davey -- the idea that the stones "came off the cliff" around 3300 yrs BC (5300 yrs ago) has to be complete nonsense. The rock litter has been incorporated into the other sediments at all sorts of levels, so there have been literally hundreds of rockfalls during the long evolution of this site. If this were a proper quarry there would be a floor below which there should be no "proto-orthostats" and above which there would be a great deal of rockfall material. There is no trace of such a floor.

By the way, I'll use your very useful summary as a post from our roving reporter.... hope that's OK.