A few weeks ago I learned that somebody (still not sure who) has submitted a request to Cadw for Craig Rhosyfelin to be given Scheduled Ancient Monument status. I almost fell off my chair when I heard that, since the request must be based on the fact that this is a "Neolithic Quarry" and since not a scrap of evidence has ever been seen by anybody which supports that designation.
So behind the scenes I have pleaded with the National Park, Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) to reject that application out of hand, so as to avoid the possibility that a lot of people will end up looking very stupid indeed. At last I have received an assurance from a senior staff member at Cadw that nothing precipitate will be done, and that "we only recommend sites for protection when we are satisfied that they meet the criteria for scheduling as a monument of national importance."
She continued: "In carrying out a scheduling evaluation we take account of all available information including excavation and other reports, undertake our own site inspection to confirm that the remains meet with our expectations and consult with relevant specialists including the Welsh Archaeological Trusts and Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, as appropriate. In addition, we have internal processes to ensure that all recommendations are seen by a Senior Inspector of Archaeology."
So there is some reassurance there, and while the application for scheduling has not been thrown out there seems to be an awareness that extreme care needs to be taken in this case. We shall see how things evolve. What I am still unsure about is the height of the bar when it comes to evidence. How strong and how well verified does that evidence need to be, and what is required in the way of peer-reviewed or independently assessed reporting? And are the experts involved in the assessment process capable of separating out assertions and speculations from incontrovertible data collected in the field? Of course, we have to assume that they are.......
Here are the key points which I brought to the attention of Cadw:
1. There is not a single article in the peer-reviewed literature which presents objectively the "evidence" upon which the quarry hypothesis is based.
2. The only references I have been able to find are in Parker Pearson's Stonehenge book (2012) which was of course not peer reviewed, and assorted talks and popular articles designed for public consumption. They are full of assertions and speculations, and are significantly lacking in hard evidence.
3. There have been no internal progress reports or summaries of the dig findings for each excavation season circulated to project partners or to other interested parties. That may or may not be acceptable to funding organizations -- but it does mean that there is currently no way of assessing how reliable the project's "ruling hypothesis" may be.
4. In spite of many samples being taken away for analysis, and many being submitted for radiocarbon dating, no C14 dates have been published, and no sample results have been placed in the public domain. Even the project partners are in the dark as to what is going on.
5. I think I am right in saying that not a single professional geomorphologist has been invited by Prof Parker Pearson and his team to look at the site, analyse the sediments or comment on the nature of the materials exposed during the digging process. That is a great pity, since I assume that there has not been a single "restraining" voice in the discussions between archaeologists at the dig -- who do of course have a tendency to see entirely natural phenomena as being man-made.
6. I have made many visits to the site, and I have not yet seen ANYTHING which convinces me of human intervention at Rhosyfelin, apart, maybe, from a small hearth which might have been used over a long period of time by camping / hunting parties.