Not long ago I picked up from a rather senior figure in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA) that some sort of planning is in process for the designation of Craig Rhosyfelin as a key "heritage site" -- one of the jewels in the crown which will be publicised mercilessly as Pembrokeshire seeks to show the world just how important it is in terms of archaeology and prehistoric heritage. The tourism business in the UK is highly competitive these days, and you have to promote your assets for all you are worth, if you are to compete with other regions which also depend -- to an ever-increasing extent -- upon tourist income during the summer months. So to hell with good science and the truth -- this is all about marketing and commercial advantage.
I reminded said senior figure that Rhosyfelin is not a Scheduled Ancient Monument, that there is no prospect of it being declared one, and that there is nothing in print (peer reviewed or otherwise) to demonstrate that there is anything at all here which is of archaeological interest, let alone a Neolithic Bluestone Quarry. My letter to said senior figure has not elicited a reply. That reminds me of the occasion, a couple of years ago, when I sought to correct some of the things put about by Phil Bennett, the senior archaeologist at the National Park, about Rhosyfelin:
My letter was ignored by Phil, and although I have reminded him about it subsequently, it remains ignored. I am less than impressed. And in the time that has passed since the start of the Rhosyfelin dig in 2011, certain people have hoofed about on the lecture circuit, enthusiastically promoting the idea that the evidence from Rhosyfelin is "the smoking gun" in the bluestone transport debate, and that this site is "the Pompeii of prehistoric stone quarries"...........
Unstoppable momentum? So it would appear, when nobody, apparently, wants to look at evidence and everybody, for their own reasons, wants a marketable product. Of course, Rhosyfelin is highly marketable. Who would not be interested in a Neolithic Bluestone Quarry? So public access and visitor enjoyment have to be encouraged and enhanced, and things must be visible enough for the public to enjoy. And clearly, as a part of this strategy, THE BIG STONE has to be the prime exhibit. It is already designated as the Holy Grail, and on that basis it must be protected and nurtured -- and the mystique surrounding it has to be built up, bit by bit, until it is finally revealed to the world in a blaze of glory. Just a reminder that we have seen it before, and that it looks like this:
Shock! Horror! People actually standing on the Holy Grail, and one of them rolling a ciggy at the same time......... whatever next? Well, the National Park (I presume) has tried to protect the stone from such blatant abuse on two previous occasions, so far as I am aware. This is what it looked like last time:
At the time, I joked about the black plastic looking like a shroud, thinking that the stone was going to be reburied with full archaeological honours before very long. But no, the black plastic (which was of course very quickly removed by inquisitive passers-by) was there for a much higher purpose, namely the protection of a valuable if not iconic object, to be protected at all costs.
I am still not sure who put the black plastic over the stone, and on whose authority -- but let that pass..........
This all reminds me of that poor little erratic in New Jersey, trapped in an iron cage. Does a similar fate await the famous Rhosyfelin pseudo-proto-orthostat? (It's somewhat larger than this little one, and a crude cage like this, made with concrete reinforcement rods, would never do inside the National Park. Probably the budget would have to be found for a cage which is designed and created by a genuine master craftsman......)
So what about this amazing pseudo-proto-orthostat which is now to be considered on a par with the Holy Grail? Let's just remind ourselves that it is completely useless as orthostats go, since it is too heavy (at 8 tonnes, about 4 times heavier than most of the other "bluestones" at Stonehenge; not a particularly useful shape; made of a very splintery and easily-shattered rock type; and so full of fractures that it could not possibly have survived transport out of the Brynberian Valley, let alone transport all the way to Stonehenge. Also, let's remind ourselves that there is no evidence from anywhere that the Rhosyfelin foliated rhyolite was valued in any way as a rock suitable for orthostats, single standing stones, or cromlech pillars or capstones. I know of no other prehistoric monument that used this foliated rhyolite -- and I suspect that is because no Neolithic stone-worker would have considered for a moment that it was worth using. Maybe for cutting tools, but not for sticking in the ground as a pillar, for some ritual purpose or other.
So the fantasy rolls on -- and as it rolls by, more and more people jump on board, partly because they defer to the opinions of a certain professor who has a high media profile, and partly because it's good for business. Some people not far away from here have just opened a little display relating to the prehistory of the area. It proudly refers to the "Stonehenge Bluestone Quarry" which is over near Brynberian. When challenged about this, the reply was: "Who cares what the truth is? People love a heroic story, and it's good for trade........"
Part of me thinks that none of this actually matters very much, since it's all froth. But then another part of me thinks: "Whatever happened to scientific methods and academic standards?"
By the way, the National Park has posted a notice saying that the public footpath running past the tip of the Rhosyfelin rock spur will be closed for the month of September, or for the duration of the 2015 dig. It will not cause any inconvenience to anybody, since a new temporary footpath will be in operation, just a few metres closer to the river. Access to the dig site will still be very easy.