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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Prof MPP's 2015 lecture: Rhosyfelin




Just back from Prof MPP's lecture at Castell Henllys education centre, with the not very subtle title "Stonehenge and its bluestone quarries."  So the audience had a pretty fair idea, before he even started speaking,  that there was not going to be much discussion about the pros and cons of the quarrying hypothesis.........

Where to begin?  I have to admit that when MPP had finished I said nothing, because if I had disputed almost everything that had been said in the talk (as I wanted to), with an audience of people who do not even know Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, the process could have taken several hours and would certainly have become rather animated!! So I let a few others ask rather innocuous questions, and we all went on our way........

There is so much to say that the process will take several posts, some on Rhosyfelin and others on Carn Goedog.

Key points to start with, which I had already picked up from some of my spies prior to the lecture:

1. The famous 8-tonne proto-othostat never was intended for Stonehenge.  Some charcoal found beneath it was radiocarbon dated to the Early Bronze Age, so the big stone could not have been emplaced in the Neolithic.  MPP now thinks it was intended to be a standing stone in a local Bronze Age stone setting, but that it was rejected by the quarrymen because a large chunk broke off it.

2.  Apparently assorted geomorphologists who have visited the site with MPP have informed him that the rock face is artificial rather than natural.  I do not have a clue which geomorphologists these might have been,  but all I can say is that those who have visited the site in my company have been unanimous in stating that they see NO traces of human involvement in the shaping of the rock face.  It is, in their view and mine, entirely natural.

3.  MPP admits there never was a quarry settlement here.  There are assorted radiocarbon dates, and traces of food supplies such as hazel nuts, but the signs are that there has just been intermittent occupation of a camp site here during the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze age, and maybe even later.

4.  No traces of artefacts, tools or other things associated with quarrying have been found, and there are no post holes that might indicate permanent settlement or ritual use of the site.

5.   MPP claims to know EXACTLY where a Stonehenge rhyolite bluestone was taken from, and blames Rob Ixer for this wonderfully precise bit of provenancing.  He showed a pic of himself standing on the exact spot.  (As we have said many times on this blog, it's not THAT precise, if the primary literature is anything to go by, for all sorts of reasons including a quite inadequate density of sampling points.)

6.  MPP claims that 2 or 3 rhyolite bluestones may have been taken from here to Stonehenge, but God knows where that particular piece of reasoning came from.

7.  A big new pit has been opened up on the floor of the valley, in the river gravels, and MPP claims that this has revealed a corridor or routeway along which bluestones were trundled or carried away down the valley, travelling northwards.  From the slides he showed, this was just as fantastical as the "revetment" or quayside which we have already discussed......

8.  The oldest radiocarbon date from the site seems to be one of c 7,500 yrs BP, from charcoal in the stained colluvial layer described in a recent post.  That means that there was some occupation here in the Mesolithic, possibly involving burning of the woodland.

9.  The clay-rich till found beneath the "proto-orthostat" is interpreted as a "clay-rich binding agent used for stabilising packing materials" used to support the weight of the stone.  Oh dear oh dear......

10.  In the whole lecture there was no mention of till, fluvio-glacial gravels, stratified slope deposits or any other sedimentary layer, and no mention of any natural processes or features. 

Before I start to get really rude, I'd better go to bed.  And you ain't heard nothin' yet.  Just wait till I get round to describing what has been said about Carn Goedog........

4 comments:

TonyH said...

I suspect that MPP's idea of "geomorphologists" are his side - kicks Mike Allen & Charley French. I would be interested to know whether you, Brian would classify them as competent specialist experts in the geomorphological interpretation of Rhosyfelin.

I am curious about MPP's claim, accompanied as you say by photographic slides, that he has convincingly revealed - to himself, at least! - a corridor or routeway along the river valley for human transport of pre - Alfred Wessex - bound orthostats.

He said much the same, having excavated, with a large team of students and volunteers (including myself) beside the River Kennet at Clatford, near Marlborough. That was claimed to be a causeway for the transporting of sarsen stones to Stonehenge from the Marlborough Downs. incidentally, he PREDICTED finding this causeway long before excavation. It has all gone VERY quite since, but I fully expect, based on a knowledge of Mike's past thought processes (which should be the subject of a book in themselves! - and probably will be in the decades to come in my opinion), that claim to re - surface before very long at all - he has a scheduled Lecture in London before Christmas when he will no doubt pull together his entire set of claims for the Stones Of Stonehenge, accompanied by numerous fawning trumpeteers.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I really have no idea who his geomorphologists might be -- maybe they will now put their heads above the parapet. I think he was inviting at least one tropical geomorphologist (!!) to come and take a look, and another geographer -- and I doubt whether Charley French and Mike Allen would claim to be glacial geomorphologists...... As the old saying goes, choose your experts carefully enough, and you can "prove"anything......

chris johnson said...

How disappointing.

Did he specify what he means by "early bronze age" for the charcoal under the picnic table? Would it match the time supposed for local circles like Gors Fawr and Glandy Cross?

Very glad you went Brian and can give us reports. Looking forward to hearing more.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I think the date given for the charcoal under the picnic table was c 4,000 yrs BP. He also said the current dating for the Early Bronze Age is 4,200 - 3600 yrs BP. So the date would fall neatly into that. he did not say how much sedimentation there might have been between the dated sample and the base of the stone -- so it doesn't look as if it is possible to say how much time elapsed before the stone got into it present position.

Disappointing? Yes and no -- but certainly very revealing, and confirming in my mind that what the archaeologists have been doing here, all along, is manufacturing evidence and then saying "Hey! Look what we've found!!" Very dodgy indeed. Photos to come.