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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Rhosyfelin -- goodbye to the evidence

 Rhosyfelin after restoration, 20th September 2015

Sad to say, I went over with my wife and son to pick blackberries and crab apples in the Brynberian Valley today, and this is the sight that met us when we got to Craig Rhosyfelin.  The whole of the dig has been filled in, and that huge pile of spoil adjacent to the two dig sites has been dumped back into place, making it impossible to make any further examinations of the stratigraphy which was so beautifully exposed.  The whole site has also been re-seeded.

The two pits as they appeared during the 2015 dig -- exposing a fascinating sequence of glacial and post-glacial sediments on the valley floor. Both of the pits seen here are now filled in.

Actually I'm not criticising the dig team for this piece of restoration. All digs come to an end, and all dig sites have to be restored as carefully as possible, to meet the terms of the consents they have received from the planning authorities and the landowners.  So all the evidence has now disappeared, which might of course be very convenient indeed for anybody who does not wish it to be scrutinized by experts who might raise certain uncomfortable issues.......

I just wish that the closure of the pits could have been deferred.  I did ask the National Park if parts of the excavation site could be kept open so that other geomorphologists could take a look over the coming months, but my letter was ignored.  I wonder why?  What's the hurry? 

Anyway, I just hope that the archaeologists have a detailed plan of exactly where the outlines of these pits are located.  Inside those outlines, future work will clearly be a waste of time, since the sedimentary sequence is destroyed, but on the outside it will still be possible for other researchers to open up pits or to put down drill holes which might help geomorphologists to resolve outstanding problems.

Thank goodness that I have a good photographic record.......

This photo, from a couple of weeks ago, shows the extended dig site from 2014 and the new pit to the left.  The whole of this area has now been filled in with spoil, masking all of the sedimentary exposures.




36 comments:

Dave Maynard said...

Unfortunately, they forgot to regrade to the original contours.

Looks like mother nature will have to take over and gradually recover the basal stones of the Carn.

Dave

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree -- they have got the topography all wrong. That large flattish water-worn stone has been left exposed, in a slight hollow. That hollow will fill with water as soon as we get some decent rain. Maybe the intention is that it should turn into a duck-pond?

TonyH said...

Yes, possibly to encourage another wild goose chase (sorry, couldn't resist!).

Tom Flowers said...

"ARCHAEOLOGY IN BRITAIN IS A SHAMBLES FROM TOP TO BOTTOM - THE FORCES OF EVIL ARE STALKING THE LAND AGAIN." The late Professor Mick Aston, Co-founder of the Time Team, speaking in the British Archaeology Magazine, just before he died.

So beware, those of you who wish to solve anything regarding Stonehenge. You are not welcome.

STONEHENGE AND IT'S MYSTERIES ARE PRIVATE: KEEP OUT.

Tom Flowers

BRIAN JOHN said...

Very interesting, Tom. O knew that Mick Aston was upset about the dumbing down of that TV programme, but what else was he upset about? Maybe we of this blog are not alone in thinking that there are some serious problems that need to be addressed in the manner in which archaeology research is conducted......

chris johnson said...

It could all be a lot worse. At least the British archaeologists with the biggest budgets are seekers after truth, even if we don't always agree with their sense of direction. And, as we see they clear up afterwards. Within their constraints they are operating to their professional standards too.

Under the current UK government and for the foreseeable future there are too few votes in archaeology for any major change, and lots of things that are going to be cut. I always think of the morons who turned Nevern Castle into a mediaeval theme park without ever stopping to consider that there is no parking and no toilets and hardly any access except via a single track road. This waste of public money was given credibility by "archaeologists" and our friend MPP was not one of them as far as I know. They came from the far North. The fact that there might well have been stone age remnants was given scant attention and trowelled out of sight.

As a business man I look askance at the surveys that tell that most tourists coming to UK do so with Stonehenge at the top of the list, even when they never visit. As a brand champion for UK Inc it is a Winner, like the Eiffel Tower is for France. Now I don't expect all you rock doctors to understand my jargon, but believe me the net present value of Stonehenge for the UK is in the billions of pounds sterling. Only in UK would such an asset be handled by such a collection of bunglers and with budgets that apparently have to come from American TV companies, rescue archaeology mandated by law, and charity of Myris's greek foundation amongst others. Rhosyfelin is not a big budget operation - it is spread out over five years in the week before term begins again and largely staffed by students and volunteers. They do not even have money to pay for analytical tests beyond the most essential and low cost.

Come on guys. It can all be a helluva lot worse.

TonyH said...

Interesting article in the latest Current Archaeology magazine. Issue 307, October 2015. Written by Chris Catling, a regular contributor.

Titled "Full Circle", it gives Ten New Facts about Stonehenge. Despite being one of the world's most studied prehistoric monuments, Stonehenge still offers plenty of surprises.

One of them is one of Brian's: Stonehenge might be an unfinished monument.

Have you seen it yet, Tom?

In my opinion, one of the missing surprises is the "Ships? I see no ships" blind spot attitude of many Senior archaeologists of the very real possibility that human beings didn't manhandle all those bluestones oe'r land and sea from Preseli.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Can you give us a summary, Tony?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris, I'm not sure it's much consolation to any of us, and even to the archaeologists of the UK, to know that things could have been a lot worse. Bottle half full, and all that. No doubt there is excellent work being done, but in this particular field of Stonehenge-related research, there is huge cause for concern, and if things are not put right a great deal more damage might be done not only to personal and institutional reputations but also to the cause of archaeology in the UK.

chris johnson said...

Clearly things could be done much better and I think there is a good economic case that could be put for a much bigger investment in archaeology.

Yet it does not help the general case to be squabbling amongst ourselves. Actually in the big picture the number of people who actually care about the history are very few and we should make more effort to cooperate. I suspect this is why so many professionals are endorsing the party line, either explicitly or implicitly. When the profession is arguing amongst themselves then any investment is going to be suspect.

It would be positive when the official line could accommodate the possibility at least that glaciers might have moved the stones from Prescelli to, say, Whitland, or even all the way to Wessex. It would match with the science and open up many new avenues for research and exploration.

Everybody interested in Stonehenge wants to be told the truth as best we know it. EH is in danger of depreciating its brand when it starts to prefer a story above the facts and above what is rationally plausible for people in possession of the facts. Meanwhile they have a moratorium on new digging that might produce new facts. Are they sticking to the chosen narrative at the cost of scientific integrity?.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris, it's all very well to preach for conciliation and acceptance of what the archaeologists are doing, but where will "cooperation" actually get us? I am absolutely convinced that there is crap science going on here -- is it not, on balance, a good thing to say so? What benefit will come from keeping quiet?

Geo Cur said...

“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. “

So we have a potential disagreement between geomorphologists .

It is accepted as almost certain that in the modern period locals removed /quarried numerous stones for gate posts , buildings etc in the Presceli area , if some if not the majority of the sites where they did so can’t be confirmed by some geomorphologists why should they be considered capable of recognising the much earlier removal /quarrying of stone . ? Why should we accept the opinion of an assorted group of geomorphologists in recognising potential anthropomorphic stone removal ,what are their credentials for making such an assessment ? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the opinion of geomorphologists who are actually experienced in this particular area e.g. Dominique Sellier . ?

BRIAN JOHN said...

MPP announced this in the lecture -- without naming them. I am not even sure whether they are geomorphologists -- and I think I might prefer the opinions of glacial geomorphologists rather than those who might specialise in jungles and deserts. But let's not speculate here. When our note is published, the evidence will be assessed, and it will all come out in the wash. At least there will be something peer-reviewed and available for scrutiny.

I'm sure that if Dominique wants to go and look at this site and others, she will be very welcome. It would be good to have a chat with her.

By the way, local farmers who have collected stones have gathered them up from all over the place, in an entirely opportunistic fashion.

chris johnson said...

Brian, always good to criticise crap science and one assumes a lot of debate goes on behind the closed doors of the privileged few with the huge advantage of having more data than we have.

I rather agree with Geo that geomorphologists at Rhosyfelin are not likely to change the narrative. The main reason the archaeologists have closed their mind to glaciers is the opinion of those experts they have consulted that the glaciers did not reach Stonehenge. It is not by definition bad science to trust the views of other scientists. Should the geologists come up with new evidence to show that the bluestone might have been dropped close to Stonehenge by a glacier, then those dissenting voices within the circle of trust will have some ammunition. Until then, I expect they will be given short thrift for reopening a debate that has been closed. You would do the same with any time wasters on your projects probably.

Geo Cur said...


Taking stones from the landscape for use elsewhere can be described as opportunism , maybe local farmers took stones from around CRF and maybe much earlier others did too .I don't see how geomorphologists can prove the negative in either case and don't see how glacial , jungle or desert geomorphologists are necessarily best placed to assess that either .

Geo Cur said...

oooops , missed out .

I wasn't speculating , I don't know what will be in the Nature paper .I'm happy to wait and find out before making assumptions

Btw Prof. Dominque is a bloke .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- I am disappointed. Was looking forward to a visit to some interesting sites in the company of a nice French lady. Never mind -- a gentleman will do, if he's up for it.

Nature? Who's publishing in Nature? Did that, several times, long ago -- this new paper is far too simple for such an elevated journal. Maybe MPP is publishing in Nature? Somebody said it was"Antiquity", which seems rather more likely......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris - it's bad science to turn up at a site with a ruling hypothesis in your head, and to twist all that you find into the context that you have determined in advance. Some of the things that have been taken to be "engineering" or "quarrying" features are quite ludicrous, as I think you might agree, having visited the site yourself. Going down that route, you get dangerously close to the manufacturing of evidence and even into scientific fraud. That's a very serious matter. As far as fieldwork in West Wales is concerned, the opinion of some people that the Irish Sea Glacier never reached Stonehenge is immaterial, since other people, who are equally qualified, and stated that it might have done. The evidence is no more or less abundant that that relating to the human transport hypothesis. Zero evidence in support of it, and much to suggest that it is vanishingly unlikely.

Given that context, a good scientist would simply turn up at Rhosyfelin and try to find out what's there. I should have thought that any fieldworker, from any discipline, would then take the default position of assuming that the features unearthed are natural unless and until they appear so peculiar that they have to be man-made. Occam's Razor, as you might recall.......

Geo Cur said...



Lol , yes of course , Antiquity .
I had just been mentioned a Nature paper elsewhere , well that's my excuse .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Old age, Geo. Gets all of us in the end.....

Geo Cur said...


The end started c. 25 for me .

chris johnson said...

Brian, spinning the facts to fit a ruling hypothesis is the curse of modern day Britain. It would be surprising were the archaeological establishment to behave differently given the cultural context.

Rhosyfelin is beginning to look NOT like a quarry. When this season's evidence is as thin as you describe that I sense that we will shortly hear the sound of breaking ranks among the cognoscenti in the circle of trust. The ghost of Piltdown Man looms large with those hoping to spend a lifetime in academia.

chris johnson said...

And those plumbers. They remind me of Watergate.

TonyH said...

The trap, or quarry, call it what you will, that quite a few of the 20th - and indeed 21st - Century headline - grabbing archaeologists have fallen into (some perhaps all too willingly) has been to take as gospel the many Myths associated with Stonehenge and its Bluestones. They have fallen headlong into the morass of folk tales, early 20th Century geological misinterpretation and mischief - making, and anthropologically - based comparisons with the likes of Easter Island and South Sea voyages.

Universities often now have a united Department of Archaeology AND Anthropology. We end up with tales of the Dreamtime and many archaeologists who have all too vague memories of the drug - fuelled '60s are only too happy to go along with this to bring the masses along with them.

TonyH said...

Will try to get a summary of that Current Archaeology article on Stonehenge Facts to you soon, Brian. Computer at home currently misbehaving Big - Time. Also other family concerns requiring attention.

Myris of Alexandria said...

There are two quite different 'schools' for archaeologists.
In the USA most departments are anthropology with archaeology as a sub-.discipline
In Britain Archie depts are stand alone units.
Different schools and very difference approaches so far from New it is something rather old.
Recently Dr Ixer was shocked to find an old and very dear friend and colleague described as an ethnoarchaeologist. He, of course, has now severed all contact, even now waiting for the hate button on Facebook to become activated and is even wondering if he might be a closet post-processualist. The friend, not Dr Ixer, who does not believe in life beyond pigeonholed artefacts, correctly pigeonholed.
M
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

An Ethnoarchaeologist? good Lord-- is he different in some way from an Archaeoethnologist? Where will it all end?

chris johnson said...

Is it the Picnic Table that is restored to its original state? No longer an orthostat then.

The anthropologist in me can see a little band of beaver hunters sitting down for a fireside snack. Somewhere around 3500 BC at a wild guess. Perhaps they left a couple of sharp bits of stone around when clearing the table.

BRIAN JOHN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BRIAN JOHN said...

As you can see on the pic, the picnic table is still visible, as are the stones around it. No doubt it is intended to be the prize exhibit when the National Park opens its exciting new interpretive display here. I have a bad feeling about this -- wouldn't the National Park just LOVE to have Europe's most magnificent Neolithic Quarry added to its list of heritage sites....... they are probably writing their press releases as we speak.

TonyH said...

There is now an established colony of Ethnoarchaeologists well established on Easter Island, thousands of miles from civilisation - as - we - know - it either east or west. Alan Wicker - like but minus the sharp suit and shiny shoes, they are said to get on very well with one another, without apparent signs of rivalry, and they tend to cluster together at nightfall, penguin - like, in some form of possibly bizarre, or is it mundane, ritual.

TonyH said...

Europe's most magnificent Neolithic Quarry added to the list of Wales heritage sites?
Absolutely, Hi Di Hi! Ho Di Ho!...with Wales's own Miss Pugh to welcome nervous visitors. This could rival Weston - Super - Mare's DismalLand.Good luck. you'll need it.

chris johnson said...

Yes, but as I say regularly, there is no parking and no toilets.

The National Park needs to discover more stuff in Whitland. Main line railway links, on the A40, space to build an airport :))

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, Whitland is no good, Chris. Outside the Park and inside Carmarthen CC. Anyway, they already have the Hywel Dda exhibition there -- they must not be greedy. The National Park must make its own good fortune! No doubt toilets can be added as and when...... all they need to do is buy the site, and then there will be easy car parking too.

chris johnson said...

To make a decent car park at Rhosyfelin you would have to flatten those inconvenient rocks. Perhaps they could be ground up for sale via garden centres, or as road fill.

Oh, wait a minute. What would the visitors have to look at? Maybe a theme park with local unemployed dressed up as neolithic hunters, They should ask the guys who reinvented Nevern Castle for advice.

TonyH said...

Brian, WHEN you get round to revising your 2008 "Bluestone Enigma", hint, hint (following all this comical kerfuffle at Rhosyfelin and sundry other MPP - favoured locations) you may like to use my idea for a title for a Chapter about the goings - on since 2011 by his National Geographic, etc, - sponsored Team:-

GUERILLAS IN THE MISTS

......perhaps with suitable atmospheric photograph AND..

.....with suitable acknowledgements/ apologies to Diane Fossey, wasn't it, and the well - known actor who played her who also starred in "Alien" and the noble and beleaguered mountain gorillas of Central Africa.