The new paper:
Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge. Antiquity, 89, pp 1331-1352 doi:10.15184/aqy.2015.177
Quote from P 1333: "The distant origins of some of Stonehenge’s monoliths have given rise to a variety of hypotheses about how and why they might have come so far. The theory that the stones were carried by glaciers, transported during an Ice Age to Salisbury Plain or its margins (Kellaway 1971; Thorpe et al. 1991; Williams-Thorpe et al. 1997, 2006), has not been refuted until now, even though there is no evidence for glacial deposition within southern central England (Thomas 1923; Green 1973; McMillan et al. 2005; Gibbard & Clark 2011; Clark et al. 2012)."
Among the thanks at the end of the paper: "D.Q. Bowen (for drawing our attention to recent literature on the lack of any evidence for ice sheets reaching Salisbury Plain)." My old friend David Bowen might be right on some things, but he sure is very wrong on others, and I am not sure whether citing him as a learned authority does any good for the arguments presented in this new paper.
The idea that the paper somehow refutes the glacial transport thesis is of course nonsensical, since it devotes no space to a consideration of the issues, and provides no evidence to disprove or outweigh other conflicting evidence. The citation of a clutch of references does nothing for the argument; we call all cite selectively, whenever we want to.
Let's just get this straight. There is indeed no evidence cited in the literature which shows conclusively that there are glacial deposits or erratics on Salisbury Plain. That does not mean there is no evidence out there -- it is just that no conclusive evidence has been brought forward by researchers. Unless, that is, we wish to count 43 lumps of bluestone and a lot of other debris around Stonehenge as belonging to an erratic assemblage that was lying around waiting to be gathered up. That, in my view, is still the most parsimonious interpretation of the fact that there are bluestones in the ancient monument. And there are certainly other erratics -- and enigmatic deposits that might be the residues of Anglian till deposits -- in central southern England, however that territory might be defined. And there are glacial deposits associated with the Irish Sea Glacier in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, and associated with local ice masses around the uplands of Dartmoor and Exmoor. That is not disputed.
If we balance all of that with the hard evidence on the ground in support of the human transport hypothesis, what do we find? Nothing at all. And bear in mind the following:
1. There is no sound evidence from anywhere in the British Neolithic / Bronze Age record of large stones being hauled over long distances (more than 5 km or so) for incorporation in a megalithic monument. In contrast, abundant evidence shows that the builders of Neolithic monuments across the UK simply used whatever large stones were at hand.
2. If ancestor or tribute stones were being transported to Stonehenge, why have all of the known bluestones come from the west, and not from any other points of the compass? Were belief systems and "local politics" quite different to the north, east and south?
3. There is no evidence either from West Wales or from anywhere else of bluestones (or spotted dolerite or Rhosyfelin rhyolite in particular) being used preferentially in megalithic monuments, or revered in any way. The builders always used whatever was available to them in the vicinity, and it cam be argued that stone availability was a prime locational determinant for stone settings.
4. If long-distance stone haulage was "the great thing" for the builders of Stonehenge, why is there no evidence of the development of the appropriate haulage technology leading up to the late Neolithic, and a decline afterwards? It is a complete technological aberration for the period and the place.
5. The evidence for Neolithic quarrying activity in key locations like Rhosyfelin and Carngoedog is questionable, to put it mildly. No physical evidence has ever been found of ropes, rollers, trackways, sledges, abandoned stones, quarrymen's camps, or anything else that might bolster the hypothesis. At Rhosyfelin the so-called engineering features are all, in my view, archaeological artifices or figments of the imagination.
6. The sheer variety of bluestone types (near 30 when one includes packing stones and debris) argues against selection and human transport. There cannot possibly have been ten or more "bluestone quarries" scattered across West Wales.
7. Bits and pieces of experimental archaeology on stone haulage techniques (normally in "ideal" conditions) have done nothing to show that our ancestors could cope with the sheer physical difficulty of stone haulage across the heavily-wooded Neolithic terrain of West Wales (characterised by bogs, cataracts, steep slopes and very few clearings) or around the rocky coast. Neither has it been shown that they had the geographical awareness and navigational ability to undertake long and highly complex journeys with very heavy loads.
8. And if there was a "proto-Stonehenge" somewhere, built of assorted local stones and then dismantled and taken off to Stonehenge, where was it? The mooted "Preselite" axe factory has never been found, and neither has the mythical Stonehenge precursor.
I have raised those issues over and again, and they have never been properly addressed by the archaeologists who now want us to believe what they choose to tell us about what went on in the Neolithic........