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Thursday, 10 December 2015

More blue headlines for the quarrying gang

Brit Arch has joined in all the fun and games with a cover story in its Christmas edition.  Since I am not a subscriber (I subscribe to too many things as it is...) I have no idea as to what the article within actually says, but I'm sure somebody will tell us.

What's interesting is the wording on the web site:  "......... the claimed discovery of two sites in Wales from which different stones at Stonehenge were quarried."  That's a bit less of a ringing endorsement than that given by hundreds of media articles, all over the world, in the past few days.

What's also interesting is the choice of the cover picture.  Great stress is being placed in the "Antiquity" article -- and presumably in the Brit Arch one too -- on this particular location in the dig site.  Some of the comments in the press releases have also directed attention to the single foliated rhyolite standing stone at Stonehenge, which is of course nothing but speculation, since all there was to look at long ago was a little cluster of stumps, none of which has been sampled and all of which are now invisible).

The "recess" shown above the white lettering (lower right) on the cover photo is now supposed to be the place from which one bluestone monolith, measuring 45 cm x 40 cm x 150 cm, was extracted through the use of wedges and taken away to the mysterious proto-Stonehenge which is currently causing such excitement across the world.  (That would have been a very small, flaky and fractured monolith, far smaller than most of those at Stonehenge and even in local standing stone settings, but let that pass........)  And to the right of the most obvious gap is the slab (on the right edge of the cover photo) which is supposed to have the "closest match" to the rhyolite debitage found at Stonehenge.  Here is another photo, from the Antiquity paper, and a photo of mine:

As I have said many times on this blog, and as we say in our new article in AiW, the level of precision claimed for the provenancing here is illusory.  See this post -- just one of many:

This is an extract from our new paper, to be published on Monday:
Parker Pearson has pointed out to many visitors the “exact location” from which an orthostat was taken from the rock face and hauled or carried off to Stonehenge. That assertion appears to be based on the statement from Ixer and Bevins (2011, 2014) that they had provenanced certain rhyolite flakes at Stonehenge to “within a few square metres” of their sampling point 8, near the tip of the Rhosyfelin spur. However, they have not adequately demonstrated that level of precision, either through published thin sections from Stonehenge and Rhosyfelin samples, or through analysis of a very dense pattern of sampling points. The Stonehenge rhyolite flakes could even have come from a section of the spur which has been removed by the processes of glacial entrainment.  Also, the “shelf” from which the monolith is supposed to have been removed is heavily abraded by either meltwater or ice action, indicating that it cannot have been quarried during the Neolithic.

 The thin section showing the petrography (the Jovian fabric) of the foliated rhyolite at Locality 8 as discussed by Bevins and Ixer in their papers.  Thanks to them for the photo.

The geologists have never demonstrated in print that there is anything in the Stonehenge rhyolitic debitage that is identical to the rock exposed at Richard Bevins's original sampling point 8, which coincides with locality 11 in the photos above.  If they have thin sections that prove a match, here is an offer to publish them on this blog......

In any case, as far as I can see, the petrography of the foliated rhyolite debitage at Stonehenge is quite variable, when seen in thin sections, as is the petrography of the samples taken from the Pont Saeson - Rhosyfelin area.  A confounding factor is that the rock face at Rhosyfelin coincides with a series of closely-spaced fracture planes, extending for about 50 south-westwards from the tip of the spur.  Bits and pieces of the same fracture plane are exposed along the whole face, which means that widely separated samples will have an identical, or almost identical, petrography.  I am sure that samples will have been taken, and that this will have been confirmed by the geologists.  I would like to see that in print.  So whatever the nature of the rock at point 8 (location 11) may be, the same rock will occur in many other locations along the rock face and in other locations along the valley side where rock exposures can no longer be seen.

In summary, the level of accuracy in the geological "spot provenancing" for this locality is another fantasy, cited repeatedly and deliberately by the archaeologists as part of their campaign to "prove" that this is a Neolithic quarry.  No matter what they may claim, this is NOT scientific evidence.

Postscript:  I forgot to mention that most of the geomorphologists who have visited this site have expressed incredulity that geological spot provenancing can have been "proved" here with the degree of accuracy claimed.  They all say that you cannot claim that anything at Stonehenge (debitage fragments or monoliths) came from "recess number 4" without having a careful analysis (published and on the record) of a very tight density of sampling points across the rock face and across the wider Rhosyfelin / Pont Saeson area.  Trust me on this, and ask them if you like.....


chris johnson said...

I just read the front cover and am I glad I stopped my subscription last year.

TonyH said...

If we're going to write to the Letters page of British Archaeology with our collective or individual ripostes, then perhaps it would be a good idea to obtain this issue of the magazine first? Single issues may be obtained, look on the website.

Those of us who wish to contribute to the ongoing debate would do well to read the B.A. article. Knowledge is power, as I used to tell my local government library readers!

I spoke to the Editor, Mike Pitts, recently after a talk he gave on Richard III, and he informed me that this article was forthcoming. He strikes me as a man who thinks objectively and forensically about many archaeological issues, and was clearly well aware of the glaciation hypothesis. We need to cultivate Mike Pitts' continuing interest in the OTHER side of The Story According To Mike PP.

TonyH said...

Having just, in the last few hours, received this edition of British Archaeology, it seems I was somewhat prescient in my last comment in describing Mike Pitts, its editor, as a man who thinks forensically.

He has included, at the end of this issue, a regular so - called 'Spoilheap' article about a Cambridge University - based archaeologist called David Barrowclough, who in September 2015 "was found guilty of 8 charges of fraud and one of obtaining property by deception. Having cheated the Heritage Lottery Fund out of £238,000, he was jailed for 6 years".

The article draws comparisons between Barrowclough and "the famous Piltdown hoax perpetrator Charles Dawson, of whom I was reminded as I researched this case." He goes on to point out that most of Barrowclough's publications were not peer - reviewed.

Worth obtaining a sight of this issue of B.A., Brian, for more than just the bluestone "quarries" article. You're welcome to borrow mine, let me know.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, since certain archaeologists have enough problems as it is, I have been a bit wary about mentioning the Rhosyfelin "quarry" and the Piltdown Hoax in the same sentence........ could it be that somebody is already thinking along these lines?

chris johnson said...

I did draw the parallel with Piltdown a while back on the Britarch forum. The establishment appears to be rallying around the "rhosyfelin is a quarry" argument and so they are all apparently willing to go down with the ship posthumously.

Thanks to our late unlamented troll, any discussion of the issue on Britarch is going to be moved elsewhere to ensure a peaceful Christmas. The people who manage Britarch are seemingly unable to boot trolls and believe somewhat charmingly in free speech for all nutters.

Tony, please summarise British Archaeology piece if you could? I don't suppose the forensic Pitts has turned up anything new, but hope springs eternal

BRIAN JOHN said...

Not sure what the establishment is up to, but Joe Public is proving less gullible than one might think. Been browsing though some of the "uninformed" comments on assorted news sites that have covered the story. There are surprisingly many who have actually read the "Antiquity" article, and surprisingly many who know how science should work, and they are saying the same thing -- that it's all puff and no evidence.

TonyH said...

Another thing that I notice about Mike Pitts and this latest, January/ February 2016 issue of British Archaeology: Mike Pitts says on page 3:-

This issue's contributors include MIKE PARKER PEARSON

has been leading a large team of Stonehenge researchers for a decade. In 2015 they were excavating at sites that were [my capitals] BOUND TO STIR CONTROVERSY, AS THEY REPORT ON PAGE 16 [TO 23].

however, nowhere in MPP's article is their any mention that there is ANY controversy in his claims. At least Mike Pitts is saying his activities are bound to stir controvery. MPP seems to prefer to remain in his Ruling Hypothesis Bubble!

TonyH said...

Chris, I have tried to demonstrate that in my opinion Mike Pitts, editor of B.A., is not one of those you say are "rallying around the Rhosyfelin is a quarry" argument. See my comment preceding this one, for example.

The B.A. article itself is written by MPP.

I am too busy e.g. with health issues affecting various family members (including necessary measures in maintaining my own health) to attempt a summary of Parker Pearson's 8 - page - long article, sorry. Have offered to loan it to Brian so he is able to reproduce/ summarise it on the Blog, again, see earlier comments above.

Not quite sure why the cover of the current B.A. issue has convinced you you made the right decision to cancel your subscription. After all, e.g. Mike Pitt's front page headline DOES have a question mark AFTER "Mystery solved...".So Mike Pitts isn't neceassarily "a part of the Establishment". In my view, he's seeking to be an objective archaeological journalist, and if that's right I applaud him for it.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Tony -- would appreciate a PDF copy (just of the MPP article) if you can manage it -- I'm not likely to be going anywhere near a large WHS branch for quite a while.....

I gather that somewhere the Ed does mention that there are those of us who think there is much imagination and no evidence in all of this?

Myris of Alexandria said...

Mike Pitts is indeed pretty objective and very careful, like others read exactly what he writes and not what you think he writes.
He edits the magazine and does not alter the essence of the contributions.
Both Current Archaeology (next issue has a short retrospective piece by the pet rock boys) and British Archaeology are independent editorially. Both are worth reading and both less than $30 a pop.
I am not certain 'AK will keep the Christmass truce in another place but in a land of nutters the one cell wonder is king.

Alex Gee said...

Who cares? MP,BA and the Society of Antiqueeries have been quite happy to support the healing hospital, death cemetery, BBQ hot ribs drive through nonsense, so who cares if they decide to take a breather whilst the latest crap decomposes?

These people must be incandescent that you keep pointing out that their hypothesis about Stonehenge are nonsense; having the same scientific validity as those suggesting the Moon landings were faked, The Nazca lines were landing strips for UFOs and intergalactic Proctologists visit us on a regular basis!

I'm no longer going to whinge about having to pay $30. Thanks to the honest reviews on this blog I've lost my desire to spend my hard earned on utter shite!

I have instead! recently purchased "Mines and Minerals of the Mendip Hills" by Dr Peter S Burr, a Caver, chemical engineer and mathematician. Published by the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive in two volumes, running to 1000pages. The result of 30 years of research. A snip at £60 (The first edition has sold out) But orders are being taken for the second, and as far as I have read so far, not a single page of nonsense.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Alex Gee

Alex Gee said...

Thanks to Chris
We at least know where we all stand with regard to the UK Archaeological establishment; Anyone who doesn't believe in the quarry hypothesis, (presumably this now includes the editor and membership of the Quaternary Research Association)is a "Nutter"! Is this a fatal error by the proponents of the Hypothesis?

Can't wait!

The Quaternary Research Association Vs The Society of Antiquaries.

A 21st Century version of Huxley Vs Wilberforce!

"Oh Dear" as someone once said! or LOL, Ha Ha Ha as Brian and his colleagues have

evidenced. Although "Ho Ho Ho" might be more appropriate for the season?


Alex Gee

Dave Maynard said...

Here in Azerbaijan my site labourers has been perusing the latest edition of BA during our tea breaks in the tent. Or perhaps they have only been looking at the pictures. They did spot the auction price of the Egyptian statue sold by Northampton Museum, 14 million.
Of course, deliveries of BA are rather slow here, the Christmas edition will not reach the tent until February. I will report back their veiws on the Rhosyfelin article then.
BA is very useful for informing the national archaeologists in the team on what happens elsewhere and different approaches to problems, much more than any edition of Antiquity.

Myris said...

I must also put in a good work for Current Archaeology.

TonyH said...

British Archaeology, latest issue, has a piece (page 10) mentioning the journal Quaternary Geology, Alex (and everyone)!! So editor Mike Pitts is not averse to including that esteemed journal's findings in B.A.

The item is about how archaeologists are offered a valuable new dating method because many earthworms shed calcite granules in their casts (sounds to me rather like that old saying, Many Hands Make Light Work).

The dating technique has been used at Silbury Hill, and it predicted soil burial (and the start of mound building) around 2400 BC, consistent with previously obtained dates.

chris johnson said...

I am happy BA has such supporters. I made an off-the-cuff and somewhat cheap shot in their direction and so perhaps should modify my criticism. I DID stop subscribing but that is not because of any dalliance with the truth on their part; it was not interesting enough put simply.

Subjects I know about were covered superficially, and subjects I don't know about I am by definition not interested in. For example, I could not care less where Richard III's remains turn up. Also it is very British. You all may like that special feeling but in the periods I am most interested in Britain was joined to the continent by a land bridge and since the late bronze age by good marine connections, and so a "British" perspective is constricting. Why don't they at least nod in the direction of European archaeology where some exciting developments take place?

If I can download the rhosyfelin edition simply I will purchase it. I don't actually expect to learn anything new, and that is why I stopped subscribing, should anybody actually care.

Tony, don't expect Mr Pitts to stand on any barricades. He is most likely a decent chap but he needs all the readers he can get and will not take issue with the archaeological establishment who supply him with copy and recommend him to their students.

TonyH said...

Some of us are looking forward to the Letters Page in future issues of British Archaeology, following the queasy qualms we have about quarries located by geological drones in North Pembrokeshire. Brian and a very good friend of Myris' have had letters published there before.

No, I'm not at all expecting Mike Pitts to be participating in any updated versions of Les Miserables. His journal is an organ of The Council for British Archaeology, but that doesn't mean he has to be the equivalent to what the Tories have: viz the Murdoch Press. I just think he possesses an inclination to look into things thoroughly and forensically e.g. his book The Henge People.

I take your point about your interest being potentially more stimulated by archaeological news which takes under its umbrella both Britain and nearby parts of Europe, e.g Doggerland, Holland, and Nortern France etc.

TonyH said...

Let's hope Mike Pitts actually comes up to my expectations of him and demonstrates some of the integrity I believe he possesses in the next couple or so issues of British Archaeology, by giving those of us providing him with alternative, geomorphological opinions on Rhosyfelin some COLMN INCHES in his journal, either on the Letters Page or perhaps a larger spread.

Myris said...

It is called British Archaeology after all.

Try the American on-line journals for more global coverage.

I think we are lucky in Mike Pitts, he is his own man and nobodies fool. He also edits Salon and of course his private blog often says what needs saying.
Wrote a couple of GOOD cook books too.

Richard III well Mike was writing the book so ....