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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Tim Darvill isn't convinced either.....

Thanks to Rob for drawing attention to this article, written by Tia Ghose and published on the Live Science site in the USA. Rob follows the party line, as one might expect, even down to the wondrous IKEA analogy, and the author has got a statement from Tim Darvill too. I never thought I would say this, but it appears that TD and I are actually agreed on something!

Traces of a 'Lost' Stonehenge Appear in Rock Quarry


However, the evidence in support of the theory is scant: a few traces of burnt material and one oddly positioned rock. And not everyone is convinced that these clues point to an earlier Stonehenge-like monument.

"While this work adds some detail, it doesn't change the main picture," said Timothy Darvill, an archaeologist at Bournemouth University in England, who has excavated at Stonehenge but was not involved in the current study. "The Preseli Hills are extensive and geologically very complicated, with the result that matching stones to particular outcrops is fraught with difficulties."

In addition, it's possible that much of the archaeological material uncovered is "entirely natural" — not evidence of human work on the landscape, Darvill said.


Myrisof Alexandria said...

AHHH my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Can we now expect drinky-poos chez your new best home-boy and neighbour Prof Wainwright. There would be queues of people to see that, to rival any One Direction concert.
The IKEA analogy is very old now, first used by Dr Ixer on a Canadian National radio programme Jan 12th 2012, he correctly attributed it to his wife. Perspicacious that lady.
The article came as an unwelcome surprise to Dr Ixer and bears little relationship to the interview he gave, a little like Eric M’s piano playing ‘all the words are there but not necessarily in the right order’.
He did not see a pre-publication version (although did ask) so could not correct the misspelling of Dr Bevins’ name, the weight of the bluestones, the completely odd explanation of what a Long Barrow is, or the inclusion of random elements in the Stonehenge Landscape.
“The way you recognize prehistoric sites is that you fall over maul after maul," Ixer told Live Science”. I am pretty certain that Dr Ixer said the way you recognise prehistoric MINE sites is etc. I am sure he does not believe that tripping over mauls helps to find most other prehistoric sites.
“Exactly how these rocks fit in with the construction of Stonehenge is extremely murky. One possibility is that the rhyolite bluestone was used in the Stonehenge Cursus or long barrows — a semicircular ceremonial burial trough where people buried their dead — and was eventually repurposed for the great stone monument, Ixer said”.
The essence and sense of the discussion of Long Barrows and their possible stone facades, the possible but unlikely stone circle at the end of the Stonehenge Greater Cursus was lost here. I think that Dr Ixer would rather be flayed alive than use the neologism ‘repurpose’ as for ‘great stone monument’ Sublime Apollo protect him. The idea of “4 ton” bluestones lining the Cursus or, as Dr Ixer correctly but rather pedantically will insist it is called The Stonehenge Greater Cursus, is novel.
The image of Drs Ixer and Blevin (sic) razing Welsh forests to unveil the truth and so leading the excavations must come as a surprise to MPP and his team. Delegation is an art, best done with a very light touch.
Do read, smile benignly and note that ‘California is another country they do things differently there’
Dr Ixer is not the first go-between to learn the truth of Let no good deed go unpunished. Still unlike Dr Bevins his name was spelled correctly throughout.
To esure that I am not accused of negativity I will say that the link to Brian’s blog works very well.
My only regret is that this was not the version that the Daily Mail took to simplify for its readers.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Talking to journalists, or even sending stuff to them, is a very risky business, since they hardly ever get anything right. I suppose we should be tolerant, given that last week they were probably writing about astrophysics and next week they will write about frogspawn.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now here's a thought. Was that American write-up any less reliable than the purple prose and fantastical imaginings of the quoted authors, in those breathless press release? On the whole, I think not. The press releases were not about the truth. They were all about IMPACT.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Yes it was unreliable as it invented quotations and was unproofed.

The quarry scenarios are no less reliable than a pile of convenient sized erratics dumped just north of Airman's Corner awaiting our woad-bedecked Amazons to come a shape.
How 'abundant' are your abundant rounded dolerite and gabbro erratics, where is the scientific quantification of them
Where is the size and shape analysis of the glacial sediments that proves them to be glacial.
The statement the sequence is the same as seen elsewhere in this part of Wales has the same weight as the alignment of these stones is similar to other Neolithic quarries.
Neither, one, or both may be correct.
It is a matter of authority and this in turn is partly based on experience.

Poorly reported interviews are neither authoritative nor enriching experiences.

You account is as descriptive and equally biased-based as that of the MPP boys.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- you make the fundamental mistake here of mixing up this, that and the other. This = entrainment. That = transport. The other = deposition or use at the other end.
Three quite different topics. We are concentrating on entrainment or stone collection here. Forget about the rest, if you will, because it is entirely irrelevant. What went on at Rhosyfelin? That's all we are interested in. There is no evidence of quarrying. As for the sediments, it is absurd that they have not apparently been properly analysed by the digging team. We could have taken samples and sent them off to a lab somewhere for particle size analysis. But out of respect for the digging teams we did not want to do any excavations of our own, with tags and labels all over the place. MPP would not have been amused.

Quote: "The statement the sequence is the same as seen elsewhere in this part of Wales has the same weight as the alignment of these stones is similar to other Neolithic quarries." That is a completely unsupportable statement. The Quaternary sediment sequence is well documented in a host of publications. Just go to the GCS review volume for The Quaternary of Wales, and take a look. We have at least published a stratigraphy for Rhosyfelin, which is more than can be said of you and your colleagues.

".....the alignment of these stones is similar to other Neolithic quarries." Excuse me, but what does that mean? Will you kindly explain? Which other Neolithic quarries? What alignment?

Hugh Thomas said...

Myris , I am no scientist but from even my own limited experience your posts sometimes feel like they go round in circles. I do not understand " The alignment of these stones being similar to other Neolithic quarries" .... Any particular quarries you wish to divulge the position of ?
Also , please forgive my ignorance but how can " a size and shape analysis of the glacial sediments prove these bluestones are glacial" ? Would thos mean having to find the holes on Salisbury plain where these glacial erratics were dug from ? If someone did that the whole of the " Human transport" followers would go into melt down saying " Just because this excavated boulder hole on Salisbury plain matches the shape of stone number ** at Stonehenge does not MEAN it came from that hole" .... Wonder where such a level headed retort was born originally , funny how theories can be flipped onto thier heads.... ;)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree, Hugh. To avoid endless confusion, let's forget about Salisbury Plain and forget about the transport issue, and concentrate on Rhosyfelin. Perhaps Myris will explain for us what he means by "the alignment of stones" in Neolithic quarries. I haven't seen any alignments, either at Rhosyfelin or at Carn Goedog. Maybe one needs a trained archaeological eye to see them?

I see Myris's point about "proving" that the things we call glacial and fluvioglacial sediments actually are what they say they are. Of course sediment analyses and stone counts and stone shape analyses are desirable, but they should have been done by MPP and his team as a matter of course, if they were seriously interested in the nature of the sediments at the site. But they determined from the start that they were of no interest at all, since all they were interested in were the "archaeological horizons" which might have been useful in the confirmation of their ruling hypothesis.

Now, of course, very conveniently, all of the interesting sediments are buried and inaccessible. When the next bit Nat Geog grant arrives, can I propose that £500 or so is allocated for glacial and fluvioglacial sediment analysis at Rhosyfelin? Half a day with a digger would be perfectly adequate for getting the samples out.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah I was unclear.
Firstly I agree it was a missed opportunity not to have had some sedimentolgy done, blame is pointless now, Brian could have gone down on rest days and done it when all was quiet etc etc. If you apply for grant monies to do this now I am pretty certain you would get support from interested parties. Don't the ice men have a pot for small grants.
My main point was poorly expressed it is that descriptive studies are best done by experienced practitioners. MPP' s team have been looking at Prehistoric quarries since the early 90s including the northern isles of Britain but elsewhere. I have a detailed list in an email from them,knowing this day would come.
Building Northern Great British Circles or a title like that describes much of the work. So like your self who came to Cryf knowing it would be a Pleistocene site from experience of similar sites, they came to Cryf knowing it to be a quarry from their etc.
Brian there is a strong hint of motes and beams going on.
I would feel better with your interpretation if the photographs showed "abundant" rounded statutes spotted dolerite and gabbro. I have looked a few and the material looks almost monolithic in composition and most is angular just telling us it has broken off the quarry face by some agency.
It would be unfair to blame you for not being rigorous, it is just a pity.
We have two interpretations, both of which are given by interested parties, by experienced practitioners. Let the jury decide, it may well be hung of course.


chris johnson said...

A good deal of the relevant layers were carefully sorted into white buckets, labelled, and carted off who knows where. No more digging needed is my guess.

Myris said...

Dr Richards on quarry hunting
"we started the stone circle project in 2001 when we first encountered Vestra Fiold. As for quarries, two 'stone monolith' quarries in Orkney, and another one for Yarso chambered tomb. Three quarries in the Hebrides. Obviously, several in Rapa Nui, and one in Hawaii, we are going to Raratonga, Cook Islands to look for the basalt quarries for the massive Polynesian road (ara matua), which encircles the island".

Correct title of the book describing much of the British work is Building the Great Stone Circles of the North edited by Colin Richards.
I know you have not heard this before but RBPL!
Only fools pretend to be all knowing leave that to Sublime Apollo.

Myris said...

Rounded statutes are written by literate lawyers I guess.
I suspect the word prior to autocorrect was a mistyped 'stones' but could have been 'lithics'.

BRIAN JOHN said...

And because Julian Richards claims to know a Neolithic quarry when he sees one, are we supposed to smile benignly and accept everything he says? As I recall, the Vestra Fiold evidence for quarrying is debatable at best and dodgy at worst.....

Dave Maynard said...

Myris, you say there is a lot of angular debris broken off by some agency, do you mean the rockfall at the foot of the carn?
I have not yet read the primary literature, but Brian's critique of the Antiquity article says the rockfall is not mentioned anywhere. If this rockfall were thought to be the result of Neolithic quarrying, would that not be an important component to be described in an article on a Neolithic quarry?
If it is not described as Neolithic, does it then become by default natural?

BRIAN JOHN said...

They don't mention the rockfall accumulations, and they don't mention the fluvioglacial deposits at all. They do mention the till. The closest they come to anything geomorphological is to refer to a "palaeochannel" on the floodplain of the valley, beyond the tip of the spur. Goodness knows what a palaeochannel is -- I assume the rather grand word is used to imply a deep river channel adjacent to the "revetment". Without the deep river channel the revetment or quayside becomes nonsensical, since the archaeologists have to have some reason for sliding monoliths from the "loading platform" onto the rafts or sledges on the lower ground or into the deep water beyond. Fantasy, from beginning to end.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris: "I would feel better with your interpretation if the photographs showed "abundant" rounded statutes spotted dolerite and gabbro. I have looked a few and the material looks almost monolithic in composition and most is angular just telling us it has broken off the quarry face by some agency. It would be unfair to blame you for not being rigorous, it is just a pity." Excuse me, Myris, but we have been very rigorous indeed. What are you suggesting? All of the geomorphologists who have been to this site accept that we are looking at a till. Even the archaeologists accept that! So what's the point of your comment? Are you trying to imply that it is not glacial in origin, and that it might just be a slope deposit made of locally derived bits of rhyolite? Come off it! Have you actually looked at it yourself?

Myris said...

Ah touche (not me but you)
Yet you claim to be able to determine petrographical closeness in thin section (despite being totally illiterate in that technique) but do not allow me the same (frankly hubristic and ridiculous)latitude in determining how much "ABUNDANT" spotted dolerite and gabbro there is by looking at the evidence.
Now you see how totally irritating nay insulting that is.
However I can determine shape and am better at macroscopical lithic determination than you, I doubt that you can spell stilpnomelane let alone recognise it in thin section. But I know a gabbro when it hits me.
(It was the presence of that mineral that has brought us to Cryf or rather the recognition of how rare that phase is and where it occurs n Wales or rather did not occur by the combined skills and EXPERIENCE of the pet rock boys.
Nobody is asking for benign smiles but respect, Brian you trash too swiftly yet become prickly when challenged.
Quantify 'abundant' spotted dolerite and gabbro we both know this is an important number. Other observers use the adjective rare rather than abundant. We know it to be rare as any rounded spotted dolerite/gabbro would have been called a maul!!

As I say now is the time to remove the fat and exaggeration from all accounts of Cryf including yours.
There is no doubt the rhyolite and been split off from the quarry face but unless secondary retouching.I am at a loss how one can determine the agency from visual inspection. The prot-orthostat's orientation is about as bad as it can be for Brian and about as good as it can be for the MPP boys.
Einstein said God does not play dice (They do of course.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris, I am not claiming to know a lot about petrography. i was spectacularly bad at mineralogy when I studies it as a student. But I leaned later to be passably good at provenencing most of the obvious rocks that kept on popping up in the St David's area, including Ailsa Craig microgranite, halleflinta and Cambrian basal conglomerate (all rather beautiful, as it happens). All I am asking for is adequate evidence in the public domain which will enable the rest of us to accept and respect the things you claim re the provenancing of the foliated rhyolites from the Rhosyfelin area. You have claimed that your findings are rather important, and so the onus is on you. Call me a crusty old sceptic if you like, but for better or for worse I had scepticism drummed into me as a student, and it has remained as a part of my DNA. I quite accept that you also have every right to be sceptical about some of the things I say!

So you are talking about the alignment of ONE stone? Where did you get the idea from that it is "bad for me" in some way? I can assure you it's not a problem.

TonyH said...

Wondering what conversations at Bournemouth University are like between Professor Tim Darvill & Professor Kate Welham? They appear to have opposing opinions on the issue of N Preseli quarries. Perhaps they just talk about Bournemouth defeating Manchester United.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Being bad at mineralogy but then asking for yet more detailed petrographical data is a little like Typhoid Mary asking you to pass the salt in a commercial kitchen. However crusty you are (Carbolic Soap) the answer is no.
A little like Master Paxman I ask again how abundant are the spotted dolerite and gabbro rounded erratics at CRYF.
Good for Arch in Wales.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- have we ever referred to spotted dolerite erratics at Rhosyfelin? I think not. If we had seen any I am sure we would have remarked upon them.

How abundant is abundant? We all use words like that, which are qualitative rather than quantitative. No throwing of stones while in glasshouses please. Remember that meaningless 99.9% figure that you and Richard used in one of your papers.....?

We could take half a dozen samples across the exposed till surface and count lithologies in those samples. They would tell us something, but not a lot. There is huge internal variation in till deposits. All depends where you take your samples, as you know only too well.

Myris said...

Yes exactly like serial sections through a rock. As you know with much experience you just learn to identify the significant features.

Ah yes I cannot spot a spotted just 'abundant/many' dolerite and gabbro (where would that be from, surly not from St David's Head as that is south of Cryf??.

(Makes note to self-read what is written not what you think is written))

I am not able to judge if the sediments be glacial or anthropogenic (gardening was a final year option that I eschewed for calc-alkaline vulcanicity - most of what we were taught, has post plate tectonics, been found to be rubbish! still we enjoyed the field trips) so have no Pleistocene field craft. Just a healthy but sceptical mind.

BRIAN JOHN said...

The gabbro is interesting -- there is plenty of it around. Goodness knows where it has come from. I have a large gabbro boulder in my garden, and several others in the stone walls at the top of the bank.