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Saturday, 4 June 2016

Chips and stratigraphy

 This is a great photo from Andy White's blog.  It's the sort of thing that archaeologists probably dream about -- a single layer of debris and flakes of flint marking a single episode of flint knapping, sitting neatly in a series of sandy sediments which are physically quite different.  This sort of thing would be rather difficult to explain as a natural occurrence, and nobody much would argue against the hypothesis that this is a sign of human occupation, albeit short-lived.

Sadly for the quarry hunters at Rhosyfelin, there is nothing like this that they can point to.  There are no layers of worked stone debris, no antler picks, bones, teeth, stone axes, wedges, levers, bits of pottery or any other artifacts to suggest intensive and prolonged human occupation, let alone quarrying activity.  The only traces of human occupation at the site (a hearth and some nuts and scattered bits of charcoal, dated by radiocarbon assay) are best interpreted as signs of intermittent occupation by hunting parties over many thousands of years.  None of the radiocarbon dates can be tied in to any of the so-called "quarrying" or "engineering" features. 


TonyH said...

Parker Pearson's "Stonehenge: making sense of a prehistoric mystery", Council For British Archaeology, 'Archaeology For All' Series, 2015, has FINALLY made its way onto the shelves of Wiltshire Public Libraries nearly a YEAR after publication (once bitten, twice shy??).

Pages 73 to 80 deal with MPP's one - eyed, Horatio Nelson, "Glaciation, I see no evidence of Glaciation at Rhosyfelin OR south of the Severn Estuary, no.... , NOTHING around Bath, 25 miles from Stonehenge", take on the Bluestone Enigma (No Enigma, but Mike sees smoking guns galore,...... with the eye of faith and for publicity).

His book is nevertheless worth a look. Is it in Pembrokeshire Public Libraries, stock yet? Anyone a member over there? Expect he shifted a few copies at his talk at St David's this last week (see Brian's earlier Post "Here We Go Again..."

SirRobinofCamelot said...

There were worked flints, hammerstones and pottery as well in the assemblage from Rhosyfelin. I should know- I dug some of them up! Its not a simple case of just charcoal and scattered nut fragments at all.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Come along now, Sir Robin. If there were flints, hammerstones and pottery how come they were not even mentioned in the big paper in "Antiquity"? How many artifacts, and where were they in the stratigraphy? The things that were initially deemed to be hammerstones were in all probability just cobbles in the fluvio-glacial sediments. As for the others, items consistent with occasional occupation of the site by hunting parties from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age should not be a problem for anybody. They have nothing to do with quarrying.