Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- due for publication on June 1st 2018. After that, it will be available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click

Sunday, 5 June 2016

MPP's Trojan Horse rumbles on

 MPP on the quarry promotion trail, at the Hay Festival (Telegraph pic)

Assorted events to report. The Trojan Horse rumbles on, cheered by the crowds, assisted by those who should know better, crushing beneath its wheels both academic standards and scientific integrity.  Once upon a time, scholarship meant something.  Not any more........

This is from a Pembs Coast National Park press release:

There’s a chance to enjoy a free tour of the source of the Stonehenge bluestones in the Preseli Hills, with Dr. Richard Bevins on Thursday, June 2. Booking is essential on 01437 720392. It’s followed by an evening talk at Oriel y Parc by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson at 6 pm. Tickets (available separately) are £5 per person.

I hadn't realised that Richard Bevins was personally involved in the NPA programme of quarrying promotion, and hope that he at least had the good grace to inform visitors on his trip that there are many earth scientists who look at Carn Goedog and Rhosyfelin and see no quarries at all........

The high pressure promotion of the Neolithic bluestone quarrying hypothesis continues unabated.  Not only has MPP been speaking at Oriel y Parc in St David's, but he has also been given a slot in the Hay Festival, as reported in this nonsensical piece published today in the Telegraph's Science Section (I kid you not......) :

Original Stonehenge was dismantled in Wales and moved to Wiltshire, archaeologists believe

Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

5 June 2016

Stonehenge began life as an impressive Welsh tomb which was dismantled and shipped to Wiltshire, archaeologists now suspect.

Experts have known for some time that the smaller bluestones of the 5000-year-old Neolithic monument were brought 140 miles from the Preseli Mountains in Wales.

But the question has always been why? Why would the English settlers bother to make a lengthy pilgrimage for Welsh stone when they had perfectly good local sandstone quarries nearby - from which they would later cut the imposing ‘sarsen’ stones for Stonehenge.

The answer is that the stones were probably brought by the Welsh themselves, when they decided to relocate to the area, and did not want to leave their ancestors behind.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London believes that Stonehenge began life as a Welsh monument to the dead.

“The Welsh connection isn’t just about stones it’s likely to be a long term movement from west to east at this particular time," Prof Parker Pearson told the Hay Festival.

“Why dismantle an original monument? We’re wondering if it actually might have been a tomb with a surrounding stone circle which they dismantled. If that were the case they were basically carting the physical embodiment of their ancestors to re-establish somewhere else.

“Their idea of packing their luggage was rather more deep and meaningful than our own. They are actually moving their heritage, and these stones represent the ancestors. They are actually bringing their ancestors with them.

 “The more we find out about Neolithic society, their culture and religion, it is focussed on the ancestral dead. If you build in stone for the dead, that is a society that is worshiping its ancestors.”

Archaeologists at UCL and the University of Leicester recently found the actual quarries that produced the stones. The spotted dolerite bluestones came from the outcrop of Carb Goedog while Craig Rhos-y-felin, produced the rhyolite bluestones.

The special formation of the rock, which forms natural pillars, allowed the prehistoric quarry workers to detach each stone with minimum effort.

They only had to insert wooden wedges into a  crack and let the Welsh rain swell the wood and crack the stone, to allow each pillar to be eased away from the rock face.

It has even been possibly to work out which stones were cut from which part of the quarries by analysing the cut marks.

The team at UCL has also been studying half a million bone fragments found at Stonehenge and discovered that one fifth of them came from people who lived in the west of Britain, possibly in Wales. Some of them may even belong to the hallowed ancestors which were brought to be reinterred at Stonehenge.

“Where are the dead? The simple answer is Stonehenge, because what we hadn’t realised was that Stonehenge is the largest cemetery of the entire 3rd millennium BC in Britain,” added Prof Parker Pearson.

“Most of those remains are cremated. Just burnt fragments. There were several hundred people buried.

“Who were they, where did they come from? Latest scientific results not yet published tell us that we are looking at people being cremated on pyres made from different kinds of material.

“In other words almost certainly not all from Salisbury Plain. They are arriving from Stonehenge already cremated and we know from our own excavations that they were deposited in organic containers, which were probably leather bags.

“It’s very possible that among the cremated remains, those could actually be some of the dead themselves that were brought with them.”

There is no evidence to show why the Welsh moved to Wiltshire. There is no evidence to show they were driven by climate change, warfare or catastrophe. Prof Parker Pearson believes that Stonehenge was built to unite warring tribes.

Archaeological evidence of warfare and ‘grisly killing,’ seems to disappear after the monument was built. 

The team at UCL believes that the original Welsh tomb must be located somewhere between the two quarry and is launching a dig this summer to try and located the site.

“We might have an answer by September, “ Prof Parker Pearson added.


From the Hay Festival Programme:

Mike Parker Pearson

Stonehenge: The Welsh Connection

Event 375 Venue: Llwyfan Cymru - Wales Stage

Excavation of two quarries in the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire by a UCL-led team of archaeologists and geologists has confirmed that they are sources of Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’ and shed light on how they were quarried and transported. “We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC,” says Professor Parker Pearson. “It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument – somewhere near the quarries – which was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire. Stonehenge was a Welsh monument from its very beginning. If we can find the original monument in Wales from which it was built, we will finally be able to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far…”

Apparently there was an "enraptured crowd" for the talk.......

MPP has also been involved in the Festival as a "leading academic" and role model for aspiring university students.  See this:

Mike Parker Pearson

Subject Areas – Archaeology

Event 573 Venue: Compass
Please drop in to our new Compass venue, quiz leading academics about their subject and engage in some critical thinking. As part of Hay Festival 2016 and with help from the Welsh Government we have invited a range of university lecturers and speakers to drop in, talk about their subject areas and about university life.
Mike Parker Pearson is Professor of British Later Prehistory at University College London.


Note that the MPP narrative gets more elaborate by the day.........
It appears that the two papers written by Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd, John Downes and myself have been written out of history.  As MPP will find, we are not going away.  Anyway, we do have confirmation now that the "proto-Stonehenge" hunt will be going on this summer, presumably in the area around Bedd yr Afanc.


Jon Morris said...

“Why dismantle an original monument? We’re wondering if it actually might have been a tomb with a surrounding stone circle which they dismantled.

Anyone know who the set of people are that Mike refers to in the 'we'? It would be interested to know which group of people are committed to the general line of thinking in this and the other statements (especially if there are other well known archaeologists in the group).

TonyH said...

Jon, look at my comments against Brian's Saturday the 4th June Post just before this one. MPP trots out the same line in his (and co - authored by other) book that I detail there.
I say "his book". It says, as author, MPP, then in smaller case, "with Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas and Kate Welham". All were important members of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, of course. I think the last 3 are all Professors. Josh Pollard, who is not (yet) has been involved in Neolithic British, especially Wessex, archaeology for well over 20 years.

I advise everyone to obtain a look at the book, should be in most public libraries by now, though library cuts slow this process down. ISBN number for purchasing is 978-1-909990-02-9

TonyH said...

People should look at, in particular, pages 79 - 80 of the above - mentioned Stonehenge book by MPP & his co - contributors.

"Nearly a mile south of Castell Mawr is another access point where it is easy to walk out of the valley [he means the valley along which he says the known rock sources lie]. Geophysical survey here has revealed what may be an undiscovered Middle Neolithic 'passage grave' tomb. Future excavations will reveal whether this is a location at which the bluestones were originally erected."

I think this book was published in August 2015, so I assume he has yet to excavate this site in 2016. You folk closer to Preseli than I am down here in Wessex are in a better position to comment about this and also Bedd Affanc {or whatever that passage grave tomb is called and spelt, I'm no Welsh speaker/ writer} that is being discussed on this Blog as a very probable site for a 2016 dig. But, then, be IS Mike the Pied Piper!! He likes to keep his readers/ listeners tantalised on his cliff - hangers, just as Charles Dickens did in those magazines!

Jon Morris said...

with Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas and Kate Welham

Thanks Tony: Useful to know who is running with the ideas. Personally, I don't think they will find anything definitive given the search strategy, but I'm kinda hoping that they do: If this exercise fails badly, it will provide good fodder for the argument to reduce general funding.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Jon -- we can assume that all of the authors who put their names to the Antiquity article will be involved in the continuing work. They all have mud on their faces from putting so much time into those non-quarries -- and are no doubt desperate to salvage something of their reputations.......

I am less charitable that you are when it comes to good research money being throw after bad...... and am amazed that the funders have not pulled the plug on this one long since. It would appear that they, like the research team members, have lost their critical faculties.

Jon Morris said...

"I am less charitable that you are when it comes to good research money being throw after bad...... and am amazed that the funders have not pulled the plug on this one long since. It would appear that they, like the research team members, have lost their critical faculties."

There's an old City of London document, dating back some 15 years or so, which looked at archaeology and its affect on the economy. It was a remarkably even handed document, and came to the conclusion that although archaeology was not a particular detriment to development, it had not been subjected to the same checks and balances that had been applied to other sectors.

One of the interesting things about this type of high profile project is that it could help to provide an economic justification for commercial archaeology as a whole (a long story why this is the case). This particular project seems to be the only ongoing archaeological project in Britain which has the appearance of making progress on that potential justification. Given the history surrounding the "value of archaeology" arguments, and the latest proposed changes to the structure of commercial archaeology, a retraction of findings could affect more than just the local funding of the project; so is very interesting to watch.

But I haven't been keeping a good track on what they are doing so find it difficult to come to any conclusion about what has been done.

TonyH said...

What really Gets My Goat (do other fellow - bloggers also keep goats?) about all the lavish claims that are made by MPP & his fellow bluestone quarry proponents is that NONE of the academic institutions for whom he, and his senior archaeological leaders work (UCL, Universities of Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, et al) have been quick to call into action their University's Geography Departments' geomorphologists (with expertise in glaciology in particular), so as to clinically and robustly test MPP & Co's claims that Rhosyfelin and elsewhere have been quarried to the substantial extents claimed.
Why on Earth do our Universities not feel the need to protect their individual integrity and reputation and to further the advancement of overall knowledge of the processes, whether natural environmental processes, or those brought about by human exploitation of the landscape, down the Millenia. Oh, for us to have a person like David Attenborough has been to the understanding of animal and plant life on Earth!

TonyH said...

The sad thing is there IS a great deal of responsible archaeological work going on up and down the British Isles (most of it connected to academic institutions), which is thoroughly and responsibly carried out and which enriches our understanding of human beings' involvement with our landscspe over the Millenia.