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....
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Friday, 23 September 2016

The Dyffryn Stones

The Dyffryn Stones (courtesy RCAHMW)

I am still mystified as to why anybody should ask Facebook to remove those images from the Pensarn dig that were posted up by Emyr Jones and myself.  Anyway, they are gone, and have not returned in precisely their original form, although what is out there is out there, and I have put two of the images back onto my Facebook page so as to inform and educate those who are interested in such things. 

In our speculations on what the archaeologists might have been looking for in the current dig, we made a reasonable stab at it by suggesting they were looking for a Neolithic passage grave surrounded by a stone circle which could then be labelled as a "proto-Stonehenge".  This would also fit nicely into the MPP thesis that the stones would be invested with significance since they were set up around "a place of the dead" -- and could thus be linked with Stonehenge, which is also seen as a place of the dead.  This would then be a reason for those old Neolithic folks to cart away these "stones of the ancestors" as tribute stones all the way to Stonehenge, to be built into the monument around 5,000 years ago.  Emyr also picked up on something like this when he talked to the diggers, and indeed MPP has suggested as much in his talks.

In the event, what we have at Pensarn, by the look of it, is a Bronze Age cist burial site maybe with a sharp edge or kerb and maybe segmented internally as well.  A serious disappointment to the quarrymen.  But all will be revealed in due course, if the news and image blackout allows........

So what were the diggers hoping for?  Something like the Garn Ochr Cairn, I suspect.  It's a bit confusing because it is also called Henry's Moat, the Dyffryn Stones, the Dyffryn Syfynwy Stones and the Dyffryn Circle.  It is classified as a ring-cairn or henge.  It lies between Tufton and Rosebush, on the southern flank of Mynydd Preseli, at grid ref SN05922845.  In the NP Figgis book it is site number 33.  Here is the link to the Coflein record:

From the air - a Toby Driver photo (RCAHMW)

Site Description

Garn Ochr Cairn is a greatly disturbed and much denuded round cairn some 21.3m in diameter and surviving to only 0.5m high. It was contained within a ring of thirteen orthostatic - earthfast - stones, although only ten remained in 1966, two of which were prostrate. The stones are up to 2.0m long.

This is probably a prehistoric funerary or ritual monument. It has been supposed that there was originally a burial chamber within the ring although there appears to be no evidence for this. Three stones, now gone, some 12m to the north-east, were seen as evidence for a burial chamber.

Sources: RCAHMW & M Pembrokeshire Inventory (1925), 118 No. 313
Daniel 'The Prehistoric Chambered Tombs of England and Wales (1950), 204 No. 38
Driver 'Pembrokeshire: Historic Landscapes from the Air' (2007), fig 65


TonyH said...

MPP presumably DID give his Talk last night before an entranced, expectant audience, the same day that Brian apparently was mostly in Cardiff, and I was holidaying close to various glacial erratics along the North Devon coast....

But surely SOMEBODY OUT THERE has heard some rumour, or rumour of a hint of a rumour, of what MPP actually said? Surely he, being the great Pied Piper, has left a tantalising yet non - glacial trail of what to expect NEXT YEAR, folks?!

This Story could run and run............forget "Brangelina", what about Brike Barker - Go On, Jeer,Son!?

cysgodycastell said...

I attended the talk yesterday. I was minded to drop by the candle workshop to give you a quick synopsis this morning, but other matters got in the way.

I last attended a MPP talk 2 years ago, this talk by comparison was lack lustre, he was much general in his hypothesising. He talked about Rhosyfelin but didnt mention anything new except that Richard Bevins(?) was visiting the site today for further sampling of that place they belive a stone was extracted. There was no mention of stone hammers or revetments as there were previously. To my ears it wasnt convincing, but the audience were lapping it up.

He focussed his attention on Carn Goeddog much more and talked about stone platforms and stones being prepared in a sort of 'forecourt' The aerial shots of Rhosyfelin and Goeddog were impressive, but they looked like natural rocky crags to my untrained eye. I couldnt make out manmade features at all.

He talked about a misalignment in dates and his rationale for thinking that the stones had been erected elsewhere. He said that they had dug trenches elsewhere like Castell Mawr and Bavvil before settling on Pensarn. He confirmed your observations that it was a bronze aged kerbed cairn of some importance and on a par with similar finds in Angelesy. They were disapointed with the lack of finds at Pensarn, but the did find a tiny flint arrowhead in a hole at the side of the cairn and underneath the ciste they found a 30cm food vessel urn capped by stones. This was excavated with its cover of soil and sent to conservators so they were not sure what was inside. It was assumed it predated the burial site.

Interestingly on the aerial photo they identified two more untouched ringed monuments in the field the other side of the lane.

He spent some time talking about Bedd y Afanc. That this cairn was similar (again) to one in Angelsey (similar dimensions and lay out (I forget which). He identified a large dolerite stone just to the north of it and thought that the whole area was worthy of further investigation and they hoped to begin work next year.

He did say that the funding had come to an end so wasnt sure at this time whether there would be more work next year. The audience helpfully suggested he should start crowdfunding in order to continue his work.

His talk and slides lasted about an hour. There was little by way of challenging questions. There was no criticisms or contrary views put across and glaciation was never ever mentioned.

Despite having bought a ticket i couldnt attend your talk as it would have been interesting to see if the audience was similar.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thank you, Cysgodycastell -- very interesting report. Strange (or is it?) that MPP still seeks to ignore completely the two articles by Dyfed, John and myself -- and the issue of glaciation and glacial transport. So he just trundles on with his storytelling to his enraptured listeners. At least I do him the honour of spending quite a bit of time, in my talks, to a careful scrutiny of his evidence and his hypotheses! I would welcome some mutual scrutiny from him, but it never seems to come. Maybe the archaeologists exist inside a little bubble. Nice and cosy when you are inside it -- difficult when it gets pricked.

Jon Morris said...

"The audience helpfully suggested he should start crowdfunding in order to continue his work.

Not sure how helpful that suggestion would be

Is that the end of the digging do you think?

BRIAN JOHN said...

It all depends, I suspect, on the tolerance level of the funding organizations. After six years of promising one earth-shattering discovery after another, and delivering on none of them, the patience of the grant givers must be wearing a bit thin. And even if MPP pretends that our criticisms in peer-reviewed publications do not exist, the senior academics who are charged with distributing grant aid must certainly know about them. My guess is that Mike will not get any more money for digging in Pembrokeshire, on the basis that the funders cannot go indefinitely throwing good money after bad......

And I wonder what happened to that National Geographic blockbuster programme which was promised some years ago? It was rumoured that much of the budget had come from the NG, and that a "prior publication rights" deal was on the table, explaining why there have been no research reports or official updates on progress.

TonyH said...

Perhaps the United Nations should intervene and INSIST the two sides (we might even call them the West Side of Brian and the East Side of Mike) be brought together and obliged to have a mutual DIALOGUE?

Currently we seem to have the MPP Side who refuse to give the Brian Side any oxygen of even EXISTENCE, let alone consideration...........whereas Brian takes us, methodically, step by step, through his objections to the Archaeologists' Parallel World.

All the more peculiar when UCL, MPP's home of refuge, is, I think, rated this week in the Top Ten of World Unversities.

Mind you, Brian's University of Degree and Doctorate, Oxford, is the Number one in the World!

Jon Morris said...

"It lies between Tufton and Rosebush, on the southern flank of Mynydd Preseli, at grid ref SN05922845. In the NP Figgis book it is site number 33. Here is the link to the Coflein record:

Interesting the choices they're making: This one seems a very long way from what's been labelled as the quarries. Apologies if this location is old hat, but I haven't been keeping up with what they are doing. There seem to be hundreds of sites in the local vicinity. At first sight, this selection seems a bit random. I'm guessing that they're looking for something that already looks a little like Stonehenge and that this was the best fit.

Is it that simple or do they go through some sort of more advanced research process before plumping for a site to dig up?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Don't want to pull rank here, and I'm sure that there are top scientists coming from many different universities, but I was indeed trained to be sceptical, to scrutinize evidence very carefully, and to work on the principle that science can only proceed through a process of falsification and hypothesis replacement. Talking of which, after my talk the other evening, we had a long and interesting discussion involving some very perceptive members of the audience. We talked about ruling hypotheses, confirmation bias, and the obsession with impact over substance -- in all sorts of fields, including medicine. We went on discussing things for so long that the staff were desperate to kick us out in the end, since they wanted to go home. I enjoyed it enormously!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Jon, I'm not suggesting that MPP and his friends are looking at the Dyffryn Stones -- that site, after all is well known already. I was suggesting that they were hoping to find something like this, when they cut the turf in the field near Pensarn.

Jon Morris said...

"I was suggesting that they were hoping to find something like this, when they cut the turf in the field near Pensarn."

Oh apologies.. haven't been following what's been going on. In some ways, I feel a bit sorry for the team investigating this one: Must be very difficult having to stay within the commercial guidelines that they've signed themselves into because you end up having to be a secret squirrel and therefore get no feedback on proposals other than from the team itself. It could be one of the reasons that they have to ignore any contribution that you might make.

It's a very difficult way to work. Still, it was their choice to go for that type of funding I guess.

The problem it throws up is that whatever they decide to go for will, at a later date, be criticised as the result of inadequate advice. So if they find nothing of significance, that will just be put down to a lack of appropriate external feedback.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, that's a very generous assessment of the situation, Jon! We have probably all seen similar things before, in our own fields of expertise. I've seen it in geomorphology too.

People invent a "consensus" by pretending that they are part of a mainstream standing against the opinions of mavericks and nutters; then they seek to push their agenda or core belief by ignoring or ridiculing dissenting voices, aided by astute news management and by a gullible and compliant media. Gullible and compliant academic journals too....... Add in the "impact" factor which drives much of university research these days, and the natural desire of academics to be famous, and you have a perfect scenario in which the "bluestone quarrying" hypothesis can thrive. Research money pours in, and you get media deals from bodies like the National Geographic or Discovery Channel. So the research team has to deliver the goods as promised -- and from then on its members are in a little bubble, and confirmation bias kicks in. Dissenting voices within and outside the team are ignored, and diggers who ask too many difficult questions are sent packing. Corporate delusion is never very far away, and neither is scientific fraud. Negative results are not an option, and spectacular results have to be announced, even if the field data do not support them. You can always count on Current Archaeology and British Archaeology to give you lots of space, room for glossy pictures and big headlines, without scrutinising too carefully what you say in your articles.

And of course, as you develop your mythology (as a substitute for scholarship) you are cheered on by an establishment that wants archaeology to have as high a profile as possible, by the Pembs Coast National Park which wants a prehistoric heritage second to none, and by EH which wants as fabulous a prehistoric narrative as possible because that keeps the dosh pouring in at Stonehenge.

But oops -- after five or six years of delivering nothing substantial in support of the bluestone quarrying hypothesis, people (including other professional archaeologists) begin to pick up on the fact that you have an increasingly elaborate story but not much else. It's too late now to back off or admit that your hypothesis has not been confirmed, so the instinct to enhance academic reputations is replaced by the instinct to rescue them. It gets very messy, especially when people like Dyfed, John and me come along and point out that your key evidence does not withstand scrutiny.

We live in interesting times -- but if the emperor who wears no clothes, and his faithful entourage, ever try to suggest that they have not encountered any "appropriate external feedback" they will get a very loud raspberry in reply.

TonyH said...

Parker Pearson seems to have been drawing comparisons a lot to Anglesey, according to our, so far, sole reporter from his Talk the other night, a welsh - sounding gentleman judging by his names.

MPP has always been very keen on two henge monuments - just south of Anglesey and on the edge of Bangor - as one compares very well in its size, etc, to Stonehenge.

It is known as Llandegai henges A and B. There is a good right up on pages 316 and 317 of Mike PP's 2012 book; also plans on page 315..

N.B.:-BRIAN....... you might like to consider after reading those pages reproducing what Mike PP says, in particular about the geology and the provenace of various stones, etc, found during excavation in 1966 - 67. Myris might like to consider it also, as he knows one or two Geologists involved at Stonehenge and Preseli.

cysgodycastell said...

The kerbed ring cairn at Pensarn he compared to sites in Anglesey but didn't say which. He did identify Bedd yr Afanc as having a similar and comparable layout to Bryn Celli Ddu. He showed slides of their layouts side by side.

I forgot to add that he also favoured an overland route from the Preseli's to Salisbury Plain (think A40) on the basis that no one would be mad ennough to place a 2-3 ton rock in their boat and make the perilous trip around these coasts and it is likely that the Altar Stone came from Brecon!.

Jon Morris said...

"Ah, that's a very generous assessment of the situation, Jon! We have probably all seen similar things before, in our own fields of expertise. I've seen it in geomorphology too."

Possibly Brian. It's very helpful to know if restrictive contracts exist because a lot of time could be wasted by trying to contact researchers whose hands are tied: All you can do is to present evidence that might help to steer and then sit back. If a restrictive contract exists, then the lack of any sort of response to yourselves is just the result of tied hands.

We live in interesting times -- but if the emperor who wears no clothes, and his faithful entourage, ever try to suggest that they have not encountered any "appropriate external feedback" they will get a very loud raspberry in reply.

Aye, but unless they find something big soon, it appears to me to be the most likely best case scenario for history's interpretation of the group effort. The Geologists are separate and seem to have done well though.

TonyH said...

Some people were mad enough to place a 2 - 3 ton rock in their boat in Brian's living memory........!!!