In previous posts on this blog I have argued that the evidence of human occupation at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog (including hearths, burnt hazel nut shells, charcoal and other organic remains, some of which have been radiocarbon dated) is entirely consistent with the use of these sites over a long period of time by people who depended to some degree on hunting and gathering.
I have made the same point in public talks and in these articles:
The essential point is that not one of the radiocarbon dates obtained thus far from these two sites has a secure archaeological context that might tie it to quarrying activity. The dates are more or less randomly scattered across a long time scale, and if there are one or two "clusters" of dates they are at quite the wrong times to provide any support for the quarrying hypothesis. One might even argue that far from supporting the quarrying thesis, the dates actually falsify it.
Let's just look at the likelihood that the Rhosyfelin occupation traces are unique. No chance. I went for a walk along the Brynberian Gorge yesterday, and was struck yet again by the fact that it must have been a paradise for the Neolithic tribes who inhabited this area. In the Neolithic people were moving towards a more sedentary way of life, with animal husbandry and the growing of crops supporting larger and more or less static communities.
The evidence shows that the elm decline was continuing -- probably related to land clearance activities -- but that the ecology of the Brynberian area was not that different from today. Mixed deciduous woodland must have predominated, with settlement clearances appearing on the uplands and on land below the 300m contour that was well drained. Hunting and gathering were of vital importance for the maintenance of food supplies, and while fishing activities might have declined as compared with the Mesolithic, hunters must have spent much time in hunting for the larger animals such as elk, red deer, roe deer, wild boar and aurochs. All of these animals must have been common in the forests and deep wooded valleys of North Pembrokeshire: but small animals would also have been hunted -- foxes, squirrels, badgers, hares, geese, swans, and even small birds. There must have been fishing for trout, sewin and salmon in the Nevern and Brynberian rivers, and shellfish would have been gathered from the estuary. Eggs were collected too.
Not all of the hunting was for food supplies -- some animals were hunted for their skins, horns, bones and sinews and anything else that could be utilised. Berries and other fruits and nuts were essential parts of the diet, and withies were collected for basket-making while birch bark was collected for the weatherproofing of buildings. Brambles and nettles were collected for rope-making. It is quite possible that rhyolite rock outcrops were used for obtaining sharp-edged cutting tools and that dolerite outcrops were used for axe manufacture. And so the list goes on.
In the Neolithic summers were warmer and drier than they are now, and winters were about 2 deg C colder. Hunting and gathering would have had strong seasonal rhythms, and a lot of the hunting would have been concentrated in the winter months when farming activities were reduced. The valleys were the natural places in which these activities would have been concentrated, since they provided shelter from winter storms and relatively easy hunting conditions (far easier than on the open uplands). Some authorities think that these valleys were also used for the overwintering of herds of sheep, goats and cattle, and the frequent traces of ancient stone walls in unexpected places might support this idea.
There must have been hundreds of temporary camp sites strung through valleys such as the Brynberian Gorge, used at intervals throughout the year but maybe with more intensive winter use. Sites beneath sheltering rocky crags may well have been preferred. From this point of view Rhosyfelin is perfect -- but there are scores of other perfect sites in the Brynberian Gorge alone. At the top of this post I have pictured some of the suitable crags with dry and safe camping sites beneath them. In the past I have mentioned the crags at Felin y Gigfran (on the Afon Nevern, below the confluence with Afon Brynberian) and also other crags upstream from Rhosyfelin. A veritable hunting and gathering paradise.........
The archaeologists who have been so obsessed with the Rhosyfelin quarrying hypothesis appear not to have considered any of the points raised here -- and have assumed that the occupation traces discovered are unique and uniquely related to quarrying activity. If they want to support their very dodgy assumptions they need to demonstrate that Rhosyfelin really is unique, and that all the other "favourable camping sites" in the gorge were NOT used in similar fashion.
I am 100% convinced that if they were to dig in the other places for which I can give them grid references, they will find hearths, charcoal, hazel nuts and maybe even traces of tool-making which can be dated to the Neolithic.