THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click
HERE

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Severn Estuary -- the glacial context


The area shown in this map is crucial for our understanding of what happened during the Quaternary, and what the string of events might have been which resulted in the hypothesised glacial transport of the bluestones. The distribution of upland and lowland is crucial; during glacial episodes uplands tend to accumulate snowcaps or even small ice caps, and ice coming in from further away (ie ice from the Welsh ice cap of the ice of the Irish Sea Glacier) will always tend to fill depressions first and then spill out of them under the influence of the ice surface gradient and the dynamism of the ice mass.  Those who have, in the past, drawn "straight line" ice edges across this territory have portrayed situations that can never have happened.  In this sort of terrain, all ice edges must have been crenulated.  Where exactly they were located during the Anglian and the Devensisn glaciations (and maybe others as well) is still open to debate!

The pattern or rivers shown here is inherited to some degree from pre-Pleistocene times,and some details will be down to diversions linked to ice action and meltwater overspills from pro-glacial lakes.

I'm giving a lot of thought just now to that latter issue.  How and where might substantial bodies of meltwater been impounded?  Was there dead icei n the depressions, with a ribbon of meltwater between of the ice and the containing hillsides?  Were the water bodies joined together -- with a common surface level?  And was there a vast expanse of water across the Somerset Levels, with hill masses standing above the surface as islands?  If so, how much debris was introduced into this water body by the melting ice, and where are the resulting deposits?

Interesting questions -- watch this space......

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Mud, mud, glorious mud........


There is something rather wonderful about tidal estuaries at low tide, when all the mud banks are exposed.  This particular scene is from Slebech Park, well up the Eastern Cleddau (also called Cleddua Ddu or "Black Cleddau")  and a few miles from Picton Point.

There's not just mud here -- we can see in the bed of the creek that there are many boulders, and there are stony deposits exposed in the banks too.  One warm summers day, when I feel inclined, I might  check out whether any of these exposed deposits can truly be referred to as till........

Poppit raised beach platform and overlying sediments

I visited Poppit (at the mouth of the Teifi estuary) the other day, just to check out what might have changed since my last visit.

The raised beach platform is as prominent as ever,  just round the corner from the main beach and most easily accessible at low tide.  But a lot of storm waves have been breaking onto the RB platform surface, and the overlying deposits are in something of a mess.  There has been a lot of slumping, and the sequence is in many places difficult to discern.

Here are some images:

Broken rock platform some metres above HWM but still affected by storm waves.  Much slumping here in the drift cliff, with some traces of the raised beach and much mixing of periglacial (brecciated bedrock) deposits and glacial deposits related to the Irish sea Glacier.

At the base, c 1m of brecciated bedrock debris (head) representative of Early and Middle Devensian (?) periglacial conditions but also containing raised beach cobbles.  There is a clay-rich matrix, suggesting that this is a reworked deposit incorporated into the base of the overriding Irish Sea Glacier.  In the top part of the photo we see 1.2m of clay-rich Irish Sea till with apparent shear structures.  Above that, a 1m thick glacial deposit with a greater sand and gravel content, suggestive of flowtill deposition during ice wastage.  At the top of the section, a darker sandy deposit which might be sandloess.

This section is a bit of a puzzle.  Bottom left -- the exposed surface of the RB platform, here composed of thin-bedded soft dark shales.Above that (at the base of the section) a 30 cm layer of convoluted brecciated  bedrock fragments incorporating larger local sandstone clasts and erratics.  Above that, up to 50 cms of brecciated sandstone and shale rubble held in a matrix of silt and clay.  Well-rounded RB cobbles are incorporated.  This is probably a basal glacial deposit incorporating periglacial and interglacial deposits.  Above that, up to 1m of relatively stone-free flow till (?) with more sandy materials towards the ground surface.  

A good exposure of the raised beach platform overlain by the sequence of deposits as described above.


I am puzzled by the layer of fine broken shale fragments at the base of the sequence.  Surely it cannot predate the raised beach?  At the moment I am inclined to think that it post-dates the beach sediments, which were protected near the innermost edge of the platform while the platform itself was subjected to severe periglacial conditions at a time of relatively low sea-level -- during the Early and Middle Devensian.

More work needed here.......














Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Somerset pro-glacial lake


I have done an earlier post on this -- based largely on some of the recent glacial modelling:

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2018/10/was-there-proglacial-lake-on-somerset.html

The idea of a large lake covering the Somerset Levels has been mostly ridiculed in recent years, but I have been forced to think about it again by the evidence from Bleadon Hill, which suggests a terrace that might be a kame terrace or glacial lake shoreline deposit at around 82m OD.

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-glaciofluvial-gravel-terrace-at.html

When I looked around the Mendips with Alex back in October, we visited two rather interesting sites -- one at Blagdon Coombe, and the other at Crook Peak, at the western end of the Mendips.

At the former site, at the western end of what must surely be a winding glaciofluvial meltwater channel, there is a broken up rock face of Carboniferous Limestone in the woods opposite Rickford Church, displaying some rather interesting features.

The exposed limestone cliff faces are in the woods, on the south side of the valley, where it opens out to the west -- more or less where the head of the arrow is located.


There appears to be a horizontal "precipitation layer" made of calcium carbonate on the vertical rock surface.  Maybe there are two layers?  Alex has made several visits to the site, and will enlighten us.  The only obvious explanation for these layers is that they represent a water surface.  But was this the surface of a lake?  And if so, when was it present, and for how long did it survive?  The only other explanation is that the water was ponded within a cave which has subsequently lost its outer flank by vast slabs of rock tumbling down into the valley.  And there does not seem to be any sign in the landscape that this has happened.  If the concretions can be dated, that would solve the problem.......

These are the slight ridges of calcium carbonate cement, about two-thirds of the way down from the top of the photo.  They appear to be precipitation features, but they might just be solutional, etched into an older crust on the rock surface.

I'm not sure whether Alex has done any accurate surveying here, but it looks to me from the maps that the altitude of this surface or "level" is around 82m.  Sounds familiar?

Moving swiftly westwards to Crook Peak, there is another interesting exposure of Carboniferous Limestone on the hillside above the car-parking area on the minor road between xxxx


There are a number of extensive exposures of slabs with smooth undulating rock surfaces which I thought at first were glacially moulded surfaces.  I have revised my opinion on that, and now think that the surfaces expose primary mega-ripples and other sedimentary surface features on bedding planes.  These planes coincide more or less with the slope of the ground surface, and here and there we can see the "steps" along which overlying strata are -- bit by bit -- breaking off, with the debris then sliding downslope and accumulating in hollows are piling up against areas of well-anchored vegetation.  We can see a bedding plane and a step in this photo:

 

I don't dismiss some role for glacial erosion here, and ice may have had a "cleaning up" role.  But what I find really interesting is what happens upslope, where the limestone surface is more fractured, with a greater cover of algae and other plants, and with more rock debris littering the surface:


I'm not sure what is going on here, since we didn't have much time for detailed observations or measurements, but in my mind I have memories from Greenland, Iceland and Antarctica, where I spent much time in the past searching for marine limits and "washing lines" created by wave sapping -- in which debris beneath the line was carried down into deeper water, and debris above it was left in place.  In Scandinavia hills with debris caps on them and water-washed lower slopes are called "kalottberg hills."


And what is the altitude of this apparent washing line?  As you might have guessed -- around 82m.  So we have three different localities on the flanks of the Mendips with apparent traces of a water-level at around 82m -- can that really be a coincidence? 

-----------------------

We have talked on many previous occasions about the significance of Mendip, and the apparent signs of meltwater activity on a rather grand scale:

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2018/10/on-significance-of-mendip-for.html

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2011/08/strange-valleys-of-mendips.html

I still think there may have been a small ice cap on the hills at some stage -- or maybe more than one stage -- and that great volumes of meltwater have had a substantial effect on the landscape.  Some of that meltwater might have been flowing in subglacial channels, as many authors have suggested in the past.

Then we come to Lake Maw.  It was suggested by Maw in 1864 that there might have been a large pro-glacial lake in the inner part of the BristolmChannel at sone stage during the Ice Age -- and this idea was developed by Frank Mitchell in 1960 -- in one of the papers that had a great influence on my own work.  Later on Prof Nick Stephens thought that there might have been a great body of water trapped on the Somerset Levels, providing an explanation for some of the deeper gravel deposits beneath the peat and also explaining the substantial terraces of gravel that exist to the south, beyond the Chard Gap and in the valley of the Axe.  These terrace gravels have been examined in detail at Chard Junction, Broom and elsewhere.  The deep valley in Chard Gap was interpreted by Stephens as a spillway for  pro-glacial lake.  Other authors have dismissed Mitchell's ideas on the basis that there are no independent signs of this vast glacial lake -- but this is perhaps not surprising, given that most of the Somerset Plain is today deeply buried beneath peat layers.  Also, those who dismiss the pro-glacial lake hypothesis have failed to adequately explain where these vast thicknesses (in places more than 20m thick) of sands and gravels in the Axe Valley have come from.........

The extent of Lake Maw as defined by Mitchell in 1960.  There is a fundamental illogicality in not extending the lake into the Somerset Levels, since there can have neen no obstacle to the water flooding eastwards.....

A segment of a larger map from Stephens (in 1970).  There is much of interest here, but if we concentrate on Lake Maw, we see it as much more extensive, flooding the whole of the Somerset Plain and spilling southwards via the Chard Gap.

The lowest surface altitude in the Chard Gap today is around 90m, but I have no idea whether the town and the countryside immediately to the east of it are underlain by thicknesses of gravel or other deposits. The geology maps are not particularly helpful, showing colluvium, alluvium and head, with gravel terraces occurring a few kilometres downstream, on the flanks of the main Axe Valley.  The bedrock altitude in the highest part of the Chard Gap is what matters -- and I might hazard a guess that it is somewhere around 82m.........

So are we about to bring Lake Maw back into fashion?  I hesitate to say that, but there is certainly something interesting going on here.  Watch this space.........





Monday, 3 December 2018

The glaciofluvial gravel terrace at Bleadon Hill

Close-up of the terrace gravels exposed on the flank of an animal burrow (thanks to Alex for this)

I have received some very interesting info from Alex, who has been over to take a look at the famous patch of gravels on the southern flank of Bleadon Hill (ST349573) not far from Weston Super Mare. The altitude here is about 82m.

In the past, this has been described as a "moraine ridge", but it is clearly not a moraine since there is no evidence -- in the few published studies -- of any directly deposited glacial materials.  It has been described by Findlay and his colleagues (in 1972) as a ridge, but from the description and photos provided by Alex it looks more like a terrace.  What one cannot say without further work is whether it is a constructional terrace composed of a thick sediment sequence, or a thin veneer resting on an erosional bench.

It's not easy to pick up the topography from this photo (thanks, Alex!), but it looks as if the two houses are resting on the gravel terrace......

The photos taken by Alex of the materials currently exposed (around badger setts etc) show pebbly gravels at least 2m thick which comprise pebbles mostly under 2 cm across, with some up to 8 cm across, without much of a matrix.  They have been described as "openwork gravels".  Other observers suggest that the gravels are dipping towards the NE -- more or less parallel with the contours and suggesting current flow around the flank of the hill, broadly from west towards east.

Most of the clasts are sub-rounded, suggestive of water abrasion -- and to me they look like classic glaciofluvial materials.  There is some cementation, on the points of contact between clasts -- but the solid cementation that we see in raised beach deposits (for example) is absent. Most of the pebbles are made of Carboniferous Limestone, but Alex says there are many erratics as well.  They must have come from the west.  Findlay and his colleagues suggested that there were partly cemented sands and silts beneath the gravels, but they were not able to see a clear contact between these gravelly beds (above) and sandy beds (below).  Intriguingly, they said that the lowest sandy beds were unconsolidated, with beds dipping southwards at c 37 degrees.

I think we can dispense of some of the wilder explanations of these gravels and accept that they are of glaciofluvial origin.  I can see no possibilities of them being pre-Quaternary deposits here, and I see no merit in trying to explain the gravels away as old beach deposits or as the high remnant of old river terraces.  So they must indicate the presence of glacier ice from the west with a surface at least as high as 82m.  There are two possible explanations.  The gravel terrace might be a kame terrace against a hillside, emplaced by meltwater flowing along an ice edge towards the NE.  The other possibility is that the gravels represent the shoreline of a glacially-impounded lake with its surface altitude at 82m.  I don't like this explanation so much, since we still have to find a source for the pebbles, and without the presence of a nearby ice edge, where might they have come from?  Also, if there was a prolonged water-level stillstand here, where are all of the other shoreline traces elsewhere on the hillside?

So -- there was ice present on the flank of Bleadon Hill.  A kame terrace was formed between the ice edge and the hillside.  When?  The assumption has to be that the glaciation was the Anglian -- and this might be confirmed by the partly-cemented nature of the deposits.  But we can't rule out a Late Devensian ice incursion from the west -- and in the light of the accumulating evidence from many other sites about the extent of the Irish Sea Glacier, around 20,000 years ago,  I think we should keep the dating options open..........








Saturday, 1 December 2018

New paper on the Altar Stone -- or is it?




There is a new pre-publication paper on the Altar Stone, with a 2019 date attached.  Details as follows:

Alternative Altar Stones? Carbonate-cemented micaceous sandstones from the Stonehenge Landscape

by Rob Ixer, Richard Bevins, Peter Turner, Matthew Power and Duncan Pirrie 

Wilts Arch and Nat Hist Mag 112 (2019), pp 1-13
ABSTRACT

The six-tonne recumbent Altar Stone is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the Stonehenge bluestones, differing markedly from the others in size, tonnage, lithology and origin. It has therefore had more than its fair share of speculation on all of these aspects and many questions remain: was it always recumbent, was it a singleton or half a twin, where did it come from? Clearly it is not from the Preseli Hills hence the debate as to its geographical origins for over a century. However, any provenancing of the Altar Stone must rely on a detailed and accurate lithological and petrographical description. New descriptions of material labelled ‘Altar Stone’ held in museum collections and a re-evaluation of suggested Altar Stone debitage using automated scanning electron microscopy and linked energy dispersive analysis using QEMSCAN technology suggests that modification of the published petrographical descriptions is needed. A new ‘typical Altar Stone’ description is provided including the presence of early cementing barite and a better characterisation of the clay content. These new data should continue to narrow the search for the geographical origin of the Altar Stone, one that is expected to be at the eastern end of the Senni Formation outcrop, an outcrop that reaches as far east as Abergavenny in the Welsh Marches.

Here is the URL:
https://www.academia.edu/37882770/Alternative_Altar_Stones_Carbonate-cemented_micaceous_sandstones_from_the_Stonehenge_Landscape 

As fellow bloggers will know, we have spent a lot of time on this blog pondering on the origins of the Altar Stone, and on the relationship of the stone itself with assorted samples claimed to have come from it.  One of the biggest mysteries relates to "sample 277"  -- assumed but never proved to have come from the stone:

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2016/12/could-altar-stone-have-come-from.html






When Ixer and Turner published their "definitive" paper on the Altar Stone in 2006 they were criticised for assuming that "sample 277" was from the only reliably provenanced piece of Altar Stone available -- and for assuming that in describing its characteristics they were describing the true characteristics of the Altar stone and its petrography.  They said at the time:  ".........the thin section labelled ‘277 Altar Stone Stonehenge’ in the Salisbury Museum Collection is likely to remain, for the foreseeable future, the only piece of the monolith available for investigation. It is imperative then that it should be described as fully as possible and that this description becomes widely available."

This last sentence contains the justification for the writing of the paper.

But the authors also said:

This paper represents the first detailed description of the Altar Stone for over eighty years and is in broad agreement with H.H. Thomas other than his identification of abundant garnet and glauconite. Glauconite is a green, chlorite-like mineral and so, if present, has been subsumed under chlorite in the present description. The disparity over the amount of garnet is more significant and puzzling. Thomas noted significant amounts of garnet in his ‘heavy residues’ (Thomas, 1923, 244) but did not report garnet in his thin section description of the Altar Stone. Although trace amounts of garnet can be overlooked/underestimated in thin section the present study could not confirm significant amounts of garnet microscopically. The presence and amount of garnet is important as Thomas was struck by the coincidence between the garnet-rich nature of his Altar Stone ‘heavy residues’ and the unusually garnetiferous nature of the Cosheston Beds and it was the presence of these unusual amounts of garnet in both, that led him to suggest the Cosheston Group might have been the origin of the Altar Stone. Without further sampling (this would require many grammes of Altar Stone to crush before separating the heavy minerals) the garnet problem must remain unresolved.

In an earlier post I said this:
The big issue here is the amount of garnet among the heavy minerals in the rock. Herbert Thomas and Richard Thomas have both stated that there are substantial amounts of garnet in the Altar Stone itself -- but garnet is missing from thin section 277. There are also substantial amounts of garnet in the Cosheston Beds. So was HH Thomas right all along? And have Ixer and Turner simply assumed that thin Section 277 was correctly labelled, when it might have just come from a piece of debitage assumed -- unreliably -- to have come from the Altar Stone?

So in 2006 there was a muddle, and the muddle has got worse since then, with arguments not just about the labelling of so-called "Altar Stone" samples, but also about the ownership of the samples and the thin sections taken from them.  English Heritage could, of course, sort the whole thing out right now by giving permission for a small sample to be taken from the stone -- but they presumably would prefer for as many Stonehenge mysteries as possible to be kept alive and unresolved!  So, in attempting to make the best of a bad job, Ixer and Bevins and their fellow authors have tried to draw together as much material as possible into this new paper.

Was it worth the wait?  Have we now got the answers?

There are problems in the very first sentence of the paper.  The authors insist that a bluestone can be defined as "any any non-sarsen ‘foreign’ stone used as an orthostat within the Stonehenge circle."   Wrong.  There are plenty of bluestones of all shapes and sizes (including fragments in the debitage) that are NOT established as having any link with the standing stones.   I have crossed swords with Ixer and Bevins on this issue many times before.......

There are three sandstone lumps at Stonehenge that are deemed to have been orthostats:  stone 80 (the Altar Stone) and stones 42c and 40g (assumed, but not confirmed, to be made from Lower Palaeozoic sandstones from West Wales). Not one of these stones has been sampled in modern times -- so all that has been written about them is based on the analyses of fragments found in the debitage.  That makes the geology very difficult........

Twelve samples from fragments have been examined during the present study -- including some collected during the Darvill / Wainwright excavation of 2008.  A number of different methods were used  on all of the samples so as to permit strict and reliable comparisons.  In describing previous studies (of which there are many), the authors have to admit that all of the samples studied in the past have suffered from the lack of certainty about any links they might have with Stone 80 which lies there today, peacefully embedded in the ground and trapped beneath those big sarsens.  

The bulk of the paper consists of sample descriptions and analyses -- all very carefully done. Then we come to the discussion.  The authors admit that there is no confirmed relationship between the Altar Stone and any of the debitage or the examined samples -- and they say: " Rhyolitic/dacitic standing orthostats SH 38, 40, 46 and 48 have little or no recognised debitage and this is true for the Altar Stone. "  They go on to say that there are great similarities in the characteristics of most of the 12 samples analysed, and they then take three "altar stone samples" (why do they refer to them as such?) from the 2008 excavations as probably being REALLY representative of the Altar Stone -- choosing sample 08/196 as the "type sample."   They suggest that this is a better type sample than sample 277........ which "may be atypical".



On the matter of possible provenances for the samples analysed, there is an intriguing suggestion that  the common presence of barite cement may mean that the samples have not come from Wales at all.  This is also intriguing:
".......well-crystalline kaolinite and mixed layer illite-smectite are common in the east of the ORS outcrop (see Figure 1) but are unknown/uncommon in the rocks at the western (Pembrokeshire) end of the outcrop. As the QEMSCAN data show kaolinite and mixed illite- smectite are present in the Altar Stone samples (but so is chlorite, although much, perhaps all, is detrital) and this is in accord with the suggestion that the Altar Stone originates within the Brecon Beacons (Parker Pearson et al. in press) rather than further west."   (Note:  the "in press" paper is the one already published in Antiquity 2018)

The issue of the abundant garnets in the heavy mineral assemblage is mentioned but not properly addressed.

All in all, this is a strange paper.  There is no new fieldwork here, and no new sampling of the Altar Stone.  It's good to have all these samples examined, described and compared, but since not one of them is properly provenanced to the Altar Stone itself, there is a degree of futility in the whole exercise.  And the authors themselves get into quite a tangle, sometimes stressing that they are NOT describing the characteristics of the Altar Stone, and sometimes pretending that they are.

So we are a bit closer to knowing where some of the debitage might have come from, but no further advanced than we were before in establishing the origin of the Alar Stone. 

There is another paper to come:  The relationships, or rather the lack of any, between sandstones found within the Stonehenge Landscape (Altar Stone and Lower Palaeozoic Sandstone) and the Devonian rocks of the Milford Haven area (Cosheston Group) area are being explored, in detail, in a companion paper. 

That will be designed to demonstrate that the Cosheston Beds link is now discredited, but  since the new paper will also be hindered and devalued by the lack of any new work on the Altar Stone itself, I don't expect much in the way of enlightenment.  The object of the exercise is clearly to establish the eastern exposures of the Senni Beds as the place where the Altar Stone came from, because that is what happens to suit the latest MPP hypothesis, but I fear that my scepticism about all of that is just as great today (after reading the new paper) as it was yesterday.














Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Waun Mawn - clutching at straws



The so-called slight mound on which the eastern recumbent tone is supposed to rest.  There are undulations -- up and down by around 10 cm -- but this degree of surface roughness is no greater than that seen right across the site.  The "slight mound" mentioned by Dyfed Archaeology was not beneath this stone at all, but beneath the western recumbent stone which we see in the distance. 



Below I have copied in -- without any editing at all -- a commentary on MPP's talk to the National Park Archaeology Day on 17th Nov, written by a member of the audience.  I'm very grateful to him.

--------------------------------------

MPP led us through a rapid list of works in North Pembrokeshire: the Roman villa, Banc Ddu, and Dryslwyn  (should that be Pensarn?), before ending with Waun Mawn in a thrilling performance.

The Waun Mawn segment started with a reference from the RCAHMW published in 1925, from a visit to the site on 18 June 1914. Within this is the sentence “ the surface of the common is much broken up by turf cutting, which has evidently obliterated traces of further stones of the circle, though it is probable that a further examination would reveal their positions.” It is curious that there is no apparent evidence of peat extraction over this area to be seen today. MPP didn’t dwell on this subject at the time, but drew attention to HH Thomas’s discoveries in the years afterwards and how we were lucky that they had not drawn the obvious conclusion that we have with this site.

The significance of the digging on the moor did not become apparent until the end, when there was a question about this disappearance of the peat across the site. MPP said this was due to the digging mentioned in the Royal commission. I not sure there is any evidence of peat digging on the ridge, it could be possible down in the col to the south. As a reader of this blog, any digging at Waun Mawn immediately calls to mind the quarrying to south and northwest of the site. I suspect any peat here would have been extremely thin. MPP pointed out that the name means ‘peat moor’. The site is however close to the summit of the ridge, Cnwc y Hydd, or the Stag’s Knoll. How much of a tradition of peat or turf cutting was there on Preseli?

Evidence for the stone circle is not strong. MPP marked up seven (I think) stone holes excavated. Two images of holes were shown, which were very convincing, although possibly small – it is difficult to tell in the lecture. We were shown a hole for the easternmost recumbent stone, which looked very dubious, but was obviously suffering from the effect of the weather. There may well be better evidence for this. I think this was the area of ground repaired by DAT in 2007.

One interesting facet is that all the material in the holes has been sieved to retain any stone chips to be examined for petrological evidence. We may have the start of a Waun Mawn debitage thesis to match the one from Stonehenge.

A range of large stone circles were outlined – Long Meg, Ring of Brodgar, Avebury, etc. Waun Mawn may be the third largest stone circle in the British Isles. While looking at these plans it was pointed out that some of them have gaps where stones should be, so why couldn’t Waun Mawn have equivalent gaps? I have gaps in my teeth, does that make me related to a certain film actress with gaps in her teeth?

A disclosure during the talk is that the easternmost recumbent stone sits on a small mound, possibly make it more distinctive. The final slide shown had Waun Mawn superimposed on a drawing of Stonehenge phase 1. This gave the tantalising suggestion that from the centre of the supposed circle to this mound is an alignment to the Midsummer sunrise as happens at Stonehenge. The conclusion was that more digging was needed next year.

There was no mention of where the stones went, or of other such similar matters. The audience were not looking for this aspect of the story. The site location slides happened to show Rhosyfelin, Carn Goedog and curiously, Cerrig y Marchogion along with the other sites, but they were only mentioned in passing, if at all. The synchronicity of events in radiocarbon years after 3000 BC was pointed out several times. There does seem to be a lot of activity around this time. It would be interesting to look at an analysis of radiocarbon dates of the region now that there are starting to be large numbers of them.

Top marks for an interesting, well presented talk that ran through all the various sites and episodes in North Pembrokeshire. it will be very interesting to look at the detail in the specialist studies as they come out.

----------------------------------------------

So yet another bravura performance from our old friend MPP, in front of an audience not particularly inclined to question anything.  One has to admire him for sheer brass.......... and so the hoax rolls on, getting ever more elaborate.

Just a few points:

1.  The comment from RCAHMW about peat cutting is, I think, nonsensical.  For a start, there are no traces of peat cutting here, because this is not a blanket bog area.  As NRW and the National Park have noted, this is an area of dry heath, and the soil horizon here is just the same as the soil horizon in many other parts of Preseli where the slope is quite steep and where there is good surface drainage.  I have published some images showing what it is like.  Secondly, if there had been peat cutting here (in other words, if the surface had been lowered), it would not have obliterated traces of any ancient stone circle -- it would have made them more obvious.  (There are some signs of peat cuttings on Preseli, especially near Foelcwmcerwyn -- and they are pretty obvious to anybody who walks over them.)  It may be that some of the quarrying traces on Waun Mawn and Cnwc yr Hydd were mistaken for peat cuttings, by people who did not examine them properly.

2.  Agree that the evidence of stone sockets is not very strong.  In fact, it's downright lousy.

3.  I imagine that as we speak, Rob Ixer will be ploughing through a bag of fragments collected from the site.  He will be searching desperately for fragments of foliated rhyolite and spotted dolerite -- both of which seemed to me -- on the basis of a superficial examination -- to be missing.

4.  The significance of gaps in a stone circle?  What is the point MPP is trying to make here?  Again, we see the complete commitment to the idea that there was a circle here -- but if truth be told, there is no evidence and he's just joking......

5.  Eastern recumbent stone on a small mound?  MPP has got this all wrong.  The recumbent stone recorded by Dyfed Archaeology as being on a slight mound was the western recumbent stone, not the eastern one. See this document:

https://archwilio.org.uk/arch/query/page.php?watprn=DAT1567

Groom,P , 2006 , Erosion Control Works at Waun Maun Standing Stones SAM Pe124

That mound is in any case too small to be noticed by anybody who does not have the eye of faith.    There is no discernible mound at the position of the eastern recumbent stone.

6.  Does the imaginary mound at Waun Mawn lie in exactly the compass position, from the proposed circle centre-point,  of the Midsummer sunrise on the Stonehenge horizon?  As we all know, the precise position of the midsummer sunrise (and any other sunrise, for that matter) varies from place to place, depending on the nature of the far horizon -- hills or plain, near or far........  To suggest that the builders of any stone circle at Waun Mawn knew the precise compass direction of the Stonehenge midsummer sunrise and then replicated it here by making a nice mound (which happens to be invisible today) strays so far into Robin Heath territory that I think we might be wise to forget about it.  The superimposing of one carefully drawn map on another carefully drawn map is as old as the hills, an old conjuring trick designed to cause gasps of delight in a gullible audience........

7.  More digging needed next year?  OMG -- will this nonsense never stop?

8.  Synchroneity of radiocarbon dates around 3,000 BC?  The coincidence of some dates around this time is completely meaningless without secure archaeological contexts, and these are completely lacking.  Also, we  have no control sites to work with -- so the density of dates at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, and their distribution through time, may be no different from the situation pertaining at innumerable other sites in a landscape that was occupied in Neolithic and Bronze Age times.

---------------

So there we are then.  We are not an inch further forward, except that the story has become ever more elaborate and has strayed even further into the world of fantasy.  As our intrepid reporter says, we look forward to the specialist studies more in hope than expectation.


Monday, 26 November 2018

Fluvioglacial gravels exposed at Picton Point

About a year ago I did a post on the glacial deposits around Picton Point, at the junction between the two Cleddau Rivers.  I was intrigued then and am even more intrigued now, having been there for another visit a couple of days ago.

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2017/11/picton-point-old-glacial-deposits.html

What was particularly interesting in 2017 was the high concentration of rounded and sub-rounded pebbles and cobbles on the foreshore to the west of the headland.  I assumed that there were fluvioglacial gravels in the neighbourhood, and this was confirmed by the geological map, as seen in the BGS online Geology Viewer.

The junction of the two Cleddau Rivers at Picton Point.  Key to the sediments:  blue = till; pink = fluvioglacial gravels; yellow = silt and clay on the modern intertidal mudflats.


Recently there has been a small landslip on the drift cliff about 50m west of the headland.  The cliff is about 15m high, and is much overgrown, but there is a new exposure that shows at least 2m of fluvioglacial gravels overlying brecciated or broken bedrock of shales and mudstones.  The lower metre or so of the gravels are iron-stained, but above that they appear fresh and uncemented.

 The lower part of the exposure.  At the base, unstained brecciated bedrock debris.  Above that, c 40 cm of iron-stained slope breccia grading up into c 1m of iron-stained fluvioglacial cobbles, 
sands and gravels.

The upper 1m of fluvioglacial materials, loose and unstained, incorporating a wide range of erratics.  Some of the cobbles are up to skull size.


From a cursory examination, the erratics incorporate a wide range of dolerites, rhyolites and volcanic rocks similar to those found on Ramsey Island  and the western end of the Dewisland Peninsula.  This matches observations made on the foreshore last year.

The deposits here may even be thicker than 2m -- the uppermost 5m of the cliff face has a gentle slope and is covered with thick vegetation.  The gravels are exposed at the surface in the fields inland of the cliff -- so the thickness may be c 7m.  Apart from the iron-staining at the base, these deposits look fresher and less weathered (one might even say less rotten) than the gravels at Llangolman:


I have on many occasions discussed the spreads of till and fluvioglacial materials here and there on the south Pembrokeshire land surface, well to the south of the putative Devensian ice limit.  Here they look remarkably fresh, and because they are uncemented in an environment in which there is much free iron and manganese in the groundwater, I am tempted to say that they are Devensian in age.  But since the gravels are in a sheet extending up to 25m above the river level, that would mean that glacier ice must have been present across the whole of the landscape hereabouts. That in turn means that the ice extended at least 10 km inland from the shores of St Bride's Bay.  And that in turn suggests that the other glacial and fluvioglacial deposits in South Pembrokeshire might also be Devensian rather than Anglian or Wolstonian in age.  Very confusing.........

One idea that has been discussed in the past is that the till deposits of South Pembrokeshire are of Anglian age, but that some of the fluvioglacial deposits were emplaced by heavily-charged meltwater rivers flowing southwards from the Devensian ice edge when ice wastage set in -- maybe after 20,000 years ago.  As noted elsewhere on this blog, it is reasonably proposed that  much of the water carried in the Gwaun-Jordanston  meltwater channel system was carried westwards and then southwards, flowing through the Trefgarn Gorge and then along the Western Cleddau valley past Haverfordwest and into the inner reaches of the Daugleddau.   There are large expanses of gravels in the valley, including some that look like gravel terraces which were partly removed as the river level dropped.  There is one such gravel terrace remnant at Cherry Grove in Haverfordwest, less than 100m from where I grew up.  

But could the Picton Point gravels belong to this same system of Devensian gravel terraces?  I doubt that very much.  For a start, there do not seem to be long strips of gravels parallel with the course of the present river.  Second, the gravels here seem to be at too high an altitude.  And thirdly, there are far too many large -- skull-sized -- cobbles and boulders in the gravels, had they originated up to 20 km away in the western foothills of Preseli.  Contained clasts of this size must indicate an origin not far away -- and that means ice in the neighbourhood, within a km or two.

I am very puzzled indeed.......










Thursday, 22 November 2018

Holgar and the bluestone voyage

The 14-man crew at work (12 paddlers) on their epic voyage......

The other evening I gave a talk at Verwig and was happy to meet Nick Newland, who was heavily involved in the building of the Holgar and in the voyage filmed in August 2012 by the Discovery TV Channel.  We had a chat about it, and Nick promised to send me the only material ever written about the boat and the voyage -- it was published in a boatbuilding magazine but has never, apparently, been put online.

I wrote a previous report here:
https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2012/10/latest-discovery-channel-spectacular.html

Much of the article is on the technical aspects of building Holgar, modelled quite closely on the Ferriby Bronze Age boat -- which must have been built at least a thousand years later than any boats that might have carried bluestones from Pembrokeshire to the other side of the Bristol Channel.

Although the boatbuilders tried to be as authentic as possible in the boatbuilding methods used for this "lashed planking" vessel, there were all sorts of ways in which modern methods were substituted for ancient ones.  For a start, the planks were smooth and the cuts were as accurate as modern methods would allow -- within a millimetre or so.  The main planks running the full length of the boat (42 feet long)  were not made with rough oak or yew, but with three laminations of Douglas fir glued with epoxy resin.  Laminated strips were also cut on jigs and then glued up and used for the main frames.  Plywood formers were used, and modern fixes had to be used to achieve the bow and stern curves.  The overlapping joints between touching planks were cut with modern saws.   All of the holes for the lashings that held the planks together were made with modern drills.  The lashings were made from artificial fibres.   Screws were used to hold things together while glueing was in process, and then removed when the glue had set. Caulking was done with a natural moss, but it was inserted with a modern "caulking iron."  Many other technical details are given in the article, but the conclusion is inescapable that Holgar was vastly more sophisticated and more seaworthy than anything that could have been made in the Bronze Age, let alone the Neolithic.........  And if anybody tries to tell you that the Holgar project demonstrated that a boat like this could have carried one bluestone or lots of them, it did nothing of the sort.  It simply showed that this particular "imitation" boat, built with the use of a wide range of modern materials and methods, was capable of carrying a single bluestone monolith weighing about a tonne.



The loading of the bluestone onto the boat was done quite smartly, involving a strange ramp-like structure made of logs lashed together and positioned between the tide marks at Gwbert in the Teifi Estuary.  The idea was that the stone would be put into position on a cradle on the beach at low water, lifted up with the aid of a "rolling log" on top of the structure, and then let down onto the bottom of the Holgar when it was manoevred into position on a rising tide.  Then the  ropes would all be released, and the boat with the stone on board would be allowed to float free.  In reality, on the day when the stone was supposed to be loaded, there was a Force 6 gale blowing, and a certain degree of technical interference was needed before the stone was properly positioned on the boat. The author of the article does not go into detail on that, but let's assume that the use of a JCB might have been deemed unsporting........



Then we come to the voyage, which was flagged up at the time as demonstrating that a bluestone could be carried by a Neolithic boat all the way from the North Pembrokeshire coast to Stonehenge.    In reality, the Pembrokeshire coast was not tackled at all.  The boat with its bluestone on board was taken by road to Loughor  and then paddled most of the way from there to Burry Port -- with safety boats in attendance and with a tow being provided when the 12 paddlers found that they could make no headway against the tide.  Then the boat went back onto the lorry again for the journey to Barry, where it restarted its voyage to Cardiff Bay.  There was a further weather delay, and the boat was lifted out of the water for assorted repairs and for the replacement of caulking. The voyage was then resumed, and the crossing was made to Portishead on the other side of the Severn Estuary. Once again there was a tow, across the central part of the channel, so as to avoid any interference with commercial shipping..........  The paddlers then took the boat to Avonmouth and up the river on a flood tide to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and on into Bristol Harbour.  The final leg of the journey took the boat upriver, struggling against a powerful river in flood, as far as Keynsham.  There the journey was abandoned, and the Holgar let the river carry it back to Bristol Harbour.

All in all, this was an interesting piece of experimental archaeology.  But there were so many modern technical fixes in the boatbuilding, and interventions (relating to weather and tides) during the "bluestone voyage" itself, that in my mind, just as in the "Millennium Stone" fiasco, the conclusion has to be that sea transport of large bluestones, even in the Bronze Age, would have been well nigh impossible.


Postscript

Here is a description of the building of the other "Ferriby replica" -- called "Morgawr" and built by a large team in Falmouth.  Here the methods used were more authentic, but not totally so -- and there were episodes during which the temptation to use modern technology proved too much............

This boat was rather leaky and cumbersome, by the sound of it.   I think the conclusion must be that the Ferriby boats were probably used for sculling about in shallow coastal waters and maybe on rivers and lakes and in marshy areas, where the boats could be grounded quite easily for baling out and for repairs.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1095-9270.12058

Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22chM3wYrk0








Monday, 19 November 2018

Waun Mawn is a Scheduled Ancient Monument




Photos from 2006 (DAT/ Cadw) and from 2018 showing the recumbent stone supposedly associated with a "slight earth mound."

Thanks to Dave for drawing this to my attention.

https://archwilio.org.uk/arch/query/page.php?watprn=DAT1567

Groom, P.  2006  Erosion Control Works at Waun Maun Standing Stones SAM Pe124

I had assumed that Waun Mawn was not a Scheduled Ancient Monument, but it appears that it is!  The number is SAM Pe124.  That means that Cadw must have had some involvement in the consent and monitoring process for the digs on the site in 2017 and 2018.  I shall try to find out what the consent process was (and is) and ask them what they thought of the state of the site when the diggers departed.......

I am also intrigued that some remedial works were undertaken by Cadw in conjunction with the National Park back in 2006 -- involving the laying down of black fabric in "erosion hollows" and infilling with stones and soil and turf taken from a little distance away.  The details of the work are given in the PDF mentioned above.  

Its clear from the Cadw documentation that  Dyfed Archaeological Trust was not very attracted by the idea that there are the remains of a stone circle here.  The only point of potential archaeological interest is the mention of  "a slight mound" in conjunction with their stone 3 (which I have labelled as "stone 1" in my earlier posts).

I have walked across this site many times without seeing any mound at all, and all we can see on close examination is a slight rise in the turf surface on one flank of the stone.  The surface is maybe 10 cm higher than the surface a couple of metres away, and this scale of variation or undulation is insignificant in an area where the ground surface undulates everywhere.  Where there are big erratics lying on the ground surface (or even fallen standing stones) the ground is protected to some degree from ongoing erosion, so I think this is not a matter worth commenting further on.  Neither Cadw nor Dyfed Archaeological Trust personnel thought the matter worth commenting on either.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Ceibwr and Witches Cauldron -- unconsolidated clifftop till

Dessicated Irish Sea till on the clifftop near Ceibwr.  This is a massive till with a clay-rich matrix -- presumably made from dredged sea floor deposits from Cardigan Bay.   Here the till is at least 2m thick.  

On the clifftops between Ceibwr and Witches Cauldron, on the coast between Newport and St Dogmaels, there are many exposures of till, sometimes with a gravelly matrix and sometimes clay-rich as in the classic Irish Sea till found at Gwbert and Newport.  These exposures are found at an altitude of 75m; further to the SW they occur on clifftops that are 150m high -- so we can be sure that the ice that came in from the north and north-west during the last glacial episode surmounted these cliffs along the whole of the North Pembrokeshire coastline.    We knew that already, but confirmations are always good........

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/search?q=+Ceibwr

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2015/12/ceibwr-three-meltwater-channel.html

Another exposure of matrix-supported till -- the matrix is mostly silt and sand, maybe derived from older sandloess and other coastal deposits.  The reddish iron-staining  may be post-depositional, or maybe inherited from the colour of the over-ridden deposits.    Above the till is a slope deposit  which is organic-rich and with occasional signs of stratification; some layers contain small fragments of shale breccia, and oitheres appear to be made of colluvium.

Stony till (lower 50 cms) made for the most part of brecciated bedrock fragments, overlain by c 50 cms of brecciated slope deposits made of local shales and sandstones.

Another patch of coarse till adjacent to the coast path.  Beneath the till there are slope deposits that appear to have been churned in a permafrost environment.

A patch of stony till packed with erratics, in an inaccessible clifftop location near Witches Cauldron.  Here the till is c 1m thick.

The stratigraphic relationships between the till and other deposits are exactly the same as in other North Pembrokeshire exposures.  There are brecciated slope deposits (head) beneath the till in places, where the coastal slope is adequate for the downslope mobilisation of weathered and frost-shattered bedrock.  There are thin brecciated materials above the till as well, grading upwards in colluvium, sandloess and modern soil.

There is no reason to doubt that all of these deposits date from the Devensian glacial episode and from the Holocene.

However, there are also older materials to be found hereabouts, as I shall explain in another post.







Monday, 12 November 2018

The bluestone quarries -- the best hoax since Piltdown Man?

Rhosyfelin.  Does anybody else see a loading platform and a revetment here?  No?  Neither do I.


Carn Goedog.  Does anybody else see a stone-filled ditch, a platform and a pillar extraction point when they look closely?  No?  Neither do I.

Rhosyfelin.  Does anybody else see the "exact extraction point" from which a bluestone monolith pillar has been extracted?  No?  Neither do I.

Carn Goedog.  Does anybody else see evidence of a Neolithic quarry from which bluestone monoliths have been extracted?  No?  Neither do I.


Rhosyfelin.  Does anybody else see a quarrying forecourt and working surface here?  
No?  Neither do I.

((I have another 20 or 30 photos showing natural features interpreted as having "engineering significance"  -- you'll find them in other posts on this blog.   I have resisted the temptation to put them all in here, since you would simply get bored..........))

The Art of the Scientific Hoax

I have done various posts on hoaxes before, including the following:

https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-bluestone-quarries-great.html

Anyway, having observed the antics of various archaeologists (and geologists) over the last eight years, I am now completely convinced that the claimed “discovery” of Neolithic bluestone quarries in Wales is the most imaginative and professional hoax since Charles Dawson “discovered” Piltdown Man in 1912. (1)  What is possibly most impressive about it is that it has been built up systematically now over a period of eight years without any of the conspirators spilling the beans.........

Charles Dawson (sitting) at the site of his "earth-shattering" discovery........


It's a pity that scientific hoaxes have gone out of fashion, since they cause much embarrassment to the experts who are fooled by them and much innocent amusement for everybody else. Mind you, they don't do much for the reputations of the perpetrators -- although, if you are lucky, like Charles Dawson, you might be dead before you get rumbled.

As followers of this blog will know, year after year I have conducted — in all seriousness — a forensic examination of all of the evidence placed into the public domain by the archaeologists who claim that there are bluestone monolith quarries at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog in the Preseli uplands of Pembrokeshire; and time and again I find that the evidence just does not withstand even superficial scrutiny (2). So I'm sure that the archaeologists, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of University College London, have pulled a fast one and have joyfully fooled the media, the public and a large part of the archaeological establishment.

For a scientific hoax to be successful, it requires three preconditions:

1. A gullible public predisposed to believe in “new discoveries” — in this case, stories about the great skills of our prehistoric ancestors and the meaning of Stonehenge.

2. A colourful and swashbuckling lead character who has a respectable past and a strong media presence.

3. A body of “evidence” cited in support of the hoax which cannot be checked or replicated by anybody else.

All three preconditions are amply fulfilled in this case. In these days of alternative facts and false news, almost anything will grab the attention of the public.  The mere use of the word "Stonehenge" in a press release guarantees wide media coverage.  MPP is a popular figure who has been called the “Indiana Jones” of British archaeology, with a reputation for an endless stream of controversial theories. As far as I am aware, there was no independent scrutiny or peer review of the dig sites at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog while MPP and his team were at work between 2011 and 2016.   And the excavations have now been filled in, so that nobody can go back to them to check the cited “evidence”.  Wonderful!  That's a perfect scenario for a successful hoax……….

There has been extensive media coverage of the “bluestone quarries” since 2011, and this has ensured a considerable flow of research funding to finance eight digging seasons at the “quarrying” sites and elsewhere, as the archaeologists claim to be hunting for “proto-Stonehenge” in the North Pembrokeshire landscape.  Interestingly enough, the breathless and uncritical coverage has come not just in the tabloid press but also in popular archaeological and historical magazines.  Even science journals which -- presumably -- have some respect for the scientific method, have been swept along in the torrent of fake news coming from the digging team and their university press offices.

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/stonehenge-bluestone-quarries-confirmed-140-miles-away-in-wales/
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/06/05/original-stonehenge-was-dismantled-in-wales-and-moved-to-wiltshi/
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6018799/Ancient-WELSHMEN-helped-build-Stonehenge-5-000-years-ago-using-vast-bluestones.html
https://www.archaeology.org/issues/208-1603/trenches/4162-trenches-wales-stonehenge-bluestones
https://www.pourlascience.fr/sd/archeologie/lorigine-de-certaines-pierres-de-stonehenge-identifiee-au-pays-de-galle-12225.php

But clues as to what was going on were picked up at an early stage. The archaeologists who started digging at Rhosyfelin in 2011 announced before they broke the turf that they were investigating a quarry — which raised a few eyebrows. (Scientists do not normally announce their results before their research has started…..) At all stages of the dig, when I examined the open excavations in the company of other geologists and geomorphologists, we became more and more certain that all of the claimed “quarrying” or engineering features were entirely natural. Three of us published two peer-reviewed papers in 2015 containing our findings, but the archaeologists refused to acknowledge the existence of the papers, and even now, three years later, they will not admit that there is a dispute going on (3).  This is not just bad manners; it is scientific malpractice.

It gets worse.  After eight years of digging, not a single field report has been published. There have only been two reviewed journal articles, the first described by a senior academic as “one of the worst papers I have ever read” and the second one equally suspect (4).  The radiocarbon dating evidence from the two excavation sites does nothing to support the idea of quarrying, and has indeed been claimed to comprehensively falsify the quarrying hypothesis (5). No earth scientists have been systematically involved on-site in the annual excavations, which means that no serious questions have been asked when features have been interpreted as man-made. There have been no “control digs” at similar sites which migh demonstrate that the “quarrying" features are distinct or unique. And finally, not one of the many sites examined thus far for traces of “proto-Stonehenge” has proved to have anything to do with the iconic monument on Salisbury Plain (6). At every setback, the archaeologists have refused to back off,  have simply made their story more elaborate, and announced their next anticipated big discovery………..

So do the archaeologists still have any credibility? No.  Has the hoax finally run out of steam? Yes.

Here is a suggestion to the six senior members of the “bluestone quarries” project.  You've been rumbled.  Come clean, and admit that you have been enjoying a jolly prank with a serious intent in the background — namely to demonstrate how easy it is to promote a hypothesis that is underpinned by zero evidence.  Job done.  You should now, with smiles on your faces,  remind the public and the media that they should not necessarily believe things simply because they are repeated over and again, with apparent conviction, by senior academics.

POSTSCRIPT

Having thought more about this, I'll add a fourth precondition needed for a successful scientific hoax:

4. The ability to suppress or "drown out" anything inconvenient that might show up the hoax for what it is.

This can be achieved by doing deals with big business or grant-giving bodies which see that there would be large negative impacts for them should the hoax be exposed.  They will help you to promote the hoax and to suppress independent scientific research and conclusions.  You can also "drown out" inconvenient expressions of concern by using your contacts to repeat the hoax in print as often as possible and to develop it bit by bit in a way that can be represented as "hypothesis confirmation."   And of course you can vilify your opponents behind the scenes and use your establishment contacts to ensure that anything they write has little chance of being published.   This is all very jolly as long as you are not concerned about scientific ethics.



NOTES

(1)
 Charles Dawson’s “Piltdown Man” hoax, perpetrated in 1912, is one of the most famous scientific hoaxes of all time. Dawson (with the aid of other persons unknown) fabricated bits of two human skulls and claimed that he had discovered, near the village of Piltdown, the “missing link” between apes and human beings. There were concerns about his “discoveries” but the hoax was not proven until 1953, many years after Dawson’s death in 1916.

(2)
https://www.academia.edu/19788792/Quaternary_Events_at_Craig_Rhosyfelin_Pembrokeshire

https://www.academia.edu/19788912/Observations_on_the_supposed_Neolithic_Bluestone_Quarry_at_Craig_Rhosyfelin_Pembrokeshire

“The Stonehenge Bluestones”, 2018, Greencroft Books, 256 pp. ISBN: 978-0905559-94-0
http://www.brianjohn.co.uk/the-new-book.html

(3)
Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C. and Welham, K., 2017. The origins of Stonehenge: on the track of the bluestones. Archaeology International, 20, pp.52–57. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ai.353
(4)
 Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith (2015). Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge. Antiquity, 89 (348) (Dec 2015), pp 1331-1352.

"Craig Rhos-y-felin: a Welsh bluestone megalith quarry for Stonehenge", by Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Ellen Simmons, Martin Smith
Antiquity, Volume 89, Issue 348, December 2015
https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/421631/1/Megalith_quarries_Antiquity_REVISED.pdf

(5)

(6)





Friday, 9 November 2018

CA continues its quaint quarrying promotion campaign

The so-called bluestone quarries "in focus",  according to Current Archaeology.  I thought that magnifying glasses were supposed to be used for close scrutiny, and for bringing clarity?  Instead, what we get is sychophantic and shallow journalism, no scrutiny, and most definitely no enlightenment......


Thanks to Tony and David for drawing my attention to this one:

"Moving Monoliths: new revelations from the Preseli bluestone quarries". Current Archaeology, No 345, Dec 2018, pp 52 -- 55.

New?  This is all very surprising, since there has been no new work at either Carn Goedog or Rhosyfelin, and the last publication to mention the sites was almost a year ago:

Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C. and Welham, K., 2017. The origins of Stonehenge: on the track of the bluestones. Archaeology International, 20, pp.52–57. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ai.353
https://brian-mountainman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/parker-pearson-et-al-on-carn-goedog.html

It is a sad state of affairs when a journal insists on flagging up "new revelations" when there is really nothing of any interest out there. Having now had a chance of looking at the article, it's clear that whoever wrote it has been conned.  He or she simply regurgitates material that is at least three years old, which has no more substance to it now than it did in 2015.  The author refers to all sorts of things that are supposedly "remarkable", including the "remarkable precision" of the Bevins / Ixer provenancing of individual stones to "specific rock faces."   That is wrong, as the author must know if he/she had bothered to read the literature properly. Then there is reference to "clear traces of Neolithic quarrying" -- with no mention of the fact that this is hotly disputed, with others (including myself) seeing no such traces.  The radiocarbon dating evidence, which by any independent analysis falsifies the quarrying hypothesis at Rhosyfelin, is portrayed as giving precise dates for quarrying activity.  "New revelations about how the stones were extracted and transported from the quarry sites are still emerging....."  Sorry, but there are no new revelations.  False news and sloppy journalism.

On and on it goes, with the author faithfully repeating whatever he / she has been told by MPP and his team.  It's all here -- the usual stuff about platforms, loading bays, trackways, dry stone walls and so forth........  As I have said before on this blog, this sort of stuff is typical of MPP and his team; we --  the gullible readers -- have no opportunity to see measured sections or site descriptions or to scrutinise this old-fashioned thing called  EVIDENCE.  What we get instead is a string of unsupported assertions and fantasies.  As I have said before, when I examined both of these sites I could see no evidence in support of any of these features, and had to conclude that they were all products of a desperate hunt for something of significance.  We don't even get to see the stratigraphic context of a "new" radiocarbon dated sample.  We are just expected to accept that it is important.

What is most entertaining in this article is the use of several photographs from the two digs at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog, purporting to demonstrate the existence of the "engineering features" which are lovingly referred to in the captions.  That was not a smart idea.  I defy any reader of the magazine to say, with hand on heart, that they can see anything in the images other than a jumble of rocks and sediments, arranged by nature without any human intervention at all.

Much is made of the discovery of something that might be a Neolithic end-scraper --  but the supposition that this might have had something to do with quarrying is nonsensical.  The reference to "a large, level platform" at Carn Goedog is frankly ridiculous -- on the photos it is neither large nor level, and when I examined in it reality, when the excavation pit was still open, I simply saw a jumble of large rocks with many different sloping surfaces which could never have facilitated the sliding and removal of pillars or anything else.

The latter part of the article consists of a string of yet more speculations and fantasies, bringing in proto-Stonehenge and Bluestonehenge for good measure.  Those are best forgotten about -- the evidence -- such as it is -- is years out of date.  On the final page of the article, there is a summary of what MPP et al wrote in the 2017 article:

Just beyond the edge of the platform we found an 11 m-long, 3 m-wide ditch. Dug to a depth of 0.4 m, its upcast was deposited on the side away from the outcrop and the ditch was then filled with large stones, creating a permanent barrier across which no monolith could be transported. The latest radiocarbon date on charcoal from this ditch indicates that it was filled-in around or after 3020–2880 BC. ..................      In summary, Carn Goedog’s main period of monolith extraction was slightly later than at Craig Rhos-y-felin, in the two or three centuries before 3000 BC. The same method was used of lowering monoliths onto a level platform, in this case built largely of large flat slabs with sediment in between them, sitting on top of the Neolithic ground surface. Unlike Craig Rhos-y-felin, no hollow way was formed by the hauling-away of monoliths, presumably because the hard ground and tough grass cover on this elevated hillside were not eroded by moving stones over the surface. The construction of a stone-filled ditch (the date of which coincides with Stage 1 at Stonehenge) as a barrier to cut off access to bluestone pillars from the outcrop, is intriguing. It may have served to prevent removal of any more of these important stones.


It's saddening to see that yet again CA is allowing itself to be a free promotional vehicle for something that just does not make any sense.  Just think about it for a moment -- why on earth would the  Carn Goedog quarrymen (just for fun, let's assume they actually existed) want to dig an 11m long ditch and fill it with big stones, just to stop people taking any more monoliths away from Carn Goedog?  When I looked, I saw no ditch, no spoil heap and no "fill" of large stones.  We are just told that they existed, and are expected to believe.  There is no evidence that the spotted dolerite from here (or anywhere else) was revered or special in any way, and if anybody had wanted to collect spotted dolerite monoliths they could have taken them from anywhere on other parts of the tor, or from the abundant assemblage of elongated erratic stones littering the local landscape.  This really is the storytelling obsession take to the extremes of absurdity.

I have seen a number of "junk science" articles in Current Archaeology before -- but I think this one really does take the biscuit.

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NOTE

Given the fact that Mike Parker Pearson announced, about a year ago, that it was his intention to discover a giant stone circle -- proto-Stonehenge -- at Waun Mawn in September 2018, I am 100% convinced that the editor of CA set aside space in the December 2018 issue of the mag for a huge "breaking news" article.  When it transpired in September that there was nothing of any great importance at Waun Mawn, the editor was forced to fill the vacuum with this hotch-potch of old news, dressed up as something new and exciting.  Others might agree with me that it is more exciting to sit in front of a blank wall, watching paint as it dries......

Confucius he say:  be careful what you wish for.