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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Another Rhosyfelin sceptic

I had a pleasant ramble around Rhosfelin today, in the expert company of geologist Dr Richard Thomas.  He's a specialist in sedimentary rocks, and we have mentioned him before in connection with the Altar Stone and the Senni Beds.  Anyway, he was keen to take a look at the "disputed quarry", and I gave him a tour of the site.  We looked at the features referred to by the archaeologists and by Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer as the quarry face, the bluestone extraction point, the recumbent orthostat, the railway tracks, the loading platform, the slab broken by stone dragging, and the striations or grooves close to the downslope tip of the big stone.  They are listed in a number of publications as "engineering features"....

I have permission from Richard to say that he sees no reason to believe any of this quarrying business, and that all the features examined today are entirely natural -- typical of rockfall situations from all over the world.  He also expressed the view that the rhyolite at Rhosyfelin is so flaky and heavily fractured that it can have had no value whatsoever in the Neolithic or the Bronze Age either for local standing stone settings or for long-distance transport.  He agreed with me that this is a perfect site for intermittent use by hunting parties over a long period of time, and he thought it quite possible that hunters might have visited the site frequently for collecting disposable blades (sharp-edged small fragments of rhyolite) or scrapers used for butchering animal carcasses or for cutting fibrous plants etc.  I hope Richard will put his thoughts into writing before too long.

I also discussed with Richard the claim by Ixer and Bevins that they have provenanced some of the Stonehenge rhyolite fragments to "within a few square metres" of their sampling point No 8.  He agreed with me that whichever foliated layer was sampled, that layer, with an identical or near-identical fabric, must also be outcropping at multiple other locations across a wide swathe of countryside.  So the claim of "pin-point provenacing" is more than a little difficult to accept.

This is all par for the course -- of all the geologists and geomorphologists who have visited the site in my company, not one of them thinks that there are any physical traces that can be attributed to quarrying. Drs Ixer and Bevins might be feeling more than a little isolated.......  as I have said somewhere else, if you are an earth scientist who gets into bed with an archaeologist, you need to ensure that you are in charge of what happens next.

1 comment:

TonyH said...

Mike Pitts' "British Archaeology" article, Stonehenge Without Borders, gives a nod (as good as a wink....... and, sadly, just as short) to the prosaic, non - romantic, non - escapist Geomorphologist view on the so - called Rhosyfelin quarry.

"Could it [i.e. the Aubrey Hole circle} even be contemporary with the - ADMITTEDLY CONTROVERSIAL - indications of quarrying at a known Stonehenge bluestone outcrop..."

Surely this is the first mumbled acknowledgement of the contra - arguments about the "quarrying" by ANY ARCHAEOLOGIST, alive or living, persuaded by the All Powerful, All Ruling Hypothesis?? It's like a siting of the Loch Ness Monster.