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Friday, 6 April 2018

Waun Mawn and the curse of Stonehenge


The 2017 preliminary digs that took place in September last year, involving some rather heavy machinery in a rather vulnerable environment.  They left quite a mess behind when they left, too........

I have a rather bad feeling about this. In the new edition of the "Coast to Coast" newspaper put out by the National Park Authority, I see that Prof MPP is down for TWO evening talks at Castell Henllys, on 19th and 20th September, with the same title:  "From Brynberian to Stonehenge: new discoveries in North Pembrokeshire."  So the NPA has decided that so many people are going to turn up that they won't be able to fit them all in on a single evening.  That means that NPA staff -- and the good professor himself -- are already thinking in banner headline terms about something seriously spectacular.  Proto-Stonehenge, here we come.......and they haven't even done any work at Waun Mawn yet.  As they say, get your conclusions sorted out first, and then go out and get the evidence.

This of course all fits with what MPP apparently said in Amsterdam at the beginning of last month about a "dismantled stone circle" at Waun Mawn.  He also referred to "a full circle of emptied stone sockets" although the work thus far (the preliminary digs) has just concentrated on 45 degrees or so of the full 360 degrees of the putative circle.  I'm not sure whether he talked about Stonehenge in Amsterdam, but we can reasonably assume that he did!  And if he is talking -- twice -- about Brynberian to Stonehenge" there is no doubt what the theme of the moment really is.

So the curse of Stonehenge rests upon everything.  Why do we have this obsession with interpreting -- or trying to interpret -- everything connected with the Neolithic or the Bronze Age in Pembrokeshire with Stonehenge, just because some of the stones at Stonehenge have come from North Pembrokeshire? The Stonehenge magnifying glass, with its rose-tinted lense, is brought into use every time something interesting pops up -- and then, over and again, it has to be put away again, as has happened at Castell Mawr, Velindre Farchog,  Pensarn,  Bayvil and maybe other places as well.  This is the way MPP and his team work -- no doubt much to the embarrassment of Coflein, Cadw, and the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, who clearly think that North Pembrokeshire's archaeology is quite interesting enough as it is.........

So if there is a ruinous stone circle at Waun Mawn, and if it really did have a diameter of about 140m, that would be interesting and indeed rather splendid, but what on earth does it have to do with Stonehenge?  The digging team in September will be preoccupied not with the inherent interest of the site and its significance for local archaeology, but with the finding of any little clue that might allow a spurious connection with Stonehenge to be established -- all in pursuit of the conformation of the latest ruling hypothesis.  So if some radiocarbon dates are obtained from organic materials in stone sockets, whatever they may be they will be compared with the dates from Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog and invested with significance.  If some stone chips are found they will be taken as signs that the standing stones were "desirable" and worth shaping and carting off to Stonehenge.  If sockets are found on the circumference of the circle, with no apparent related stones in the vicinity, that will immediately be taken as a sign that the monoliths have been carted off to Stonehenge, rather than being re-used locally, maybe due to a change in the strategy of local stone usage.  And if sockets are found on the circumference, they will immediately be taken as significant, without any control digs designed to establish whether sockets are dotted about all over the landscape.

I'm still intrigued by this circle, parly because it is not located on flattish land.  It is on the nose of a spur, with a fall in the land surface from 1030 ft at the upper end and down to about 975 ft at the lower end -- that's a drop of 55ft.  I am not at all sure of intervisibility -- I don't think the stones at the bottom end would have been visible from the top end, or vice versa.  In that case, it would have been a useless stone circle from the point of view of rituals or anything else.  Something started but then abandoned?  This would not be unique in North Pembrokeshire -- on the northern flank of Carn Ingli there is a very strange curved embankment (Bronze Age?  Iron Age?), in an area of abundant prehistoric traces, which simply runs for a short distance and then disappears.  Maybe we have something similar at Waun Mawn.  We shall see.


1 comment:

TonyH said...

Stonehenge itself is placed upon sloping ground, shock horror revelation.