The authors examine in some detail the complex interactions between senior academics and researchers and the media, on which they are increasingly dependent for the "marketing" of their ideas and the promotion of their careers. For many years I have argued that the relationship is unhealthy and indeed dangerous, since university press offices always try to "sex up" press releases about new research, and academics themselves are tempted to place greater stress on column inches than on academic rigour and scientific integrity.
This article examines the interpretation and public presentation of a particular view of the supposedly ‘national’ role of monuments in a geographically restricted part of southern England – what we have termed the British late Neolithic mythos: that monuments in the Stonehenge area had a ‘national’, ‘unifying’ role for ‘Britain’ at a time when ‘Britain’ had a ‘unified culture’ and was isolated from continental Europe, and that as part of that process, animals for feasting were transported from as far as ‘Scotland’. We explore the trajectory of interpretative inflation, ‘possible’ > ‘probable’ > ‘certain’ > ‘sensational’ through academic and popular accounts, media releases, social media, newspaper articles, TV programmes, Research Excellence Framework impact reports, and the publications of the Arts & Humanities Research Council. We critically examine the evidence claimed to underpin this far-reaching re-interpretation of British prehistory. We examine the extent to which a priori assumptions can shape the interpretation of complex datasets and how unacknowledged nationalist and neo-colonialist thinking underpin its interpretation. We consider the way in which researchers have linked their work with contemporary politics – Brexit, a ‘united Britain’ isolated from Europe, perhaps to demonstrate ‘relevance, ‘impact’ and ‘reach’ to funding bodies. We conclude with some suggestions on ways forward including further research, and mitigating strategies.
As far as I can see, the only reference in this new paper to the bluestone controversy is in this statement:
Critically examining these data in this way, we must ask again why the authors of the books and articles referenced have chosen to emphasise more distant areas as potential, likely or even certain sources for these animals, especially given the existing links with Wales, demonstrated by the origin of the Stonehenge bluestones in the Preseli Hills (e.g. Darvill and Wainwright 2014; Parker Pearson et al. 2015).
What the authors are suggesting here is that there is no need to postulate long-distance travel of people, pigs and teeth from northern Scotland to the Stonehenge area when it is much more likely that areas much closer to hand (eg Preseli) will fit the bill. Well, yes and no. There is the "bluestone link". But you still need evidence of some cultural or ethnic link between Preseli and Stonehenge, and in spite of what Darvill, Wainwright and Parker Pearson may have claimed in the past, the evidence is just not there. The quarrying hypothesis is yet another example of something dug up to demonstrate a fanciful supposition which has been around for almost a century, initiated by HH Thomas.