1. presentation of data with relatively restrained preliminary interpretation in the first part of the original academic paper;
2. less tentatively, in the later part of the paper (and in the Abstract) more far- reaching interpretation, with less support offered;
3. even more ambitious claims in media releases prepared by the universities, incorporating direct quotations from the authors;
4. creation of attention-grabbing headlines and soundbites in the media by journalists working from the press releases, further amplified through interviews with the lead authors, and affected by the media outlet’s own political angle.
With regard to the “site description”, these are some of the fundamental errors:
Some of the bluestones of Stonehenge were quarried here. There is no evidence to support this statement. Some small fragments of foliated rhyolite found in the soil at Stonehenge appear to have come from the Rhosyfelin area — that’s the best that can be said. They might have come from destroyed cutting or slicing tools. The use of the word “quarried” is entirely inappropriate.
First used for a local monument in about 3400 BC, they were moved to Salisbury Plain 500 years later where they stood in various settings before the giant inverted ‘U-shaped’ stones joined them in 2500 BC. There is no evidence for there ever being a “local monument” or photo-Stonehenge in the local area around 3400 BC or at any other date. That is a piece of unsupported speculation from Mike Parker-Pearson. There is no evidence that the stones were moved to Salisbury Plain by human agency c 2900 BC or at any other time. The smaller bluestones at Stonehenge were indeed moved about and used in various settings, but there is no proof that the sarsens were not used on the site until later. The expression “giant inverted U-shaped stones” is really rather strange — each of the trilithons consists of two uprights and a capstone.
This makes Stonehenge a truly Welsh site….. This is nonsense.
…..something supported by the Boscombe Bowmen: seven individuals re-buried in a mass grave near Stonehenge around 2300 BC. All were seemingly born and raised in south-west Wales, travelling to Wessex during their lifetime. This is wild speculation — I know of no evidence linking the Boscombe Bowmen to SW Wales. According to all the published analytical data, they are just as likely to have come from elsewhere in South Wales, Devon, Cornwall, or the Lake District or any other area of ancient rocks.
This connection and journeys from the west are recalled in folk legend - Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100-1155) retells the ancient belief that Merlin brought Stonehenge from Ireland. The idea that Geoffrey of Monmouth was repeating some ancient “folk memory” has been around for a long time! But we now know that he invented many of his stories with political and PR considerations in mind — and he was indeed in the business of promoting Wales and its heroes. He was a fiction writer, and not an historian, and he invented the “ancient belief” himself.
The rock face retains the natural pillar formations which the stone-cutters exploited. This is incorrect. On the rock face there are many intersecting fractures, which explains why the most predominant shapes in the slope accumulations are slabs and blocks rather than elongated pillars. There were no “stone-cutters” at Rhosyfelin, in spite of what Mike Parker-Pearson may tell you. In the Neolithic there was no method which allowed the cutting of stone.
You can enjoy a picnic where they camped 5400 years ago. This at least is partly true! Radiocarbon dates show that there is a long history of intermittent occupation by hunting and gathering parties at Rhosyfelin, between the Mesolithic and the Middle Ages. None of the dates coincides with a supposed "quarrying phase".
When all of this was pointed out to Bronwen Price and Literature Wales, they refused point blank to re-write this entry to more accurately represent the scientific consensus. Stubborn mules and ostriches with heads in sand come to mind.
I have been involved in a jolly spat on a Facebook group page, in which I pointed out that certain contributors who were regurgitating the media praise for the latest Altar Stone paper should really read the paper rather than Daily Mail and Times headlines. I said that what we were seeing, in the media coverage of that paper, was classic interpretative inflation, since the paper was actually a geology paper with no archaeology in it whatsoever. Some of the comments were classic ones, submitted by people who were furious that I should seek to undermine the ignorance of a lifetime; they feel, as do many other gullible people, that what eminent archaeology professors say is bound to be correct. All good fun, but the most interesting thing was that somebody mistakenly used the term "interpretative INFLAMMATION." I really like that. Inflammation, of course, means setting something on fire, or in a medical context a bodily reaction to harmful stimuli. Spot on!