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Monday, 2 November 2020

Waun Mawn and Proto-Stonehenge -- all fantasy, no facts


As readers will known, I have been keeping an eye on Waun Mawn for at least ten years now, and have been greatly intrigued by the research up there on the common undertaken by Mike Parker Pearson and his team, culminating in digs in 2017 and 2018.  They have found nothing of any importance, and have published no proper research papers.  In the two brief informal reports that have been published in association with grant applications, I have been intrigued by the manner in which the researchers appear to be completely unaware of both the geological context and the archaeological context.  Since context is everything, this is rather a serious matter.  As if this is not enough, the descriptions of the field research are so full of unsupported assertions that it is impossible to subject the "evidence" to proper scrutiny or to unravel the facts from the fantasies.  Maybe some proper papers will appear in due course in the archaeological journals, but I do not hold out any hope that they will be any more reliable or convincing than the articles relating to Craig Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog.



 Waun Mawn on the map of "great stone circles" published by Parker Pearson et al in the Report of the 2018 digging season.  It is not even shown to be a stone circle, let alone a great one.  The only one in Wales?  Fact, or just another fantasy?

The two Waun Mawn Reports are here, if you want to see what I am talking about and want to judge for yourselves:

The Welsh origins of Stonehenge [RFF-2017-23]
2017 Report from Principal Investigator: Michael Parker Pearson
https://www.rfamfound1.org/proj23find.html

Waun Mawn stone circle: the Welsh origins of Stonehenge
Interim report of the 2018 season
Mike Parker Pearson, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham, Dave Shaw, Ellen Simmons and Adam Stanford
Bluestone Brewing, May 2019, 15 pp
https://www.bluestonebrewing.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Waun-Mawn-2018-interim-report-lite.pdf


You may also care to take a look at this as an example of how a Stonehenge obsession can lead to field study bias in three sites which are, by any normal measure, not really very interesting at all:

Parker Pearson, M., Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer, Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham. 2019. Long-distance landscapes: from quarries to monument at Stonehenge. Megaliths and Geology, Boaventura, Mataloto & Pereira, eds. (2019). pp. 183-200.
https://www.academia.edu/44065619/Long_distance_landscapes_from_quarries_to_monument_at_Stonehenge?auto=download&email_work_card=download-paper

The "bluestone sources" map from the 2018 Report.  How not to use a map.  In the absence of a proper geological map, the placing of the three red dots involves extraordinary selectivity and bias.  There is NOTHING to connect any of these sites with Waun Mawn.

Anyway, I have now tried to pull things together in a short article that does attempt to set things into a context, alongside a short critique of the evidence extracted from the 2017 and 2018 digs.  It's been published as a "working paper" (which means that it has not been peer reviewed) on Researchgate.  Here is the link:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345177590_Waun_Mawn_and_the_search_for_Proto-_Stonehenge
DOI:   10.13140/RG.2.2.20975.05288

 Peer review is now welcomed.  I will be happy to publish comments on this blog, and will amend or correct the Researchgate article as may be appropriate in the light of what comes up.  Democratic peer review, beyond the reach of manipulative and biased editors, is something that I find quite refreshing on the Researchgate platform........

Anyway, in my book there is just not enough evidence to show that there ever was a complete -- or even partial or unfinished -- stone circle here.  There is no evidence from Waun Mawn or anywhere else that foliated rhyolite or spotted dolerite was considered special or revered enough to be used in megalithic monuments in the neighbourhood.  There are no demonstrable geological or archaeological links between Carn Goedog, Cerrigmarchogion or Craig Rhosyfelin and Waun Mawn. The archaeologists have homed in on a relatively insignificant archaeological feature in the landscape and have ignored -- or not even noticed -- many other features that are far more significant.  There is no basis for claiming that this was one of the great centres of Neolithic or Bronze Age culture in the British Isles.  There is nothing at all at Waun Mawn to suggest any link with Stonehenge.

But Waun Mawn is a very pleasant spot indeed for a picnic on a nice summer day.........

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PS.  There was a confirmation from Toby Driver (on the Coflein web site) last year that 39 radiocarbon dates have been done on small carbonized fragments of oak and hazel, which seem to have been the only organic remains discovered in the digs.  OS dating has been done on some of the sediments in the hollows interpreted as sockets.  All the dates will apparently be reported in an article (presumably in the pipeline) for "Antiquity" journal.



12 comments:

TONY HINCHLIFFE said...

Having just done a bit of research, I have discovered that the UCL Institute of Archaeology course, "Age of Stonehenge", usually led by MPP, is NOT running in 2020 - 21. I suppose this may be because Mike is indisposed. I HAVE found the pdf giving the course's 2019 subject contents, week by week.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I hadn't realised that he was ill -- I know he was due to have a hip operation last yearm which was why the proposed 2019 digging season in N Pembs was abandoned. He is still due to give a presentation to the NPA Archaeology Day next Saturday -- but I suppose it might be pre=-recorded:

Here is what the NPA says in ins promo blurb:

Talk 4: Waun Mawn: a former stone circle near the bluestone quarries for Stonehenge by Prof. Mike Parker Pearson (in English).

In 2017 and 2018 the Stones of Stonehenge Project, led by researchers from University College London and the universities of Southampton, Bournemouth and the Highlands & Islands, carried out excavations at Waun Mawn in North Pembrokeshire to discover if the four monoliths there are all that is left of a prehistoric stone circle. These four monoliths – three of them recumbent and one still standing – form an arc which previous archaeologists have suspected may be remains of a circle. Our excavations discovered a further six empty sockets around the perimeter, revealing that this stone circle was originally 110m in diameter. This makes it one of the largest stone circles in Britain and the same diameter as the ditch around Stonehenge. The team have also been able to establish its age by radiocarbon dating and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) profiling and dating.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Re the dating work, Toby Driver put an entry on Coflein in 2019: "...Dating of Waun Mawn is in progress. The only carbonised materials recovered from the fills of the stone sockets were tiny pieces of wood charcoal, mostly of oak and hazel. Some of these are large enough for radiocarbon-dating. The sediments filling the stone sockets are also being dated by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL)." Funding was provided for 14 radiocarbon dates. All will be revealed in a new "Antiquity" paper, by the sound of it ....... that will bring great joy to all of us!

TONY HINCHLIFFE said...

I did watch yet another Stonehenge TV epic recently, fronted by ex - legal eagle turned BBC entertainments guy Clive Anderson. Also Mary - Jane Ochota.

Title is Mystic Britain: Secrets of Stonehenge. I still haven't watched it all yet. MPP did feature, he was noticeably less then able - bodied with his walking. Must have been an old recorded programme, possibly Sept 2019 or earlier.

HERE are the details of the LAST scheduled "AGE OF STONEHENGE" UCL Course, on a pdf:-


https://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/sites/archaeology/sites/archaeology/files/arcl0078_age_stonehenge_handbook_2019-2020pdf

N.B. Just realised I may have inadvertently put one too many of "archaeology/sites" in there, above, folks!

BRIAN JOHN said...

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/sites/archaeology/files/arcl0078_age_stonehenge_handbook_2019-2020pdf

link corrected.......

TONY HINCHLIFFE said...

Be very interesting to find out what is said at this NPA Archaeology Day you say is next Saturday, since you state that NPA blurb says they now have established dates at Waun Maun. Do keep us all informed, we're on tenterhooks to hear what Mike the Maestro has to say - another rabbit out of the hat, or more a Tommy Cooper?

BRIAN JOHN said...

It's all being done online this year -- so you can sign on and participate if you like! They also promise that the presentations will be put on YouTube afterwards, so you can enjoy whatever MPP has to say in the comfort of your own home, whenever it suits......

TONY HINCHLIFFE said...

I have shared your Facebook Post (which you put on simultaneously with this Post) with my Facebook Friend Mike Pitts, editor of both British Archaeology magazine and "Antiquity". So the geomorphological observations on the terrain of Waun Maun will be seen, not only by him, but also by those many others who regularly take a look at Mike Pitt's Facebook pages.

TONY HINCHLIFFE said...

Dave S in the New Forest and I both independently watched MPP's talk last Saturday on line. It may be found at:-

www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/event/archaeology-day-2020/

and is TALK 4 [4TH of 4, given 2 p.m. - 4 p. m.

I eventually heard MPP give his version of an answer to the question I had submitted in advance. I say "MPP give his version of an answer", because the Chairman, Stuart D Berry, didn't read out my prepared question, but re - phrased, reduced, and omitted parts of what my question(s) were. He was, in effect, tugging his forelock as a peasant would do to his Lord of the [Waun Maun] Manor!

Anybody may still listen to the Q & A Session, which follows on from the FULL recording of ALL the presentations/sessions. It isn't until you reach around 16.30 hours on the setting that the Q's & A's begin. What purported to be my question starts at around 16.27 hours and may have lasted as long as TWO MINUTES (gosh!).

TONY HINCHLIFFE said...

The "answers" we obtained from MPP were:

To the rather waffled version of my Q about the Glaciation Hypothesis, he ended up saying dismissively "that boat doesn't float anymore".

Stuart Berry had 'boldly' asked him about the dates obtained from MPP's Team's researches at the so - called "quarries". He replied with gusto that he is "entirely confident that the removed bluestones had been quarried at the [appropriate] time."

Mike Parker Pearson was speaking via Zoom from his home to the on - line event.

My question had centred around why was it that MPP and his Team were - rather arrogantly and rudely - completely IGNORING the several peer - reviewed Papers that Dr Brian John, together with OTHER geomorphologists, have published in which they express doubts that Craig Rhosyfelin was a Neolithic quarry. So WHY does MPP and all other Stonehenge archaeology commentary readily accept ANOTHER GEOMORPHOLOGIST findings on the provenance of the Stonehenge Sarsen stones? [David Nash] There is an inherent inconsistency here. MPP et al are being unscientific in not even MENTIONING the mere existence of Brian's and others' geomorphology Papers on Rhosyfelin [and I think I am correct, at least one other alleged quarry site].

BRIAN JOHN said...

Yes, my analysis of the Carn Goedog evidence is on Researchgate -- not peer reviewed, but not criticised by anybody either, in spite of 599 readings so far. The archaeologists have certainly read it, and are fully aware that their evidence is disputed. But sadly, the whole lot of them, and geologists Bevins and Ixer, seem to exist in a state of denial, and are clearly appalled that anybody should have the temerity to disagree with them on anything......

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332739336_Carn_Goedog_and_the_question_of_the_bluestone_megalith_quarry

BRIAN JOHN said...

Stuart Berry had 'boldly' asked him about the dates obtained from MPP's Team's researches at the so - called "quarries". He replied with gusto that he is "entirely confident that the removed bluestones had been quarried at the [appropriate] time."

Re the quarrying dates, they are so widely spread as to be entirely useless. As Prof Danny McCarroll said, they effectively falsify the quarrying hypothesis. The dates neither confirm nor deny the quarrying hypothesis, but just confirm the presence of human beings doing whatever human do --camping, hunting, and generally surviving -- in landscapes like this, in locations where there are rocky outcrops. MPP and his team have NEVER done any control studies, They would find similar organic remains, and get similar radiocarbon and OSL dates, from any and all of the Preseli tors, and from many lowland valleys as well. That's just common sense........

It's par for the course for this team to assume significance where there is none. As Barclay and Brophy said, they are involved in routine interpretative inflation.......