Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Saturday, 25 September 2021

Archaeology -- its own worst enemy?

Looks as if academic archaeology is in a seriously beleaguered state just now.  The article reproduced below is an interesting analysis containing some good points.  It's a bit naive, because it treats all archaeologists as heroes, and seems to think that archaeology takes no responsibility at all for what seems likely to be an uncomfortable fate.  

It says this:  "Archaeology faces a “perfect storm” of university cuts, skills shortages and potential changes to planning rules which threaten to irreversibly damage the UK’s world-leading reputation in the discipline, experts warn."  That, I think is very naive indeed -- there may be a perfect storm, but one of the components in it may well be the declining reputation of archaeology as a serious discipline with a respect for the scientific method and a carefully controlled and monitored way of operating.  This may well not be true of ALL academic archaeology, but some of it, at least, is so obsessed with storytelling and myth creation that it seems to be disinterested in maintaining any sort of reputation as a "discipline." 

 If very senior archaeologists appear to have lost their respect for hard evidence and the truth, in pursuit of their post-processual obsessions, why should they get any respect from either the public or from a new generation of students?  And why should they be funded by the research funding organizations if all they are going to produce are fantasies and myths? From where I stand, archaeology seems to be intent on the "dumbing down" of its curriculum and on appealing to the tabloid press and TV documentary makers rather than to the community of scientists. Colourful characters pursuing their own personal quests may make for good tabloid headlines and good TV ratings, but what are they doing to uphold academic standards?  How much RESPECT does archaeology have outside of its own little bubble?  Not much, I suspect, whatever gushing praise may be directed towards it by the author of this article.


Archaeology could be rendered a thing of the past as multiple UK courses and jobs face the axe

University staff fear the discipline could be consigned to history because of funding cuts

When a rare 4,000-year-old Bronze Age log coffin was found by chance under a pond at a golf club near Grimsby, archaeologists from the University of Sheffield, working on an unrelated dig nearby, were able to act quickly to preserve it.

The find made headlines across the world. Tim Allen, of Historic England, paid tribute to them saying: “It was only thanks to them being able to assist that weekend we were able to secure the coffin, axe and surviving human remains.”

Incredibly, they won’t be around to help in future, as the archaeology department faces closure by the university authorities.

Archaeologists at Worcester University face a similar fate while those at Chester face redundancies.
News of Sheffield’s demise sparked controversy in the usually sedate corridors of academia. Digging up the past is seen as a British strong suit. UK universities are internationally recognised as among the best in the world – four of the five highest ranking courses are here – with Harvard in the US the only interloper. Sheffield is ranked seventh in the UK, 39th in the world.

Archaeology faces a “perfect storm” of university cuts, skills shortages and potential changes to planning rules which threaten to irreversibly damage the UK’s world-leading reputation in the discipline, experts warn.

Across the country, men and women usually found working quietly in trenches with trowels are protesting about the state of the profession. The crisis has prompted some to ask the Monty Python-esque question: what has archaeology ever done for us?
Well… there are discoveries from Stonehenge to Skara Brae, via “Seahenge” and Sutton Hoo.

Heritage tourism – refreshed with newly unearthed discoveries – from the Mary Rose to the burial place of Richard III or the recently unearthed Prittlewell Prince – supports 350,000 jobs and contributes £20bn to UK coffers.

There are as many as 7,000 archaeological jobs in the UK. A 2019 study found archaeologists working in the planning system saved the construction industry up to £1.3bn in delay and emergency excavation work.

Far from being a dead hand on progress, archaeological concerns were cited in just 0.01 per cent of planning refusals.

Dr Hugh Willmott, senior archaeology lecturer at Sheffield, suggests he and his fellow academics suffer from an image problem.

“Too often, we are seen as ‘people who play in the dirt’ or very occasionally – and
fortuitously for their media outlets – ‘finders of secrets’ rather than serious academics.”

More widely he believes archaeologists “are not shouting loud enough to our managers about the genuine value of archaeology”.

“University management, in my experience, massively under-estimates the extent to which we all collaborate with other disciplines on truly innovative projects.

“We need to be telling them that archaeology’s partnerships are not just with the History department, although this is important. At Sheffield we currently have active collaborations with Biomedical Science, Geography, Engineering, Mathematics, and Materials Science to name just a few.”

Fellow archaeologist Dr Chloe Duckworth, at Newcastle University, points out a 2018 poll found archaeology was the UK’s 11th most common career dream behind professional footballer, train driver and astronaut.

“Many more of my students hope to use the degree to gain a set of skills they can translate to other workplaces. Archaeology is really good for that. Teamwork, problem-solving, project management,” she wrote in British Archaeology.

She set up Dig for Archaeology in a bid to champion the discipline and argues officials in authority undervalue the skills involved.

British archaeologists are embroiled in a diplomatic spat in Turkey
The British Institute in Ankara is responsible for important archaeological work in Turkey.
Last month, Turkish officials entered the Institute and seized its famous collection of ancient seeds. Turkey has declared all seeds/plants collected by foreign organisations the property of Turkey.
Chemist Ibrahim Saracoglu argues that they are critical to Turkey’s history. He is a key player in Turkey’s Ancestral Seed Project.
The collection argued that under a long-standing agreement with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the institute served as the collection’s custodian and offered to share the resource.
Mr Saracoglu said: “We do not divide. This is the property of the great Turkish nation.”

Post-Brexit, the profession is now on the official skill shortage list but only after fierce lobbying. Such neglect is hard to understand. Archaeology remains popular with the public as the success of shows like Time Team and The Great British Dig demonstrate.

However, Dr Willmott suggests such shows may not always have helped the cause. The TV image of “archaeology being a three-day jolly with some colourful characters” has not helped persuade parents to “sail their children off into an archaeological career,” he says.

Whether news that Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is being tipped to replace Harrison Ford as the fictional professor of archaeology, Indiana Jones, in the Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise films, will change that perception remains to be seen. For the moment, archaeology’s past remains clearer than its future.

Friday, 24 September 2021

Juggernaut Jeopardy


Juggernauts are very interesting. Here are the definitions:

1.  a crude idol of Krishna worshipped at Puri and throughout Odisha (formerly Orissa) and Bengal. At an annual festival the idol is wheeled through the town on a gigantic chariot and devotees are supposed to have formerly thrown themselves under the wheels.  (That is disputed -- probably they just slipped while doing their pulling stint......)

2.  any terrible force, especially one that destroys or that demands complete self-sacrifice

3.  any relentless, destructive, irresistible force

I gather that in the annual Puri festival there are actually THREE juggernaut chariots, equally huge but each with a specified number of wheels and assorted other technical variables. Goodness knows how many tonnes each one weighs, but the weight is probably doubled by the hundreds of devotees who are allowed to climb on board during transit.

The juggernaut is of course replete with symbolism.  It is not actually unstoppable; it demands and consumes vast resources of capital, manpower and energy; and if you do not pay attention while hauling it along, it is all too easy to slip and get crushed beneath those monstrous wheels........

Just thought you would like to know.......

Oxford Gletscher and the discovery of surges


This is a fabulous new satellite image of the north shore of Nordvestfjord in East Greenland.  The valley glacier trough on the right is the place where Dave Sugden and I did our first bit of glaciology in 1962.  We slogged all the way up to the confluence between the two glaciers, man-hauling a heavy sledge laden with drilling equipment across brittle ablating ice until we got caught in a blizzard around the firn line.  We camped close to an icefall which showed that the glacier on the right was much more active than the one on the left.  We should have realised that that was a sign of surging -- but nobody knew anything about surges back then.

Trekking up Oxford Gletscher on the way to the research area, 1962.

Camp site on Oxford Glacier in 1962.  Icefall in the middle distance.

Our colleague Svend Wurm with the drilling eq

Man-hauling on Oxford Gletscher with our home-made sledge.

When we drilled into the ice we were trying to find out whether the glacier was warm-based or cold-based --  but we never had any hope of drilling through to the bed.  Our hand-drilling equipment was far too primitive for that.  When we started to measure ice temperatures, using a thermocouple device designed and built by our friend Brian Hughes, the readings were chaotic.  We expected them to be rising gradually with increasing depth, but in the profile they rose and then fell and then rose again.  We decided that the instrument was faulty, swore at the maker, and did no further measurements.  Only afterwards did we realise that we had discovered a surging glacier.  When a surge is taking place, ice from one tributary overwhelms the ice from elsewhere, and the glacier becomes layered, with each layer retaining some of is pre-existing thermal characteristics.  But nobody knew that in 1962............

So in its own way, our very naive and chaotic research was actually quite important.  So when we suggested to the Danish Geodetic Institute that the glacier might be named Oxford Gletscher, the authorities gave it the stamp of approval. Citation:

"Oxford Gletscher 71Ø-369 (71°32.8 ́N 25°16.7 ́W; Map 5). Glacier in the south Stauning Alper, draining south into the east end of Nordvestfjord. Named by the 1962 Oxford University expedition, which undertook survey work on the glacier. Oxford University is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities, whose origins go back to the early 12th century. Uranus Glacier has also been used."

In the satellite image at the head of this post, you can see from the pattern of moraines that the right-hand glacier has "squeezed out" the one on the left -- a sure sign of surging behaviour.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

A conglomeration of erratics


This is one of my favourite photos of erratics.  Erratic boulders on a glacially moulded and washed surface on Rödlöga Storskär in the Stockholm Archipelago.  Here there are 14 big boulders clustered together -- note the great variety of colours, textures and shapes.  These have come from many different provenances.  The ice was travelling directly N >> S, as indicated by abundant bedrock striations.  It's possible that there was a moraine here, but as the surface has emerged from the sea by isostatic uplift, wave action has washed away most of the finer fractions (clay, silt, sand and gravel), leaving the boulders behind.  No human intervention required..........

An apology to Prof MPP and his team

This report actually exists.... as do several others.....

Apologies cost nothing.  As readers of his blog know, I am always happy to apologise if I say something that is wrong.  So this is an apology to Prof MPP and his colleagues for accusing them, over and again, on the blog and in correspondence, of not writing and publishing any research diaries or interim field excavation reports between 2011 and 2016. (There are reports for 2017 and 2018, which we have already examined and discussed.)  I also accused them of falling short on academic standards and of preventing pre-publication scientific scrutiny of their work, by failing to place in the public domain any material that could be scrutinized or peer-reviewed, given that excavation pits are always filled in, thus preventing independent examination of the evidence due to be presented in print at some later date.

That latter point is still a valid one, but on the "interim report" issue I clearly got it wrong, since I have now been able to obtain from Dyfed Archaeology and the Archwilio "Historic Environment Record" the PDF versions of six brief "interim reports" of the fieldwork at Rhosyfelin, Carn Goedog, Waun Mawn and elsewhere for the years 2011 - 2016.  They are not yet technically "archived".  These reports are not accessible via any searches via Google, on the Archwilio web site, or on any other website such as Coflein, Cadw, UCL or RCAHMW.  They were published but not available, if you see what I mean.........

On innumerable occasions over the last decade, members of the research team were given opportunities to inform me about the existence of these reports, but declined to do so.  Maybe they were sworn to secrecy or instructed not to communicate?

Anyway, I obtained the documents by specifically asking for them, having tracked them down via one agency after another.

So I am sorry about my mistake and hope that my apology will be accepted.

As for extenuating circumstances, they are rather numerous, but I will leave those for another post.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Nordvestfjord threshold

Scan of the topographic map of the Hall Bredning area. Note that the fjord width is compressed to just 7 km between Pythagoras Bjerg and Kloftbjerge to the west.  The fjord then opens to about 10 kms width at its exit.   

This is from a somewhat complex paper about the hydrology and water characteristics of the Nordvestfjord - Scoresbysund fjord system.  Forget about the symbols and concentrate on the bottom profile!  The reverse slope at the threshold is truly spectacular.......
I'm revisiting the topic of thresholds at the exits of glacial troughs because the other day I needed to go into considerable detail when chatting to some visitors to my little Bluestone Museum on exactly this topic.  They had heard that ice does not travel uphill, from somebody arguing that the ice of the Irish Sea Glacier cannot possibly have surmounted the chalk escarpment at the western edge of Salisbury Plain and could not, therefore, have carried erratics from west Wales onto the chalk downs.

Well, the informant has got it all wrong, and if a group of senior glaciologists and glacial geomorphologists says that  the glacial transport thesis is perfectly feasible from a practical and theoretical standpoint, that's good enough for me.

'Dynamic cycles, ice streams and their impact on the extent, chronology and deglaciation of the British–Irish ice sheet.'
Alun Hubbard, Tom Bradwell, Nicholas Golledge, Adrian Hall, Henry Patton, David Sugden, Rhys Cooper, Martyn Stoker
Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 759–777

Back to Nordvestfjord and Scoresbysund:

The Nordvest Fjord - Scoresby Sund system has clearly been one of the major outlet routes for ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet, during the whole of the Pleistocene and maybe for much longer than that. Even today the Daugaard Jensens Gletscher, near the head of the fjord, is possibly the most productive glacier in the whole of Greenland. Because the ice here has been streaming so effectively in a narrow and constrained trough, the rate of downcutting has been impressive indeed. There are no proper bathymetric charts, but from the scattered soundings that have been made we see depths of 1372m, 1459m, 1372m, 1150m, 1237m, and 1290m between Eskimo Bugt and Syd Kap. The deepest sounding of all is 1508m (4,947 ft). These soundings show that the fjord is substantially deeper than Sognefjord in Norway (maximum known depth 1308m), which has just one short stretch deeper than 1200m. 

Sognefjord long profile, Norway.  Note that there is a 1000m high reverse slope at the trough exit, over a distance of c 20 km.  This is the threshold and the point at which diffluence or lateral spreading of the ice has reduced erosional capacity to a very low level.

But here on the flanks of Nordvest Fjord the plateau ice caps and mountain summits are almost all over 2000m (6561 ft), whereas there is little land over 1600m on the flanks of Sognefjord. So the full depth of Nordvest Fjord over a distance of about 80 miles is approx 3300m or 11,000 feet. I'll let somebody else work out how much material has been eroded and removed by ice from a trough of this size....... but it is indisputable that this is the deepest, longest and most dramatic fjord system on earth.

Hall Bredning, with the twin islands of Ingmikertaje right in the middle of the channel.  Ice has flowed around this blockage and over "sills"at a depth of c 300m -- but nonetheless the survival of these islands is striking. Here too the reverse slope at the fjord exit is about 1000m over a distance of only about 5 km.

Some very useful information is found in this publication, showing a series of connected basis separated by sills:

Long profile of the bed of Nordvestfjord from the snout of DJ Glacier to the vicinity of the trough exit.  The ridges between the troughs are a puzzle, and another puzzle is the lack of an obvious relationship between tributary glacier inputs and trough deepening.  However, the threshold backslope, about 1000m high (approx the altitude of Mount Snowdon) and just off the right end of the profile, is both sudden
 and very steep.  

The deepest section of the fjord begins about 20 km from the DJ Glacier snout, and continues for about 30 km with depths around 1400m before shallowing to around 1200m; this may reflect erosive power or capacity, but it may well be that sediments are much thicker in the middle and outer sections of the fjord, with the bedrock floor maybe several hundreds of metres below the "sediment floor".   Some troughs have beds which are divided up into a series of connected basins. According to Julian Dowdeswell and others the bed of Nordvestfjord is like this, with a series of deep basins (over 1200m deep) separated by sills between 600m and 900m deep. I have not seen the detailed long profiles, and so we can but speculate as to whether the sills coincide with outcrops of highly resistant rocks (on the basis of lithology or structure) and whether the basins coincide with pulses or additions to glacier discharge derived from tributary glaciers. Near the trough exit the bedrock floor rises very steeply indeed, but sediments in this exit zone can be very think as well.   In Hall Bredning the glacial sediments are at least 100m thick.  But the essential point, from the long profile soundings, is that the reverse slope is truly spectacular, rising from a depth of 1200m to the threshold shallows in only about 5 km.  

This is a good explanation from Wikipedia for what goes on in the deepest parts of closed troughs where overdeepening happens on a spectacular scale.

"Analytic glacial erosion models suggest that ice flows passing through constrained spaces such as mountain passes produced enhanced erosion beneath thicker, faster ice flows, which deepens the channel below areas both upstream and downstream. The underlying physical phenomena is that erosion increases with the rate of ice discharge. Although this simplifies complex relationships among time-varying climates, ice sheet behaviors and bed characteristics, it is based on the general recognition that enhanced ice discharges typically increase the erosion rate. This is because the basal sliding rate and the erosion rate are interrelated and driven by the same variables: the ice thickness, the underlying bed slope, the overlying glacial slope and the basal temperature. As a result, the modelled fjords are deepest through the narrowest channels (i.e., regions with the highest surrounding highest topography). This corresponds with actual physical observations of fjords.[16]"

Where was the ice surface when the Nordvestfjord Glacier was reaching its exit and starting to spread laterally?  Let's be conservative and pretend that the snout surface was around 200m in the vicinity of Syd Kap.  Suddenly a glacier that was 1.4 km thick was forced to become a glacier only 400m thick, flowing over the threshold.  The ice volume in the threshold area was thus 1 x 7 x 5 kms = 35 cubic km of ice being forced like toothpaste out of a tube, up a reverse slope 1000m high, and then away into the unrestricted terrain of Hall Bredning.

Who was it that said that glacier ice could not possibly flow uphill?

Monday, 20 September 2021

Bluestone Museum -- new acquisition



The Curator, Trustees and Management Committee of the Bluestone Museum in Cilgwyn, Pembrokeshire, are delighted to announce a new acquisition which is now on display.  Occams Razor was purchased for an undisclosed sum, with the help of the National Lottery, the Science Museum and a single generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.  The authenticity of the razor has been proved through DNA analysis of minute fragments of stubble stuck beneath the blade, which have been matched precisely with the chin of Mr Fred Occam himself.  So valuable is this item that the Museum has had to install bullet-proof glass and a full 24-hours surveillance system.

Waun Mawn 2021 -- the desperation dig (2)

The new recumbent monolith at Waun Mawn.  A fallen standing stone, or just a lump of glacially emplaced unspotted dolerite?  We shall see......

This is the second brief report on what is now visible to passing ramblers and lost circle hunters, following the conclusion of the 2021 digging season by MPP and his "Stones of Stonehenge" team.   The first report is here:

To continue:

3. The Waun Mawn "lost circle"

This year, the team implied (in its application for consent) that only a small area would be excavated, with highly targetted small excavation pits opened up with a view to answering quite specific research questions.  On the map submitted only four small areas were identified for excavation trenches:

To me, this looks like around 50 sq m of excavations.  When I walked over the site yesterday, I was staggered to find that there were at least eight new excavations (some of them very large) and several "revisits" to previously excavated areas, where old turves have been lifted and then re-laid.  

There has been much activity on the western segment of the "circle circumference", with five digging locations with the following approx dimensions: 2m x 2m; 10m x 20m; 20m x 20m; 5m x 2m; and 5m x 5m.  In the fourth of these excavations, moving southwards or anticlockwise from the NW recumbent stone, a new boulder has been lifted and left exposed, presumably because the diggers have interpreted it as another recumbent or fallen monolith.  No doubt we will hear more about this in due course. Other smaller boulders are also now exposed at the surface, which means they have been removed from their original positions in the glacial till spread.

In the centre of the putative 100m diameter "lost circle" it was the intention to look for a post hole used with a rope or line for marking out the circle circumference, or else for an empty socket or recumbent "central pillar".  If any big stone had been found, it would have been left exposed -- but we await further information on what was discovered.  But the excavation here was not a small one -- it was a big and very messy one with dimensions c 8m x 8m.   

There was another big and messy excavation on the eastern edge of the imaginary circle circumference, with an area of c 10m x 10m. I imagine that this dig was done in association with the work of Clive Ruggles, looking for stones or sockets of significance for astronomical alignments.  A lot of stones were collected by the diggers and left behind in a pile under a gorse bush. 

Stones collected by the diggers.  Mostly locally derived volcanic ash, rhyolite and meta-mudstone.

The last of the excavations for this year was about 2m x 2m in extent, adjacent to the small broken recumbent stone in the NE quadrant.

So the total excavated area this year was around 807 sq m -- considerably greater than the previous digging season.   For comparison, this is what happened in 2018, when 700 sq m were excavated, including 160 sq m "accidentally dug" over and above the total originally notified to NRW:

Let's assume that the vast expansion of the digging area in 2021, over and above what was in the original project plan, was done in close cooperation with the National Park and NRC.   If this was all done without authorisation, we have a problem.  Or rather, MPP has a problem.

So no big stone has been found at the "circle centre" and the only substantial stone unearthed is in the SW quadrant.  To me, that looks like a glacially emplaced boulder, but the diggers will no doubt have hunted beneath it to see if there are any dateable organic remains.  Watch this space.........

One further point regarding rock types -- I have again spent a fair amount of time looking at rock fragments and boulders, and have seen no trace of any spotted dolerites.  So I am as certain as anybody can be that nothing from Carn Goedog has been used here, and that any large stones set into the ground have been locally derived unspotted dolerites.  The basic and frequently occurring rock types are Abermawr shale, meta-mudstones and meta-shales altered by igneous activity, rhyolites, volcanic ashes and unspotted dolerite of several types. There may be some sandstone fragments too.   I have not seen anything that looks as if it might have come from Rhosyfelin.

So how do we explain this sixteen-fold increase in the size of the 2021 digging area, as compared with what was planned?  Well, it looks as if nothing of much interest was found -- if that assumption is wrong, I will correct it when I get more feedback from MPP's brewery talk on 14 September.  We already know about interpretative inflation -- I think what we have here is a classic case of "excavation exasperation" in which the diggers, having initially not found what they were looking for, just kept on digging till they all ran out of steam.  They were so desperate to find something -- anything -- that would provide validation or confirmation for the "lost circle" hypothesis that they forgot all about their original research design and went for broke.  That's the way I see it.

For the time being, or until some evidence appears from somewhere, let's just refer to this one as the "desperation dig".

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Waun Mawn 2021 -- the dig is done (1)

Little and Large -- the two most prominent stones at the "entrance" to the Gernos Fach embanked circle.

They had good weather on the excavations this year -- and by the look of it got quite a bit done, in spite of the rumoured shortage of diggers.  I never managed to take a walk on the moor while the dig was in progress,  since I have been getting post-vaccine dizzy spells.  But today I felt better, and ambled up there to take a look.

I gather that in the Project Design plan, three areas were due to be excavated:

1. Possible embanked enclosure  c 40m north of Waun Mawn stone circle.  
2.  Gernos Fach embanked circle, well known to me and several others but claimed to have been "discovered" by a member of the MPP team earlier this year.
3.  The Waun Mawn "lost circle" circumference and centre, complementing digs in 2017 and 2018.

This is what is observable following the departure of the excavators:

1. Possible embanked enclosure
I have drawn attention to these recumbent stones in a number of posts on this blog, although the MPP team appears not to have noticed them previously.  As admitted by the excavating team, "This may well be an entirely natural feature but its proximity to the stone circle makes it a priority for investigation in 2021."  They speculate that there may be an "embankment with slabs", and there is indeed a very slight rise in the ground surface -- but the surface is full of undulations, and I see nothing unusual or potentially man-made about it.  There are three stones exposed -- two rather irregular unspotted dolerite boulders and one sharp-edged slab.  They are not aligned or on the circumference of any arc or circle.  What we see may be just the tips of much larger boulders or rock outcrops. The diggers planned to examine the contexts of each stone, and this is what they have done, with three excavations -- two quite tightly around the two eastern stones and a third excavation about 12m x 2m in extent, from the westernmost stone and running towards the supposed circumference of the "lost circle."  The total area excavated is about 56 sq m.  My assumption here is that they found nothing of any interest.

The largest of the three unspotted dolerite recumbent boulders.  This may simply be the tip of a much larger erratic block, or maybe even a rock outcrop.  

2.  Gernos Fach embanked circle.
There have been three substantial excavations on this site, as planned.  The circular embankment or ridge is very visible, and the diggers have stripped off the turf in one patch 3m x 3m at the centre, one patch c 10m x 8m on the northern segment, and a much more extensive area about 18m x 8m on the western edge, around the assumed "entrance passage".  Several stones have been exposed that were not previously visible, and it remains to be seen whether they were previously standing stones which have now fallen over.  Three new stones are exposed on the north side of the "entrance passage."    The big leaning stone on the north edge of the "entrance passage" is shown to be very large indeed, and I suspect that it may be as large as the other standing stones which are already well known on Waun Mawn.  It could be between 3m and 4m long and up to 1m wide.  It's a rough piece of local unspotted dolerite with clear signs of glacial abrasion and a thick weathering crust.  Most of the rock fragments here are of local dolerite, with one smaller fragments of quartz, also locally derived.  I didn't see any rhyolite, meta-mudstone or ash -- but I would not be surprised if some should be found in the excavations. I saw no traces of any spotted dolerite.  The total area excavated is about 233 sq m.

There are rumours of a "paved area" or of slabs set flat on the ground in the area of the circle entrance -- but no doubt this will figure in future announcements of the excavation results.  No doubt there will be organic remains from here, and I expect the C14 dates, when they arrive, to show that this is a Bronze Age feature.  And of course it will have nothing whatsoever to do with Stonehenge...........

There are scores of other features in the Waun Mawn - Tafarn y Bwlch - Banc Llwydlos area which are equally deserving of investigation, and I hope the MPP team will turn their attentions to some of those in future years.

The cluster of stones around the entrance to the embanked circle.  The ground surface has been lowered, exposing more of the "leaning monolith" that once must have been a very impressive standing stone.

Small quartz fragments found during the dig.  There are a number of very substantial quartz outcrops in the vicinity.

I have no concerns about these two excavation sites in that the digs proceeded as planned.  However, the digs associated with the Waun Mawn "lost circle" are another matter entirely, and a vast area has been excavated this year -- which is wildly at odds with what was planned and with the "excavation map" submitted to the authorities.  I'll devote another blog post to the increasingly desperate "lost circle" evidence hunt........

Saturday, 18 September 2021

The future of Craig Rhosyfelin

From the 2017 "Land of Legends" campaign organized by Literature Wales and Visit Wales, with cooperation from the National Park and the County Council.  No wonder people think the 
place is legendary, magical or powerful.........  I complained to Lit Wales at the time, but they 
refused to change a word of their "citation".  

I'm hopeful that the National Park and the other bodies responsible for our natural and built heritage will soon devise a strategy for protecting Rhosyfelin and other sites susceptible to "over-tourism".  The simplest thing, of course, would be for the authories to put up a sign saying "This is NOT the site of a Neolithic quarry" -- and that would be the end of it.  But I don't suppose that will happen.  However, there is progress, and we must be grateful to the NPA and the heritage organizations for saying that they are aware of the need to deter visitors and maybe to stop criminal behaviour as well.  It's now a matter to be dealt with on the NPA agenda -- so watch this space.

Olympian mental gymnastics

Tumbles, leaps, spins, glides, somersaults, headstands, backflips, and balletic pirouettes -- they are all in there, together with contortions one has no words for.  Truly impressive....

Anyway, let's be serious here.  First things first.  I am actually quite impressed by Chapter 4 of Vol 1 of "Stonehenge for the Ancestors" by Mike Parker Pearson and Colin Richards.  I don't often say this, but please read it -- for free, if you cannot afford the real thing.  As a chapter it is well organized, clearly laid out and nicely illustrated. It's the best summary of the "bluestone situation" on Salisbury Plain for 25 years, and stands alongside "Stonehenge in its landscape" (1995) by Ros Cleal and others, and the big studies published by Richard Thorpe and OU colleagues (including Olwen Williams-Thorpe and Rob Ixer)  in 1991.

All that having been said, the most impressive thing about the chapter is the extraordinary mental gymnastics involved in avoiding a perfectly obvious conclusion -- namely that the bluestones were all on Salisbury Plain -- or maybe very close at hand -- at the time when Stonehenge was conceived and created.  In the abundant evidence relating to the 43 bluestone monoliths, the pits that might have held them, and the widespread occurrence of related lithics or fragments in hundreds of different locations, there is nothing at all that suggests that they were transported from Wales by human beings and "delivered" to the Stonehenge area some time around 5,000 years ago or maybe in several phases after that date. If you want to argue that, you have to do mental gymnastics just like those performed by Parker Pearson and Richards in this chapter.   

It is perfectly obvious from the multiple bluestone rock types, their shapes, their weathering crusts and faceted surfaces that they are glacial erratics -- most of which were used just as soon as people started to get interested in making arrangements of stones.  This is what the stratigraphy shows.  The bluestones were used as found, and some were later split and fashioned into pillars and lintels.  Some were then suitable for use in the bluestone horseshoe in one of the later phases of stone setting.  The occurrence of the stones in the Stonehenge area may be the simplest and most logical answer to the question:  why is Stonehenge here rather than somewhere else?

I predict that over the coming years more bluestone lithics (some of them quite surprising) will be found, in more locations; that progress will be made in identifying heavily degraded glacial deposits on Salisbury Plain;  and that more hollows will be found that might have contained bluestones precisely where they were left during a phase of glacier ice wastage.

I cannot see the slightest reason why anybody should need a more complicated or wonderful story than that.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Stonehenge for the Ancestors -- Vol 1

I have drawn attention to this book before:

I have also flagged up the fact that the excellent people at Sidestone Press have made the book available for free online, so that we can all delve into it at our leisure. You can get at it via this link:

For those of us who ponder on the matter of the bluestones, Chapter 4 (p 165) by Mike Parker Pearson and Colin Richards is the place to go to. The gorgeous map (duly acknowledged) which I have reproduced at the head of this post tells us where the bluestones are, and which types of rock they are known -- or assumed -- to be.

This book chapter is quite responsibly written, and is not as seriously damaged by speculations and assumptions as the articles on Rhosyfelin, Carn Goedog and Waun Mawn that have been written by the MPP team. Nonetheless, there are plenty of questionable assumptions lurking in the undergrowth.

The authors are very insistent that the Aubrey Holes held bluestones, and that the bluestones arrived on Salisbury Plain at the beginning of the third millennium BC -- in plain English, that means about 5,000 years ago, in Stonehenge Stage 1. Keep that date in mind..... They think that this first stone setting was in position even before the creation of the ditch and bank, which followed around 4.900 years ago. They say the stones were used in an undressed state, since no stone chippings from this earliest phase have been identified in material excavated from the primary or secondary fill of the ditch. (see Cleal et al, 1995 -- of which more anon......) They also say that the large quantities of chippings in later fills and contexts at Stonehenge point to dressing on site, or even to the destruction of bluestones in post-Neolithic times.

As pointed out before on this blog, they look at the "Boles Barrow bluestone" on p 176, and say it was "erroneously attributed" to the Barrow. That matter is by no means open and shut........

They also claim that the bluestones were taken from the Aubrey Holes and stored somewhere before being re-used in the Q and R holes around 4,700 - 4,500 yrs BP.

Section 4.1.4 on p 177 is an interesting summary of the other bluestone fragments found in the Stonehyenge landscape. We have covered this in a previous post. Then there is a section on Aubrey Hole 7, and the material found at its base. There has been much discussion on the cremated remains and on the significance of the "crushed chalk".......... On p 191 the authors refer to 15 geological groups found in the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge, and emphasise the abundance of foliated rhyolite, spotted dolerite and unspotted dolerite, pretending that the collections of fragments obtained from past digs are fully representative of the bluestone litter or scatter across the whole site.  This assumption was not accepted by Cleal et al in 1995, and it should not be accepted by anybody else either.  We will ignore the strong bias relating to monolith quarrying on p 192.

The investigation into the origins and dating of the bluestone fragments (mostly rhyolite) around Fargo Plantation is worth reading (see p 193).  

On p 213 there is speculation about the round undressed stones  -- boulders and slabs for the most part, although the authors cannot bring themselves to admit this.  They suggest that the stones of the outer circle had a longer life in the Stonehenge landscape than the shaped bluestones of the horseshoe -- and they are inclined to think that the rough bluestones (clearly not quarried) came to Stonehenge earlier than the horseshoe bluestones, which might have come from the "bluestone quarries" like Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedog.  Having investigated the possibility that there was an old bluestone setting near Fargo Plantation, and having decided against that, they suggest that bluestone monoliths might have been used in other settings in the landscape, and maybe not always at Stonehenge itself.  This is where "Bluestonehenge" comes into the frame -- but we won't go there today.

And this is interesting: on P 215:   " our analysis the impression given is one of near-disorder.  In this final form, the arrangement of the Stonehenge bluestones, particularly the outer circle, appears more as a collection of stones with little regard to the creation of a megalithic architecture predicated on lithology, biography or source."

At last, something we can all agree on!!!  The use and the settings of bluestones within the Stonehenge landscape was little short of chaotic, indicative either of indecision or frequent changes of strategy, or (as I have been arguing for years) determined by the simple fact that there never were enough stones.

Finally in this chapter, on p 214, there is an admission that there are other sockets and possible locations on Salisbury Plain where bluestones might have been used during the Neolithic if not in the Bronze age.  On this last page of the chapter Parker Pearson and Richards go into a convoluted explanation of the relationship between West Wales and Stonehenge, with the "quarries" featuring large. They end up in a perfectly frightful tangle.   Sadly, they are so preoccupied with their ruling hypothesis of an "arrival date" (or maybe several arrival dates) that they are completely blind to the blindingly obvious.  

The stones were there all the time, just waiting to be used here, there and all over the place, depending on the fashion of the time.  It's all explained in my book, which maybe the authors have not got round to yet.   None of their evidence contradicts this thesis.   Most of the bluestones (apart from those in the bluestone horseshoe that have been fashioned)  look like glacial erratics, feel like glacial erratics, and taste like glacial erratics, and it is quite extraordinary that this is something that the authors of this chapter cannot even bring themselves to consider.  It's enough to make one want to tear one's hair out.........

There's none so blind as them that will not see........


PS.  Looking forward to Volume 2, next year, with lots about the lithics...............  I need something to keep me entertained.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Mission: Glacier education

As readers of this blog will know, it's one of my missions in life to ensure that members of the public are made aware of what ice can do -- and indeed has done in the past.  One does not need to be a glaciologist to have some awareness of how glaciers work and how they affect the landscape.  It's not that difficult, if you just try to steer clear of ice physics.........  

Of course, what ice CAN DO and what ice actually HAS DONE in particular circumstances are two different matters, and I don't deny that if we propose that ice has carried bluestone slabs a long way from their sources (for example)  then we must support that with hard documented evidence.

But there is a weird set of misconceptions out there, and some of them are shared by quite senior archaeologists.  Geoff Wainwright, for example, said in my hearing at a lecture that ice cannot possibly flow uphill, and cannot possibly have moved from west to east in the SW quadrant of the British Isles.  Mike Parker Pearson has said -- more than once -- that the glacial transport thesis is "dead in the water" because there are no widespread glacial deposits on Salisbury Plain.  Tim Darvill and Mike Pitts have said something similar, citing the apparent lack of a continuous erratic train from source to dumping ground........

All of the above are pieces of nonsense, of course, and those who are lucky enough to be still alive need to do some serious reading.  To help people like said archaeologists, I wrote "The Ice Age" for Collins a long time ago, containing a sort of layman's guide to glaciology.  I was reminded of this the other day when I was assembling some old book jackets for my archive, and found that exactly 25 years ago the Norwegian Glacier Museum published two small booklets (jackets above) which were based on two of the chapters from the book.   They are quite short -- 16 pp and 24 pp respectively.   The booklets are still in print, as far as I know, and I am going to try to get them onto Kindle or onto Researchgate where they can be easily accessed.

Watch this space......

PS.. Happy to relate that last night I managed to work out how to scan and get one of the booklets onto Researchgate.  So there it is, completely free at the point of use.  Enjoy!  The other will follow.........

PPS.  I have managed to scan and convert the other booklet too.  Here it is.  Now nobody has any excuse for being naive about the workings of glaciers.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

The Museum -- open if you are lucky

I could sell it like this.  Visit the Bluestone Museum in your search for enlightenment!  Bluestones around you on all sides!  Lumps of bluestone available for hire for rituals and spells!  Standing bluestone monolith available for photo opps!

Hmmm -- no, I don't think I'll go down that route.  This is much more low key -- an attempt to explain the ongoing dispute about bluestone entrainment / collection and transport.  No hyperbole -- but I'm not neutral either.  Neutrality is not an option in the present circumstances.  Anyway, everybody welcome.........

A Tale of Two Narratives

Indiana Jones and the Quarry of Gloom

It's only when you dig about a bit, and pay close attention, that you discover that there are two narratives going on here, in the wilds of North Pembrokeshire.  Both of the narratives are assiduously promoted by a certain archaeologist who does not particularly wish to remain anonymous.  And they are dearly loved by the media, who can be counted on to spread the word at the drop of a hat, with banner headlines, beautiful illustrations and lashings of purple prose.

Narrative one: 

This is pretty well known by now.  It explains how and why the bluestones of the Preseli district were quarried from remote locations far from the coast, and were carried or shipped (depending on which version of the narrative you are listening to) off to Stonehenge.  They were of course sacred stones, embodying the spirits of the ancestors, and they were carried during a great act of political unification, with tribes from the far west of Wales contributing their own special stones to the great monument of Stonehenge that was being built on Salisbury Plain.  The stones were of course special, but it has never been explained why they all came from the west, and not from the north, east or south.  But we'll let that pass.  Neither has it ever been explained why the monoliths (which for the most part simply look like weathered and rounded glacial erratics) had to be quarried rather than simply being picked up from the ground surface in the Preseli uplands.  We'll let that pass too.  The monoliths, made from a vast range of different rock types, were of course imbued with ritual and political significance; but of even greater importance to the tribes involved was the act of quarrying the stones in all but impossible locations and the act of carrying them cross-country through bogs and forests, uphill and downhill in very hostile terrain.  The suffering and the loss of life must have been appalling, but the bonding and the sense of triumph on the completion of the task made it all worthwhile.  Then of course, because neither the geology nor the radiocarbon dates made any sense, the idea of the "temporary bluestone parking ground" was conceived and promoted as a part of the narrative.  So it came to pass that the bluestone monoliths were parked in several stone circles (including a giant lost circle at Waun Mawn) for 500 years or so, or until such times as the radiocarbon dates could be made to fit.  You know the sort of thing -- and so it goes on, getting ever more elaborate with every successive digging season............

Narrative two:

This is much more exciting.  Once upon a time an archaeology professor (who maybe saw himself as a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Indiana Jones) decided, on the basis of some moderately interesting provenancing work by a couple of geologists, that the bluestone monoliths at Stonehenge must have been quarried from very difficult places by people who believed them to be imbued with the spirits of the ancestors.  The shapes, geological characteristics and dimensions of the Stonehenge bluestones flew in the face of this theory, and most geologists, geomorphologists and glaciologists thought that the stones could have been entrained and carried by ice for (at the very least) the greater part of their journey.  But the great professor refused to be cowed or diverted away from his quest.  He persisted, and assembled a team of willing helpers around him.  He found it hard to raise the funding he needed for his fieldwork, because it was labelled as "too speculative" -- but he persisted, and at last managed to rustle up the funds.  And lo and behold, in the years that followed he found not one bluestone quarry but two!  Still there were those who were sceptical, but he decided simply to ignore all the objections raised.  He decided that there must be other quarries too, waiting to be discovered.  Even more exciting!  Everything on the digs looked very scientific, but the radiocarbon dating evidence from the two "discovered" quarries did not fit with the required timing of the quarrying activities, so the good professor conceived the idea that the quarried stones were initially used in a giant lost circle somewhere in the vicinity of the quarries, and were then, after the passage of 500 years or so, removed lock stock and barrel off to Stonehenge as part of a corporate act of political unification and homage to a great warrior tribe resident on Salisbury Plain. He searched at Waun Mawn for this great circle, but the technical wizards found no supporting evidence.  But he persisted, and looked at eight or nine possible sites -- all to no avail.  At this point most diggers would have given up.  But this professor was made of sterner stuff, and retained his complete faith in the correctness of his hypothesis.  He decided to go back to Waun Mawn and to revert to good old-fashioned digging with spades and trowels.  And lo and behold, he found the sockets of lost standing stones, more or less neatly arranged on the periphery of a giant lost circle which had the same circumference (give or take a few metres) as something convenient at Stonehenge.  Through gales and deluges the great professor and his sturdy helpers laboured on, finding more and more titbits of information that could be passed off as evidence.  And so it continues to this day, and everybody knows about the bluestones, the quarries and the great lost circle.  And the great professor, vindicated and famous throughout the land, lived happily ever after.

The second narrative is much the more important of the two, and of course it has captured the public imagination.  It is an architypal quest narrative.  Those who are familiar with mythology -- and with TV screenplay formats -- will recognize all the essential components.  This is a typical summary of the quest format:

The Quest is the plot type most likely to have a group of main characters rather than one protagonist in the main eye of the story. The rest of the party generally takes one of four appearances:
A close friend who is loyal to our hero, but doesn’t have much else going for him or her;
An assistant who is the polar opposite of the hero mentally, physically, and emotionally;
A generic mass of identity-less colleagues who don’t get names because they’re not alive long enough to matter; or
A balanced party of brains, heart, and strength who support the hero, or who count the hero as one of their own.

The Call
This is what  kickstarts the plot and gives the hero and the rest of the party a mission to accomplish.

The Journey
Obviously our heroes are not going to get to their end goal that easily. Most of the journey is over enemy territory or hostile land, and obstacles pop up left and right, like dandelions in the spring. Obstacles come in several flavours, like monsters (kill/escape, rinse, repeat), temptations (see a good portion of the Odyssey for examples), a rock and a hard place (Scylla and Charybdis being the classic example), or a journey to the underworld. Amid these tests come periods of rest where the party can regain their strength (or count the bodies, if the party is the third type).

Arrival and Frustration
They’re so close! Our heroes can see the Emerald City! They’re almost there! Oh, wait, the Wizard won’t actually help them until they kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Damn. Well, that’s annoying. Our heroes still have some work to do before they actually complete their Quest.

The Final Ordeals
Now come the final tests of our heroes. Often these come in sets of three, like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Usually our main hero is the only one who can complete the final test. Success! And then our intrepid band of heroes (or just one hero, in case everyone else is dead) makes an amazing escape from death, either by running away or by killing whatever bad guys are left.

The Goal
Hurrah! Our hero(es) have completed their quest, and get their treasure/kingdom/princess/trip home.

Most stories involving the Holy Grail are Quests, as is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Princess Bride, and Finding Nemo. If information is considered to be the sought-after item in the Quest, most police/legal procedurals could be considered miniature quests. By varying the elements of the Quest story, the plot type can still stay fresh.

As indicated above, the quest narrative is used all over the world, and I remember a brilliant Irish storyteller telling the tale of the unlikely hero who, over and again, "should have went home", but decided instead to press on towards his goal.  There is no doubt at all that Tomos TV, the makers of the BBC TV programme featuring MPP and Alice Roberts, in February 2021, were perfectly clear about the mechanisms they wanted to use to tell the story, not about Waun Mawn and Rhosyfelin, but about MPP -- his persistence in the face of innumerable setbacks, his professional skills,  his leadership, and his clarity of vision.  This was picked up by various reviewers.  In short, MPP is the HERO in the drama, and we are told about HIS quest and sucked into HIS personal narrative.  Alice is the sidekick or the facilitator, used to draw the complexity of the story out of him for the edification of the viewers.  If you missed it, here is the programme in all its glory, on YouTube:

Just read the comments on the YouTube page -- they are far more revealing than the video itself........... 


So there we are then.  This isn't about bluestones, quarries or stone circles.  It has been distorted by the media so that it is now really about one man and his quest.  His quest for the truth?  The truth doesn't matter in the post-processual world.  The quest is one with fame and fortune as its ultimate objective, and not much else really matters.  As Wagner and many others told us a long time ago, the gold ring is a very dangerous thing.

On Pseudoscience


Thanks to Flint Dibble for sharing this on Twitter.  He was referring, I think, to "science" as it is found on Facebook -- but sad to say it is also found in the pages of learned journals like "Antiquity", as we know only too well.......

Monday, 13 September 2021

The glorification of Waun Mawn -- with the help of 23 lies

Tomorrow night MPP will be giving his annual lecture at the Bluestone Brewery, reporting on the latest "discoveries" from up there on the mountainside.  This year the excavators have been blessed with pretty good weather, so the digging and sample collecting should have gone smoothly.  I hope he has something interesting to tell to the faithful, and will hazard a guess that there will be much more about the Bronze Age than about the Neolithic..........

Six months ago I reported on the infamous press release issued in association with the publication of the February 2021 Antiquity article about Waun Mawn, and the banal BBC TV documentary featuring MPP and Alice Roberts.  I make no apologies for reproducing my comments below, in the hope that this year might be one in which solid science comes to the fore, taking the place of distortions, speculations and assumptions.  Here is the original link:

How many lies can you pack into a single press release? As it happens, quite a few. This is the highest achiever I have ever seen — and I’ve seen quite a few in my time, in many different fields……..

There are 23 lies packed into a single press release. That’s quite an achievement. Here is a little list:

1. The headline is seriously misleading. Not even Mike Parker Pearson claims that Stonehenge was a dismantled stone circle — he claims that SOME of the bluestones in the bluestone settings at Stonehenge have probably come from a stone circle at a a place called Waun Mawn.

2. “The stunning discovery” ? This is not a "discovery” at all. It is a speculation, pure and simple. It is arguable that there ever was a stone circle at Waun Mawn, and there is NO evidence of any sort that links Stonehenge with Waun Mawn.

3. The bluestones are “already known to have come from the Preseli Hills”.  Really? Some of them probably have, but others have not — and possible sources are still being searched for.

4. The MPP team “has identified megalith quarries” ? No it hasn’t. It has claimed to have done so, but the evidence is hotly disputed in two peer papers published in 2015 which the MPP team has steadfastly refused to acknowledge or cite. That “refusal to cite” has been widely seen as academic malpractice.

5. “The dismantled stone circle nearby” ? No link of any sort has been established between Waun Mawn and the supposed quarry sites, and the evidence all suggests that if there ever were standing stones at Waun Mawn that have gone missing, they were small monoliths sourced locally.

6. Professor Parker Pearson said: “I have been leading projects at Stonehenge since 2003 and this is the culmination of twenty years of research. It’s one of the most important discoveries I’ve ever made.” Alarm bells should be ringing straight away when the archaeology becomes a minor issue and the main focus becomes a quest in the style of King Arthur and Indiana Jones. I note that the press release makes reference to the TV programme on “the lost circle” — which did not have science or even archaeology as its focus, but the obsessive quest of one man against all the odds, fashioned quite deliberately into a three-act drama. Let's be clear — this is NOT an important discovery.

7. "The find goes a long way to solving the mystery of why the Stonehenge bluestones were brought from so far away…” No it doesn’t. This is not a “find” but a speculation, and it has never been shown through evidence that the bluestones were “brought” from anywhere distant.

8. “………. all other stone circles were erected within a short distance of their quarries.” False. Most stone circles did not need quarries at all — they were made with whatever stones happened to be handy in the neighbourhood.

9. "Only four stones remain at Waun Mawn…” There are abundant substantial stones lying around, as revealed in the excavations. Others have simply been ignored by the MPP team. Some of those are bigger than those postulated to have fitted into sockets.

10. “…… revealed as having been the third biggest stone circle in Britain, after Avebury in Wiltshire and Stanton Drew in Somerset, and also one of the earliest.” False. This is a speculation, not a revelation. And the dating is also highly speculative, and unsupported by the evidence.

11. "Archaeological excavations in 2018 revealed empty stoneholes at Waun Mawn…” That again is a highly questionable assumption. I have examined all of the “stoneholes” and think that most of them are simply natural depressions in a till surface, far too small and shallow to have held substantial stone pillars. Mike Pitts and Prof Tim Darvill agree with me on that.

12. "Scientific dating of charcoal and sediments in the holes confirmed that it was put up around 3400 BC.” That is not true. There was a wide range of dates (as at the two “quarry” sites) and they are across such a wide range that no conclusions can be drawn. You cannot just cherry-pick the dates that suit you, as the MPP team has done.

13. “……..both Waun Mawn and Stonehenge were aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise.” Not true. The two postulated “sighting stones” at Waun Mawn have been chosen simply because they are "convenient”. They are widely separated, and the arc between them is so wide that it has no significance in terms of alignment.

14. "One of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section that matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn.” That is fanciful in the extreme, and as I see it, having also seen the pit concerned, there is no match between socket and stone.

15. "Chippings in that hole are of the same rock type as the Stonehenge stone.” That is false. No match has been demonstrated in the “Antiquity” paper. This is yet another rather wild speculation.

16. “……..the Welsh circle had a diameter of 110 metres, the same as that of the ditch that encloses Stonehenge.” False. The proposed diameter of the Waun Mawn “circle” is entirely speculative, and the idea that a ditch diameter in one place has a significant connection with a stone circle diameter somewhere else, and of a different age, is bizarre.

17. "Waun Mawn is further evidence that the Preseli region of Wales was an important and densely settled place in Neolithic Britain, within a concentration of megalithic tombs, or dolmens, and large enclosures.” This is another unsupported assertion. Certainly there are many prehistoric features in the Preseli region, but maps do not show a greater concentration here than anywhere else, and it is irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

18. “………...evidence of activity in the thousand years after 3000 BC is almost non-existent.” False. Darvill and Wainwright have shown that there were changes going on in West Wales around the Neolithic - Bronze Age transition, but there is abundant evidence of continuity of settlement.

19. Parker Pearson is quoted as saying with respect to a stone-carrying migration: "This extraordinary event may also have served to unite the peoples of east and west Britain…” There was no extraordinary event. What is extraordinary is the speculation, based upon no evidence.

20. "Recent isotopic analysis of people buried at Stonehenge when the bluestones are thought to have arrived reveals that the first people to be buried there came from western Britain, very possibly west Wales.” This is another falsehood. The isotope evidence does not show this or suggest this at all.

21. “…… the Altar Stone, recently confirmed as sourced from the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.” This is a lie. It has been suggested that he Altar Stone probably came from somewhere along the eastern outcrop of the Senni Beds in South Wales. The provenancing is no tighter than that.

22. “…… estimated 80 bluestones put up on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge and nearby Bluestonehenge…” There is no foundation for that statement. It is speculation that there may have been 80 bluestones on Salisbury Plain, and no evidence has ever been produced to show that “Bluestonehenge” actually contained any monoliths from West Wales.

23. “…… guess is that Waun Mawn was not the only stone circle that contributed to Stonehenge.” Maybe just a guess, but it is irresponsible and misleading to pretend that any bluestone monoliths found at Stonehenge have come from a single stone circle in West Wales, let alone several.


PS.  Because I was so concerned about the appalling nonsense in the press release and in the Antiquity article on Waun Mawn, I wrote to Prof Sue Hamilton, the Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, to complain about the decline in academic standards in that institution and more specifically about the manner in which the gigantic Waun Mawn myth had been fabricated.  She replied that she had no concerns whatsoever about the activities of MPP or anybody else.  Are we surprised?

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Buarth Brynach -- in the wrong place?


Many people are interested in the matter of the "lost well" of St Brynach, not far from the tors of Carnedd Meibion Owen.  Having been up there to check it out, and to look at the circle (which is probably of not much significance), I think that the marked position of Buarth Brynach is not very convincing.  Yes, there is a small ditch or drainage route running downslope, but where the well is supposed to have been it is quite dry, with a gap in the hedge and a big patch of nettles.  But about 60m away, to the NE, there is a distinct mound in the field, with very prolific grass growth around it and a cluster of rushes as well.   The surface is quite irregular.  I wonder if this is a pile of rubble that might  mark the position of an old well or enclosed spring?  Grid ref:  SN 09198 35746.

"Buarth" means an enclosure or fold, so this might be further confirmation.  The mound needs to be explored!

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Waun Mawn article updated

I have now made some revisions and layout adjustments to my online article called "Waun Mawn and the Search for Proto-Stonehenge".  You can check the changes here:

As you will see, I am even less impressed by the research methods and results of the MPP team than I was when this article was first published.  I have tried to give an appropriate regional context to the current digging exercise and the claims being made concerning a "lost giant circle" with links to Stonehenge.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Waun Mawn revisited

The truth?  So there we are then....... all sorted.

As we all know, Waun Mawn is being revisited as we speak -- MPP and his depleted team of diggers are hard at work up there on the sunny moorland, working hard to enhance the highly entertaining "lost circle" fantasy which has come into being over the past three or four years.  It's a delightful story, suitable for all ages.

Our hero plans to describe the latest discoveries at an evening at the Bluestone Brewery on 14th September, but here is a summary of what we know so far:

There have been TV programmes and assorted other articles about Waun Mawn in glossy popular magazines, but that's all froth, designed to promote the idea of the "lost circle" without having to present any serious evidence.  The "Antiquity" article is all that matters -- it is supposed to be the definitive peer-reviewed research report, and it is truly appalling.  

I have attempted to record the evidence from Waun Mawn in a rather more measured fashion in this article which has been very heavily consulted:

Interestingly enough, although I invite comments, nobody has pulled me up on any inaccuracies or misrepresentations.  With over 3,300 reads so far, this article shows due respect to the scientific method, but it also plays an important role in flagging up the fact that over 3,300 people are aware that there is a rather vigorous dispute going on -- something which MPP and his learned colleagues appear to be blissfully ignorant about.  Strange, that.