After two fallow years, the diggers under the direction of Mike Parker Pearson will continue their hunt between 29 August and 17 Sept for spectacular bits and pieces to be added to the fantastical Stonehenge bluestone narrative developed over nine years. We already know what they will claim to have found, because this team has a habit of announcing its discoveries before they are made -- so that's not going to change. Confirmation bias is the name of the game. There is a budget of around £34,000, committed partly to fieldwork and partly to sample analyses. Anyway, there will be a big team in the field this year -- mostly made up of double-jabbed volunteers from the older part of the population. So not many students. It looks as if they will dig in a number of discrete teams, in different locations -- in order to minimise the risks of Covid infection, I suppose. Fair enough.
From what I can gather, the research team talks (in their dealings with the National Park, the Barony and other agencies) with absolute certainty about two bluestone monolith quarries (and more, as yet undiscovered) and at least one dismantled stone circle linked to Stonehenge. No doubts, and no mention of any dissent. The false impression is given that everything is already proved, to the total satisfaction of the scientific community. I don't know if the officials at Cadw, NPA etc responsible for research consents are asking any questions -- but I suspect that they consider themselves unqualified to do so.......
Piecing together bits of info from many sources, this seems to be the programme:
1. Back to the "lost giant stone circle" at Waun Mawn for further digging. Rumour has it that the diggers will look for a central post hole that would have been used with a 55m rope for the marking out of the circle's circumference. Attempts may well be made to explore parts of the circumference not yet explored, in the hope of finding further sockets (the archaeologists claim, with typical hubris, to have found ten stone sockets so far).
2. There will be geophysics and a comprehensive dig at the Gernos Fach embanked circle which the MPP team ludicrously claim to have "discovered" earlier this year. Again they will look for empty stone sockets, to reinforce the idea that the Stonehenge bluestones were extracted from more than one stone circle in the neighbourhood.
3. There will be another geophysical survey at Penlan, on private land, at SN09023573, to follow up on previous work. A stone pair, in the centre of a field, is being interpreted not as a simple stone pair but as the remnants of another possible circle. Lost circles are apparently in fashion this year.........
4. Two small and rather innocuous recumbent monoliths which I have described on this blog, outside the circumference of the supposed Waun Mawn circle, will be explored (and probably excavated) with a view to testing whether they belong to another man-made feature -- a possible curved embanked structure.
5. There will be more excavations on the south-eastern flank of the supposed Waun Mawn circle, to see whether there is a causeway or other aligned feature linked to the rising moon on the far horizon; and an excavation in the direction of the midwinter sunset to see whether there was a gap or entrance to the circle on that flank. This looks to me like a rather desperate attempt to find some feasible astronomical alignments -- either solar or lunar -- wherever convenient, around the distant horizons.......
6. Some serious palynological work is planned, presumably with the intention of discovering what environmental changes might have occurred around 5,000 yrs BP in association with the fantastical "bluestone removal and export" exercise -- accompanied by a wholesale migration of local tribes towards Salisbury Plain. Rumour has it that sediment cores will be analysed from thick peat deposits near Bedd yr Afanc, in the headwaters bog of the Gwaun river, south of the Gernos Fach track, and on Brynberian Moor..
7. There will be more geological sampling work and presumably more quarry hunting, directed by Richard Bevins. That's because the geological work associated thus far with Waun Mawn has been woefully inadequate, and hard evidence is needed to back up some of MPP's extraordinary claims about the "missing stones". I'll hazard a guess that the geologists Ixer and Bevins need more samples to help in the provenancing of the volcanics and rhyolite fragments found at Stonehenge. Another "bluestone quarry" somewhere in Tycanol Wood, or near Pentre Ifan cromlech, among the outcrops of Fishguard Volcanics (including welded vitric tuffs and acid volcanics) would make a nice story.......
8. Non-invasive geophysics and survey work will also be going on at a number of sites in the neighbourhood. No doubt there will be drone photography as well. (If YouTube is anything to go by, independent drone pilots have already been hard at work.)
9. Organic samples from here, there and everywhere will be collected from all of the digs in an attempt to clarify the sequence of events. This is because there is no sequence that makes any sense at all thus far, from the radiocarbon and OSL dating of samples collected in 2017 and 2018. (This matches the highly confusing and inconclusive dating exercises at Rhosyfelin and Carn Goedod, during the "quarrying" investigations between 2011 and 2017. As we all know, the investigators have simply plucked out a few convenient dates from the collection and ignored all the rest.......)
10. Plans are being laid for a further two years of excavations and other studies in the local area, in 2022 and 2023. Probably the work done in those two digging seasons will be determined by the weather in the coming weeks, what is discovered in September, and which pieces of the fantastical narrative still need to be proved to the satisfaction of the diggers.
Apologies if I have got any of this wrong -- no doubt I will be corrected by somebody operating under the cloak of anonymity who may be in fear for his life! Never fear -- I always protect my sources. There may be other objectives too, and I'll report on those when I find out about them.
From what I can gather, the research team will be more or less the same as in previous years, with all research reviews carried out internally and with no external scrutiny. And so it rolls on, very carefully controlled so that nobody gets to work out the reliability -- or otherwise -- of the amazing storyline that will inevitably come out of the 2021 digging season...........
Drone images source acknowledged: