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:
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. “……...now 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. “……...an 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. “……..my 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.