There's a nice gallery here -- photos taken on a skiing trip from Kaldalon and up onto Drangajokull in good weather at the end of April 2007. The snowcover is still quite extensive -- and since 2007 there has been very rapid melting on Kaldalonsjökull and on the ice cap itself.
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....
To order, click HERE
Wednesday 30 November 2022
Monday 28 November 2022
How's this for a basalt dyke? Under the cliffs of Hornstrandir, NW Iceland. Here almost all of the rocks are layered basalts, but every now and then we have to encounter a feeder dyke or a dyke that has simply exploited a long fissure without necessarily reaching the surface . This is a particularly splendid example.......
I found the above reconstruction in an old (2014) article in "Current Archaeology" by Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright. They were not, of course, at all interested in the past existence of Preseli ice cap -- but it happens to show pretty well what its dimensions might have been on several occasions during the Ice Age. I suspect that there might have been more extensive ice on the north flank of the main upland ridge, and more in Cwm Cerwyn, close to the summit called Foelcwmcerwyn -- but you get the general idea.
Ignore the marked sites -- they simply show archaeological sites that were of interest to the authors of the article.
The small ice cap (which MUST have existed) is still somewhat mysterious -- and I am still trying to work out whether it had a role in carrying spotted and unspotted dolerite erratics NORTHWARDS down towards the valley of the Afon Nyfer. There are too many of them dotted about in the landscape -- mostly big irregular shaped boulders of no use as monoliths or gateposts -- to suggest that they have been carried by human beings. I am still on the case....... and as readers might recall, I have been changing my mind rather often on the matter of the erratic "cluster" near Glan yr Afon!
Sunday 27 November 2022
Winter satellite image, showing the ice cap and the main outlet glacier troughs. The Kaldalon valley runs towards the bottom left corner of the image. Note that the ice cap is asymmetrical -- the highest part is towards the eastern edge.
My old friend Dave Sugden has produced a little booklet based on his diary of the Oxford Icelandic Expedition 1960, which we jointly led and organized. (It was not exactly a gigantic undertaking. There were only 4 of us, but one has to start somewhere.......) We were in the field for a month, and the total cost was £360!! Anyway, very pleasant and nostalgic reading.
We worked hard while we were in the field, and our mapping (plane table and no theodolite) and observations led to our first ever publication, in the journal Geografiska Annaler. It was very descriptive and naive, but as I said, one has to start somewhere.......
I had forgotten the details of our trip onto the ice cap on 18 July 1960 -- our first experience of working with ropes and ice axes in crevassed terrain. We encountered no great hazards, but close to one of the summits on the ice cap we encountered a vast crevasse which we were not equipped to deal with. We were in thick cloud and working off compass bearings, with visibility around 20m. So then we had no option but to turn back. That was an 18-hour day, and we were all exhausted at the end of it.
Saturday 26 November 2022
I have been doing a lot of reading recently on the glacial chronology of East Greenland, and I'm staggered to find that the 134 m marine limit in Kjove land (near the exit of Nordvestfjord into the wider gulf of Scoresby Sund) has survived the passage of time and is still accepted as accurate. As is the 101 m shoreline associated with a short-lived glacier advance.
I've been reading a string of recent articles about the marine features, glacial succession and climate changes in the area, written by researchers with helicopter backup and access to the full range of modern surveying instruments, GPS gadgets and up to date digital maps --- and all the checks done by them have shown that we were pretty well spot on. When Dave Sugden and I were at work in 1962 all our equipment had to be man-hauled, and the only equipment at our disposal was a theodolite, a long tape and a surveying measuring staff -- and a pencil and notebook. We didn't even have an electronic calculator for working out our measurements. Neither did we know where msl was located -- we had to do our own tidal observations and work that out for ourselves.
I'm not sure that we can say that "the old ways are best" -- because we spent hundreds of hours just walking and humping heavy gear around the place in very rough terrain -- but in terms of "job satisfaction", looking back on it, it was not too bad.......
This is all quite entertaining. There is a huge fuss going on right now about a charlatan who has been involved in a rather spectacular and controversial TV programme promoting "pseudo-archaeology" and "pseudo-history" in pursuit of personal glory and personal profit. He is accused of the following crimes:
1. Wildly misinterpreting or "over-interpreting" evidence in the field
2. Maintaining a pretence that he is an expert while writing in a field in which he is spectacularly under-qualified
3. Developing a ruling hypothesis and turning it into an over-arching myth
4. Cherry picking his evidence and his sites
5. Withholding or ignoring countervailing data and inconvenient evidence brought to his attention by others
6. Choosing to ignore context
7. Pandering to the public desire to believe in heroic ancestors and lost wisdom
8. Pandering to the media demand for spectacular stories and dramatic headlines
9. Failing to give due respect to the inconvenient opinions of experts in related fields
10. Failing to subject the evidence and the arguments to unbiased scholarly peer review.
11. Misrepresenting the current state of understanding in certain fields
12. Highlighting expert disagreements and using those to "demonstrate" that a certain discipline is of dubious value, being filled with "pseudo-experts"
13. Destroying respect for the truth and for science, by impairing the ability of viewers and readers to discern the true from the biased, and the credible from the false.
Thursday 24 November 2022
This new oblique image (taken from a helicopter) shows the Kjove Land - Syd Kap area of East Greenland where I worked in 1962 with the members of the OU East Greenland Expedition. It reminds me that there is one big diffluence trough in the area, occupied by the twin lakes of Holger Danskes Briller, and also another which has previously escaped attention, on the southern flank of the lakes trough. I'm not sure whether this valley has a name, but it's quite spectacular, showing up particularly well in this image of a snow-covered landscape:
The last occasion on which these troughs were used by glacier ice was during the "Milne Land Stage" at the end of the last glacial episode. In the lakes trough the ice reached a prominent moraine with a "delta top" which demonstrates that relative sea-level at the time was 101 m higher than it is today. The smaller trough was used by ice escaping from the lakes trough -- probably "forced" by ice additions to the Nordvestfjord Glacier carried by Oxford Glacier and other glaciers flowing southwards from the Staunings Alps. The high col over which the ice spilled is about 700m asl. The ice flowed along the east flank of Pythagoras Bjerg and then fanned out across the gently undulating Kjove Land Plateau to terminate at the scattered morainic remnants referred to as "Hjörnemoraene" (corner moraine) at an altitude of c 100 m.
Some years ago I argued that the Kjove Land Plateau and Pythagoras Bjerg stood up as a nunatak at the time of the Milne Land Stage (c 11,000 years ago) and that the Hjornemoraene remnants were lateral moraine remnants formed on the right flank of glacier ice flowing southwards towards Syd Kap. I don't think that's supported by the new information, and so I now think there was a local ice cap on this upland area, providing ice that flowed down into Nordvestfjord over very steep precipices in the west and down the small steep valley on the southern edge of the plateau. The ice was supplemented by the diffluent ice stream overflowing from the lakes trough which terminated at the southern plateau edge. This means that Hjornemoraene and the related morainic ridges extending over several km must be interpreted as terminal moraines, some of them aooarently marking a calving ice terminus. The explains the close association with the shoreline traces around 101 m asl which David Sugden and I mapped in 1962. This must have been a messy situation -- one day somebody will sort it all out........
SUGDEN, D. E. and B. S. JOHN (1965) 'The raised marine features of Kjove Land, east Greenland', Geogrl. Jnl. 131, pp 235-47
Funder, S. 1972
Deglaciation of the Scoresby Sund fjordregion, north-east GreenlandSVEND FUNDERInstitute of Historical Geology and Palaeontology, University of CopenhagenDeglaciation of the Scoresby Sund fjord region, north-east Greenland.
Helena Alexanderson & Lena Håkansson (2014) Coastal glaciers advanced onto Jameson Land, East Greenland during the late glacial–early Holocene Milne Land Stade, Polar Research, 33:1, 20313, DOI: 10.3402/polar.v33.20313
Hall, B.L., et al., Relative sea-level changes, Schuchert Dal, East Greenland, with implications for ice..., Quaternary Science Reviews (2010),
No 1: Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Rob Ixer , Joshua Pollard, Colin Richards Kate Welham, Ben Chan, Kevan Edinborough, Derek Hamilton, Richard Macphail, Duncan Schlee, Jean-Luc Schwenninger,
Ellen Simmons and Martin Smith
Wednesday 23 November 2022
Monday 21 November 2022
There has been an interesting discussion on social media about "corporate responsibility" in multi-authored papers where scientific malpractice or fraud is exposed, or where there has been "interpretative inflation" and an over-claiming of research impact. The interpretation of "impact" is of course somewhat subjective, and the authors of papers will have a tendency to over-estimate the importance of what they have written while their opponents will tend to be more sceptical and maybe even cynical! Basic scientific fraud is of course easier to expose where it proves that experimental results are impossible for others to replicate or that phenomena described in digs or exposure have been invented or fabricated in a deliberate (or desperate) attempt to prove an hypothesis. Fraud -- whether in a lab, or in the statistical manipulation of data, or in the field -- is of course a very serious matter, and when it is exposed papers can be retracted and careers are often ruined.
In the discussions on social media the view was expressed by one contributor that in multi-authored publications the blame for fraud or interpretative inflation should be carried by the lead author but that maybe the junior authors or "hired experts" in a group should not be held culpable since they may well just have contributed radiocarbon dates, or geochemical or isotope analyses, or drone mapping to a project and they may not even have seen the text of an article prior to its publication. My response, in the context of a discussion about the collapse of the bluestone quarrying / lost circle narrative, is that it is invidious to single out one person (the mysterious MPP) as the villain of the piece, and that if authors have agreed to the use of their names on a multi-authored piece because they want a share of the limelight, then they should be prepared to "own" contents which are later shown to be nonsense.
Digging a bit deeper......
Quote:Q: Should every co author be held accountable for the integrity of every aspect of a study or publication?
A: In most cases, authors will be expected to take joint responsibility for the integrity of the research and its reporting. However, if authors take responsibility only for certain aspects of the research and its reporting, this should be specified in the publication.
This is an interesting open access paper:
Gert Helgesson and Stefan Eriksson (2018)
Responsibility for scientific misconduct in collaborative papers
Med Health Care Philos. 2018; 21(3): 423–430.
Published online 2017. doi: 10.1007/s11019-017-9817-7
This paper concerns the responsibility of co-authors in cases of scientific misconduct. Arguments in research integrity guidelines and in the bioethics literature concerning authorship responsibilities are discussed. It is argued that it is unreasonable to claim that for every case where a research paper is found to be fraudulent, each author is morally responsible for all aspects of that paper, or that one particular author has such a responsibility. It is further argued that it is more constructive to specify what task responsibilities come with different roles in a project and describe what kinds of situations or events call for some kind of action, and what the appropriate actions might be.
Co-authors of scientific papers should not be held responsible for misconduct unless they were personally involved in the actions constituting scientific misconduct, or encouraged misconduct, or knew about or suspected it without taking appropriate action.
The reason for this is that responsibility for research misconduct must be on par with the responsibility we assume in other cases of wrongdoing, and thus intention or recklessness needs to be present.
One consequence of this is that you should not be held responsible for your collaborators’ fraudulent behaviour if you were unaware of it and had no indications of what was going on. This can easily be the case in large collaborations where different groups make their contributions independent of one another, while a small group of researchers lead and orchestrate the work. This is not to say that researchers remain without any responsibility as long as they do not commit misconduct themselves, do not encourage others to do it, and remain ignorant of what their collaborators are doing. Every author shares the responsibility to be attentive to signs of misconduct and is under obligation to take some kind of action if they suspect fraudulent or too sloppy behaviour by collaborators in the study in which they participate. Every author also assumes a responsibility when publishing a paper to help rectify situations where their paper’s accuracy is questioned. However, on the whole it is not reasonable, nor ethically required, that collaborators spend time and effort scrutinizing what everyone else is doing to make sure it is scientifically and ethically sound, without any indications that this is needed.
This brings us back to the guiding principle mentioned at the head of this post. If co-authors are not identified as having limited or specified roles in the research work and writing of an article, then they must accept ownership of all of it. In cases of scientific fraud, they must accept joint responsibility for it or else demonstrate that they were not personally involved in the misconduct and did not encourage it. Further, in the case of a team that has worked together for many years, authors must expect to be challenged with these questions: "As a member of a close team, you must have known about or questioned the work of colleague X, and if so, why did you not take appropriate action to stop it?"
PS. This is how it should be done if authors wish to take responsibility (and credit!) for their own work but not necessarily for everything else in a multi-authored article. This new article in the field of glacial geomorphology has 16 co-authors:
PHB and SR designed the research and wrote the manuscript, constructed figures and tables with assistance from JD, IG, MB, GK; PHB, SR, EP, MB, DH, EH undertook fieldwork/sample collection. PHB and SB produced cosmogenic nuclide dating data; while CS provided 10Be exposure dating analytical facilities; PHB, LW, GK, SR, MB undertook radiocarbon dating. Kiteschsee Lake core data and interpretations were undertaken by SR, EP, SD (ITRAX-XRF), JD, VJ (diatom analysis) IG, SB, RM, CH (tephra counting, geochemical identification of tephra layers); PHB, SR, CS, SB, GK, EP, MB, JS edited initial drafts and all authors read and commented on the final version. The authors declare no competing interests.
Friday 18 November 2022
This is an interesting and well-informed short article criticising the "mixed messaging" of Madgwick et al who claimed in 2019 that isotope evidence pointed to animals being driven all the way from Scotland (and West Wales) before being killed and eaten in jolly BBQs at Durrington Walls. A number of us have pointed out that a close scrutiny of the evidence does not show that at all -- and that the animals killed could well have come from much closer to hand.
This confirms the points made in a recent paper about the isotope levels associated with granites around Dartmoor, which are higher than previously assumed and which fall within the "far travelled" range chosen by the original researchers.
Well worth reading......
There has been some discussion on social media recently about "rock wedges" -- following the article by Mike Parker Pearson and colleagues about the so-called "wedges" found in rock fractures at Craig Rhosyfelin.
Reconstructing extraction techniques at Stonehenge’s bluestone megalith quarries in the Preseli hills of west Wales,
Mike Parker Pearson, Richard Bevins, Nick Pearce, Rob Ixer, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Kate Welham
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 46, 2022, 103697
So if anybody wants to convince me that a lump of rock found in a crack or fissure anywhere in Pembrokeshire, either in bedrock or in broken rock debris, involves human beings using bits of stone as "rock splitting" implements, they need to come up with some pretty powerful evidence. The evidence I have seen thus far, in support of such claims, is very thin indeed.
Wednesday 16 November 2022
11 November 2022
Monday 14 November 2022
NB This post has been substantially rewritten to take account of Kiddle's speedy response when text inaccuracies were pointed out to them.
I don't know how long the original article had been out there in the public domain -- but it might already have done quite a lot of damage. What steps are MPP and his colleagues, and these assorted august bodies, taking in order to ensure that the nation's children are not fed this sort of junk food for a moment longer?
I hope that many concerned individuals who keep up with the literature will complain to Kiddle and other sites as necessary, and ask them to take posts down when they display unacceptable bias-- but it would be nice to see the initiative coming from those who led them all off on this wild goose chase in the first place. Hmmm -- fat chance of that happening, I fancy......
In this case, Kiddle just needed to be informed that:
1. There never was a "lost circle" of bluestones at Waun Mawn
2. The four stones at Waun Mawn have nothing to do with any bluestone quarries
3. There are no geological or archaeological links between Waun Mawn and Stonehenge.
PS. The Rhosyfelin entry is here:
"Stonehenge facts for kids" is here:
A lovely autumnal photo taken up among the rocks of Cerrig Lladron. This is the latest place chosen by the geologists as the likely source of stones used in the imaginary Waun Mawn stone circle. I don't believe this for a moment. The geological evidence is not at all convincing, and the geologists failed to sample the obvious source of the few Waun Mawn stones -- in the dolerite outcrops on the common close to the site of the dig. Very slapdash work altogether.......
The real reason why Cerrig Lladron was chosen for sampling was that according to the belief system of the archaeologists, and their geologist sidekicks, the stones had to be "fetched" from somewhere rather than just picked up and used more or less where found. In other words, human agency and human decisions had to be involved at all costs.
On the summit of Foel Eryr there is a viewing position with a panorama plaque mounted on a rather ugly stone plinth -- and also a Bronze Age burial mound. The Cerrig Lladron tor -- or what is left of it -- is about 300m down the slope towards the NE.
I think all of the stones projecting through the turf are natural, although some think that the smaller ones might be all that is left of an old stone setting. I examined the area pretty thoroughly, and can see no evidence in support of that assertion.
Saturday 12 November 2022
The full gallery of photos used on this blog since the day of its inauguration are stored in a special album which can be accessed via this link:
There are three albums (don't ask me why) accessible via the following links:
You are welcome to use any of these pics if you wish, since I am a great believer in the Creative Commons. But please note -- if you want to use any of the images commercially you should find out who the image owner is, and get clearance, which may involve the payment of a fee.
Friday 11 November 2022
There are quite a few comments on social media about the "spat" between Tim Darvill and the MPP team regarding the interpretation of the evidence from Waun Mawn. As readers of this blog will know, there is not much doubt about where my sympathies lie -- Tim is saying (in a very polite and measured fashion) what I have been saying for years. But some commentators are claiming that the MPP team has introduced some "interesting new information" which deserves careful consideration. Well, I have commented on their latest paper here:
One aspect of the excavation work at Waun Mawn that has not been commented on by anybody else is the extraordinary bias involved in the whole dig, over three seasons. The diggers have only bothered to dig around the circumference of their imaginary circle, and they pride themselves on having dug around quite large segments of it. There have been no control digs anywhere else across the site. The diggers pride themselves on having found pits, sockets or stoneholes at many different locations in the areas where they have stripped off the turf -- but it's clear from my own examinations of the site that they have cited those that were convenient and ignored plenty of others. In some areas, especially the SW quadrant, the till surface is so rough and undulating, with boulders scattered everywhere in their original positions, that many other pits could have been identified had the diggers been so inclined.
The ground surface right across this moor is made up of thin turf on top of an intermittent and variable spread of till and slope breccia. There are pits and undulations everywhere, and there is much evidence of hollows from which stones have probably been taken either in prehistory or more recently. This is a point made by Tim Darvill.
The same sampling bias surrounds the discovery of the "hearth" and the mysterious imprint of a giant oak tree at the "exact centre" of the circle. These things might be unique and interesting -- but the chances are that they are not. There might he hearths and tree remains all over the site, but no other investigations or control digs have been made -- so maybe we will never know.
This is typical of this research team -- they tell us what to believe, but only give us the evidence that they deem to be convenient while failing to accept that there are other things they should have looked at, and other interpretations that they should have considered. In other words, they have not demonstrated to anybody's satisfaction that the features that they have described with such excitement are in any way unique or important.
But truth will out, and the "results" of bad research, once it is scrutinized, never survive for very long.