Sunday, 4 September 2016

Landscape Archaeology using the Post Glacial Flooding Hypothesis

Recent proof of Stonehenge's true construction date has opened the possibility of dating sites by their positions on the topology of the landscape, rather than the traditional and less reliable method of ‘dating by association’ with the artefacts found on the site.

Post Glacial Hypothesis
CLICK ON PICTURE for my - Post Glacial Hypothesis

 The method of carbon or stratification dating is high controversial as these artefacts can have been used and left at a much later date than the original construction.  This then leads to a multitude of theories and subjective conjecture which is confusing archaeology today, as they have now eroded into s almost religious attitude to the science that relies on ‘cultural interpretation’ of monuments and hence the modern astronomical and alignment obsession – none of which is justified by any true scientific evidence.

This is what the University of Oxford make of this technique:

Dating methods are the means by which archaeologists establish chronology.  The more dating methods we use to construct a chronology, the more likely it is that the chronology will be reliable.
The most universal dating method in archaeology is a relative dating method: dating by association. At it simplest, this means recognising an artefact or structure as belonging to a known type of a particular date.  Where there is a significant number of these associations, the dating information they give us becomes more reliable - individual cases can be misleading - artefacts, for instance, may be residual (belonging to an earlier period but present in a later context due to redeposition). The more associations we have, the easier it is to see such problems in the evidence, and therefore the more likely the site chronology is to be correct.

Absolute dating methods include radiocarbon, dendrochronology, TL/luminescence dating, archaeomagnetic dating and a variety of less common techniques.  All of these have two things in common:  Firstly they are only possible when the right sort of material is present (for example, there is no possibility of using radiocarbon or dendrochronology when there is no organic matter or preserved wood available); secondly, they are all comparatively expensive to carry out and the results may not provide the kind of answer that the archaeologist is trying to find.  Archaeologists must depend on their experience to guide them as to the most effective use of resources in commissioning scientific dating programmes.  

Often, this only becomes clear at the post-excavation stage.  It is always good practice therefore, to take a wide range of samples of any datable material during excavation so that there will be maximum potential for a dating programme at a subsequent stage of the work.  Ideally, relative and absolute dating methods should complement each other and provide a means of cross-checking or control.  Any conclusion on dating drawn from just one unsupported technique is usually regarded as unreliable by other archaeologists.

Sadly this doesn’t happen on most archaeological sites as money is the paramount issue and therefore subjective judgement predominates.  This unscientific judgement was seen recently at Craig Rhos-Y-Felin when only TWO out of the FIFTY radiocarbon dates were used to support a previous hypothesis by UCL’s Mike Parker-Pearson and the majority of the scientific dates were ignored.

Any qualified scientist would have had an objective view of the site – knowing that the microscopic rock analysis had proven with a 98% possibility that the quarry was the site of the Stonehenge ‘Bluestone’ – would have accepted that the majority of the radiocarbon dates were in the Mesolithic period (30%) and that 100% of these dates had come from known man-made hearths, unlike the random ‘nut shells and other organic material found scattered over the site.

Criag Rhos-Y-Felin
Criag Rhos-Y-Felin - Surrounded in the Mesolithic Period
 Moreover, these dates corresponded to other independent dates found in the old Visitors Car Park in the 1960 and 80’s.  These until now had been discounted as they did not fit the ‘dating by association’ of artefacts found on the main site like the antler picks found in the ditches surrounding Stonehenge.  These dates we now understand to be the ‘post holes’ from the mooring posts that held the boats as they unloaded the Bluestones from Stonehenge – a piece of which was found in the soil of the infill of one of these post holes.

This now gives us a radiocarbon date for the shoreline of the Stonehenge site as it is at a height when the river touched these post holes.

Old Visitor's Car Park - Stonehenge radiocarbon dates
Avon River shoreline in the Mesolithic Period with the corresponding Hearth Dates

 The River Avon (at the time of Stonehenge’s Phase I construction -ditch & Bluestones) was 96m high, rather than the 65m height of today.  This is a decrease of 48% over the last 10,000 years (average 3.1mm per annum) – which 30 - 40% is probably due to isocratic rebound from the last ice age.  Consequently, if we take these statistics and look at other sites around the same River Avon, such as Durrington Walls, we can now conduct our first Landscape Analysis.

The Avon at Durrington is 8m higher than its nearest point at Stonehenge and hence will be 8m higher.  This Mesolithic level of 104m (96m + 8m) fills the site as a prehistoric harbour – filled to the newly discovered postholes found last month under the soil.  Not only do the shorelines match both the post holes of Stonehenge and Durrington Walls – so are the sizes of the post holes, clearly showing their association.

Durrington Walls - Harbour
Durrington Walls in the Mesolithic as a harbour
 This suspected shoreline was revealed ten years ago (without any announcements as it contradicted the existing ‘theories’) when a standard Magnetometry Survey was conducted on the site Sheffield University in 2006.

Durrington Walls - prehistoric shorelines
Magnetometry Survey 2006 - showing the prehistoric Shorelines

 This the allows us for the first time to date this site accurately as 8500 BCE (the same as Stonehenge Phase I) for the Durrington Walls harbour and the Western / Northern walls, which are still visible today.  It is now apparent that as the Waters dropped towards the Neolithic Period, that the inner ditch was dug to preserve the boat access to the site and during the middle of the Neolithic Period, the South Eastern and eastern ditches were added for the same purpose, but clearly of a different specification (much smaller and unnoticed, except on geophysical mapping).

This is a simple example of how we can now map the prehistoric site and now obtain much more accurate dates than the existing ‘dating by artefact association method we see today....only time will tell!!