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KRONOS Vol VIII, No. 3
KINTRAW AND BIBBYTo the Editor of KRONOS:
Thank you for your kindness in drawing my attention to the article by McCreery [KRONOS V:3, pp. 71-79] and inviting my comment. I had no particular wish to be drawn into this discussion, which is apparently proceeding with vigour if not some acrimony. The tone of McCreery's paper, however, leaves me little choice but to take up your offer and to point out the misunderstandings and mis-statements in his writings. The more detached of your readers may then judge the position for themselves.
McCreery uses three quotes from a paper by Krumbein which, although 40 years old, is still a classic. The quote "Conventional petrofabric analyses cannot readily be used for direct comparison with other sedimentary characteristics because the data is not summarized numerically" - is followed by another sentence which McCreery conveniently omitted: "On the other hand, some statistical parameters fail to disclose details of sediments which may best be brought out by standard diagrams." In other words, both types of data presentation have their uses. I chose to present the data as a petrofabric diagram since I believe it better illustrated the points I wished to make. I was also comparing diagrams with diagrams, not with "other sedimentary characteristics", e.g. texture.
His second quote is drawn from a paragraph which Krumbein starts: "This discussion of graphic presentation is not to be construed as a criticism of petrofabric diagrams as interpretative devices"; it is noteworthy that McCreery's choice of quotation says that numerical data "supplement" the information obtained from petrofabric diagrams. They do not replace the diagram. Krumbein made the case for basic data to be shown in petrofabric diagrams: this was done in my diagrams. If McCreery wishes to confirm the conclusions I drew from the diagram statistically he can recover the data and do so.
With regard to McCreery's comments on the lack of measurement of a 'c'-axis, I refer him to Krumbein (1940, 1942). In analysis of data from San Gabriel Canyon and Arroyo Seco, California, he used data for long axes only, which he considers sufficient under normal circumstances. As Krumbein made clear in his 1939 paper, analysis of 'c'-axis is at its most useful for spheroids where long-axes are not clearly defined. This criterion is of little importance for the stone shapes (tabular and wedge-shaped) in this study.
McCreery's third quote from Krumbein is undoubtedly true and I shall return to it later. Unfortunately, he does not seem to have realized that comparing individual samples with a population of samples is a legitimate and widely used comparative technique. The diagrams used in the appendix to MacKie's paper were illustrative of types rather than exhaustive documentation: no editor would thank me for being exhaustive with such material!
McCreery does not like the manner in which the material was collected, and he quotes Harrison's paper as support. Apart from the fact that part of Harrison's errors resulted from removing the material from field to laboratory and difficulty with precise re-orientation (an alternative error to those inherent in the system used at Kintraw, not cumulative), the method I used is that adopted by most modern geomorphologists (e.g. Albjarr, Rehn, and Stromquist 1979; McCann 1961). It is an accepted method with a statistically sound basis and I make no apologies for using it.
McCreery's main misunderstanding of my approach is that he failed to realize that the first sieve in any comparison of samples is to examine the geomorphological contexts from which those samples are drawn. Fluvioglacial sediments have textural and landform characteristics that clearly differentiate them from till-deposits and from hill-slope deposits. The Kintraw context is that of hill-slope (MacKie 1974, appendix, p. 193) and it was thus compared with other hill-slope deposits. McCreery's comparison with Cary (fluvio-glacial) outwash has no validity within this context. Nor does he appear to understand that the stone horizon at Kintraw was being compared with other naturally formed stone horizons, since he chooses to take me to task on the fact that a totally different type of horizon with different genetic properties shows resemblances to Kintraw. I did not make the "statement that natural formations always show strong orientation relative to the slope in which they are situated"; this is a product of confusion in McCreery's mind. What I did attempt to show was that the Kintraw and Sheep Hill STONE PAVEMENTS gave very different results from other STONE PAVEMENTS in similar slope situations in the Scottish hill lands.
The only point in McCreery's paper that I can agree with is the amount of information on man-made stone pavements. This is restricted and thus not strictly statistically valid. I used the phrase "however tentative" in the appendix to MacKie's paper to indicate this clearly. The evidence of the orientations from the Kintraw platform is part of a whole body of evidence of distributional, structural, and geomorphological considerations. I believe that the evidence which is so far available supports the hypothesis that the platform is man-made, though I would not regard the matter as closed. I suggest it would be more productive to explore other avenues for information rather than indulge in destructive and ill-informed criticism.
J. S. Bibby,
Macaulay Institute for Soil Research
Thomas McCreery Replies:
My attention has been drawn to J. S. Bibby's response to my original article dealing with his use of petrofabric contours at Kintraw. I must confess to being disturbed by this reply which substitutes, for the most part, ad hominem rancour in lieu of rational or informed argument. By any standards it may be regarded as a minor masterpiece of deliberate obfuscation, for it does little to answer the defects inherent in Bibby's work at Kintraw; nor does it assure us of the ability of the technique to reliably distinguish between either a natural or a man made stone formation. In my original article, I had been more concerned with exposing the limitations of his interpretation of the petrofabric contours obtained at Kintraw, feeling that these arguments alone were sufficient to dispel any illusions that he had uncovered evidence showing that the stone layer was man made. However, the ill tempered tone of his response, which consciously neglects or confuses the arguments detailed in my article, leaves me little choice but to show that Bibby, besides showing scant regard for rigour in his work at Kintraw, is confused with regard to what petrofabric analysis can and cannot accomplish.
For this purpose I have prepared a separate work which amply demonstrates that petrofabric analysis cannot be utilised as a reliable archaeological tool. I would therefore ask the reader to evaluate the points presented in that work(1) before perusing my reply to the few relevant arguments raised by Bibby.
My attention turns now to Bibby's letter, discussion of which relates to the more general question asked of his work at Kintraw. Did it provide, in Catt's and Weir's words, the "fullest exploitation and the most careful evaluation" of the stone layer at Kintraw? No amount of personalised attack, nor misrepresentation of the contents of my initial article, will obscure the conclusion that Bibby's efforts at Kintraw were mediocre and did not properly evaluate the significance of the potential clue originally excavated by MacKie.
I shall attempt to evaluate the points made by Bibby in the order in which he presented them.
a) Bibby appears unwilling to be drawn into discussion. I do not blame him, for his work at Kintraw left a lot to be desired.
b) The cheap jibe at KRONOS readership which follows, implying lack of objectivity, is in poor taste.
c) Bibby takes me to task for my "mendacious" use of quotes from W. C. Krumbein. It seems a pity that Bibby did not pay proper attention to Krumbein's words. The sentence Bibby refers to was omitted because it was redundant in the context of the next quote. I was making the obvious point that, by itself, a petrofabric contour cannot disclose all the petrofabric data that is obtained from a fabric. Neither can numerical data. Both types of presentation should be used. I note here that virtually all workers in this field, with the obvious exception of Bibby, display data in both forms.
d) I agree with Bibby that he was "comparing diagrams with diagrams". This, of course, is where he erred in methodology. But I cannot understand why he talks of texture in this context. At no time have I ever mentioned textures, so its mention here is a non sequitur. I should however point out that Bibby's comparison of the petrofabric data by visual inspection of the respective contours alone leads to error. I quote from R. P. Kirby:
As Bibby's argument centered on the visual resemblance between the two contours from Kintraw and the one from Sheephill Fort, and as they all show isotropic distribution of axis, statistical tests should have been performed. No tests were carried out by Bibby.
e) In response to my plea for statistical supplementation, Bibby assures us that he is still satisfied with his particular interpretation of the petrofabric data, and further opines that statistical analysis would only support his conclusions. If I wish to confirm these, he tells us, it is I who should recover the data from the published contours.
Two points must be made here. Firstly, it is impossible to extract all the relevant data from two of the five contours Bibby used since about 35% of the raw data is unavailable in each case. Secondly, if one wished to statistically compare the Kintraw fabric with the solifluction deposits, one finds that no raw data was presented in the earlier co-authored paper by Ragg and Bibby.
f) It would have fared better for Bibby had he not brought up the issue of the C-axes. He quotes Krumbein in the belief that this most eminent authority supports him. Let's examine what Krumbein has to say:
Bibby miscalculated here, for he simply repeated McCann's restatement of Krumbein rather than referring to the primary source. McCann, for instance, noted:
Krumbein's position with regard to the use of the long axes, therefore, is different from the meaning imposed on it by Bibby. We accept that in routine investigations of pebble deposits, given the time limitations on the field geologist and the vast experience of geologists in this field, long axis investigation alone would suffice to show the direction of the streams depositing the pebbles, particularly when corroboration can be obtained from other sources. However these cases are totally different from that of Kintraw, which presents a unique situation. If Bibby does not think so, or does not think that all the available information should have been obtained from the Kintraw site, he is even more confused than I thought.
A further point should here be clarified, one which concerns the potential significance of the stone layer to European prehistory. Dr. MacKie had excavated the ledge at a point he believed to be the backsight of a "most important solar observatory". The total absence of any form of archaeological remains left him with the stone layer as the only potential clue. If this could somehow be proven to be man made, then European prehistory would have to be fundamentally altered. On his instructions, Bibby performed the petrofabric analysis under discussion on two sections of the layer. He then compared them visually with other contours believing, wrongly as we have seen, that this could prove the layer to be man made. Surely Bibby should have realised, given the potential importance of the stone layer, that a rigorous evaluation of the fabric was called for, rather than the incomplete and grossly inaccurate survey that was performed.
g) Bibby again tries to explain away the lack of C-axis measurements by alternatively suggesting that Krumbein's classic article implies that for the type of stone shapes found at Kintraw, C-axis investigation is not required. Krumbein, however, notes that
The Kintraw stones, which, in Bibby's own words, were "tabular and wedge shaped", should therefore have been investigated for C-axis distributions. Consider the work in this field by another noted authority on the use of petrofabric techniques. In investigations of till deposits, P. W. Harrison placed great emphasis on the need for C-axis evaluation.
Bibby's explanation for his decision to investigate only long axes distribution at Kintraw has little to do with scientific reasons for Bibby cannot produce any. He was merely concerned with the fact that contours are essentially interpretative devices. They must be compared with other contours. Bibby wished to compare the Kintraw contours with contours obtained from soliflucted deposits, but as he had previously only obtained long axis data from these, he had nothing with which to compare the C-axes from Kintraw. So he had no reason to obtain any C-axis from Kintraw.
h) Bibby complains that I do not realise that "comparing individual samples with a population of samples is a legitimate and widely used comparative technique". But I do realise this; unfortunately it is Bibby who does not. One asks the whereabouts of Bibby's large population of samples? From his published work we read that he collected two contours from the Kintraw fabric and one from Sheephill Fort.
Bibby also claims that "the diagrams used in the appendix to MacKie's paper were illustrative of types rather than exhaustive documentation". This is total nonsense. Apart from the contour from Sheephill Fort, we are grossly ignorant of the types of contour that could be obtained from man-arranged stone horizons. It may well be that the Sheephill Fort contour is quite exceptional, being out with the general range of such contours, so any claim that the Sheephill Fort contour is illustrative of type is of the purest conjecture.
i) Bibby claims that editors would not thank him for being exhaustive with material. This is more nonsense, for Bibby has no exhaustive material on this subject. His statement is a pitiful apology for the abject lack of information proffered by him.
j) Bibby notes that I did not like the manner in "which the material was collected". The methods outlined and used by Krumbein are the most correct and rigorous procedures in evaluating petrofabric data. Other workers in the field follow Krumbein in referencing fabric material in situ before transporting it back to the laboratory for more detailed investigation. Bibby quotes two supposed sources in support of his isolated position, but reference to these shows that they are both quite ambiguous on the matter of whether the experimental work was carried out in situ. G. Albjarr, et al. state:
A reading of these leaves unanswered Bibby's claim that they did not utilise laboratory investigation.
k) I confess to a total inability at understanding the reason behind Bibby's claim that his methodology for obtaining petrofabric contours "is an accepted method with a statistically sound basis and [he] make[s] no apologies for using it". I have tried to examine this statement from a number of different viewpoints as follows:
1) If Bibby is trying to say that petrofabric contours based on sampling 100 items in each horizon is statistically sound, I would agree, for it is normal practice.
2) If he is trying to say that the method used by him in obtaining the long axis, and consequently the angle of dip, by reliance on visual inspection only is statistically sound, then this is a non sequitur, for it is quite meaningless.
3) If he is trying to assert that the way he compared contours is statistically sound then he is wrong, for as Krumbein has noted: "petrofabric diagrams are essentially interpretive devices"; and thus visual inspection of such contours cannot constitute a statistical method.
l) What Bibby considers my "misunderstanding" is actually his. As already indicated, one cannot compare contours in this manner. If Bibby wishes to quibble about the claim that he compared the Kintraw deposit with other hill slope deposits, it should be pointed out - as I did in my original article - that comparison of the Kintraw deposit with those from Broadlaw is not consistent with normal petrofabric comparisons, for both Broadlaw and Kintraw represent totally dissimilar geological environments. Had Bibby and MacKie wished to compare the Kintraw fabric with similar types, they should have excavated other stone horizons in the Kintraw area especially since this region abounds in ledges similar to the one overlooking the megalithic site.
I make no apologies for using the Cary outwash pebble contour in my original article. It is true that the Cary outwash was formed under different geological conditions from the stone layer at Kintraw, but so were the solifluction deposits at Broadlaw and the man-arranged fabric at Sheephill Fort. It is therefore agreed that comparison between any of these sites in the context of petrofabric evaluation is meaningless. But then I only used the Cary contour precisely in order to illustrate the errors in Bibby's criteria for determining whether a given fabric could be of natural or artificial genesis.
I do, however, offer one apology. Bibby did not state that "natural formations always show strong orientations relative to the slope in which they are situated". Those were my own words - but they merely paraphrase Bibby's:
My paraphrasing is thus consistent with Bibby's text. My only error was to attribute the term "natural formations" to Bibby rather than to myself.
m) Bibby suggests that it would be more productive to explore other avenues than to indulge in "destructive and ill-informed criticism". I accept that my criticism was destructive - but only of Bibby's methodology (or lack of it). I would, on the other hand, claim that it is Bibby who is uninformed. I have explored other evidence in this field and the results indicate that the Kintraw stone pavement could not have been man-made. But first, consider the following petrofabric data which strongly conflicts with Bibby's interpretation.
The two figures presented below are rose diagrams. They show indications of long axis distribution and, following McCann, are taken as percentage frequencies within thirty degree segments. They clearly indicate that the orientation inherent in the No. 2 Kintraw fabric is markedly different from that of the Sheephill Fort fabric.
[Figs: The data for the "rose diagrams" presented above were abstracted from J.S. Bibby's article "Petrofabric analysis" (Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A. 276 (1974), p. 192. Diagram (A) shows that the distribution of long axes in the Kintraw No. 2 fabric is nearly normal to the angle of slope of the ledge, whereas the distribution of long axes in the Sheep Hill Fort fabric is vertically parallel to the angle of slope. Thus the distribution of long axes in these two fabrics is markedly different, and shows that the forces arranging the fabrics were also different.
Labels: (a) from Kintraw No 2 fabric. Direction (angle) of slope, 240-degrees. (B) from Sheep Hill Fort fabric. Direction (angle) of slope, 163-degrees].
In the foregoing, as also in my accompanying article, I have demonstrated why petrofabric analysis cannot be used to distinguish between a natural or artificial genesis of the stone layer at Kintraw. I have, once again, exposed the numerous limitations in Bibby's methodology. Before concluding this somewhat lengthy reply, I wish to draw attention to new information which incontrovertibly proclaims the Kintraw platform as not man-made. I speak here not of the absence of archaeological material on the ledge, which itself is a strong indictment of the so-called importance of the ledge to the megalithic builders at Kintraw, but to the fact that the ledge could not have been used for the series of observations needed to establish Kintraw as an accurate solstitial observatory.
According to Thom, the ledge must have been used as the observing platform because the proposed foresight - i.e., the col between the mountains Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn a'Chaolais - is obscured by the nearby ridge as seen from the actual megalithic site below. But even from the platform itself, terrestrial refraction effects coupled with the presence of this ridge make observation of the col very difficult. In fact, it may be visible or invisible depending on the observer's eye level. Nor is this the only problem. A more serious one exists for those who propose it as the observing platform on which the primary backsight at the boulder notch was established. For this purpose, a series of preliminary observations of the Sun setting in the col would have to have been made by Megalithic man on the days immediately before and after midwinter's day. It is a simple matter to calculate where these observations would have been conducted on the ledge. But on repeating the experiment, my colleagues and I found that, at these positions, the col is always invisible - irrespective of the observer's eye level. We noted:
"It is quite clear, therefore, that the series of observations which Thom's theory requires could no more have been made on the ledge than from the field beside the menhir itself."(10)
Thus the hypothesis that the ledge could have functioned as a prehistoric observing platform is in error. This leaves no known reason why the megalith builders at Kintraw would have been interested in constructing a stone platform on the ledge - thus Bibby's exercise on this ledge was merely one of futility.
REFERENCES1. T. McCreery, "Petrofabric Analysis: An Unreliable Archaeological Tool", elsewhere in this issue.
2. R. P. Kirby, "Till Fabric Analyses from the Lothians, Central Scotland," Geog Annaler 51 A (1969), p. 51.
3. W. C. Krumbein, "Flood Gravels of San Gabriel Canyon, California," Bulletin of the Geological Society of America 51 (1940), p. 653.
4. S. B. McCann, "Supposed 'Raised Beach' Deposits at Corran, Loch Linnhe and Loch Etive," Geological Magazine XCVIII 2 (1961), p. 135.
5. W. C. Krumbein, "Preferred Orientation of Pebbles in Sedimentary Deposits," Journal of Geology 47, 7 (1939), p. 679.
6. P. W. Harrison, "A Clay-till Fabric: Its Character and Origin," Journal of Geology 65 (1957), p. 275.
7. G. Albjarr, et al., "Notes on Talus Formation in Different Climates," Geog Annaler 61 A (1979), p. 179.
8. S. B. McCann, loc. cit.
9. J. S. Bibby, op. cit., p. 193.
10. T. McCreery, et al., "Observations at Kintraw," Astronomy in the Old World (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 183-190; reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
KINTRAW, BIBBY, AND MACKIEDwardu Cardona Comments:
For those who might not be well acquainted with the debate at issue, it might help to
reiterate that the controversy in question revolves around the nature of the rubble deposit that
Euan MacKie excavated on the ledge of the hill overlooking the Megalithic site of Kintraw in
Of actual artifacts, nothing was ever discovered. What came to light, instead, was a
rubble pavement that looked so much like a natural deposit that a petrofabric analysis was
deemed necessary in order to ascertain whether or not it had, in fact, been artificially laid
down. J. S. Bibby, of the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, was asked to conduct the
analysis. The petrofabric contours obtained at Kintraw were compared to one obtained from a
known man-made formation, and the verdict was reached that the Kintraw platform was the
work of man.
Bibby, of course, was not the only one to object to McCreery's criticism. It would
have been surprising had MacKie himself remained silent. Writing in 1980, MacKie was still
maintaining that the results of his excavations at Kintraw "supported" Thom's hypothesis of
the site "as an advanced solar observatory".
In response to Bibby, I will begin by stating that I find nothing wrong in pursuing the discussion "with vigour". In fact, I believe that all serious discussions should be so pursued.
Bibby has stated that he had no particular wish to be drawn into the discussion. This, however, is one of the burdens of science; it is also one of the responsibilities of scientists. Obviously, Bibby must have been aware of the controversial nature inherent in Thom's and MacKie's postulate. He must have been aware that, in the absence of discovered artifacts, his analysis would prove to be the pivot on which MacKie's archaeological test was to turn. From an archaeological point of view, Bibby's analysis was the last straw MacKie could grasp. It has been the verdict reached on the strength of Bibby's test that MacKie has since touted as the all-convincing proof of the solstitial nature of the site.
Be that as it may - Bibby's verdict rests on the efficiency of the method employed as well as the employment of the method.
In his original critique, McCreery repeated W. C. Krumbein's statement that:
"Conventional petrofabric analysis cannot readily be used for direct comparison with other
Both Krumbein and McCreery claimed that it is the lack of numerical data that prohibits the direct comparison of petrofabric analysis with other sedimentary characteristics. Bibby correctly reminded us that Krumbein did not view the reliance on graphic presentation as a "criticism" of petrofabric analysis. But all three agree that numerical data would "supplement" the diagrammatic information. Thus no one is arguing this point and, again, I fail to see why Bibby brought it up. It does not change the fact that petrofabric analysis remains limited to diagrammatic interpretation and comparison.
The comparison of diagrams with diagrams, as Bibby pointed out, is helpful but let us not generalize. At the same time, let us not be selective.
Bibby compared the diagrams obtained through petrofabric analysis at the Kintraw
platform to two others obtained through the same method from a scree at Broadlaw in order to
show their dissimilarity - and thus purportedly prove that the Kintraw platform could not be a
Meanwhile, if petrofabric analysis can only rest its case on diagrammatic comparison, what conclusion should be reached at Broadlaw where diagrams from one stratum do not even compare with those of another immediately beneath the first?
Bibby has rested his case on the fact that the diagrams from Kintraw compare favorably
with that obtained at Sheep Hill Fort. But, as indicated above, they compare just as favorably
with those from Sites II and IV at Broadlaw and also with one taken from a Wisconsin terrace at
Cary, Illinois. While the Sheep Hill Fort pavement has been shown to be man-made,
It is precisely with the above that Bibby takes greatest issue, arguing that the comparisons should be limited to hill-side deposits in order to conform to the context at Kintraw. So also MacKie:
That no gravel terrace could have formed at Kintraw depends on what one exactly means
by "gravel terrace". The Wisconsin terrace at Illinois is a glacial formation. That the Kintraw
platform could also have formed under periglacial conditions was admitted by MacKie himself.
But to return to the hill-side context at Kintraw: The real factor involved here is the slope
of the hill - for whether slopes are long enough to be termed hills, stones still roll down them as
they could easily have rolled down the one at Kintraw to come to rest on the ledge which is itself
a natural formation. MacKie can still object, as he has already done, that a scree deposit, like a
gravel terrace, could not have formed at Kintraw
Which is another reason why a petrofabric analysis was deemed necessary.
Now McCreery has already pointed out that the Illinois terrace slopes at 12-deg. The Sheep Hill Fort inclination slopes at only 5-deg. If this 5-deg slope at Sheep Hill Fort is considered a legitimate comparison with the 10-deg slope at Kintraw, I contend that the 12-deg slope at Illinois is even more so. In all cases stones could have rolled down these slopes; in some cases they actually have. That the stones on one of these slopes were artificially laid down does not necessarily imply that the others were also so formed.
But even if Bibby does not accept this - and really he has no reason not to - he cannot, as he has tried, ignore the comparison of the Broadlaw diagrams. For, despite his selectivity in the diagrams he chose to present, it was he who included this site for comparison with Kintraw. In fact, it is probably this latter site that MacKie himself had in mind when he admitted that some of McCreery's "other comparisons are more plausible".
Finally, with how many diagrams of known man-made formations did Bibby compare the
Kintraw pavement? As he himself acknowledged: "No information was available concerning
patterns produced on fabric diagrams by data drawn from man-made pavements."
In his reply to McCreery's criticism, Bibby was fair enough to concede that he does not "regard the matter as closed". It is unfortunate, however, that MacKie took Bibby's report as ipse dixit, presenting this flimsy evidence as a foregone conclusion, advertising it as the all-convincing proof of the site's solstitial nature. Consider, for instance, MacKie's words:
How dramatic is a confirmation based on a "tentative check" - Bibby's own words
It might seem unfair, of course, to burden Bibby with MacKie's misleading statements. It should, on the other hand, be pointed out that the entire science of Megalithic astronomy has been based on nothing but a series of similar misleading statements concerning measurements and sight lines which, it is steadily being discovered, are found to be wanting when rechecked by unbiased observers.
As for the Kintraw platform, McCreery has again shown, this time more decisively,
Petrofabric analysis is not the only issue at Kintraw. From the very first, Alexander Thom
has posited sight lines and other alignments which he was forced to modify, time and again, and
eventually discard. The remains of the smaller cairn on the site were mistaken by him for a
standing stone ring; the remains of the kist which would have been buried beneath it were
mistaken for astronomical markers; the solitary menhir was claimed to have "pointed" first to this
and then to that astronomical moment; the all important foresight was blocked by the intervening
ridge of Dun Arnal; the top of the larger cairn, from which the foresight would have been visible,
did not allow for preliminary observations; and the ledge further up the hill from where such
preliminary observations could have been conducted was unfortunately found to be the work of
nature rather than man. It was at this point that Euan MacKie entered the picture to muddle it
further with his archaeological excavations.
The only indisputable factor at Kintraw is that retrocalculation has shown that the midwinter Sun did once graze the slope of Beinn Shiantaidh to disappear in the col between it and the neighboring Beinn a Chaolais as sometimes seen from the ledge. What must be stressed, however, is that Thom's former posited sight lines - through solid cairn, buried kist, etc.were all accurately aligned on this, as well as two other dubious phenomena. That the accuracy of these impossible and discarded alignments was due to fortuity is therefore beyond question. The one remaining alignment that both Thom and MacKie continue to hold on to can thus be surmised to be just as fortuitous since it is quite clear that a sight line to the col in question can be drawn through any number of existing stones on the site. It is in fact quite obvious that all the sight lines which have been posited at Kintraw are nothing but a stubborn attempt at finding some item which man erected or constructed that could be interpreted as an intentional "pointer" to one or another astronomical event - thus purportedly proving that Megalithic man recognized the phenomenon and took great pains to mark the spot for posterity.
As an example of this stubbornness - as also of Thom's and MacKie's perpetual modifications of sight lines and hypotheses - consider the following:
Besides the solar line we have so far discussed, Thom had also posited - and modified -
a lunar alignment directed toward Dubh Beinn.
To which compare his more recent statement:
As I once said of Thom's oft repeated modifications, a change of mind is acceptable but, since MacKie no longer wishes to ignore this sight line, he is reburdened with the previous objections I had raised against its acceptance.
The most prominent solitary component at Kintraw is the 12-foot high menhir. At various
times and in more than one diagram, Thom has had this menhir as indicating the sight line to both
Dubh Beinn and Beinn Shiantaidh.
The point to be stressed here is that if this tall menhir was meant to play such a minor role in the astronomical layout of the site, why did the so-called astronomer-priesthood go to all the trouble of selecting and erecting such a massive "pointer"? Or if such a minor function was thought worthy of a 12-foot high menhir, should one not expect the final and most important backsight on the ledge to be worthy of a marker just as, if not more, prominent?
Actually, MacKie does speak of this final marker as "a conspicuous observation point ...
made from two massive boulders".
It is from between and behind these "conspicuous massive boulders" that the angular stones of Bibby's petrofabric analysis fan out to form the "artificial" pavement - which brings us back to where we started from. But now MacKie presents us with a new twist by informing us that it did not really require such an analysis to provide evidence of the platform's artificiality. According to MacKie's position:
It had seemed clear to MacKie from the start that (a) the boulders had been "carefully
chocked into position with their pointed ends touching" to form a notch and that (b) the stone
pavement had been "deliberately laid" behind these "massive boulders".
Here, then, is the "other means" of identifying the platform as artificial which petrofabric analysis is now made only to corroborate - thus supposedly meeting McCreery's stipulation that fabric contours can only be used in comparative analysis if upheld by independent genetic evidence.
But when we do check MacKie's original report, we do not find the problem so expressed. On the contrary it is there stated that:
And was it not to eliminate the plausibility of the latter explanation that the petrofabric analysis was really conducted? So how dare MacKie now imply that the artificiality of the pavement had been evident from the start?
At this point one actually wonders why a pavement of loose angular stones was required on a ledge that would have been used once a year by, at most, two observers. None was deemed necessary on the actual site below, where the main congregation would have met.
In the end, of course, it does not really much matter whether the Kintraw stone pavement
forms an artificial platform or not. Further tests conducted at the site by Patrick, Hastie, Moulds,
and McCreery have shown that the all important solstitial notch on Jura is only visible from the
platform on rare occasions under optimum atmospheric conditions. What is even worse, it still
remains entirely obscured and at all times by the intervening ridge of Dun Arnal in the lateral
movements which would have been necessary in the preliminary pinpointing of the actual moment
of solstice sunset.
Quite a vicious circle.
REFERENCES1. E. W. MacKie, "Archaeological Tests on Supposed Prehistoric Astronomical Sites in Scotland," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, A, 276 (1974), pp. 169-190; idem, "Megalithic Astronomy and Catastrophism," Pensée IVR X (Winter 1974-75), pp. 5-20; idem, "Megalithic Astronomy," SISR I:2 (Spring 1976), pp. 2-4.
2. A. Thom, Megalithic Sites in Britain (Oxford, 1974 corrected edition), pp. 154-156; Idem, Megalithic Lunar Observatories (Oxford, 1973 corrected edition), pp. 14, 36-38, 65, 107, 112.
3. E. W. MacKie, "Testing the Catastrophic Theory with Evidence from the Historical Sciences," read at the Lewis & Clark Velikovsky Symposium, Portland, Oregon, August 17, 1972.
4. J. S. Bibby, "Petrofabric Analysis," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, A, 276 (1974), pp. 191-194.
5. T. McCreery, 'The Kintraw Stone Platform," KRONOS V:3 (Spring 1980), pp. 71-79.
6. E. W. MacKie, "Wise Men in Antiquity?" Astronomy and Society in Britain during the Period 4000-1500 B.C. (Oxford, 1981), p. 112 (emphasis added).
7. Ibid., p. 115.
9. W. C. Krumbein, Journal of Geology, 47 (1939), p. 674.
11. J. S. Bibby, loc. cit.
12. T. McCreery, op. cit, pp. 74-75, 77-78.
13. J. S. Bibby, op. cit, p. 193.
14. E. W. MacKie, op. cit, p. 116 (first emphasis as given, second emphasis added).
15. Idem (1974), see note No. 1, p. 183.
17. J. S. Bibby, loc. cit
19. D. Cardona, "The Cairns of Kintraw," KRONOS IV:3 (Spring 1979), p. 51.
20. E. W. MacKie, "Ballochroy, Kintraw, and MacKie," KRONOS V:3 (Spring 1980), p. 81.
21. Idem, The Megalith Builders (Oxford, 1977), p. 102.
22. J. S. Bibby, loc. cit
23. T. McCreery, "Petrofabric Analysis: An Unreliable Archaeological Tool," elsewhere in this issue.
24. D. Cardona, op. cit., in toto.
25. A. Thom, "The Lunar Observatories of Megalithic Man," Vistas in Astronomy, 11, l (1969), Fig. 5; idem (1973), see note No. 2, p. 38.
26. D. Cardona, op. cit, pp. 40-43.
27. E. W. MacKie, see note No. 20, p. 82.
28. Idem, see note No. 6, p. 115 (last emphasis only added).
29. A. Thom (1974), see note No. 2, p. 156; idem, see note No. 25, Fig.5;idem (1973), see note No. 2, p. 38.
30. E. W. MacKie (1974), see note No. 1, p. 185.
31. Idem, see note No. 21, p. 102.
32. E. Hadingham, Circles and Standing Stones (N.Y., 1975), p. 113; D. Cardona, op. cit, p. 50; Idem, "Ballochroy, Kintraw, and MacKie," KRONOS V:3 (Spring 1980), p. 91.
33. E. W. MacKie, see note No. 6, p. 115.
34. Ibid., p. 116.
37. Idem (1974), see note No. 1, p. 183 (emphasis added).
38. J. Patrick, "A Reassessment of the Solstitial Observatories at Kintraw and Ballochroy," Astronomy and Society in Britain during the Period 4000-1500 B. C. (Oxford, 1981), pp. 211-219; T. McCreery, et al., "Observations at Kintraw," Astronomy in the Old World (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 183-190, reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
VELIKOVSKY, KRONOS, AND MACKIESome Additional Comments by Dwardu Cardona:
I did not wish to burden the scientific content of my previous commentary by the very unscientific matter to which I now wish to draw the reader's attention. But Euan MacKie's stratagem, in reverting to the age-old tactic of attempting to fault Thomas McCreery's work and mine by association, drives me to the abhorrence of having to lower my standard of ethics to his. Rather than contain the Kintraw debate within its scholarly bounds, MacKie attempted to disparage and vilify those whose criticism he wished to sweep aside. Consider the following quote from him:
I would have liked to have stated that the above bears close scrutiny - not so much by the so-called "followers" of Dr. Velikovsky but by MacKie's own peers and colleagues. It has come to my attention, however, that MacKie's unscholarly ruse did not go unnoticed by those who share his interest in matters Megalithic. Even Douglas Heggie, hardly a supporter of Velikovsky, but very much an authority on Megalithic science, was moved to state:
What if his own colleagues were to turn the tables on MacKie? For, after all, is not MacKie himself guilty of the very same usage of which he accuses McCreery and myself?
Did not one of MacKie's own articles, dealing with the very same issues, appear in
Did not another of MacKie's articles, a shorter version of the one in Pensée, appear in the
Society for Interdisciplinary Studies Review?
More than that, is not MacKie an actual founding father of the Society for Interdisciplinary
Studies whose very aim was stated to be the encouragement of "a rational assessment" of the
contribution to science by Immanuel Velikovsky?
Was it not MacKie who wrote an article in defence of Velikovsky in the New Scientist in
which he stated that "it is difficult to see how there can be any further justification for refusing to
consider and actively to test [Velikovsky's] ideas - no matter how unpalatable they may seem"?
Did not MacKie posit certain non-uniformitarian objections to his own work and did not
his associates raise a hellish fuss in reminding this very writer of them?
MacKie might retort that he has had a change of mind in all this - as notice his near-praise
of Velikovsky's critics in his review of Scientists Confront Velikovsky.
So what does it mean to have one's work published by a periodical, be it KRONOS or the SISR, whose aim is the scientific re-evaluation of Velikovsky's theories?
MacKie's cheap swipe at KRONOS isn't even an original cop-out for he was merely
parroting the words of John B. Carlson, Editor of The Bulletin of The Center for
Archaeoastronomy: "Reader beware - the journal in which [McCreery's article] appears,
KRONOS, is an avowedly pro-Velikovsky publication"
Readers at large - and I do hope MacKie's colleagues take note of this - can judge for
themselves which periodical functions under the better ethics, for when MacKie objected to the
treatment of his work by this very writer, KRONOS lived up to its standards by printing MacKie's
letter as well as that of his associates.
MacKie's attempt to slander the periodical on which I serve as a senior editor was only
a smoke screen intended to camouflage the validity of the criticism levelled at his work. It will
not do to label KRONOS a "propaganda magazine" of the Velikovsky "movement", for KRONOS
has never shied away from publishing criticisms of Velikovsky by its readers, its staff, and this
very writer. MacKie should be well aware of this for my very first effort in that vein was
stimulated by his own remarks.
MacKie can argue that, although his articles on Kintraw appeared in Pensée and the SISR, they were not meant to further or corroborate the Velikovskian hypothesis. Lest he be laboring under a misapprehension, neither was my criticism of them. Even so, as I have already pointed out to him once, so shall l repeat now: If he expects Velikovsky's theory to be modified on the basis of Megalithic astronomy, he will first have to prove that this science is based on solid foundations.
On May 6, 1981, the following letter was sent to the editors of the SISR:
On July 21, 1981, R. M. Lowery, Editor of the SISR, replied. Stating that the members
of the SIS were "assumed to share [the editors'] prejudices", the editorial consensus of the SISR
was that the above letter should not be published. Moreover, the editors' decision was to be
MacKie's more recent swipe at KRONOS and Velikovsky not only vindicates my original accusation, it also tarnishes those editors of the SISR who continue to champion such cheap scholarship - as it must also tarnish any members of the SIS whose "prejudices" are allowed to be "assumed" by said editors without protest.
In December of 1982 the refused letter was acknowledged by the SISR's sister organ, the SIS
Workshop (labelled March 1982), through the publication of a second protest by this writer.
REFERENCES1. E. W. MacKie, "Wise Men in Antiquity?" Astronomy and Society in Britain during the Period 4000-1500 B. C. (Oxford, 1981), pp. 115-116.
2. D. C. Heggie, Review of the published proceedings of the Newcastle Conference, Archaeoastronomy Supplement to JHA, 4 (1982) 568-70 (Emphasis added).
3. E. W. MacKie, "Megalithic Astronomy and Catastrophism," Pensée IVR X (Winter 1974-75), pp. 5-20.
4. Idem, "Megalithic Astronomy," SISR I:2 (Spring 1976), pp. 24.
5. "Draft Constitution," item 2(k), Interdisciplinary Study Group (later, the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies) Newsletter 2 (September 1975), p. 3.
6. E. W. MacKie, "A Challenge to the Integrity of Science?" New Scientist (Jan. 11, 1973), in toto (Emphasis added).
7. R. M. Lowery and P. J. James, "Ballochroy, Kintraw, and MacKie," KRONOS V:3 (Spring 1980), pp. 83-86.
8. E. W. MacKie, "A Heretic in His Time?" New Scientist (Sept. 14, 1978), in toto.
9. Idem, "Ballochroy, Kintraw, and MacKie," see note No. 7, p. 80; R. M. Lowery and P. J. James, loc. cit.
10. J. B. Carlson, The Bulletin of The Center for Archaeoastronomy II:4 (Fall 1979), p. 22. (NOTE: This particular article by McCreery - "Megalithic Lunar Observatories A Critique" - appeared in KRONOS V:1 (Fall 1979), pp. 47-63 and V:2 (Winter 1980), pp. 6-26.)
11. See note No. 9.
12. R.M.Lowery to D.Cardona, July 21, 1981, official communiqué.
13. D. Cardona to E. W. MacKie, Sept. 10, 1973, private communiqué; E. W. MacKie to D. Cardona, Sept. 18, 1973, private communiqué; D. Cardona to E. W. MacKie, Oct. 16, 1973, private communiqué. (NOTE: This correspondence resulted in the writing of my first critique of Dr. Velikovsky - "The Problem of the Frozen Mammoths," KRONOS I:4 (Winter 1976), pp. 77-85.)
14. D. Cardona, "Ballochroy, Kintraw, and MacKie," see note No. 7, p. 88.
15. Idem, "Pots and Kettles," SIS Workshop 4:4 (March 1982), pp. 38-39.