Hit by the Inspiration Brick


An inspiring brick
An inspir­ing brick. Photo by Celie.

I’ve been hit by the Brick of Inspiration, the one that hits you with the thought “I won­der if…?” while you’re sup­posed to be doing some­thing else. The trig­ger was the forth­com­ing Post-grad sem­inars. You’re sup­posed to give one a year. I’m com­plet­ing my second full-time-equivalent year and I’ve given five or six. By my count that exempts me from any sem­inars for the remainder this PhD and all of the next one. However the depart­ment might have a dif­fer­ent view so I thought I’d have a bit more of a pro­act­ive atti­tude rather than wait to have a sem­inar sprung on me.

I try not to talk about the PhD, because it’s a mixed ancient his­tory and archae­ology audi­ence. So I end up explain­ing the basic his­tor­ical and archae­olo­gical con­text of the PhD and then basic astro­nomy which, with a 20 minute talk, leaves just enough time to say it’s all going swim­mingly. Astronomy’s not rocket sci­ence, it just needs time to explain what the basics are, but time is at a premium in just 20 minutes. So I try and pick some­thing that’s small but sim­ilar to my PhD, or just some­thing I find interesting.

What I thought I’d do was some­thing purely as some­thing inter­est­ing. Fortunately while it’s not exactly my PhD, it’s next door. It’s about how people made sense of the world. Usually you might think of this as either reli­gion or sci­ence. I’m not sure how much sense it makes to divide between the two in ancient times and this talk will illus­trate that. I thought to talk about ghost stor­ies as a means of mak­ing sense of the world. When we look back at the past we tend to act as if people are per­fectly rational. I won­der how unin­ten­tion­ally ana­chron­istic this is. I’m ignor­ing the reas­on­able objec­tion that people in mod­ern times aren’t per­fectly rational either.

I’d like to pre­tend what I think is actu­ally a fruit­ful source of ser­i­ous enquiry arrived in my mind as the res­ult of care­ful and metic­u­lous think­ing. In fact it came from think­ing about how I could get explo­sions into my talk.
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