Archived from Revise and Dissent
Julian Forum. Photo by Gauis Caecilius.
You may have noticed a the news story that the skeleton of a 30-year-old woman had been uncovered during excavations in the Julian Forum. They tend to share a headline which suggests that the skeleton is 300 years older than Rome. This is peculiar. The LA Times for instance says that the skeleton dates from the tenth century BC. Rome was said to have been founded in 753 BC, which is the eighth century BC. Mathematical puzzles aside, how do the archaeologists know this woman dates from before Rome?
As it happens she was found with a necklace and some pins, and she’s not alone. There are many cremations, so there’s plenty of ways of giving a rough date to the burial. It’s not the date of the burial that I’m questioning. It’s the foundation of Rome. Famously it wasn’t built in a day, but does it really make sense to say it was built in a specific year either?
Bryn Celli Ddu. Photo by AJ Bear.
An archaeologist has discovered that the passage into a burial mound on Anglesey was built to catch the rising sun on the summer solstice.Steve Burrow said he was “elated” when the sun filtered in through trees as he sat in the Bryn Celli Ddu chamber.
BBC NEWS | Wales | North West Wales | Ancient monument aligned to sun
I thought this was known already, but it seems not everyone accepted Lockyear’s measurements. I’m surprised that it was thought the measurements were the problem. I would have expected it to be the interpretation that was the problem. I’ll blog on this tomorrow at Revise and Dissent and i-Science. Right now I’m testing Flock.
A post from Revise and Dissent archived here. You can add your comment on this at HNN.
At Leicester there’s a small group of people who will evangelise to whoever will listen about the Very Short Introduction series. In recent years the series, published by OUP has gained the ultimate in accolades. The format has been ripped-off by other publishers. The concept, a pocket-sized introduction to the problems of an academic field is easy enough to copy, but there is more to the success of the series than that. The writing is usually extremely good and History: Very Short Introduction by John Arnold is an excellent example.
The book opens with an action sequence. It concerns Guilhem Déjean, a man on the trail of Cathars in Languedoc. His arrival in the village Tarascon sets in train a series of events which leads to the murder of Déjean at the hands of heretics who seek to hide from the Catholic church. It’s a pacey and well-written start that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond film, if James Bond relocated to 14th century France.
The point of the graphic opening is to give the reader a piece of the past to work with. Certainly there’s a story to be told, but is that it? Arnold asks “Is history the truth of the past re-told in the present?” In this book Arnold aims to show that history is not synonymous with the past. As David mentioned earlier, History is an investigation and this book tackles the questions of what we investigate and how we can do it. He also challenges the reader to think about what history is for, a point to which he returns at the end of the book.
You can read an overiew of some of the other flaws in the Bosnian Pyramid saga at Revise and Dissent in the posting Bosnian Pyramids: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Atlantis
Thanks, if that’s the right word, go to Doug Weller for passing along a better map of the equilateral triangle connecting the peaks of the Bosnian pyramids. It turns out that Bosnianpyramids.com is not an official site, so my measurements based on that don’t necessarily disprove the claim that the peaks of the pyramids mark the vertices of a triangle with “not one minute difference”. So I’ve looked at this map.
What I’m interested in is whether or not there are three equal angles. The easiest way for me to check is to measure the lengths of the sides and calculate from there. What I’ve done is put the map into Google Earth, placed it over the ocean, to ensure I’m measuring it flat and measured the three sides. The lengths of the sides will not be accurate, but their relative lengths will because their lengths will all be out by the same factor.
Measuring the three sides I get:
Sun — Moon : 2563
Moon — Dragon : 2638
Dragon — Sun : 2598
If you click on the photos you’ll see those measurements are metres, but in reality that’s misleading because the overlay is almost certainly not scaled correctly. It’s just the relative lengths that matter because the vertical and horizontal scaling will be out by the same factor.
You can work out the angles in degrees for the triangle through the Cosine Rule which will work because it’s independent of units. Alternatively you could use the Triangle Calculator which does the same thing with much less effort. Using this I get angles (converted from decimal degrees to degrees and minutes):
Sun: 61º 29′
Moon: 59º 55′
Dragon: 58º 37′
Is that an equilateral triangle?
I’d heard that an announcement was forthcoming about the Antikythera Mechanism, but I wasn’t expecting anything till October. The plan was to read around it when I had time this summer and then appear terribly wise in the autumn. So while Badgerminor at Orbis Quintus and Glaukôpis at Glaukôpidos are talking about it, I still know very little about the mechanism that you can’t pick up from the newspapers. If I get time I’ll read round the subject for autumn, but it’s one of those things which is very odd. Even being able to read it might not solve many questions about its use. Or maybe it will. The publication will have more info.
There’s also an official page from X-Tek, the people doing the scanning and an official website for the project which has an animation of the mechanism.
Beyond that there’s nothing I can say that Wikipedia doesn’t say already. No photo either because there’s nothing on a CC licence and my own photos, if I could find them, are so blurred they give me a headache. I hadn’t worked out how to focus inside glass cases when I took them.
Update: There’s now the press release and some comments on the letter in Nature on line.
Is this a Supernova? Photo by John Barentine, Apache Point Observatory
I picked up the story Ancient rock art chronicles exploding star yesterday, but I don’t know what to make of it. It’s another example of how a news story misses what is so interesting.
Briefly, a talk at the 208th meeting of the American Astronomical Society suggests that a Hohokam petroglyph might depict the great supernova of AD 1006. The remnants of this explosion can only be seen through a telescope today, but at the time it may have been the brightest star in the sky by a long way. Bright enough to read by. It’s not surprising that there are historical records of it around the world, but no record of it has been found in North America till now.
The talk relates an image to another petroglyph depicting Scorpius. This is what I find both really interesting and a bit odd, because I don’t know how they worked out the petroglyph was a constellation and that it was Scorpius. The picture looks like a scorpion, but does that automatically make it a constellation? If it does then must this scorpion be in the same part of the sky as the Graeco-Roman constellation Scorpius?
The only constellation records I could get my hands on from the region are the Navajo constellations. In these one part of Scorpius, along with Sagittarius, is part of a man with a staff. The other part is an entirely different constellation, the Rabbit Tracks. I’ve asked on HASTRO-L and Steve McCluskey has said that there’s no reason to assume continuity between Navajo and Hohokam cultures, they’re too far apart in time, geography and economic patterns, so you wouldn’t expect the astronomies to be similar.
Unlike the Navajo there is no living Hohokam people so interpretation has to be purely archaeological. Unfortunately (?) there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of petroglyphs in the American southwest. Simply picking glyphs to fit a theory would be easy, and with such a bright star it would be really really strange if no-one drew it. So the news report tells me nothing I can get excited about. It tells me that ancient Americans saw a supernova which shone around magnitude –7.5 but I could have guessed that. The really exciting and archaeologically useful bit, that it might be possible to identify constellations in petroglyphs, is completely glossed over.
I’ll have to wait for the publication before I can make sense of it.
There’s an initiative launched on World Book Day to get the UK, reading. Quick Reads are as described as “are exciting, short, fast-paced books by leading, bestselling authors, specifically written for emergent readers and adult learners.” which could sound a bit patronising. However there are some excellent authors contributing which you can see on this BBC website, along with previews. Some times historical author Tom Holt has an SF book. Tom Holland’s The Poison in the Blood is about the death of Paris. Danny Wallace and the Centre of the Universe is also on my to read list, but the first one I got was a story set in an archaeological excavation of a Roman villa dating from AD 70.