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’tpick upfrom thenewspapers. 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.
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.
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 constellationand 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. Continue reading
If you’re desperate to hear the answer and can’t bear suspense I’ll drop a hint: I’m hardly going to get any dissent if I say yes am I?
The Kings Men Stone Circle – Rollright Stones – Oxfordshire
On the way back from Oxford today I stopped by the Rollright Stones to get some photos. There are plenty of good photos on the net. Flickr has a few, as does the Megalithic Portal. The problem with these photos is that they emphasise the stones, which normally is one of the major attractions of a stone circle. The Rollright Stones are a particularly good place for this because unlike somewhere like Stonehenge you can get among the stones. Unlike Avebury the circle tends to be relatively empty too. The wardens are friendly people and the lack of facilties means that it tends to be quiet. It’s a very nice place. Sometime in the early hours of April Fool’s Day 2004, or possibly late the previous evening, someone daubed the stones randomly but fairly comprehensively with yellow paint. Over two years later the paint still defaces the stones as you can see from the photos below. Is it a problem? Continue reading
Recently I’ve been working on a solution to a problem on calendars in South Italy and Sicily. A few cities have calendars which start in the autumn. The assumption is that this is connected to the autumnal equinox, but I’m not so certain. The autumnal equinox makes great sense if you have geometrical astornomy, but these calendars pre-date the accurate astronomy of later Greece. I think it could be tied to other observations. There’s a problem in proving this though. I need to corroborate some of my assumptions with independent evidence. Working with Greek cities this should be easy, but the Greek cities in Sicily don’t have that good a historical record. However, there is also the possibility of looking at pottery and I’ve found a couple of vases which fit nicely. Unfortunately they’re Apulian vases.
This should be good news. Apulia is the heel of Italy, so these vases come from exactly the right place. Yet there’s very little archaeological record of these vases. Up to ninety per cent of Apulian vases were first known when they were put up for auction. It is possible that they were all stored in grandmothers’ attics during the Second World War. Indeed there are so many vases that it would suggest that the attic is the safest place to hide if you’re in a war zone. An alternative explanation is that a trade which is happy to buy artefacts with no provenance and no questions asked helps drive a demand for Apulian vases. What is more likely capacious attics or illicit smuggling? Who knows?
If I cannot provenance the vases then their use is limited. I’m trying to tie the observations to specific sites and ‘South Italy’ simply isn’t good enough.
Above is Daz Sampson’s Teenage Life, the UK entry for Eurovision 2006. It could be a classic this year. Finland have sent Lordi, Germany have sent their best entry since Stefan Raab (inventor of wok racing) with Texas Lightning. Iceland’s entry Congratulations by Silvia Night included a line which may, or may not be, “The vote is in, I’ll f*****g win”. Sadly it didn’t get past the semi-final being as it was beaten by Armenia and 22 other countries. It didn’t work for Cliff Richard either — he came second when he sang Congratulations.
I’m wary of making predictions because voting in the Eurovision is so variable. I’ll stick my neck out and say that Cyprus might give Greece 12 points this year. There’s something about the Greek entry with year that might go down well with the Cypriote public.
It’s usual when the British entry does badly to blame block voting by small countries. There’s also broader political influence as well. Jemini lost out in 2003, scoring zero in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, which I thought was unfair. When you listen to the performance impartially then really you can only come to the conclusion that it’s a shame you can’t give out negative points. They said the performance was off-key due to technical glitches. Yet on some notes they weren’t merely off-key but off-crowbar too whilst trying to break into the Mansion of Melody.
There’s an interview with Daz Sampson on YouTube. I saw him on News24 as well yesterday. I agree with him, one reason for some poor UK results is that we’ve sent some terrible stuff. Recently the UK and some other countries have sent aural wallpaper. If the fun entries do well this year then hopefully there’ll be more to watch at Eurovision than the voting.
I wasn’t too surprised by some of the responses to the Bosnian Pyramid posts, though the quantity was high. One reason for not writing more on it was the sheer number of visitors. I’ve had to pay for increased bandwidth which I can’t really afford to do again. There were a few people that noted I was an idiot, which told me nothing I didn’t know already, but no flaws in my reasoning. I assume that means that everyone accepts that the press releases coming out from Visoko are so nonsensical even an idiot can spot the errors. Therefore if you want to archaeologically examine the hill to find out what happened there in the past then the dig is probably a bad idea. There are lots of important things on the site and Osmanagić doesn’t seem to be aware of the problems he has recording it. Or else doesn’t care. But is the dig really about finding history or creating myth?
“And if it’s not a pyramid, then we make one,” said a man from Visoko after we asked him what he thinks of the pyramid shaped hill.
Nearby, the manager of a food factory was flogging “Bosnian Sun Pyramid” pralines. Hawkers sold hastily printed T-shirts and brandy in pyramid-shaped bottles while craftsmen turned out pyramid souvenirs. Retiree Rasim Kilalic turned his weekend home near the dig into a café. “Please God, let them find a pyramid,” he said, rushing to serve crowded tables.