There are more things in heaven and earth, cobber, than are dreamt of in your philosophy

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This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org Studying astro­nomy in cul­ture should be simple. There’s only so much that is vis­ible by the naked eye, and it fol­lows pre­dict­able pat­terns. Modern astro­nomy means that we can recon­struct what was vis­ible any­where in the world in human his­tory, within cer­tain bound­ar­ies for errors. If we know what hap­pens when, then study­ing a cul­ture should just be a case of tak­ing a shop­ping list of astro­nom­ical phe­nom­ena and see­ing what a cul­ture does with them. And some bad his­tor­ies of astro­nomy read like the author is award­ing marks to cul­tures for astro­nom­ical achievements.

There’s vari­ous things that don’t work with that plan, but the biggest is that you sup­posedly are examin­ing cul­ture and are fit­ting a study to a very spe­cific view of astro­nomy, a mod­ern west­ern view. It’s awk­ward because we live in a cul­ture where a mod­ern Platonic view of sci­ence is rarely chal­lenged. There’s a good reason for that. Our view of sci­ence makes sense within our cul­ture. But if we don’t acknow­ledge that sci­ence is a social con­struct then we don’t fully under­stand other cul­tures. Reality is the same for all of us, but not our way of mak­ing sense of it. An Overview of Australian Aboriginal Astronomy by Philip A. Clarke in Archaeoastronomy is a good paper that helps show the dif­fer­ence between under­stand­ing the use of astro­nomy in a cul­ture and com­par­ing an indi­gen­ous astro­nomy with ours to see how much they got right.

The paper starts at the very best place to start, as after a brief intro­duc­tion it con­siders the sources of the data. It’s a key point because if the source data is full of lead­ing ques­tions and pre­con­ceived notions then you’ll only get the answers you were look­ing for.

Clarke then looks at how Aboriginal peoples saw their world. If you’re going to exam­ine the sky, it helps to know how the people describ­ing it saw it in rela­tion to the rest of the world. A com­mon fea­ture of abori­ginal cos­mo­logy is that the sky was seen as con­nec­ted to the land. Clarke refers to the sky as the “Land of the Dead” or the “Land to the West”, because spir­its are thought to travel to the west to enter the sky. The meth­ods of get­ting there var­ied. Tasmanians saw their foot tracks in the forest as lead­ing to the Milky Way. This reminds me a bit of the Greenlandic idea that the shaman could walk to the moon. In the far north the moon can roll across the hori­zon, so that it has a vis­ible con­nec­tion to the Earth. From that view the idea that the Milky Way is a foot track con­nec­ted to the Earth where it meets the hori­zon makes sense. Others have the idea that birds could trans­port people to the Skyworld, which again matches obser­va­tions of birds being between land and sky. Still more say that you can reach the Skyworld by climb­ing tall trees and get­ting help from a passing tornado.

The abori­ginal Skyworld seems to be a very richly described place. The abori­gin­als have no truck with celes­tial spheres. Their Skyworld has topo­graphy, trees and inhab­it­ants. The Skyworld is where the ancest­ors live, and so it’s a handy place to visit if you’re in need of a bit of ancient wis­dom. They should be easy enough to find as some of the ancest­ors are thought to be vis­ible as stars.

The iden­ti­fic­a­tion of ancest­ors in the sky brings a whole series of fur­ther factors. Kinship is import­ant in abori­ginal soci­ety and the same is true for the ancest­ors. Antares is Butt Kuee Tuukuung in south­w­est Victoria, and the fainter close stars are his wives. Brightness and loc­a­tion explains a lot of the other rela­tion­ships that Clarke lists. Time is also an issue. In north­ern Queensland the Evening Star is Dog and the Morning Star is Bitch. All these fea­tures are cat­egor­ised in clans and sec­tions just like the rest of the abori­ginal world includ­ing anim­als and plants on the land.

Opinion is divided on how the Sun and Moon return from the west to the east. For some people this is through a path in the under­world. The people of Arnhem land have a tale the Sun becomes a great fish and swims under the land through the ocean. That appeals to me at a nar­rat­ive level. Other regions have other tales and some include the pas­sage of stars beneath the earth as well as the Sun and Moon.

One of the inter­est­ing fea­tures that comes out of this paper is that the Aboriginal people seem to have a concept of stars, but not so much of stick-figure con­stel­la­tions. Clarke men­tions a sur­vey by Haynes that finds evid­ence of some faint stars being Unwala the Crab Ancestor [PDF], but not both­er­ing with Procyon and Regulus — two much brighter stars close by. My reac­tion was that maybe this shouldn’t be too much of a sur­prise. If a bright star is an ancestor then it’s an indi­vidual not part of a lar­ger fig­ure. There are already kin­ship con­nec­tions between stars so the idea of Greco-Roman style con­stel­la­tions is prob­ably a bit too con­fus­ing. Another factor is that because the Milky Way is so vis­ible, there are already plenty of dark-cloud con­stel­la­tions that actu­ally look like things. For example one patch of neb­ula in the Milky Way blots out the stars mak­ing the sil­hou­ette of an emu in the sky. That makes draw­ing stick fig­ures between stars an uncon­vin­cing altern­at­ive for con­stel­la­tions. But there are other bet­ter reas­ons too.

Clarke makes the point that col­our is very import­ant in abori­ginal cos­mo­lo­gies. One example he gives are the Arrente people of Central Australia who give more import­ance to red­dish or white stars than yel­low or blue stars. It won’t sur­prise you the same people value red ochres and white clays as sym­bols of power. Colour becomes more com­plic­ated when you exam­ine the Sun or Moon, which are red at the hori­zon but change col­our as they climb and fall. A red Sun seems to a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem as it’s a fem­in­ine sym­bol and red is a power­ful col­our. One tra­di­tion describes it as a kangaroo skin dress that is given to her by men who spend the night with her. The mottled face of the Moon seems to be explained by scars of con­flict, but the exact nature of the fight var­ies from region to region.

Clarke cov­ers time­keep­ing, espe­cially sea­son­al­ity in depth. The only thing I’ve found miss­ing here is when the day starts. Some cul­tures see it start­ing at sun­rise, oth­ers at sun­set but I’ve no idea if there’s a shared day concept in Aboriginal cul­ture. The Pleiades seem to be par­tic­u­larly import­ant in the turn­ing of the sea­sons [PDF]. Clarke notes that Tindale has fifty dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Pleiades myth­o­logy con­nect­ing them to chan­ging of the sea­sons. That might indic­ate a lot of dis­agree­ment, but the fact that so many abori­ginal cul­tures over such a large area are using the same gen­eral idea and dis­agree­ing on the details points to inter­con­nec­tion between peoples.

The sad­dest sec­tion is The Collapse and Rebirth of the Cosmos. Aboriginals did not pass­ively sit wait­ing for white set­tle­ment and news of the Europeans pre­ceded their arrival in many places. Clarke can show this is reflec­ted in their cos­mo­logy. The British arrived in the east and thanks to small­pox brought death with them. Visions of the Aurora Australis and met­eors were inter­preted as omens of dire times. Given the res­ults it’s easy to see how the arrival of the British could be seen as a cos­mic apo­ca­lypse.

The com­mon theme in this paper, apart from sheer vari­ety and oth­er­ness of abori­ginal astro­nomy is that this is also a con­tinu­ing tra­di­tion. I’m acutely aware I may have mixed up tenses in the descrip­tion because some of these ways of life have gone, while oth­ers are still alive. This life isn’t simply a rut that people return to, but a tra­di­tion that can adapt can appro­pri­ate new ideas, like Aboriginal beliefs about UFOs, or sci­entific dis­cov­er­ies. Clarke men­tions the met­eor­ite strike that cre­ated the Wolfe Creek Crater has been woven into tales of the Dreamtime.

Astronomically inspired indigenous art at the Ilgarijiri exhibition on display in Geraldton. Photo (cc) AstroMeg.
Astronomically inspired indi­gen­ous art at the Ilgarijiri exhib­i­tion on dis­play in Geraldton. Photo (cc) AstroMeg.

Good writ­ing can trans­port you to strange new places. Sometimes its an evoc­at­ive geo­graph­ical descrip­tion, but it can also show you the uni­verse in a new light. Astronomy can show the majesty of the cos­mos and the sheer scale of cre­ation. At the oppos­ite end of the scale you can go on safari with micro­scopic bac­teria far too small to be seen by the human eye. In the case of work like Clarke’s, it can be a guide to show how spe­cial the appar­ently mundane is. The night sky we see is more or less the same as seen by the abori­ginal peoples of Australia, allow­ing for some effects of lat­it­ude of the observer.

What I like about this paper is that at each step Clarke is link­ing back to the cul­ture that the astro­nomy is in. The fact that abori­ginal astro­nomers are inter­ested in the col­ours of stars is, by itself, a foible. Because Clarke makes that point that col­our is con­nec­ted to all sorts of ter­restrial sym­bol­ism and mean­ing then the con­nec­tions between sky and soci­ety become much more mean­ing­ful. Likewise the lack of con­stel­la­tions might be taken as a sign that Aboriginal peoples aren’t that inter­ested in many stars. Knowing about the kin­ship sys­tem shows how mis­taken that is, and that state­ments about the Skyworld are also strong polit­ical state­ments about life in the world below.

The many pages of ref­er­ences at the end of the art­icle are the icing on the cake, because this paper is very much an over­view. Any single sec­tion of the paper is a gate­way to many many more art­icles research­ing abori­ginal astro­nomy and cul­ture. You never want to take one author’s work as the last word on a sub­ject, but if you’re inter­ested in Australian indi­gen­ous astro­nomy you could do a lot worse than take Clarke’s art­icle as the start­ing point.

ResearchBlogging.orgClarke, P.A. (2007). An Overview of Australian Aboriginal Ethnoastronomy Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture, XXI, 39–58 (Mendeley link)

8000 years of genetic engineering in your fruitbowl

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More blog­ging about research, without a Research Blogging logo, because this is way out­side my area of expert­ise — but it looks inter­est­ing. I spot­ted it going through the accep­ted papers list at Annals of Botany and ser­i­ously con­sidered put­ting this for­ward for a press release. I decided not to — I don’t fully under­stand it — and blog it instead. So I’ve been wait­ing for this to come out and slightly miffed that I missed it due to a cold. It’s not in the prin­ted journal yet, but you can see it now, and look at what I get wrong because it’s an open access paper.

The reason I’m going to make a fool of myself and blog it any­way is that this is research that is import­ant to the ori­gins of agri­cul­ture, one of the BIG archae­olo­gical prob­lems. And it’s about bana­nas, and everyone’s famil­iar with bananas.

Bananas are actu­ally strange. Aside from the fact that banana plants ‘walk’ (not really, see this excel­lent blog post), they’re also all clones. I also have to admit that if I saw a banana in the trop­ics I prob­ably wouldn’t recog­nise it. The big yel­low curvy fruit I think of as a banana is just one of many vari­et­ies. As a starchy plantain Musa (some of which are bana­nas) are a staple diet in Asia. They have been for thou­sands of years and they’re sterile so there’s a bit of a mys­tery. How can they still be here?

Kadali. Photo (cc) Dinesh Valke
Kadali, a type of Musa plantain, like banana. Photo (cc) Dinesh Valke.

The bana­nas we have today are the products of thou­sands of years of care­ful selec­tion for spe­cific traits by farm­ers. The ancient people doing this had no concept of ‘genes’, but if we were to do the same sort of thing today we’d be genet­ic­ally engin­eer­ing the plant. The reason ancient people did this is because edib­il­ity and seeds are prob­ably not com­pat­ible in bana­nas. Get a muta­tion without seeds and you have an edible berry. You don’t have seeds though so you have to start propagat­ing it more inventively.

Lack of banana sex means that the genetic diversity of these plants is very lim­ited. If you have a pest that can kill one plant, you’ve got a pest that can wipe your entire crop and you neigh­bours’ crops. So it would be amaz­ingly help­ful to be able to trace back the genetic his­tory of bana­nas to see where they came from and how they were domest­ic­ated into their cur­rent form. That’s what the authors of ‘Did back­cross­ing con­trib­ute to the ori­gin of hybrid edible bana­nas?’ pro­pose to do.

What they’ve found is that it looks like edible bana­nas are hybrids. That might not be such a sur­prise. What they’ve also found though is evid­ence of care­ful thought in hybrid­isa­tion to favour some traits over oth­ers, using a tech­nique called back­cross­ing. I had to have this explained to me.

You have two banana plants A and B. If you cross them you can get a hybrid banana AB.

Basic diagram of banana genetics

Banana Genetics

Backcrossing is when you take this hybrid and cross it back with an earlier gen­er­a­tion. So if you take your AB banana and back­cross it with an A banana you get banana with much more A genes in it than B genes. You can take this new hybrid and back­cross it again with A or B to pro­duce the next gen­er­a­tion and so on. The authors have a math­em­at­ical model for this and I won’t pre­tend I under­stand it. It’s a shame, because that’s most of the paper.

With my archae­olo­gical hat on, it’s a use­ful paper. If you’re inter­ested in how the trans­ition to agri­cul­ture occurred in south Asia then clearly under­stand­ing banana domest­ic­a­tion is import­ant. The ancient bana­nas them­selves have long rot­ted away, to being able to pull apart the genes of a banana to see how it was domest­ic­ated is a massive help. If this paper is right, and the authors pro­pose a few exper­i­ments to test the idea, then the banana is the res­ult of some very clever and select­ive breeding.

The reason I’m par­tic­u­larly excited is that Annals of Botany also had a paper on domest­ic­a­tion of Pitaya di Mayo recently by eth­no­bot­an­ists. This was a study of domest­ic­a­tion as it hap­pens. The kind of local selec­tions for spe­cific traits that Mexican farm­ers are using for pitaya look like they’d pro­duce the kind of com­plex genetic his­tory being found in bananas.

I live in a tem­per­ate zone, so the limit of my banana exper­i­ence till now has been that it’s a deli­cious, yel­low and some­times humour­ous fruit. Papers like this show that the banana going soft in your fruit bowl is an eight thou­sand year old con­nec­tion to some very clever farmers.

Past lives caught in the dust of trees

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ResearchBlogging.org I’m cur­rently work­ing at the Annals of Botany to help out with their social media side. There’s a bit more to it than subtly drop­ping links to their site, like this one. At the moment I’m strug­gling with the Facebook integ­ra­tion, but there’s a fun side too. I wouldn’t have browsed AoB if I’d not been hired, and that means I would have missed out on papers like Phytoliths in woody plants from the Miombo wood­lands of Mozambique by Julio Mercader and his team at Calgary. I’ll admit the art­icle title doesn’t say much to the lay­man, but it’s actu­ally some­thing deeply cool that I didn’t find out about till my MPhil.

If mega­liths are big stones and micro­liths are small stones like arrow­heads, then phyto­liths are clearly phyto-stones. Phyto– in this case mean­ing plant.

Phytoliths are micro­scopic stones formed in some plants. When a plant’s roots draw up water they also draw up the min­er­als dis­solved within it. In the case of the silica this gets pulled out of the water and depos­ited either in the cells or between the cells. The exact shape of the phyto­liths var­ies on the part of the plant the silica is depos­ited in, the avail­ab­il­ity of silica and, most excit­ingly for archae­olo­gists, the spe­cies of the plant.

Phytoliths are use­ful because nor­mally bio­lo­gical mater­ial doesn’t hang around long in the soil. Once some­thing is dead it’s lunch for some­thing else. Phytoliths are bio­lo­gical mater­ial but not organic, so they don’t break down in the same way. Mercader et al. are clear that’s is not an unam­bigu­ous relal­tion­ship. Time still has an effect, but it’s easier to find phyto­liths than it is to find organic remains for plants. Still as use­ful as they are, phyto­liths alone are not enough. A hand­ful of phyto­liths under a micro­scope would just look like a nobbly (or smoothish) thing. If you haven’t seen what a baobab phyto­lith looks like, you’re not likely to guess from simply look­ing at the phyto­lith and this is where Mercader et al step in.

Elephants in Miombo woodland. Photo by Jussi Mononen.

Elephants in Miombo wood­land. Photo by Jussi Mononen.

If you’re inter­ested in study­ing the palaeoe­co­logy of Africa in the past you’ve been rel­at­ively lim­ited to north of the equator. Mercader spot­ted that the biggest phyto­chor­ion (plant eco­sys­tem) south of the Sahara is the Miombo wood­lands. It’s huge. It runs from Angola and Namibia in the west to Mozambique in the east and from the Tanzanian shores of Lake Victoria in the north to Botswana and South Africa in the south. The dom­in­ant tree is Miombo, hence the name, which refers to a num­ber of trees of the same genus, but with dif­fer­ent spe­cies. Obviously it’s a cru­cial zone for under­stand­ing the eco­logy of sub-Saharan Africa, but no-one has described the phyto­liths of the region.

Miombos Botanical Transect after Mercader et al.

The area stud­ied was a tran­sect through the forest between the Lake Niassa shore at Metangula and the high­lands at Njawala, a dis­tance of 50km and a rise from 465m above sea-level to 1841 above sea-level. They also used indi­gen­ous col­lect­ors to sample the flora in a 5km radius around Metangula and Njawala. They estim­ate they got over 90% of the spe­cies used by the nat­ive peoples. Given that a lot of usage is likely to be dom­in­ated by rel­at­ively few spe­cies, that’s a lot of plant mater­ial. There’s then a LOT of list­ing and descrip­tion of phytoliths.

The com­mon fea­ture that amazes me is how small many of these phyto­liths are. Some are just 20–40 μm long. A micro­metre (μm) is one thou­sandth of a mil­li­metre. Despite this Mercader et al, point to the phyto­liths at the other end of the scale, some are around 200μm in length and over half are over 50μm. This means if you use stand­ard tech­niques to sieve for phyto­liths using a 50.238 to 63.246μm cut-off, you’ll miss all these lar­ger phyto­liths. That’s going to mat­ter if what you want to find evid­ence of a ‘Zambezian’ forest at an archae­olo­gical site.

It’s the sort of sci­ence that is easy to over­look. The authors don’t con­clude that whole text­books need to be re-written or that our under­stand­ing of Africa’s past has to be rebuilt from scratch. It’s also the kind of sci­ence that’s easy to whine about. Here they are, pick­ing flowers to exam­ine tiny stones in the stems rather than just appre­ci­at­ing the beauty.

But it’s also the kind of sci­ence that increases the amount of beauty and mys­tery in the world.

Until I took my MPhil, I was com­pletely ignor­ant of phyto­liths. I could view the same plants an archaeo­bot­an­ist, but saw a lot less. Before I read this paper I didn’t know that that the Miobos wood­lands were unex­amined. Knowing that these things are out there opens up new pos­sib­il­it­ies for what can be done. At Çatal­höyük they’re examin­ing phyto­liths left behind in what are almost shad­ows of woven bas­kets to flesh out details of human life in the past. In the case of this paper, it provides a bench­mark for meas­ur­ing future study­ing against. It’s detailed, metic­u­lous and some­times opaque to the non-specialist, but it’s also a descrip­tion with last­ing value. Currently pub­lic­a­tions are often judged on cita­tions garnered over a few years. That misses the value of this paper as it will be import­ant for dec­ades. Indeed, if this eco­sys­tem sud­denly becomes a tar­get for eco­nomic devel­op­ment it could even be import­ant for cen­tur­ies as a snap­shot of the cur­rent state of the Miombos woodlands.

If you want to see the phyto­liths they found, you can down­load the paper for free.

ResearchBlogging.orgMercader, J., Bennett, T., Esselmont, C., Simpson, S., & Walde, D. (2009). Phytoliths in woody plants from the Miombo wood­lands of Mozambique Annals of Botany, 104 (1), 91–113 DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcp097

Photo credit: Elephants in Miombo wood­land. Photo by Jussi Mononen.

Do we need an Industrial Archaeology?

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Cromford Canal

Cromford Canal. Click for lar­ger image.

It’s easy to take a World Heritage Site for gran­ted when it’s on your door­step. I had thought of shoot­ing a short port­fo­lio of Cromford for a com­pet­i­tion. They required ten pho­tos. After look­ing into the pro­ject I’ve decided that the com­pet­i­tion isn’t going to hap­pen for me, but a short photo essay on Cromford, or pos­sibly the Derwent Valley Mills, remains an inter­est­ing idea.

Industrial Archaeology can get short shrift from other archae­olo­gists. Often there’s writ­ten records, plans and for some places oral accounts of work at a site. Is Archaeology neces­sary? Mark Henshaw, the Archaeology Dude, makes a good argu­ment that Archaeology can draw mul­tiple lines of evid­ence to inform his­tor­ies of the past. I wouldn’t dis­count that, and I think his point, Archaeology isn’t just about dig­ging, is very import­ant from an American per­spect­ive because there Archaeology is seen as a branch of Anthropology. In the UK you’re more likely to see Archaeology paired with History or Classics. So do we really need Industrial Archaeologists when there so many Early Modern Historians.

I think another factor Archaeology brings is spa­tial think­ing. Looking at the early days of the pro­fes­sion­al­isa­tion of Archaeology in Britain, one of the fea­tures is an attempt to dis­tin­guish Archaeology from History by tak­ing on ideas of Geography. People like OGS Crawford were keen to emphas­ise that Archaeology stud­ied human activ­it­ies in space as well as time. Again, in the UK, when Processualism was tak­ing off in the USA, the British aca­dem­ics took inspir­a­tion from it, but also from the ‘New’ Geography.

The Manager's House, Cromford.

The Manager’s House, Cromford.

Applying this prac­tic­ally, it’s easy to say what the pos­i­tion­ing of the Factory Manager’s house, oppos­ite the main gate of Arkwright’s Mill at Cromford, means by its loc­a­tion. There are other more subtle ques­tions though. What did draw­ing a second water chan­nel through the Derwent Valley mean for land use and access­ib­il­ity? Why was Willersley Castle, a grand house that Arkwright built for him­self, placed where it was? How did it relate to the church he built? If you want to know why a mill owner would want to build a church for his work­ers then, as Mark Henshaw says, you have to look at his­tor­ical records too.

You can write a his­tory purely from his­tor­ical records and archives, but if you want to exam­ine the human exper­i­ence, espe­cially of humans that weren’t writ­ing much, then an Industrial Archaeology can yield a richer, more four-dimensional exper­i­ence, than Anthropology or History alone.

What does the new henge mean for Stonehenge?

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Confusion at Stonehenge

Confusion at Stonehenge

I don’t know.

I think the cov­er­age at places like the BBC are good, David Gregory found it excit­ing and I thought his story was a good read. However there are too many details miss­ing from the reports to come to any con­clu­sions. That’s not a com­plaint about the cov­er­age, the mass-media isn’t an archae­olo­gical journal. It’s not even a gripe about pub­lic­a­tion by press-release because Mike Parker Pearson showed last year that news leaks out, so why not give the brief details out properly?

On the other hand the Birmingham team are look­ing at the land­scape and, from read­ing the reports, I’ve no idea where this new site is in rela­tion to Stonehenge. It’s almost cer­tainly in sight of Stonehenge, but then the land­scape round there is littered with bar­rows, Bronze Age burial mounds. The loc­a­tion will affect how we see the land­scape. This henge isn’t to be con­fused with Bluestonehenge, the site found by the river Avon near Stonehenge last year. It’s also not Woodhenge, des­pite being made of wood, because that’s a dif­fer­ent site near Durrington Walls, which is another site that has been in the news in recent years.

There’s not a lot I can say about the astro­nomy of this henge either. It could be aligned to the sum­mer sun­rise, but I can’t tell because the dia­gram doesn’t say which way north is. Also look­ing at the dia­grams, the stone circle seems to have entrances facing one axis and the tim­ber circle an entirely dif­fer­ent align­ment. In fact, the entrance to the wooden circle seems to be facing stones. To me, that sug­gests at least two phases to the monu­ment. I ima­gine that there’ll be some sort of test excav­a­tion along sim­ilar lines. If you want to take your time plan­ning an excav­a­tion it’s a very sens­ible idea not to flag up the loc­a­tion in the news.

Ground Penetrating Radar by Ben Urmston

Ground Penetrating Radar by Ben Urmston

The con­fu­sion that this find­ing is going to cause will be huge fun for Stonehenge watch­ers. The equip­ment they’re using is Ground-penetrating RADAR. This used to be rub­bish, some­thing you’d only use in an urban loc­a­tion where you got a good sig­nal, but as with everything involving a micro­pro­cessor it’s advanced massively. It means that there’s huge swathes of land where some com­pletely unex­pec­ted things will be found. In some­where as busy as the Stonehenge land­scape there has to be much more than this wait­ing to be dis­covered. It’ll raise some awk­ward ques­tions for archae­oastro­nomers, because des­pite there being align­ments will these newly dis­covered struc­tures have blocked the view?

The excit­ing thing about this work is that it shows not only to we not have all the answers, we don’t even have all the questions.

Photo credit: Ground Penetrating Radar photo by Ben Urmston.

Survey: How do you know you’re doing it right?

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Archaeological sur­veys tend to be samples of a site. How do you know you’re doing it right when you can’t see the arte­facts you’ve missed? Couldn’t you be miss­ing large chunks of inform­a­tion because it’s not what you’re expect­ing to see? David Pettigrew guest blogs at The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World,