The opposite of Open Access


Here’s an inter­est­ing paper I found while look­ing for inform­a­tion on a topic: EVALUATING THE STATUS OF UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN EGYPT. I’ve no idea if the con­tent is inter­est­ing. However, the reason I don’t know that (and prob­ably never will) is what makes the paper so interesting.

It’s avail­able at -http://​dx​.doi​.org/​1​0​.​5​8​4​8​/​A​P​B​J​.​2​0​1​2​.​0​0​005– http://​www​.ingenta​con​nect​.com/​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​a​p​b​j​/​i​j​m​c​/​2​0​1​2​/​0​0​0​0​0​0​1​4​/​0​0​0​0​0​0​0​1​/​a​r​t​0​0​005 . Actually I prob­ably should have said it’s ‘avail­able’ with air quotes instead. The reason is obvi­ous when you try to down­load it. Like 90% of journ­als you can’t because you need a sub­scrip­tion, but usu­ally there’s an option to buy the paper at some high rate. Not here. You have to sub­scribe to the journal to get the paper.

To be clear to read this paper on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Egypt, because I have an interest in archae­olo­gical her­it­age, I have to sub­scribe to a journal that pub­lishes in the same issue:

I’m will­ing to believe these are all excel­lent papers in their field and well worth £150 as a bundle to the right per­son — but not to me. Publishing this way really does lock away research to a nar­row audi­ence. The bar­ri­ers to get­ting the paper mean I won’t be includ­ing it in any research databases.

The punch­line? Check the name of the publisher.

#blog   #archae­ology   #her­it­age   

Edited due to a com­ment by +Rheza Rozendaal : I really should have checked the DOIs

Google+: View post on Google+

What lies beneath Achill-henge?


Achill-henge. Photo by Seequinn

It’s good to see Achill-henge being picked up by the BBC. This is a story that’s been around for a while. I think RTÉ’s video report is access­ible world­wide. The BBC just has a webpage that’s an intro­duc­tion to the story. You can also listen to the radio pro­gramme (world­wide I think) with the rel­ev­ant seg­ment at 6m04s.

It’s not a bad story, but from an archae­olo­gical point of view it misses the most inter­est­ing things. Firstly build­ing this ertsatz archae­olo­gical site may have dam­aged a real site. Usually before con­struc­tion there will be test digs to check the con­struc­tion won’t des­troy some­thing of his­tor­ical import­ance. Achill is an extremely sens­it­ive archae­olo­gical site. There’s a long run­ning field school there because it has such a rich archae­olo­gical record. If you’re a fan of pre­his­toric remains, it seems a bit mad to risk des­troy­ing one to make a copy.

The second thing is the tem­plate chosen for the site. It’s Stonehenge. It’s a shoddy Stonehenge as any­one who’s been there could tell you, but it’s clearly a ring of tri­lithons. You don’t get those in Ireland. There’s a romantic ideal that the pre­his­toric British Isles were all Celtic but, as we learn more about sites, it’s becom­ing clear that there are dis­tinct­ive dif­fer­ences in tra­di­tions around the islands.

Tomnaverie Stone Circle

Tomnaverie Stone Circle. Photo by Cameron Diack

This is Tomnaverie Recumbent Stone Circle. The recum­bent bit is the low stone in the middle, flanked by two tall stones. There’s plenty of stone circles like this around Aberdeenshire, but you don’t get so many of them any­where else. There is a pos­sible astro­nom­ical align­ment. These circles tend to be set up so that the sum­mer full moon appears to roll across the top of the recum­bent stone every 18 years or so, due to the way the Moon’s orbit wobbles.

Drombeg Stone Circle

Drombeg Recumbent Stone Circle. Photo by Todd Slagter

This is Drombeg Recumbent Stone Circle. It’s com­pact and tidy, but the tallest stones are on the oppos­ite side to the recum­bent stone. This is more typ­ical of Irish circles. The tall stones can be seen as a delib­er­ate a portal for entry. The astro­nom­ical align­ments are dif­fer­ent for Irish circles. They tend to be facing south-westish and this could be an align­ment to winter sol­stice sunset.

Even though they look sim­ilar, these stone circles could be telling us very dif­fer­ent things about belief. If we trust the pat­terns emer­ging from study­ing groups of monu­ments, not just the ones we like, then they’re almost oppos­ites. The key event in Scotland seems to hap­pen with the Moon in sum­mer. In Ireland they’re look­ing to the Sun in winter.

There’s an ongo­ing argu­ment about whether sum­mer sun­rise or winter sun­set was more import­ant at Stonehenge. I favour winter sun­set, but to some extent this is just as reflect­ive of how you view pre­his­toric life as it is about the data. In addi­tion there’s plenty of evid­ence show­ing that Stonehenge was repeatedly remod­elled, includ­ing a pos­sible shift from lunar to solar alignments.

In any event whatever the tra­di­tion was at Stonehenge it’s a massive leap to think what happened there was reflect­ive of beliefs across the Irish Sea. Stonehenge is so embed­ded as an iconic brand for pre­his­toric archae­ology in the British Isles, that British pre­his­tory is now col­on­ising per­cep­tions of what a pre­his­toric Ireland would look like.

I don’t know to what extent that’s a good thing. Modern states are recent inven­tions, and some archae­olo­gists will cringe at the idea of a pre­his­toric Ireland or UK. Recognising mod­ern bound­ar­ies don’t apply to the past is a sens­ible fea­ture. At the same time an appeal­ing com­mon past does risk los­ing some of what makes places loc­ally distinctive.

Achill-henge. Photo by Seequin. Licenced under a Creative Commons BY-NC licence.
Tomnaverie Stone Circle. Photo by Cameron Diack. Licenced under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.
Drombeg Stone Circle. Photo by Todd Slagter. Licenced under a Creative Commons BY licence.

Astronomy at Ston̈ehen̈ge for the 2010 Summer Solstice


I’ve been busy, recently and I’m likely to stay that way for a while, hence the lack of posts. Still, I’m hop­ing to be able to take a trip to Stonehenge this year to see the sol­stice. That’s why my pre­dic­tion is that it will be cold and wet and thick cloud will pre­vent any­thing inter­est­ing mak­ing an appear­ance. However, if there are clear skies, there could be plenty to see over Stonehenge this sol­stice.

Natural Astronomy

There’ll be plenty to see in the even­ing sky after sun­set at 9.26pm. To the west Venus will be extremely bright at mag­nitude –4.0 (the lower the num­ber the brighter some­thing is). When you see it you won’t be able to mis­take it for any­thing else. That will be set­ting at a quarter to mid­night, so there’ll be plenty of time to see it.

Stonehenge astronomical chart for sunset solstice 2010

Position of the plan­ets at sun­set. Click for full size.

Moving to the left, are Mars, Saturn and the Moon. Mars will be mag­nitude 1.3 so it won’t be the bright­est thing in the sky, Arcturus and Vega will be brighter but it’ll still be easy to find. If you’re strug­gling find the Plough. The two pointer stars that point up to the Pole Star will be more or less also point­ing down to Mars this even­ing. Mars sets at a quarter to one, but if you want to see it real­ist­ic­ally you’ll have to be look­ing before mid­night. If you’re lucky it’ll have a slight ruddy glow. Saturn will be the only bright object between Mars and the Moon. In fact it’ll be slightly brighter than Mars in per­fect atmo­spheric con­di­tions, but I doubt my eyes will be good enough to meas­ure that.

The Moon will be in Virgo, near the star Spica, which was thought to be a sheaf of corn in the hand of Ceres, if you’re Roman, or Demeter, if you’re Greek. Fans of myth­o­logy will be keenly aware that Demeter/Ceres had a daugh­ter with Zeus which makes her not tech­nic­ally a vir­gin, but the Greeks called her Parthenos and that usu­ally gets trans­lated as vir­gin. To find Spica usu­ally you’d fol­low the arc of the handle of the Plough to Arcturus, and then Spica is the next bright star down. This night it’ll be the closest bright star to the Moon. It could be hard to spot because the Moon will be bright. It’ll be 69% lit, nine days old and wax­ing gib­bous. It’ll be more or less low in the sky to the south at sun­set and set around 1am, which is astro­nom­ical mid­night. It’s not the same as civil mid­night because these days Stonehenge is on Daylight Saving Time, like the rest of the UK.

Stonehenge astronomical chart for midnight solstice 2010

Stars at 1am over Stonehenge. Click for full size.

Around 1.20am Jupiter rises. It’s likely that you’ll need to wait till 2am to get a good view. It’ll be shin­ing in sil­ver at mag­nitude –2.4 and, because Venus will have set, it’ll be the bright­est planet on the sky. Jupiter will have a part­ner, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see it at Stonehenge. Uranus will be close to Jupiter. If you hold out your hand at arm’s length then Uranus will be five or six little fin­ger­nail widths to the right of Jupiter. Normally there’s no chance at all of see­ing Uranus, but at the moment it’s at mag­nitude 5.8 which puts it right on the limit of human vis­ion. If you have very good eye­sight and the atmo­spheric con­di­tions are per­fect you’ll see what looks like a very faint star next to Jupiter, and that’s Uranus. But even if we have that, I still doubt you’ll see it.

The reason is that it takes time for your eyes to adapt to the dark. Ian Musgrave says it takes a few minutes to see down to mag­nitude 5 or 6. Your eyes need to build up chem­ic­als to make them more sens­it­ive. Every time you see a bright light, like car head­lights from the nearby roads, torches from other vis­it­ors who — quite reas­on­ably — don’t want to break their necks walk­ing around and any light­ing from English Heritage this adapt­a­tion will be lost. On top of this there’s light pol­lu­tion. We don’t just use energy light­ing streets. A lot of energy is used to light up the sky, for no obvi­ous reason. This reflects from any water droplets in the atmo­sphere and gives a sodium glow to the sky. Even cit­ies over the hori­zon will be vis­ible by their light pol­lu­tion and this will pre­vent you from see­ing some of the stars. You’ll stand a bet­ter chance of see­ing Uranus if you use binoculars.

There is another difficult-to-spot object in the sky. To the north near Capella is Comet McNaught. Searching on the web for this is no help. There’s a lot of Comet McNaughts because Robert McNaught has found over fifty of them. This one is Comet McNaught 2009 R1. The cur­rent fig­ures I have are that it will be between mag­nitudes 5 and 6. If that’s the case then you might not see much without dark-adapted eyes and it’s a bin­ocu­lar object. This fig­ure is uncer­tain though because the comet is get­ting closer to the Sun. Around June 30-ish it’s pre­dicted to be as bright as mag­nitude 2. Capella is not too hard to find. It’s the only bright star above the north­ern hori­zon, and it will be due north around half-past mid­night. The comet will be a couple of degrees above it. Look for a fuzzy star.

The Sun is due to return a few seconds before 4.52am. Again, day­light sav­ing explains why the Sun sets less than three hours before mid­night, but doesn’t rise till almost five hours after.


Or, if you don’t tell your friends what they are, UFOs.

The big events will be the passes of the International Space Station. There’ll be two and half over Stonehenge. The first will be at 1.08am till 1.10am. You’ll be able to see the ISS drop­ping from 38º up in the sky to the south­east down to the hori­zon. It’ll be bright (mag­nitude –2.7) but it will also be fast. This is the half appear­ance and you may not see it. You best chance is to be look­ing at Aquila, the bright­est star in the south­east at this time, and it should appear near there.

The next appear­ance is the best. At 2.40am it will rise in the west and pass over­head before set­ting in the east at 2.46am. It will look like Venus did, but it will vis­ibly be mov­ing across the sky. It could look like an aero­plane and if any­one else says that you might want to agree before point­ing out that there’s no vis­ible flash­ing lights like there would be on an aero­plane. It will also be trav­el­ling too fast. Get your friends to rule out other obvi­ous causes like Chinese lan­terns, reflec­tions of head­lights, plan­ets and so on so that you sound like you’ve been reluct­antly con­vinced that whatever you saw was not of this world.

Then at 4.15am you can make every­one jump out of their skin by yelling “They’re BACK!” when the ISS makes another pass from the west again. This time it will set 4.23am in the eastsoutheast.

For extra UFO points you can also try point­ing out an Iridium flare. This is a sud­den bright reflec­tion from one of the Iridium com­mu­nic­a­tions satel­lites. There are two dur­ing the course of the night. At 10.52:44pm on June 20 there’s a mag­nitude –1 flare west­north­w­est above a hand­span above the hori­zon. At 3.22:06am there’s a brighter mag­nitude –4 flare in the east­south­east. These will be fast; they’ll last for just a few seconds.

Flare Simulation. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Heavens Above, where I got these details from for the ISS and Iridium also has some transit times for fainter satel­lites, but the night sky is littered with satel­lites. If you see any­thing that looks star-like mov­ing across the sky over six-eight minutes then it’s quite pos­sibly a satel­lite. Some of these could be mis­taken for aero­planes. Registering on the site will enable you to print off your own star charts for ISS and satel­lite passes. If you’re on twit­ter @twisst can tell you when the ISS is passing over your loc­a­tion and send you alerts.

If you’re inter­ested in vis­it­ing Stonehenge for the sol­stice this year and want more prac­tical advice, like remem­ber­ing to pack toi­let roll, you’ll find Heritage Key help­ful. And if there are clouds, it might not all be bad news.

Bookmarks for 16th of November through to 18th of November


These are my links for 16th of November through 18th of November:

  • The Academic Journal Racket « In the Dark
    Telescoper explains how aca­demic pub­lish­ing works. The only thing that would improbe the post would be the theme from ‘The Naked Gun’ in the background.
  • A Case in Antiquities for ‘Finders Keepers’ — NYTimes​.com
    You can make argu­ments in favour of repat­ri­ation of antiquit­ies. You can make argue­ments against. Being on either side doesn’t make you inher­ently fool­ish. But when you write that the British Army took the Rosetta Stone from the French and “returned it to the British Museum” then some­thing has gone wrong. It’s prob­ably a case of moment­ary brain­fade rather than idiocy, but it mat­ters because the whole ques­tion of own­er­ship of the Rosetta Stone is about where it right­fully belongs. Using the word ‘returned’ builds in the assump­tion that all antiquit­ies are inher­ently British.
  • Notes & Queries; Sledges — Theoretical Structural Archaeology
    Geoff Carter con­cluded he didn’t have evid­ence for a stag­ger­ingly early cart shed in Poland. Could it have been a used to house a sledge? I’ve just real­ised I know abso­lutely noth­ing at all about the his­tory of sleds and sledges. Not only that, but I can’t recall much atten­tion being called to them in early pre­his­toric archae­ology other than when people want to talk about mov­ing mega­liths to Stonehenge. Yet Martha Murphy (guest blog­ging) shows there’s plenty of ques­tions to ask about neo­lithic transport.
  • British bank turns to treas­ure hunt­ing via @johnabartram
    Avast me hearties! Robert Fraser & Partners be scourin’ the high seas in search of booty. They be fundin’ Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. ter search the Caribbean fer Spanish gold. Arrr!
  • CRM Problem in Cadboro Bay « Northwest Coast Archaeology
    More on the prob­lems of pre­serving her­it­age in BC. Ancient buri­als have been scooped out of the ground, <em>after</em> an archae­olo­gical assessment.

Bookmarks for 12th of November through to 14th of November


These are my links for 12th of November through 14th of November:

  • Is the new policy state­ment PPS 15 a threat to her­it­age? — Building Design
    I’d love to have a pithy and insight­ful opin­ion on this, but first I’ll have to look up what PPS 15 says. it’s import­ant as PPG 15 and 16 have been the basis of pro­tec­tion of her­it­age in the UK for many years.
  • Pagans for Archaeology: Why reburial won’t work
    It’s all very well me say­ing there are eth­ical reas­ons to be against reburial, but I still haven’t found the time to write them down yet. Now this post hits almost every point I was going to make, espe­cially the point about memory. This won’t stop me from writ­ing up my thoughts when I can find the time though.
  • Identity : Gambler’s House
    Teofilo talks about Chaco and Navajo iden­tity and dis­cov­ers neither is as simple as you might think.
  • 3rd-century build­ing fuels debate over lost coun­try … asahi​.com(朝日新聞社)
    “The cent­ral axis of each build­ing forms a straight line. Each build­ing is believed to have faced the same dir­ec­tion. Such care­ful plan­ning for build­ings was com­mon for palaces and temples dur­ing the Asuka Period from the late sixth cen­tury to the early eighth cen­tury. But it had not been found at sites from the early third century. “

    This is why I need to find an intro­duct­ory book to early Japanese his­tory. There’s a huge amount of fas­cin­at­ing stuff there.

  • Shameful hypo­crisy threatens our ancient shared her­it­age
    “One of the most egre­gious hypo­cris­ies we enter­tain in British Columbia is our cava­lier atti­tude toward the destruc­tion and dis­posal of indi­gen­ous cul­tural land­scapes, arti­facts and her­it­age sites. In any enlightened nation such import­ant his­tory would com­mand pro­tec­tion — here it earns indif­fer­ence and even contempt.”
  • Moai in Captivity — a gal­lery on Flickr
    A great idea for a gal­lery. There’s some­thing about the facial expres­sion that makes even fake Moai appealing.

Will the Okhta Center make or destroy a skyline?

“Okhta-center” business district under construction in St Petersburg

Work con­tin­ues into winter on the Okhta Center in St. Petersburg. This is a new com­mer­cial centre being built by Gazprom, the Russian nat­ural gas com­pany. When it’s fin­ished the Okhta Center will have all the mod-cons neces­sary for a major com­mer­cial centre like monu­ments, desks and a large glass tower which will stand around 400m tall look­ing over St. Petersburg. No one is com­plain­ing about the desks and monu­ments, but there is a con­tro­versy about whether a large glass tower is really neces­sary. The tower will be over twice as high as any­thing else in the city. St. Petersburg’s cur­rent spires are a World Heritage lis­ted site, but UNESCO has threatened to with­draw that list­ing if the sky­scraper is built.

There are archae­olo­gical digs at the site, like the one pho­to­graphed above, but I’m not sure what they’ll find. The centre is built built over part of a 17th cen­tury Swedish fort and an earlier 14th cen­tury fort. I don’t know how extens­ive those ruins are or if there’s any­thing else. One of the reas­ons for build­ing the city was the Peter I wanted a blank can­vas to build a city on at the start of the 18th cen­tury. Since then St Petersburg has been at the heart of most of Russian mod­ern his­tory. The early years showed Peter at both his most Great and most bru­tal. The cur­rent city might be mag­ni­fi­cent, but it wasn’t to begin with, so unsur­pris­ingly a lot of aris­to­cracy were not eager to move to the middle of nowhere. Peter was determ­ined to mould Russia into a major European power, and not the type of guy to tol­er­ate insub­or­din­a­tion. Peter II returned the cap­ital to Moscow, but Anna moved it back to St Petersburg, which became a show­case for imper­ial power. It’s the urban plan­ning com­bined with the wealth of baroque and neo­clas­sical archi­tec­ture that makes St Petersburg so spe­cial. There’s power in the fab­ric of the build­ings along with the bricks and mor­tar, and it’s no sur­prise that the October Revolution star­ted here.

St Petersburg might be a young city in European terms, but it has a huge wealth of her­it­age. What’s inter­est­ing for me is that this is one of those cases where Heritage isn’t the same as History or Archaeology.

From a Heritage point of view, it’s obvi­ously a dis­aster. The old city will be dom­in­ated by the headquar­ters of an indus­trial giant. Rather than being the city of lost imper­ial power, it will make St Petersburg a city under the shadow of a com­mer­cial élite. Something has been lost, which is why some many cit­izens are against With my his­tor­ian hat on it’s slightly dif­fer­ent. The old city will be dom­in­ated by the headquar­ters of an indus­trial giant. Rather than being the city of lost imper­ial power, it will make St Petersburg a city under the shadow of a com­mer­cial élite. It’s a change of tyr­ant. St Petersburg was a city that was ruled under the Tsars that made the law to their own advant­age. Now, writ­ten with glass and steel, Gazprom is writ­ing the rule of a new unelec­ted power in the pages of Russian history.

There’s all sorts of anthro­po­lo­gical and archi­tec­tural ques­tions too. For example, below is a video of the pro­posed build­ing. Bearing in mind the old city is on the oppos­ite bank of the river, see if you can spot how the tower will fit into the landscape.

There’s a few impres­sions I get from the video. One is that that woman is far too young for that man (4m15s). Also, the tower is designed with little or no thought as to its con­text. You could see glimpses of St Petersburg, if you didn’t blink. The video looks up to the heav­ens, and the height is cent­ral to the pro­ject. That has all sorts of con­nota­tions when start think­ing about com­mand and con­trol. The video cam­era spir­als up and around the tower, but there’s noth­ing show­ing how it will look for the aver­age per­son on the ground. And that’s also on the ground many miles out­side the city. Finally, hey, it’s a big thrust­ing tower. That might be the most import­ant part of this project.

It’s easy to say that her­it­age should be pre­served, but her­it­age is expens­ive and it’s an ongo­ing expense. Dresden recently had to make a choice between a new bridge across the Elbe, or con­tin­ued World Heritage status. UNESCO said that if the new bridge was built near the his­toric centre of the city, then the city’s her­it­age would no longer be unique and the list­ing lost. The decision was made. The bridge was deemed an eco­nomic neces­sity and the list­ing was revoked. St Petersburg has had a rough time since the fall of com­mun­ism. It’s still one of Europe’s great cit­ies, but main­tain­ing that costs a lot of money, money that the local gov­ern­ment might not have.

It’s pos­sible that the admin­is­tra­tion simply doesn’t have the vir­il­ity to main­tain St Petersburg’s unique her­it­age, and a giant phal­lic build­ing might be a poor com­pens­a­tion. Or else a monu­ment to Putin’s impot­ence in defend­ing his home city. Looking from the out­side that’s another chapter in St Petersburg’s story but, for the Russians who have to live it, it’s an unne­ces­sary tragedy.


…and every­body above knows far more about the Okhta Center than I do, so if you’re inter­ested I strongly recom­mend vis­it­ing them.

Perfectly preserved or recklessly wrecked? Thoughts on space heritage.


I’ll admit I thought the idea of extra-terrestrial her­it­age sites was non­sense when I first heard it. A few people have changed my mind, espe­cially the work of Alice Gorman who has made the point that a lot of his­tory could be lost if we think of satel­lites purely as junk. Now she’s con­sid­er­ing what should be on a space her­it­age list. Greg Fewer has already sug­ges­ted that a Lunar and Martian sites and monu­ments record is needed. Alice Gorman is expand­ing that idea to any­where off-planet. How do you draw up a list of space her­it­age sites?

Alice is using a Facebook applic­a­tion and there’s a dis­cus­sion board to go with it. She men­tions two things about her list that are odd. One is that the list is sup­posed to be a coher­ent list. There could be gaps in her list which need to be filled. In con­trast some­thing like the New 7 Wonders list just needed seven top won­ders. There was no over­all aim.

The other is she’s very open about the import­ance of nation­al­ism in the list. Archaeologists can get very worked up about nation­al­ism. Just glan­cing over to my book shelf I can see a couple of books on the topic, and the dangers of nation­al­ism in inter­pret­ing archae­olo­gical sites and arte­facts. Alice Gorman’s very hon­est about tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tack, and I think she’s abso­lutely right. Space explor­a­tion doesn’t really make any sense without con­sid­er­ing nation­al­ism. I think if you’re going to make a mean­ing­ful list, one that’s actu­ally accep­ted and used, then you have to take that into account.

Why would you need such a list? Already plans are being drawn up to rev­ist Tranquility Base by private cor­por­a­tions. It’s not going to hap­pen next year, but if invest­ment fol­lows the reces­sion it’s not impossible we’ll see Richard Branson land­ing on vir­gin soil* on the Moon. Sooner or later someone will decide the world would be bet­ter off without a spe­cific piece of junk — or else declare it derel­ict and sal­vage it for its his­tor­ical value. While it’s not an imme­di­ate threat, I think Alice Gorman’s work would be import­ant in estab­lish­ing the prin­ciple that some of these satel­lites have her­it­age value. The altern­at­ive is real­ising that after they’ve been lost.

That’s why I’d respect­fully dis­agree with the Ghost Writer who says, in an oth­er­wise excel­lent post, that Exoarchaeology is a pseudos­cience. (Now if the word xenoar­chae­ology had been used I might have agreed. The only remotely good xenoar­chae­ology paper I can recall was one which pro­posed massive orbital struc­tures might cre­ate dif­frac­tion pat­terns vis­ible in starlight)

*It wouldn’t actu­ally be soil, it’d be rego­lith because there’s no organic component.