About

Me trying to look like Neil Oliver

Me trying to look like Neil Oliver (with a cruel streak in those cold grey eyes)

My name is Edward (Ned) Pegler. I am (or was) 50, live in Swindon, and I’m currently free, having previously worked in an FE college as a lecturer in Electronics, a bit of Physics and Astronomy for 16 years. I was told by a close friend that you should let people know your background if you want to put forward your version of history so that people can judge you accordingly. Here it is.

I spent my childhood in a middle class, Conservative, unreligiously protestant household in Surrey. My parents weren’t particularly rich but they certainly weren’t poor. However, both worked hard to afford to send me to private and public schools. From this I achieved Bs and Cs at A level, then went on to University in Scotland to study Geology. Personally, I would have chosen graphic design but you tend to listen to your parents more when you’re young, and Geology turned out to be much more fun.

I came out of University with a 2.1, got a job, went back to Scotland and did a PhD. There I discovered I liked research but preferred having opinions and appeared to have the wrong personality to fit in to academia. During this time I briefly considered a career as an internationally famous rock star but turned it down. Instead I got a job in De Beers, Cape Town where I was in charge of looking for new diamond prospects off the Namibian and Sierra Leonean coast (if you look on the internet you can probably find my one academic paper there somewhere).

I came back to Britain unemployed and developed an unhealthy obsession with a branch of sedimentary geology called sequence stratigraphy, arguing (with myself) how it could be used to indicate past current regimes in the world’s oceans. This went nowhere so I retrained to be a teacher. During my time in Swindon I have written one unpublished children’s book, together with my partner, Steph, and spent a pointless five months reconstructing a lost Beach Boys album. I play classical guitar to grade 0. I’ve always had an interest in marginal history, but being close to Avebury also started me thinking about Archaeology.

Politically, I’m unaligned, seeing most modern political parties as well meaning but generally misguided, although I don’t think I could do any better. I have grave misgivings about a system where borrowing from the future (particularly resources) ‘stimulates growth’. My view of the future of civilisation is that it’s here to stay (not what I thought before). The role that people play in that is more debatable.

This Blog

The aim of this blog is to discuss ideas that I have or have had about prehistory. For many posts there is no particular agenda, just ideas about particular things, often related to the British Neolithic. However, I also have megalomaniac tendencies to want to write a book summarising prehistory (mainly Europe) and how it works. Sometimes I also get an unhealthy obsession with Indo-European language origins.

Some of these ideas have been given much thought, some are relatively new. Most change with time. All of them have a high chance of being wrong. I don’t think this matters as it’s better for an idea to be out there and discussed that kept back for fear of being ridiculed. I realise that professional archeologists and historians have a lot more information at their disposal than I do (sadly it’s quite difficult, without being rich, for a non-academic to access many academic papers, but it is really starting to get better now). Some of you may think parts of what I say are plain silly.

If you do have criticisms of the posts please be patient with me and post comments letting me know, helpfully, where you think that my ideas are naive, need further work or are factually wrong. If you like some of the ideas, I’d love to hear from you. If you want to take any of these ideas further that would be good.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaap January 12, 2017 at 1:09 am

Gosh! I’m impressed by this exchange! That was neither easy nor unwarranted … Gosh, I’m impressed. Don’t know what else to say.
Oh, I know! Someone (e.g.) who blunders into PIE-discussions with Internet-knowledge, but without any sharing of the blood and toil of four generations of meticulous enquiry into a very elusive subject, trusting only his own common sense, deserves – I don’t know what – deserves something. And that something comes in many guises.
And one of those guises is my applause …

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Edward Pegler January 13, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Thankyou? Probably more relevant to the wheel post, and if this is a criticism, it’s spot on. Dangerous business, PIE.

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Jaap February 18, 2017 at 12:53 am

No, coming from me this is a huge compliment! Irrelevant it may be, but I don’t feel that way. I like common sense. Even if it is not the be-all and end- all, it is always open to correction. Just a tool, but a very delicate one, that will float your ship under almost any circumstance. You can toss it, but you can’t sink it (if the proper regimen is kept). Like the curragh of yore, it will take you places. It’s only when you carry too much load that it gets dangerous …
So as a criticism it would be spot on? Here I beg to differ. Cheap shot, more likely …

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Bob Kerr May 4, 2016 at 10:26 pm

Hello Ned. I’d be interested in hearing about any contacts your blog has initiated on the subject of Gubekli Tepe. New information on this fascinating, enigmatic site appears to have dried up since Schmidt, the German archaeologist who had been excavating the site since the mid-nineties, died.

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Edward Pegler June 25, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Dear Bob

You’ve got me there. Having recently lost contact with everything and everyone, I had no idea that Klaus Schmidt had died. National geographic seems to imply that the area may be turned into a tourist site (I’m sure you’ve seen the link ). If any further archaeology is done a bit of geochemistry might not go amiss. However, I guess we’ll never know the exact details of the religious practices there.

In terms of a more general interpretation of why then and there, I’m not particularly surprised at the idea of monumental structure and agriculture occurring at about the same time (which, contrary to some opinions, is the case with Gobekli and Nevali). There is a potential example of something similar in the Peruvian Norte Chico culture as well. My current guess is that one does not cause the other, rather that the cause of monumentality and agriculture is probably the same, and involves the concentration of people into these areas. Two possible causes for this could be 1) a bottleneck in movement between two regions of the world and 2) the discovery of native metal or other precious ores close to these areas and these particular locations being sited in good places to disseminate those ores to other regions). Perhaps this happened then due to particular climatic conditions. Whatever, I doubt the view that these are just simple hunter gatherers organising for purely religious purposes.

Please do let me know if you get any more factual information, rather than my ramblings.

best wishes

Ned

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Graeme Vernon January 10, 2016 at 11:01 pm

Hello Ned,

Many thanks for the article on the ophiolite trail. One of the main narrative threads in my novel “The Dance of Eurenome” is the search for copper ores in neolithic Thessaly. While I published the novel after I found your piece I nonetheless took heart from you that my guess (the existence of native copper in that region) was not totally idiotic. Indeed, being a linguistic major and not a geologist, I had never heard of ophiolite (but one of my main characters is called Ophion) and had been searching for malachite sites. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.
Regards
Graeme Vernon

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Edward Pegler January 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Dear Graeme

Thanks for the kind comment, and nice to know that someone is thinking the same way. Here’s your link my the way (Dance of the Eurenome). I guess archaeology is trying to tell stories in the hope that they may be interesting and, if we’re really lucky, true. As for whether our guess was idiotic, it might be but I believe that there is something right in this massive over-simplification… I just can’t work out what it is.

best wishes

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Jerry L Krause March 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Ned,

Sorry I confused you and I have tried to better inform myself about those things to which you direct my attention. Later, I will try to better describe what I was attempting to say. But, your comments about the English rod have helped me to make to make, I hesitate to say, a better argument.

The first chapter I wrote about ten years ago was titled: The English Rod. It remains the only chapter that I have not revised over and over. I wrote: “a strategy to discover which ‘foreign’ influence (intelligence) might have been involved was first proposed by Dr. William Stukeley in the early 18th Century. It was to try to identify a standard unit of length employed by the builders of Stonehenge. … In 1877 Flinders Petrie again measured Stonehenge … After WWII Alexander Thom, an engineer, made accurate surveys of many megalithic stone rings … .”

It seems evident the basic assumption of these men, who invested time and labor, was that the builders would have used a measuring instrument in their constructions.

” ‘What I saw was that Chippendale wrote: ditch, of inner diameter about 330 ft. And Atkinson wrote: There are fifty-six Aubrey Holes, set in an accurate circle 288 ft. in diameter, immediately within the inner margin of the bank. The average distance between them, measured around the circumference is 16 ft.’ What if Chippindale had describe the inner radius of the ditch (about 165 ft) instead of its inner diameter? Might a possible relationship between 165 ft and 16 ft been seen? … The fact that 165 ft is 10 English rods does not prove that the builders used an English rod of that length to layout the earthworks; but they certainly could have. The fact that three times Thom’s unit (5.44 ft) is 16.32 ft, about 16.5 ft, does not prove that the English rod had been standardized at such an early time. Nor does the fact that, by using a mensuration formula, it can be shown with certainty that if Stonehenge’s builders had begun with a circle with a radius of 9 rods (diameter of 297 ft), they could have found that the rod would precisely divide its circumference into 56.5 segments.” (This is not true because it is not practically possible to divide with absolute precision. A point Newton makes in the next chapter: Circle-drawers and The Discovery Of Knowledge.) “But for discussion purpose, it is not deep reasoning that the English rod would divide a circle of slightly less radius into 56 equal segments or that a dividing rod less than two inches longer than the English rod could divide a circles with a radius of 9 English rods tinto 56 equal segments. This latter fact highlights the precision that would be required to ‘precisely’ divide such a large circle into 56 equal segments.”

Then I wrote: “The fundamental reasoning behind Stukeley’s and Petrie’s strategy was that the builders would not have used a fractional number of standard units. The English rod contradicts such reasoning by being 16.5 ft. It seems that both overlooked this fact which existed before they began their measurements.”

Previously, I had reviewed how various scholars had denigrated the possible intelligence of prehistoric people. So toward the end of this chapter I wrote: “it seems modern scholars have overlooked examples of this intelligence when it is demonstrated. Atkinson dismissed the feat of laying-out large, precise, circles with the comment: ‘Such accuracy is easily obtainable, of course, merely by the rotation of a suitiable measuring-cord to a peg in the centre.’ In this, Atkinson seems to disclose an ignorance of practical matters. Surveyor’s work would have been so much easier if they could used a measuring-cord ten rods (165 ft) in length to precisely determine such a distance. But such a long cord stretches a significant amount when pulled taut, or its length might change a significant amount with change of humidity; so until the advent of the steel chain, surveyors had to use a surveyor’s rod multiple times to most precisely determine such a large distance.”

When I began writing this comment, I had thought I needed to better highlight the fact there is always a precise relationship between the radius of a circle and the length of the chord which would divide its circumference into x number of regular segments (arcs). Can you really imagine prehistoric people laying-out the 56 Aubrey Holes without using a measuring instrument, whatever its precise length?

Another issue I need to address are the debate I read about as to where would the stake (marker) be placed to indicate the position of the hole to be dug: inside the hole relative to the circle’s center, its middle, or outside the hole. From my point of view, the only practical location is outside the hole. For then the hole digger could step back outside the marker and sight toward the circle’s center to see the position of the hole relative to the sightline defined by the center and the marker, which would not be disturbed by digging. Obviously, the marker at the center would be removed by the digging and if the marker were placed between the center and the hole, the digger would need to walk to the center to sight over the marker toward the hole.

Practical is a keyword or motivation that is introduced by Newton (Peface of The Principia) in the next chapter.

Look forward to your comments as they are very useful to my learning.

Jerry

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Edward Pegler April 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Dear Jerry

Sorry it’s taken a month to reply. Various reasons (holiday, etc). However, probably the biggest reason is that I can’t think of anything to say, as the English Rod is not my expertise. I have never doubted the skills of Prehistoric people and I don’t doubt that they used a measuring system for their buildings. I think that much is lost which is difficult to scratch back from the stones and earth, often moved by solifluction or bad old archaeology. Have you tried a different website which has more interest in prehistoric surveying or architecture? I’m sure that they would be able to discuss this topic further.

best wishes

Ned

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Jerry L Krause March 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Ned,

You seem to be perplexed by the archaeologists who so quickly begin to speculate about the new discoveries at Ness of Brodgar.

Under threat of being burned at a stake Galileo wrote Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences. Even though I had been taught of this fact in my introductory science courses, I had never been given the assignment to read Henry Crew and Alfonso de Salvio’s translation of it. And because I had never read it until near the end of my teaching career, I had never assigned it as a required reading for my students. If you have read it, you know that the publisher (Elzevir) wrote some brief comments to the book’s reader.

One was: “For, according to the common saying, sight can teach more and with greater certainty in a single day than can precept even though repeated a thousand times; or, as another says, intuitive knowledge keeps paces with accurate definition.”

To see the implied relationship between the two sayings, I had to study “accurate definition”. I conclude that accurate defintion could be accurate description of that which can be seen (facts). Another possible definition of definition involves the interpretation, or explanation, of fact. But such cannot be the intent of the second saying because accurate definition requires no thought; the knowledge to which the facts (accurate defintion)point is intuitive.

I am perplexed when I wrote: “One thing I saw, when I began reading about Stonehenge, was evidence that the English rod (16.5ft) was probably a common unit of measurement used to layout the earthworks.” and you replied: “Most academics have ignored this work, arguing, justifiably I suppose, that a man’s (or indeed five men’s) pace(s) will average out about the same across the country and maybe this explains the problem without the need of some standard unit. ” Later, I returned to the issue of the English rod and wrote: “I read that the reason that the English rod happens to be 16.5 feet is that at the time the English king made his definition, most English land had been surveyed and legally described with the English rod.” To which you wrote: “All I’d guess is that the invention of the English rod happened at a time when it became an important part of any taxation system to find out exactly how much some poor peasant was going to be stung for.”

It seems a fact that the English rod was a standard measuring instrument, hence there was a standardized unit of length, before the foot and yard were defined as standard units of length. Even though there is evidence that the British Isles were settled by prehistoric people (farmers nearly a thousand years before Stonehenge’s earthworks were begun, it seems you cannot imagine there was ownership of land at the time the earthworks were begun, which in turn required its measurement. It seems you can accept the expenditure of the physical labour required to construct barrows and cursuses without ownership. Farmers are peasants, but a tiller of the soil, no matter the size of the field, feeds himself and the non-peasants of his community.

I wrote: “In my reading about prehistoric British Isles, I have yet to the find the essential need of freshwater being addressed. And I have yet to find the fisherfolk being considered being a significant portion of those who first settled the Isles. It is easy to imagine trade occuring between the farmers and the fisherfolk. It is easy for me to imagine that the first farmers were fisherfolk and that the first fisherfolk were farmers.” You replied: “If you mean by ‘fisherfolk’ hunter-gatherers, then Britain had plenty of fisherfolk before Neolithic farmers arrived.” Yet, I find you had cited evidence of a prehistoric people, Impressed Ware People, who farmed narrow strips of the Med. coastline for hundreds, if not more than a thousand, miles from east to west and centuries before there is evidence that the Isles were settled by anyone. And you had cited evidence that these Impressed Ware People, departed from the coastlines and settled two French river valleys, one which reached the Atlantic. But then you wrote: “As for previous occupation of the mediterranean coasts, yes, people probably were living a hunter-gatherer life there before the arrival of farming.” So you retreat from the proposal that the Impressed Ware People were farmers as well as hunter-gatherers. For what reason?

You know there is so much being stated by ‘academics’ that is not observed fact. So why join them? As I review our discussions, there are other issues which need to be clarified but I have challenged you enough for now.

I hope you will reply.

Jerry

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Edward Pegler March 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Dear Jerry
I have no problem with speculation about the Orkney dig. I think that linking ideas with story is good and helps people to remember things and to put up something to challenge. What I object to is that these speculations are presented as fact. Less informed people will believe them to be so.

Galileo’s sight was of things which were there to be observed by anyone – the phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter, the cratered surface of the Moon. His interpretations of these observations were backed up by cogent argument. Not all of his arguments are now accepted but those were, and they were relatively easy to make because of the simplicity of the laws of Physics operating in space. What an archaeologist sees in the ground does not obey such simple laws and no archaeologist can ever be so certain.

As for the ownership of land during the Neolithic of Britain I simply don’t know and cannot tell whether they used a standard measure of length. Personally, I have my doubts but that’s not to say it’s not true. There is evidence for the division of the landscape into field systems by Bronze age times but such division is not evident in the Neolithic (except perhaps western Ireland, where field systems existed early on). Compare this, say, with the clear division of land in Mesopotamia and the related measurement of units there.

On the other hand, if a case can be made for standard units in the building of large earthworks through repeated, and predictable, patterns of construction based on those theorised units (as was argued for by Alexander Thom) then that would be fairly convincing.

Your last point has confused me and I don’t understand what is contrary in my statements. To reiterate about the populations of western Europe, hunter-gatherer populations are in evidence across this area throughout the early Holocene. The disappearance of hunter-gatherers coincides (approximately) with the appearance of farmers in the various parts of western Europe but the evidence shows that there have been people in western Europe for the whole of the Holocene, whether farmers or hunter-gatherers. Importantly, the advent of farming occurred at different times in different places.

Finally, Impressed Ware cultures were farmers, regardless of whether they were immigrants or descendants of the earlier hunter-gather populations. They may have practiced hunting as well, but they appear to have reared animals and probably cultivated land.

All the best
Ned

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Jerry L Krause March 5, 2012 at 3:32 am

Ned,

Was waiting for your comments about how Agassiz taught. But I cannot find that I gave you the names of a couple of his students (Scudder and Shaler). That might help.

Earlier you wrote: “Academics are easy to criticise for their blinkered approach. However, they are neither more nor less blinkered than everybody else and, more importantly, they use evidence to limit their conclusions.” Earlier I wrote (relative to Feynman’s third value of science): “One might reflect upon Feynman’s audience and question why he defined this value of science in 1955.” A possible answer is that in my Britannica, about Immanuel Velikovsky and his book Worlds In Collision (1950) I read: “The animosity of the U.S. scientific community toward Worlds In Collision caused the original publisher, treatened with a boycott of its scientific textbook division, to turn Velikovsky’s work over to a firm not involved in textbook publishing.”

Read about Louis A. Frank and small comets to see how a respected scientists was treated by his scientific community after he forced the publication of the evidence he saw and his speculation about its cause. And you must know how the early proponents of continental drift, who cited various types of evidence, were treated so that no academic dared, fifty or so years, to suggest again that continents could and had drifted. The struggle to which Feynman referred, I think, was the attempt to censor Galileo by threat of being burned at a stake. While the Church is often blamed for this because they were the power at the time, I believe a greater threat was to the academics who had been teaching Aristotelian physical science for a couple thousands of years.

You are quick to acknowledge there usually, always?, more than one possibility. It is all too clear that some, whether academics or otherwise, cannot see this. But, one must acknowledge that often there can be only one correct answer. And it is the objective of the natural philosopher to eliminate the wrong answers. Doyle (Sir Arthur) wrote: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” and “It is just these very simple things which are extremely likely to be overlooked.” Feynman wrote: “It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwords. … In summary, the idea is to try to give all the information to help others judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.”

Relative to the eclipse prediction proposed by Hawkins and discussed by others, I have yet to read that at least two lunar eclipses occur each year and sometimes as many as four occur. I have yet to read there are three types of lunar eclipses (total, partial, and penumbra, which can seldom be seen with the naked-eye). I have yet to read these lunar eclipses every sixth lunar full moon except when the eclipse occurs the fifth full moon or both the fifth and sixth full moon. Because I have not read these things, there are other details that I could enumerate. And I have not read that a solar eclipse occurs during a new moon that is adjacent to a full moon that is eclipsed. And I have not read that a lunar eclipse can be seen occurring from nearly a half-hemisphere of the earth’s surface whereas a solar eclipse cannot. And I have not read that the practical value of observing the difference of the timings of a lunar eclipse at two difference locations is that this difference is the longitudinal difference between the two locations. This is not speculation.

Another fact is the geographical names: Jersey, Guernsey, Devon, Hampshire, Suffolk, Hereford, Shropshire, Southdown, Aberdeen Angus, Yorkshire, Berkshire, etc. (all common, modern, breeds of livestock). It is hard to imagine there is no relationship to the livestock of the prehistoric settlers and where they settled and these modern breeds even though their specific genetics are separated by thousands of years. Hence, prehistoric ownership of land and a reason for surveying (rod).

These are thoughts and observations I have made over the years I have been working on my book and trying to understand practical reasons for the physical labor involved in digging ditches and building mounds. It is hard for me to imagine these people exerted so much physical labor to bury their dead and so little to actually live in an wilderness.

Jerry

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Jerry L Krause February 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Ned,

At the beginning I stated you were the most practical of the prehistoric bloggers that I had read. You continuely prove that to be true. You regularly provide me with new information which I consider reliable because you live there. Having lived quite near (within fifty miles) the area of which Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, I can state that she told it as it basically was and still is. Whether it be in the big woods (no blizzards) of Minnesota or the treeless plains of South Dakota (blizzards), the climate was extreme and the population density was quite low. The majority of the European emigrant farmers who settled in the Dakotas and Minnesota were from Norway, Sweden, and northern Germany. These people, whatever their nationality, had to be practical to survive. Laura’s father had to build a false wall to hide the wheat which he knew was needed for planting the next spring. This because he could not trust his neighbors for having such foresight.

I return to the English rod (perch) and the issue of measurement. Anthony Johnson, Solving Stonehenge, dismisses the possibility that the builders of Stonehenge had any common measuring unit. It seems he does this because he (and I) consider the evidence of the 56 Aubrey holes indicates that the people who laid out these holes had some knowledge of geometry. And since geometry does not require definite units of length, the builders did not use any units. But a geometric fact is there is an absolute relationship between the radius of a circle and the chord which regularly spaces 56 points on that circle.

I note the previous because you seem to be uneasy about the number of possible theories one can draw from an incomplete set of information. A fact is not all information is reliable. In my Britannica I read: “Body measurements probably provided the most convenient bases for early linear measurements; … The historical progression of units has followed a generally westward direction, the units of ancient empires of the Near and Middle East finding their way, mostly as a result of trade, to the Greek and then the Roman empires, thence to Gauil and Britian via Roman conquest.”

But as you acknowledge, the English rod is and it is unique to northwest Europe. There seems to be no evidence that it was used by the Greeks or Romans about whom we have modern written history. So I have to conclude that the origin of English units is not suggested by the Britannica author. So his theory is eliminated.

While I cannot reference where I read in Britannica that an English king defined the length of a foot about a thousand years ago, I know I did read it. And I read that the reason that the English rod happens to be 16.5 feet is that at the time the English king made his definition, most English land had been surveyed and legally described with the English rod. The fact the length of the King’s foot was such that the established rod could not be 16 feet or 17 feet suggests that the existing rod did not vary significantly from one part of the English kingdom to another and that the King was unwilling to compromise the length of his foot so that the rod could be 16 or 17 feet. Hence, I have to conclude it was the accepted standard length of the existing English rod which dictated the specifically defined length of the standard foot. It would be too coincidental that a measured length of the King’s foot was precisely such that there was 16.5 feet to a rod.

As I tried to reference the previous account, I happened upon a table of conversion factors between USA Customary units and those of the SI system. I did not know that the conversion factor to convert inches to mm is exactly 25.4, or that the cf to convert feet to meters is exactly 0.3048, or that the cf to convert yards to meters is exactly 0.9144. It is commonly stated that a meter is defined to be one ten-millionth of the distance along the meridian passing through Paris from the North Pole to the Equator. It seems reasonable to assume that a precise measuremnt of the actual distance was never made. It seems the scientists and engineers, given the responsibility of determining the necessary conversion factors, found an exact decimal number which converted an yard to the approximate length of the ‘measured’ meter and which could be divided by 3 to give an exact decimal number which in turn could be divided by 12 to give another exact decimal. number. Hence, the precise length of the meter was defined by the existing English (USA) yard.

One has to be practical and it certainly seems not practical to actually measure the distance between the North Pole and the Equator to even the nearest km.

As we continue to correspond I will focus more specifically upon what I have seen that it seems few (or nobody) have written about.

Do not be concerned about the length of your reply. I am not. I really encourage you to read how Agassiz taught some of his students to see. I believe it might help you see where I am coming from.

Jerry

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Edward Pegler February 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Dear Jerry

Definitely out of my depth here. All I’d guess is that the invention of the English rod happened at a time when it became an important part of any taxation system to find out exactly how much some poor peasant was going to be stung for. The rod seems like a convenient system for measuring small fields (as you suggest) and a tax system based on the area of a field and expected yields seems likely. The same logic applies to the origins of ancient Sumerian measurement systems in the fourth millennium BC.

I don’t know when such taxation system started in England. The Romans may have had a similar thing and the early Welsh kingdoms might have. Placing the origins of English taxation systems around 700-800AD (offa’s dyke times), when the first organised English kingdoms started, seems reasonable (they might have been adopted from Welsh). Possibly each kingdom would have had their own measurement systems but standardisation might have come about as kingdoms were merged in the wake of reorganisation after the viking invasions. Eventually, one standard system, rolled out across the country, would be applied using a standard measure. The Domesday Book shows the capabilities of this existing English tax and census system in the eleventh century, even if it had been co-opted by the Norman elite.

However, this is all off the top of my head so may be rot.

As for Agassiz, I’ll have a look.

best wishes

Ned

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Jerry L Krause February 25, 2012 at 5:37 am

Ned,

Of course our accumulalted knowledge increases every year and I exclude computer games from that pool. Buckminister Fuller, an interesting study if you are not familiar with him, observed that humans upto the mid 20th Century or so were informationaly poor. So, he saw the possibility of great advancements once they had acquired the fundamental knowledge they had lacked in the past. I think he is credited with the term spaceship earth, but he thought we could never run out of resources because man alway did more with less. So, while speciallized knowledge has continued to increase since that time, I believe we have finally discovered the critical, fundamental, knowledged required to support the many advancements that we see and now enjoy.

You did not respond to the abilities of your FE students. You teach electronics, physics, and astronomy even though your academic training was in geology. From this I conclude you are what I term a generalist, a man for all seasons. Of course, your writing proves you possess a background that goes far beyond these topics. Relative to the problem that USA chemistry professors and instructors see in their classrooms/laboratories, it is my naive hypothesis that chemistry courses have become little more than history courses in which what has been learned is taught instead focusing upon how it had been learned. As I write this I must immediately acknowledge that telling students how it has been learned is no better than telling them what has been learned. Somehow the student must be engaged so they develop their own understanding. And I do not claim to know how this can be done. I do know the learner must do the work involved and not the professor/instructor.

To illustrate, I often asked my students: What is a common difference between a textbook and any other type of book? Unfortunately, I also often answered my question for them. John Hill, Aspects of Chemistry, asked his readers: What is the difference between a scientific law and a governmental law? It took me nearly two or more years using his text to finally discover a couple obviously correct answers to this question because he did not directly answer the question in his text nor did he offer an answer in the instructor’s guide. His text went to six editions, but questions of this type became fewer and fewer because I believe many professors and instructors did not like questions they could not answer for their students.

You have written other thoughts that I will respond to when I have more time.

Jerry

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Jerry L Krause February 20, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Ned,

The focus of Stonehenge More Complete is about Stonehenge but that it not its central purpose or theme. Its central theme is learning. One reason I began writing this book was that modern scholars denigrated, sometimes directly and sometimes subtlety the intelligence of prehistoric people. Intelligence has been defined as the ability to learn and I believe there is evidence that prehistoric people of the British Isles had learned things that these modern scholars do not know.

I do not know how your FE students perform. We, in the USA, know most of our students do not academically perform at the level they once did. Many of us taught during the period of this decline. So, for many more years than 11, we, in chemistry, have been grappling with this problem.

“What us amateurs (and sometimes academics too) are particularly guilty of is finding two pieces of data that have managed to survive and linking them through cause and effect (e.g. Amesbury Archer builds Stonehenge).”

In the other blog you wrote: “Most academics have ignored this [Thom’s]work, arguing, justifiably I suppose, that a man’s (or indeed five men’s) pace(s) will average out about the same across the country and maybe this explains the problem without the need of some standard unit.”

Argument has no place in science. The Greek philosophers argued and got most of physical science wrong. Relative to this problem, Richard Feynman (“What Do You Care What Other People Think?”) addressed the National Academy of Sciences in their 1955 autumn meeting. He stated: “I would like to turn to a third value that science has. It is a little less direct, but not much. The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statementso varying degrees of certainty–some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.

“Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes this true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question–to doubt–to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus lose what we have gained. Herein lies a responsiblity to society.”

One might reflect upon Feynman’s audience and question why he defined this value of science in 1955. I also suggest that one might Google Louis Agassiz, relative to professor’s Scudder and Shaler, to discover how he taught his students to see.

A fact is, I think, that the founders of modern science were amateurs because modern physical science did not exist before they began questioning what the academics thought.

This is fun. I just reviewed again what you had written and I must respond to “the limitations of the internet and about my own naivety.”

First, the internet allows amateurs access to the thoughts of other amateurs and some academics who choose to participate. I obviously have not taken full advantage of the internet.

In a short article (Science, Vol. 220, pp 477) Lauren B. Resnick summarized some finding of cognitive scientists. “First, learners construct understanding. They do not simply mirror what they are told or what they read. Learners look for meaning and will try to find regularity and order in the events of the world, even in the absence of complete information. This means naive theories will always to be constructed as part of the learning process.” If you cannot find this article and are interested, I can type in the second and third summary. And she reports the problem that children begin to develop naive theories about the events of the world before they are taught the ‘correct’ theories. The importance of this observation is prehistoric adults could have done what it seems modern children naturally do.

Jerry

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Edward Pegler February 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Dear Jerry

Point taken. Coming from a scientific background I suppose I thought I could try testing a theory against the evidence for prehistory. It turns out that I can probably make my (naive) theory fit the facts, with some ammendments. However, this is almost disappointing as I could do the same with so many other theories as there’s so much data missing. It’s like having a 33 pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw and no box. You can tell 6 are edge pieces, so there’s less room for movement there. Then it’s you’re choice how you prefer to arrange the rest of your 29 in the middle. Sadly in the case of archaeology, due to loss of data or political unrest it’s unlikely that we’ll ever have more than perhaps 70 pieces of the jigsaw.

I suspect that this was the conclusion arrived at by Post-processualist archaeologists and their solution is fairly pragmatic – choose your personal theory and that will be right for you … unless you change your mind. The trouble is that there’s rarely the information to make you change your mind and improve on the theory.

You’re observation on the childlike behaviour of past adults seems entirely sensible to me. I think that’s why I like the idea of most people in the past naturally swapping or ‘trading’ shiny things, playing games, making and breaking friendships and generally making do with the world that they knew. In many ways that describes most of us now. I’m sure that some of them came to reasoned conclusions about the world and their place in it. These surely must have been the movers and shakers of prehistory. I guess others didn’t fuss themselves about it and just accepted what was generally said.

And of course you must be right. Ancient people lived in a world that asked different things of them, so they must have had more knowledge of those things than we do. But overall the limited interactions of groups and the small numbers involved must mean that, overall, the sum of their knowledge must have been small compared with humanities accumulated knowledge now (even if much of that knowledge involves computer games).

best wishes

Ned

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Jerry L Krause February 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Ned,
I have recently discovered the group of bloggers who have a common interst, albeit quite diverse, in the prehistory of the British Isles and in your case beyond. I am totally unfamiliar with blog sites and their workings. So, I write to you in hopes that you might help me. I chose you because your focus, relative to prehistory, is most practical.
I am neither an archaeologist, an astronomer, a historial, nor a geologist. I claim to be a curious natural philosopher like those who founded modern science little more then 4 centuries ago. My father’s parents immigrated from northern Germany to farm in eastern South Dakota, USA, in the latter part of the 19th Century. I grew up on a farm about two miles from their homestead and farmed while an undergraduate. I taught chemistry in a northern Minnesota community college for 20+ years and since then have invest money and sweat in low cost housing. Toward the end of my teaching career I became a student (by reading) of Louis Agassiz who stated his greatest achievement was that he had taught students to see. I now live in the Williamette Valley of Oregon.
About 11 years ago, I began reading about Stonehenge because I was trying to answer the question: How could prehistoric people have determined the earth’s cardinal directions with good precision? Nearly immediately I began to see things about which I did not find any writings. Because one of my references was Stonehenge Complete by Christopher Chippindale, I began writing a book which I titled Stonehenge More Complete. This book has been a work in progress for these many years and I have decided it would never be published even if I completed it to my satisfaction. I have communicated with Mike Pearson-Parker and he suggested that I share what I have seen and thought with people such as you. As I read the blogs, which I only found because I Googled bluestones, I see I am in general agreement with their concerns that the academic archaeologists have tunnel vision.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you will reply and that we can establish a personal dialogue before I join the bloggers, if I decide to do that. I am going to respond to your introduction: Trade and Farming

Jerry

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Edward Pegler February 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Dear Jerry

Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have (had?) a great interest in Stonehenge and know much more about it than me.

Learning is a great thing and my last two or three years of interest in archaeology have taught me much about prehistory but also about the limitations of the internet and about my own naivety.

Academics are easy to criticise for their blinkered approach. However, they are neither more nor less blinkered than everybody else and, more importantly, they use evidence to limit their conclusions. The past has very wide limits on what’s known, so it’s hardly surprising that academics have a wide range of opinions.

For example academics’ speculations about Stonehenge are pretty varied. In the case of the bluestones you will find opinions in academic literature about their arrival on Salisbury Plain at different times (e.g. 100,000BC, 3000BC or 2300BC) and by different means (ice, boat/ropes or a mixture of the two).

However, many people on the internet either don’t know about (due to lack of easily available info) or occasionally are not interested in the limits of knowledge and they argue things which simply can’t be true. What us amateurs (and sometimes academics too) are particularly guilty of is finding two pieces of data that have managed to survive and linking them through cause and effect (e.g. Amesbury Archer builds Stonehenge). I have found that I’m guilty of the same in some of my posts and I now need to rewrite or delete them.

So all I’d say is welcome to the conversation, but don’t always trust me (or others) to know what I’m (we’re) talking about.

best wishes

Ned

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