01 January, 2017

2016 - Review of the Year

One of basic principles that always governed my professional practice in commercial world was “Always do what you say you are going to do”, if everyone sticks to this, then even quite complex projects can come together successfully.   Since the year started with a bold statement of intent concerning building a model of a CAD Class Ei building, some form of progress report is probably due.   However, what happens, or is reported on this blog, is a separate issue to what is going on in terms of research; you can do it or write about it; it is not that there is nothing to report, but that things are changing; you can spend weeks illustrating and writing a post about a particular problem, only to find that you have solved it. 
There are other things going on; I am virtually busy working on a range of other case studies, methodology, and projects with other people; there is even the real world, which exacts its a terrible crushing toll on a daily basis.  

Out and about in 2016
This year, I have managed two conference papers, a talk at Greenhead, and a press briefing. As a result, I now have a fully coherent set of presentation slides covering the early phases of Hadrian’s Wall fit for any occasion.   With the financial support of my family, I gave a paper in front of some important intellectual stakeholders Newcastle University’s Reading The Wall conference , making my work slightly more real for those who get it.  I am still verboten, but at least some smart people now know why.  I was honoured to be invited to give a paper at Clayfest  2016  Conference at  Burgh-by-Sands in July, [The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings],  where I had a great time and would like to thank all involved.
I also managed a small contribution to early Christian archaeology in Ireland; it is very nice to be consulted and to be able to help.  Much of my work with others goes on behind the scenes and is not covered by this blog, so a general thanks goes out to those people who know who they are, and to all those who have publicly supported my work this year.   
The Phenomenology of the Past
 In some fields researchers are faced with two separate but related problems; finding something significant and then communicating it interested parties.   A subject like chemistry has standard language for naming things with clearly defined parameters for describing  them.  Generally, the theoretical archaeology of timber structures has no standard technical language or methodology, although the paper I published last year with Bill Kennedy does address this. [1]
It is not that CAD modelling and the engineering of simple structures is beyond the intellectual resources of local higher education, they are just not considered relevant to archaeology, where built environments are conceptualised through the related traditions of artistic representation and the physical reproduction of culturally inappropriate buildings, both largely unrelated to any real evidence collected. This past is world without architecture, where hairy people wave at the sky [in a ritual way].
It is the visual conventions of this fictional past that most directly influence perception, once people imagine they have seen something – it can be hard to change their mind.
In many ways I suspect these ideas of our simple Prehistoric ancestors they can be shown to arise from the colonial mind set, of primitive peoples awaiting the arrival of civilisation, which itself derives from a traditional Roman centred view of the past natural to Christian Europe.
While it is a truism to say that history in Britain starts with the Romans, culture did not; it is not unreasonable to suggest that the extent of Bronze Age metallurgy in North West Europe was only made possible because of deposits of tin in southern England, which helps contextualise some of the larger and more complex architecture.  
While in this period, Eurasian religion in this was usually focused on a pantheon of 7 main anthropomorphic Gods, worshipped through sacrifice, prayer, song  and dance, Britain is Special, so our religious ritual consisted in erecting posts in circles and digging pits. Simple archaeology produced by simple minds.
Ultimately , I make this point because our visual conditioning makes it difficult to think about the past outside of these pictures; the CAD modelling of archaeological structures illustrated on this site are not pictures but a form of diagram designed to convey very specific types of information.
A flurry of traffic generated by a Stonehenge reference 

The Stonehenge effect.
I did not reference Stonehenge in the title because it generates unnecessary traffic who are not interested in the engineering of ancient buildings, but see the past as a repository of their own aspirations - current populated by Celtic eco-warriors vibrating with secret knowledge, in tune with the natural cycles and whatnot.  It is one of those special secret portals than allows entry into a state ecstatic ignorance.  
[above] Throughout the year sudden surges of traffic represent a reference to TSA  elsewhere; a recent article referring to my theory that Stonehenge was roofed with a "dome", generated this little spike of interest. I resigned to the fact that my work is that not easy to understand, and perhaps difficult to illustrate - but a dome? 
WTF; will the last British academic who can read, write and do sums please kindly turn off the light and post the key to China.

A “perfect” geometric 3d model as guide to elevations; it represents my current understanding of the underlying form of the roof; it is a form of template/ skin, the actual elevations in the model is far more complex.

Interlace theory - Modelling complex structures.
At the start of the year I set out the objective of sorting out a model of an Ei building [2] - I just can’t tell you how exciting the progress has been – and therein lies the problem – how to communicate complicated ideas in a simplistic subject. Not only is a modelling a new type of old building very time consuming, trying to explain and present modelling concepts is equally problematic.   Darwin only had to convince people they were descended from monkeys; I have to convince academics that, contrary to the pictures in their heads, posts were put in the ground to support roofs not as a religious ritual.  It is science versus faith in the 21st century, while they can stop me teaching, at least they can't burn me or my relatives these days.[#]

Variation of minimum bay width in model  [Y / Q] as an indicator of relative height

The principle objective of modelling this year was the outer part of the roof; how the central portion of the roof worked, I had set aside until I better understood the larger and more unusual annular form.  However, when roofing a circle, there are not a wide range of options; structurally, the issue is the width of the space of the centre of the building, and, in this period, the maximum available length of oak beams.  Unfortunately, I have now resolved this theoretical issue, generating a whole new phase of modelling.  
Theoretical elevations
For the record, my research on specific structure, exists in three different forms; on paper where initial ideas are tested by drawing the structure onto printed plans; as multilayer 2d computer drawings where the ideas worked out on paper are formalised; finally, a 3d CAD model is used to test of an idea. Most of the work is 2d drawings which are printed out to go through a process of being drawn on, measured and tested using traditional technical drawing techniques. This year will have generated several hundred separate drawings, many subsequently defaced with manual drawing; those considered significant are kept as record of all the things I got wrong along the way.  Since buildings can be described as geometric and mathematical, all manner of parameters are measured, documented, and considered in the process; spread sheets are used and graphs are drawn.   Since ritual cannot be described mathematically, this type of process and analysis is of no interest academic archaeology, in addition, deductive reasoning cannot be relied upon to give you the answer you want, especially if the answer is it's ritual.
I have written several posts about the issues of reverse engineering complex structures, much of which revolves around finding a suitable starting point in the assembly, a problem slightly simplified at Stonehenge by the survival of parts of a load baring wall and stanchion to their original height.
Hopefully, now I given vent to the frustration dealing with faith based teaching that has dumbed down archaeology, the next post will concentrate on technical issues of these complex roofed structures.

On thing I learnt in 2016 is that there are still people who know what a load bearing wall does, and why roofs have ties, they may not work for Universities, but they still have a legitimate interest in understanding the past in rational terms. 

BELOW: What is being explained in these lecture slides is not really the true nature of the structure, but rather why it has to be so complicated, at least in a visual sense, and why understanding the assembly or vertical positioning of components is fundamental to modelling the structure.  


Odin's Raven said...

Happy and productive 2017 to you. Thanks for all the posts.
I wonder if this article shows the future for archaeology. It is about someone with a degree in archaeology, who worked as a toll booth operator, and invested his savings buying a field under which lies a lost Welsh town. Now people can pay him £50 per day to be an 'archaeologist for a day' in helping him dig it up.

Geoff Carter said...

Hi OR - seasons greetings
Yes - I saw this; it is not that unusual, Vindolanda - is a good local example which has used this model.
Getting people to pay to do archaeology is an old business model - The Earthwatch Institute - spring to mind. http://eu.earthwatch.org/
Archaeology is has often depended on private subscription,
More recently, there is a lot of crowdfunding - such as http://digventures.com/

It is an interesting model - which I am sure will be extended to British heath services, and perhaps education - professionals are just not very profitable.

Odin's Raven said...

Thanks Geoff. Perhaps you saw the TV programme about stone structures in Orkney, and how the idea probably spread south. Have you any views, even though they are of stone rather than wood? Somebody mentioned to me that the Shetlands are even further north and they also have lots of stone structures, so perhaps they may be even older.

Geoff Carter said...

Re: TV
I have studiously avoided watching this, it contains scenes that intelligent viewers may find upsetting.[I heard thatit goes all wobbly at 51 mins].
RE: Orkney.
I have my own observations; the reason that these islands are important - like other islands - is that they were the first areas colonised by Agriculturalists.
The extensive use of stone reflects the loss of tree cover and a shortage of building timber.
The continued importance of Orkney is that it controls the northern approaches to the Irish Sea via the Minch, this is vital as the source of copper / Tin / Bronze for Northern Europe - which does not go via southern coast of England - hence the strategic [cultural] connection which I am sure they talked about.
Shetland would be important in terms of Trade and also has no trees, but could never be as important as the Orkney.
NB most of the the oldest neolithic structures in Europe are timber, although in Britain we are very poor at identifying them, and the ones we find we think are "Ritual" which actually a euphemism for not understood.

Odin's Raven said...

Thanks again Geoff. In the second tv programme they made a skin boat like a curragh and rowed it to the mainland, in virtually ideal conditions, with a helicopter filming them and the bow of an escort boat occasionally nudging into the shots. If their precursors controlled trade around the north of Scotland, they must have been much bolder seamen!

Maybe they should have gone for a kayak, like those of the Eskimos who reached Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries.

What would have been their sources of copper and tin? Great Orme's Head in north Wales, or all the way from south Wales? What about the huge deposits of very pure copper around Lake Superior which Barry Fell thought supplied much of the Bronze Age in Europe? Seamen with small ships might have traveled much further than academics like to believe. Would the markets have been in Scandinavia and the Baltic?

I'm always amazed by the obligatory demonstration by archaeologists of how to move a medium sized stone a short distance over a smooth and gentle downslope covered in short grass, using equal sized perfectly rounded long wooden rollers, and modern ropes and metal attachments, whilst clad in their ritual garb of plastic helmets and yellow jackets. I think the megalith builders would also have been amazed.

This time however a local revealed the secret of lithic locomotive lubrication. Kelp. They could slide the stones over it more easily. Surely this will open up scope for grants and dissertations on the importance of kelp in the stone age, and whether this was a limiting factor in the production or distribution of megaliths. How much kelp could have been taken sustainably? Did 'over-kelping' end the megalithic era? More research needed.

Geoff Carter said...

Interesting observations - I never worry about moving stones etc, unless you think it's magic or aliens, the fact is they managed it; what is not seen use and movement of timbers. I feel sorry for those areas with no stone in the UK - they must have been culturally excluded; it's amazing how the Dutch ever got through the Neolithic.
The Neolithic farmers had well developed timber architecture, it is part of the package, they managed to colonise large mainland areas prior to the Bronze Age.
Apart from Stonehenge, the age of stone monuments is over by the BA, except where stone has to be used like Orkney.
The Early Copper was probably Southern Ireland like Ross Island - then Wales, etc, Cu being relatively common, However the key issue is Tin, which comes from Cornwall. or places like Afghanistan!
Great Lakes - bonkers - I think Anglesey had the biggest copper mine in the world up until the discovery and exploitation of the "New World" sources a few hundred years ago.

Odin's Raven said...

Perhaps the Dutch migrated to Orkney, taking Belgian voles with them! The tv programme told us that the closest relatives of the Orkney voles are those of Belgium. They didn't mention any relatives of the people (before the Vikings got to them), but the landscape might have attracted them because it is also a low lying convoluted entanglement of land and water. Maybe this was a foreshadowing of the subsequent maritime might of the Rhine delta? Any sign of the export of stones from Orkney to the low countries (perhaps to pay for voles!)?

I see you have a link to Joseph Atwill's blog. Perhaps you might also be interested in Flavio Barbiero, who extends Atwill's insight considerably. Not many people can previously have seen Mithraism and Christianity as two sides of the same conspiracy.

John Bartram's site Origins of Christianity is also worth a look.
It is billed as 'Archaeology of Christian Origins', and emphasises the importance of connections to the Roman Imperial families, and particularly that the early references are all to 'Chrest' rather than 'Christ', 'good' rather than 'anointed'.

Geoff Carter said...

The Neolithic, like the Bronze Age, took some time to some time to get to the British Isles, it can only have got here via N or W Europe.
I am not very interested in conspiracy,and while "official" religions/cults can be managed, the idea that the consequences of a piece of devotional literature could be foreseen I cannot accept; clearly, all devotional literature has context / addenda and does arise in a vacuum, but the consequences may take decades/centuries to be observed; It can be long process before a cult becomes a religion.
In this context, the original target of the story in Mark was the Jewish diaspora, and it should be seen in this context.
I also like Richard Carriers work.

Anonymous said...

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