A really interesting two days - and a deluge of new information, most of which I'm still trying to assimilate.
Here are the high points from my perspective.
Well, he's one of the ones who kicked off the resurgence of research into archaeoastronomy/sacred geometry/ancient measurements, and it was a pleasure to meet him. He was kind enough to take a look at my proof of the vesica piscis angle, and confirmed that the error had been corrected ages ago. That's the trouble with owning early editions of books, I guess :-)
His lecture was about the megaliths of West Penwith, Cornwall, and his archive of pictures of them are probably some of the few remaining records of the positioning of some of them.
"The Measure of Albion" - co-authored with Robin Heath - is the first one of the books I bought that I'm reading. This deals with some astonishing geometry in the landscape of Britain, including the 5:12:13 triangle that connects Stonehenge, Lundy Island and the Preseli Hill site of the bluestones used in Stonehenge's construction.
Robin Heath and John Neal
Robin's talk was on Alexander Thom (proposer of the megalithic yard as a standard unit of measure) - he's Thom's biographer, now that's going to be an interesting book when it's published - and showed hitherto unseen photos of his life.
Equally fascinating was the insight into Robin's recent research work with astronomical alignments in west Wales. He's in the process of establishing an MA in Archaeoastronomy and Landscape at St Davids University, Lampeter, involving practical training in the surveying techniques and equipment involved. Naturally, I now want a theodolite and a sabbatical ;-)
John has managed to achieve a unique understanding of the inter-related measurement units of the ancient world - the scope of which is staggering and I couldn't possibly do it justice in a brief summary. Prof. Michael Vickers of Jesus College Oxford has had a go though - here's an extract:
Elaborating on a scheme first noted by John Michell, Neal observes that feet (or cubits) stand in a ratio of 175:176 to larger units in a series. This at once explains Vitruvius' account of an odometer that contained a mechanism designed audibly to release a stone into a box every mile, in this case 400 revolutions of the 12½-ft perimeter wheel to the 5000-ft mile. If Vitruvius' 4-ft radius to 12½-ft perimeter, or 3.125 π ratio was strictly adhered to, there would have been a discrepancy of more than 28-ft in every mile, but if the shorter Roman foot of .96768-ft was used for the diameter of the carriage wheel, and the longer Roman foot of .9732096-ft was used for the perimeter, the calculation of the mile is accurate in terms of the longer measure. The difference between 22/7 and 25/8 can be expressed as 3.142857 = 176, and 3.125 = 175 (both values of pi were used in the ancient world). Neal notes that if a diameter is a multiple of either four or eight, 3.125 may be accurately used to maintain an integral number in the perimeter, as the ratio between using true pi as the module of measurement of the diameter is the 175th part less than that of the perimeter. There was thus a practical purpose underlying variational fractions between the ancient standards (and this is but one of many), and they can no longer be put down to carelessness or error.
I failed to pick up a copy of John's book which contains all his research and conclusions (called "All Done With Mirrors") at the weekend, so that's on order now.
From a mound on top of one of the hills in Glastonbury town, which the locals claim was created when the housing estate surrounding it was built in the 60s - but that very early OS maps show is much older, the Sun tracks precisely up the whole length of the northern face of the Tor at the winter solstice sunrise. Other alignments to significant hills are also visible from this same location, relating to the lunar as well as solar standstills.
Just goes to show how little attention we pay to the sky these days, when something like this can go unnoticed for so long in Avalon itself.
Andrew's new theory is that the constellation Cygnus (the northern cross) and specifically the rising and setting of alpha Cygni (Deneb) were important celestial markers in prehistory when there was no prominent star at the north pole position. It turns out that the three central stars (which define the short axis of the cross) are a better fit over the positions of the pyramids at Giza and those at Teotihuacan than the belt stars of Orion.
He went on to introduce Cygnus-X3 and a possible outburst of high energy cosmic rays from that source as an explanation for why some related cave art occurs at such an incredible depth below the surface (at the very deepest levels of a cave system) but I'm not exactly sure what the implications of that might be. Cygnus-X3 is certainly a very interesting object though.
Graham's had enough of risking his life and being savaged by conventional academics regarding his lost civilisation work, and said that he thinks if he continued he'd only be repeating himself. He's done over 2000 dives investigating various candidate sites (Yonaguni etc), and I can kind of see his point.
There's a stalemate over the most promising underwater site in the Gulf of Cambay off the west coast of India because the two primary factions in Indian archaeology are apparently at loggerheads - the euro-centric, ex-Empire educated viewpoint on one side versus the India-centric viewpoint on the other. So even when clear evidence is there to be recorded and analysed it seems we're going to have to wait some more.
Meanwhile, Graham's basically done a Terence McKenna and embarked on a shamanistic experience involving ayahuasco in the South American rainforest. In the process, he's come up with quite an interesting correlation between exoptic phenomena (the common visual patterns that have been shown to occur at each of the stages of intoxication through hallucinogens) and the cave and rock art from as far back as 40,000 BP right up to the present day.
He postulates that the first experiences of hallucinogens are what triggered the transformation from what had been 6 million years of tool-using-apeman behaviour that continued right through the evolution of 'modern' humans (c 200,000 BP) into the explosion of creativity, figurative and abstract art (including overtones of early religious behaviour, such as the ceremonial burial of the dead) that has ended up with us.
He doesn't quite go as far as McKenna in asserting that mushrooms are an intelligent alien species, but he did float the idea that DNA itself might be a construct of some other intelligence out there in the Universe.
I'm with him as far as the correlation of shamanistic art with exoptic phenomena is concerned, and think his suggestion that it's what triggered the development of the human brain bears consideration. As for DNA being a designed mechanism... I don't think so.
Definite shades of Tim Leary coming across at the end of his talk with the politics of drug legalisation being raised, but I can't help feeling that there's a bit of a danger that this stance may just give more ammo to critics of his work.
Just because I've not mentioned the other speakers in detail doesn't mean that they weren't interesting - because they all were. So were many people in the audience, and those running the stalls.
I had an interesting chat with Andy Burnham (who runs the Megalithic Portal website) about the problems of maintaining a heavily customised installation of anything (in his case PHPNuke), and ISPs' reluctance to host that particular framework due to previous security exploits (hence it sits on the end of his cable modem).
Also spoke to a woman reporter from the Fortean Times who had a special interest in crop circles (the subject of Michael Glickman's talk) so I'm looking forward to reading a professional's review of the weekend in the next issue.
Well worth going - this was the first Megalithomania conference, and the organisers did a fine job. I wish they'd allowed a little time at the end of each talk for some questions, rather than saving them all up for the forum at the end of the second day but that's an extremely minor quibble and I appreciate that this was a good way to keep on schedule.
I'll almost certainly be going along to next year's - one guy I'd really like to see there would be Henry Lincoln, to talk about the pentagonal landscape geometry in France around Rennes Le Chateau.
I foresee a busy few weeks going over the calculations in Robin Heath, John Neal and John Michell's work to see just how accurate these are.
If what they've deduced is correct, then there's a huge question needing to be answered.
Who designed this interlocking system of Earth-related measuring units in the first place?
One thing that has struck me is the repeated occurrence of the number 864 (and 86.4, 86400) in the work, though no mention is made of the possible significance. I feel that the measurement of time has been incorporated into the same unified design from the outset (86400 seconds in a day, light at 186,000 miles/second takes 1000s to cross the diameter of Earth's orbit which happens to be 186,000,000 miles in round numbers).
Some people might see that as evidence for Intelligent Design (uh-oh) and I agree - but it's intelligent design by humans, not $deity, and with 200,000 years since the emergence of modern humans (~40x longer than 'recorded history') that's plenty of time for a human global civilisation to have risen and fallen many times over.
Once again I'm reminded of Plato's Timeas, where Solon is told by the Egyptian priest at Sais:
"O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children: there is not such a thing as an old Greek." And on hearing this he asked, "What mean you by this saying?" And the priest replied, "You are young in soul, every one of you. For therein you possess not a single belief that is ancient and derived from old tradition, nor yet one science that is hoary with age.
And this is the cause thereof: There have been and there will be many and divers destructions of mankind, of which the greatest are by fire and water, and lesser ones by countless other means."