Tuesday, 10 October 2017


     No matter where you live. Whatever your background. Race. Colour. Gender. Creed. Age and Ability. All are completely irrevelant if you are reading this. We all share a common bond........access to reading material, and the ability to read it. My only proof of that fact is......err......well self evident really.

     By the same token you will no doubt appreciate that what you choose to read is influenced by a number of things, mostly based on personal knowledge, interests and our own bias. In this case you have chosen to read this blog rather than another, or in advance of or after, but you have elected to do so based on a number of personal criteria.

     I rather suspect that the "accuracy and veracity" situation is far worse nowadays. What with blogs, false news sites, gutter press, media press etc etc.....you get the picture. Even in the "paper press" and "tv dissemination" I am sure we are all aware of the penchant for bias. Here in the UK the The Guardian and Mirror are deemed to be left / liberal, whilst the Times and Telegraph more to the right of politics and capital economics. The same can be said of any country which is fortunate enough to dispose of a free press, though they may not have the equivalent of The Sun who provides for all readers, as "long as she has big tits" (Yes, Minister....a BBC Sitcom...showing my age I guess). 

     What has this to do with Archaeology, you might ask? It seems to be that we are becoming increasingly dependent on literary sources, historical data and archived reports. We tend to accept that Mortimer Wheeler cannot be questionned when describing a multiple burial as a "war cemetery".....you know where I mean........even though it was written in 1943. Of course! I have often looked for the perfect way to explain such matters to those new to the discipline. To ensure they understand that everything we read, and everything we write, is subject to a number of prejudices from which it is impossible to escape. But they must be recognised even if not fully understood. I leave you this week, then, with a few words from the incomparable Isaac Asimov. Enjoy. Give it some thought. It is the best example I have found on the caveats associated with the written word.

How it Happened by Isaac Asimov

My brother began to dictate in his best oratorical style, the one which has the tribes hanging on his words. 

"In the beginning," he said, "exactly fifteen point two billion years ago, there was a big bang and the Universe--" 

But I had stopped writing. "Fifteen billion years ago?" I said incredulously. 

"Absolutely," he said. "I'm inspired." 

"I don't question your inspiration," I said. (I had better not. He's three years younger than I am, but I don't try questioning his inspiration. Neither does anyone else or there's hell to pay.) "But are you going to tell the story of the Creation over a period of fifteen billion years?" 

"I have to," said my brother. "That's how long it took. I have it all in here," he tapped his forehead, "and it's on the very highest authority." 

By now I had put down my stylus. "Do you know the price of papyrus?" I said. 

"What?" (He may be inspired but I frequently noticed that the inspiration didn't include such sordid matters as the price of papyrus.) 

I said, "Suppose you describe one million years of events to each roll of papyrus. That means you'll have to fill fifteen thousand rolls. You'll have to talk long enough to fill them and you know that you begin to stammer after a while. I'll have to write enough to fill them and my fingers will fall off. And even if we can afford all that papyrus and you have the voice and I have the strength, who's going to copy it? We've got to have a guarantee of a hundred copies before we can publish and without that where will we get royalties from?" 

My brother thought awhile. He said, "You think I ought to cut it down?" 

"Way down," I said, "if you expect to reach the public." 

"How about a hundred years?" he said. 

"How about six days?" I said. 

He said horrified, "You can't squeeze Creation into six days." 

I said, "This is all the papyrus I have. What do you think?" 

"Oh, well," he said, and began to dictate again, "In the beginning-- Does it have to be six days, Aaron?" 

I said, firmly, "Six days, Moses."