Scars


Is there any programme more likely to disappoint with the glaring disparity between what's promised and what really happens than Timeteam?
Show after show, you are tantalized with all sorts of wonderfully exciting things, yet all they ever find are some foundation post holes and an old fireplace. Indiana Jones it is not.

One thing that I have always found exciting and mysterious though is the appearance of crop marks , only visible from the air, revealing all sorts of hidden things (which of course turn out to be a fireplace and some post holes). Much of the chance of seeing these palimpsest lies in the crop being grown. From the blog BLDBLG:

    Field archaeologists know that vegetation grows differently on soil that has been disturbed, even if that disturbance happened centuries ago. They know that crops grow more luxuriantly over silted-up ditches, and more stunted where there are buried remains. The site of a Roman villa might go unnoticed until a field of wheat grows and ripens, to reveal most strangely the outlines of buried masonry, only to disappear again at harvest. Slight contours or indentations on the land marking out the site of a lost settlement might be invisible to the eye until a low sun throws them into sharp but momentary relief.

Further:

    Barley is a more sensitive ‘developer,’ for example, than oats, wheat, or grass, but only in certain soils. Dry spells can bring about remarkably sharp crop sites.
    One of the most remarkable things about aerial archaeology is that very few human processes will completely remove a site from view for ever. It might be decades—centuries even—before the right combination of crop growth, rain, sun, and aerial observer results in a site manifesting itself and being photographed. But unless deep excavations or quarrying are carried out, removing all traces of the site, the possibility remains that one day, under new conditions, it will reveal itself.

I guess in 500 years from now, they'll be digging up endless bits of wooden patio decking and the rusted frames of garden trampolines and wondering what kind of bizarre rituals they could have been used for



4 comments:

Gaw said...

Fascinating stuff. But I agree about Time Team: totally underwhelming.

Gadjo Dilo said...

They should send the Timeteam team (whoever they are... I've never seen the programme) here to Romania and tell them: "You're not leaving until you've found proof that the Romanian people evolved from the Dacio-Romans: some foundation post holes, an old fireplace - anything will do."

worm said...

they can (and do) prove just about anything with the tiniest scrap of evidence Gadjo - one tiny speck of fireplace ash on the end of their trowel and they've made a computer simulation of a vast wooden palace, complete with bronze age people shopping for gruel and the like. Should be a doddle to prove the dacio-roman connection

Gadjo Dilo said...

:-))