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Mega-Talk (Megalithic)
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Mick Harper
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This thread is called Mega-talk and this recent Facebook exchange is highly apposite. It began innocently enough but someone mentioned the word 'Anglo-Saxon' summoning forth King Hatty slumbering in her eyrie awaiting the call for one of her common sense etymological interventions.

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Graham Miller Before I dive into a search on the Internet does anyone know if there's a connection between wheelbarrow and big mound of earth with a burial in? I mean, I can kind of see that if you flip a wheelbarrow over you get a barrow shape. But my son wondered why it was the same word.

Neill Collom Barrow is an old English term for "mound".

Grahm Miller On Etymology online it says it comes from the same PIE root as berg in German meaning high. Whereas a barrow comes from the PIE root bher which means to bear or carry. So probably not related.

Jacky Shaw Possibly cognate with bier.

Mal Embling Cognate with OE beran 'to carry'.

Jan Wright Maybe ‘crundel’? specifically ‘morþcrundle’ - although ‘beorh’ hill/mountain would probably be pronounced ‘bee-or-how’ (or ‘barrow’) as it is in Icelandic, that being the closest spoken language to Old English (apart from English of course).

Harrier Vered Who came up with the term 'barrow' or when isn't documented. It may have been a Victorian invention. 19th century gentry digging up mounds, tumuli, humps etc. as well as other antiquarian pursuits were nick-named barrow-diggers.

Mal Embling Harriet Vered, the term is well documented and 19th century gents used a pre-existing word.

Harriet Vered The 'Old English' tag seems speculative, if not downright bizarre. Clearly mounds, tumuli, hills etc. have been familiar landmarks since at least the Bronze Age. Etymologists apparently think that Brits couldn't come up with a name themselves but waited several millennia for a bunch of obscure foreigners to think up a name for them.

David Bridger Harriet Vered, no one is suggesting there weren't words for those landmarks in history and prehistory. The entry is about the origin and development of that specific word.

Harriet Vered David Bridger, it is pretty obvious that barrow is cognate with burgh, berg, brough, burrow, etc etc. but the original use of barrow meaning prehistoric earthwork is unknown. It may be a relatively modern term, most likely 19th century, when archaeology was in its infancy.

Mal Embling Barrow, burgh, bury borough, burrow, berg (old German for mountain) or high place are all related. Barrow as in the cart ultimately comes from old English beren ( to carry).

Harriet Vered Mal Embling, that is surely correct. The number of prehistoric mounds, tumuli, cone-shaped hills and other man-made earthworks is uncountable. Some are so small they don't make it onto OS maps, others so large that archaeologists and historians mistake them for natural features. Barrows seem designed to be seen from trackways and some people have assumed they mark boundaries, but whether a track is following a boundary or vice versa is hard to say.

Mal Embling Harriet Vered, a lot of barrows are actually sited on a false summit or crest (I'm sure there is a topographical term for this) as they would not be visible from below if sited on the real summit.
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Hatty
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The comments keep rumbling on

Daniel Allington Harriet Vered, It’s not at all speculative, and there’s nothing bizarre about it. Use of the word “barrow” or one of its earlier forms to mean a burial mound goes back for over a thousand years in English.

HV And your source for the earliest use of barrow meaning burial mound is?

Daniel The use of the Old English “beorg” or “beorh” to mean a grave mound is attested to around 1000 AD. It appears in Aelfric of Eynsham’s translation of the book of Joshua, for example.

HV Daniel Allington, The earliest manuscript of the Old English Hexateuch, claimed to have been edited by 'Aelfric', is 16th century according to the British Library. Its ownership record goes back to Robert Cotton and "Robert Talbot, antiquary (b. 1505/6, d. 1558): inscribed by him ca. XXXVII." The Bodleian has another copy which is from the collection of Charles II's Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud but if you know of the existence of an earlier manuscript the BL would no doubt appreciate a heads-up.

Daniel Oxford English Dictionary, “barrow, n.1”, sense 3. You’ve unfortunately misread the ownership record for the BL’s copy of the Hexateuch. 1505/6 and 1558 are the dates of birth and death for the earliest known private owner of the manuscript. The BL is absolutely clear that “[t]he Old English text was written around the second quarter of the 11th century”, as you will see from its description of the manuscript’s content.

HV The BL is perfectly clear that the provenance of the ms is 'Robert Talbot' (1505/6-1558). No record for the ms exists in Canterbury's library catalogue except in the minds of historians who apparently take " the opening words of the second folio" as gospel.

Still quite a be[o]rg[h] to climb and what I didn't post, not to over-burden the discussion, is archaeologists haven't uncovered remains of any Anglo-Saxon church buildings at Eynsham, of which Aelfric was abbot

The abbey church itself was not discovered during the archaeological excavations in the 1990s, but from what was found, we can be sure that the site of the church is almost completely covered by the present day graveyard of St Leonard’s church.
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Mick Harper
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I think you have overburdened Messrs Allington and Bridger.

Can anyone track down an academic reference to the origin of 'barrow'? I'm reasonably confident that present-day practitioners are unaware they are (wheel)barrow-diggers, if that is the origin as I am also reasonably confident that it is. That would be too priceless for them to carefully ignore.
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper
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Guess Who? Competition

As he laid there atop the altar stone, drifting off in thoughts about the engineering skills of the masterminds who built Stonehenge, and how wonderful life must have been 4,000 years ago compared to the abominable present, the starry sky was suddenly distorted by the pale beams from gigantic searchlights. A dim, dispiriting light came soaring overhead, followed by a buzzing hum as from an old Ford engine. This was the wonder of current times, the pinnacle of German science. The V-1 flying bomb made Stonehenge’s mossy “slaughter stone” an amateur in the art of killing.

Speaking as if he was Jacob the patriarch, and the altar stone was the stone of Bethel, he tells his wife how their remediable problem with the world is that people are dumb and self-centred. This idiocy and in-group mentality results not only in industrial bloodshed and ethnocentrism, but in the superiority complex of modern civilisation over those past. Praising the genius of the Stonehengers, he ridicules modern man’s proneness to deem his predecessors a moronic bunch.

Eirik Stokke, University of Oslo, writing about Thor Heyerdahl’s sleepover at Stonehenge in 1944, in the Newsletter of the Amesbury Society (2021)
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Mick Harper
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This was a new one on me https://www.newsweek.com/neolithic-structure-over-5000-years-old-discovered-1825689 which is surprising since the Isle of Arran is only a stone's throw from Glasgow. The complex is constantly referred to as a 'cursus' but I can see no resemblance to what they have dubbed cursuses elsewhere. Maybe it is going to be the new catch-all term. We'll have send McBorry to investigate. Make out a one-way chit, Griselda.
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Boreades


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Wile E. Coyote wrote:


Izzat a marra on yer barra, Harper?
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Mick Harper
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The basic idea behind The Megalithic Empire is that in order to launch a Bronze Age you gotta have some way of getting tin from tin mines, copper from copper mines, bronzesmiths and bronze consumers linked up in a routine, repeatable way and they're hundreds, nay thousands, of miles apart and you ain't got no maps or signposts to show you how to do it. The subtext of Megalithic Empire is "... and why can't archaeologists see that this is a major problem affecting all parts of their subject even if they can't solve it." So this caught my eye

New study refutes origin claim involving Bronze Age tin ingots recovered from shipwreck
by Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen https://phys.org/news/2023-09-refutes-involving-bronze-age-tin.html

They used to have a theory? New one on me, but I'm always up for a refutation (they being so rare in academia).

Archaeometallurgists have been debating the exact origin of tin used in the Bronze Age for 150 years. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and in the Bronze Age it was used to make a range of goods including swords, helmets, bracelets, plates and pitchers. Discovering which mines the tin came from could provide far-reaching insights into early trade relations between Central Asia, Mesopotamia, North Africa, the Levant and Europe, and thus into an early globalization that changed the world.

That would be a start anyway.

The key to solving this puzzle may be the cargo of a merchant ship that sank around 1320 BCE off what is now the west coast of Turkey near Uluburun. The wreck was discovered by divers in 1982 and its cargo recovered by underwater archaeologists.

They've had the evidence for fifty years. Fancy!

In addition to luxury goods, it contained 10 tons of copper ingots and one ton of tin ingots—much more than had ever been found before from the Bronze Age.

Bearing in mind that archaeology has been busting a gut to ignore the ramifications of tin deposits being a whole bunch distant from copper deposits and both being even further from the makers and consumers of luxury goods, how are they getting on? Or, on past form, not getting on....
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Mick Harper
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"Even 40 years after the Uluburun discovery, the tin puzzle remains, although we are getting closer to solving it by applying new methods," says Ernst Pernicka, senior professor at the University of Tübingen and scientific director of the Curt Engelhorn Center for Archaeometry (CEZA) at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim.

I can't tell whether this is good news or bad news.

In a recently published study in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science, CEZA researcher Dr. Daniel Berger and his co-authors including Pernicka contradict a research team led by Professor Wayne Powell of Brooklyn College in New York, who claimed in the journal Science Advances in November 2022 that they could clearly determine the origin of the tin from the Uluburun shipwreck.

So one set of researchers say they can determine the origin and another team say they can't. Let battle commence...

Powell's team said most of the tin came from the Mushiston tin deposit in northwestern Tajikistan, as well as from two mines in the Taurus Mountains near the present-day Turkish-Syrian border. For their analysis, the team took samples of 105 tin ingots from the wreck, determining chemical and isotopic signatures of 90% of the tin cargo. In particular, they measured the isotope ratios of tin and lead, which, like the chemical composition, provide clues to the origin of the tin. Also, the proportion of the trace element tellurium points to tin deposits in Central Asia. The Powell team claims to be able to infer a clear attribution based on the matching signatures between the ingots from Uluburun and tin ore samples from the abovementioned mines.

Seems clear enough. The only bit an AE-ist would worry about is that 90% figure. It is too close to 100% for one to wonder why it isn't 100%. There is the lingering suspicion that ten per cent didn't fit in and has been subjected to careful ignoral but there are perfectly innocent explanations too. The other lot are going to refute them anyway so it may be moot...
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Mick Harper
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Berger and his fellow authors refute this, saying, "The data does not support this interpretation; it does not allow a clear conclusion."

This seems to suggest that tin can be traced back to its mine lode but their rivals failed to do it properly. However, the terms 'interpreted' and 'does not allow a clear conclusion' suggest we may not be entirely in the land of science.

For the current study, Berger extensively checked chemical and isotopic analyses also from previous studies and cross-checked them with Powell's data set.

So he didn't carry out his own analysis unless 'also' means he did. But either way we appear to have run into a 'Pelion being piled upon Ossa' type situation.

"Due to the isotopic ratios and chemical characteristics, it would be even more likely that at least part of the cargo of tin ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck originated from Cornwall in Britain.

It will be fascinating if we have run into a ship that sails to Britain, loads up with tin ingots, sails to the eastern Mediterranean and has somehow picked up tin ingots from elsewhere before sinking.

In particular, the comparison with Bronze Age tin ingots from Britain and Israel which we have considered in the past on a similar question of origin suggests this conclusion.

Oh right, mystery solved. It called into Haifa to make sure British tin was alloyed with Jewish tin. [First I've heard of it, but the authors seem to think it is well established. Later immortalised as King Solomon's mines, I expect.]

"Ultimately, however, it is also possible that the tin originates from the Saxon-Bohemian Erzgebirge or the Iberian Peninsula," Berger says.

Another mystery solved. The boat went up the English Channel, round Denmark, down the Elbe, topped up with ingots and headed over the Alps to the Mediterranean. Or alternatively popped into Spain for a top-up using the usual route. Such uncertainty means we are certain to be hearing the immortal words, "More research is needed."

He added that more samples and analyses of ores from European and Asian tin deposits were needed.

And now for the wrap-up...
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Mick Harper
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Overall, the Bronze Age lasted from the late fourth millennium to the early first millennium BCE—but with different beginnings and ends depending on the region of the world. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin in a ratio of nine to one, is significantly harder than copper alone. Copper ores are found in many regions of Eurasia and Africa. However, tin ores that were accessible in the Bronze Age can only be found in a few places in Central Asia, Iran and Europe.

You got it, pals. There must have trading routes all over the shop and that means knowing where you are going all over the shop.

It is all the more astonishing that some of the earliest bronze artifacts have been found in the Mesopotamian city states of the Tigris–Euphrates river system. But there are no tin deposits there; the metal had to be obtained via long-distance trade.

Getaway. Or rather get-it-in.

"Numerous archaeological finds show that the British Isles and Central Europe formed an economic sphere with the Mediterranean region in the Bronze Age and was connected via the transport routes of the Danube, Rhine and Rhône rivers, or via the ocean," Pernicka and Berger say. For instance, amber beads likely traded from the Baltic were found in the Uluburun wreck, indicating the existence of north-south trade routes.

So it was the over-the-Alps route after all.

The use of standardized weights had already spread in the course of the second millennium BCE, coming from Egypt and Mesopotamia, via Syria, Anatolia and the Aegean, and across the Alps to Central Europe. These standard weights were used to weigh merchandise, including tin ingots.

So we've done metallurgy 101, we've done weights and measures... no, wait, we haven't

For the time of the Uluburun ship, neither weight systems nor established trade connections to Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean can be documented for Central Asia, which underscores the likelihood that the tin originated from the west.

What happened to the isotopes? Is it now down to avoirdupois where tin comes from? These people aren't just twats, they're lying scheming twats pretending science is involved.

To sum up on our own account. The academics are as per usual obsessed with the less important question -- where the tin comes from -- and totally ignore the really important one: how the hell did they know how to get tin if they had no way of getting to where it is and taking it to where it was needed? "Make for the Erz Gebirge, number one." "What direction's that, cap'n?" " "Fucked if I know, number one." /ends
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