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DOWSING AND ARCHAEOLOGY

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Author Topic: DOWSING AND ARCHAEOLOGY  (Read 1678 times)
Bianca
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« on: May 24, 2009, 07:39:39 pm »















                                                         DOWSING AND ARCHAEOLOGY






In front of us is a level green pasture; and laid out on the grass is a grid of white tape, marking out
ten-metre squares. To one side lies an odd instrument, consisting of three white boxes linked by a pole, wired to a pair of head-phones: an electronic 'soil anomaly detector', more often called a 'banjo'. Beside it there is a crazy picture-frame stuck on a long pole, trailing a cable to a control box: a 'pulsed magnetic induction locator'. Within the grid a young man is pacing up and down, using a simpler and more traditional tool: he holds two L-shaped rods, pointing forward and parallel like a pair of shrivelled cowboy pistols. Dowsing rods.

As we watch, the rods cross over each other, in a metallic squint, then open out again there seems to be an old foundation trench below. A student, sitting at the edge of the grid, marks the position of the rods' reaction on the chart on his clip-board; while behind him, where the turf has been stripped off, leaving the soil bare, several people are working on this ancient site, patiently busy with their trowels and brushes. Above them, bright yellow, like mechanical dinosaurs, tower the tractors and excavators of the quarry that will soon swallow this site. This is another 'rescue dig', pursuing its quiet race against time.

New motorways, factories, quarries, housing estates, all demand huge tracts of land each year; and as the ground is cleared to make way for a questionable future, all traces of the past are destroyed. Archaeologists, if they want to rescue anything from this mass destruction, are faced with the monumental task of surveying the land in as much detail as possible, and as early as possible, to select the sites with the highest priority for 'rescue' excavation.

Traditional archaeological tools and techniques were designed only for small-scale detail work, and are too slow for survey work: the five-summer dig at Cadbury-Camelot was enormous by conventional archaeological standards, but it uncovered little more than a couple of acres of the site.

So in recent years a number of new techniques have had to be developed, so as to cover large areas
in some detail: hence aerial archaeology, and the development of sophisticated electronic tools like the 'banjo' and the induction locator. Another tool, too, is beginning to be used more and more for this kind of rapid-search work: the dowser's rod.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 08:39:09 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2009, 07:42:06 pm »









The acceptance of dowsing into the realms of archaeology has been something of a quiet revolution, one that is rarely acknowledged in public. The only text-book I know that discusses the use of dowsing to locate trenches and ditches is John Coles' Field Archaeology in Britain.

Two examples from the recent Cadbury-Camelot dig are fairly typical of the kind of dowsing work that now goes on: the dowser involved, who was one of the administrators for the dig, told me that he used a strip of flexible curtain rod as a kind of dowsing pendulum to find the outline of the cruciform trench (subsequently confirmed by excavation, and tentatively identified as the foundations for an unbuilt church), and to show that the Arthurian-period hall was not, as had been assumed, set into trenches, but mounted on large and very shallow post-holes (the only trench was for an internal partition).

Dowsing is a skill, the basics of which anyone can learn with a little practice and awareness; but the problem is that the reliability of the results depends on the skill and experience of the dowser, among many other factors.

There are plenty of inexperienced and over-confident amateur dowsers about, so perhaps the archaeologists are not being too evasive when they conceal the use of dowsing, as was the case at Cadbury-Camelot, under vague phrases in their reports, such as 'probing with metal rods'.[1]

In the meantime, many dowsers are discovering the full scope of their skill for the first time, finding that dowsing can be used not only to find water, but virtually anything, anywhere, even from maps.[2]

Again, this requires practice and experience before it can be reliable, but dowsers working for archaeologists have located specified objects of any given period, have dated objects and even the periods of occupation of sites accurately, and have identified sites of which little or nothing immediately recognisable remains.[3]

Dowser Bill Lewis gave me an example of the latter: he has located burial sites when all that remains of the body (as in some acid soils) is a pale brown smudge and a hollow where the stomach used to be both signs easily missed by an inexperienced excavator.
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Bianca
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2009, 07:44:34 pm »









Barrows and trackways seem to have been particular concerns of recent archaeological dowsers, judging by articles published in the Journal of British Society of Dowsers a mine of odd information and clues for the archaeologist.

James Plummer, for example, describes how he used angle rods and pendulum on site and from maps to locate, track, measure and analyse six Roman stone roads, a junction and possibly a Roman temple, all in the South Fylde area of Lancashire. All were confirmed in some degree by excavation and library research.[4]

Captain F.L.M. Boothby noted traces of salt in the foundations of many pre-Roman tracks, particularly in the Winchester area, and suggested that the salt was used as a primitive weed-killer to clear the tracks of nettles and brambles.[5]

In the same vein, Helmuth Hesserl, commenting on the way that some Roman roads on the Continent twist about instead of following straight courses, noted that these roads tended to follow 'water-lines', apparent underground water-courses. These latter tend to inhibit plant growth directly above them; so Hesserl suggested that the reason for the roads' lack of straightness was that the Roman engineers had simply taken the 'line of least resistance' through the undergrowth of virgin forest.[6]

It's only through the use of dowsing in archaeological research that clues like these can arise.

It is with underground water-courses, and with the traditional role of dowser as water-diviner, that we find our first clues about the placing of ancient sacred sites.

Dowsers have discovered, often independently of one another, that water-lines, the underground waterbearing courses or fissures, intersect beneath many types of sacred site: not just the obvious ones, like the holy wells, but barrows, standing stones, stone circles and dolmens.

The first reports on this that I know of, in 1933 and 1935, were both French;[7] the first report in English seems to be Captain Boothby's article The Religion of the Stone Age in 1935.[8] Boothby described how he found that waterbearing fissures or 'springs', as he called them ran underneath a tumulus that an archaeologist he was visiting was working on. After finding that the same applied to every barrow he visited, including long barrows, he decided that 'it would appear that the whole layout of these ancient monuments is based on subterranean water; but', he added, 'until the whole has been tested it is impossible to be certain about this', and he called for other dowsers to test his results for themselves
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2009, 07:45:50 pm »




             
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2009, 07:46:58 pm »










Other dowsers did test his results, and confirmed them. Perhaps the most important of these dowsers was Reginald Allender Smith, who gave a lecture on the subject to the British Society of Dowsers in February 1939.[9] He was a well-known and respected archaeologist of the inter-war period, a specialist in prehistoric implements. His lecture was based on a year's research that followed his retirement from a senior post in the British Museum in 1938. He explained in it that Merle and Diot (the two French researchers) had found that erect standing stones stood directly above the intersections of two or more underground 'streams'; tilted stones are not directly above such intersections, but lean towards them from a few feet away; and some dolmens and tumuli fit into the angles between converging streams, or are surrounded by them.

Both Boothby and Smith slightly disagreed with Merle and Diot, for according to the British results barrows and tumuli were centred on 'knots' of these waterlines (or 'blind springs', as Smith called them) rather than being surrounded by them; but both sides agreed that there seemed to be a definite connection between prehistoric sacred sites and underground water. Both sides also agreed on their interpretation, which was that some pre-Druidic priesthood had used a form of dowsing to locate underground water in prehistoric times, and had marked these 'emergency water supplies', as part of their routine religious observances, with their stones and barrows.

With that conclusion the research came to an end for nearly ten years, for Smith died only a year later, and Boothby had already moved on to other work. It's interesting to speculate what would have happened if Smith had lived a little longer, for the report on his lecture is fascinating; but it gives frustratingly little detail of what had evidently been an enormous amount of work. He stated, for instance, that according to his results the present stone circle at Rollright in Oxfordshire was only the second in a set of four concentric stone circles around the same blind spring; the present King Stone outlier, about three hundred feet from the centre of the present circle, was, he said, originally one of eleven stones on the outermost circle of that set of four.
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Bianca
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2009, 07:47:56 pm »




             
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2009, 07:49:29 pm »









A comment he makes about Avebury is also interesting: according to Stukeley, writing in the eighteenth century, there used to be another stone avenue, similar to the present Kennett Avenue, but running south-west towards Beckhampton.

Archaeologists usually dismiss this as 'a flight of fancy' by Stukeley, even though the latter had produced accurate plans of Avebury and many other sites at a time when most of the stones were still there to be seen. Smith claimed to have rediscovered the sites of all the stones in this 'lost' Beckhampton Avenue or rather an Avenue in the right direction in which 'the very twists of the Kennett line are reproduced', and which ended in an oval enclosure, similar to the Kennett Sanctuary, on the downs to the south-west of Beckhampton.

Silbury Hill was, he said, exactly equidistant between the two sanctuaries.

There is plenty more information in the same vein in the published version of his lecture; sadly, that report is now the only record of that work. As so often happens, all his notes, diagrams, and the 'series of lantern slides made for the occasion and exhibited for the first time' seem to have been thrown away after his death: at any rate, no-one seems to know where they are, or even if they still exist.
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Bianca
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2009, 07:55:02 pm »









Smith's work may have been lost, but it wasn't forgotten. After the War another member of the Society, Guy Underwood, followed up the clues given in that lecture, and spent several years of his retirement visiting sites in various parts of the country - particularly in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and his native Somerset. Underwood wrote up his research in a long series of articles, which were published in various issues of the Journal of the British Society of Dowsers between 1947 and 1951.[10]

During the 1950s he extended, revised and reformed these articles into his important book Pattern of the Past, which was not published until 1969, five years after his death.[11]

In it he refined the work of the previous researchers (some would say over-refined, as we shall see) and extended it to apply to several other types of sites, including crosses, crossroads and junctions, 'heel-stones' in roadways, boundaries and field-divisions, stocks, gallows and pre-Reformation churches. Underwood's research has formed the basis of much modern research on dowsing and ancient sites, and we need to look at it in some detail.

Underwood was not the only one to discover the apparent connection between churches and underground water: a dowser by the name of W.H. Lamb commented, in a note to the Journal in 1965, on his (or her) discovery that two or more 'streams' cross over each other at different depths directly beneath the high altar of every church visited.[12]

In the next issue of the journal there was a reply by Muriel Langdon, who had made a similar discovery, finding what she called 'domes' of rising water beneath church altars, fonts, chancel steps and doors.[13]

Judging by the tone of the articles and the terms each writer used, both 'discoveries' would seem to be independent of each other, of Underwood and of the earlier researchers. So many of the dowsers I've talked to recently have discovered and confirmed for themselves the 'blind spring'/sacred-site connection, especially since Underwood's book was published, that it seems something must be there.

This was certainly Underwood's feeling. Throughout his research, he seems to have been convinced that the various types of sacred and not-so-sacred sites were water-marks, or markers of and for 'geophysical anomalies': the forms of the sites and the structures upon them were, he believed, determined by the positions of underground fissures and water-flows.

The pattern formed by the fine web of lines below the surface determined the shapes and forms of the sites and their structures above; the pattern of the lines was the 'pattern of the past'. This was much the same as Boothby's and Smith's view, as we have seen; and Underwood, in his articles and his book, produced an enormous amount of evidence to back it.
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Bianca
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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2009, 07:56:11 pm »





             
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« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2009, 07:57:41 pm »









But it's important to realise, in looking at his work, that he was the major exponent of only one school of thought of the time.

Many of his contemporaries believed that the streams, according to their results, only appeared to cross beneath the stones and the like, since the stones themselves distorted the image of the stream below, producing the apparent intersections that Underwood and the others had found.

Colonel Bell, then the editor of the Society's journal, went so far as to add 'Editor's Comments' to the end of Underwood's last two articles, saying that the patterns Underwood described were more likely to be the effects rather than the causes of the siting of roads, tracks, standing stones and the like.[14]

He commented, rather caustically, that there was 'no reason to suppose that our Neolithic or Bronze Age ancestors knew anything of dowsing as now practised', that Underwood's whole idea of this 'pattern of the past' was 'farfetched, if not fantastic,' and that the whole of his theorising was probably based on 'entirely subjective observation'.

Given this kind of criticism, it's not all that surprising that Underwood's writing became progressively more and more dogmatic as time went on; but that dogmatism doesn't help us in trying to assess the value of his work and his ideas.
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« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2009, 08:00:40 pm »









Going through the literature on the subject, we can see that most of Underwood's contemporaries were as certain as he was about the existence of a connection between standing stones and underground water; most, though, were less certain about any likely interpretation. Underwood's dogmatism didn't help to clarify matters: and when he went on to discover (or to invent, as his critics suggested) two new types of 'dowsing influence line' which he called 'track-lines' and 'aquastats' most of his contemporaries just gave up and moved on to other studies. That is probably the reason why Underwood's work on standing stones and the like is the only well-known work on the subject: it is important, though, to realise that it isn't the only work that has been done.

Few dowsers have exactly repeated Underwood's experiments, because few have been able to use his favourite dowsing tool, the 'sensitive geodetic rod' that he invented. It's one of the most awkward and cantankerous tools that I've ever come across, but there seems to be little doubt that Underwood himself could use it accurately and with ease.

 The version that one of my dowsing students made for me consists of a file handle and a short stub of metal rod, an unfolded paper-clip, a piece of motor-bike brake cable and four soldered cable clips.

The handle is held in one hand, the loop of the brake cable is held in the other: the idea is that the unwound paper-clip holds the rod and the cable apart when you try to push them together, and the springiness makes the whole thing unstable, tending to make the cable rotate around the rod as a dowsing reaction.

This sounds a little awkward, but the illustration should make it clear.

As I say, few dowsers bother with Underwood's rod, since the type of dowsing tool makes little difference to the accuracy of the results as far as a skilled dowser is concerned. In my own work I've mostly used angle rods, the L-shaped rods described in the rescue-dig image at the beginning of this chapter.
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« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2009, 08:02:06 pm »




             
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« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2009, 08:03:43 pm »









Underwood's earliest experiments produced results very similar to those of Boothby and Smith. He found that water-lines intersected beneath sacred sites such as barrows, standing stones and henges.

He also found, though, that water-lines formed large spirals round stones, several spirals converging on the same stone or stone circle in some cases, as at the Sanctuary near Avebury.

As far as he was concerned, the water-line was triple, three close and near-parallel lines making up each water-line; and he felt that this triplicity of the lines had been deliberately used in the past to determine the shapes of - for example henge ditches, as the outer influence lines seemed to move outward from the central line following the centre of the ditch, to coincide with the often erratic outer edges of the ditch.

But there are other interpretations, and his critics maintained that this was proof that the influence lines he plotted out were the result of the shape of the ditch rather than the cause of it.

Underwood denied this, of course, but the key question of cause or effect remained open, despite his efforts to resolve it in his favour.
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« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2009, 08:05:11 pm »




             
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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2009, 08:06:57 pm »










The question of cause or effect opened still further with Underwood's discovery of his second type of influence line, the 'track-line'.[15]

Track-lines, said Underwood, are slightly weaker than water-lines, and are formed of three close, near-parallel groups of three still-closer 'hair-lines'. These nine-fold lines often run in pairs, from ten to sixty or more feet apart; and when they do they coincide closely with the hedges or ditches of old roads.

The width of single track-lines from four to ten feet tallies closely with the width of the tracks with which they coincide.

Underwood claimed that the winding courses of many old roads and tracks was 'controlled entirely' by track-lines and track-line pairs, and suggested, as his results seemed to show, that any alterations from the original prehistoric courses of the road would be shown up by deviations from the unchangeable courses of the track-lines.
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