Articles to 2012-04-19

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

I’m surprised at the space Arch.Inf. provide to Braune’s bit of esotericism. First off, by giving his MY to four significant digits he implies a precision in the order of a tenth of a millimetre. Then he goes on stating meaningless deviations: 0.8 % of 15 MR sounds very precise but it means 12 % of a MR or 25 cm, quite a margin, if exact measurement had indeed been employed. Let’s go through all the measures given and we find:

14.87, 4.00, 1.76, 10.84, 0.50, 4.10, 0.50, 5.91, 1.00, 6.89, 1.95, 3.15, and 0.40 MR. Not quite the exact integers implied, are they? Note also that the odd factor of 2.5 between his "yard" and "rod" allows quite a bit of weaseling through choice.

Simple aesthetic harmony dictates many measurements to be near integer multiples of some base unit. Given tens of thousands of churches and assuming a random distribution of that base, you will always find at least one, where it comes near to any given one of your choice. Unless a cultural continuity between the Chalcolithic and the high Middle Ages can be filled with other incidences, that coincidence is entirely meaningless. (N.B: This need not be the case for roughly contemporary henges, reconstructing old weights and measures as such is a valid pursuit.)

Why do I harp on about this at length? By all sensible measures Mr Arnulf Braune can probably (he seems to be a retired chemistry teacher) be called a highly educated man, better educated in fact, than at least half our legislature. Given this level of innumeracy, nothing concerning economic or energy policy can surprise anyone any more.

Keaveney, Parkington, Ugan, and Vika are all valuable reminders of the enormous margins of error in interpreting sparse and incomplete archaeological data.

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