The Old Stones and the Megalithic Portal
A zoom talk by Andy Burnham
to the Tamar, Devon and Trencrom Dowsing Groups
6th December 2020
A few weeks ago a new species of mushroom was noticed by a sharp-eyed rambler somewhere in the Midlands. On a low-news day, it hit the front page of the Guardian website. In fact, many thousands of new such variants have been noticed, often by ordinary members of the public, in recent years. There is an ongoing project whereby anyone with a decent computer can trawl through the vastness of space, using NASA/Hubble telescopic imagery, to literally discover, and even name, new galaxies. And, in the dowsing world, new fields of research are being opened up all the time, with hardly anyone from the old school in sight to stop them. Citizen Science - or perhaps, more accurately, individual information gathering - is becoming part of the new normal.
The once arcane world of archaeology is no stranger to this, but in the last couple of decades, the grassroots approach to the field has unearthed a plethora of new - or, rather, rediscovered - sites, and it has expanded our perception of the ones we did know about exponentially.
In 2001, Andy Burnham set up a homespun project called the Megalithic Portal, based on a database first compiled in 1997. But, as with many seed-corn organisations, the Internet era has seen it blossom into an astonishing worldwide compendium of prehistoric sites.
Andy runs the Megalithic Portal in a voluntary capacity. It is funded as a non-profit making independent society, with membership and a committee. Andy writes, ‘I am an amateur in, hopefully, the best sense of the word. Where I don't know something, I take the advice of the more knowledgeable. Over the years, this project has become a major team effort, with input from thousands of photographers, archaeologists, locals and visitors - so individual comments are the views of individual contributors.’
Even today, many senior archaeologists are reluctant to acknowledge the contribution of dowsing to their field, even when the diviner has been called in for assistance in the last resort. Consequently, from a dowsing perspective, part of the importance of the MP approach is that all contributions are welcome, and are treated at face value. You declare your source of the information you submit - and it is up to the reader to make what they will of it.
With the MP approach, incoming images, data and commentaries are received, sifted and triaged by Andy and his colleagues - and put into the public domain for more general consideration.
An offshoot of this website is the magnificent catalogue of ancient sites now published as The Old Stones, which describes itself as ‘The most comprehensive and thought-provoking field guide ever published to the iconic standing stones and prehistoric places of Britain and Ireland. This ultimate insiders’ guide gives unparalleled insight into where to find prehistoric sites and how to understand them, by drawing on the knowledge, expertise and passion of the archaeologists, theorists, photographers and stones aficionados.’ Several of our zoomers were proudly showing their well-thumbed copies of ToS on screen during the talk.
Unlike other major works on the subject, The Old Stones includes - indeed invites - alternative interpretations of the various sites, including contributions from the dowsing community.
During his presentation, Andy not only showed images of some of the better known, and the less well known, places in Devon and Cornwall, but also included work undertaken by TD member Roy Gouté at the three stone circles that are closest to Rough Tor on Bodmin Mooor. Roy has discovered, or at least appreciated the significance of, triangular recumbent stones at each, which appear to be visually representative of the outline of Rough Tor as seen from each location. Clearly, this is not something you would normally expect to see in a mainstream presentation concerning archaeological artefacts.
In a quintessentially British way, Andy is a quietly spoken and self-effacing chap, who has become a rather unintended Internet megastar. The Old Stones, which he has edited and compiled, received the prestigious 2019 Book of the Year Award from Current Archaeology - and it is a positive indication that a dowsing-friendly researcher can achieve recognition from a professional scientific publication. Its foreword, contributed by the seriously respectable Michael Parker Pearson of Stonehenge excavation fame, shows that progress really is being made.
The last time Andy spoke to us, several TD members went on to join the Megalithic Portal group and in a quid pro quo, several of those who turned up to see the amateur archaeologist, ended up joining the TDs.
Many thanks to Andy for ‘broadcasting’ to us from his home in Guildford. I am sure a few more will have ventured through the Megalithic Portal as a result.
Find out more about The Megalithic Portal at : www.megalithic.co.uk