There were no papers in the morning that I really needed to see so I decided to take advantage of the museum pass and headed into the city. I took buses for as much of the journey as possible and as a result saw lots of amazing things- the elephant gate at the zoo, the victory column, the Tiergarten (complete with nude sunbathers!), the bombed and rebuilt church that stands as a memorial to peace, the Reichstag and the amazing modern architecture of the embassy district. I made my way to the Museum Island and the Pergamon Museum. Just the building alone is fascinating enough; it was massive, imposing, monumental, almost, like the altar it was built to house. It was this very strange mixture between neoclassicism and something altogether darker. I could see the ‘we are an Empire’ message loud and clear. There are other museums all clustered around, some of them more classical, others more Imperial (it definitely deserves the capital I!). I took pictures and you can find them on flickr.
I found to my delight that my pass also let me jump the huge queue and quickly got in. The altar itself was just breathtaking. The audio guide was really very good (especially as the shop had run out of English guide books!), but the labelling wasn’t great- without the audio I would have been a bit lost. I learned a great deal about ancient Greek art and religion. For example, the contrast between the serene gods and the snarling, terrified and agonized giants as they fight is both and artistic convention and a religious statement. I spent at least an hour just listening, learning and looking at this unique piece of history.
The Miletus Gate was being restored but I did get to see the Ishtar gate from Babylon and the rest of the collection of ancient artwork and finds. I hadn’t realised until this trip how heavily mixed up in middle-eastern archaeology German was (and still is). I had fun tracing developing styles through Babylon, Greece and Rome (see the pictures of Lions on my flickr pages!). All too soon though I had to head back out to the suburbs for the afternoon sessions.
Public transport in Berlin is that refreshing combination of thorough, cheap and reliable. I still managed to get lost though, and had to sneak in late to the second geophysics session. This one was about the use of computers in the analysis of geophysical data. Again, there were some interesting papers but nothing blindingly new (apart from one, which I’ll detail below). It was interesting to learn that the approach being taken by a few commercial units in the UK of having their sites database available online through web-mapping servers is being taken on by the government in Taiwan. As such, all the data will be available (but not quite in real-time); something I know the Open Archaeology group are keen to have happen here. In Taiwan the incentive seems to have been top-down, here in the UK it is bottom-up, and slow as a result.
The one really new and exciting paper (at least for me) was Gary Lock and John Pouncett’s work at South Cadbury. They have landscape-scale coverage of Magnetometer data of field systems over 64 square km. The challenge they have is to work out the relative phasing of the field systems that are visible in the geophysics. As well as the geophysics, they have data from field walking and test pits.
As far as I understood it, John has been using complex network analysis software (based on transport networks) to develop a computational method for assigning ditches to field systems and rough periods or phasing. It does this in two quite complex ways, firstly the topography and shape of the network formed by the features (and if the intersect or cut each other) and then from resistances and barriers in the network worked out from the dating evidence we do have from the test pits and field walking. So far it seems to be working well and I look forward to hearing more about this methodology in the future. It seems like a useful tool for understanding large-scale surveys where excavation would be utterly impossible.
The session finished late so I rushed across town to the Kulturforum for the conference dinner. The food was great and I again got to meet lots of new people, meet up with old friends, and socialise and talk archaeology, which is one of my favourite things to do! The only odd thing was the entertainment for the evening- a Marlene Dietrich impersonator, which was more than a little surreal.