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Euan Mackie

30 November 2012

Euan Mackie is a founder member of the SIS and helped organise the 1978 SIS Glasgow Conference, 'Testing Ages in Chaos'. He was also a speaker at the 1997 SIS Cambridge Conference at Fitzwilliam College, 'Natural Catastrophes during the Bronze Age civilisations; archaeology, geology and astronomy'. In his 1977 book, 'Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain' and in 'The Megalith Builders' he proposed that Neolithic Britain had an elite class of astronomer priests. It seems that he has recently been interviewed by The Orcadian – see www.orcadian.co.uk, as reported in the journal Northern Earth, November 2012. In other words, he was asked how the recent findings at the Ness of Brodgar tied in with what he had speculated on 35 years ago, and is reported as saying they represented strong evidence in support of that theory. Mackie, at the time, was closely tied to the research of Alexander Thom and the idea of geometrical and astronomical alignments at megalithic sites – including those in the Orkneys. For various reasons, the orthodox archaeological establishment of the time, came to the opinion Thom's ideas were too far fetched and subsequently he has been virtually air brushed aside. Many young archaeologists may never have heard of him. Presumably this had an affect on Mackie who over the years has continued to write articles that treat Thom and his work as a serious theory that deserves further investigation – which unfortunately has been jettisoned by establishment. Basically, Thom resembled certain other pseudo scientific lepers of the period (not naming names of course) that caused palpitations in the corridors of academia – and we all know how it was brought to an end. Who knew the roosters might come home to haunt them – and way up there in the far north of Scotland, on the Orkneys. Now Mackie is pointing to the discovery of solsticial and equinoctial orientations at the Ness and he wonders if anyone is looking for evidence for units of measurement. Very unlikely. That is the bit of Thom the orthodoxy disliked most of all. However, the sheer monumentality of the architecture at the Ness complex indicates something of an elite project, according to Mackie, and the Ness itself, a narrow strip of land with water on three sides, he suggests may imply a ritual separation from the everyday world. In this context he is perhaps ignoring the sea level changes since the time the Ness of Brodgar was active – although it is likely the sea loch may well have been an inland body of water with extensive marshy surroundings.

For the full interview go to www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/2012/01/10/resurrecting-orkneys-neolithic-…

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