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A letter from Workshop 2:4 (1980)

1 February 2014

The letter is by WL Goodman of Bristol, and is as follows …

Dear Sir, it has always been a mystery to me why people, when discussing the megalithic observatories and so on, make so much fuss over eclipses. I've seen a few in my time, since being allowed by my grandfather to stay up late one night to see Halley's comet (I was 7 at the time but that's another story). Eclipses can be interesting and sometimes spectacular, but once they are over and the birds start singing again, nothing happens. Why all the terror and distress? The only explanation would be that sometimes something did occur which could be mistaken for an eclipse but which did result in catastrophe.

The reason eclipses were important to the early astonomers was that they gave the fixed points for full and new moon, which in the absence of optical instruments was not obvious.

In this connection it has always seemed to me that the grotesque art of the Mayan and Aztec civilisations could only be explained by assuming that the entire populace, bother rulers and ruled, must have been stark raving bonkers. We know that they were also very fine mathematicians but that is neither here nor there. Of course, we have seen something like that in Europe this century but in the case of the American Indians, something pretty terrific must have happened to send them all round the bend.

It is also worthy of note that all the known dates of the Greek migrations from one end of the Mediterranean to the other are found to be after 750BC. According to the theory of the 'Greek Dark Ages', from 1200 to 800BC, Greece and the nearby islands were virtually deserted and depopulated. Where did they all come from?

Yes indeed, this letter is as resonant today as it was 34 years ago.

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