Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Archaeologists' Dilemma.

This is a picture of me leaning on a Pictish (or Scottish) broch (or borg) in Wester Ross, Scotland. (And you can also see Mel and Penny if you look carefully, but they’re much smaller than me as befits their gender.)

I like brochs because they’re mysterious. Nobody knows what they were used for, not even archaeologists. (Especially archaeologists, who’ve spent the last two hundred years arguing over whether they were an early form of castle, a status symbol, somewhere to keep the pigs, or something else entirely.)

What is known about brochs is that they’re very old – most are reckoned to date from 1BC - 1AD. But even this can cause confusion because some archaeologists find it difficult to remember which came first, BC or AD.

‘Tell me if I’ve got this right,’ says the pupil to the master. ‘AD came before BC because A comes before B in the alphabet.’

‘Er… no.’


‘No. The easiest way to remember it is to remember that the B in BC stands for Before.’

‘Oh right, so the A in AD stands for After?’



No. It stands for Anno.’



‘What the hell does Anno mean?’

‘In the year of.’

‘Oh, great! So make it easy, why don’t you?’

‘We have made it easier actually. Now we call them CE and BCE. BCE comes first.’

‘Because B comes before C in the alphabet?’

‘You’ve cracked it.’

No comments: