• That Was Genius Team

Episode 123 - The Misadventures of Florida Man (Internet Week)

Tom's Notes:

The internet

Audience feedback:

Sean from Ohio:

First I'd like to thank you. Your podcast helped this Yankee through the pandemic and our insurrection of orange fans. I wonder if we could rebrand them as the orange party, but I digress. The main point was when I caught the Little Bit of Man Jerky, Tom made a joke about Americans not knowing where other countries are on the map. As a history teacher I fully appreciated the joke. However, knowing that the only time Americans learn of foreign countries seems to be when we send in the troops to protect those people in real British Empire style. Maybe us not knowing a lot of the world is out there besides resorts and Paris isn't a totally bad thing. Sean from Ohio. No, not that state, that is probably Idaho. Ohio is the one under the mitten shaped one.

‘We’re experiencing a high volume of Gauls at the moment.’

I can’t remember who suggested this topic, but it’s a howler. I’m not blaming the person who suggested it, because I thought at the time that it was a good suggestion. There are a number of reasons why it’s a tricky one. Firstly, the internet that most of us are familiar with, and when most of us talk about the internet we are actually talking about the World Wide Web, only turned up in early 90s. So it’s only 30 years old. In its early years, nothing particularly funny was happening. Anything funny that happened after this is easy to find on the internet, like Rick-Rolling, or memes, or silly hashtags. In addition, these funny things aren’t going to make a good podcast because they usually visual. Then if you want to delve into weird conspiracy theories or strange movements, you really are spoilt for choice and there is an endless supply of primary sources. By primary sources I mean weirdos who spend too much time writing in forums from their dark and smelly bedrooms. Then if you go back to the 60s, 70s and 80s to explore the origins of the internet, wow, do things get dull, although I hope you can prove me wrong Sam. I’ve never seen so many acronyms and initialisms in my life. Incidentally, and this is something I’ve learnt, initialisms are things like the WHO, or DNA, or WWF. An acronym is something like AIDS or NATO where letters from a phrase, usually the first letters, are put together and spoke like a word.

I’ve worked hard to find a fun topic, and that topic is: interesting archaeological discoveries what were found using Google Earth, and not more sophisticated satellite imagery techniques.

Let’s start with a few bitesize examples from recent history that I discovered quite quickly in my research:

Luca Mori, an Italian computer programmer in 2005 was casually looking at his home, near Parma, on Google Earth. Mori discovered some interesting shapes, ovals and rectangles. Mori alerted the archaeology museum in Parma and the site was excavated. The archaeologists discovered a Roman villa!

In 2009, a fish trap was discovered in a bay in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The V shaped underwater wall is around a thousand years old and would have been a clever way to catch fish. As the tide went out, fish would get caught by the wall and locals would wade out and catch them easily. Interestingly, the structure has now become a functioning reef and home to lots of sea life. When this was discovered, the man doing the rounds being interviewed by news outlets was the wonderfully named Dr Ziggy Otto. Further investigation of the site was made possible by the aquatic rise and fall of Ziggy Otto and his dive team, the Spiders from Mars.

Ziggy liked lobstar

Tasted good with beer and jelly

So did the Spiders from Mars

They played in the sand

Where the fish swam too far

Became the interview man

When a wall was found in the sand

In 2014, 5251 coins, dating from the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman period, were discovered in a field in Buckinghamshire. Peter Welch, a metal detectorist, noticed the field where the find was made on Google Earth: it had an interesting pattern of furrows that hinted at medieval ploughing practices. The rest is history. As an aside, Welch is a lovely name, but the only words that rhyme with it are rather disgusting, like squelch, belch and felch. The Lenborough Hoard as it is now called, is one of the biggest hoards every discovered in Britain. The coins were found a couple of feet underground in two lead buckets and a large number of the coins depict either Ethelred the Unready and King Cnut. Ethelred reigned from 978 to 1016 with a little gap between 1013 and 1014 when Sveyn Forkbeard held the throne. Impress your mates fact: ‘unready’ actually comes from unraed which means ‘ill-advised’ and was a bit of wordplay because Ethelred mean ‘well-advised’. Ethelred was king for longer than any other Anglo-Saxon king – 37 years! Ethelred was succeeded by Edmund Ironside who only lasted a few months. His nickname was given to him because he was a good fighter. He died when he was 25 or 26. King Cnut succeeded him. The hoard was valued at £1.35m, split 50:50 between the discoverer and the landowner, COP VOICE, as is the law! Its 50:50 or you might find yourself taking a cut of jail pie! Split it in half, or you might find your backside in jail, being split in half in the showers.

The Nazca Lines in Peru are very well known. These geoglpyhs were created from around 500BC to 500AD. They were spotted from ground by Spanish conquistadores and from the 1920s onwards people have been able to enjoy them from the air. More recently and similarly, Professor David Kennedy, a Scot who lived and worked in Australia for much of his life, became a bit of a pro at discovering ‘gates’ in the desert of Saudi Arabia and Jordan using Google Earth. These ‘gates’ are lines of piled stones forming patterns. He has found hundreds of these patterns in the desert simply by using Google Earth and they can be anywhere from 30 to 500 metres in length and width. In 2017, within weeks of publishing a paper about them, he was invited by some very important Saudis to fly a helicopter over the desert. Now I know this sounds like something that ends with a dissident American journalist being dismembered. But actually Kennedy discovered that these lines were well worth the trip. They are all very peculiar shapes but clearly man-made. Like the Nazca Lines, people have been aware of these since the 1920s when aircraft flew over them. In fact, even T. E. Lawrence mentions them (Lawrence of Arabia). Unfortunately, these structures haven’t been investigated on ground, so not much is known about them. It’s highly likely that a certain type, called desert kites, were used to hunt wild animals by forcing them into a walled structure. Others might be for keeping domesticated animals penned, others might be funerary monuments. They are almost certainly prehistoric.

The idea of forcing wild animals into a position where they can easily be killed is reminiscent of buffalo jumps; these are cliffs that were used by Native Americans to kill large numbers of Buffalo and other herd animals. The process was described by Meriwether Lewis during the Lewis and Clark Expedition (I think you’ve discussed this before). Lewis explains how one of the fastest Native Americans in the tribe would dress up as a buffalo and position himself a good distance between the buffalo herd and the cliff. NATIVE AMERICAN VOICE Feet Like Rabbit, you are fast, put on this buffalo fur and grunt like the Buffalo. TEENAGER VOICE But, but, I’ve got homework to do, and then there’s Britains Got Talent on TV, can’t we just buy a burger from MacDonalds? The other tribesmen would surround the herd and start to move forward in unison. When the buffalo took flight, the man disguised as a buffalo would run in the direction of the cliff with the buffalo following. TEENAGER VOICE Shit, they’re running after me, this is so unfair, I hate you Dad! This man would then have the rather tricky job of trying not to fall off the cliff or get trampled by a herd of spooked buffalo. For a long time, it was though that Neanderthals had used a similar method to hunt mammoth, largely due to evidence from the island of Jersey. However, this has since been questioned.

The use of Google Earth to discover archaeologically important sites isn’t always successful though. It throws up a lot of false-negatives. There is, for example, a visible grid-like pattern northwest of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic. It’s about the size of town and for a time had amateurs going nuts: they thought that they had found the lost city of Atlantis. However, it’s just the result of the floor mapping process and the ridges don’t exist in reality. AMERICAN NUTTER VOICE Or that’s what they want us to believe. Just like the pyramids.

Similarly, Angela Micol from North Carolina, who’s Twitter bio describes here as a ‘Satellite/remote archaeology researcher, artist and writer searching for lost ruins with satellite imagery’ hit international news about a decade ago when she claimed that she had found ancient Egyptian pyramids, including one three times the size of the Great Pyramid in Giza. However, experts strongly disagreed, including James Harrell, professor emeritus of archaeological geology at the University of Toledo, he is quoted as having said, "It seems that Angela Micol is one of the so-called 'pyridiots' who see pyramids everywhere… her pyramids are just wishful thinking by an ignorant observer with an overactive imagination." Slap. Take that Angela Micol.

These structures are apparently ‘buttes’, something Angela Micol is good at talking out of. They are natural geological features that come about when there is a mound of sediment above a feature that doesn’t erode easily. Everything around this feature erodes leaving a flat topped mound.