Stone circle or just stoned? Swedish geodatabase to the rescue

Much as we’d love to find evidence of how astronomically savvy our ancestors were, sometimes a stone in the ground is just a stone in the ground. In Sweden this week, noted media hound and self-ascribed “archeoastronomer” Bob Lind announced to great media fanfare that he had found a 3,000-year old stone circle in Southern Sweden, complete with a “large phallus” pointing north.

Since a good false story reported uncritically is better than no story, much of the media went along, including the otherwise reliable The Local (tsk).

But then came the backlash of the experts. Martin Rundkvist, who writes the excellent Aardvarchaeology blog and who happens to be Swedish, led the charge. It turns out (Swedish) that the site is not new at all, but a stone-age cemetery that’s been known to archaeologists since the 1930s.

The one good thing to come out of this little media debacle is that it vindicates the pioneering work of Sweden’s Office of Antiquities when it comes to putting existing archaeological discoveries on the map. Their geographic database of historical monuments with KML output has been blogged on Ogle Earth before — for today’s story, I can use it to link to the precise location of the “find” that wasn’t: Ravlunda 169:1. From there, you can get KML, or else see it on Sweden’s two homegrown mapping sites, both of whom have the area in higher resolution than Google. (Eniro’s is the best).

Bob Lind could have checked that database to see if he wasn’t about to do something stupid, but that would have meant media obscurity. (For example, he could have looked at all the results for the local area, and then exported them to KML to see if the location of his “find” had a marker on it.)

Still, it’s good to know that the resource exists for real archaeologists.

(Via Vector One)