Time and Mind (Volume, 1 Issue 1)

Edited by Paul Devereux & Neil Mortimer

The second issue of this exciting new journal is out as I write this. I’ve just, finally, got round to the first. This is a bold venture, aiming to present rigorous peer-reviewed selections of work from the overlaps between archaeology, anthropology, history, and the study of consciousness and culture.

Stand-out contributions include Jeremy Harte’s fascinating analysis of the evolution of tales of the Devil on Dartmoor (involving a productive collusion between Victorian romantics and the tourist industry), and Benny Shanon’s presentation of evidence that Old Testament-era prophets may have been inspired by a Middle Eastern ayahuasca analogue (a model in presenting wild possibilities without overwrought evangelism). Overall, the standard is high: cutting-edge ideas and sentiments expressed with care and detail.

I would take issue with some minor points. For example, the authors of a paper on an experiment that tried to assess whether brain activity is significantly altered by 110 Hz tones (the primary resonance frequency of many prehistoric chambered monuments), comment on the very specific positioning of massive stones in Newgrange by saying: “it seems probable that not merely was the positioning performed to create a decorative feature but that it had some more functional role” (i.e. creating a mind-alter resonance). This casual dichotomy between aesthetics and utility is to me a subtle but significant block in comprehending ancient cultures, one that I hope this journal will do much to address at a more general level.

There’s a sometimes curious, sometimes exciting mixture of styles here, from the hyper-scientific to the informally contemplative. The budding field of archaeoacoustics is represented well by some hard science attacking slightly unorthodox issues. However, anyone new to the subject, while they will learn the technical jargon from the generous glossary, may not find any rhetorical flourishes to orientate their imaginations within the sonic spaces of prehistory. The interview with Peter Fowler—a leading British archaeologist now painting abstract works inspired by archaic monuments—is fresh and inspiring. Although some of his comments seem to imply that he thinks only people with advanced archaeological knowledge have the right to wax poetic (much as Jung thought the work of culture is for the post-middle-aged, who have done the hard graft of raising a family already), the sentiment of avoiding content-free gushing is well-taken.

In all, a promising start. Any attempt to bring together different disciplines and different styles can’t hope to please everyone, but the chance that new modes of thought may flower in such blends makes the risks worthwhile. Time & Mind deserves praise for taking these risks with a boldness of purpose.