June 14th, 2008


Bronze Age iPods at Skara Brae

I'm now on Orkney, and about to visit Skara Brae, the Bronze Age settlement whose sudden mysterious abandonment is mentioned in a classroom scene early in the new Indiana Jones movie (not that I've seen it, mind). Skara Brae is one of only five UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites in Scotland -- I was brought up in another, the Edinburgh New Town. My sudden abandonment of that heritage site is fairly easily explained; opportunities for creating cultural artifacts were much better outside Scotland than inside.

If the Bronze Age folk left because of poor wifi coverage, they can come back right away; I can honestly say I've never been anywhere with as much open signal as Orkney and Shetland. I've been picking it up on boats as they drift past other boats in the harbour, on sandy coves with replica viking longships moored offshore, flooding into guesthouses. Here in Orkney our B&B is in the middle of empty fields, so I thought there'd be no way on earth I'd get online. But in the middle of a field, with no buildings around, there was an unpassworded signal, and free internet. It seems to be coming up through a Telecom manhole, from deep underground. Perhaps the Braemen are hiding down there, dressed in animal furs, tapping at bronze iPods.