Future archaeology

In around 3,000 B.C. a henge was built, consisting of a circular array of 14 standing stones, surrounded by a ditch about 30 metres in diameter and 5 metres broad, possibly also including a causeway across it where the burial chamber now stands. It is not known what the purpose of this structure was, though as with all henges possible theories include a seasonal calendar, a temple to the heavens, ancestor worship or some other religious practice of which we have no conception.Description of the Bryn Celli Ddu prehistoric burial site

Henge and chamber on the Highgate / Balsall Heath border

Is it possible that this arrangement of henge-like mounds and central chamber could be excavated 5000 years from now? What hypotheses would the future archaeologists postulate about its function?

A bull in Balsall Heath

I’ve been threatening to use time over the Christmas holidays to get to grips with Scratch, a programming environment aimed at young people. I’ve been curious about it for a year or so and have recently had some conversations with people who have practical experience of using it in schools that has inspired me to actually get on and investigate it.

Coding blocks in Scratch

Coding blocks in Scratch

I’m thinking that to start off with I’m likely to apply it to animation-themed projects – you just don’t see briefs asking for people to come in and teach kids how to code! Shame that: beyond systematic approaches, applying mathematical concepts etc etc, I think there’s something particularly valuable in the process of debugging that can be applied to wider things. Fits in with my thoughts about protovation and creativity.

Anyway, as ever with these freestyle learning things, it can be a bit tricky to conjure up mini-projects to provide an impetus. Fortunately though I’ve had a huffing duck to work with and then an escaped bull went for a wander around Balsall Heath.

Balsall Heath, bull and the Shouty Lady

Balsall Heath, bull and the Shouty Lady

I lived in Balsall Heath last year, so I kind of got a bit distracted by the backgrounds and distilling some key landmarks into simple graphic form, rather than designing a game, as was the original intention. Still, there was a lot to be learned in just getting the background tiles to scroll as the bull works its way up Moseley/Alcester Road. [Addendum: This whole thing probably won’t mean anything to you if you don’t know the area. If that’s the case, here’s a link to the Google Street View to give you a toehold.]

Moseley baths

Moseley baths

After some wrangling as to whether I was going to make it a shoot-em-up in the style of the real-life story, I eventually decided that that wasn’t a route I wanted to go down (well, it is Christmas!) so the hazard comes in the form of the Shouty Lady.

One of my overall impressions of living in Balsall Heath was that there always seemed to be people shouting in the streets. Not increased-volume-so-my-mate-over-there-can-hear-me shouting, but full-on screechy argument shouting at the person stood right by them, or perhaps now walking on the other side of the road. After a few months I began to recognise that, more often than not, it was the same woman doing the shouting…

So, in the Balsall Bull ‘game’ the Shouty Lady will appear at random intervals and potentially scupper your overall aim of getting to the curry house.

Scratch isn’t set up for embedding per se, but I’ve put Balsall Bull on a separate page so you can have a play if you’d like to. If you don’t see it on the page, you’ll need to download and install Java to be able to run the applet thingy.

To play Balsall Bull, use the arrow keys to guide the bull along the road, click the green flag in the top right corner if it goes sqiffy and, above all else, beware the Shouty Lady.

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