Sunday, 6 July 2014

Of dowsing, Malta and the claims of Lord Monckton

As anyone with half an ounce in their skull knows, dowsing is the ancient art of making yourself look stupid with a couple of sticks.  I have done some controlled experiments myself on dowsing and have read enough on the subject to know that, alas, it is false.

Put bluntly, in most countries of the world, you can find water by digging a random hole anywhere you like.  Dig it deep enough and it will collect water in the bottom.  And that introduces confirmation bias.

Which brings me headlong into the testimony of Lord Christopher Monckton (again).  He says at WUWT the following (archived):
Niklas Mörner, the sea-level expert, has had his page got at on the ground that he sometimes dowses for water or other underground treasure. My late father once did that for the Maltese Government, and found three lost Punic tombs and a fine marble head of Seneca from the first century AD. My drawing of it (in the day before digital cameras) is probably still to be found somewhere in the Museum of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge. But I never had the knack for dowsing myself.
As far as I can discern, the only source for this claim of finding three lost Punic tombs is the current Lord Monckton.  There are two separate mentions of it at WUWT and one anywhere else (translated) that I can find:
"I can't do it at all-I've tried-but my dad could do it, and I saw him actually doing it once, because he had been summoned by the Maltese Government to find some Punic tombs, which we knew was in an area where there should be a way. We wanted to make sure that there is no led the way straight through the tombs. So my dad went up and down the fields with its attic, and suddenly there were translated, and he said ' grave here ', and they dug, and they found the Punic grave Chambers, among others. the most beautiful senecanske head, as I drew, and the drawing is now at the Museum of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge. There is the evidence, and you can even check it, but you can of course not like evidence, if they are not in accordance with your argument. I understand that you are more of a believer than a scientist. "

  Major General Monckton's obituary in the Daily Telegraph had this to say:
 Young Gilbert was educated at Harrow before reading Agriculture at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he converted to Roman Catholicism under the influence of Monsignor Alfred Gilbey.
This led him to become a founder member of the Strafford Club, in honour of Charles I’s minister who was beheaded for alleged subversion, and also to discover his talent as a diviner.
He used to win bets in pubs by playing a game in which he was challenged to find a signet ring under one of four caps; when friends tried to trick him by putting rings under every cap his rod defeated them by saying yes at each one.

A pretty story perhaps, but barely as dramatic as finding three Punic tombs that had been lost, for the Maltese government.

What of the tombs themselves?  There are 650 listed George Said's PhD thesis in 1994.  The late Lord Monckton discovered, according to his son, 0.46% of them.  Perhaps that's a goodish quantity. But wait.  The translated bit of Swedish Monckton says they were looking where they thought they would find them anyway.  So, if I were to go to a site where, for example, we might expect some ploughed out round barrows and I dowsed, there's a good chance I would find those barrows.  We are not talking tiny metal finds.  We're talking substantial structures.
The tombs here are cut into the cliff face
Here's one the archaeologists examined

By the way, Said has no mention of Monckton.  That's not really a surprise but, like so many of the other things the present Lord Monckton says, they are desperately hard to check.  Other clues besides just the twitching of rods could have been used - there does seem to be a pattern to where these tombs are found. 

So if his Lordship should alight here, perhaps he would be so good as to give a little more detail. Where, when, would be very useful bits of information. 

By the way, Niklas Morner has some very out of the way ideas.  He's like a quack archaeologist and was once reprimanded for damaging an iron age site in Sweden in his "researches".


  1. i love how the denialists complain bitterly when you compare them to creationists and other pseudoscientific cranks, then immediately run off to frolic with creationists and other pseudoscientific cranks.

  2. Heh, Morner. I wonder if he ever found his tree, which those meanie scientists stole from him?

  3. 'Niklas' Morner is Nils-Axel there anything that Monckton can't f**k up?