The line separating phenomenon and science has become blurred in the investigation of ley lines. Ley lines can be described as “invisible” lines that link different places of interest and significance, either historical or geographical. This is a very loose definition, but it must remain vague, as it has to account for the various understandings of the lines. These individual interpretations are noted by Atkins Webster in his introduction to “Do Quasar Ley Lines Really Exist,” in which he states that “one supposition is that these ley lines were intended for some practical purpose, perhaps to mark a track or territorial boundary, whilst another is that they fulfilled some ceremonial, religious, or mystical function” (179). It is these variances in interpretation that ultimately stimulated many of my decisions for my installation-based piece “The Lay of the Ley.”
The article “Photography, the Index, and the Nonexistent: Alfred Watkins’ Discovery (or Invention) of the Notorious Ley-lines of British Archaeology” by Michael Charlesworth provides insight into the discovery of these lines as the author introduces us to Alfred Watkins (1855-1935), an amateur archaeologist as well as “an inventor of photographic instruments” (133). Charlesworth explains that “It came to Watkins in a flash that ancient prehistoric sites, medieval churches . . . and a variety of other features of the British countryside . . . tended to be aligned with each other in chains of such features stretching for miles across the land . . . Watkins construed prehistoric Britain to have been crossed by a system of straight trackways, probably established by the late Neolithic period (ca. 2500 BCE)” (133). Charlesworth notes that Alfred Watkins spent his life in the area where he found the leys, and was the president of a local society that, at the time, investigated archaeology and natural history in that area. This may explain his title of “Amateur Archaeologist,” and why Watkins’ discovery was given clout at the time.
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