Competition to dowse for artifacts. Over a map. (updated)

Dowsing competition pits diehard believers against sceptics.

A website dedicated to prehistoric archaeology called the Megalithic Portal is now launching a competition to try and resolve the question [of dowsing], with would-be psychics and scoffers invited to join a hunt for archaeological remains from the comfort of their own armchairs.

Andy Burnham, founder of the website, says dowsing has consistently sparked “more discussion and discord” than any other subject on the site. “We always end up with the same stalemate. Dowsers claim they can find anything and non-dowsers doubt that because there is no documented proof.”

Burnham invites both believers and agnostics to enter the competition, either by dowsing using their equipment of choice, or by pure guesswork, and to rate their own level of scepticism so the results can be graded.

Credit: @DjGrothe on Twitter

A dowsing competition to find archeological artifacts? Over a map? What is the mechanism? How can this work? How close do you have to get for a hit? How do you know that you DIDN’T get a hit – something may be buried there. I am confused. This is crazy.

Update: Nov 17. Randi speaks on the matter.

  2 comments for “Competition to dowse for artifacts. Over a map. (updated)

  1. bshistorian
    November 15, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    I see the Guardian blogger links to my blog which in turn links to some good debunks of dowsing – but insists on the usual artificial ‘neutrality’ and dubs sceptics ‘scoffers’.

    I fail to see how archaeological dowsing can possibly be at a ‘stalemate’. Most archaeologists recognise it for what it is, though belief in it (or at least ignorance of how supernatural its claims are) is depressingly widespread.

  2. MM
    November 16, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    As strange as it may seem, there are a substantial number of “dowsers” who claim to be able to do so with a map and (generally) a pendulum. There is even less of an explanation for this ability than for “regular” dowsing.
    The contest is hoping for enough entries to get a statistical result. Entrants are invited to state whether they are “dowsing” or merely picking a map coordinate at random.
    It’s all in fun, and entended to get more people to visit the website for information on prehistoric sites they can visit, maps, and news stories.

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