The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide

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The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Andy Megalithic 6/24/13 12:45 PM
Hello, first posted in 2006 and now updated with our latest data. This is the biggest download of prehistoric and ancient sites I am aware of yet made available for Google Earth.

It is a compilation of the 25000+ locations we have listed on the Megalithic Portal. Each entry includes summary descriptions and a thumbnail image, where available.

We have everything from mesolithic dwellings through to later prehistory, Native American sites and also including Holy Wells, Ancient Crosses and some other early mediaeval sites. Updates and full details are here

There is extensive coverage of the UK, Ireland, France and Germany, with other parts of the world coming along fast as our hundreds of contributors submit new locations and images. If you know a site that we don't list you can submit it here:

The current file is a 4MB KMZ download. You may find this overwhelms your install of GE, if so we also have smaller KML downloads for individual countries, counties/regions and site types available from The Megalithic Portal.

The downloads can be found on our "Browse by Country/Type" page

Then click on the [KML] links to download your selections of data by individual country, county/region or site types.

The KML files are divided into folders to allow some data to be turned off. This cures the problem of too many visible points overloading things.

Kind Regards,
The Megalithic Portal
An independent, non-profit making web resource and society
'useful, fun, and accurate' - Archaeology Magazine
'absolutely fascinating' - Gillian Hovell, Visiting the Past Book
'excellent site' - Archaeology in Europe

Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Google Craig 6/24/13 2:16 PM
Wow, Andy this is a fantastic post!! The sheer size of the kmz is a bit daunting, so for folks checking this out in Google Earth, I recommend turning on one folder at a time. :)

Hold all my calls, I'm going exploring. ;)

    - Craig
Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Noisette 6/24/13 2:18 PM
Welcome back Andy, thanks for reposting this.  I've removed the old version to avoid duplicates.  It's really a fantastic job, well done.  We did wonder if you might like to use regions to make the whole file less overwhelming.  See the KML reference for more information about that.  It's not a problem though if people zoom in on their area of interest before turning it on.  Or choose specific types as you say.

Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Syncromesh 6/24/13 2:44 PM
This is truly amazing. I've never seen a this many interesting features to be viewed and examined. 

Great job!
Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Andy Megalithic 6/25/13 10:05 AM
Thanks Craig, Noisette and all, yes it is getting a bit big isn't it :) I'll look into how to do regions.

We have another related project - for the last couple of years we've been finding and linking ancient stones and sites spotted on Google Street View. This is the master map for Scotland, 497 sites.
Follow the map links to see each site on Street View and you can choose other countries from the drop down box

Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide washi 6/26/13 7:28 AM

Hi Andy,

This certainly is impressive work!  I would second Noisette's suggestion that you incorporate Regions into your file.

There is a potential problem which likely does not evidence itself on your platform, or I think you would have fixed it before you published.  It is the way macron roman letters are displayed in placemark labels in many locations in Japan.

I expect you will understand it.  If so, please pass over this long-winded section to the last paragraph. I will try to explain the problem for those who are unfamiliar with it:

There are many ways to write Japanese words.

The standard way it to use characters borrowed from Chinese called kanji.

Kyoto, for example, is written 京都.

Popular publications limit themselves to about 2000 of these characters, but there are thousands more, and many are used in names and place names, to say nothing technical and scholarly language.

A second way to write is hiragana.  Hiragana is a set of about 70 phonetic characters, used to write the inflections of verbs and adjectives, mark grammatical and syntactical relationships.  Hiragana are often used in place of kanji, as in children's books and numerous other circumstances where the writer supposes the reader may not be able to read the kanji.

This is Kyoto in hiragana: きょうと

A third system for writing in Japanese is called katakana.  Katakana is similar to hiragana, but has different historical roots, and has different modern usage.  It is the primary way that foreign words are rendered into Japanese.  It is also used to give emphasis, in much the same was as italics are used in other languages.  (The company that made that Japanese car that you or your friend drives, for example, likely has its name on its letterhead written in Katakana.

This is Kyoto written in katakana: キョウト

Or it may be written like this: キョート

The last system is the roman alphabet, called romaji.  Romaji uses the Latin alphabet to render Japanese.  The Japanese themselves use a slightly different system for doing this than most non-Japanese.  I use the Japanese system when I type Japanese characters using my English keyboard, but when I want to suggest correct pronunciation to my fellow Anglophones, I use the system developed by the 19th century missionary and lexicographer James Curtis Hepburn.

Here are a few examples of differences between the romaji systems.

hiragana             japanese romaji                               hepburn romaji                               approximate English sound

                         ti                                                         chi                                                     chee

                        di                                                         zi                                                       zee

                        tu                                                        tsu                                                     tsu

                        du                                                       zu                                                       zoo

ちゃ                    tya                                                    cha                                                      chaw

ちゅ                    tyu                                                   chu                                                      chew

ちょ                    tyo                                                  cho                                                       cho (rhymes with show)

                         si                                                    shi                                                        (between see and she)

しゃ                    sya                                                 sha                                                       shaw

しゅ                    syu                                                shu                                                       shoe

しょ                    syo                                               sho                                                        show

I have never felt bad in using the Hepburn system in my posts about Japan.  It looks weird to most Japanese, but I suppose most who read my posts will know the correct pronunciation and will be able to decipher the word. 

But there is one feature of the Japanese language that I have always tried to observe, in the interest of correct spelling, and that is the use of macroned vowels to indicate "doubled" sounds.

As a non-native speaker, these doubled sounds are very difficult for me to even hear, and I must constantly consult a dictionary to make sure I am spelling correctly, just as Japanese speakers have a great deal of trouble with "l" and "r" sounds, neither of which appear in their language.  (The Japanese sound is about halfway between the two.)  Doubled "o" and "u" vowel sounds are represented in the Japanese system by either a double vowel or a "u" following "o" or "u" sounds, and in the Hepburn system by placing a macron over the double-sounded vowel.

hiragana                             japanese romaji                               hepburn romaji

きょうと                           kyouto                                               Kyōto                                    (3 beats)

おおさか                           oosaka                                              Ōsaka                                    (4 beats)

とうきょう                      toukyou                                            Tōkyō                                    (4 beats)

ほうりゅうじ                  houryuuji                                         Hōryūji                                  (5 beats)

(The first 3 examples are well known places, and are incorporated into the English language without macrons; the last example is not.)  I greatly applaud your effort to observe this important spelling convention.  Unfortunately, the Unicode symbols which you have used in your placemark Descriptions (while they display as intended when icon is clicked and the balloon is opened) do not display as intended in the placemark label.  The roman alphabet and a handful of its most frequently used symbols can be encoded with one byte of information (0-255 or 256 different characters).  The characters used in other languages, including Japanese kanji, hiragana, katakana, and macroned Latin vowels require two or more bytes of information for encoding in Unicode.  Your labels that should show macroned vowel instead display the hexadecimal encoding.  "Shōrin-ji temple," for example, is difficult to read whereas "Shōrin-ji temple" is not.  I was able to quickly correct a few dozen of these placemarks simply by opening the balloon, copying the placemark title, opening the Properties dialog box and pasting the readable title in the first field.  I would guess that there are a several hundred placemarks throughout Japan with the same label display problem.  I would strongly encourage you to make these changes as quickly as possible, before these placemark labels find their way into the GEC Layer.  I am confident that the task can be completed in less time than it has taken me to write this reply.

screen shot of uncorrected labels
screen shot of corrected labels
Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Andy Megalithic 6/27/13 4:22 AM

Hello Washi, I have struggled a lot with the extended character encoding. In the end the best compromise I found was to put the pin name in CDATA like this

<name><![CDATA[Shin-ike Haniwa K&#333;ba K&#333;en]]></name>

This is probably not the correct thing to do, it seems to be confusing Google Earth which it displays the name correctly in the pop up box but not on the main Google Earth overlay. This looks like an unintended feature (bug) in Google Earth.

The Japanese names are stored in our database as "Shin-ike Haniwa K&#333;ba K&#333;en"

I will have a go at removing the CDATA and encoding (decoding?) the characters in a different way.

If anyone familiar with the technicalities could advise I'd appreciate it. I'm using PHP.


Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Andy Megalithic 6/27/13 7:30 AM
Hello, I have attached a KML file with our Japanese sites which has the characters fixed from HTML encoded to actual utf-8 characters. I cannot get PHP to do this properly so I have used a character replace as a woraround

$search  = array('&#332;','&#333;','&#362;','&#363;');
$replace = array('Ō','ō','Ū','ū');
$title = str_replace($search,$replace,$title);

When I open this file in my text editor I see the correct characters, eg
<name>Jōshōkō-ji temple</name>

but if I load it into Google Earth then the pin names are scrambled, like this

JÅ shÅ kÅ -ji temple

How does this look to you? I am beginning to wonder if this is a bug in Google Earth
I have been working on this most of today!!
Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide washi 6/30/13 3:41 PM

Hi Andy,

That doesn't seem to have worked.  I've got an appointment this morning, so I don't have much time to check your file, but I examined (and took a screen shot of) the area SW of Kyoto Station.  In those placemark labels the hex code for "ū" appears to have been replaced with the character "Å".  The hex codes in the Description (balloon) appear not to have been affected, i.e., they read as hex when you open the Properties dialog box, but read correctly when the balloon is opened with an icon click.  I'm in over my head on how you did the replace in your data base.

You might try asking about this puzzle on one of the KML support forums.  Those folks seem pretty savvy.

Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide washi 7/1/13 4:56 AM

You didn't asked for it, and it may be more trouble to integrate into your data base than it's worth, but I was looking for something that didn't require too much concentration to do this evening so I corrected the Japanese labels using the method I described.  I think I got them all, but there's always a chance I missed one or two.  The file is posted >>> HERE <<<.

Please let us know if you found a way to do the search and replace in your database.

Re: The Megalithic Portal guide to 25000+ ancient sites worldwide Noisette 7/6/13 2:53 AM
And congratulations, your post was included in the top content section of the June 2013 edition of the Sightseer newsletter.   

Those wishing to subscribe to the Sightseer can do so here.