Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Just a couple of items for now. We'll get more later.

Cool, but maybe overreaching Pompeii pottery may rewrite history

Archaeologists may need to change their view of Pompeii's role in trade and commerce, after a ceramics expert's recent discovery.

Australian researcher Jaye Pont from the Museum of Ancient Cultures at Sydney's Macquarie University says people who lived in Pompeii bought their pottery locally and didn't import it.

Pont said the find could "make waves" among archaeologists looking at trade in the Mediterranean.

And she said researchers may have to rethink shelves of museum pottery once thought to be from the eastern Roman Empire.

This seems terribly interesting. Basically what Pont has done is to source the ceramics to the local area through inclusions in the clay itself. This bit about other sourcing (?) "Most scientific analysis has been done chemically but not through thin section analysis," seems somewhat incongruous to us; chemical sourcing of clays should be very exacting. But she goes on to note that the classification as extra-local was done mainly on the basis of formal variation in shape, color, etc. which is often standard archaeological practice. While this is true, we don't think it's quite fair to rip on archaeologists for not doing this sort of detailed analysis all along. You've got to make some sense of masses of pottery and shape variation does have utility. Still, it goes to show what very detailed analyses can accomplish.

And along those lines. . . Mummies' tar provides a link to ancient trade routes

Historians have long known that Egyptians used tar to seal mummies during the embalming process.

What wasn't known until now is where the tar came from. Thanks to work by some Texas geochemists, however, scientists are now answering this millennia-old mystery.

The Middle East is, of course, littered with natural oil seeps, in which tar and other black deposits bubble up from oil beneath the surface.

Within each oil seep, however, the tar has a particular signature, which scientists can identify by measuring the various amounts of thousands of different hydrocarbons. The ratio of hydrocarbons is virtually the same for an entire seep.

Warning! Warning! Pyramid shower!

Hawas: Singaporean robot to creep into Cheops Pyramid in October

The robot experiment inside Cheops Pyramid in Giza will be repeated next year but this time by a different institution, said Chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawas.

The University of Singapore is currently designing a robot to reach beyond the door which blocked the route of the robot used by the US National Geographic in September 2003, said Hawas in statements on Saturday.

The new experiment will be conducted in October 2005, added the SCA head.

Video! They Were Here: Ice Age Humans in South Carolina

It was a time when our climate was cooler. Great ice sheets covered the northern areas of what was to become the United States. At the Topper Site in what is now Allendale County, South Carolina, artifacts have been found that show early humans were coming to ancient chert quarries, making rudimentary knives and other tools. This South Carolina Educational TV documentary covers the careful study and analysis of artifacts, let by Dr. Albert C. Goodyear, leading to evidence of early humans that dates back 15,000-20,000 years ago.

Kinda neat, a streaming video feed of a short documentary. We haven't watched it yet, but the quality on our T1 line is pretty good.