Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Not archaeology, but interesting Digging code: Software archaeology

At first glance, business software developers have little in common with Indiana Jones. But the emerging field of software archaeology applies some of the same skills, if not the dashing adventure.

In 1900, a Greek sponge diver found the wreck of a 2000-year-old ship near the island of Antikythera. The sunken ship yielded up the usual ancient booty, but among the loot was something unusual: a corroded lump of metal with a large wheel on its front. Decades later, gamma-ray examinations showed that the artifact contained bronze gears and wheels.

Science historians now call the device the Antikythera Mechanism, and science historians agree that it is the earliest known computing machine. To this day, however, despite many tests, simulations and reconstructions, no one knows exactly what the Antikythera mechanism actually computed. While the favorite theory alleges that it calculated the position of the stars to aid navigation at sea, its designers and builders are long dead, ancient literature lacks a single mention of such devices and the only documentation it bears is an inscription suggesting the island of Rhodes as the place it was built.

This ancient riddle will seem familiar to many software developers confronted with the task of rebuilding applications.

This article will likely only appeal to those of the nerd pursuasion but it does serve to illustrate the sort of time scales people tend to deal with. As we saw in the so-called 'millennium bug' (Y2k) a few years ago, people tend not to be too concerned about their work lasting more than a few years. We need to start thinking longer-term, not only with regards to what we're doing to the archaeological record now, but also how we save, conserve, and document what we dig up and what we do with it. It's fairly obscene how much work has been relegated to the dustbin of history simply because people didn't know what to do with all those artifacts and notebooks and other documents associated with any excavation.

Experts Study Skeletal Remains in Utah

Archaeologists have begun excavating ancient skeletal remains believed to be those of five people, probably Anasazis.

The bones were found on private land at the eastern edge of Kanab in southern Utah last week when a turf farmer was digging a trench to install an irrigation line.

"I was on a backhoe ... when the guy I was working with yelled at me. I saw a big femur bone sticking up," said Tom Willardson, the owner of Tommy's Turf.

"I stopped digging out of respect for who (the bones) belonged to," Willardson said Monday.

Good for him. Similar article here.

Local archaeologist will present artifacts collected over his career

A local archaeologist and steward of the Texas Historical Commission will present his extensive collection of artifacts and detail where the items were found during his program at the Museum of the Coastal Bend on Thursday.

Bill Birmingham will present The Birmingham Collection at noon and at 7 p.m. Thursday at the museum.

Birmingham will discuss his experiences with archaeological excavations in the Texas Coastal Bend area. His extensive collection of artifacts, collected during his lengthy career as a vocational archeologist, will be featured, according to information from the museum.

Neat research Pompeii artists painted the town red

The formula of the red, shiny and intense colour that dominated Pompeii's wall paintings 2000 years ago has been discovered by an Italian researcher.

Buried in the catastrophic eruption in 79 AD, the brilliant Pompeian red has been preserved forever by the lava of Mount Vesuvius and still makes an impressive show in several frescoes.

"Though it consists of simple cinnabar pigment, Pompeian red is really unique. It certainly stands out when compared to normal cinnabar paint layers," said Daniela Daniele, a researcher working at Berlin's Staatliche Museen.

No. We will not make the obvious joke. Uh-uh, not us. Ancient stone hoes found in Dong Nai province

Two stone hoes dating back around 2,000-3,000 years have been found in Long Thanh district, southern Dong Nai province.

Farmer Chau Ba Ngan and his neighbours discovered the rectangle and trapezoid-shaped hoes while they were digging the foundation for a house. The hoes are 32-33 cm long, 2-4 cm thick and 7-8 cm wide.

According to initial assessment of the Dong Nai Museum, the hoes were tools used by primitive people who inhabited Bien Hoa and the basin area of the Dong Nai river in the Stone Age.

More than 2,600 stone and ceramic artefacts, including axes, chisels, knives, and sickles have been unearthed so far in Dong Nai province.

That's the whole thing.