Monday, April 30, 2007

Non-archaeological post
Yes, we return once again to those thrilling days of yesteryear and look at. . . .Music from the '70s. I just downloaded America: The Complete Greatest Hits from iTunes and am right now burning it to CD. I only recently got more or less tuned in to America, although I distinctly remember them from my youth. Back then about the only time I heard them was either from TV or on the car radio, the latter notably on AM stations while we were driving from Wisconsin to Alabama to visit my dad's kin down there for part of the summer. (Interestingly, the taste of Dr. Pepper brings back those Alabama vacations, too, since at the time Dr.P. wasn't available up north)

Anyway, I always kind of like 'Horse With No Name', largely because the lyrics are kinda weird. I bring this up because Comcast has a 0-minute On Demand piece of America's 1979 concert in Central Park. If you have On Demand I heartily recommend viewing it. Nearly every band is way more fun to hear in person and this is no exception. It's too short, but I don't know if the original film was short or if the Comcast version is just al hacked up. But still, it's a good viewing. There are a lot of songs I didn't really assocate with America, or just forgot they did. Good stuff though.

Trivia note: As Chris Carter was wont to do, on the Millennium show, he used Horse With No Name as the song in the background of a scene. Basically it had some guy driving, he stops to change a tire, another guy stops, kills him, and starts the whole car and body on fire. He did that quite a few times, playing some pleasant song in the background while something gruesome is going on.
Jesus was 'robot from the future', claim archaeologists
Archaeologists from the University of Alabama have found amazing new evidence about the life of Jesus - or the JESUS 9000 as it is now known.

Dr Percy Pecker said: "We have found a tomb containing unusual electronics and metal parts. JESUS is actually an acronym, it stands for Jesus Electronic Stalinist Utilization System. A future communist state will build this robot and send it back in time to kill the real Jesus and replace him.

"This explains a number of the supposed miracles of Jesus, such as rising from the dead, walking on water, and making toast."

Funny, but they stole my "artist's conception" schtick:
But then there are better relations Tribe's pledge jump-starts Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology's fundraiser
Bill Marshall, executive director of the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology, interrupted his speech to museum supporters Friday to take a staged phone call from Soboba Tribal Chairman Robert Salgado.

"That was Bobby Salgado of the Soboba tribe and they're pledging $500,000 for the Western Center," Marshall announced, to audience applause.

Although the phone call during Marshall's speech was not real, the tribe did indeed commit the money to the center a few hours earlier, effectively kicking off a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign for the center.
Spokane rejects EWU archaeology contract
Fiercely criticized by the Spokane Indian tribe, Eastern Washington University will no longer do archaeological work that is required on local construction projects, the City Council has decided.

Rather than approve a $250,000 contract with the school as recommended by city staff, the council instead voted 6-1 this week to hire Historical Research Associates Inc. of Missoula, Mont., the staff's No. 2 choice out of four groups that bid for the work.

Posted here originally. They're saying it's an 8,000 year old site, so the tribe's claims of ancestry seem a bit stretched.
Alamo dig racking up a hefty bill
Sifting through four cubic meters of dirt and artifacts dating to the Battle of the Alamo will add at least $150,000 to the city's tab to renovate Main Plaza.

Preliminary work is scheduled to begin today at what archaeologists believe is a trench dug by Mexican troops in 1835 before Texian rebels seized San Antonio and the Alamo.

The surrender of Mexican Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cós to the Texians set the stage for Cós' brother-in-law, Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, to lay siege to the Alamo on Feb. 23, 1836.
Darien Venture was a good idea at the time, insists TV archaeologist
THE Darien Venture is often seen as one of Scotland's great follies: a flawed attempt to establish its own overseas empire that was doomed from the start, crippled the country financially, and led to the 1707 Act of Union.

But a new archaeological expedition into a previously unexplored area of the Darien Isthmus has shown that plans to establish a colony and set up a trade route across Panama were not foolhardy or ridiculous but entirely feasible.

The story of the Darien Venture is well-known: financial adventurer William Paterson led the ambitious expedition, funded by public subscription, to set up The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies. His aim was to turn the country into the major broker of trade across the Pacific Ocean.

Maybe I never paid attention in school, but I'd never heard of this.

Colonist, donchaknow.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Experts bone up on ancient riddle
A RIDDLE of ancient Egyptian bones has been solved by two experts at Bolton Museum.

But they intend to keep people guessing - for the moment.

Two unique linen-wrapped bundles containing remains which could be up to 2m years old were unearthed in the early 1920s by celebrated archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, who excavated many of the most important sites in Egypt.

Well. What a weird article. If one takes them at their word ("2m" = 2 million?), they're talking about fossils. They also say this:
The bundles were originally discovered at the site of Qau el-Kebir in Middle Egypt, months after several tons of fossilised bones

Suggesting the fossilized bones of extinct critters. So let's see, 2 million years would be the late Pliocene maybe early Pleistocene. . . . .
Knights Templar secrets sought in Olympic dig
A massive archaeological dig has started today on the site of the 2012 Olympics.

And experts hope they may uncover two water mills believed to have been built on the site by the Knights Templar in the 12th century.

'This is an opportunity to chart and record the unique history of an area back to the first Londoners,' said David Higgins, the Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
Curator to return to Resolute to unearth Thule homes
With the help of International Polar Year funding, Robert McGhee, an curator of Arctic archeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and McGill University archeology doctoral student Sarah Hazell plan to excavate two Thule-era houses about four kilometres west of the community, starting in late June.

McGhee, whose books include The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic, has been excavating and restoring three of the area's 800- to 1,000-year-old winter houses that belonged to the Thule Inuit, the ancestors of present-day Canadian Inuit.
Civilization depends on a stable climate
If you were to able to travel back in time 50,000 years, abduct a paleolithic hunter from a river valley in southern France and haul him back to 21st century America, would he stand out in a crowd?

Depends on the crowd. He probably wouldn't blend in very well at the New York Stock Exchange. But dress him in shorts and flip-flops, hand him a backpack and he could probably stroll across any college campus in the country without attracting attention.

Human beings who lived 500 centuries ago were fully modern, virtually indistinguishable from us in fundamental ways. Their brains and bodies were physically the same as ours. They created sophisticated art - murals, paintings, sculptures - and buried their dead in a fashion that suggests they possessed ceremonial or religious traditions. They had developed the technology and navigational skills required to travel across broad expanses of ocean.

Eh. Kind of a dumb article trying desperately to come up with a global warming angle. How one can call the Younger Dryas a "minor fluctuation" is beyond me.
Ancient Camel Bones Found in Arizona
Workers digging at the future site of a Wal-Mart store in suburban Mesa have unearthed the bones of a prehistoric camel that's estimated to be about 10,000 years old.

Arizona State University geology museum curator Brad Archer hurried out to the site Friday when he got the news that the owner of a nursery was carefully excavating bones found at the bottom of a hole being dug for a new ornamental citrus tree.

"There's no question that this is a camel; these creatures walked the land here until about 8,000 years ago, when the same event that wiped out a great deal of mammal life took place," Archer told The Arizona Republic.

I thought most of he extinctions look place well before 8k BP. . . .

Friday, April 27, 2007

Archaeologists to chart history of London's Olympic Park
Archaeologists are working with London 2012 organizers to chart the history of Olympic Park — from Roman times until industrialization.

The Olympic Delivery Authority and the Museum of London will work together as the 202-hectare (500-acre) East End site is prepared for construction of the main stadium, aquatics center, velodrome and other arenas.

"We are starting well ahead of the planned start of construction and nothing is expected to be found that could affect our timetable," ODA chief executive David Higgins said Thursday.
Spokane rejects Eastern Washington University archaeology bid
Spokane will no longer use Eastern Washington University for archaeological work because of opposition by the Spokane Indian Tribe.
The city council voted to give a two-year, 250-thousand dollar contract to a Montana company, Historical Research Associates of Missoula.

Archaeological work is required on construction projects in Spokane. The tribe says the university improperly identified a dig last year at People's Park, making the site vulnerable to treasure hunters.

A university official disputes the tribe's allegations and says tribal leaders never responded to a written request to discuss the issue.

That's the whole thing. I've talked with the HRA people in Seattle in the past.

Not that that amounts to anything, but I just thought I'd throw that out there to sound all keyed in 'n stuff.
These young men and women, who could have opted for greener pastures in the banking, NGO’s and other private establishments including the Government sector decided against it and stayed with the science and sites they love. Having done so they have dedicated their youthful lives to it.

How have they been compensated for their dedication? Their specialization as archaeologists and their contribution has never been properly appreciated and recognized by the Cultural Establishment. They have never been properly compensated for their commitment and passion for preserving the history of this land. Their young minds are never consulted and their acquired skills are never maximised at their own work site. On the contrary they are identified merely as wage labourers and treated accordingly at the World Heritage sites. The establishment has never respected the professional dignity of this wonderful human resource. They have been taken for granted as serfs bonded to fiefdoms.

You might think he's talking about American graduate school students. . . . .
Law provides few protections for Indian mounds
When it comes right down to it, the good will of private landowners is often what stands between saving Indian mounds and losing these pieces of ancient history.

“There are no legal obligations regarding mounds on private property, as long as the owners don’t disturb any burials that might be there,” said Linda Hall, a state archaeologist based in Asheville.

In the case of Cowee Mound, preservation efforts by the Hall family ensured its survival. The family owned the mound for 175 years until the death of Katherine Hall Porter in 2002. The mound then passed to her husband, James Porter. He and his heirs worked with the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to make sure that it would be protected.

They give the law for NC:
North Carolina’s Unmarked Human Burial and Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act requires that anybody “knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe” human skeletal remains are being disturbed notify the county’s medical examiner. If the remains are discovered because of construction or plowing, those activities must cease immediately. Work can’t resume without the state’s go-ahead.

If the remains are archaeologically significant — not a modern skeleton, in other words — the state archaeologist’s office is in charge. State archaeologists have 48 hours to make arrangements with the landowner to either protect or remove the remains. At the end of the 48-hour period, the law states the chief archaeologist “shall have no authority over the remains” and can’t stop the resumption of work on the property.

That seems a sensible compromise to me, require notification and removal by state actors in the case of human remains. After all, any human remains would need to have a medical examiner out to check for foul play anyway. Otherwise, unless you decide to go all Kelo on private property rights, it's a constitutional issue.
Three artists, three archaeologists, 24 hours and one shopping centre … part of the University of the West of England’s (UWE) Situations programme, Material City; a collaboration with the University of Bristol’s (UoB) Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The aim of the project is to produce conversations (real and metaphorical) between artists and archaeologists on ways of encountering urban places.

The brief: to encounter and document the Broadmead district of central Bristol between 5pm Friday March 30 and 5pm Saturday March 31. A day (and night) in the life of a city.

Unfortunately, it doesn't include any observations on what they discovered. Much, anyway.
Everyday life in Pompeii revealed
There is a common perception that life in the once-thriving Roman city of Pompeii is well-known from the wealth of artefacts that have been uncovered since its accidental discovery in 1748, but this is far from the case, according to findings of University of Leicester archaeologist Dr Penelope M Allison.

Until recently archaeologists working on Pompeian artefacts have tended to concentrate on examples of art, some of it erotic, from the town that was suddenly destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August 79 AD. But Dr Allison's recently published book, The Insula of the Menander in Pompeii vol 3: the finds, a contextual study, has changed this emphasis.

"I am looking at pots and pans and how houses actually functioned," she said. "I am interested in revealing the utilitarian side of life rather than its glamorous side; in slaves and servants and how they lived side by side with their masters. We always assume that servants were kept out of sight, but this is a 19th century view."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blogging update

Sorry about the lack of posting. I've been buried in grant proposal reviews. Will probably resume later today or tomorrow.

It's just a darn good thing nothing exciting has happened in the last couple of days. . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shaveology update After this post on Alba's shaving goop, I have tried it for several days using my twin blade and it works very well with that. Much better than my old double-edge blade. Much easier on the ol' skin. Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

'Kipple'? Geek Archaeology: How To Throw Out Tech Junk
The Inquirer's Andrew Thomas moved home, and took with him something that should have been in a landfill before the 1980s were done: a 20 year-old power supply. This is in addition to expansion cards requiring an ISA slot, serial mice, a 1200-baud modem, and a CRT monitor the size of a toaster. One can almost smell the ozone.

"Some of this junk had followed me around since the 1970s in no fewer than ten houses. I even found a reel of paper tape. Paper tape, for God's sake. What was I ever going to need that for again?"

Phillip K. Dick called this stuff "kipple," which refers to any clutter with a propensity to multiply.

Errrrrrrr. . . . .no comment.
Construction at Caneel Ruins Surprises V.I. National Park
Caneel Bay Resort’s efforts to accommodate more guests for dinner in the ruins adjacent to the Equator restaurant by installing a floor caught the attention of V.I. National Park Archaeologist Ken Wild last week.

The resort is in the process of constructing a wooden floor to increase the maximum number of people the ruins can accommodate for dinner from 14 to 35 or 40, according to one resort official.

“There was a little ditch there that was unusable, so we’re just raising the floor to have a bigger function space,” said Caneel Bay Resort Manager Nikolay Hotze, who admitted he did not know whether the ruins were protected. “It’s a very popular space for weddings, but the maximum we can hold for dinner is 14 people, so we’re extending that space so we can put 35 to 40 people in the ruins.”
Centuries later, Watt's Cellar keeps its secrets hidden
It was 1977, and on the bulldozed and scattered remains of the city's historic waterfront, archaeologists were just a lucky turn of the spade away from the Holy Grail of Newburyport archaeological sites.

In a city filled with spectacular architecture, the long-buried and elusive ruin the diggers sought to uncover would probably be unimpressive to the casual observer. Only sorry remnants like rusty bits of metal, broken bottles and pottery and a pile of stones were likely to have survived the centuries.

But for archaeologists like Alaric Faulkner, the site was a potential goldmine.

As a complete aside, Newburyport has a radio station, WNBP that was one of my first introductions to streaming online music. There used to be a company during the Internet Bubble days that contracted to different radio stations to stream their broadcast over the Internet, and I stumbled upon it during the holiday season one year. They played a lot of the older Christmas music, very pleasant to listen to at work. Unfortunately, whatever that company was went out of business in the Internet Bust and WNBP never got back on the streaming bandwagon.

I'll put a plug in for Real's Rhapsody service. You can get a limited streaming audio player for dirt cheap, like $4 a month. It's all radio-like in that you can't pick individual songs (I think they give you 25 free plays a quarter though), but they have a good library for their pre-set stations, and you can create your own genre station by listing some songs and it will pick similar ones. That works, eh, hit and miss.

Also, KING in Seattle has a decent stream for their broadcast and it's free!
County Quarry Plan Raises Criticism
Buried deep inside a cave outside Elkins are markings on a damp rock wall from an era long ago.

"Phil Carrigan, 1836," said Jerry Hilliard of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, thick mud covering his clothes from his exploration Thursday inside the large cave system. "The year Arkansas became a state."

"Did you say, 'Carrigan?'" former State Rep. Jan Judy asked the two University of Arkansas archaeologists standing on her wooden front porch as they sipped water from her nearby spring. "That's a distant relative of mine."

Actually not much archaeology there in the article, and it seems only graffiti in the caves.
Arachnophobists, do not click on this link.

(Via Insty)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Archaeologists explore ocean floor for clues to early coastal settlement
Anthropologists in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are identifying new sites to study archaeology that are fathoms, not feet, under the surface.

Anthropology professor Kevin McBride and doctoral candidate David Robinson are scoping out early coastal human settlement sites, now under water, that could reveal clues to how the Americas were settled.

McBride says early submerged sites may yield evidence of how the earliest coastal residents lived and how they got here.

This doesn't seem related to the Ballard project (article at the link no longer functions).
Archaeologists discover remains of ancient Floridians
Archaeologists have found ancient human remains at another Brickell Avenue development site, additional evidence that downtown Miami and much of South Florida was inhabited thousands of years ago.

Fragmented bones belonging to five or six members of the extinct Tequesta tribe - or its ancestors - were unearthed in recent weeks at 1814 Brickell Ave., eventual site of a 12-unit condominium, according to archaeologist Robert Carr.

"This is not nearly at the scale of what we've seen in other downtown areas, but it was definitely a cemetery," said Carr, who has discovered and assessed many ancient sites in Broward and Miami-Dade, including the Miami Circle. "The question is the extent of it."

Best quote: "Time is money and the archaeologists have been digging here since November," Berisiartu said. "It's very difficult to tell my investors that all this time has passed and all we have is a guy in a hole in the ground with a brush in his hand."

Seem to be ca. 2500-3000 BP.
Here's where the comments are Weary Po-Mo Platitudes
Browsing through the reviews section of the current issue of Antiquity, I came across a confusing and irritating piece (behind a paywall) by one Dr. Charlotte Whiting. She works for the Council for British research in the Levant and is based in Amman in Jordan. Her review article treats three recent books on the Iron Age of the southern Levant, in other words, what is commonly known as Biblical archaeology. Though I entered archaeology as a shovel grunt on Tel Hazor in the Galilee, I know very little of this subject. I have read none of the books Whiting discusses; my complaint isn't about that. What raises my hackles is a series of snarky hyper-relativistic phrases that mark Whiting out as the kind of lingering 1990s post-modernist that is all too common in my discipline. What confused me was that those distasteful soundbites are interleaved with sensible rationalistic arguments that are quite at odds with hyper-relativism.

That sounds about right. I've always thought a lot of Po-Mo stuff is the basic sorts of things scientists pretty much acknowledge on an everyday basis -- Hey, we're not totally objective after all! -- all dressed up in flowery language.

I was trying to think of a good reason to post Whiting's pic, but I just did it because she's fairly attractive and, let's face it, we need the good publicity.
Dam it Iran opens dam that archaeologists say could harm ancient sites, famed Persepolis
Iran on Thursday began filling a dam despite warnings from archaeologists that its reservoir will flood newly discovered antiquities and could damage Iran's grandest site, the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis.

At the inauguration ceremony, attended by Energy Ministry officials, pipes were opened for water to start flowing into an artificial lake created by the dam spanning the Sivand River, 840 kilometers (520 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. The lake waters will be used for irrigation for the area's farmlands.

Iranian state-run television said Thursday that the dam was opened "on the order of the President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, although the hardline Iranian leader did not attend the inauguration.

The launch was delayed for months to give time for excavations by international archeological teams in the area of the reservoir after an appeal for help from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'm glad you guys aren't machine gun sharpened trowel wielding lunatics InstaPundit linked to this interview on NPR with Kathy Sierra who received threatening emails for a comment she made on an innocuous technology blog about deleting nasty comments:

The Internet is truly a strange world when a food website needs three paid moderators and 12 volunteers to keep members in line, wouldn’t you agree?

Obviously, people are far less involved in archaeology than food.

Friday, April 20, 2007

And now. . . .the news from the EEF

The German refusal to lending the Nefertiti bust to Egypt:
"Generally speaking we welcome loans of objects within the
international museum community. But experts have voiced
considerable reservations about a lengthy transportation of
Nefertiti from a conservation and restoration point of view."
[But note that in 2003, the museum allowed artists to
temporarily attach the bust to a bronze statue...]
-- Other press reports about this:

The Egyptian reaction to this refusal:
"(Egypt) will never again organise antiquities exhibitions in
Germany if it refuses a [renewed] request, to be issued next
week, to allow the bust of Nefertiti to be displayed in Egypt for
three months," antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass said."
-- Another, rather different, press report about this:
""They fear we will be like Raiders of the Lost Ark and we will
take it and not give it back," said Hawass (...) "It will be a
scientific war" [if the request is refused]. (..) Hawass said Egypt
didn't consider the Nefertiti bust to be a looted antiquity. (..)
"Still, it is one of a handful of truly singular Egyptian antiquities
still in foreign hands. "I really want it back," he said. " [Note
that under II.b, ZH says that the Germans have smuggled the
bust to Germany in 1914 and that he will reclaim it if the
loan request is denied... Under II.e, the Germans say the bust
was exported in 1913, with all the needed paperwork and
stamps of the Egyptian authorities.]

Press report: "Dig this: Forget the mummy's curse. The real
power of ancient objects lies in their ability to piece together
the past"
Interview with Caroline Rocheleau, "who, as a curatorial
research fellow at the N.C. Museum of Art, helped put
together the new "Temples and Tombs: Treasures of
Egyptian Art From the British Museum" for its Raleigh run. "

Press report: "Mummy's the word for museum meeting.
Native digs deep, finds answers to local historical treasure."
"Bonnie M. Sampsell has been a super sleuth, helping the
Wayne County Historical Museum answer many questions
about its mummy and its Egyptian collection; (..) last summer
she began cataloging the artifacts, researching the collection
and updating the mummy's display.(..) The mummy has long
been believed to be a priestess because of the markings on
the sarcophagus, but the expert in Egyptian skeletons that
Sampsell consulted in Cairo believes the mummy is a man."
[Video of (AFAIK) this mummy at ]

Press report: "Restoring Djoser's Step Pyramid"
Description of the complex and the plans with it.
"Now, following three years of archaeological and
scientific studies, a comprehensive restoration project
to save and preserve this great pyramid from further
destruction has been outlined." The three phases
of the project are sketched.

Press report: "University researchers study mummy
using modern technology"
"Washington University researchers have recently made
a series of important discoveries based on examinations of
the bones and DNA of a mummy recently added to the
permanent collection of the St. Louis Science Center. (..)
>From the scan, the scientists determined that the baby
mummy was a boy (..) between seven to eight months old (..).
The baby's mitochondrion sequencing suggests that his
mother was from the haplogroup which was found in Europe.
Hildebolt said that this conclusion fits. "Greeks and Romans
often adapted burial practices of the Egyptians, it is
certainly possible that the mother was Greek or Roman." "

The 'Internet Archive' website has a lot of digitized material:
If you search under 'All Media Types' with "ancient Egypt",
then you get several 19th c./ start 20th c. books, digitized
in several formats. E.g. books by John Wilson, Arthur Weigall,
James Breasted, and Henry Rhind.
The widest appeal may have:
Patrick Boylan, Thoth, the Hermes of Egypt: a study of some
aspects of theological thought in ancient Egypt (1922)
Unfortunately the books come in very large files.

Peter Dorman, Betsy Bryan (Eds.), Sacred Space and Sacred
Function in Ancient Thebes. SAOC 61, Oriental Institute
Chicago, 2007. List of contributors at:
The book is available as PDF (7,58 MB) at:
Proceedings of a session of the Theban Workshop held
at the British Museum in September 2003.

[Submitted by Chuck Jones ]
The 11 plate volumes and 9 text volumes of the monumental
'Description de l'Egypte' have been digitized and put online:

End of EEF news

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Semi-non-archaeological book review The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error that Transformed the World by Ken Alder. Publisher's Weekly summary:
Alder delivers a triple whammy with this elegant history of technology, acute cultural chronicle and riveting intellectual adventure built around Delambre's and Mechain's famed meridian expedition of 1792-1799 to calculate the length of the meter. Disclosing for the first time details from the astronomers' personal correspondences (and supplementing his research with a bicycle tour of their route), Alder reveals how the exacting Mechain made a mistake in his calculations, which he covered up, and which tortured him until his death. Mechain, remarkably scrupulous even in his doctoring of the data, was driven in part by his conviction that the quest for precision and a universal measure would disclose the ordered world of 18th-century natural philosophy, not the eccentric, misshapen world the numbers suggested. Indeed, Alder has placed Delambre and Mechain squarely in the larger context of the Enlightenment's quest for perfection in nature and its startling discovery of a world "too irregular to serve as its own measure." Particularly fascinating is his treatment of the politics of 18th-century measurement, notably the challenge the savants of the period faced in imposing a standard of weights and measures in the complicated post-ancien regime climate. Alder convincingly argues that science and self-knowledge are matters of inference, and by extension prone to error. Delambre, a Skeptical Stoic, was the more pragmatic and, perhaps, the more modern of the two astronomers, settling as he did for honesty in error where precision was out of reach.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

That's a good summary. The ultmate goal of the book is really an explication of the origin of our modern ideas about measurement error. It's really a perfect setup though: and attempt to obtain precise and accurate measurments to make a precise and accurate device to measure by.

The first half may lose some readers as the ultimate point of all their measurements is not inherently clear; although Mechain and Delambre's adventures in immediately post-revolutionary France are certainly interesting in and of themselves, it can be tedious going. On the other hand, I for one would have liked some more detail on how exactly they were carrying out these measurements, how the circles really worked, etc. Although that would have lost even more general readers, surely. It's important to read the section on the error itself closely or you will miss it and its significance.

It's a good introduction as to how the metrc system came about and how it was initially adopted. The ultimate goal was to have based the meter on an actual physical object, in this case the size of the Earth. On one hand, it wasn't really essential that the meter be based on anything in particular, just that the standard and copies of it were created with precision and accuracy. After all, any standard measure will do, in theory. On the other hand, their pursuit was perfection in the ideal -- sort of an uber-essentialst position -- and perfection in that conceptual world was rooted in Nature with a capital N.

The second half of the book really gets going and explains what the significance of their measurements were and what it meant for developing the metric system. This is when we really see what the detailed descriptions of both Delambre's and Mechain's field methods were all about. From there Alder gives a brief history of how the metric system was adopted in various countries -- or not -- and provides good context for US readers as to how it came not to be adopted here (which is similar as to why it almost didn't become adopted at all).

See here for a timeline of the meter.

So, I'd recommend it. A good read if you can make it through the first half.
<>Homo hobbitus update Hobbit hominids lived the island life
A tantalising piece of evidence has been added to the puzzle over so-called "hobbit" hominids found in a cave in a remote Indonesian island, whose discovery has ignited one of the fiercest rows in anthropology.

. . .
In a study that appears on Wednesday in the British journal Biology Letters, evolutionary zoologists at Imperial College London believe the hobbits may well have achieved their tininess naturally, through evolutionary pressure.

The principle under scrutiny here is called the "island rule."

Hawks has two posts on the island rule here and here.
Pre-Incan Metallurgy Discovered
Metals found in lake mud in the central Peruvian Andes have revealed the first evidence for pre-Colonial metalsmithing there.

These findings illustrate a way that archaeologists can recreate the past even when looters have destroyed the valuable artifacts that would ordinarily be relied upon to reveal historical secrets. For instance, the new research hints at a tax imposed on local villages by ancient Inca rulers to force a switch from production of copper to silver.

Pre-Colonial bronze artifacts have previously been found in the central Peruvian Andes dating back to about 1000 AD, after the fall of the Wari or Huari civilization , the largest empire in the Andes before the Incas . However, it has been unclear how metallurgy had developed there, or whether or not these artifacts even came from the Andes, instead perhaps coming from trading with coastal villages.
Shaveblogging sidetrack
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a travel-size tube of Alba Botanicals:

Overall I'll give it a thumbs up. It's got the consistency of athletes foot cream (e.g., Lotrimin) for a guy reference. An interesting property is that you can't see it when it is applied; it doesn't foam up or anything. This means you have to pay attention when you're putting it on to make sure you have applied it everywhere. This also means that you don't have a marker to know where you have already shorn. Thus, one must pay some additional attention.

It seems to be developed more for modern multi-blade razors in mind. It feels okay with my old double-edge single blade, but regular canned goop reduces irritation more, IMO. It seems closer than the canned goop, too, probably because there is less stuff that can gum up the blade while it's being moved across the face. And, as indicated above, unless you have dark hair you have to pay attention to where you've already gone.

I'll have to have a go with it with the multi-blade that I keep around and see how that works. Otherwise, it has the ArchaeoBlog seal of approval.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Archaeologists aim to uncover lost Crafta Webb hamlet
Herefordshire Council’s archaeologists are helping to uncover the mystery of the lost Crafta Webb hamlet.

The former settlement on Bredwardine Hill grew rapidly in the early 1800s as a result of the George Jarvis Charity.

Jarvis left £30,000 in his will to help the poor of the three villages of Bredwardine, Staunton on Wye and Letton and this led to the hamlet’s population growing to more than 400 by the mid 19th century.
Book Review: Underground! : The Disinformation Guide to Ancient Civilizations, Astonishing Archaeology and Hidden History

Where did "modern" civilization begin? What lies beneath the waves? Do myths describe interstellar impact? How'd they lift that stone? Was the Ark of the Covenant a mechanical device? Were there survivors of an Atlantean catastrophe? Who really discovered the "New" World? "Hidden history" continues to fascinate an ever wider audience. In this massive compendium, editor Preston Peet brings together an all-star cast of contributors to question established wisdom about the history of the world and its civilizations. Peet and anthology contributors guide us through exciting archeological adventures and treasure hunts, ancient mysteries, lost or rediscovered technologies, and assorted "Forteana," using serious scientific studies and reports, scholarly research, and some plain old fringe material, as what is considered "fringe" today is often hard science tomorrow.Contributors include: Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods, Underworld). . .

Lots of red flags there. . . . . .
Conversation: Lost Voices of Jamestown
In May 1607, English colonists sent by the Virginia Company landed at Jamestown Island and began building a fort to protect against Indian attack. Archaeologist Beverly ("Bly") Straube co-authored a study for the National Park Service that led directly to the discovery of James Fort in 1994. This spring Queen Elizabeth will visit Jamestown to celebrate its 400th anniversary. In anticipation of her arrival, Straube spoke with Archaeology about the wealth of finds unearthed at the site.
Mexico researchers find child sacrifices
Archeologists have discovered the remains of two dozen children who were apparent sacrificial victims to a rain god by Mexican Indians nearly a thousand years ago, researchers said Tuesday.

The bones of the children, dating from about 950 to 1150, were found on the outskirts of the Toltec archaeological zone of Tula, said Luis Gamboa, an archaeologist with the National Institute of Anthropology and History. The discovery about 40 miles north of Mexico City predates the Aztecs, an advanced civilization conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century.

The bodies of the children, who ranged in age from 5 to about 15, were found in a single pit during excavations that began last month near a police station just outside the archaeological site.
A team of archaeologists excavating a vaulted grave near the village of Fiscardo on Kefalonia have unearthed a collection of Roman gold jewellery, pottery and bronze offerings dating back to 146 BC, Associated Press reports today. Isolated traces of what may have been a small theatre was also uncovered.

According to Associated Press, the building housed five burials including a large vaulted grave and a stone coffin. Previous excavations in the area have uncovered the remains of houses, a bath complex and a cemetery, all dating to Roman times.

And don't forget to check out the Tomb Raider anniversary wallpaper! I dunno. I think she's had work done. . . . .
Seattlest Urban Archaeology Club: the Seattle Municipal Railway
Note the asphalt that has been scraped away. Were we prone to spewing post-modern drivel, we might utter something melodramatic like, "notice the thin veneer of modernity blanketting the ruins of the collective past that we so quickly forget!" Then we'd make a crack about the quick rise and fall of the automobile as an efficient means of tranport in the ever-increasing density of the city --and how we can look to the past to save us in the future. Oh, History!

It's a neat article with several photos. I drive within a block of this bridge every morning and work about a mile away from it. The last two are really classic archaeology pictures showing features beneath a removed stratum. Appears as if they just scraped and repaved, so it's all still preserved underneath.
Amateur archaeologist illuminates past
It was almost 17 years ago when Van Dinh Thanh, while panning for gold on the banks of the Po Co River in Sa Thay Commune, reached down and picked up what he thought was a golden nugget. On closer inspection he discovered that the object was a worked piece of stone. Later he was to learn that it was a prehistoric stone hammer. The discovery fired his passion for ancient artefacts and was the start of the young gold prospector’s new life as an amateur archaeologist.

"I found this stone so strange. It thought it can’t have been naturally shaped the way it was so I decided to ask other people about it. After talking to a number of tribal elders and archaeologists, I discovered that my stone had been worked in prehistoric times. From that moment on, I started my quest for more stone artefacts," said Thanh.

One would hope he's not just looting.
Four skeletons have been found on a building site in Plymouth's city centre.The bones - thought to date back to the late-1600s - were unearthed last week on the former Crescent Cars site at the junction of Athenaeum Street and Notte Street.

The first set of bones was found over a week ago. However, two or three more skeletons were discovered by archaeologists working on the site on Thursday and Friday last week.

A team of experts from Exeter Archaeology has been investigating the remains and the team is planning to move the bones this week after it acquires a burial licence. History experts from Plymouth City Council have also been involved.
It's nice to be appreciated Our Opinion: Archaeologists dig our past
Thank heavens for archaeologists. Those digging near the old Mission San Agustín uncovered 2,000-year-old arrowheads mere feet from a 1930s barbecue pit.
The project by Desert Archaeology Inc. gives more evidence to the belief the Tucson area is the longest continuously inhabited region in the U.S., stretching back at least 4,000 years.
The new evidence also shows multiple eras of human beings in one spot going back 2,500 years or more.
The work precedes reconstruction of the mission as the crown jewel in Tucson Origins Heritage Park for the Rio Nuevo development.
Many findings now being unearthed in the core of our city are priceless relics of our extraordinarily deep roots. Tucson is wise to ensure such exploration before construction.

In appreciation we will not comment on the lame joke. That's the whole thing, too.

THEY came, they saw, they conquered. Or in this case, destroyed.

Diggers at an archaeological site took just minutes to do what the ancient Britons failed to manage.

A Roman fort had withstood the ravages of time and tribesmen until heavy-handed experts mistakenly decided to uncover its secrets with a mechanical excavator.

It seems it's an archaeology firm that dug the trench. But it's only a 3-foot trench, so it doesn't appear as if the whole site was gouged out, they just lost the opportunity to dig the trench by hand.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Archaeology Channel video This from Pettigrew:
The ruins of Pompeii are crumbling, but the
digital imaging project known as CyArk is generating a
three-dimensional record of the site that will be available for
future generations. This part of the ambitious CyArk Project is
described in Pompeii: A CyArk Case Study, the latest video feature on
our nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The Archaeology Channel

Pompeii exemplifies CyArk, a project of the Kacyra Family Foundation
that is preserving the world's most valued cultural heritage sites in
three-dimensional digital form. Buried in A.D. 79 beneath a thick
mantle of volcanic deposits by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, much of
Pompeii has been uncovered, only to decay steadily from natural and
human causes. This video shows how CyArk is preserving the site in
digital imagery through laser scanning technology and the most
accurate 3D models possible today.
Ministry of silly links You might have heard of these archaeologists
GIOVANNI BATTISTA BELZONI (1778-1823). Italian. Belzoni removed the colossal bust of Ramesses II at Thebes for shipment to England, where it's on display at the British Museum.

FLAVIO BIONDO (1392-1463). Italian. Regarded by some as the first archaeologist, Flavio explored and documented the ruins and topography of ancient Rome.

HOWARD CARTER (1874-1939). British. His 15-year search led to the discovery of the century: the well-preserved tomb of King Tutankhamun, which Carter unearthed in 1922 at ancient Thebes. The British Museum's "Treasures of Tutankhamun" tour, which ran from 1972 to 1979, was America's first museum blockbuster.

But read through to the end.
Archaeologists unearthing parts of an underground Roman aqueduct in Lincoln have found the first evidence that it was actually used, contrary to previous thinking.

The aqueduct, near Lincoln’s Nettleham Road, has been known about for centuries, and archaeological investigations of it were carried out in the 1950s and 70s, with no firm evidence for their ever carrying water being found. However, with the recent start of a housing development on the site, the time came for sections of the piping to be removed and studied thoroughly.

Why might they build such a thing and never use it? You have to read a bit further down:
The Roman plumbing system is constructed from a series of terracotta pipes surrounded with ‘Roman concrete’, a lime mortar mixed with brick dust and chips (opus sigininum). The sealed construction meant that theoretically, water could be pressurised and transported uphill.

And apparently there is an uphill component to the system, so it is plausible that it could have been built for this purpose, but they were unable to make it function as designed. Should be interesting to see if it really could have worked.
Del. Archaeologists Wrap-Up Artifact Find
Friday is the last day Delaware archaeologists will recover artifacts from a ship that sank in 1774.

Daniel Griffith leads the Lewes Maritime Archaeology Project. He said he and a team of archaeologists have recovered thousands of items from the Severn in the last two years.

The cargo ship sank 233 years ago off the coast of Delaware. Griffith said it was hauling all kinds of products from Britain to America to be sold.
We do that to (certain) people Mayor puts faith in convict town
MENTION the word archaeology to Joe Khattar, a property developer, and his grumble is audible. Late last year building was halted for three months on his retail and residential project on the edge of Parramatta's CBD, as archaeologists sifted through the site for signs of European and Aboriginal settlement.

They found nothing. "It's a waste of time," Mr Khattar said.

Parramatta is on the cusp of a big redevelopment. A newly published city plan aims to create 50,000 jobs in four years. Mr Khattar's 140 apartments and 9000 metres of office space are part of that plan.
Still a mystery: Archaeologists tour recently found site
When Colington resident Scott Dawson came upon an earth-works while exploring the dense woods on Roanoke Island some weeks ago, heart rates soared and imaginations took flight. Had someone finally found the site of Fort Raleigh?

Southeast Archaeological Center scientists from the National Park Service (NPS) combed the forest this week, with other local park service employees, and admitted they've never seen anything quite like the network of rutted trails that spread seemingly without rhyme or reason throughout the woods. However, they were skeptical that the find is 16th Century.

The historian for the NPS's Outer Banks Group, Doug Stover, said, "We think it's either Civil War era, or something linked to the Freedman's Colony, because Fort Huger was just north of this area, and the main residences of the Freedman's Colony were only a short distance south if it."

Quick! Someone with access to Google Earth get a close up!
TV dinners 'are today's campfire'
The television is a "virtual campfire" for today's generation, according to an academic at Cambridge University. It is a place where people gather to discover relevant information as they eat, echoing the behaviour of our ancestors who met around the campfire to share food and tell stories.

Martin Jones, a professor of archaeology, claims that eating in front of the television is "a natural consequence of human evolution".

The findings are based on archaeological evidence from 12 different ages of human existence, spanning half a million years. Prof Jones found that, as humans evolved, their lives became more complex and how they ate together reflected this.

Primitive Neanderthals ate alone in their caves while "hunter-gatherers", who relied on co-operation to catch food, ate in groups.

That seems a bit weird, especially the bit about poor Neanderthals eating alone in caves. That and the "12 different ages of human existence". Still, an interesting venture into gastronomic archaeology.

Got that link from Junkfood Science. It also reminded me of another article wherein a guy decided to eat like a Victorian for a week. Read the link for the vast quantities and types of food. There was also an episode of the History Channel's Our Generation that looked at what the "typical American family" ate in something like 1776, 1876, and 1950 or thereabouts. Those things are always a little iffy because there's really no such thing as a "typical American family" from whatever period. In this case, they used more or less upper middle class urban dwellers as their typical, which left out probably the vast majority of the country (though in fairness, they were probably more interested in what today's middle to upper middle class would compare to then).

Monday, April 16, 2007

Two on gobs of tombs found in China
50 more ancient tombs unearthed in central China
Chinese archaeologists have discovered a complex of 50 tombs, most of which date back 1,800 years, in Jiaozuo City, in central China's Henan Province.

Some of the tombs date from the Han dynasty (206 BC to 220), others belong to the Eastern Jin dynasty (317 to 420), the Northern Dynasties period (386 to 581) and the Tang dynasty (618 to 907).

Archaeologists unearthed more than 200 historical artifacts, including pottery utensils, china objects, bronze basins, iron items, jade articles and pearl ornaments.

Ancient tombs in N. China recall past glories
Archaeologists have unearthed 146 cultural relics from a complex of 17 tombs dating back to the dynasties of Song (960 to 1279) and Jin (1115 to 1234) in north China's Hebei Province.

The archaeologists say the tombs are found during construction of a power plant in Shexian County.

The historical relics include 126 coins, seven porcelain jars, four ceramic bowls, a silver earring, two bronze rings, a jade bead and a brick bearing a warrior's portrait.
Jawbone found in Norman is more than 100 years old
An archaeologist says a human jawbone found in Norman this week is 100 to 150 years old.
The bone was found at a construction site and turned over to police.

Police Captain Leonard Judy says the archaeologist believes the jawbone is from a woman and is probably not from an American Indian.

Judy says investigators believe the bone came from sand that was collected from near the North Canadian River near Oklahoma City and taken to the construction site.

That's the whole thing.
Archaeologists looking for treasurers[sic] of Revolutionary War hero
Searchers found a brass candleholder, a small British cannonball and horse gear as they search for details about the state's craftiest Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion.
Marion was known as the Swamp Fox for hiding in Lowcountry bogs while organizing attacks on the British. His hideouts still are a mystery.

But archaeologists are opening one site where Marion may have spent a few weeks in 1780.
Point State Park find may be part of Fort Pitt
Crews digging in Point State Park may have unearthed a true treasure.

While excavating in the park recently, workers discovered a piece of log that appears to be part of the original Fort Pitt, said Christina Novak, spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the park's owner.

But members of one local group critical of the way the Downtown park's renovation work has been handled said the state initially did not know what a priceless find it had on its hands. They're worried it might not take adequate measures to document and protect such treasures.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Non-archaeological book review
In this month's American Scientist. It's a review of two books on the epidemiologist John Snow, famous for what many have called the first scientific epidemiological study of disease transmission:
. . .Snow focused on a sudden eruption of cholera within a single densely populated neighborhood. He showed that use of water from the Broad Street pump was a common factor in almost all of the cholera deaths and also that nonuse of that water was a characteristic of two groups (workhouse residents and brewery workers) that suffered little from the disease. In likening the behavior of the apparent cholera agent to a living thing, Snow is often listed as a pioneer of the germ theory.

The review is about two books on Snow, which the reviewer thinks tend to gloss over the complexities of the scientific milieu in which Snow operated and how his views eventually came to be accepted:
The form is as follows: a protagonist, an outsider representing truth and virtue (qualities that are linked through some unexplained dynamic of reciprocity), takes on entrenched intolerance.

I've blogged on this scenario before, what I usually call the Hollywood view of science. I admit I have something of a negative bias against these sorts of explanations of How Science Really Works, probably from my early days of being a young, green scientist reading S.J. Gould with rapt attention (note: when in academia, one learns rather quickly that quoting Gould as some sort of scripture doesn't impress too many actual academics). Gould wrote on this a lot, mostly taking on the Hollywood stereotype, which he generally ascribed to some sort of textbook phenomenon that he gave a name to, but which I can't remember right now (how's that for a Dickensian sentence!). He would trace certain textbook presentations of how a scientific revolution came about, going farther back into the literature and showing how and when the story first developed and was then passed on uncritically throughout many editions and authors until the story became more legend than anything else. So we end up with a story of the bold truth-seeking revolutionary scientist going up against and eventually prevailing over the establishment thinkers of the day -- mired in their old-fashioned ideas about how the world ought to work -- while the hero becomes the beacon of yet another new age of reason.

One wonders how this script came about, and whether it's a later last-couple-of-centuries Western concept or somethng basic to human nature. I tend to think the latter since we have this kind of thing all over the literature. Prometheus bringing fire and wisdom to mankind -- and being rather brutally punished for it -- springs immediately to mind. Come to think of it, there were a couple of Star Trek episodes devoted to something of a debunking of the mythology of a man. They both had to do with Zefram Cochrane who invented the "warp drive". In the original series, they found him marooned on some planet and tried to convince him to come back to civilization, but he refused after hearing what sort of a hero society had made out of him. The second was one of the Next Generation movies where they went back in time and found him to be a hard-drinking womanizer rather than the brilliant and upstanding scientist everyone on the crew thought he was.

Anyway, back from sidetrack:
The failure to explain how Snow is relevant to us reflects a broader cognitive failure, jointly of historical analysis and the representation of epidemiological reasoning. The chief historical fallacy is presentism. Retrospectively, the story is so simple: good versus bad, truth versus error. Our post-Koch conviction that Snow was on the right track makes it seem as if his arguments should have been enough for his contemporaries too, had they only been honest. Both authors struggle to label those who disagreed with Snow.

. . .

They characterize the therapeutics of Snow's age as errant quackery uninformed by experience or theory. Some of it was. But medical theories were rational (if, in retrospect, partial or erroneous); doctors developed, and shared experiences; and, for many, their commitment to patients or to science cost them their lives. Snow was not the only hero.

This "presentism" is very common in popular histories of science, taking what we know now and projecting that back on Snow's contemporaries. How could they not see the truth of Snow's ways and the error of their own? Why, it's so obvious! They must have had some selfish and sinister reason for refusing to listen to reason. But as Hamlin argues, and Gould did this remarkably well also, they had reason for believing the way they did. As Kuhn has argued, existing paradigms are in place for a reason: they seem to work. This also gave them reason to question Snow's methods, some in terms of their own paradigm, others that are stll true today. For example, Hamlin notes that even in our own day, Snow's hypothesis had some serious methodological difficulties:

First, many, even most, who presumably drank bad water did not get the disease. . . .Second, since the drinking of bad water had long preceded the epidemic, it could not be its cause.

So, not quite the slam dunk that we are led to believe.

As I said, I'm more or less biased in this regard, and though I have some experience in clinical trials and epidemiology, I'm no expert, so take my comments and the reviewer's with appropriate doses of NaCl. But the article at the link is free (as are several others in the current issue) so read the whole thing yourselves.

UPDATE: Also part of my bias, and I think some explanation for it: In our first-year theory classes with RC Dunnell, we spent a lot of time on the New Archaeology and its contrast with the Old Archaeology, the culture historians. Dunnell made a point of defending the culture historians against the charges of the new archaeologists that the former were atheoretical and "unscientific" (which they, of course, were, explicitly). There's much to be said for those "old archeologists" who developed a number of methods, notably seriation, that were highly quantitative and methodologically rigorous, if developed more or less inductively rather than through deduction like we usually decribe the scientific method (though I suppose one could do a whole blog on THAT).

Friday, April 13, 2007

In the mailbag today:
Molly Hey ("rendering")
OPRAH WINFREY ("We are ready to give you a loan")
principles fair ("gone")
camfrog antivires ("Stock Trader Alert")
And now. . . .the news from the EEF

Press report: "A royal destruction"
A history of damages done to the VoK tombs, plus a
worthwhile interview with Dina Bakhoum of the TMP.

Press report: "Egypt Tomb Paintings Imaged in Hi-Res"
"Italian publisher De Agostini is working on a project which
aims to produce the most complete digital archive of Egypt's
ancient art and architecture. New imaging technology can
detect and even revive faded paintings. The technology has
yielded, for the first time, accurate reproductions of the tombs'
scenes (...) The pictures are published by De Agostini in
Hawass's new book, "The Royal Tombs of Thebes: A
Gateway Through Eternity," the first of a series of three
books on the Egyptian heritage."

Press report: "Legacy of the Pharaohs: Welcome to the
treasure dome "
Report on the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) at Giza.

Press report: "Egypt's Karnak Temple to be archaeological site"
"We shall soon formalise the decision to transform the site of the
Al Karnak temple in archaeological site with the purpose to
preserve it for the future and allow it to enjoy the internationally
and locally recognised privileges to the sites of archaeological interest."

Press report: "Only Egyptians to have access to mummies"
"Only Egyptian archaeologists will have access to ancient Egyptian
mummies while the foreigners will be allowed to examine them
only in the presence and under the supervision of their Egyptian

Press report: "The inside story"
About Houdin's pyramid theory. Nothing new, except:
"To prove Houdin's theory, an international team is now being
assembled to probe the pyramid using radar and heat-detecting
cameras supplied by a French defence firm. However, Zahi
Hawass has turned down Houdin's request to have his theory
proved. Hawass said Houdin had issued his request using an
Egyptian "cover institution" that did not have the proper expertise
to examine the Great Pyramid. " So no support by ZH after all...
-- Another press report about the SCA's "No!":

Press report: "Roman theatre unearthed in Egypt"
"Near the site of the excavated fortress [in N. Sinai],
archaeologists have also been excavating the site of a
5th Century, Roman amphitheatre. They say it is one of
the largest ever to be discovered in Egypt. The amphitheatre
was once supported by 30 columns. (..) The amphitheatre is
currently in the process of being restored. Authorities intend
to rebuild the wooden stage and seating area. "
[Also some garbled pumice/fort stuff in there.]

Zahi Hawass, A Group of Unique Statues Discovered at
Giza I: Statues of the Overseers of the Pyramid Builders, in:
Rainer Stadelmann, Hourig Sourouzian (eds.), Kunst des
Alten Reiches: Symposium im Deutschen Archäologischen
Institut Kairo am 29. und 30. Oktober 1991, (Sonderschrift
des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo,
vol. 28), Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 1995, pp. 91-95,
4 pls. - pdf-file (7.5 MB)

Thus endeth the EEF news
Rio Nuevo dig yielding "layer cake" of history, prehistory
Archaeologists are having a field day with their trowels, scraping away layers of dirt just outside what was the outer wall of the Mission San Agustín.
Three weeks of excavation uncovered 2,000-year-old arrowheads. These lie a few feet from the first mission-era American Indian home discovered in Tucson, and they're only a few feet away from a 1930s barbecue pit.
"I can't think of anywhere in the United States where you have this layer cake of cultural change," said Michael Brack, project director at Desert Archaeology, which is doing the dig.
Dig lured history buffs to Pineywoods
By midmorning, voices, laughter and the sound of shovels scraping at smooth earth arise from deep within the Davy Crockett National Forest in Houston County.

Emerging from a bend in the trail, the thick hues of green and brown are interrupted by colorful groups of individuals who have traveled to this prehistoric spot in the woods from all corners of the nation, clustering around and beneath bright blue tarps.

Each is a participant of the Passport in Time archaeological program with the U.S. Forest Service.
UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Showcases 'Death Pit' at Open House May 5
In south-central Turkey, the locals call the earthen mound Domuztepe, Turkish for pig hill. But a team of UCLA and University of Manchester archaeologists know that the former stomping grounds of wild boar had a less bucolic past — thanks to the discovery of a mass burial site they call the "death pit."

Between 1997 and 2002, the team painstakingly excavated the remains of more than 40 decapitated and dismembered people who met their end some 7,500 years ago. Although the mound is one of earliest mass burial sites ever discovered, the archaeologists still aren't sure what they have on their hands.
Digging Up Delaware's History
Archaeologists are digging for answers about who lived on Delaware farmland in the early 19th and 20th century.

So far, more than 25,000 artifacts have been unearthed in just one month's time.

"That's one of the neat things about this site. Every day there's something new that adds a little bit more to what we know," said archaeologist Kimberly Morrell.

Clay marbles tell something about the Middletown site, and so does the leg of a doll. Children once lived here in what is believed to be the entire brick foundation of a sharecropper's house built in the late 1800's.

UPDATE: More here with some photos.
Protein links T. rex to chickens
Researchers compared organic molecules preserved in the T. rex fossils with those of living animals, and found they were similar to chicken protein.

The discovery of protein in dinosaur bones is a surprise - organic material was not thought to survive this long.

A US team of researchers have published the finding in Science journal.

The team says their technique could help reveal evolutionary relationships between other living and extinct organisms.

The finding is consistent with the idea that birds can trace a direct evolutionary line to dinosaurs.

It's actually bone collagen that was preserved in trace amounts. Unclear why it should have survived this long and the article doesn't give any specific reason. Maybe anoxic conditions in the mud?

[Please note: No innocent chicken jokes were harmed in the making of this post]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Experts back away from Jesus's tomb claims
Several scholars who appeared in the documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus — which purported that a tomb found in a Jerusalem suburb was that of Jesus of Nazareth — have backtracked on their claims, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

The controversy comes two months after the documentary, produced by Canada's James Cameron and shot by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, aired on the Discovery Channel.

The documentary explored the theory that a tomb in the suburb of Talpiot is that of Jesus of Nazareth and his family, including his mother, a wife who filmmakers believe to be Mary Magdalene and a son.

OOOOooooo. . . .so unexpected!
! ! ! ! ! Archaeologists find 3 prehistoric bodies in SE Mexico
Mexican archaeologists found remains of two women and a man that can be traced to more than 10,000 years ago in the Mayan area of Tulum, Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute said in a statement on Tuesday.

The remains were being examined by laboratories in Britain, the United States and Mexico, all of which had said the remains were people between 10,000 and 14,500 years ago, said Carmen Rojas, an archaeologist quoted in the statement.

"This makes southeastern Mexico one of the few areas with a proven prehistoric presence in America," said Rojas.

Errrrrr. . . .badly written article. Not sure about the dating of these things, whatever they turn out to be. Certainly a 14,000-year old body would be big news.
Expert: ‘We are losing archaeology ...’
Can you imagine living in an era where hobbies include carving canoes from mere conch shells? Florida’s ancestors have done that and more.

As part of Florida’s archaeological month, the Seminole Historical Society gathered March 29 at the Seminole Community Library to hear a program on early ancestry.

The guest speaker was Loren Blakeley, former president of the Florida Anthropological Society, who has had an unyielding interest in artifacts since very young, even as his parents would plead with him to stop collecting his “garbage bags” full of fossils and artifacts. His interest continues today.

“Regionally we are losing archaeology due to our development,” said Blakeley. “Everyone must make an effort to preserve heritage, so we all should become preservationists.”
Antiquities Market update In the U.S., a clash of concerns in the antiquities market
The rumor swept through the aisles of the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York as art dealers traded gossip with collectors: Dina Powell was going to China.

Normally a routine overseas trip by a government figure - Powell is an assistant secretary of state - would hardly warrant attention from experts on Song dynasty ceramics or Buddhist statuary. But in their minds, this time their very livelihoods were at stake. The fear was that Powell, who heads the State Department's bureau of educational and cultural affairs, was going to Beijing to announce a sweeping ban on the import of Chinese art and artifacts predating 1911. The Chinese requested the ban in 2004, arguing that American demand for such objects was spurring the looting of valuable archaeological sites in China.

. . .

At the center of the controversy is not a ranking official but an obscure State Department advisory panel that has become the bête noire of collectors of everything from Roman vases to African statuary. The panel, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, has been the focus of fierce battles between archaeologists, who say that the art market fosters the looting of historic sites, and dealers, who say that broad import restrictions threaten collecting by private individuals and museums in the United States.

Some good points brought up in there, such as whether the import restrictions should/do apply to anything old or just "culturally significant" items.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More SEX at ArchaeoBlog Ethiopia: Ancient Phallic Stones Uncovered
Some 16 phallic stones have been uncovered in Gedeb Woreda, Gedo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State, the Zonal Trade and Industry Department said.

The discovery of the stelae adds to attractions in the area for tourists to come and marvel at, especially in connection with the Ethiopian Millennium celebrations, it said.

Okay, no photos and t's not clear what these 'phallic' things are. Sounds like they're just stela.
On the orientation of Roman towns in Italy
As is well known, several Roman sources report on the existence of a town foundation ritual,
inherited from the Etruscans, which allegedly included astronomical references. However, the
possible existence of astronomical orientations in the layout of Roman towns has never been
tackled in a systematic way. As a first step in this direction, the orientation of virtually all
Roman towns in Italy (38 cities) is studied here. Non-random orientation patterns emerge
from these data, aiming at further research in this field.

It's a paper. I have not read it.
Hmmmmm. . . . . Roman-style column bolsters Han Dynasty tomb
Archeologists excavate near a Roman-style column in a newly found Han Dynasty tomb (202 BC - 220 AD) in Xiao County, east China's Anhui Province, April 3, 2007.

No more text than that. But there is a picture:

I don't actually know what to make of that.
Cavemen Chose Caves on Five Criteria
House buyers today usually peruse properties with a checklist of desired features in mind. This aspect of human behavior has apparently not changed much over the millennia, according to a new study that found prehistoric cave dwellers in Britain did exactly the same thing when choosing their homes.

The recently released three-year-long survey of approximately 230 caves in the Yorkshire Dales and 190 caves in the northern England Peak District determined that people there from 4,000 to 2,000 B.C. selected caves based on at least five criteria.

"There was a higher frequency of prehistoric usage of those caves with larger entrances and deeper passages, also of caves that were higher in altitude and caves with entrances that faced towards the east or to the west," co-author Andrew Chamberlain of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology told Discovery News.
FSU anthropologist finds earliest evidence of maize farming in Mexico
he shift from foraging to the cultivation of food was a significant change in lifestyle for these ancient people and laid the foundation for the later development of complex society and the rise of the Olmec civilization, Pohl said. The Olmecs predated the better known Mayans by about 1,000 years.

"Our study shows that these early maize cultivators located themselves on barrier islands between the sea and coastal lagoons, where they could continue to fish as well as grow crops," she said.

During her field work in Tabasco seven years ago, Pohl found traces of pollen from primitive maize and evidence of forest clearing dating to about 5,100 B.C. Pohl's current study analyzed phytoliths, the silica structure of the plant, which puts the date of the introduction of maize in southeastern Mexico 200 years earlier than her pollen data indicated. It also shows that maize was present at least a couple hundred years before the major onset of forest clearing. Traces of charcoal found in the soil in 2000 indicated the ancient farmers used fire to clear the fields on beach ridges to grow the crops.
The evolution of sex roles
Some anthropologists make a case that our extinct female cousins hunted alongside the males during an epoch when our own ancestral women were gathering plants and doing other (essential) work. They argue that the appearance of gender roles was critical to humans' eventual domination of the globe - and that the importance of the women of the Pleistocene period has been vastly understated.

It's a fairly long article. I remember this coming up a while ago, but I can't find any of my posts on it. I did locate one of John Hawks' though and he seemed none too impressed by the whole thing. There are a couple of bits in the article that piqued my interest though. This first was Olga Soffer suggesting that it was the recognition of different sexes that led to symbolic thinking:
Olga Soffer, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois and an author, with Adovasio and Jake Page, of The Invisible Sex, says it was our ancestors' understanding of gender and gender roles that made us fully, cognitively human as recently as 40,000 to 50,000 years ago - the time that cave art and jewelry start to appear.

Later on, Richard Klein notes that
Gender distinctions, in his more mainstream view, go back more than a million years. He believes a genetic change spurred artistic and cultural advances.

A mutation in the DNA, he says, might have reorganized the brain without changing its size. It may have helped humans create more complex communication - thus offering an advantage that would spread through the population.

I suppose, logically, nothing says that the latter precludes the former, if one grants that maybe gender recognition is a result of that genetic change.

Still, with the possible exception of the fracture patterns in both Neanderthal sexes being similar (I haven't seen the paper so I don't know how extensively this was examined), I still tend not to see much convincing argument that one can sex artifacts as far as which gender made or used them.

(HT to Patrick at TPW)

Monday, April 09, 2007

San Antonio trench thought to be pre-Alamo Mexican bunker
Historians say an old trench discovered in San Antonio might have been used by Mexican soldiers as fortification against Texan rebels during a siege that preceded the Battle of the Alamo.

Workers found the trench off Main Plaza, San Antonio's historic city center, as they were digging up the street a couple of weeks ago to install a storm-water line, city officials said.

Archaeologists think the trench was built by Mexican forces under the command of Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos. From October to December 1835, the city was under siege by Texas rebels in an early campaign of the Texas Revolution.
2,200-year old amphoras contained wine
Parts of amphoras believed to be 2,200 years old uncovered in a Bosnia-Herzegovina swamp are suspected to have carried wine, experts said Monday.

Snjezana Vasilj, head of a Bosnian team of archaeologists, said a preliminary analysis showed amphoras, found at what are believed remains of the first-ever discovered Illyrian ships, were used for transporting wine, the Bosnian news agency FENA reported.

Late in March, Vasilj and her team found what they believed were the Illyrian ships in the Desilo location, more than 20 feet under the water level of the Hutovo Blato swamp, near Capljina in southern Bosnia.
Mystery of the fat Venus
We all know about those hand-sized Ice Age women carved in stone – those plump ladies with huge breasts and behinds, tiny heads, artful hairdos and no faces.

They're known as Palaeolithic Venuses and they raise a lot of puzzling questions: How come these almost identical figurines were found all the way from France to Siberia? How come this stylised carving tradition was practised and passed down over 20,000 years? What purpose did they serve?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are archaeologists and art critics. Frankly, the Venuses are a mystery. But the mystery has just deepened and widened.

More on the idea that these were little porno figurines. I remain unconvinced.
Indiana Jones IV update Sir Sean is saying "maybe" to Indiana Jones 4
Directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are hoping the 76-year-old will feature in the fourth instalment.

Sir Sean, who has not appeared in any films since 2003, has apparently said he would consider returning if he liked the script.

Harrison Ford has already signed up to return as the daring archaeologist.
Archaeologists preserve history while building future
When Julia Mae Avery was a student at Colorado Women’s College in Denver, she was working on a paper dealing with the early history of Pueblo. Avery asked her dad, Pueblo dentist Willard S. Avery, for advice and he suggested she talk to a group of people in town that met regularly to discuss archaeology and history.

It was about the time that Western State University archaeologist C. T. Hurst and others from the Gunnison area had formed a group on the Western Slope that would be the beginning of the Colorado Archaeological Society and encouraged local groups to become official chapters.

By 1938, the Pueblo Archaeological and Historical Society officially had become a chapter of CAS and Avery, now 89, has been a dues-paying member ever since, even when her career as a school teacher took her to the coal camps of Northern Colorado.
Crew Finds Human Bones in Oakland County
Two sets of human bones that are believed to be at least hundreds of years old were found in Oakland County by an excavating crew clearing a site for a baseball field.

State Archaeologist John Halsey said the bones of an adult and child are likely 700 to 2,000 years old. The bones were found March 26 on White Lake Township property owned by the White Lake Presbyterian Church. The bones were turned over to the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office.

"That's been a migratory path for native people for thousands and thousands of years," Township Supervisor Mike Kowall said of the area.

That's the whole thing.
New Archaeology Channel video Richard Pettigrew emails their latest film. This week it's Amelia Earhart.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is
hot on the trail of clues that may lead to an answer to the question
of what happened to Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, on that
fateful day, July 2, 1937. Two of the chief TIGHAR reseachers are
Ric Gillespie, co-founder and Executive Director of the organization,
and Dr. Tom King, TIGHAR Senior Archaeologist. In late March 2007,
TIGHAR announced the discovery of a previously unknown diary of an
Associated Press reporter who was on the scene of the disappearance.
This news rekindled widespread media interest in the Earhart
mystery. TIGHAR's hypothesis that Earhart and Noonan landed and were
marooned and died on the tiny Pacific island of Nikumaroro elevates
archaeology to a chief research tool in the research. TIGHAR plans
its fifth expedition to Nikumaroro during July 2007.

Eh. I'm sure it's a fascinating film, but the whole "Where Is Amelia Earhart" issue leaves me cold. I wonder how many other 1-2-person aircraft or boats have gone completely missing over the years and no one bats an eye. Probably thousands. If Joe and Jane Schmoe's plane is flying over the Pacific and doesn't make it to its destination, we assume it had some sort of mechanical problem, fell into the ocean and sank to the bottom, unreachable except perhaps by some chance rendezvous with a deep-sea expedition. But let it be someone famous and every little tidbit of information leads people scurrying to test out their latest theory.

That's just kind of a generalized curmudgeonly rant, by the way. Whatever floats your boat (or sinks your plane!) I always say.

[Edit] At the time I am posting this, that video hasn't been put up yet.
YouTube goes experimental archaeology
Came across this video of some guy knapping a substantial chunk of flint/chert into a bunch of good sized blades using a horn core and an hammerstone. The technique is interesting; I'd never seen indirect percussion used like that before (with the antler held on his knees).

Doesn't appear to be any information about who made it, who the knapper is, or why it was done though.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Archaeology project goes national
An archaeology project involving middle school students from the University of Wyoming Lab School that began in the fall of 2005 is making news across the country.

Four of the 101 students involved in the “Unlocking Secrets in the Soil” project this school year have been selected to attend The History Channel-sponsored Save Our History National Youth Summit May 14-16, according to instructor and archaeologist Cynthia Webb. Webb said there were many students deserving of the honor to attend the summit, but The History Channel invited 10 grant winners, asking for representatives from each winner. Expenses are being paid by The History Channel.
Artifacts dug up near Main Plaza
Workers renovating Main Plaza have unearthed an old trench that might have protected Mexican troops from Texian rebels in the winter of 1835, a few months before the Battle of the Alamo.

If archaeologists are right, the discovery is a fortification built 172 years ago by soldiers under the command of Mexican Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cós, whose surrender to the Texians on Dec. 9, 1835, set the stage for Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's siege of the Alamo.

"Amazingly, just totally amazingly, we're pretty sure we've got about a 6-foot-wide section of that thing that's intact," said Mark Denton, an archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission.