Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blogging update
Last post for about two weeks MAYBE. I'm off to China tomorrow for a conference. I'll have enough time to do some sightseeing, but it's unclear how much time I'll have to blog.

OTOH, I might email Andie and see if she has time to link some stuff. Otherwise, I shall return around Nov. 12.

Extinctions update Dinosaurs this time: Dinosaur Deaths Outsourced to India?
A series of monumental volcanic eruptions in India may have killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, not a meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico. The eruptions, which created the gigantic Deccan Traps lava beds of India, are now the prime suspect in the most famous and persistent paleontological murder mystery, say scientists who have conducted a slew of new investigations honing down eruption timing.

"It's the first time we can directly link the main phase of the Deccan Traps to the mass extinction," said Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller. The main phase of the Deccan eruptions spewed 80 percent of the lava which spread out for hundreds of miles.

It is calculated to have released ten times more climate altering gases into the atmosphere than the nearly concurrent Chicxulub meteor impact, according to volcanologist Vincent Courtillot from the Physique du Globe de Paris.

The new part is the dating which seems to coincide with both the initial extinctions and the long recovery period.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Ideas About Human Migration From Asia To Americas
Questions about human migration from Asia to the Americas have perplexed anthropologists for decades, but as scenarios about the peopling of the New World come and go, the big questions have remained. Do the ancestors of Native Americans derive from only a small number of “founders” who trekked to the Americas via the Bering land bridge? How did their migration to the New World proceed? What, if anything, did the climate have to do with their migration? And what took them so long?

A team of 21 researchers, led by Ripan Malhi, a geneticist in the department of anthropology at the University of Illinois, has a new set of ideas. One is a striking hypothesis that seems to map the peopling process during the pioneering phase and well beyond, and at the same time show that there was much more genetic diversity in the founder population than was previously thought.

“Our phylogeographic analysis of a new mitochondrial genome dataset allows us to draw several conclusions,” the authors wrote.
Red-headed parthenogenetic lesbian Neanderthal chicks -- HERE ON ARCHAEOBLOG! Neanderthals didn't breed with men

Just read it.
Battlefield archaeology update Main Plaza finds discussed at meeting of archaeologists
Archaeologists who investigated an old trench uncovered during San Antonio's Main Plaza renovations found bits of ammunition, sword tips and other artifacts that tell the story of Mexican soldiers who dug in there to protect themselves from Texian rebels during an 1835 siege that preceded the battle of the Alamo.

A short distance away, beside the Bexar County Courthouse, the archaeologists from PBS&J of Austin found discarded animal bones, broken pottery, cooking utensils and other items in what was a trash pit used by both Native Americans and Spanish colonial settlers between the mid-1700s and early 20th century.

The archaeological dig in the heart of downtown was among the topics Saturday at the annual meeting of the Texas Archeological Society at the Menger Hotel.
Archaeologists in Puerto Rico surprised by discovery of Indian artifacts
U.S. and Puerto Rican archaeologists say they have uncovered what they believe to be one of the most important pre-Columbian sites found in the Caribbean, containing stones etched with ancient petroglyphs and graves that reveal unusual burial methods.

The stones at the site in southern Puerto Rico form a large plaza measuring some 130 feet by 160 feet (40 meters by 50 meters) that could have been used for ball games or ceremonial rites, said Aida Belen Rivera, director of the Puerto Rican Historic Conservation office.

The petroglyphs include the carving of a human figure with masculine features and frog legs. Archaeologists believe the site might belong to the Taino and pre-Taino cultures that inhabited the island before European colonization.

Roman tombstone found at Inveresk

The first Roman tombstone found in Scotland for 170 years has been unearthed at Carberry, near Inveresk.

The red sandstone artefact was for a man called Crescens, a bodyguard for the governor who ran the province of Britain for the Roman Emperor.

The National Museum of Scotland said the stone provided the strongest evidence yet that Inveresk was a pivotal Roman site in northern Britain.

UPDATE: More here.
Letters to the Crocodile God
Seventy-five miles south of Cairo, hidden by shifting sands on the edge of the desert, are the remains of the ancient oasis town of Tebtunis. Archaeologists and diggers clamber over the site, a collection of impressive ruins that sprawl across nearly 100 acres and more than 3,000 years. At dusk, the exposed walls and oblique light call to mind a giant desert labyrinth. At the south end of the site are the low ruins of a Greek settlement, including a massive temple to the crocodile god Sobek. To the north, later Byzantine and Islamic ruins once stood higher--10 to 12 feet in the 1930s--before unknown assailants knocked them down. But the true value of this old town is not in its remaining walls; it is in little flecks of paper that document three millennia of life here and across this region of Egypt.
How to be a music detective, Part I So anyway, a few months ago I heard this song from the '70s on the radio. I remembered it from my youth but, sadly, it was on one of those stations sans DJs that just plays the songs one after the other and you hear nothing about either the song or the artist. Stumped, I figured it would come to me.

It didn't. For months. I'd hear it every few weeks and listen intently to anything that might give it away. Of course, it was an instrumental so there were no lyrics that one could search on, and no chorus that might give away the name. Cursed, I trolled various internet fora trying, lamely, to describe this song; you can imagine trying to type out the words to describe an instrumental song. "Well, it's got this sax melody, see. . ." I knew it was the '70s, probably mid-decade, but that was it. No idea who did it. I tried searching the web using various search terms; no luck. I tried cruising around iTunes' 1970s compilation CDs and listening to snippets to see if I could find it; no luck. Finally, I quit actively searching, hoping it would come to me eventually, but it never did.

Until yesterday. I finally got to watch a vastly underrated movie -- Undercover Brother -- on TV and from the very beginning when, lo and behold, IT WAS THE SONG. Played for just about 30 seconds but THERE IT WAS. Eureka! A source! Off I went at the next opportunity to the local Barnes and Noble and straight to the soundtracks section. Undercover Brother! Put on the headphones at a listening station and click through the titles. There it was! #2!

Average White Band. Pick up the Pieces. Yeah, baby. I am just waiting to get home, download, and listen as many times as I want. Onto the iPod it goes! Probably along with "Play that funky music, white boy".

So there, gentle readers, patience and persistence pays off. It once took me 2 years to find a quote from William Gladstone about how societies treat their dead (look at cemetery web sites, half of them show the quote on their front page). I finally found the actual quote and the source in a book of quotations.

I was, um, looking because a retired (female) porn star emailed me asking about it. No, I did not get anything in return, only a hearty thank you and a virtual pat on the back. But I wanted something, oh yes I did. . . . .

A credit on a porno movie. Just like Cindy Brady!

UPDATE: Okay, I also downloaded Rubberband Man, which inspired me to troll YouTube. For your viewing pleasure, I give you the Making of the Rubberband Man Commercial:

On the nightstand 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Actually, it's on the nightstand and in the briefcase to read on the way to, from, and in China this week and next. The Wiki page has a few newspaper reviews, but I have yet to track down an academic one. The newspaper reviews there, including an interview with Indian Country which is the most interesting.

I have to wonder how much will be about the actual depopulation which seems to me to be the key issue. What is the evidence for it and what does the archaeology say about the distribution and density of population pre-contact? Seems to me a few years ago most of the conservative estimates put the loss at around 85% (see Vectors of Death by Ann Ramenofsky which has GOT to have the best book title ever). Ramenofsky based much of her work on her dissertation which compared archaeological manifestations both before and after contact. Population is certainly a dicey issue though and a lot of the literature tends to rely on. . . .ethnographic analogy, which is more or less what this book sets out to question.

UPDATE: I tracked down one review by Dean R. Snow in Science (Science 2 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5778, p. 1313 DOI: 10.1126/science.1128736). It pretty much tracks what some of the newspaper reviews have to say. Couple of passages (it's sub-only):
Along the way, Mann shoots down popular misconceptions that have been previously refuted by various authorities. I will cite just a few. . .Surprisingly simple hunting societies encountered in interior South America were the scattered remnants of more complex societies that had been devastated by epidemics, not pristine survivors from the stone age. Pizarro and Cort├ęs defeated American Indian empires because they had guns, cavalry, and germs on their side, not because the Incas and Aztecs were hobbled by superstition and other forms of inferiority. The American landscape was an anthropogenic one for millennia, which reverted temporarily to wilderness between the epidemic decline in Indian populations and resettlement by expanding Europeans. Deep anthropogenic soils and other archaeological evidence in the Amazon lowlands indicate that before 1492 Indian populations were much larger there than previously suspected. The last finding was particularly inspiring for the author.

I bolded that bit myself, since this seems to be the overarching story of American archaeology, and world archaeology in general: that modern technologically simple societies, from the !San of Africa to the Amerindians observed by early European explorers are somehow evolutionary holdovers from an earlier time. Probably goes back to the idea of evolution as a ladder that was overturned by Darwin, but still lived on in anthropology via the various stages concepts (stone age, bronze age, etc., egalitarian, chiefdom, etc.).

Unfortunately the book also contains overstatements, errors, and speculations of the kinds that creep in when an author's purpose is to make a strong case for a thesis. Again, I will cite just a few. It is unnecessary to argue that Europeans were "unbearably dirty" to make the case that Indians were not filthy savages or to repeat Henry Dobyns's wildly inflated population estimates to make the case that colonial era epidemics were unprecedented in their devastation--everybody was smelly in 1491, and 60% mortality is horrendous no matter what the absolute size of the population. Older is better in popular books, and Brazil's Lagoa Santa skeletons are dusted off again. But none of the surprisingly early dates claimed for these and other finds in eastern Brazil meet minimum scientific standards for reliability. The Great Law of the Iroquois is very different from the U.S. Constitution. The framers of the latter were inspired mainly by European philosophy, yet Mann repeats the modern myth that the framers of the Constitution "were pervaded by Indian ideals and images of liberty."

Doubtless there will be a lot of this sort of thing, which isn't really surprising for a non-specialist writer and in a book of such scope (though the Iroquois thing seems a bit overdrawn to be a result of mere ignorance of the literature).

Snow sums it up:
The book is a good read. For the most part, Mann paints a fair picture of American Indians, and his account is largely free of fawning political correctness. But readers who know the subject well will question the polemics, erratic organization, and various factual statements. Critical readers should use 1491 only as a starting point, following the author's excellent notes and bibliography to explore more specific topics in the vast literature pertaining to Columbus's Other World.

That seems to be the general consensus. In the first few pages of the book I haven't seen anything to raise my eyebrows so we'll see.
Egypt and the Media update Link sent by Nigel Hetherington himself: Preserving the past: linking cultural heritage with the media
When Nigel Hetherington was packing for his trip to Egypt in 1997, he had no idea he would come back a few years later. This time, he wouldn’t just be a tourist, he was coming back as an entrepreneur running the first company specialized in providing historical and archeological consultancy to the media industry in Egypt.

. . .

“Documentaries made about Egypt usually have fatal mistakes,” he said. “Archeologists hate watching these documentaries and make fun of them all the time. This is why I decided to establish 'Past Preservers,' to ensure TV viewers are not getting wrong information about Egyptian history.”

So far, Past Preservers has done consultation for seven documentaries. They were involved in each project since its inception, as they check the validity of the film idea, help the team with research, location scouting and expert casting.

True, true, albeit a lot of the criticism is the dorky reenactments and the tremendous drama usually spent on iffy hypotheses. So, yeah, they need some peer review. . . .
Tacitus and Political Correctness in the Roman Empire
I got annoyed by a off-handed remark somebody made on the radio today--something about the simple, uncorrupted lives of the members of some Indonesian tribe. A little of that goes a long way with me.

It led me to do some casual research on Tacitus--perhaps the first European to indulge in the "noble savage" myth. (To my delight, the first entry to pop up on Google was something written by my friend John Ellis, professor emeritus of German literature at UC Santa Cruz. One of the consolations of middle age is that one has had the time to collect a large number of interesting friends. John is one of those in my collection.) In 1997, he wrote:

"What we now call 'political correctness' may seem to be nothing more than a modern fad, and one that will pass, but to see it only this way is to misunderstand it. Its particular shape may be specific to our time, but its basic impulse is one that recurs regularly in the history of Western society. Herein lies a deep irony. Those in the grip of this impulse are critical of the Western tradition and define themselves by their opposition to it, yet the impulse itself is so much a part of the Western tradition that the attitudes it generates can be said to be quintessentially Western. One reason for studying the Western tradition is to learn some important lessons about this recurring phenomenon and so avoid mistakes that have been made many times before. In this chapter I shall look at some prior episodes to show more clearly what kind of thing this impulse is, what produces it, and what its dangers are. Rather than carp at the absurdities of the current scene, we can understand them more fully as part of the history of Western civilization.

Good post (via Insty). It's kind of a recurring theme in archaeology as well, what with the recent challenges to the 'original environmentalist' theme regarding Amerindians, among others. I'm guessing that in another 60 years another archaeoblogger using whatever medium will probably be remaking on something similar and wondering why we seem to keep doing the same things over and over.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Israeli archaeologists overseeing contested Jerusalem dig find link to first Jewish Temple
Israeli archaeologists overseeing a contested dig at Jerusalem's holiest site for Muslims and Jews stumbled upon a sealed archaeological level dating back to the era of the first biblical Jewish temple, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.

Islamic authorities responsible for the Old City compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, said the dig was part of infrastructure work at the site to replace 40-year-old electrical cables. But the Islamic Trust denied that any discovery was made, or that any Israeli archaeologists were supervising the work.

On Sunday, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that it had discovered fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bones dating back to the first Jewish temple — from the 6th to the 10th centuries B.C.
Filling In The Blanks Of Southeast Asian Prehistory
As archaeologists in the last half century have set about reconstructing the prehistory of Southeast Asia, data from one country—centrally located Laos—was conspicuously missing. Little archaeology has occurred in Laos since before World War II, and beginning in the mid-1970s, Laos shut its doors completely to outside researchers. International scholars had to content themselves with information from excavation and survey work mostly from neighboring Thailand.

Decent article.
One of the great dangers of archaelogy. . .to life and limb! Lance kills TV's Time Team jouster
A professional jouster died after a lance splintered in his eye in a freak accident during a re-enactment for a popular TV show.

Paul Allen, 54, was being filmed in a mock joust for the Channel 4 archaeology series Time Team when a fragment from a balsa-wood lance entered the eye-slit of his helmet and penetrated his eye socket.

He was taken to hospital after the September 13 incident at Rockingham Castle and was said to be "stable".

But yesterday it emerged he had died a week later.

That's the whole thing. Condolences to his friends and family from the ArchaeoBlog community.
Indian villagers find ancient treasure
Villagers in northern India have found a treasure trove of copper items including a figurine, coins, a harpoon and rings that could be 4,000 years old, an archaeological official said Wednesday.

“It was an accidental find by the villagers,” said Rakesh Tewari, Uttar Pradesh state’s archaeology chief. Police seized the pieces, which were acquired by the state archaeology department in August, Tewari said.

Tewari estimated the articles could date as far back as 2000 to 1200 BC, saying they appeared similar to or older than objects associated with the late Harappan culture that existed in the Indus valley more than 3,000 years ago. Researchers hope to excavate the site where the objects were found, Tewari said. afp

That's the whole thing.
More prehistoric nookie? Oldest Embracing Lovers Found in Turkey?
Two ancient skeletons found in each other's arms in a grave in Turkey might be the oldest known embracing couple, archaeologists say.

The remains, believed to be those of a 30-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman, were found last week in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir (see a map of Turkey).

The team carrying out the excavations found the remains under the floor of an ancient house at the Hakemi Use excavation site in Turkey's Bismil district.

The researchers dated the skeletons to 6100 B.C., said team leader Halil Tekin, an archaeologist at Hacettepe University in Ankara.

I think this is old (heh) news. These seem to be popping up lately; I wonder if they just started being reported outside of site reports? Maybe someone should do a dissertation on this.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nerds to the rescue Will muons reveal Maya mysteries?
Physicists are closing in on new techniques to put ancient archaeological sites through a cosmic "CT scan" to look for hidden chambers, using showers of subatomic particles known as muons.

The idea was first put to the test in an Egyptian pyramid four decades ago - but researchers saw no surprises in that experiment. Now, scientists are hoping to enlist a new generation of muon detectors to solve long-running mysteries of the Maya.

Roy Schwitters, a physicist at the University of Texas in Austin, provided an update on his team's plans for archaeological scans on Sunday at the annual New Horizons in Science briefing, presented in Spokane, Wash., by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. You can click through an early version of his PDF presentation here.
Investigation alters vision of Indian village in Michigan
The Moccasin Bluff site is along the St. Joseph River in southwestern Michigan. In 1969, after finding bits of pottery typical of Upper Mississippian farming villages, archaeologists James Fitting and

Charles Cleland interpreted Moccasin Bluff as a large village site comparable to those occupied by the Potawatomi Indians during the early historic era.

In the summer 2007 issue of the journal Ethnohistory, Michigan State University archaeologist Jodie O'Gorman disputes this interpretation. Based on her investigation of the site, there is little other evidence of a large, agricultural village at Moccasin Bluff.

It's short but brings up the danger of using ethnographic analogy for interpreting archaeological remains, even when the groups you are studying are relatively close in time. The big problem with using early historic Amerindians as analogs is that much of the pre-Columbian society was completely altered before European explorers even observed many of these groups for the first time.
Diggers begin Herculaneum task of finding masterpieces lost to volcano
Archaeologists have resumed their search for a library of Greek and Latin masterpieces that is thought to lie under volcanic rock at the ancient Roman site of Herculaneum.

The scrolls, which have been called the holy grail of classical literature, are thought to have been lost when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, burying the wealthy Roman city of Herculaneum and neighbouring Pompeii.

Previous digs have unearthed classical works at a building now known as the Villa of the Papyri, thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was known to be a lover of poetry.
Not archaeology but cool Ancient Cataclysm Rearranged Pacific Map, Study Says
A cataclysm 50 million years ago changed the face of the planet from the Hawaiian Islands to Antarctica, according to new research.

The collapse of an underwater mountain range in the Pacific Ocean turned Australia into a warm and sunny continent instead of a snowbound wasteland and created some of the islands that dot the South Pacific today.

"We have found that the destruction of an entire mid-ocean ridge, known as the Izanagi Ridge, initiated a chain reaction of geological events," said Joanne Whittaker, a doctoral student at the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences who led the research.
Roman evidence unearthed in Bidford
EVIDENCE of a what could prove to be a Roman farmstead has been uncovered in Bidford.
The discovery was made through an archaeological project set up to spark interest in digging up the past.
As part of Buried Under Bidford, run by Warwickshire County Council's Museum Field Services, volunteers from all walks of life have been treading a field at Wixford Lodge Farm over the past two weekends looking for evidence of any ancient settlements.
Some Neanderthals were red-heads
An analysis of 50,000-year-old Neanderthal DNA suggests that at least some of the ancient hominids probably had pale skin and red hair.

The findings, published this week in Science 1, are based on the sequence of a single gene, called mc1r . Humans with a less functional form of the MC1R protein are more likely to be fair skinned — an adaptation that may have helped inhabitants of high latitudes synthesize vitamin D more efficiently in limited sunlight.
Beware of the badger Badgers moved to protect cemetery
A badger sett has been moved to stop it damaging a medieval cemetery in Pembrokeshire.

The animals were resettled to stop them destroying bones at Brownslade Barrow on the Castlemartin military range.

Once they were moved archaeologists were able to examine the site and uncover some of its secrets.

The project has won the Silver Otter Trophy awarded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for conservation work carried out on its land.

Artist's conception of what the badgers may look like:
Nat Geo's take on the Aswan canal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neat story Speaking across the ages
At Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert, the site of America’s first big nuclear waste dump, scientists are wrestling with the problem of how to remind future generations what is stored there. A similar study was carried out in the 1990s, when the Department of Energy assembled a team of linguists, archaeologists and materials scientists to study how to construct warning signs around a smaller waste dump in New Mexico that would last for 10,000 years.

Such a timescale presents a huge challenge. Ten thousand years is an immense, viscerally incomprehensible time, roughly equivalent to the entire history of human civilisation. Even such proverbially ancient things as Egypt’s 4,500-year-old pyramids look young by comparison.

Speaking across such a cavernous gulf is difficult. Languages mutate rapidly: it is difficult for a modern English-speaker to understand the works of, say, Geoffrey Chaucer. In 1,000 years’ time—let alone 10,000—a message written in any of today’s languages might be comprehensible only to professional linguists. On longer time-scales, future archaeologists may have to reconstruct today’s tongues from whatever fragments they can dig up, using the same combination of guesswork and inference they now use to decipher some ancient languages.

I remember when this was first being discussed. Interesting problem. Either you have to make something that will still be readable after a loooooong time, or set up some mechanism where people continue to look after the place and retain the institutional memory that the place is dangerous. That was the idea behind the Long Now Foundation which first hit my radar around the turn of the millennium when they were attempting to plan out a 10,000 year clock. Which is an interesting problem when you stop to think about it. How do you keep it "wound"? How do you make sure it keeps the correct time for that long? It really is fascinating once you stop and think about it.
Young Indy Returns in DVD Adventures
George Lucas is emphasizing academics over adventure as he revisits the early years of his bold hero Indiana Jones.

"The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume One" arrives on DVD Tuesday, the first of three boxed sets gathering all of his youthful exploits from the 1990s TV series.

Along with seven feature-length adventures, the 12-disc set packs 38 documentary segments offering historical insight into the eras, events and illustrious figures Indy encounters, including Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, T.E. Lawrence and Sigmund Freud.

"If Indy just touches on it, sees it or hears about a major historical character, there's a full half-hour documentary on every one of those people," said Rick McCallum, Lucas' producing partner on "Young Indiana Jones."

I watched a few of the episodes, but it never caught my fancy. True, I might not have been the target audience at the time, but it still seemed pretty corny. And it was just too good that Young Indy just happened to meet nearly every historical figure of the early 20th century. Wow, he convinced Teddy Roosevelt not to shoot big game in Africa anymore and create the national park system!

Documentaries might be worth it, but they'll probably be directed at younger people.
Archaeologist uncovers 11,000-year-old artefacts in Syria
Deep in the heart of northern Syria, close to the banks of the Euphrates River, archaeologists have uncovered a series of startling 11,000-year-old wall paintings and artefacts.

"The wall paintings date back to the 9th millennium BC. They were discovered last month on the wall of a house standing two metres (6.6 feet) high at Dja'de," said Frenchman Eric Coqueugniot, who has been leading the excavations on the west bank of the river at Dja'de, in an area famous for its rich tradition of prehistoric treasures.

The etchings are "polychrome paintings in black, white and red. The designs are solely geometric, and only figurative. The composition is made up of a system cross-hatched lines, alternating between the three colours," Coqueugniot told AFP.

More on the "world's oldest painted wall" thing again.
Link to First Temple found
Archeologists overseeing contested Islamic infrastructure work on Jerusalem's Temple Mount have stumbled upon a sealed archeological level dating back to the First Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.

The find marks the first time that archeological remains dating back to the First Temple period have been found on the contested holy site, the state-run archeological body said.

No archeological excavations have ever been carried out on the Temple Mount, which is Judaism's holiest and Islam's third-holiest site, due to opposition from religious leaders.
The story that lies beneath Phoenix
The prehistoric pit houses, a century-old cosmetic-cream jar and antique bricks tell the story of the first merchants in downtown Phoenix.

Archaeologists earlier this month found those artifacts deep beneath the downtown parking lot where on Monday crews will begin building a $900 million hub of shops, offices and restaurants.

When it's complete, developers say, CityScape will pump vitality into a three-block parcel near Central Avenue and Washington Street, bringing the area full circle. Long before it was dominated by a park and the parking lot, that intersection was the cradle of Phoenix commerce.
Celadon porcelains unearthed in Jiangxi
A group of ancient tombs was discovered in Shangzhuang County of Fengcheng City in Jiangxi Province, exciting archaeologists. Unfortunately they only found two broken pieces of porcelain after thoroughly searching the tombs because almost all of the sites had been robbed.

Just as they were thinking about giving up the search, having discovered that the last tomb they checked was empty of relics, the scientists located a new, hidden tomb linked to the empty one via a side grave room. At first when they perceived the big hole, they thought that it was a tunnel dug by tomb robbers.

But when they explored through the tunnel, they found a well-protected tomb with more than a dozen exquisite celadon pieces of porcelain laid inside a coffin. Actually it is quite rare to find these kinds of connected twin tombs. Experts have guessed that they were a set built specifically for a husband and wife.

Two photos of the pieces at the site. Uncleaned though.
Man wants to know what to do with old bones he found in an attic
Ralph Swett is a self-described pack rat, but even he was surprised when he pried open a box taken from a Ryegate attic decades ago and saw what was inside: two human skulls, some long bones, pieces of spine and other remains.

Written on one of the skulls was an explanation. The bones belonged to victims of an Indian massacre in Colorado in 1854 and they'd been dug up during construction of a hotel in Pueblo in 1888. Another bone, a scapula or shoulder bone, bears what appears to be anatomical notations.

Now Swett, 77, who claims Abenaki heritage and is the leader of a loosely affiliated group of people with Indian ancestry who call themselves the Clan of the Hawk, is trying to decide what to do with the bones.

Read the whole thing. There's some interesting stuff there.
Italian experts to explore parts of ancient Patliputra
A three-member Italian archaeologist team, in a joint collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), will explore the undiscovered parts of the ancient Patliputra, near moder-day Patna.

'Our thrust will be to study, explore and identify new sites related to ancient Patliputra,' Giovenni Veradi, an internationally acclaimed archaeologist, told IANS here Thursday.

'The team will seek financial assistance from Italian government to go ahead with its joint collaboration and to explore the sites,' he said.

Giovenni Veradi's latest excavation work at Gotinava in Nepal was lauded for its discovery of tracing the spread of Mauryan empire beyond India to Nepal and China.
Dumb archaeological pun #3,745 Former Valley Resident “Digs” Archaeology
David Yoder is an archaeologist. He is currently working with the Office of Public Archaeology at BYU, doing an archaeological survey of the Sand Hollow area before the land is developed. That is what he is doing to pay the bills, he said. At the same time, he is gathering information for his doctoral dissertation on Native American Footwear.

Yoder said he is studying Anasazi sandals for his dissertation. His focus is on Yucca sandals he said, most likely from the Pueblo 1 period. The Pueblo 1 period is from approximately 700 to 900 AD, according to an article by Dr. Linda Cordell, archaeologist and former director of the Colorado University Museum. Yoder said not much is known about the sandals, how they were made or where they were found in the Anasazi region. This is the information he is trying discover. Additionally, he is studying them to see if there are different types of these sandals that might allow him to associate different groups of people.
Czech archaeologists find 7,000 year-old unique statue
Czech Archaeologists have uncovered a part of a half-meter high statue of a woman nearly 7,000 years old in the country, which was called "a find of the century," the daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reported on Thursday.

Experts from Brno's Masaryk University confirmed the unique character of the statue uncovered in Masovice, South Moravia area of the Czech republic, the paper said.

The hollow legs and haunch of the female statue, made of ceramic, originate in 4,800 - 4,700 B.C., MfD wrote.
Online publication FYI, the new issue of American Scientist is out. Though unfortunately most of the articles I was going to recommend are sub-only. There are a couple of good book reviews though, notably Evolution-Once More, with Feeling, The Mesozoic Aviary, and Analytical Tools for Evolutionary Processes.
Blogging update Sorry about the lack of posting yesterday. I was having automobile issues. Mr. Mustang wasn't starting. I started it in the garage Monday morning, backed out into the driveway and it stalled and wouldn't start for a half hour. It would crank, just not turn over. Once I got it going again, I drove it about a half mile and it conked out again (but thankfully started). So I took it to a nearby mechanic and, of course, it started fine for them all day, so they could really do anything. Eh, I figured, maybe it's just an intermittent thing when it's damp or something. Yesterday it started fine cold, I drove it to the gym, worked out, but when I came back out. . . . .nothing. Towed it back to same mechanic, and he took four tries to get it to start, but was unable to get the diagnostic equipment on to see exactly what was causing it. And, of course, it started and ran fine the rest of the day.

The mechanic's worst nightmare: you know something's wrong, but you can't duplicate it to find out exactly what it is.

He thought it was probably the distributor/ignition just based on what it was doing. I called my usual guy, the one who installed the new engine, and he kinda thought the same thing, and checked the old invoices. Ah yes, the (NAPA) distributor they put in was installed with the engine -- 13 months old. Trouble is, the warranty on the distributor was only 12 months. They eventually found a code in the computer indicating that's where the problem was, so now I have a new Motorcraft distributor.

This may solve a longstanding problem, too. I had an old Buick that did the same thing: started fine cold, but then after about 10 minutes it would try to stall and if it did, wouldn't start again for 30-45 minutes. I always thought it was the choke or something, but looking back I did have problems with the distributor, too; I was always having to clean the contacts on the rotator and replacing it every few months.

Apart from that, I suggest giving Cavemen another shot. They're getting a bit better with the humor -- quicker and more out of left field. And the building manager lady or whatever is just freakin' hysterical.

Our regularly scheduled blogging will resume shortly.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A 3,000-year-old mystery is finally solved: Tutankhamun died in a hunting accident
The mystery behind the sudden death of Tutankhamun, the boy king who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, may have been finally solved by scientists who believe that he fell from a fast-moving chariot while out hunting in the desert.

Speculation surrounding Tutankhamun's death has been rife since his tomb was broken into in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter. X-rays of the mummy taken in 1968 indicated a swelling at the base of the skull, suggesting "King Tut" was killed by a blow to the head.

More recent studies using a CT medical scanner, however, revealed he suffered a badly broken leg, just above his knee just before he died. That in turn probably led to lethal blood poisoning. Now further evidence has come to light suggesting that he suffered the fracture while hunting game from a chariot.

Kind of old news.
Abu el-Haj update. Again. Archaeologists Challenge Barnard Professor’s Claims
Amid charges of mud-slinging, a group of archaeologists turned to dirt-digging — literally — in their fight against a controversial fellow academic.

On Monday night, Columbia University’s pro-Israel student group played host to the latest installment in a lecture series aimed, at least partially, at rebutting Nadia Abu El-Haj, whose work has been critical of the traditional narratives of Israeli archeology.

Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard since 2002, first gained notice with her 2001 book “Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society,” in which she argued that Israeli archaeologists use their research to validate a national origin myth. The book was praised in some quarters — it won the top award from the Middle East Studies Association — but was slammed by others as poor scholarship motivated by ideology. Columbia is currently deliberating whether Abu El-Haj should be given tenure, and the university has received petitions from her opponents and supporters.

Seems to have been a largely academic, rather than a polemical, affair.
Cavemen 'may have used language'
Scientists who have been trawling through the DNA found in Neanderthal bones have discovered that the now extinct species had a “language gene” that is only found in modern humans.

Their controversial findings create the tantalising possibility that Neanderthals were in fact capable of speech much like humans and communicated with each other through their own language.

As language is seen as one of the key cornerstones that has set humans apart from other animals and allowed sophisticated cultures to develop, many anthropologists now believe it may have allowed Neanderthals to have their own culture.

And they were happy, too:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saxon graves found at school
WHEN workmen discovered human remains as they cleared a site for new classrooms at a Twyford school, staff briefly thought they had a crime scene on their hands.

The panic soon turned into a historical feast for pupils and teachers alike, however, when it turned out the bones found at Twyford School were more than 1,000 years old.

Now, work on the site has halted as archaeologists try to find out more about what they think is a Saxon burial site - a very rare find.
Why we're not nekkid today First Farmers Wanted Clothes, Not Food
People turned to farming to grow fiber for clothing, and not to provide food, says one researcher who challenges conventional ideas about the origins of agriculture.

Ian Gilligan, a postgraduate researcher from the Australian National University, says his theory also explains why Aboriginal Australians were not generally farmers.

Gilligan says they did not need fiber for clothing, so had no reason to grow crops like cotton.

Eh. It assumes a lot, notably that one knows what people were wearing 10k years ago.
Coastal humans update Cave clue to 'first beachcombers'
The waste from shellfish dinners discarded in a South African cave is said to be the earliest evidence of humans living and thriving by the sea.

The material was found by scientists working in a sandstone opening at Pinnacle Point on the Cape.

Researchers tell the journal Nature the remains were buried in sediments that are 164,000 years old.

The exploitation of coastal resources is thought to have been key in allowing early humans to move across the globe.

More here.
Turkish Dam May Leave Mosques, Mosaics to Tigris Scuba Divers
Hasankeyf in southeast Turkey has been home to Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans over the past 3,000 years, and has the monuments to prove it. Visitors may soon need scuba gear to see them.

Turkey plans to build a $1.7 billion dam to generate power from the Tigris River, which flows through Hasankeyf en route to Iraq. Archaeologists are fighting the project so they don't have to choose between moving fragile structures like Hasankeyf's Silk Road bridge or seeing them submerged under 100 feet (30 meters) of water.

No word on whether the stuff will be 'destroyed' or just inaccessible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Marine archaeology Treasure hunting update Big business of deep-sea treasure hunters
The interception of a treasure-hunt ship off the coast of Gibraltar is the latest broadside in a tense battle between a US-based salvage company and Spain over an unidentified shipwreck and its rich cargo of gold and silver coins.

On Tuesday, patrol boats from Spain's maritime police intercepted the 76m Odyssey Explorer, owned by underwater salvage firm Odyssey Marine International, three miles off the coast of Gibraltar. It was ordered to the Spanish port of Algeciras for inspection.

Spain's Guardia Civil has been keeping a close eye on the company's vessel since a Spanish judge ordered that it be detained and searched if it left port in Gibraltar.

Long article, mostly about Odyssey Marine International.
"Archeology is... the most fun you can have with your pants on." Kris Hirst has collected a bunch of quotes about What Archaeology Is. Some, obviously, seem more turthful than others. . . .
Accelerated progress
MULTIDISCIPLINARY science is all the rage these days. Even so, the synergies between archaeology and pharmacology are not, at first sight, obvious. But there is a connection. An analytical technique developed for the former, to work out how old things are, is now being used in the latter, to discover, before expensive clinical trials are undertaken, whether promising drugs are likely to fail.

It's actually quite interesting.
Archaeologists Find Mysterious Carved Stone
Experts are studying a carved stone recently uncovered on Whitby Abbey Headland in North Yorkshire to see if it represents the first Bronze Age artifact from the site. St Hild founded an abbey on Whitby Headland in 657AD, which is now an important historical site. However, little was known about the site in the Anglo Saxon period in which it was founded until archaeologists carried out clifftop excavations in 2001 and 2002.

The picture shows 'The stone found at Whitby could date to the Bronze Age - meaning a settlement of the area pre-dates the era of the Abbey. English Heritage'.
Oldest Human Footprints Opened to Public
Anyone visiting southern Italy can now literally follow in the footsteps of some of our earliest ancestors.

Footprints made between 325,000 and 385,000 years ago on the slopes of an extinct volcano near Roccamonfina, north of Naples, have been restored and opened to the public.

Long known by the local population as "ciampate del diavolo," or "devil's trails," the prints were identified in 2003 when two amateur archaeologists discovered the tracks, which spread for about a square mile. The archaeologists reported the find to Paolo Mietto of the University of Padua, and his colleagues.

Short video there on something else, too.
A Rich and Royal Ruin in the Heart of Hanoi
Nine hundred years before Ho Chi Minh declared Hanoi the capital of a newly independent Vietnam in 1945, the first king of the Ly Dynasty issued a similar decree.

In 1010 King Ly Thai To picked Thang Long (“Ascending Dragon”), situated within present-day Hanoi, as the capital for a country that had defeated the Tang Dynasty less than a century before, ending a millennium of Chinese rule.

“It is situated at the very heart of our country,” the king declared in Edict on the Transfer of the Capital. “It is equally an excellent capital for a royal dynasty for ten thousand generations.”
Seeds of civilization
When Anthony Ranere dug up the eggplant-sized stones in the Central American tropics in 1973, he knew at once from their blunted edges that someone had used them, over and over again, to pound things to a pulp.

But what was being pounded?

He guessed that the stones were ancient kitchen tools - used to mash edible roots that forest-dwellers had gathered long ago.

Turns out he was only partly right.

Pretty good article.
We should all be 30-something Atlanta yuppies Here's a Dr. Helen post about this article on depression and Modern Life™. It kinda lost me from the get-go:
"There's increasing evidence that we were never designed for our sedentary, socially isolated, indoor, sleep-deprived, poorly nourished lifestyle," says the bearded, wiry Ilardi, so worked up about the topic that he leaves his chicken and pasta untouched at a downtown Lawrence restaurant. "If throughout the course of human evolution people were as vulnerable to depressive illness as 21st - century Americans, we would long since have gone extinct as a species."

The article itself doesn't seem so bad, but it tends to misplace the whole 'original leisure society' bit. Of course, it rests on the assumption that one can even know what sort of clinical depression was faced by Aurignacians, or even recent hunter-gatherer groups. And, forgive me, but I'll take a 73-year life expectancy over 30 and possibly less depression, thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Old post update I mentioned my new age music habit a while back and thought I'd recommend something occasionally: today's is Michael Gettel, specifically San Juan Suite (vol 2). Some of it's a little goofy with whale songs, but otherwise it's just excruciatingly pleasant and relaxing. I spent a summer in the San Juans doing my field school -- you can certainly do worse than that, let me tell you -- and it does rather capture the place. It's mostly piano with some backing instruments. The best track is probably Whisper on the Tide. The Winter CD is also excellent.
Gods in Color update The lovely and hyper-intelligent Stephanie hath provided us with a link to some pics noted in this post. Thanks, Steph!
Uncovering Nova Scotia’s Hidden History
Katie Cottreau-Robins wonders what it must have been like when their eyes met — when the newly freed black Loyalists and the black slaves of white Loyalists encountered each other on the same ship bound for Nova Scotia.

“There must have been an interaction between the freed and the enslaved — what would they have said to each other?” she asks. “Gosh, it must have been tough.”

There’s a lot to learn about slavery in post-revolutionary Nova Scotia. Ms. Cottreau-Robins, who has a Master of Environmental Design Studies from Dalhousie, is delving into the subject for her PhD, an interdisciplinary degree that combines social history, landscape studies, and archaeology. She’s got a team of advisers to help her: history professor Jerry Bannister, architecture profs Christine Macy and Sarah Bonnemaison and the chair of Anthropology Department at Saint Mary’s University, Steve Davis.
Scientists retrace Indian trade routes
Idaho State University anthropologists are retracing American Indian trade routes by bombarding arrowheads and other stone tools with radiation that helps locate their origins.

The work at the Idaho Accelerator Center in Pocatello involves a process called photon activation analysis. It allows researchers to measure trace elements in an object and use the data to match artifacts with their places of origin, such as matching arrowheads made of obsidian with the lava flows they came from. That can provide evidence about how such items were passed among the West's tribes.
Some links at Archaeology Magazine
A chat with archaeologist and educator Dr. Shelby Brown about archaeology, teaching, and students.

A paleo-celebrity's (Lucy) contributions to evolutionary science

Raiders of the Faux Ark
We are living in a time of exciting discoveries in biblical archeology. We are also living in a time of widespread biblical fraud, dubious science, and crackpot theorizing. Some of the highest-profile discoveries of the past several years are shadowed by accusations of forgery, such as the James Ossuary, which may or may not be the burial box of Jesus' brother, as well as other supposed Bible-era findings such as the Jehoash Tablet and a small ivory pomegranate said to be from the time of Solomon. Every year "scientific" expeditions embark to look for Noah's Ark, raising untold amounts of money from gullible believers who eagerly listen to tales spun by sincere amateurs or rapacious con men; it is not always easy to tell the two apart.

The tools of modern archeology, from magnetometers to precise excavation methods, offer a growing opportunity to illuminate some of the intriguing mysteries surrounding the Bible, one of the foundations of western civilization. Yet the amateurs are taking in the public's money to support ventures that offer little chance of furthering the cause of knowledge. With their grand claims, and all the ensuing attention, they divert the public's attention from the scientific study of the Holy Land - and bring confusion, and even discredit, to biblical archeology.

Archaeology is just one of those professions that will always attract the dilettantes and fakers, largely because it's still got that romantic flair about it. Plus, it's still largely a social science which means mathematics is a smaller part of it and for the most part you don't need a lot of sophisticated instruments to do it (think astronomy or physics). I suppose some day when we're not even digging anymore but just running an instrument over the ground and getting a 3D virtual model of what lies beneath the ground down to the micron we'll achieve that Big Science look and feel and then people will figure they can't compete by just climbing a mountain and taking some pictures of funny looking rocks -- okay, they still will, but they'll look dumber.

Then again, being a proponent of amateur archaeology myself -- Army of Davids and all that -- I'm not quite willing to dump on everyone without an advanced degree.
Aswan Obelisk Quarry more than meets the eye
The unfinished Obelisk Quarry in Aswan, Egypt, has a canal that may have connected to the Nile and allowed the large stone monuments to float to their permanent locations, according to an international team of researchers. This canal, however, may be allowing salts from ground water to seep into what has been the best preserved example of obelisk quarrying in Egypt.

"Working deposits and surfaces exposed during excavation are being damaged by accumulation of salts," the researchers said at the Second International Conference on Geology of the Tethyr at the Cairo University. "These unique artifacts document quarry methods and should be preserved."

The granite quarry, located on the east bank of the Nile in the center of Aswan City, contains a very large unfinished obelisk that was not completed because of latent cracks. While the cracks were bad for the ancient Egyptian stone carvers, the unfinished monument provides the opportunity for archaeologists to understand how people worked hard stone quarries.

Pretty neat. I went there once in 1991.
Did seafood encourage 'Out of Africa' trips?
Archaeologists have uncovered the earliest known remains of human habitation by the coast, a finding that may explain how humans ventured beyond Africa at the start of their planetary odyssey.

Mussel shells, sharpened pieces of red ochre and stone micro-tools found in a sea cave in South Africa suggest that Homo sapiens headed for the beach quite soon after emerging from the savannah, they say.

By stumbling upon the rich harvest of the sea, Man found the means to explore beyond Africa, sustaining himself through maritime edibles by probing along the coast, they suggest.
Blogging update Sorry about the comments that went unmoderated, but Blogger was inaccessible to me for most of the day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Let's stop this in its tracks

I started noticing a few months ago that in certain television shows the characters referred to highways as "the 101" or "the 405". I thought this might be a Canadian thing since the shows I started hearing this on were filmed in and around Vancouver BC. This may, in fact, be a Canuckistan phraseology, but it appears to have its ultimate roots in SoCal:
As a native San Franciscan, one of the things that I would like you to please consider is how the writers refer to freeways in the Bay Area. In the Bay Area (unlike SoCal) there is no article “the” that precedes the freeway identifier number. For example, The James Lick and Bayshore Freeways (US 101) are “101”, NOT “the 101”. The Southern/Junipero Serra Freeways are “280” or “Interstate 280”, NOT “the 280”, and so on. (Unless it is used to refer to “the 280 Extension”). In SoCal, the use of “the” is perfectly acceptable; in the Bay Area, it simply demonstrates the ignorance of the writer or speaker. “I-280” can be somewhat acceptable, but it ranks right up there with the use of the word “ain’t”.

I'd never heard the 'the' prefix until now. Not on television, not in the midwest, nor the east coast, nor the northwest. We must nip this stylistic trait in the bud! Since it has no functional utility and is purely stylistic it will propagate purely due to social interaction and transmission. We can do it, people! Stop the The!
New link added Over there ====> and down: Just for fun, I've added the Amazon.com Automotive Editors' Blog. I like it because he ("Chris H.") picks a lot of cars to spotlight that you've never heard of. The most recent is the Shelby Omni GLH-S. HUH? Yeah, it's a Dodge Omni tweaked by Carrol Shelby, he of Cobra and Shelby Mustang fame. I can't imagine going 130 in an Omni, but there you have it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Field photos du jour Still at the site of Kom el-Hisn for these. Today's lesson: one way to draw site architecture.

Background: Most of the mud brick architecture -- Old Kingdom, First Intermediate(?), and Middle Kingdom, is pretty near the surface. All we had to do was scrape off the top 5-10cm and there it was. In 1988 we excavated using walls as our boundaries. That is, we excavated room by room, or whatever structure-like boundary of mud brick we decided to cal a "room". We didn't excavate every structure we found, but we tried to do everything within a few areas and left other structures (walls) sitting there. So, in the end we wanted a full map of the architecture. There are a lot of ways to do this, from freehand drawing by a professional artist to making each excavator within a grid square draw their own. We settled on a slightly different method.

First step (this was done near the end of the season so the whole grid system was already set up and staked out) was to go to each 2-meter square and clean the top to expose any features or intact artifacts that were present:

Full image here.

Mostly it's a matter of scraping away a bit of sediment, recognizing any bricks in this case, and outlining each brick with the tip of your trowel. That way if it dries out before you can get to drawing it, you'll still have the outline to work from.

Next, we had a 1-meter square grid that we laid on top at each corner of each 2-meter square:

Full image here.

After aligning it at the corner you bend over so you are looking straight down at each 10cm square within the larger square and draw what you see:

Full image here.

It works quite well since you don't have to do a lot of measuring like you do when drawing a profile. And since you're just drawing small sections at a time even a person who can't draw to save his life can be proficient at it. Michael, of course, would go over all the drawings again and check for accuracy, but it was a pretty efficient way to do it.

Hey, I even have one of me doing it:

Scruffy young chap.
An extraordinary shipwreck discovered in Alaska
Plumbing the shallows of Lower Cook Inlet near the tip of the Kenai Peninsula this summer, a team of divers located what authorities say is the oldest American shipwreck in Alaska.

It also marks a pivotal chapter in U.S. history.

The four-person party charted and photographed remnants of the Torrent, a huge, square-rigged sailing vessel that struck a reef and sank near Port Graham in 1868, less than a year after the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia.

Aboard the vessel at the time were women, children and a battery of 130 U.S. soldiers, some of whom were veterans of the recent Civil War. They had been ordered to construct the first U.S. fort on the mainland of south central Alaska.

More here.
After 2,500 years, Parthenon treasures move to new home
A collective gasp filled the air early yesterday as a blue crate containing a 2.5-tonne slab of marble universally viewed as one of the most important works of antiquity, was hoisted by a giant crane from the Acropolis. For those who had come to watch, this was history in the making, the first sculpture to officially leave the ancient citadel since Phidias carved the artworks, 2,500 years ago.

The moment, heavy in symbolism, was not lost on Greece's culture minister, Michalis Liapis. "For the first time, after 25 centuries, the sculptures are being transferred to the new Acropolis museum. It is awe-inspiring and deeply moving," he said after witnessing the metal crate make the 400-yard journey to the spectacular cement and glass building that will be the artworks' new home. "It naturally raises our demand for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles"
Lost civilization road. . .found Ancient Qin Dynasty road discovered in Hunan
During the third general census of cultural relics in Hunan Province, an ancient road built during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 b.c.) was discovered around the environs of Dengjiatang Village, Chenzhou City in the province.

This roadway served as an important communications route two thousand years ago. "That ancient road is comparable to today's highway from Beijing to Zhuhai," Xie Wujing, an ancient road specialist in the Hunan Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau said.

"Hoof prints are still obvious on some of the slates. They couldn't have been formed in this way without hundreds of years of trampling," He Qiang, the deputy director of Cultural Relics Bureau of Hunan Province, said on October 11, 2007.
Grapevines and rice yield clues on early agriculture and civilizations
For the first time, geneticists have sequenced the genome of the grapevine. Their first reading of this information already has revealed significant changes that millenniums of selective breeding have made in this fruitful plant. Meanwhile, archaeologists have found what appears to be a site where rice was first cultivated in China.

Whether seen through the lens of 21st-century genetics or uncovered by traditional dig-and-sift archaeology, the story of the development of agriculture is becoming clearer. It is synonymous with the rise of civilization.

The grapevine geneticists made this point when they described their work in Nature last month. They quote the ancient Greek historian Thucydides' assertion "that Mediterranean people began to emerge from ignorance when they learnt to cultivate olives and grapes."
Archaeologists look to record Armidale Indigenous sites
The first attempt to record and document Aboriginal sites in the Armidale region in New South Wales is about to begin.

The Tribal Pathways Project is being sponsored by the Armidale Rural Lands Protection Board and will involve a team of archaeologists and volunteers covering 30,000 hectares in search of scarred or marked trees.
Archaeologists fear the worst for historic site
Michael Collins, an archaeological researcher at the University of Texas, has spent the past 16 years studying artifacts from a patch of Williamson County to uncover a prehistoric society that camped there nearly 11,000 years ago.

"I put seven years of mind-numbing and back-breaking effort into this," Collins said as he thumbed through a five-volume, 1,400-page report that he and 30 other experts wrote. "This was not easy."

A major road now covers the site, but Collins thinks land nearby has similar finds. He may never get to find out.

This month, a judge reaffirmed the right of the original owners to reclaim the 21/2-acre tract between RM 1431 and Parmer Lane in Cedar Park from an archaeological conservation group. The disputed land was never excavated, but it's next to an extraordinary piece of Texas history that attracted Collins and other researchers.

It doesn't seem as bad as that makes it appear. The landowner gave the land with the understanding -- legitimate or not -- that it would be excavated. When that didn't happen, he sued to get it back. Nothing is mentioned about what the Archy Conservancy promised to do with it, so we don't know if it was a simple misunderstanding or something else. Be nice if it went to the state or something.
Cool museum exhibit Stephanie D. at TPW posted a couple of links to the Arthur M. Sackler Museum's exhibit Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity that places original statuary alongside reconstructions painted to look like they had in antiquity. For example:

looks like this (can't link image directly).

That's fairly common. If one were to go back and look at Egyptian temples and statues, Greek, Roman, Aztec, etc., you would think it quite garish. We tend to think of Greek statuary as so very sublime and elegant because we just see them in white or perhaps green or dark black metal. People are often taken aback when they visit the tombs in the Valley of the Kings or, even more so, in the valley of the nobles and see the bright colors everywhere.

Wish they had some more photos up at the museum site, but I can't locate any.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Buried skeletons are found at prison
DOZENS of 19th century skeletons have been unearthed during construction work at a prison, archaeologists said yesterday.

The remains of at least 24 people were found in deep burial trenches in the grounds of Perth prison.

Archaeologists believe the skeletons date back to the 1830s when an asylum was housed at the site.

Further tests have revealed the men and women most probably died as a result of a typhus epidemic at the institution. The skeletons were discovered during a refurbishment of the prison last year.
Oldest painted wall update This story seems to imply that the whole "oldest painted wall" idea has to do with the wall being a constructed one rather than just any old vertical surface.
And now. .. .a few items from the EEF

Press report: "Mummies tell their tales from the crypt"
"Ms Davey and a team of colleagues from the Victorian Institute
of Forensic Medicine are using modern medical and forensic techniques,
including CT scans and DNA testing [to study three mummies].(..).
The mummified bodies of the boy and two girls, nicknamed "the
angelic one", the "cross one" and the "sad one", had been in the
British Museum since the 1870s (..) [and are] coming from the
Graeco-Roman period (...) Dr Pam Craig, a lecturer at Melbourne
University School of Dental Science, had also examined [a]
seven-year-old's head [from Melbourne's Australian Institute of
Archaeology] — and made a momentous discovery (...) .the child
had had two of its baby teeth extracted, along with one permanent
tooth. The child's mouth was crowded with teeth, and so it appeared
that these teeth had been removed to alleviate the crowding. It was
the first-known example of this kind of "cosmetic dentistry" in
the Graeco-Roman period. "

Hmmm. only one item. Well, there you have it.
Archaeologists in Portugal net haul of Roman coins
Archeologists in Portugal have found more than 4,500 Roman coins bundled together inside the wall of a blacksmith's house dating from the fourth century.

Antonio Sa Coixao, who is leading excavations in Coriscada in northeastern Portugal, said Wednesday by telephone the 4,526 copper and bronze coins were inside a hollow wall and covered by dirt and tools. The coins had apparently been put in a sack which had mostly disintegrated, he said.

"It looks like someone was trying to hide them, but they never went back to get them," Sa Coixao said.
Dig uncovers more of Winnipeg's Upper Fort Garry
An archeological dig in Winnipeg has unearthed part of Upper Fort Garry, considered by some to be the birthplace of Winnipeg.

The footing of the fort's northwest bastion was uncovered Wednesday in the middle of the parking lot behind the Grain Exchange Curling Club, near Fort Street and Assiniboine Avenue.

The city hired archeologists to search the area for the exact location of the bastion and the fort's west wall to ensure new developments in the area don't overlap it.
Experts are studying a carved stone recently uncovered on Whitby Abbey Headland in North Yorkshire to see if it represents the first Bronze Age artefact from the site.

St Hild founded an abbey on Whitby Headland in 657AD, which is now an important historical site. However, little was known about the site in the Anglo Saxon period in which it was founded until archaeologists carried out clifftop excavations in 2001 and 2002.

They found signs of industrial activities like glass and lead-making from the Anglian period (7th-9th century), and the first evidence of an Iron Age domestic dwelling on the site, dating from 500BC-100AD.
Speaker update Looking back to this post which, we see, is from SIX MONTHS AGO, I finally got the damn speaker fixed:

I had intended to go through a place called Human speakers to get what are supposed to be original factory-ish replacements. Well, that was taking forever, so I cancelled that order and took the bad drivers (8" woofer, 10" passive radiator) to SpeakerLab locally and they replaced the cone, spider, voice coil, surround, etc. I think only the basket and magnet assembly are the same, though I think they swapped out the radiator basket for a new one because. . . .the old one had 4 screws and this one has 8. I also lost 2 screws in the interim which are probably somewhere on the floor, having been pilfered off the shelf they were on by some felid bent on getting a new toy.

They say they match everything as close to original spec as possible, and there are no obvious differences that I can tell yet. The other speaker has replacement parts as well (same drivers), after having been shredded by another felid 10-15 years ago.

What am I listening to? Asia's first album. Still one of my favorites. Asia was one of those prog rock supergroups that often tend to make long orchestral songs that only devoted fans like. These guys tend toward the more traditional with strong melodies and more of a pop-ish sound. Definitely radio and MTV friendly. They were one of the first big MTV bands. Still, they're all excellent musicians and the arrangements all have a deceptively complex structure behind them. Track 5, Time Again, especially combines complex instrumentation but still remains pretty hard rockin'. They're one of those groups who you will listen to for years and still find something interesting in it that you never noticed before.

One would think they'd have put on an awesome live show (I saw Yes in 1984 and they were magnificent) but a friend of mine went to one after the first album and he thought it was boring. They had a magician as their warmup act, and he said they didn't play for very long or really vary the songs very much. I went to a Cars show and they did the same thing: just stood on stage and played just like they were cutting the album again (Wang Chung opened for them and showed them up badly, IMO).

The second album isn't quite as good as the first, but still worth listening to. It's a bit more formulaic. After that. . .eh. I bought the Astra CD and hardly ever listen to it. The first two are definitely worth getting though.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ode to a keyboard I came across this post and was moved to link it and wax prosaic on a subject near and dear to my heart fingers. For whatever reason, the humble keyboard is probably the piece of computer equipment that most people put the least thought into when purchasing a computer, and manufacturers -- with some notable exceptions -- pay as little attention to as possible. Which is odd because with the exception of the monitor it is the instrument with which we have the most direct interaction on a daily basis.

I recall first coming to the realization of the importance of the keyboard when a computer magazine columnist pretty much wrote the last two sentences of the previous paragraph probably 15 years ago. At the time, I was looking for a new laptop and had almost decided on one without ever having seen it firsthand (from magazine articles mostly, since the Internets didn't really exist except in simplified form back then). Happily, a local store had some and I tried one out. Good thing, too, because it had the cheapest, crappiest keyboard I had ever used. You had to really mash down on the keys to get them to work, but when you did that the whole keyboard area got squished down as well.

The first actual computer that I bought was a Leading Edge XT:

Which you can see in (almost) action in the pics I posted here. That one had the IBM-like keyboard that made the distinct clicking sound at a key press. We had communual office space back then and since we'd all bought the same computers, you would often walk in and hear the clickety-clack of three guys banging away. Ah, the sound of happy, productive graduate students.

BTW, not to start a flame war, but that was one reason I hated those early Macs. Despite their advanced user interface, does anyone look back fondly on those tiny toy keyboards?

I bought a Gateway 2000 486 after that and didn't care much for the keyboard. Too squishy. You could never really tell that you'd pressed a key. I also got a Toshiba laptop shortly thereafter, and that thing had a wonderful keyboard for a laptop. Not the clickety-clack kind, but it was truly a pleasure to use. My second Toshiba laptop had a similarly excellent keyboard, but the latest one (Toshiba) is truly awful. A lot of the keys need a heavy press to get them to work, so whenever I'm at home I'm constantly having to go back and reenter stuff. I think ThinkPads always had excellent keyboards, but they were always too pricey for me.

Anyway, my current work keyboard was bought for me by an employer probably ten years ago. It was about the time Microsoft changed from their "Ivory soap" mouse, which I am unable to find a photo of right now. They made a new "ergonomic" mouse which promptly started causing my right wrist to hurt like the dickens. I don't think it was carpal tunnel, but it sure hurt and made me need to pop the wrist joints a hundred times a day. It still needs to pop a lot to this day. I really liked the TrackPoint mouse on my Toshiba, so I had them buy me a true IBM keyboard with the TrackPoint embedded in it. It's much like this one, except with the TrackPoint:

Most people don't like TrackPoints; they prefer either a normal mouse or a track pad. I think it's one of the most natural things in the world. You don't have to move your hands from the keyboard and it's pretty darn accurate. But back to the keys: they're still the same old heavy spring kind the original post above talks about. You really know when you've hit a key. Plus, you know, even if you're typing emails to friends, everyone else in the office thinks you're working up a storm. I have yet to have to buy a new keyboard, as this one is going strong, and various employers have allowed me to, first, take this one with me when I left, and, second, plug it in and use it. I imagine some day it will give up the ghost, and I hope there will still be someone selling both the clickety-clack and TrackPoint type. Heck, hopefully this one will last until we can talk at them like HAL.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Letters to the Crocodile God
Seventy-five miles south of Cairo, hidden by shifting sands on the edge of the desert, are the remains of the ancient oasis town of Tebtunis. Archaeologists and diggers clamber over the site, a collection of impressive ruins that sprawl across nearly 100 acres and more than 3,000 years. At dusk, the exposed walls and oblique light call to mind a giant desert labyrinth. At the south end of the site are the low ruins of a Greek settlement, including a massive temple to the crocodile god Sobek. To the north, later Byzantine and Islamic ruins once stood higher--10 to 12 feet in the 1930s--before unknown assailants knocked them down. But the true value of this old town is not in its remaining walls; it is in little flecks of paper that document three millennia of life here and across this region of Egypt.

There is a LOT of good stuff in the Fayum.
Priory yields medieval security secrets
They lay hidden from view for hundreds of years, guarding silently the secrets of a tumultuous history.

But when archaeologists working on a £900,000 conservation project at Binham Priory, in north Norfolk, uncovered two medieval windows dating back to the 13th century, they knew the discovery would provide a rare glimpse into the site's past.

Historians are now working to find out whether or not the two windows at the site's gatehouse were part of a room possibly inhabited by a monk who would have kept a watchful eye on all people, animals and carts entering or leaving the monastery.
World's oldest wall painting unearthed in Syria
French archaeologists have discovered an 11,000-year-old wall painting underground in northern Syria which they believe is the oldest in the world.

The 2 square-meter painting, in red, black and white, was found at the Neolithic settlement of Djade al-Mughara on the Euphrates, northeast of the city of Aleppo, team leader Eric Coqueugniot told Reuters.

"It looks like a modernist painting. Some of those who saw it have likened it to work by (Paul) Klee. Through carbon dating we established it is from around 9,000 B.C.," Coqueugniot said.

It's got two photos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bradley T. Lepper: Research on Fort Ancient village shows two periods of occupation
SunWatch Village, on the south side of Dayton, is one of the most thoroughly studied sites of the Fort Ancient culture, a group that lived in central and southern Ohio from about 1000 to the late 1500s.

The Dayton Museum of Natural History (now the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery) excavated large areas of the site in the 1970s and '80s, revealing a circle of houses, work areas and ceremonial spaces. Today, parts of the village have been re-created on the ancient foundations, providing a remarkable glimpse into the lives of these early Ohio farmers.

The original excavators concluded that the site was occupied for a relatively brief period in the late 1100s, but new results, reported in the latest issue of American Antiquity, are changing our understanding of this remarkable site.
Human Ancestors Walked Upright, Study Claims
The ancestors of humanity are often depicted as knuckle-draggers, making humans seem unusual in our family tree as "upright apes."

Controversial research now suggests the ancestors of humans and the other great apes might have actually walked upright too, making knuckle-walking chimpanzees and gorillas the exceptions and not the rule.

In other words, "the other great apes we see now, such as chimps or gorillas or orangutans, might have descended from human-like ancestors," researcher Aaron Filler, a Harvard-trained evolutionary biologist and medical director at Cedars-Sinai Institute for Spinal Disorders in Los Angeles, told LiveScience.

That doesn't seem right to me. I was always taught that knuckle-walking among modern apes was thought to be a fairly recent form of locomotion, whereas hominid ancestors were generally tree dwellers.
Scientist debunks nomadic Aborigine 'myth'
Before white settlers arrived, Australia's indigenous peoples lived in houses and villages, and used surprisingly sophisticated architecture and design methods to build their shelters, new research has found.

Dwellings were constructed in various styles, depending on the climate. Most common were dome-like structures made of cane reeds with roofs thatched with palm leaves.

Some of the houses were interconnected, allowing native people to interact during long periods spent indoors during the wet season.

The findings, by the anthropologist and architect Dr Paul Memmot, of the University of Queensland, discredits a commonly held view in Australia that Aborigines were completely nomadic before the arrival of Europeans 200 years ago.
Report: Ancient Roman graveyard found in suburban Copenhagen
Archaeologists have discovered a Roman cemetery from about 300 A.D. in suburban Copenhagen with about 30 graves, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

"It is something special and rare in Denmark to have so many (ancient Roman) graves in one place," archaeologist Rune Iversen was quoted as saying by the Roskilde Dagblad newspaper.

The graveyard's exact location in Ishoej, southwest of downtown Copenhagen, was being kept secret until the archaeologists from the nearby Kroppedal Museum have completed their work, the newspaper wrote. No one at the museum could be immediately be reached for comment.
Don't believe everything you read Ancient African Megadroughts May Have Driven Human Evolution -- Out Of Africa
From 135,000 to 90,000 years ago tropical Africa had megadroughts more extreme and widespread than any previously known for that region, according to new research.

Learning that now-lush tropical Africa was an arid scrubland during the early Late Pleistocene provides new insights into humans' migration out of Africa and the evolution of fishes in Africa's Great Lakes.

. . .

The new finding provides an ecological explanation for the Out-of-Africa theory that suggests all humans descended from just a few people living in Africa sometime between 150,000 and 70,000 years ago.

Which is very interesting. But:

Migration of Early Humans From Africa Aided By Wet Weather
Science Daily — The African origin of early modern humans 200,000--150,000 years ago is now well documented, with archaeological data suggesting that a major migration from tropical east Africa to the Levant took place between 130,000 and 100,000 years ago via the presently hyper-arid Saharan-Arabian desert.

This migration was dependent on the occurrence of wetter climate in the region. Whereas there is good evidence that the southern and central Saharan-Arabian desert experienced increased monsoon precipitation during this period, no unequivocal evidence has been found for a corresponding rainfall increase in the northern part of the migration corridor, including the Sinai-Negev land bridge between Africa and Asia.

Not precisely opposite conclusions, but one wonders whether hyperaridity in subsaharan Africa jives with wetter conditions north.

And for even MORE see here.
Cavemen update Watched the second ep last night. Still an 'Eh'. There's not much there that distinguishes them as cavemen for the most part. The bulk of the characters are just yuppies that could be played by normal actors. They'll need to bump up the satire significantly if it is to last more than 8 episodes.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blogging update
Posting may be light in the next couple of days as I've contracted a slight cold. Odd one, too; it didn't start with a sore throat it just went straight to my head. Quickly.

But I feel wordy tonight because all I'll be doing for the next few days is couging, sneezing, and cranking out data. So I will engage in a bit of verbal diarrhea and regale you, gentle readers, with two more of my possibly quirky habits.


Yes, I admit it, I purchased the latest(?) Tomb Raider for PS2. Notably, Tomb Raider: Legend. I got the original one and absolutely loved it. A true classic. I don't play too many of these things, but I went through all of the original series for PS1. The first one is still the best, with a few caveats related to the game itself. The designers did a nice job on the environment and made a great virtual world to run around in.

I got a PS2, but haven't used it much because the first Lara Croft game for it was not to my liking. They changed the controls and I could NOT get her to move where I wanted, so I mostly quit trying. This one works much better. The engine makes for better scenery and. . .well, let's face it, Lara's rather obvious and characteristic, ahhhh, accouterments are far more. . .ummmm. . .lifelike.

I'm still waiting to see if the designers worked anything into the character if you pan the viewer and get up close and personal with said accouterments for more than a few seconds.

They also have a reengineered version of the original for the new machine and such, which I shall also have to get. That's about the only thing I play on the dumb thing.

Item: Bobby Darin

I'm not entirely sure where I picked up the Bobby bug, but it was only a few years ago. I remember thinking Mack The Knife was a cool song, but I never really got into that older 'crooner' stuff (Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc.). now I absolutely love it. Partly it was the old TV show Millennium that featured his music in a few episodes (apparently one of the producers liked Darin so that was written into the Frank Black character). There was one in particular, Goodbye, Charlie, that featured that particular song; Millennium was a creepy show and this particular song was not only swingin' but also kinda creepy if you listen to the words (a lot of his songs are like that). Also, back when internet radio was young, I found a station in Newburyport, MA, name of WNBP. Their carrier went bust in the bubble so you can't listen online anymore, but I listened to them during the holiday season a couple of years and developed a real fondness for that sort of tunage.

I have a bunch of Sinatra CDs, but overall I like Darin better. He certainly didn't have the pipes of some of the other singers of that era and in his later years did some really weird folksy stuff, but his standards are FUN. He just seemed to capture that hip, cool zeitgeist from the late '50s and early '60s. I bought That's All first and. . . .well, I wondered what the heck I was getting into. If you're unaccustomed to that genre and only know basically rock'n'roll it takes some getting used to. But baby it swings! It's all classic "standards" type stuff (I had no idea he did "Splish Splash" at the time). Then I picked up This is Darin which is also standards. After that, it was a matter of hunting down compilations and what-not to get most of the good songs. I got a couple LPs of his later and earlier stuff, which are okay, but I don't listen to them very much. He was supposed to be an excellent entertainer live, but I prefer his studio material.

He was kind of a tragic figure. He had rheumatic fever as a boy and wasn't expected to live long, which undoubtedly contributed to his manic sense that he needed to make his mark as soon as possible. He died at only 37 and in a lot of ways is sorta forgotten. He donated his body to science so there's not even a grave to go visit.

Very politically incorrect in places, too. One song is about a fat chick who drowns. Another is largely about "black coffee and cigarettes" which would cause public health officials to go into a tizzy and slap warning labels on the record.

Songs to download:
Mack the Knife
Goodbye, Charlie
Gyp the Cat
Beyond the Sea
Down With Love (cute movie, too)