October 30, 2014

Did you ever wonder. . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 11:39 am

Were Chinese workers cheaper than English horses?

I calculate, the unit labour cost (wage relative to productivity) of horse haulage in England, compared with the in extremis case of human-only portage in China, would have been 2:1 in silver-money terms and 3:1 in PPP terms. (See the first post in the comments section for my calculation.) This implies that for any given acre’s worth of goods made accessible by human portage, horse haulage was 2-3 times as cheap/productive. No, this does not take into consideration that using horses probably saved on the number of wagons/carts. And presumably you could not produce 5 hp with 50 men because, as a speculative example, the canal walkways weren’t wide enough. (As with most input substitutes, the isoquant curve for horses/substitutes is convex to the origin, and there is a diminishing marginal rate of technical substitution — but not inordinately.) But the point is, the 20:1 ratio is in no way plausible, especially since the Chinese also must have driven oxen, mules and donkeys.

Interesting read if you’re at all interested.

October 29, 2014

Amelia Earhardt. . . . .found. Again.

Filed under: Aerial Archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 1:54 pm

Amelia Earhart Plane Fragment Identified

A fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.

New research strongly suggests that a piece of aluminum aircraft debris recovered in 1991 from Nikumaroro, an uninhabited atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, does belong to Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Electra.

Well, you can judge for yourself. Thus far, none of the evidence has convinced me of anything much. They’ll have to find a more definitive link such as the actual plane or identifying remains (human or personal).

October 28, 2014

Not my project

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 7:11 pm

Archaeologists discover shell material, halt Bertha pit excavation

Excavation was halted Thursday when archaeologists monitoring the digging of an access pit came across shell material.
The access pit will be used to repair ‘Bertha,’ the machine digging a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The shell material found “requires further evaluation and may indicate the presence of cultural materials,” according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Video at the link with more info. It’s actually pretty standard although in most cases you should be able to tell whether it’s cultural or not on site. But, seeing as this is such a high profile project, they’re going to fiddle around for several days until they’re sure. Or can convince enough people that it’s nothing.

October 27, 2014

Well. . . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Archaeologists in Peruvian Andes Find Highest Known Ice Age Settlement

Archaeologists exploring the Peruvian Andes have uncovered perhaps the highest Ice Age settlement in the world, a tool-littered campground reaching up to 14,700 feet above sea level, according to new research.

Despite the cold and dangerously thin air, prehistoric men and women made themselves at home in these dizzying heights starting about 12,400 years ago, only 2,000 years or so after people first arrived in South America, the scientists reported Thursday in Science.

Video at the link that describes the whys and hows in more detail so it’s worth watching. It actually seems to be a quarry site but the video makes it sound like it was continuously inhabited.

Egypt modernizing?

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:04 pm

New generation of archaeologists takes ancient Egypt into 21st century

Five years ago, if archaeologists digging up pharaonic ruins in Egypt found any human bones, they would usually throw them away. “Most Egyptian archaeological missions looked at human remains as garbage,” said Afaf Wahba, a young official at Egypt’s antiquities ministry.

But osteology, the study of bones, is standard practice on digs outside Egypt – and Wahba wants Egyptian teams to follow suit. After a five-year campaign, each Egyptian province is now meant to have an osteologist, and Wahba hopes the ministry will found its own osteology department. But, as she put it: “I am struggling to inform people in the SCA [the ministry’s governing body] that human remains are very important.”

That is an excellent development, although it may be a bit of overkill, IMO, to have one in every province, but that’s the goal and if they get at least a couple of osteologists devoted to north and south it would be a Good Thing.

Local archaeologists have their own frustrations. Many want better field training, more opportunities for promotion, and say their ideas for reform are rarely listened to. “If you want to do something, you go to your boss, and from his boss to another boss – and so on to get permission,” said Moamen Saad, another young ministry official, of the process of starting a new project.

I did two field schools (1996 and 2003) that trained about 20 local archaeologists each, but I’m not sure how many have occurred since then (mine in 2012 was canceled due to the unrest). But they do need more trained field archaeologists at the MA level equivalent here, just to do basic CRM work. Even with the slowdown in building projects, you can’t really dig anywhere without impacting archaeological remains, and some of our students went on to monitor just those sorts of projects. Hard to get things like that going locally, however, when the lack of capital puts such a damper on funding for that sort of ‘non-essential’ work (though obviously a lot of money goes to non-essential things).

But I wish them well. They need more local expertise and resources.

In small things remembered

Filed under: Cemeteries — acagle @ 2:18 pm

Nice presentation on an individual headstone, from the NCPTT:

The 20th and 21st-century stones that typically attract our attention are the ones that modern cutting, inscribing, and painting technologies have allowed producers to customize with the trappings of a decedent’s profession, interests, or visage, but stones that are small and possess little or no ornamentation are the ones that we walk right on by. They are truly small things forgotten.

One of these is the headstone of William Peters Reeves in the Kenyon College Cemetery in Gambier, Ohio. It carries his name, his birth and death dates, a Latin epitaph, non nobis solum sed toti mundo nati, not for ourselves only are we born but for all the world, an appropriate parting sentiment for a career educator.

Video at the link which I haven’t watched yet. On wishes nearly every name on a headstone could have this sort of history written about the person.

October 23, 2014

Some Great War archaeology you never would have thought of

Filed under: Battlefield archaeology — acagle @ 7:29 pm

Archaeological dig at site of wartime horse hospital

Archaeologists have been digging at the site of a specialised veterinary hospital in Britain that cared for an estimated 500,000 horses during World War 1.

The research aims to find out more about the care of the huge number of horses and mules that hauled weaponry, stores and personnel to and from the front line.

The project, known as Digging War Horse, is part of Britain’s World War 1 centenary celebrations.

I always felt bad about all the animals killed in wars. Mechanized warfare was, at least, better for them. I think Rudyard Kipling was also distressed about that.

Also neat: In a quirky twist, a photographer documented the event with a World War 1 plate camera.

Okay, this is cool and I want one.

Filed under: Underwater archaeology — acagle @ 7:26 pm

Who cares if I don’t do underwater archaeology? I’D START. How to Turn an Archaeologist Into an Underwater Iron Man

It used to be that all an archaeologist needed was a fedora hat and a bullwhip. Today’s professionals, however, have much more sophisticated gear. This month, marine archaeologists exploring an ancient Greek shipwreck tried out a high-tech “exosuit” for the first time, sending divers to the seafloor in something that resembles a spacesuit.
. . .
The exosuit changes the equation. It’s essentially a flexible and human-shaped submarine, which maintains an atmospheric pressure inside that’s equivalent to that at the surface. Its inventor, Phil Nuytten of the marine technology company Nuytco Research, says the suit allows divers to work at depths of up to 300 meters (1000 feet) for hours at a time, and then to ascend rapidly to the surface.

Yeah, the Newt Suit was far too bulky to be used for archaeology, I think. I really like this idea. Ballard ought to try it in the Black Sea for some of the supposedly completely intact wrecks he found. (Are those <=1000 feet down?)

Back to the future?

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:46 am

Something came up twice in recent days and I’m wondering if it hasn’t occurred to anyone else. Let’s start with this, the humble wristwatch:

Many of you may be somewhat unaware of these? I’ve worn one almost my entire life, at least since I was in my teens at least.

Lately, however, or at least for a few months in the last year or so, I kind of quit wearing one. Why? Because I always had either my computer or cell phone to look at for the time. I found myself putting my watch on every morning and then taking it off in the evening and realizing that I hadn’t looked at it even once all day. So I shelved it (them, actually, I have three) and did without. Eh. Sometimes I’d catch myself looking at my wrist, maybe when I was out on the street or something and my phone was buried in a pocket somewhere but I mostly got along without it.

One advantage in the summer was that by the end of August I didn’t have brown arms with a little white band where the watch was.

But I started wearing it again recently. Dunno know why, it just seemed kind of like a nice retro kinda thing to do. Most days I still don’t look at it, but it’s kind of nice to know it’s there.

But the other day I was in a watch store getting a new battery for the new Mickey Mouse watch I gave the ArchaeoWife for her birthday, and was looking over a display of these:

Again, for some young’uns, that’s a pocket watch. I’ve always kind of liked pocket watches, or at least I always liked the idea of pulling it out of one’s vest pocket to check the time. I was kind of half debating maybe getting one — I’ve done the same thing at estate sales — but then decided (again) that it would probably go into my pocket in the morning, rarely come out for the same reason as the wristwatch, and probably end up broken or something.

Of course, then I realized: I keep my phone in my pocket and pull it out to check the time. Hence, we’ve kind of come full circle with the new pocket watch: the mobile phone.

And maybe in a few years the cell phone will become the cell watch and we’ll be back there again, too.

UPDATE: Today, obviously, I didn’t wear my watch and I’ve looked at my bare wrist about half a dozen times. . . .

October 22, 2014

Paleontologist <> Archaeologist

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 6:54 pm

Again: The kung-fu stegosaur: Archaeologists find the lumbering plant-eating dinosaurs used giant spiked tails as a killer weapon

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