November 20, 2014
Oh, shut up.
The largest cemetery of Revolutionary War soldiers in America lies roughly five miles from the Hudson River, beside a commercial stretch of Route 9 in Fishkill, N.Y. What was once a 70-acre military city and the Continental Army’s largest supply center now hosts a Blimpie, a McDonald’s, and a Godfather’s pizza. The old headquarters for Washington’s generals is a small museum, but most of the site’s original history has been forgotten.
A contract archaeologist named Bill Sandy found seven graves in 2007 while surveying the land for commercial development, and later studies found evidence of hundreds more graves. Sandy has partnered with historic preservation societies that hope to buy the land and commemorate the site. But for now the area is in a state of limbo, partially developed and partially preserved.
At least from the description, it sounds like a pretty good read. At least, I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed there.
November 19, 2014
A new study of the Neanderthal nasal complex suggests that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans. Rather than comparing Neanderthal noses to those of modern Europeans and the Inuit, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates, the scientists, led by Samuel Márquez of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, examined the nasal regions of diverse modern human population groups with 3-D coordinate data and CT imaging. They found that the Neanderthal upper respiratory tracts had a mosaic of features not found among any population of modern humans as a result of a separate evolutionary history.
I kind of doubt this will have much impact. Well, other than adding a new argument.
Let’s face it: The only way we’ll ever be sure is to clone one from some frozen Neanderthal carcass somewhere and convince someone to have a go at him. Or her.
“Dig Quest: Israel” is a free educational app for iPhone and iPad users ages 7 to 11 that allows children to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Lod Mosaic. During the game, users piece together the scrolls to discover their meaning, and “dig” for the mosaic.
“We wanted this to be something where kids feel like they were the expert … that’s empowering,” Rosenblatt said.
Must not be out yet because it’s not in the App Store yet.
UPDATE: See comments. I got a copy and started playing it. Kinda fun. I did the first level of putting together pieces of scrolls. They were not that difficult, but hard enough to have to think about some. And they added in a bit of high tech, as you had to scan the scroll to “read” it; I would have liked a bit more explanation of that process, but whatever. So go for it and come back and tell us what you think.
Bardolph, a Ph.D. student in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Anthropology, found that female authors are significantly and consistently underrepresented in American archaeology journals. Indeed, although the gender ratio among researchers is roughly equal, in the journals Bardolph surveyed, female authors account for slightly less than 29 percent of articles published.
“I found that there was no significant difference between any of the regions, any of the journals, so it was really a ubiquitous pattern across the study samples,” Bardolph said.
Plus they have babies.
November 18, 2014
A postdoctoral scholar in the Department of History, Austin compared Deir el-Medina’s well-known textual artifacts to physical evidence of health and disease to create a newly comprehensive picture of how Egyptian workers lived. Austin is continuing her research during her tenure as a fellow in the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities.
In skeletal remains that she found in the village’s cemeteries, Austin saw “evidence for state-subsidized health care among these workers, but also significant occupational stress fueled by pressure from the state to work.”
Daily work and payment records corroborate the physical evidence: Deir el-Medina’s men had uniquely comprehensive health care, but sometimes could not take advantage of it.
I went into some of that as well in my own PH in ancient Egypt paper although I didn’t find their disease ideas quite so sophisticated (although they didn’t do too badly in some areas). I only briefly touched on “occupational health”:
Nor is the literature entirely devoid of potential strategies that employers could utilize to create a more worker-friendly environment. Corvée and other labor forces were provided with special physicians (wr sinw or sinw sā) to attend to the particular needs of large groups of laborers (Miller 1991:3) and calculations of the food rations provided to workers seem to be adequate to the work being performed (Menu 1982). As Miller (1991) has noted, while a certain degree of on the job mortality would certainly be tolerated, it would not have been in the interest of the administrative officials to lose too many of their working population.
I think it’s a bit dangerous to attribute ’social goals’ to what they were doing; they were probably more economic than social, the goal being to get as much labor out of the population as possible without destroying productivity. In that sense, the employer — in most cases the state — had an obligation to maintain the health of the workers at some level, though I think it’s doubtful they cared too much one way or there other about the individuals.
A novel polymer network that soaks into wood and provides artefacts with structural support while simultaneously protecting against biological degradation has been developed by scientists in the UK. The team say the polymer network could be a ‘one-stop’ material for tackling the main issues conservators face when treating and drying historical objects.
. . .
The treatment contains the natural polymer chitosan, sourced from shrimp shells leftover from the seafood industry, and guar, derived from the plant, functionalised with a host molecule, cucurbituril, to form a cross-linked polymer network which can lock together and provide structural stability within damaged wood.
I don’t have much experience with conservation and didn’t know any of the problems associated with PEG. Nice that the new stuff can be made from waste materials, though the big thing will be whether it can be made cost effectively.
November 17, 2014
The problem I was confronted with is one familiar to you all. Cemeteries are important to local and national history. Personally, coming from this as an outsider … in ancient history and classics, I typically deal with things 2,000 years or older … I was really surprised about the local passion for genealogy in Ontario and elsewhere. The second problem, of course, insufficient funds for maintenance and conversation. Even though the Cataraqui Cemetery, since 2011, has been listed as a national historic site in Canada … and a small area in the cemetery is also a national historic site, where Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald was buried … there are still not a lot of resources for the maintenance of the headstones.
Some reference has been made already in the conference to the topple test. That’s actively applied in the cemetery by ground staff. If it can’t meet 100 pounds lateral force, then the headstone goes down, usually face-down in the cemetery. There’s simply no money to bring it up, unless the families are willing to pay for it.
As I’ve said, there’s poor documentation of the older stones. One thing we’ve noticed in working with the genealogists is often the death records don’t accurately reflect the dates. The headstones really are the gold standard there. Even more interesting for me, someone who works in ancient epigraphy, writing on stone in Greek, Latin, and Semitic languages, mainly in the Middle East, is that the legibility is very poor. The weathering and, in some cases, vandalism severely reduces legibility and the utility of the headstones to identify the gravesites.
I’ve really wanted to try the reflectivity process, but I keep getting sidetracked. Well, plus I’d need the strobe and switches for them all.
Excavations at a 4,000-year-old site in Siberia have revealed a thin bronze plate that could have been used as a shaving implement, reports the Siberian Times. Expedition leader Vyacheslav Molodin of the Siberian Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography says that while his team has provisionally identified the artifact as a razor, it was probably also used as a knife.
Dunno how likely that is. I’ve always thought that razors had to be generally much sharper than regular/general purpose knives, but then I’ve never tried to shave with a jackknife or anything. I imagine anything would probably do in a pinch. If they had obsidian you could make spectacularly sharp razors.
November 16, 2014
That was one of the most fascinating parts of writing this book. When I first started talking about it to people, I kept coming up against this attitude, which was very perplexing to me, because genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the world.
At the same time there’s this widely held notion that genealogy is a ridiculous, self-indulgent pastime. I think that comes from a few different things. First I think it comes from the misuse of genealogy and our ideas of inheritance. Not just in the eugenics of Nazi Germany. Many other countries had ideas about lineage and genealogy, and biology, which they believed made them superior to others. Some pockets of the world are also still very much class-based, and people don’t want to return to that.
There’s also a notion in America whereby we want to see ourselves as completely in charge of who we are. We don’t want to think of ourselves as having been shaped by the past.
Interesting little article. I’ve always not cared too much about my ancestry for the reasons given there: It won’t affect me in the here and now very much. Well, there was some lore that one of my ancestors was an “Indian princess” and I was rather keen on getting some of the Native American Minority status goodies, but it looks not to be the case. On the one hand, it’s kind of a trivial observation: yeah, we’re a product of our ancestry since our parents taught us a lot of what they were taught, etc. OTOH, so what if one of my ancestors was a war criminal or something? They’re dead, I had nothing to do with it, so it doesn’t really matter what someone did in the world of, say, 150 years ago.
Still, it is a rather fascinating hobby, I won’t deny that. We’d all like to know more of our personal stories.