November 27, 2014

Alley Oop’s?

Filed under: Underwater archaeology — acagle @ 6:58 pm

Stone age axe found with wood handle

Archaeologists in Denmark have uncovered an incredibly rare find: a stone age axe held within its wooden handle.

The 5,500-year-old Neolithic axe was found during archaeological surveys ahead of a multi-billion euro tunnel project.

The axe seems to have been jammed into what was once the seabed, perhaps as part of a ritual offering.

Or someone just dropped it in the drink. . . .

It was preserved anaerobically. It’s really rather strikingly similar:

A tribute to Lucy

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 1:37 pm

Not that one: The “Lucy” fossil rewrote the story of humanity

Forty years ago, on a Sunday morning in late November 1974, a team of scientists were digging in an isolated spot in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
Surveying the area, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson spotted a small part of an elbow bone. He immediately recognised it as coming from a human ancestor. And there was plenty more. “As I looked up the slopes to my left I saw bits of the skull, a chunk of jaw, a couple of vertebrae,” says Johanson.
It was immediately obvious that the skeleton was a momentous find, because the sediments at the site were known to be 3.2 million years old. “I realised this was part of a skeleton that was older than three million years,” says Johanson. It was the most ancient early human – or hominin – ever found. Later it became apparent that it was also the most complete: fully 40% of the skeleton had been preserved.

I went to see Lucy when it had the traveling exhibit a few hers ago and was extremely moved by seeing it firsthand. Really, I literally got a bit choked up. This little pre-human that was so like us but so not, and there it was sitting right in front of me after 3+ million years. Johanson’s book was also one of those seminal books I read when I was just getting into anthro/archy and it helped push me into the major full time. Looking back, I probably should have gone into pays a nth instead of archy, but oh well. Probably the biggest impact she had on hominid evolutionary thinking at the time was her bipedalism. Before Lucy, we didn’t really know which came first, bipedalism or larger brains, but she — being a regular biped — solidified that sequence. A. afarensis has seen been ‘demoted somewhat to a probably-not direct ancestor, but she was clearly related.

So this long holiday weekend (for Americans anyway), take a bit of time out from your celebrations to raise a glass for this little bipedal hominid that died so many years ago.

November 24, 2014

“Archaeology is a combative science”

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:24 pm

Bronze Age Lost Its Cutting Edge Before Climate Crisis

Climate change—so often and so recently coupled with the decline of early civilizations in the Near East, the Indus Valley and the Mediterranean—may not have ushered in the collapse of the late Bronze Age after all.

A new study suggests that Bronze Age cultures everywhere collapsed not because of sustained drought or flooding, but because of technological change. The gradual spread of iron foundries and smithies, they say, undermined the economic strengths of those centres with monopolies on the production of, and trade in, copper and tin—the elements in the alloy bronze.

It’s only Ireland, mind you. Changing climate can have different effects in different places and it’s not always bad, though cooler is usually worse. Plus many of these “collapses” aren’t necessarily what we think of as collapses, but simply major changes in settlement patterns.

Bodies, bodies, everywhere!

Filed under: Bodies, Conservation/CRM, bodies everywhere! — acagle @ 8:19 pm

21 anyway: Warriors, double burials, grave goods, Bronze Age barrow and Roman floor found in Suffolk

A double burial and a “warrior burial” with a large spearhead and dagger were among 21 skeletons found at a Saxon site with a medieval field system, say archaeologists who uncovered the 7th century remains ahead of a property development in Suffolk.

The bodies, whose bones were protected by the local geology, included a “bed burial” with iron nails and eyelets, suggesting a wooden structure or incomplete bed beneath the body.

They have a nice little slide show with a lot of photos but not much in the way of explanation. They don’t explain the double burial either. That’s too bad.

I note that the archaeologists are all wearing high visibility clothing. Ugh. I hope we never come to that.

November 20, 2014

More preservation video

Filed under: Cemeteries, Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 8:21 pm

Reimagining August Bloedner’s 32nd Indiana Infantry Monument (1862)

“Scruffy, knowledgeable, underpaid”

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:56 pm

Oh, shut up.

‘Lives in Ruins’ by Marilyn Johnson

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

Back we go again. . . .

Filed under: Neanderthals — acagle @ 8:14 pm

New Research Suggests Neanderthals a Separate Species

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.

Oooo. . .real game archaeology!

Filed under: Media, Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:12 pm

Bangor native plays key role in designing children’s archaeology game

“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.

[insert clever yet inoffensive title here]

Filed under: Academia — acagle @ 8:07 pm

Anthropologist uncovers issues of gender inequality in archaeology journals

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

Public health in ancient Egypt

Filed under: Egypt, Public Health — acagle @ 8:26 pm

Archaeologist leads the first detailed study of human remains at the ancient Egyptian site of Deir el-Medina

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.

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