March 2, 2015

Unfortunately, not Kom El-Hisn

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 8:20 pm

Busts of the lioness goddess unearthed in Luxor

The European-Egyptian archaeological mission headed by famed Egyptologist Horig Sourouzian unearthed two busts of the lioness goddess Sekhmet at the north-eastern side of the pillar halls of King Amenhotep III’s temple at Kom El-Hitan on Luxor’s west bank.
Sourouzian told Ahram Online that the temple’s pillars hall is now a void area filled with dust and sand. He said that the mission is currently working there to see if there is anything to discover amidst the ruins.

“This is not the first time statues of the lioness goddess have been unearthed at Kom Al-Hittan,” said Sourouzian, adding that the mission previously un-earthed 64 statues of Sekhment in different shapes and sizes.

I just noticed this because the site reminded me of Kom el-Hisn which also has a connection with Sekhmet.

Bodies, bodies, everywhere!

Filed under: Bodies, Cemeteries, bodies everywhere! — acagle @ 8:09 pm

Including next to Richard: Mystery Woman Buried Near Richard III

Archaeologists found a lead coffin buried in the ruins of an English medieval church, just feet from the grave of British King Richard III. When they opened the tomb, they expected to find the skeleton of a knight or a friar. But instead, they found the bones of an elderly woman.

The woman’s identity remains a mystery, but a study of her bones has revealed some key details about her life, the excavators announced today (March 1). She was interred sometime in the late 13th or 14th century, before Richard was hastily buried at the monastery known as Grey Friars in Leicester, England. She must have been of a high status, because her bones show signs of a lifetime of eating well.

The “eating well” is apparently determined due to a lack of indicators on the skeleton showing periods of malnutrition such as porotic hyperostosis. Otherwise, I’ll take their word that a friary is an odd place to find a bunch of women buried.

February 28, 2015

The Pagan Catholic

Filed under: Indiana Jones, Theory — acagle @ 10:34 am

Love her or hate her, she’s always interesting: The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia

For the past five years, I have been researching Paleo-Indian culture of Northeastern America at the end of the Ice Age, as the glaciers withdrew. I am particularly interested in Neolithic religion, which was focused on elemental nature, a persistent theme in my work. I have been studying Native American tribal history and doing surface collecting of small stone artifacts. Professional archaeologists and anthropologists have tended to gravitate toward Indian lifestyle issues like kinship patterns, governance, hunting strategies, food preparation and fabrication of tools, clothing, and shelter. I have found surprisingly few attempts to approach Native American culture from the perspective of world art and world religion. There is a puzzling gap in the record, and I hope to be able to make a contribution.

Well, I certainly hope she’s collecting in somewhat systematic fashion. . . . .

Not sure how to get “Neolithic religion” out of a few stone tools but that would explain why it’s underserved. I did like her description of post-structuralism:

Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought. It is a laborious, circuitously self-referential gimmick that always ends up with the same monotonous result

I’ve always found the notion that “we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known” to be a somewhat trivial observation, although that may be only from my perspective of having accepted it for quite a while now — not necessarily the “language” part, but in relation to “theory”. Even strict Science isn’t a search for Truth, it’s a search for tools to let us have an idea of how and how much we know what we want to know. Like Indy said, “If it’s Truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”

February 27, 2015

Bonus goofy link

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 11:29 am

Well, not really: Psychology Journal Bans Significance Testing

This is perhaps the first real crack in the wall for the almost-universal use of the null hypothesis significance testing procedure (NHSTP). The journal, Basic and Applied Social Psychology (BASP), has banned the use of NHSTP and related statistical procedures from their journal. They previously had stated that use of these statistical methods was no longer required but can be optional included. Now they have proceeded to a full ban.

The type of analysis being banned is often called a frequentist analysis, and we have been highly critical in the pages of SBM of overreliance on such methods. This is the iconic p-value where <0.05 is generally considered to be statistically significant.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. It’s psychology so, eh. It’s true there is pressure to get to the Magic P-value, that is, to show an effect. And I believe I’ve posted a couple of articles about how the vast majority of research that shows “significance” ends up, upon replication, eventually devolving into no effect at all. And yes, in all of my published biomedical research I’ve used p-values. And let’s not even get into the publication bias about showing an effect.

But at least in biomed circles (probably most circles), I believe people don’t generally take the Magic P-value as an end; it’s merely a statistical beginning. Ferinstance, in my latest alcohol research I found an effect (positive) of alcohol consumption. I haven’t treated it as an “Aha!” moment though; in fact, in the Discussion I really minimized it. What you end up doing is attempt to explain the results. In my case, I suspect that the “significant effect” isn’t really an “effect” at all; I think it’s an indicator of something else, probably a more complicated set of factors. And then throw in the usual statement about “more research needs to be done”, which is actually not just a throwaway statement at all: as I suggest above, if you do more and more research and keep getting significant results, while controlling for more and more other factors, you get more confidence that the effect you’re seeing is really an effect.

Then again, it is psychology, so maybe they just want to be able to argue whatever they think is politically and socially correct without having to reference the Tyranny of Numbers.

Three goofy links: Part III

Filed under: Agriculture — acagle @ 10:33 am

The least goofy of the three: Stone Age Britons Were Eating Wheat 2,000 Years Before They Farmed It

About 10,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers in the Near East figured out how to grow cereal crops like wheat. The farming culture spread, and wherever it went, people traded in their spears for plows.

That’s the conventional view. Apparently, it was more complicated than that.

. . .

He says even though the locals could build boats, they were still hunter-gatherers. Agriculture didn’t take off in Britain for another 2,000 years.

And yet he found DNA from cultivated wheat along with the lunchtime paraphernalia. He didn’t find any wheat pollen at all, so it wasn’t grown there. In fact, there’s never been evidence that wheat was cultivated in Britain earlier than about 6,000 years ago.

That’s kind of a hacked up quote. The upshot is that Britons had access to agricultural products but never took it up. This does, mostly, go against the usual pattern (as they indicate) of agriculture/domestication sweeping all before it. But there are exceptions. Egypt took a long time to adopt it, and as we’ve all been taught Egypt was immensely productive for agriculture.

Three goofy links: Part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 10:15 am

Megan McArdle, over at Bloomberg, has an article up regarding corporate natural selection: The Church of Wal-Mart

I got a lot of responses to my post last week on Wal-Mart’s decision to raise the minimum wage many of its employees earn to $10 an hour next year. One variety of response stood out: the folks who said “Wal-Mart is doing this because it’s good for its business.”

It stood out because it is almost right, but not quite. The correct statement is that “Wal-Mart is doing this because it thinks it’s good for its business.” Never ignore the possibility that Wal-Mart could be completely wrong.

I remark on this because some of the arguments I saw verged upon what I’ve come to think of as “corporation theology”: the belief that if a corporation is doing something, that thing must be incredibly profitable. This is no less of a faith-based statement than the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Yet it is surprisingly popular among commentators, not just on the right, but also on the left.

What this does is confuse the ideas of intentionality and natural selection. Selection doesn’t really work on intentions, it works on things. No matter your best intentions, if you try to make a car with square wheels it’s not going to work very well (in most contexts). But as humans we like to think of ourselves as problem solvers — “necessity being the mother of invention” and all that — but all that really is, is a way of producing variation that natural selection can work on. It doesn’t matter, from selection’s perspective (to anthropomorphize a little), where the variation comes from, be it random mutation or intentional alteration. It just acts on the results.

But she makes an important point:

Corporations, like all human institutions, are great engines for making mistakes. The only reason they seem so competent is that companies who make too many mistakes go out of business, and we don’t have them around for comparison.

Which links to the above rather nicely: We see as end results those intentional things that worked and so assume the inventor had some kind of foresight that it would work (which may well be the case sometimes), but we forget all the myriad other attempts that never got anywhere. But let’s also remind ourselves that this isn’t an optimality game either, as the QWERTY keyboard makes clear.

Three goofy links: Part I

Filed under: Pop culture — acagle @ 10:06 am

I don’t know what the deal is with this silly photograph, but it seems to be causing some small amount of consternation Interwebs-wide:
Desert Fox

This Wired article explains what’s going on. . . .mostly, I guess. Our brain does a a lot more interpreting than we tend to think it does, for example the famous tile color illusion:

Which explains some of this, but there’s also the fact that it’s a photograph,, not something you’re actually looking at so the various filters and adjustments will change what colors are being presented, which your brain then tries to make the best guess using.

I dunno why people are so fixated on it, it just seems dumb. But then, as Wired says, must be a Thursday on the Interwebs.

February 26, 2015

Okay, that’s kinda creepy

Filed under: Mummies — acagle @ 8:12 pm

Desert Fox

Mummified Monk Sits Inside Ancient Buddha Statue
Researchers at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands made a shocking discovery when they imaged an ancient Chinese statue and found a nearly 1,000-year-old mummy inside.

Sitting in the lotus position, the mummy fits within the statue perfectly.

“On the outside, it looks like a large statue of Buddha,” the museum said in a release. “Scan research has shown that on the inside, it is the mummy of a Buddhist monk who lived around the year 1100.”

They go into this whole “self-mummification” thing which is a bit dubious to me. His organs were removed so it had to be an outside job, so to speak.

This has been all over the place

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:07 pm

Large Hoard of Gold Coins Found in Israel

Almost 2,000 gold coins, discovered by amateur divers near the port city of Caesarea in Israel, form the largest single hoard of medieval gold coins ever found in the country.

Amateur divers and professional underwater archaeologists form the Israel Antiquities Authority have found what they say is the largest hoard of medieval gold coins ever found in Israel. Image credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.
The hoard, dating from the Fatimid period (10th – 12th century CE), was found by a group of amateur divers who immediately reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

“The discovery of such a large hoard of coins that had such tremendous economic power in antiquity raises several possibilities regarding its presence on the seabed,” said Dr Kobi Sharvit, director of IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit

Hard to miss ‘em, as they wouldn’t have corroded at all (photo shows some in situ).

Hmmmmm. . . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:03 pm

Ancient cities grew like their modern counterparts, archaeologists say

According to archaeological data from a comprehensive study of countless ancient sites in Mexico, a team of archaeologists have discovered ancient cities grew like their modern counterparts.

A team of researchers from the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, led by Luis Bettencourt, have been investigating urban development and construction through the lens of social interaction. Bettencourt says that city development leads to the creation of so-called “social reactors,” or the opportunity to magnify social interaction through growth. Larger cities become more efficient and more productive – research shows that doubling a city’s population brings a 15 percent per capita in GDP, wages, and other not-so positive aspects like violent crime through a process that Bettencourt and his team refer to as “urban scaling.”

I’ve seen similar analyses before, but I’d be interested to see how they got “GDP” from the archaeological record.

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