February 21, 2017

What to do, what to do. . . .with all those artifacts.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:41 pm

Artifacts down the street: Exploring urban archaeology: Archaeologists continually unearth artifacts in our cities. It’s time to showcase them.

But after the artifacts are dug out of the ground, what comes next? Today, many municipalities are grappling with how to take care of their artifacts and preserve them for future study. While archaeological finds abound in a City like Toronto, they’re not currently housed in a single location. Currently, artifacts—whether pottery, shoes, furniture, or glassware—are documented and stored by the licensed consulting archaeologists who discover them. They wind up kept in offices, storage lockers, garages, and basements. What good are archaeological excavations and keeping all this stuff if no one looks at it and our stories remain buried in boxes?

Nice ideas but it will take an obscene amount of $$$$$.

February 15, 2017

I’m back. With alcohol.

Filed under: Alcohol — acagle @ 8:32 pm

Had something of an emergency trip to Wisconsin earlier this month. Not really an ‘emergency’ but my sister was supposed to go in February but her cat was taken quite ill and she stayed home to look after it so I went in her stead.

AND IT WAS FOOKIN’ COOOOOOOOLD.

But I got used to it pretty quickly. Anyway, I’m back.

This is a good article: Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze

Good overview of alcohol archaeologically. Note the map that has North America notably absent (save for Mexico, but we call that Mesoamerica anyway). I don’t know if it was totally absent, or whether it came up with maize agriculture only, but I suspect it was probably around in minor quantities. Why it never took off, well, I don’t know.

January 23, 2017

All fall down. . . .twice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:49 pm

Archaeologists uncover new clues to Maya collapse

Archaeologists have long puzzled over what caused what is known as the Classic Maya collapse in the ninth century A.D., when many of the ancient civilization’s cities were abandoned. More recent investigations have revealed that the Maya also experienced an earlier collapse in the second century A.D. — now called the Preclassic collapse — that is even more poorly understood.

University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues suggest in a new paper, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that both collapses followed similar trajectories, with multiple waves of social instability, warfare and political crises leading to the rapid fall of many city centers.

The findings are based on a highly refined chronology developed by Inomata and his colleagues using an unprecedented 154 radiocarbon dates from the archaeological site of Ceibal in Guatemala, where the team has worked for over a decade.

While more general chronologies might suggest that the Maya collapses occurred gradually, this new, more precise chronology indicates more complex patterns of political crises and recoveries leading up to each collapse.

As they note, they don’t really explain why, but getting a handle on the chronology is a big first step.

The Pompeii Principle in action

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:45 pm

The truth is in the garbage: New research examines ancient Roman trash

I’m surprised (sort of) that this hasn’t been done before. The article makes it seem surprising that they wold be “recycling” lots of stuff, but that may not be surprising; it’s all in cost-benefit calculations. Then again, I’ve dug through dumps and there’s plenty of junk in them. But re-use, especially with lithics, can play havoc with functional analyses.

January 19, 2017

Fight! Fight!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:48 pm

A ‘militant archaeologist’ is famous for finding a lost city. Some say he just stole the credit.

Tax rolls from the late 13th century indicate that nearly 400 buildings and plots of land once stood in Trellech — on a damp, landlocked hill.

“How in heaven’s name can you have a town of that size in a location as unlikely as Trellech?” Ray Howell, then an archaeology professor with the University of South Wales, said in an interview with BBC Radio in 2006.

The working theory: Ancient Trellech was an enormous weapons factory — funded by the lords of Glamorgan to make iron for the endless wars that shaped medieval Britain.

I don’t have much to say on it although one might imagine the amateurs aren’t doing the best archaeology. Interesting stuff though. Reminds me of an argument from Egypt about the definition of cities. See here for a bit on that I wrote.

January 14, 2017

In praise of the. . . . .wine cooler?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 5:01 pm

Desert Fox

Yes, you read that correctly: I have praised the wine cooler. Otherwise known as a spritzer, that classic bottled beverage from the 1980s and the bane of wine connoisseurs everywhere.

There is a reason for this, apart from my being a child young adult of the ’80s and drinking. . . .well, not terribly many of these things. Of course, the ladies I was often after would drink them, so I at least had some skin in the game, so to speak. No, I like the idea for historic purposes, namely because it represents Civilization itself.

You read that correctly.

I speak, obviously, of the ancient Greek habit of mixing their wine with water. The Greeks figured anyone who drank their wine straight was an uncouth barbarian, and that it would likely drive the imbiber insane, perhaps even unto death. Why? I’ve seen a number of explanations. One is that their wine, produced to travel, was much stronger and more concentrated and intense than what we think of as wine, and therefore it needed to be diluted in order to be able to drink it without gagging. Imagine it being more like wine syrup than our normal sort of wine.

It also added another layer of complexity to the entire ritual surrounding entertaining. One often had what amounted to a wine steward or a wine master (magister bibendi) in charge of the mixing, who would no doubt have his (probably) own preferences as to what constituted the optimum ratio of water to wine and who would oversee the entire process.

The other postulate is that wine was generally drunk over long periods, what we call session drinking, often beginning before a meal and lasting through it and afterwards. Thus, the mixing diluted the wine sufficiently to avoid being plastered the whole time. Maintaining a certain decorum while drinking allowed the cultivated Greek to discuss art, politics, and poetry for several hours while still enjoying a satisfying buzz. This contrasted with the barbarians who would drink to simply get smashed.

There’s also something of a public health idea as well, such that one is not really diluting wine with water, but vice versa: bacteria-laden water could be made potable by adding in some alcoholic wine and thus allowing one to drink enough to satisfy one’s thirst in relative safety while also getting a nice health buzz. I’m not sure this one flies since I don’t think the amount of alcohol present (unless it was, in fact, much stronger than typical modern wines) was enough to really sterilize the typical water that was available.

As for the origins of the modern wine cooler or spritzer, well, try here. I make no claim to accuracy by providing that link, btw. But in reality, the concept goes at least as far as the Greeks and perhaps even earlier. Still, even growing up I learned the basics through the Catholic Mass wherein the celebrant mixes a bit of water with the sacramental wine. The theological justification for this, apparently, was that water represented humanity and wine the Divine, thus inextricably intermingling the two, as in Jesus, and our own sharing in that.

From what I’ve seen on the Interwebs, the modern wine cooler was killed off by a tax on wine that made it too expensive to go diluting it, when one could make similar malt-based concoctions much more cheaply. Again, I merely link; it may have simply run its course.

I do have a soft spot for the old Bartles and Jaymes commercials. That to me is the quintessential Wine Cooler of the ’80s. I haven’t seen it in years, although I just did a quick search on their web site and found that it’s available in my (Seattle) area. I doubt I’ll go buy any. I’d much rather mix my own up, which I admit I don’t do very often — or haven’t, at any rate — although at the moment I have mixed a 50-50 blend of a nice riesling and some Diet Sprite (because I had the latter on hand), which is rather greater than the generally maximum of 2:1 water:wine ratio favored by the ancients.

So go ahead. Buy a cheap jug of wine, some soda water (or Sprite!), recline on your favorite couch with some friends and discuss eastern art and dramas (intellectual llamas optional), and enjoy four millennia of history in your glass.

And, um, try not to play Madonna on the stereo.

January 11, 2017

Movie Review Review

Filed under: Indiana Jones, Pop culture — acagle @ 11:22 am

Sort of. Well, not really. I’ve been meaning to link to this for a while.
Dead Poets Society Is a Terrible Defense of the Humanities

I’ve never hated a film quite the way I hate Dead Poets Society. I expect that them’s fighting words, at least in some quarters; at least I hope they are. Because I’m trying to pick a fight here.

I was in the last year of my English literature PhD program in the summer of 1989, when Dead Poets Society was released. My younger brother Scott, who really didn’t have the money to spare, slipped my wife Robyn and me a ten-dollar bill (these were simpler times) and told us he’d watch our kids so we could go out to see it. No one in my family quite understood what I wanted to do for a living or, having finished my bachelor’s degree, why I’d spend seven more years in school to do it; but having seen Dead Poets Society, Scott believed he finally had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, and more importantly, why.

FWIW: I love the first half of the movie. The scenery is beautifully shot, what Keating (Williams) says about poetry appeals to me (more on that later), and it may have influenced my reading of poetry. Confession: I read a LOT of old poetry. Have since about 1986. More on that later, too. The second half of the movie is (IMO) just run of the mill Bad Old Conservative Authorities vs. Good Young Rebellious Feelzies. Meh. Whatever. Rinse, lather, repeat, ad nauseum.

Anyway, I can’t really argue with much of what the author of the piece says. Yes, some of the interpretations of some of the poems Keating/Williams provides are misleading and/or wrong. Yes, if you want to get an *in-depth* understanding of poetry — the author was getting his graduate degree in English at the time of the movie — you don’t do it the way it’s presented in the film.

That all said. . .whatever. It’s a movie. It’s not supposed to represent Reality any more than Indiana Jones represents archaeology in real life. Lots of archaeologist like to dump on Indy — “No *real* archaeologist would EVER behave like that!” — but they’re not movies about archaeology; they’re movies about Indiana Jones. It’s for entertainment.

Given the context and the audience it was intended for, I think DPS is a nice diorama, if you will, of what poetry can be and do for the masses. I took literature in college. We analyzed poetry. We analyzed old prose works. We diagrammed poems. And I basically hated it. Yeah, it was nice to know (sort of) but it totally drained all the life out of it.

It was only after I’d graduated (and kept my textbook for some reason) that I started reading that stuff again for pure recreation. This was before DPS came out, btw. I found I loved old literature. I think I’ve read The Scarlet Letter six times already Just reading the words was an end in and of itself. Example:

“Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”
(Ulysses, Tennyson)

I don’t give a crap what meter it’s in. Once you wade through the unfamiliar language structure — through much reading of it — it’s beautiful and inspirational. It speaks to me across the decades.

Enjoy watching Indiana Jones. Enjoy watching DPS. If the latter can get some people to just read poetry slowly and carefully just to get some enjoyment out of it, I think it’s done it’s job.

January 10, 2017

Waste not, not want?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:46 pm

15th-century disposable cups found in Martin Luther’s Wittenberg

Single-use cups aren’t a modern invention. Archaeologists have discovered the shards of thousands of porcelain cups in eastern Germany that were thrown away by wealthy revelers over 500 years ago.

It was by wealthy people, apparently, who can generally afford to be wasteful.

See also (if the link works): The Concept of Waste in an Evolutionary Archaeology (PDF)

January 9, 2017

Go now, good price

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 3:19 pm

EGYPTIAN HERITAGE UNDERMINED BY THE FALL OF TOURISM

Probably a good time to go there, lots of hotel rooms and everything should be cheap.

Literary Archaeology

Filed under: Pop culture — acagle @ 3:16 pm

Agatha Christie helped in uncovering Iraq’s ancient Nimrud

There’s a little video at the link which doesn’t seem too informative.

I thought it was common knowledge that she worked in Mesopotamia (at least tangentially) but perhaps not. I’ve never actually read either one of the archaeologically-inclined books, though I suppose I should. I did some minor consulting on this book for which the author gave me a nice little credit but that is about the extent of my literary consultantship.

So far. . . . .

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress