May 25, 2015

CRM update

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 8:40 am

Rare Indian Burial Ground Quietly Destroyed for Million Dollar Houses

Old news (in both senses!) for regular readers here, in multiple senses: the linked article is also from April of 2014 (just saw it linked elsewhere and thought it was new, but remembered I’d referred to it in the past).

But I’ve rethought things a bit and there may be something else I hadn’t considered, found in this paragraph:

But the whole situation is more complicated than archeologists versus developers. The remains have since been reburied according to the wishes of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the most likely descendants of the area’s indigenous people. The tribe was not keen on turning the burial ground into an archeological site. “How would Jewish or Christian people feel if we wanted to dig up skeletal remains in a cemetery and study them? Nobody has that right,” a chairman for the tribe said to the Chronicle.

I wondered after I read this: What if developers and other landowners start bypassing archaeologists altogether and just going through the tribes? In Washington state this isn’t really possible since the State has its paws all over anything archaeological, even on private land. But even then, if there are burials found and if no laws exist on what to do with them, what’s to stop the landowners from just allowing whatever tribe to get the burials out? The landowners wouldn’t have to pay extra for reports and curation and such since the tribes don’t have much interest in either; that’s the archaeologists’ concern. They may not even — depending on the tribes’ financial standing — have to pay for the removal. One gets the sense that the State wold happily throw archaeologists under the bus to curry favor with the tribes and thus avoid any lawsuits. Of course, many tribes would not want anything disturbed and could fight; I have a feeling, though, that when developers and other big landowners start throwing money at them to make the problem go away, we’d probably see far more accommodation.

That said, I should note that, in my case anyway, this is one of those times of conflicting principles. Ordinarily, I’m well on the side of leaving anything archaeological in the ground or at least having it removed professionally so at least some information and, marginal though it may end up being in the long run, curation of material is kept rather than being dug up, hauled away, and dumped (or just looted). But when that butts up against private property rights, I side with the latter. Human remains (within reason) may need to be protected, but I don’t trust any government entity not to abuse that power.

May 23, 2015

“The ghost world — that’s a very, very real thing to them,”

Filed under: Mummies — acagle @ 4:29 pm

Smoked Mummy Helps Villagers Connect with ‘Ghost World’

Here’s how the villagers mummified loved ones: First, they scraped the bodies with a bristly plant, before placing it in a hut filled with smoke for 30 days. A bamboo pipe served as an anal spigot to evacuate the gut contents, and bodily fluids leached out of tiny holes poked in the hands and feet that were massaged by villagers. [Image Gallery: Mummy Evisceration Techniques]

Finally, villagers slathered the bodies with ocher, a claylike form of iron oxide, which further wicked moisture from the body and created a capsule to protect the mummifying remains from the elements.

It’s really just a form of drying the mummy out under extremely low heat and allowing whatever putrefaction occurs in the internal cavity to pass out through the butt pipe. You can’t just “cook” it because that process will retain some of the moisture, hence, the lengthy period. But in a moist environment things will eventually start to rehydrate and decompose, although slowly.

May 20, 2015

Childhood archaeology?

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 7:26 pm

Colorado archaeologist excavates his childhood toys, discovers himself

In 2008, History Colorado archaeologist Thomas Carr discovered an artifact in his boyhood home in North Carolina: a piece of grey and green plastic sticking out of the dirt. He knelt to inspect it and soon realized it was a part of a model plane — one he’d built some three decades earlier. As his eyes focused, he noticed several more pieces of plastic. The archaeologist in him wanted to excavate. So he did just that, in an informal way, unearthing parts of a battleship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, a submarine, and other models that he’d built. In the process, he unearthed the memories and his childhood and new realizations about himself.

That’s neat. It’s mostly a radio story so you have to listen to it to get the whole story.

It was rather distressing the first time I was out on survey and actually found some of my old childhood toys. . .in an archaeological site. Not my personal toys, obviously, but the same ones I’d (or my brother) had. And yes, it was over 50 years old (as a whole), and no, they weren’t necessarily all that old, but still. . . .they were in an archaeological site.

New old tools

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:21 pm

Really old: Archaeologists Find Earliest Stone Tools in Kenya

Archaeologists working in the desert badlands of Kenya have uncovered dozens of stone tools crafted 3.3 million years ago, the earliest evidence of technology on Earth.

For a long time, many scholars believed the first stone tools were devised by the genus Homo—a line that leads directly to modern humans—and it was the mental leap of smashing stones together to form rudimentary cutting tools that proved crucial for our evolutionary success. A species armed with such tools, for example, would find it easier to acquire food by cutting meat from animal carcasses.

In recent years, other clues have suggested that another group of proto-humans that lived much earlier figured out stone-tool technology first. The new study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, bolsters that view.

Maker unknown, though possibly Kenyanthropus platytops.

“Until you can empty your own wheelbarrows, forget it.”

Filed under: Amateur, Rome — acagle @ 6:56 pm

An English ‘Family Business,’ Dedicated To A 2,000-Year-Old Roman Fort

For the last couple of millennia, Vindolanda was hidden underground. This ancient Roman fort was buried beneath trees, then fields where oblivious farmers planted crops and grazed their sheep for centuries. Under the farmer’s plow, the ruined city sat undisturbed — mostly.

“You can still see the plow marks on some of the stones in the streets here,” says Andrew Birley, an archaeologist. He points to a white line running down a flat stone. “Each individual stripe here on a stone touched by the plow represents the farmer swearing, and his arms jarring, and him being furious,” Birley says with a laugh.

Andrew Birley is not only the director of excavations at Vindolanda. He is also the son of Robin Birley, the former director of excavations. And he is the grandson of Eric Birley, a professor who bought this land and began excavating it in 1929.

Must be nice (not sarcastically, btw) to be able to excavate at your leisure

May 19, 2015

Just for the linkyness

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 4:22 pm

Gruesome Unfortunately Typical Evidence Of Political Torture Found On Precolumbian Skulls

In the Central Andes, there is copious evidence in Precolumbian art of detached heads: stone sculptures and serving vessels found in ceremonial areas depict deities with an axe in one hand and a freshly decapitated head in the other. But until now, archaeologists have assumed these depictions were more figurative than literal, as very little physical evidence of this kind of violence has been found. Writing in the latest issue of Latin American Antiquity, bioarchaeologist Sara Becker now at the University of California at Riverside and archaeologist Sonia Alconini of the University of Texas at San Antonio detail a chilling new discovery: a cache of butchered human heads.

. . .

This strategic form of ritualized violence may have struck fear into the hearts of those on the wrong side of the political aisle.

Sadly, lots of others had the same basic idea. . . .

(Link to KRISTINA KILLGROVE, btw. Follow her blog. Tell her how awesome I am. And how awesome she is! Revel in our mutual awesomeness.

UPDATE: Dunno if this means anything in particular, but this ad was displayed on KK’s blog for me: Sexy Cut-outs Roman Style Stiletto Heels:

Really says “Roman” to me. . . . .

May 18, 2015

Only post today: RIP, John “Ruther-hotep” Rutherford

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 3:03 pm

John Brisbin Rutherford

John Brisbin Rutherford died on February 3 at home surrounded by his family. He was 90. Born March 1, 1923, in Harrisburg, Pa., John grew up on his family’s dairy farm, which supplied milk to the Hershey chocolate company. Early on, at the age of 8 or 9, he decided he did not want to be a farmer and fixed on becoming an engineer. After receiving a Purple Heart for wounds from German machine-gun fire in World War II, he earned his B.S. in engineering from Lehigh in 1949 and his M.S. from Cal Tech in 1950. With the late Constantine Chekene, John co-founded the engineering firm Rutherford & Chekene in 1960. The firm’s projects include the Cannery and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, among many others. But his favorite project, to which he devoted much of the last 20 years of his career, was protection of Egypt’s ancient monuments in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere.

That’s from last year (2014) by the way.
I worked with John two seasons in the Valley of the Kings, 1991 and 1993. He was truly a fine man. I’ve always wished I’d had a career like his. He was a good engineer, worked on many interesting projects, and had a long career followed by a productive retirement. As the obit says, he assisted in protecting the VK tombs through an analysis of the flood potential. That’s what I worked with him on, surveying the Valley from that perspective, identifying drainages, etc. We did everything by hand the old fashioned way: wrote down transit readings and then reduced them using a calculator every evening. I really learned more from that experience about surveying than just plugging junk into a total station. Although I quickly forgot it all, since that was the only time I used it.

Just a couple of stories. First, he worked on the movie The Abyss (I think it was that one, some underwater movie at any rate). They were apparently attempting to figure out some way of making the deep underwater scenes look like they were deep underwater but still provide enough light to film by. They’d tried all sorts of tricks with different lighting schemes and filters and what-not but it all looked artificial. But then they happened upon a relatively simple idea: they covered the surface of the tank they were filming in with a bunch of irregularly shaped styrofoam blocks. Turned out it made it relatively dark but let enough natural sunlight in at random trajectories so it looked natural and allowed enough light to film in.

Second, one day a bunch of British soldiers stayed at our hotel while on leave; I think they’d been part of the Iraq operation in ‘91. They were kind of being all full of themselves and started to get. . . .well, not belligerent, but maybe a little sneery at us civilian archaeologists. The three of us were sitting in the “hot tub” (a generous term, I assure you) part of the pool at the hotel with a couple of them and they were getting uppity, and John just raised his hand up and you could see where it was a little deformed and told them that was where he’d been hit by a German machine gun in WWII. That shut them up real quick and we all got along well after that.

Nothing seemed to faze him either. He just calmly carried on his work no matter how hot and uncomfortable it was or how many odd people did weird and/or irritating things. I’ve actually thought of him now and again over the years in something of a WWJD? (What Would John Do?) way, when things get a bit hectic.

You were a good man, John, a good engineer, and a fine human being.

May 15, 2015

Another sad tale from academia

Filed under: Academia — acagle @ 4:52 pm

Maybe I Should Have Stayed in Retail …

After days of reciting the pros and cons, I didn’t take the position. I couldn’t quite imagine how it would fit with my academic aspirations. Nine years later, my failure of imagination still gives me pause.

I keep thinking about that job offer from the Gap as one of the paths I didn’t take. Maybe it sticks in my mind because of the years I spent on the faculty job market for a career that didn’t pan out. Maybe I keep revisiting that offer because freelance writing is a constant hustle. Or maybe it is because friends of mine are now gaining tenure. What might my life look like if I had taken that promotion and told my department to take their shitty stipend and shove it? Would I have finished my dissertation? Would I have applied for teaching jobs? Would I have been happy selling fashion jeans in all of their glorious varieties? (I do love jeans.) Would I have avoided the angst, pain, and doubt of postdoctoral life?

More and more my advice to young people is collapsing down to a relatively simple phrase: Don’t do what you’re “passionate” about; be passionate about what you do.

This site Nerd-dom also demonstrates one of the great dangers of archaeology; not to life and limb, although that does sometimes take place. . . .”

Filed under: Cemeteries, Digital Archaeology — acagle @ 3:37 pm

No, I’m talking about wasting time being all techie and clever and running into all sorts of problems along the way. You may remember my big cemetery survey in which I collected all of the data digitally. Well, that mostly finished, while I eventually went through two devices, three separate databases, and three computers and collection tools.

Well, I wanted more data so I decided I ought to collect some more. I only went up to monuments from 1919 and it turned out I had a big spike in 1919-ish that I thought related to the influenza pandemic. But if I got another few years’ worth of data I thought the statistical case for it would be better. Hence, I thought I would go back out and get basic demographic data on 1920-1929.


Thus far I have been stymied. Filemaker doesn’t support Android for their portable product, and my old iPad can’t take a high enough version of iOS to run it. *harumph* I’ve been putzing around with other options, such as ODK but I haven’t had enough time to really get it all set up and working.

And it occurred to me that by this time I could have made up a little paper-based form, copied a bunch of them, collected the data, entered it, and been happily analyzing it by now.

But nnnOOOOOOOoooooo. I have to be all clever and do everything digitally.


May 14, 2015

I’m linking to this. . . .

Filed under: Digital Archaeology — acagle @ 7:24 pm

even though I don’t really get it: Educator uses Minecraft to build entire map of Scotland

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