July 30, 2014

What, no gin?

Filed under: Underwater archaeology — acagle @ 7:20 pm

200-Year-Old Bottle of Seltzer Found in Shipwreck

Polish archaeologists have recovered one of the world’s oldest intact bottles of mineral water from a shipwreck lying on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Still corked, the perfectly preserved stoneware bottle was produced between 1806 and 1830 by Selters, one of the oldest mineral waters in Europe.

Okay. But this:

The naturally carbonated water springs of Selters were discovered around the year 1000 on the northern slopes of the Taunus mountain range in Germany. The mineral water source was fully exploited during the mid-19th century.

From St. Petersburg to New York and from London to Florence, Selters “liquid treasure,” delivered in unique clay jugs, became a synonym of the finest mineral water. In North America, Selters was the prototype of “seltzer” artificial soda water.

There you go. Apparently it’s got something in it but whether it’s seltzer water or something else is not known yet. Wondering if it could be full of sea water that’s leached in after all these years.

He said, ‘Oh my god.’ “Then I asked him, ‘Is this good?’”

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:15 pm

Errrrrrr. . . . . .

Student at N.L. dig thought finding fish bones was exciting, then she found something that set the archaeology world abuzz

At Avalon, an impeccably preserved site dating back to the 1620s, the professional academics and their summer students find good stuff. Stone buildings. Cobblestones. Fish bones from long ago meals. Clay pipes from long ago smokers and empty liquor bottles from what was a progressive-minded New World outpost founded by Sir George Calvert. The colonists, Catholics and Protestants alike, were free to have a good time but, more importantly, they were free to worship side by side — free from religious persecution — a radical notion for their age, and one that accorded with Sir George’s philosophy.

I’m not entirely sure how significant this thing is, but it’s a neat little story.

Back to the bath house

Filed under: Rome — acagle @ 7:09 pm

Archaeologists find baths of “sociable” Romans and early evidence of Christianity

Petts’ favourite find is a “haunting” ceramic face from a late Roman head pot.

“The altar is a reminder that bath houses were about more than keeping clean and exercising and were actually social centres – a bit like our modern day leisure centres,” he points out, observing an inscription by a retired trooper who served with a unit of the Spanish cavalry and described his rank as “architects”.

That’s a good description. The baths usually had a forecourt that patrons would use to get ready and socialize in, as well as in some of the bath rooms, as long as they were big enough.

July 29, 2014

Cue, Bob Marley

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 7:01 pm

UM archaeologists unearth Buffalo Soldiers’ artifacts at Fort Missoula

The artifacts suggest that structural racism may not have had material consequences at the fort. But it may also be true that archaeological evidence won’t reveal evidence of race or cultural identity.

The questions are significant and the answers profound. Dixon described the work as one of the most important excavations in North America, given its focus on the 25th Infantry and its 220 “Buffalo Soldiers.”

“The artifacts we find help democratize the histories of people who have been marginalized in mainstream narratives of the American West,” Dixon said.

Okay, that was the basic paragraph for the story. I liked this bit better:

During their stay here, the Buffalo Soldiers made history thanks to an experiment led by 2nd Lt. James Moss, who believed that bicycles could be used in place of horses during times of war.

With the soldiers at his disposal, the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps was launched at the insistence of Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles. The men pedaled to what are now Glacier and Yellowstone national parks from their post at the fort, and eventually on to St. Louis.

In the end, the Army determined that bicycles weren’t suited for combat missions, and the soldiers were transported back to Missoula by rail.

Yeah, shooting from a bicycle. . .brilliant idea.

And now for some Bucrania

Filed under: Egypt, Online publications — acagle @ 10:56 am


Should be able to read it for free.


Filed under: Online publications — acagle @ 10:50 am

American Journal of Archaeology, July issue, has several articles and book reviews available free and without registration.

July 28, 2014

Digital . . . well, conservation anyway

Filed under: Digital Archaeology — acagle @ 7:36 pm

Digital archaeologists dig up internet’s past

One of the main problems facing computer data is that it’s what’s called ‘born digital’. If you have old but critical information on obsolete media written by disused software, the day will come when you won’t be able to access it unless you go through a cumbersome and expensive data migration process.

So where to from here? By 2010 humanity was already producing more information every two days than we did from the dawn of the species until 2003. Who’s making sure it’s all safe so future generations can figure out why we found Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga so fascinating?

Thankfully more people seem to be understanding how important digital archaeology is. The most visible example is the Wayback Machine (found at archive.org), which co-founder Brewster Khale says has a mission of ‘universal access to all knowledge’.

Goes through some of the usual aspects of current data storage — obsolete hardware and software for example — but also touches on some of the legal issues involved in removing data.

Cougars, eh?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:32 pm

Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Archaeology students dig Mayan city

An archaeological dig site in Belize had plenty of Cougars.

Washington State University Vancouver students Penny Hughes, Richard Mahurin, and Justine Hanrahan were among the 12 students selected to participate in the Texas Tech University’s archaeology field school at the ancient Mayan city of Chan Chich.

Nothing terribly exciting, I just couldn’t resist.

“You get to get your hands on all the coolest stuff.”

Filed under: Rome — acagle @ 7:25 pm

Archaeologists discover Roman ‘free choice’ cemetery

Archaeologists in Italy have uncovered a cemetery in the 2,700-year-old ancient port of Rome where they believe the variety of tombs found reflects the bustling town’s multi-cultural nature.

Ostia “was a town that was always very open, very dynamic,” said Paola Germoni, the director of the sprawling site — Italy’s third most visited after the Colosseum and Pompeii.

“What is original is that there are different types of funeral rites: burials and cremations,” she said this week.

I’m not altogether sure of their interpretations of it all, but it seems interesting.

A diversion into theory

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 4:33 pm

Archaeology per se is no more than a method and a set of specialized techniques for the gathering of cultural information. The archaeologist, as archaeologist, is really nothing but a technician. When he uses his findings to study architecture, he must employ the concepts developed in that field, and when he studies culture, he must use the theoretical structure erected by those who have made it their business to study culture, namely, the anthropologists. Therefore, archaeology is not to be equated either with ethnology which is the writing of cultural contexts, or with ethnology which is the comparative study of cultural phenomena. It is on a lower level of procedure and ceases to be merely archaeology when it utilizes the concepts of other disciplines such as ethnology, art, mythology, ceramics, architecture.
. . .
Here, then, is the answer to the query which titles this chapter: archaeology is neither history nor anthropology. As an autonomous discipline, it consists of a method and a set of specialized techniques for the gathering or “production” of cultural information.

That’s from Walter W. Taylor’s classic A Study of Archaeology pp.43-44. I bring it up because I’m reading it for the second time. It should have been the third time, but when it was assigned in my first theory class I mostly never got to it. But I’ve kept my copy all these years, and it’s survived several large book purges.

It’s a classic because it was more or less the first major work that attempted to overthrow the dominant paradigm of Americanist archaeology which was culture history. You can see that Taylor is arguing that archaeology really has no theory of its own; it must borrow from other disciplines to explain its own data. That is, archaeologists don’t collect (really, generate) archaeological data, they collect ethnographic data or architectural data, etc., depending on what their focus is at any given time. In a sense, he was correct: up to that point, archaeologists really didn’t have any theory of their own apart from a really unacknowledged theory of culture history which drove the creation of chronologies which in turn determined the sorts of data they collected/generated, namely historical types. These types were good at building seriations and tracking similarities across space and through time, but didn’t go a long way toward explaining why they worked the way they did. And that was part of the dissatisfaction with culture history.

So along comes Taylor who says “That’s okay, we need to be something besides archaeologists anyway”. Like ethnographers or historians or what have you.

Although it’s probably not a direct cause, it’s the same sort of thing that the New Archeology did: borrowed theory from other disciplines — quite deliberately because they were “scientific” — like systems theory, ecology, etc., and used archaeological data in their structure. Of course, the upshot of all this is that archaeological data acts as a poor substitute for the real data from the borrowed theories, and this causes enormous problems in application. For examples, if you’re borrowing from population geography and you need population densities, you’re stuck inferring those from house sizes, ethnographic analogy, etc. That’s essentially where Middle Range Theory came from, the need to develop techniques to use archaeological data to get at “real” data.

More later. . . . .

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