Amid budget fight, Illinois State Museum prepares to close
Last week paleoecologist Eric Grimm, the director of science at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, rented an 8-meter-long truck, bought $500 worth of lumber, and built temporary shelves in the back. Then, with the help of his wife and former coworkers, he loaded his cargo: roughly 30 sediment cores drilled from lake bottoms.
The cores, which hold pollen grains, minerals, and other clues that help researchers reconstruct past environments, had been stored at the museum where Grimm has worked for 28 years. But the museum is scheduled to close on 1 October as the result of a tense budget standoff between the state’s Democrat-led General Assembly and its Republican governor. So Grimm is moving his collection to the University of Minnesota’s National Lacustrine Core Repository (LacCore) in Minneapolis. And he’s retiring from his post at the museum—with a certain sense of dismay.
“It’s a travesty,” Grimm says of the political stalemate that has dominated Illinois for months, and the consequences for the museum. “I think it’s political corruption and malevolent anti-intellectualism.”
Political corruption? In Illinois? The dickens you say.
These are, of course, the same people who continue selling lottery tickets they don’t pay off.
But the USA Today site irritated me with gigantic popups that I couldn’t get rid of that I decided not to. Scum sucking pig-dogs.
Archaeology: Book about America’s discovery gets it all wrong
In the current issue of the journal American Antiquity, Larry Zimmerman, an archaeologist from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, reviews one of those books, The Lost Colonies of Ancient America: A comprehensive Guide to the Pre-Columbian Visitors Who Really Discovered America, written by Frank Joseph.
Joseph writes that there were pre-Columbian visits by Sumerians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Celts and others. An apparently non-facetious blurb on the book’s cover asks, “Who didn’t discover America?”
. . .
Why don’t archaeologists take these claims seriously?
Joseph says they “cannot deviate from an academic party line without jeopardizing their professional careers,” and so accept “only those facts that support mainstream opinion.”
That’s pretty much what everyone says, from Erich von Däniken onwards. Not that we don’t tend to be wedded to our theories; it took an awful lot of prodding to get anyone to accept pre-Clovis sites, after all.
The lost tunnels of Liverpool
On a summer day in 2001, Coe and a small band of investigators literally “broke into” a suspected tunnel in the Paddington area of Edge Hill. With the help of a digger, they made a small hole in the roof of what turned out to be an old cellar: the upper level of one of the tunnel systems.
Coe and a few others gingerly ventured in via a harness. The chamber was full of rubble piled so high, walking upright was impossible. Still, the explorers were thrilled. “It was quite exhilarating when we found that opening,” Coe recalls.
Eventually, three different sites in the area would offer access to various bits of the tunnels. But excavating them was – and still is – difficult work. Over the last 15 years teams of volunteers, digging up to twice a week, have removed more than 120 skips of waste material. They have revealed forgotten cellar systems and, in several cases, multiple levels of tunnels – some with stone steps leading down to deeper caverns. There are also some debris-filled passages branching off in odd directions; it’s not clear how far they go or to where they ultimately lead.
Uprooted tree reveals a violent death from 1,000 years ago
Nearly 1,000 years ago, a young Gaelic man came to a violent end among the dispersed farmsteads of northwestern Ireland.
This, we know, thanks to a 215-year-old tree and a hearty Irish wind.
The young man’s remains were discovered tangled in the roots of the tree when it blew over sometime before May near Collooney in County Sligo, Ireland. That’s when an archaeologist hired by Ireland’s National Monuments Service excavated the remains.
The lower leg bones remained in the grave, but the upper part of the body was tangled up in the roots, according to Marion Dowd of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services.
Meant to post this the other day, but this sort of thing is fairly common. Maybe not skeletons, but tree throws (as they are called) occasionally have artifacts clinging to them, so on surveys we usually examine them. It also illustrates why intact deposits can often be quite rare. Besides tree throws, you also have rodent activity, insect activity, earthworms, etc., all churning up the soil. One archaeologist observed that if you could somehow watch a time-lapse movie of a patch of ground over several hundred years it would look like the ground is boiling.
People in Southwest valued caffeine even in 750 A.D.
A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled, “Ritual drinks in the pre-Hispanic U.S Southwest and Mexican Northwest,” scrutinizes how widely caffeine was used at different time periods.
“I think the primary significance is that it shows that there was movement of two plants that have caffeine in North America – that they were either exchanged or acquired and consumed widely in the Southwest,” said University of New Mexico Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and lead author Patricia Crown.
None of it seems to be local either.
(the others being salt, fat, sugar, and alcohol)
7 Ancient Mysteries Archaeologists Will Solve This Century
“There’s a reason why National Geographic is calling the 21st century the “new age of exploration,” says archaeologist and Society fellow Fredrik Hiebert. “The opportunities for what we can discover in this century — and the questions we’ll finally be able to answer — seem almost limitless.”
With that enthusiasm in mind, we asked Hiebert to share his predictions on what we may be able to look forward to in this new century of discovery:
Decent enough list. One thing I hadn’t thought of with the Qin Shi Huang Di tomb was using some form of very small drone to go into it — assuming it’s not all collapsed, which it probably isn’t — and fly around taking photos. I’d also suggest recovering bodies from the bottom of the Black Sea intact.
This has been getting some linkage on the Internets: The famous Robert Frost poem we’ve read wrong forever
It is the most famous poem in American literature, a staple of pop songs, newspaper columnists and valedictorian speeches. It is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
Everyone can quote those final two lines. But everyone, writes David Orr in his new book “The Road Not Taken” (Penguin Press), gets the meaning wrong.
The poem is praised as an ode of individuality, to not follow the pack even though the path may be more difficult.
Except Frost notes early in the poem that the two roads were “worn . . . really about the same.” There is no difference. It’s only later, when the narrator recounts this moment, that he says he took the road less traveled.
I’ve never actually read it, though I am familiar with the line. I doubt this article will resolve anything since the poem itself seems to be rather confused. At first it sounds like he’s talking about two paths, equally well-traveled and he decides to take the one: his choice. Then later he says the one he took the one less-traveled.
Don’t take poets at face value. Appreciate the language.
Archaeologists Excavate Graves of Jamestown’s Leaders
In late 2010, the archaeologists working at Jamestown found five deep post holes, matching colony records of a 60-foot-long church known to have been built in early 1608, after a fire destroyed much of the fort. The first Protestant church built in the New World, the building fell into disrepair during the bleak winter of 1609-10, a period known as the “starving time” in Jamestown, but was later repaired and in 1614 saw the wedding of Englishman John Rolfe to the Native American princess Pocahontas. (The red-brick tower, the only 17th-century structure still standing above ground in Jamestown, actually belonged to the colony’s fifth church, built in the 1670s-‘80s.)
Inside the chancel, or altar area, located at the east end of the ruined 1608 church, archaeologists found four side-by-side graves. Excavations of the graves in November 2013 yielded only 30 percent of each skeleton, but the researchers were able to use forensic testing along with archaeological, historical and genealogical records to determine the identity of the graves’ inhabitants.
The interesting bit is the part about the box.
Cannabis discovered in tobacco pipes found in William Shakespeare’s garden
South African scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis, suggesting the playwright might have written some of his famous works while high.
Residue from early 17th century clay pipes found in the playwright’s garden, and elsewhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon, were analysed in Pretoria using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry, the Independent reports.
I suppose it’s not all that secure that, even if the piped were found in his garden, that he was the one using them. That said, people were doing an awful lot to make themselves feel better including drinking prodigious amounts and smoking a lot of stuff.