March 6, 2014
March 5, 2014
The world’s first great civilisations appear to have collapsed because of an ancient episode of climate change – according to new research carried out by scientists and archaeologists.
Their investigation demonstrates that the Bronze Age ‘megacities’ of the Indus Valley region of Pakistan and north-west India declined during the 21st and 20th centuries BC and never recovered – because of a dramatic increase in drought conditions.
The research, carried out by the University of Cambridge and India’s Banaras Hindu University, reveals that a series of droughts lasting some 200 years hit the Indus Valley zone – and was probably responsible for the rapid decline of the great Bronze Age urban civilization of that region.
Nothing really new here, I don’t think, climate-related ‘collapses’ have been batted around for decades. Egypt’s Old Kingdom is thought to have ended due to a series of famine-causing drops in the Nile floods.
How can we determine whether an isolated skull is a war trophy or an honored ancestor? A study recently published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology offers some clues.
Anthropologists at the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Cambridge analyzed 112 human skulls collected in Borneo in the late 19th century. This collection represents well-documented cases of headhunting and, therefore, might provide a yardstick with which to compare the Hopewell skulls.
A bit too binary for my tastes, but interesting.
The musical banging and clanging of the radiator in my office once again reminds me of the beautiful musical tones from ordinary everyday objects. Take this recent composition, featuring the dulcet tones of the Epson LQ 850:
Dot matrix printer plays Eye of the Tiger
Could material culture get any better than this? It almost brings a tear to my eye, thinking about dot matrix printers. (Almost). Each Tuesday and Thursday, by the way, I pass by an Epson dot matrix printer, covered in dust and dead flies, in the main hall of the Physics department (where I teach Intro Archaeology). The poor thing looks so sad. And so old. But it reminds me of the re-purposing of objects that we see in archaeology, and of curation behaviors. I think I will even use it as an example of technology, style, and function for class on Thursday. This poor printer also reminds me of my trip last spring to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View CA. More on that trip, later.
March 3, 2014
Using the skulls of your enemies to build a tower sends one powerful message—even if the structure winds up measuring a scant 15 feet in height. In 1809, midway through the first Serbian uprising against the Ottoman Empire, Turkish general Hurshid Pasha gathered 952 rebel skulls for this grisly project near the city of Niš. All but 58 were later removed and given dignified funerals, but thanks to the Serbian government’s preservation efforts, you can still see the building today.
Richard Daugherty, a Washington State University archaeologist who led the excavation of the Ozette village site, “the Pompeii of America,” and numerous other key Northwest finds, died Saturday of bone cancer. He was 91.
Starting in the 1970s, Daugherty worked closely with the Makah tribe during the 11-year Ozette excavation on Washington’ Olympic Peninsula, setting a new standard for native and archaeological cooperation, said Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer.
“He really set the path for archaeologists and Native Americans to work together instead of in opposition,” she said. “That’s a big deal.”
Not sure many readers will recognize the name. I wouldn’t have were I not around here. People may or may not have heard of Ozette except as part of college courses either, but it was a pretty spectacular site. It doesn’t get as much recognition for a number of reasons not least its location; this is a relatively unexciting area for the general public (and most archaeologists for that matter). And it had no monumental architecture and was occupied until the 20th century so it didn’t have that really ancient feel to it.
An underground chamber containing 130 ancient Greek statues was discovered in Athens 25 years ago. But no one, apart from the finders, has cared enough to battle the bureaucracy that has prevented the hatch from being opened and the remarkable treasures from being recovered. So what has stopped the Ministry of Culture from retrieving such precious relics of the past? Apparently the obstacle is as simple as the fact that the mysterious underground chamber lies on private property and no one wants to get involved.
The chamber was discovered in Athens when two friends found an opening in the ground in an area that was being excavated to lay the foundations for a new building. After throwing some burning paper in the opening they saw that there were stairs leading further under the surface. So they went down with the help of two lit candles.
I dunno, sounds a bit fishy to me.
February 19, 2014
An early Bronze Age woman buried in prehistoric woodlands near Inverness suffered from tooth rot and dental decay, according to osteoarchaeologists investigating her molars, incisors and jaw.
Aged between 40 and 44 at the time of her death, her remains, found in a cist originally disturbed while an access track was being created at Cullaird Wood two years ago, are believed to point to a sporty woman who died at some point between 1982 and 1889 BC.
Despite widespread attrition, a recession of her left jaw bone and a dental pulp infection which completely exposed two of her tooth roots, her dental disease would have only caused “mild pain”, according to her finders.
Heavy wear is quite common in preagricultural populations, not so much when you get to agriculture because the foods are generally softer with not as much grit and tough plant foods.
Another 88 spam comments that never made it through so some poor schlub sitting in a hovel in Russia or China wasted his or her time.
February 18, 2014
It is the largest, most complete mammoth tusk found to date in Seattle, and the news since it was found Tuesday during excavation for a new apartment complex had not only transfixed local residents but made national news.
The tusk is believed to be 22,000 to 60,000 years old. Carbon dating will provide a more accurate figure.
“She’s going to be a girl,” predicted Julie Stein, the museum’s executive director, about whether the tusk came from a male or female mammoth.
I’m not sure if there were archaeologists on-site monitoring or not, I’ve heard it both ways. Way too early for any human associations (probably) but still kind of cool. Odd that it’s only an isolated tusk though.