September 1, 2014

A brief non-archaeological(?) digression

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:51 am

When Did We Get So Old?

Yes, my generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has physical concerns: Friends are dying, joints are aching, and memories are failing. There are financial issues, with forced retirement and unemployment, children needing money and possibly a bed, and dependent parents. But for many of us, it is a psychological quandary that is causing the most unpleasantness: looking around and suddenly being the oldest.

Every generation gets old, but for those who were told we’d be forever young, it just seems more painful. “It’s a huge issue,” says Dr. Anna Fels, a psychiatrist in New York. “I see so many who are trying to adjust their lives to this new phase, which for some reason none of us really pictured ourselves going through.”

Why didn’t we? We knew that eventually more people around us would be younger rather than older. But it still rankles.

This isn’t really a new phenomenon; you can go back to Greek writing to find the old bitching about the young and vice versa, so in a lot of ways this incessant whining amongst Boomers — a generation I generally loathe and will deny to my dying breath that I am a part of — is (like most of what Boomers expound upon) nothing at all new. OTOH, now that I’m actually in my 50s (did I just really type that?) I found the article somewhat resonant.

It’s a tricky thing, getting older. Or “old” I suppose. 50 isn’t nearly the same as it used to be; looking at older movies and even photographs makes 50 in those days look like 70 these days, thanks to far better nutrition, health care, and fewer physical labor-intensive jobs. But bodies still tend to break down and we wrestle with our attitudes as we grow older. For me, I haven’t deteriorated too much; I still have most of the strength and endurance as when I was 30, thanks in most part to daily hard work in the weight room. Probably more, actually, as I’m way more disciplined about working out these days, not to mention drinking far less beer. Still, things have started to go awry. I had to cut short an archaeological survey out in the back country a couple of years ago because my knee couldn’t take hiking over rough terrain. And I’ve needed reading glasses for the past few years now; that’s been frustrating as there’s nothing much I can do about it and I still whine about it (“Well, I guess I’ll have to find my $^@)*^$)*@ reading glasses before I can read this”). OTOH, it’s hard to tell what all my various aches and pains are from aging since ye olde weight room has been causing me various injuries and such since I was in my 20s. But, you know, I can still go out and dig 10 shovel probes in a day with little problem so I can’t complain too much.

On the attitudinal side, there’s this paragraph:

And I am learning some lessons of another kind. For example, never start a sentence with, “When I was your age…” or “In my day…” Do not attempt to show that while you may look old, you’re still 22 inside. Even if you know who Schoolboy Q is, don’t brag, because you’ll get something wrong eventually. Like too many cosmetic procedures, rather than youthenizing us, they only make us seem older.

Yeeeeup. There are those who stick to what they know, only listening to classic radio and playing music from their teens and twenties and bitching about how music sucks these days. Or the wanna-be hipsters that try desperately to keep up with whatever’s new and supposedly hip but they end up just looking like, well, wanna-be hipsters. Or, as I wrote some time ago:

Some (most?) people go through some form of mid-life crisis and buy a brand new sports car, or maybe that classic muscle car they either had or wanted as a teenager. Others dump their wife/husband and kidsOrangeHeader and take up with a trophy spouse or perhaps an old flame they recently met at a school reunion or found on Facebook. Still others decide they really feel 20 again and start wearing the clothes that today’s “young people” wear, listen to the music they listen to, and maybe try to skateboard or trail bike their way into contemporary youth culture, but end up mostly skating their way into the ER.

I’ve tried to stake out a middle ground. I did make a few promises to myself in my youth that I’ve largely kept:
– I wouldn’t let myself go to pot physically (i.e., fat and out of shape). Check.
– I wouldn’t stay stuck in the past, listening to only old music and not know anything about modern pop culture; Check.
– I wouldn’t let hygiene go just because I’m old. You know, farting in public, etc. No. Just. . .no.

So, you know, I still have (and collect) a lot of old LPs, even some stuff I didn’t listen to then. I just recently discovered The Allman Brothers, for example. But then, I love love loved the whole grunge thing (which would have been a “new” thing for people my age at the time), listen to KEXP a lot, and am at least passingly familiar with things pop culturish. My attitude is that I don’t have to like a lot of pop culture but I’m at least going to be familiar with it.

I also have to watch my cultural touchstone phrases. I’m noticing people sometimes don’t get some of the phrases I use on occasion. I mean, who doesn’t know every catchphrase in Blazing Saddles???

I will also refer to “back in my day” and “young people today”, but always ironically.

So I dunno. I’ve learned to let youth have their day as I had mine and try not to compare the two too closely. I try not to “act old” or “act young”, except when it suits my purposes of course (“I’m 53, do you really expect me to dig that many holes?”). I try not to get stuck in pastopianism, but at the same time try to remind younger folks that virtually nothing they’ve thought of hasn’t been thought of at least a million times before.

But, for all you “young people” out there, two pieces of sage advice:
– Start saving early even if it’s a few dollars a week
– Take care of your teeth; you seriously don’t want to deal with dentures. I have all of my teeth still, but the thought just squicks me out something awful.

August 18, 2014

Pict-ure that

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:28 pm

Rolling stone? Archaeologist try to unlock secrets of Pictish find

Archaeologists have released details on what they have described as the most important Pictish stone find to have been made in Moray in decades.

Weighing more than a ton and stretching to 1.7m, the Dandaleith Stone dates from the 6th to 8th Centuries and was uncovered during the ploughing of a field near Craigellachie in May 2013.

Because of sensitivities around the location as well as the issue of having to work out how to remove a stone of its size – and where to move it to – archaeologists have revealed little about the find until now.

I’ve done a few items on this “Pictish” stuff, but I’m still not sure what the significance of it all is. Other than providing for a lot of puns. . . . .

August 12, 2014

Okay then.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 6:53 pm

Woman finds 80 skeletons crammed into Ikea bags

Centuries-old skeletons should probably be 6 feet under—not overflowing out of blue Ikea bags and shoved under a tarp in a Scandinavian church. But that’s exactly what Kicki Karlén says she recently found at the Kläckeberga church in Sweden.

“There were loads of skulls and bones stuffed into Ikea bags—I counted up to 80,” she tells the Expressen newspaper via the Local. “I became angry, very angry about how they were just sitting there.”

Desert Fox

I have to agree, that’s probably as decent a set of storage containers as one might want. Still, you ought to figure out what to do with them ager five years.

August 11, 2014

Almost anywhere in Europe, probably

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 3:42 pm

Every house in Norfolk within 200 metres of an archaeological site, find or historic building

A new report also reveals that, on average, every house in Norfolk is within 200 metres of an archaeological site, find or historic building, with the county’s ground continuing to provide fascinating glimpses into the lives of our ancestors.

The historic haul is revealed in the annual report of Norfolk County Council’s Historic Environment service, which details the work of the team which records, researches and helps to protect Norfolk’s remarkable heritage.

The report shows how nearly 15,000 “finds” – mainly by metal detectorists – were sent to the county council for recording and researching during the last year alone.

Of course, it depends on how you define a “site”, but since most of the places in Europe have been occupied for millennia you pretty much can’t get away from it.

August 9, 2014

No more critical thinking?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 3:40 pm

Let’s Stop Trying To Teach Students Critical Thinking

Many teachers say they strive to teach their students to be critical thinkers. They even pride themselves on it; after all, who wants children to just take in knowledge passively? But there is a problem with the widespread treatment of critical thinking as a skill to be taught.

The truth is that you can’t teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself. This involves more than asking young people to “look critically” at something, as if criticism was a mechanical task. . .This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think. It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation. This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world. It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.

I mostly agree with that and have been saying something similar for years. Critical thinking isn’t necessarily a “skill” you learn on its own, but it arises out of a deep understanding and knowledge of a particular subject. This is where rote learning comes in and why supposedly ‘critical thinking’ in schools these days is just window dressing: the students simply don’t get the deep factual knowledge they need to even begin to think critically about anything. How can you, for example, examine the Civil War in any critical sense (or what someone is saying about the Civil War) if you don’t even know what century it took place in? It’s tedious and can be boring but until you have knowledge at your fingertips you can’t tell BS from anything else.

Also, it wasn’t really mentioned in the article, but it ought to be stressed that being ‘critical’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘negative’. It’s entirely legitimate to critically examine something and note the good things in it, some which the author/speaker may not have even been aiming for.

July 30, 2014

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.

July 28, 2014

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.

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. . . . .

July 23, 2014

And more bodies

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:12 pm

I sense a theme developing. . . . .

Who Were the Ancient Bog Mummies? Surprising New Clues

Makes you do a free account so I didn’t excerpt anything from it.

Yet another find from a place I’ve never heard of

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:07 pm

Human skeleton is found in archaeological dig at Manuden

A HUMAN skeleton possibly dating from Anglo Saxon times was discovered during an archaeological dig in Manuden.

The remains were found close to the main road in one of 10 test pits that were dug in gardens of homes around the village.“The skeleton is thought to be male, about 6ft tall and it was a Christian burial as his hands were crossed over his pelvis,” said Fiona Bengtsen, chairman of Manuden and Berden History Society.

Interestingly, it was uncovered, photographed, and then covered up again.

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