September 21, 2014

Good for the coming zombie apocalypse

Filed under: Experimental archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 2:20 pm

Or just a regular apocalypse: Medieval Weapon Finds Modern Appeal

Longpoint, held in July, is one of several annual tournaments around the world, manifestations of renewed interest in what enthusiasts call historical European martial arts, or HEMA. It includes events like grappling — similar to Greco-Roman wrestling — and several types of swordfighting. But the focus is on the most iconic medieval weapon, forged from cold, lustrous steel: the longsword.

“The longsword specifically is just very accessible,” said Pettersson, a management consultant from Gothenburg, Sweden, “because that is what the old masters wrote about the most. It was called the ‘queen of weapons’ in the old days.”

Embedded video which is worth watching.

I linked to something like this a couple of years ago, not sport-fighting like this but someone who had studied the old manuals and developed the techniques. I think this is neat. Be nice if it really developed some and we ended up with gear something like fencing where one could tell from embedded sensors the type of hit that was landed, etc. Not sure it would really get us all that close to actual historical combat techniques being rediscovered — and seen — because taking the lethality angle out of things (mostly) will still develop different techniques. If you look at the video there you can see that they’re really not doing any sort of theatrical sword play; it’s much faster and looks more like actual fighting.

I’m guessing this may end up being really useful for the film industry. Get people with motion capture suits on and let them fight like they would be for real and battle scenes on-screen would be much more realistic.

September 17, 2014

Richard II update

Filed under: Battlefield archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 9:43 am

I may have linked to something like this earlier: Bones Tell the Grisly Tale Behind King Richard III’s Death

Researchers say marks on Richard III’s bones confirm the centuries-old saga of the English king’s death — including claims that the killing blows were delivered to his skull, and that vengeful foes stabbed his corpse after death.
. . .
The University of Leicester team, led by archaeologist Jo Appleby, counted nine wounds to the skull. That suggested that the king had removed or lost his helmet on the field of battle. University of Leicester pathologist Guy Rutty said two of the skull injuries were the most likely to have caused his death. One was a heavy blow to the bottom of the skull, possibly coming from a sword or staff weapon. The other was a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon.

“Richard’s head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire, and was killed while fighting his enemies,” Rutty said in a news release.

I’m not altogether convinced how much these match up to the written accounts, since some of the written ones are kind of ambiguous. But it’s still a nice way of getting some comparison of written records with actual remains. I would mention these sorts of wounds aren’t all that unusual; battle was and always has been particularly brutal, especially the hand-to-hand sort.

September 15, 2014


Filed under: Historic, Marine archaeology — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Lost Ship from 19th-C. Franklin Expedition Found by Arctic Archaeologists

Canadian archaeologists have found one of the Franklin Expedition’s ships — lost since the Arctic explorers famously disappeared in 1846 — off of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The ship is either the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on September 9.

The discovery comes in the sixth year of expeditions led by Parks Canada, which has scoured hundreds of square kilometres of ocean bottom in search of the Franklin ships. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) deployed from Parks Canada’s 10-meter survey vessel Investigator made the discovery on September 7.

Nice. No video or photos of the wreck site in that article. Probably some will be forthcoming.

August 20, 2014

Raiders of the Lost Ark indeed

Filed under: Conservation/CRM, Historic — acagle @ 7:01 pm

Archaeologists raid lost Ark in Haddonfield

A team of historians, students and archaeology specialists have been getting down and dirty, digging below a tract adjacent to the Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield.

The dig has unearthed old coins, pieces of wine bottles and plenty of animal bones, but also some surprises, such as a cellar deeper and larger than expected under what was once a general store.

“We recovered walls on two sides and were amazed to find a deeper cellar from 1741, much deeper than the one under the sidewalk,” said Garry Stone, the historian for the Indian King Tavern.

Neat little article. I think this is the place. Apparently they’re restoring it.

August 3, 2014

Atarchaeology update

Filed under: Historic, Pop culture — acagle @ 10:30 am

The Video Game Graveyard

In 2013, media companies Fuel Entertainment and Lightbox acquired the rights to create a documentary about the video game crash of the early 1980s and to dig the Atari dump site, if it could be found. As both an archaeologist (and Director of Publications at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens) and a child of that early video game boom, I contacted Fuel to ask about how the archaeology—excavation, documentation, reporting—would be handled. They invited me to take part, and I assembled a team that included Richard Rothaus of Trefoil Cultural and Environmental and Bill Caraher of the University of North Dakota, veterans of excavations in the Mediterranean and the Americas, as well as video game historian Raiford Guins of Stony Brook University and historian Bret Weber of the University of North Dakota.

Not much new there, I don’t think, although I really like the photo of the dusty old game controller. They do make a good point about recent archaeology: Even from just 30 years ago we’re not all that sure what exactly happened out there apart from the basics of thinking there was something there. Be nice to get some of the witnesses to describe what they saw, too.

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.

July 23, 2014

More dead babies?

Filed under: Cemeteries, Historic — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Archaeologist says “definite indications” of Bessborough baby mass graves

Toni Maguire, an archaeologist and anthropologist known for her work with the Milltown cemetery in Belfast, visited Bessborough on Wednesday, the Irish Examiner reports. She was joined by four women who were born in the mother and baby home, two of whom had journeyed from the US.

The Bessborough home opened in 1922 and was run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Research conducted by the Adoption Rights Alliance suggests that as many as 1,000 mothers and babies may have died there over the course of several decades. The grounds are currently home to the Bessborough Mother and Baby Centre, which offers care and education to parents and their young children.

A lot of this ‘controversy’ I don’t really get; you have to put dead bodies somewhere after all. Unless there’s something nefarious with the manner of death, it’s just bodies.

June 30, 2014

You wouldn’t think it would be that hard

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 6:59 pm

Archaeologists Are Trying To Figure Out Exactly Where Plymouth Was

The Mayflower, the pilgrims and Plymouth Rock are deeply engrained in American lore, but where, exactly, was the Plymouth colony located? We actually don’t know for sure. But researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Boston are now undertaking an excavation to pinpoint the exact location of the pilgrims’ colony.

A Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, Plimoth Plantation draws 360,000 visitors a year to an open-air museum with historical reenactments from the period but is located about three and a half miles from where researchers believe the original colony was founded.

June 28, 2014

This day in history

Filed under: Car Lust, Historic — acagle @ 8:12 am

The fuse was lit: Great Cars of Death III: The Franz Ferdinand Death Car

A forgotten war to many, overshadowed as it eventually was by the horrors of World War II, it was — accurately for the time — known as The Great War, involving as it did countries from around the world and savage in its brutality. Until 1939 it was also known as The War to End All Wars, since the carnage for soldiers and civilians alike was really unlike anything that had gone before, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The advent of the machine gun and heavy artillery turned infantry into cannon fodder and completely rewrote the book on how to conduct modern warfare. True, the Crimean War and the American Civil War had hinted at what ‘total war’ looked like, but the concept reached its full fruition in WWI.

And it all started with a few young hotheads hell bent on killing someone for the glory of Greater Serbia.

100 years ago today. It’s a shame at least we here in the US aren’t getting quite as much retrospective on the war and its centennial as one might expect, although it was much less “our” war I suppose.

June 24, 2014

Populated by a people known as the Oompalompali, no doubt.

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 7:29 pm

An Archaeologist Excavates a Hippie Commune, Preserved in 1969 by Fire

The Olompali commune started with around 30 members, and grew to a population of 50 to 70 people—aged 7 to 50—living in the 24-room Burdell Mansion and a couple of nearby structures. When a fire consumed the mansion on February 2, 1969, nobody was injured. Some members of the group remained on the property in an unattached frame house for a few months, but the commune officially closed in August.

State archaeologist E. Breck Parkman began exploring the site as early as 1981, hoping to examine the historical realities behind what he believes are stereotypical notions about the commune and hippie life. But it would be decades before he could conduct a thorough excavation of the site, which was declared off-limits following the discovery of asbestos that needed to be cleared from the area.

I’m guessing they don’t find many hair gel containers.

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