April 30, 2010

On blogging

Filed under: On blogging — acagle @ 3:16 pm

10 Ways To Become A Famous Blogger!

I hesitate to just link to it. . . .

TB and leprosy

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 1:29 pm

Came across this today while looking into some TB stuff, an online (open access) paper on the connection between leprosy and TB: Co-infection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae in human archaeological samples: a possible explanation for the historical decline of leprosy
Here’s the abstract:

Both leprosy and tuberculosis were prevalent in Europe during the first millennium but thereafter leprosy declined. It is not known why this occurred, but one suggestion is that cross-immunity protected tuberculosis patients from leprosy. To investigate any relationship between the two diseases, selected archaeological samples, dating from the Roman period to the thirteenth century, were examined for both Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA, using PCR. The work was carried out and verified in geographically separate and independent laboratories. Several specimens with palaeopathological signs of leprosy were found to contain DNA from both pathogens, indicating that these diseases coexisted in the past. We suggest that the immunological changes found in multi-bacillary leprosy, in association with the socio-economic impact on those suffering from the disease, led to increased mortality from tuberculosis and therefore to the historical decline in leprosy.

A few years ago some researchers proposed that leprosy was largely eradicated from Europe because of TB infection (here’s that article, I may have even blogged about it at the time). THe two bacteria are related both of the genus Mycobacterium which means they have a cell wall containing mycolic acid, which is a waxy substance that makes it resistant to the usual complement of antibiotics, and can also resist being engulfed by phagocytic cells from the body’ own immune system.

The basic idea of TB pushing out leprosy is that both leprosy and TB co-occurred for some time, but that, due to a slightly greater reproductive rate by TB, it eventually pushed out leprosy. It could do this because TB appears to confer immunity to leprosy. That is, if one becomes infected with the TB bacterium and one develops a successful immune response to it, that immunity to TB also confers immunity to leprosy as well.

This paper reaches a somewhat different conclusion. They think that instead of cross-immunity, those who contracted leprosy in the first place became more susceptible to TB infections, either by acquiring new infections or reactivating dormant infections. Since TB kills more quickly, those with leprosy would succumb more quickly than they otherwise would have, and therefore be unable to spread the disease around.

I don’t have any deep thoughts on this to share, I’ve only just started poking around this topic. I tend to favor the cross-immunity theory, if only because it makes more sense to me quantitatively: the TB death rate is only about 50% when left untreated, and the paper only cites numbers of around 20ish% of coinfections documented historically (though one would assume a higher death rate among those already weakened by leprosy). That seems to me more likely to reduce but not eliminate the disease, whereas we see it was almost completely eradicated.

So, I dunno. We have a TB unit here that I may try to hook up with and maybe go down that road. Kind of a fascinating topic since it (TB and leprosy) have both fascinating histories archaeologically and are current threats as well.

April 29, 2010

Ark update

Filed under: Biblical archaeology — acagle @ 2:37 pm

Time has a story on the supposed Ark discovery. Several things are leaping out as I read:

They camp on a hilly bluff, the sun setting over the Anatolian hinterland below. Moments later, we go inside a dark cave and watch members of the expedition inspect what appears to be a solid wooden wall, entombed within layers of glacial ice and volcanic rock. A gnarled beam runs suspended from one part of the cavern to another. There’s straw and bits of old rope on the ground; a structure is taking shape. What is it? According to the explorers, it’s Noah’s Ark, literally frozen in time.

Oh, so they’re inside a cave and they find this stuff. Funny how a gigantic boat can wind up inside of a cave.Well, I suppose it could be an ice cave but that doesn’t sound like the description.

on show are pieces of petrified wood allegedly carbon-dated at 4,800 years old

You can carbon date silicified wood? And it’s silicified already? I’m thinking it’s a mistake on the reporter’s part.

While they have only released a brief, edited video of their trek and discovery to the public, Yeung says they have shown full footage of the ascent to colleagues in the cult field of Arkeology.


Eric Cline, a prominent biblical archaeologist at George Washington University and author of the best-selling From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible, questions why this group made up mostly of amateurs in the field chose to announce their findings at a press conference rather than have them peer-reviewed and then published in a scholarly journal, as is standard archaeological and scientific practice.

Mostly anyway. Seems these days the cameras are the first things some archaeologists seek out. Well, I should say this isn’t a super-duper criticism. Certainly a press conference on a big discovery can take place soon afterwards, before major papers come out.

They touch on some of the possibilities I’ve been thinking of since this was first released, such as habitation structures, possibly something like high-altitude hunting camps. If they’re really inside of a cave, that would just about do it for an ark idea. We haven’t gotten a thing on the dating, the artifacts, or really anything.

How to give a bad presentation

Filed under: Media — acagle @ 1:19 pm

Michael Smith explains how:

1. Read your paper from a prepared text. This will almost always result in a worse presentation than if you talk from notes, or talk from your slides. This is an excellent way to give a boring talk.

2. Don’t talk TO the audience! Look at your notes or the paper you are reading. Look at the screen. Look anywhere but at the audience

3. Go over the time limit. This makes the session chair mad, it shows a lack of respect for the audience and other presenters, and it makes you look less professional.

Among other helpful suggestions. Oh God, I could go off on this. Sometimes I wonder if some people have ever read their presentation and timed it (although I will admit that I never do, but I’ve never gone over, either) because what they have is just so obviously too long. Sometimes they will end up explaining slides too much and that will do it, too. So ditto on #3 above, it’s especially rude to the next presenter. I once kind of botched my own, because they guy before me — a very famous Egyptologist — went over his time and I felt obliged to hurry through mine. Someone even asked me later if I was hurrying mine because of that so I think people understood.

Me, I make notes and then generally ignore them except for little reminders about where I’m going next. My philosophy is to have a very small number of basic ideas and conclusions to get across and then build a set of simple slides around them. His #6 on slides is worth reading, too. One thing about slides is that if there’s so much text that people need more than a really quick couple of seconds to read them, they’re going to either A) Read the slide and not hear a word you’re saying, or B) Ignore the slide and then probably miss what it’s supposed to be telling them. Same for big complicated tables of data: if you do make a big table, boldly highlight the only things of interest (on the slide, not with a pointer). Slides should be excruciatingly simple.

He mentions odd color schemes. . .not sure about this. Too much color is definitely bad and too many gradations is not a good idea either; remember, people really only have a very few seconds to view and digest what’s there, so if you have a dozen different colored lines, nobody will be able to figure it out. Odd colors. . .eh, whatever, as long as it’s clear. When I was at Washington Mutual for a short time, they had one upper-level manager who decreed that slides could only have the three primary colors. Word was that he even cut someone off and told her to stop when she used pastels.

I tend to think of conference presentations as closer to updates on research than as “papers” per se. Hence, a bit less formal than what one often thinks of as “delivering a paper”. You’re not delivering a précis on The Origin of Species, you’re letting your colleagues know what you’ve been up to and giving them some results you think are interesting.

(via Hawks)

Cognitive dissonance alert

Filed under: On blogging — acagle @ 9:20 am

Sexy Archaeology?

It’s a blog.

I leave it to the reader to determine the veracity of the comparison.

I need some glam shots for here though, I fear I may lose my female readership when the competition has stuff like this on their proprietor:

Can I really compete when I take dreadful photos like this?

April 28, 2010

[insert global warming joke here]

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:03 pm

Ancient Weapons Emerge From Melting Arctic Ice

A treasure trove of ancient weapons has emerged from melting ice patches in the Canadian Arctic, revealing hunting strategies thousands of years old.

The weapons, which include a 2,400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating back 850 years, have been found high in the remote Mackenzie Mountains, a region where Mountain Boreal caribou abound in the summer months.

Dotted with ice patches resulting from accumulation of annual snow that, until recently, remained frozen all year, the mountains have been the caribous’ shelter for millennia.

[insert Army joke here]

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:02 pm

U.S. military community volunteers help uncover Roman history

They came, they dug, and they sifted through thousands of years of European history.

With construction crews chomping at the bit to lay the foundations for a new $133 million U.S. Army housing area just outside Wiesbaden Army Airfield, time is running short for German archaeologists seeking to uncover remnants of past settlements.

After having spent several months in the fall and spring sifting through soil which revealed several Roman wells, the foundations of a villa rustica (Roman farm complex) and various artifacts, members of the Hessen archaeology team put out a call for volunteers in the U.S. community to join in the documentary project.

Happily, they didn’t make them dig with those little fold-up latrine shovels.

Save the stone!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:00 pm

Has the Anglo-Saxon stone been saved?

It was the Guardian wot won it. Perhaps. In Monday’s G2 I reported that, to the consternation of archaeologists and historians, an Anglo-Saxon stone carving was to be sold yesterday by Bonhams in London.

The carving is part of a cross from Peakirk, Northamptonshire, a monument to St Pega, England’s first female hermit, which fell into the hands of a couple called the Evereds when they acquired a former chapel and its outbuildings eight years ago. It wasn’t regarded as part of the listed building; neither was it covered by the Treasure Act. So the fear was that it could disappear from public view or even go abroad.


I think.

Viking update

Filed under: Vikings! — acagle @ 6:57 pm

Archaeologists baffled over ‘bizarre’ Viking discovery

A TEAM of Irish archaeologists is puzzled by the “bizarre” discovery of a 1,150-year-old Viking necklace in a cave in the Burren.
Besides being the largest by far – up to 12 times longer than previous finds – the team is puzzled by how such a “high-status” Viking treasure came to lie in the Burren, an area never settled by the Norsemen.

Trade is suggested which is the first thing that popped into my mind.

Well, actually this is the first thing that popped into my mind.

Potting in Egypt.

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 12:13 pm

The EEF has had a thread on representations of potters in Old Kingdom Egypt and someone sent around this photo from Flickr.

That’s one of the nice things about Egyptian mythology, because the dead needed the same things in the afterworld that they needed in life, we get representations like this. The Middle and New Kingdoms were better for this with regards to settlement archaeology, especially the former with the numerous house models. I suppose it can be a bit dangerous to base assumptions of what life was actually like on these representations; I’ve certainly argued that tomb graphics can represent more idealized than actual activities and that telling the difference can be tricky. Certainly when you have archaeological examples of similar items it strengthens the analogy.

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