August 31, 2010

Antique Archaeology

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:18 pm

Season 2.

Figured I’d give ‘em a plug seeing as an earlier post on it has driven a lot of traffic this way. . . . .

Wake up?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:16 pm

Ancient Sorcerer’s “Wake” Was First Feast for the Dead?

Some 12,000 years ago in a small sunlit cave in northern Israel, mourners finished the last of the roasted tortoise meat and gathered up dozens of the blackened shells. Kneeling down beside an open grave in the cave floor, they paid their last respects to the elderly dead woman curled within, preparing her for a spiritual journey.

They tucked tortoise shells under her head and hips and arranged dozens of the shells on top and around her. Then they left her many rare and magical things—the wing of a golden eagle, the pelvis of a leopard, and the severed foot of a human being.

Now called Hilazon Tachtit, the small cave chosen as this woman’s resting place is the subject of an intense investigation led by Leore Grosman, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Good article.

Rain, rain, rain

Filed under: Blogging update — Tags: — acagle @ 10:48 am

At home working on a presentation I’m giving in Portland next month (on the Fayum). It’s raining out, one of those all-day soaking rains we get here in Seattle. Which is good, I guess, even though this summer has been really cool it hasn’t rained a lot in the last month or so. Hence, the grass is dry and brown. This should soak everything and cause me to have to mow next week.

Mac update: I have actually moved the old PC to the side of the desk and put the Mac in the center. !!! I haven’t moved all of my data over yet, but I’m starting to experiment with using the Mac as my primary computer. It’s working okay so far. Yesterday I had to log in as ‘root’ to get rid of some sister-centric folder and file names, and moved all of my iTune junk over. Sadly, Rhapsody has no Mac app so I have to access that through the Web only. I’m using OpenOffice for the presentation stuff and it’s working okay as well. Might I finally free myself entirely from the yoke of Microsoft? Gads, I hope so. I’m guessing the Apple yoke isn’t much better, but at least I don’t have a history with Apple.

August 30, 2010

Yeah, I’m still here. . . . .

Filed under: Blogging update — acagle @ 3:16 pm

Had to cancel the survey project because of my knee. I strengthened it as much as I could over the last few days, but this morning (they’re taking off today to finish some reports at the office) I went to a local park that has lots of wooded areas and hiked around some, but after 45 minutes it was hurting again. *sigh* My first age-related limitation, I guess. I’ll probably be going up to do some construction monitoring/sampling later this week though, enshallah.

UPDATE: BTW, I think I’m having difficulty with the lateral collateral ligament. That seems to be the location where it begins to hurt although the pain eventually spreads some. Still, it’s worse there. I don’t think I tore it. . . .it’s not always painful, and I can walk around without any problem (on level ground) after resting it for a while.

Remote sensing update

Filed under: Remote Sensing, Rome — acagle @ 3:13 pm

Dry early summer turns 2010 into a vintage year for archaeology

Dry weeks in early summer have already made 2010 a vintage year for archaeology, English Heritage said yesterday. The conditions allowed hundreds of cropmark sites – created when crops grow at a different rate over buried features – to be seen from the air. A Roman camp near Bradford Abbas, Dorset, was found after three sides appeared in parched barley fields. The lightly built defensive enclosure would have provided basic protection for Roman soldiers while on manoeuvres in the first century AD and is one of only four discovered in the south west of England, English Heritage said.

The dry conditions also allowed well known sites to be photographed in greater detail. Newton Kyme, near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, was shown to be home not only to a 2,000-year-old Roman fort but also to a larger defence built in AD290. Stone walls up to three metres thick and a ditch 15 metres wide were revealed by an image taken from a Cessna light aircraft.

I’ve mentioned this before in connection with English Camp and the location of the shell midden being visible in the dry season:

Lost civilization cutlery. . . . .found

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 2:59 pm

Actually, just a bunch of flakes (the tools, not the archaeologists. Well, maybe. . . .) Israel researchers find ancient disposable cutlery

Israeli archaeologists believe thousands of ancient shards of flint found scattered around a fire pit in a cave near Tel Aviv might be the world’s oldest known disposable knives.

Dating to the Stone Age, the tiny knives are believed to be at least 200,000 years old. A Tel Aviv University excavation team found the tools around a fireplace littered with charred animal bones.

Archaeologist Ran Barkai said he believes Stone Age hunter-gatherers used the rough, round-shaped cutlery — ranging from the size of human teeth to guitar picks — for slicing through cooked meat because they were found next to the animal bones. The bones were used to determine the age of the knives.

The headline is a bit misleading, but accurate. Allow me to explain. I’m not entirely sure these are “the oldest disposable knives” or, as we call them, expedient tools, found. Not that I can name the earliest utilized flakes off the top of my head, but I’m guessing use wear on flakes goes back a ways. But the comment near the end of the piece may be accurate, in that what is often interpreted as “debitage” in the field — the various chips and flakes produced from the production of more complex formal tools — may actually have been utilized as expedient tools, or produced themselves to be tools. After all, many of the flakes have nice sharp edges that can be used for a bit and discarded. Parry and Kelly (in The Organization of Core Technology by Johnson and Morrow) linked expedient tool use to sedentism, such that sedentary people would be likely (wishy-washy word, I know) to use expedient tools that are cheap to manufacture because they could stockpile raw material and wouldn’t need the more complicated tools that mobile hunter-gatherers often use. The latter tend to have (more wishy-washy) a variety of smaller, more complicated tools that they can carry around and resharpen and refashion as needed; the cost of doing so is justified by the need to be mobile and often out of range of available raw materials. Thus, the idea that having a lot of good stone around might even be a prerequisite for such an expedient technology: the more you have, the more wasteful (in terms of raw material) you can be.

A classic Maya abandonment more swift than Tikal …

Filed under: Abandonment — ArchaeoFriend @ 6:21 am

Except for the northern lowlands, classic Maya cities throughout the Maya world were abandoned relatively rapidly — over about 150 years or so.  Tikal was a huge city that emptied within 20 or 30 years.  But new work on a site, Kiuic, that John Lloyd Stephens first visited in 1841 (it’s been known about for quite some time), has revealed that some of the abandonments were pretty much instantaneous, at least at Kiuic. 

But the Stairway to Heaven homes high above the site now attract as much, or more, attention from the archaeologists. During excavations last year, archaeologists found pottery and stone tools left in place inside homes, including a wealthy farmer’s kitchen room perched on the edge of the hill. Corn grinding stones called metates still rest on their sides next to doorways, at the ready for preparing another meal.  (from USA today http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2010-08-25-maya-pompeii_N.htm)

(Stephens:  dude was my age when he died)

August 29, 2010

Otzi (the “Ice Man”) in the news again

Filed under: Mummies — ArchaeoFriend @ 7:45 pm

Oh, my, I recall more than a few conference papers on Otzi, including one quite infamous one.  But I digress.  Otzi is in the news again.  A reanalysis of the 5,300-year-old mummified remains of Otzi has led researchers to change their conclusions/interpretations of the site where he was found.  What has not changed is that Otzi has a wound in his shoulder, likely from an arrow.  Oh, and that he is dead.  BUT, it seems that he was not killed where we found him, left to die in the cold.  Based on the nature of the artifacts found near the body, the fact that the seasonality of Otzi’s stomach contents does not match that of the matrix around him, and the careful arrangement of finished and half-finished objects around the body, the site is now interpreted as an intentional ceremonial burial location.

August 28, 2010

Lost civilization city. . . .found

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 8:34 am

Bit late on this one but it’s rather important: Ancient “Lost” Egyptian City Discovered By Yale Archaeologists

A Yale team led by Professor of Egyptology John Coleman Darnell has unearthed a lost city—site of a massive bread-making industry—that flourished more than 3,500 years ago in the Western desert of Egypt.

The discovery of the remains of this mud-brick settlement, which functioned as an administrative center as well as major supplier of bread, stands to shed new light on an obscure era in Egyptian history, the Second Intermediate Period, when rival factions contended for domination of what had been a prosperous state united under Pharaonic rule, asserts Darnell.

This is important because it could shed light on the relations between one of these outlying settlements and the central government, such as it was during the 2IP. Also, it seems to have been at least somewhat specialized for bread making, so one wonders how self-sufficient it was in basic goods and services. This was one of the things we were looking at at Kom el-Hisn: whether it was a largely self-sufficient town that just interacted with the central gov’t through taxation or tribute, or if it was specialized in some area (we think cattle production) and relied on some sort of redistributive system to obtain basics from elsewhere. I think it was some of both, myself.

The article has a slide show and I’ll probably be posting other links to this one.

August 27, 2010

And a can of worms

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 10:13 am

While on vacation I also acquired my sister’s old Macbook Air. Yes, your humble correspondent now has a Mac. Whenever it was time to replace a computer I always contemplated getting a Mac because I was just so sick of the crap Microsoft kept shoveling out that I swore I was going to leave them for good. But, I started looking at all the costs (both time and money) involved in switching and decided against it. I always more or less preferred the PC hardware selection, and you could get a very good computer for much less than an Apple. Plus, I had all of my software built up over the years that would have to be replaced, not to mention all of the app-specific data files that had no real equivalent on the Mac side. Access leaps readily to mind; I have LOTS of data in Access and although I’ve heard Filemaker is pretty good it would be a LOT of work to not only migrate them over, but then learn a whole new db system and buy it to boot. So, I avoided it.

I also always had feelings about Apple that were. . . . .complicated. I always envied the way Macs did a lot of stuff just right while you always had to keep dinking around with Winblows just make some simple thing work. The phrase “Plug and Pray” comes to mind. Plus there’s that whole Mac culture, which I always viewed as a lot of elitist snobbery. “*sniff sniff* Well, our Macs just work, you know.” Every time I walk by the local Apple Store in the last couple of years to see a line of people waiting to buy whatever new gizmo Jobs hath blessed the masses with I have to roll my eyes. Not that the Microsofties are much better. I recall with amazement people waiting in line at midnight to buy Winblows 95. “It’s the same old crap in a new box, people!” But the Mac people were always worse. “We’re so hip and kewl! Not like those icky PC ppl.”

So anyway, now I have one. The only problem is a broken ‘F’ key which I will find out today whether it’s easy to fix or not (I tried popping it back on but it doesn’t). I liked the way it just showed the available wireless networks and let me pick one. I like the way you open it up and it’s immediately ready to work. Yeah yeah, maybe Microsoft has figured that out finally, but my PC of a similar vintage takes at least a full minute before it’s finished pulling its head out of its own ass before I can actually do anything. I think the keyboard is backlit too, which is nice. I’m not bitching about every little thing though, because I’m sure a lot of the little irritants so far are a result of me just not knowing how to do things on the platform. Seems not to have a lot of the keyboard shortcuts that I love; I think they’re a massively efficient means of doing things. And only one mouse button!

Not sure what exactly I’m going to do with it, to be honest. I’m rather disinclined to make it my main machine since, as I mention above, that would require a lot of new software (EndNote, SPSS, the Access issue, etc.). And no CD/DVD drive! I might be able to function with OpenOffice, especially as I like the whole open source Unix idea (and yes, I truly love the Unix base of the Mac OS). I figure I’ll probably just fiddle with it and I’ll naturally find a place for it.

I do, however, steadfastly refuse to use it at the local coffee shop just so I look all hip and cool and sh*t.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s we had a few Mac people in the department, but not a lot. The sociocults used most of them [insert snarky comment here] but there were a few archys who had them. That was back with the old original Mac, which I still mostly loathe. Stupid little toy keyboard, stupid little screen, I could fire up WordPerfect and write a page and a half while they were waiting for Word to open on their tiny little screen. I’ve waxed rhapsodic* about the old IMB-type keyboards, and I wondered how those Mac people could stand using those little things. Oh well, whatever, OS/2 was still better than all of them combined! </OS/2 nerd>

* I just noticed that whole post was messed up. It’s fixed now and actually says something.

UPDATE: Got the key fixed, free at the Apple Store. So now I have it and must figure out what to do with it. I think I’m going to use it to update the files for my little talk next month.

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