December 28, 2010

Archaeoastronomy

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:56 am

Entrance of Winter Illuminates Rock Painting in Baja California Archaeological Site

In a wall of the space known as El Diablito (the Little Devil), considered the most relevant at the site, a 20 centimeters-high anthropomorphic figure with extensions that look like antennas, painted in red, can be appreciated. Geometric figures painted in white and black are found next to it.

The Winter solstice is marked up at the place between 7:00 and 7:30 hours, when the sunlight enters and slowly illuminates the figure from its feet to its head, and then backwards. This event marked a special date in the Kumiai calendar, the beginning of the cold season and the time to abandon the site temporarily.

The group moved to the coasts and valleys and gave up gathering nuts and hunting in order to consume mollusks and other kind of vegetables, explained archaeologist Fernando Oviedo Garcia, from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

One of the great dangers of tourism. . . .

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 8:52 am

In Egypt: Eight Americans killed in Egypt bus crash

Eight American tourists were killed and 21 injured when their bus collided with a truck near the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, police and the official MENA news agency said.

The bus carrying 37 tourists from the United States was headed to the ancient Egyptian Abu Simbel temples when it collided with a damaged truck parked on the side of the road, MENA said.

A police official said six of the dead were women. The bus driver and a tour guide were also injured in the crash, which occurred early in the morning about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Aswan.

As I’ve often said, the scariest thing about working in Egypt isn’t curses, disease, or terrorists, it’s traffic. I’ve been in a couple of accidents — and close calls as a pedestrian — but always walked away virtually unscathed. Buses are probably one of the safest means of travel on the highway just because of their size, but there are larger vehicles, as we see here. Condolences to all of their friends and relatives.

December 27, 2010

What I watched last night

Filed under: Non-archaeology, Pop culture — acagle @ 10:08 am

The 1986 remake of The Fly. I think it’s far better than the original. It was scary and funny and poignant all at the same time and one of the few that take the scientist seriously as a human being. Usually, they’re just stick figures out to “Try to do what should be left to God” or portrayed as little more than a brain vacuum-packed in a skull. There was really no good or bad guy in it. You want to hate the editor, but he ends up saving the girl. Brundle kind of turns evil, but you know the good Brundle is still in there but being overwhelmed by the fly; and his reactions throughout actually make sense. I think the end bit where the deformed Brundle puts the shotgun to his own head is really one of the most touching scenes in all of sci-fi.

Spoiling looters’ fun

Filed under: Antiquities Market — acagle @ 9:16 am

Museums Should Dig In

Excavation is the lifeblood of archaeology. Without it, museums can only recycle exhibitions of well-known masterpieces. And despite two centuries of digging, much more remains to be discovered than has yet been found.

If only ownership could be separated from possession, then museums might strike a deal with countries like Greece and Italy. Here’s how it would work: The countries of origin would own anything that was excavated there and keep most of the finds on display in local partnering museums. But the museum that sponsored the dig would be allowed to borrow a percentage of the finds and exhibit them in America. Eventually, all the finds from a site would be exchanged on a rotating basis between the country of origin and the museum, which would pay the expenses and insurance.

I can’t say I’m against the basic concept, although I kind of doubt museums would have the kind of money to pony up for excavations. I dunno though. . . .unless there’s a pressing reason to do so, we ought to be leaving stuff in the ground.

Maxi, Mini, MIDI

Filed under: Media, Pop culture — acagle @ 9:04 am

For Music Archivists, a Vinyl Pressed with MIDI Tunes

MIDI versions of popular songs, apart from being annoying sound bites, are firmly anchored in digital culture’s past along with Geocities and marquee HTML tags.

But now, a project by Internet Archaeology hopes to unearth that past by converting those MIDI computer files into an even older format: the 12” vinyl.

I actually had to go look MIDI up, it’s not something I’ve ever had much to do with. In sum, it’s cheap synth muzak for computers. If you search for some you can get whole songs in goofy, video game format.

Lost civilization garden. . . .found

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 8:54 am

Archaeologists unearth Georgian garden in St Helier

Archaeologists have uncovered a Georgian garden in Jersey.

The find was made by a team from the Societe Jersiaise working at the National Trust property in St Helier.

The National Trust for Jersey has recently been renovating the property at 16 New Street.

Those devils

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 8:53 am

A Gallipoli-like site in Brighton, says archaeologist

“It’s a site of things but it’s also a site which has great spiritual values for Aboriginal people,” says Mr Paton.

The Tasmanian Government has approved the proposal to build a bridge over the Jordan River levee site to continue the construction of the Brighton Bypass, sparking protest action by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

Mr Paton says the levee site contains a series of ‘living floors’ or ‘artefact scatters’ dating back about 40,000 years through to the present.

Not clear whether the site(s) would be destroyed or just covered up. I’m all for covering it up myself.

UPDATE: More here.

December 26, 2010

Lost civilization. . . .foundCivil War coded message. . . . .decoded

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 4:56 pm

Long after it was used, of course: Coded American Civil War message in bottle deciphered

A message in a bottle delivered to a Confederate general during the American Civil War has been deciphered, 147 years after it was written.

In the encrypted message, a commander tells Gen John Pemberton that no reinforcements are available to help him defend Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“You can expect no help from this side of the river,” says the message, which was deciphered by codebreakers.

UPDATE: The above is kind of a lame story. This one has much more detail, a better image of the note, and a complete translation.

UPDATE II: Also, Archaeologists find wreckage of Confederate gunboat.

Blogging update

Filed under: Blogging update — acagle @ 9:20 am

I’ve turned off the comments for a few days to hopefully get rid of the spammers. It’s the same couple of people I think, so I’m hoping they’ll give up and take me off their list. They’ve been the sort where apparently real people are posting stupid comments for money, instead of the spambots that are getting caught anyway. It’s not a big problem, but it’s a bit irritating having to delete them all the time.

Forgot to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays so there it is. Mine was, eh. Well, I shouldn’t say that. It was pleasant. Fairly quiet as the in-law children were not present (went somewhere else this year) so the in-laws didn’t even have a tree up.

My interesting gift: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Yes, I agree, for such a manly man as I that seems like an unusual gift. However, as my apatite has waned as I’ve gotten older, I have found that quantity does not matter as much anymore and, although quality will not ever have pride of place enough to call me a foodie (God forbid), I thought I might start learning to cook better. Last year I tried learning Greek cooking, but. . .hmmm. Actually, that was largely a failure except for having learned how to make a decent souvlaki and maybe kofta (that’s probably more Egyptian though). And ful (which I now notice that updates did not follow. . . .), which were also a failure, but I have since made good on them: I just use pinto beans and don’t bother trying to make it traditional ful, but they are daaaaang tasty.

ANYWAY. I’m having a go at French. From what I’ve heard, one should master the individual techniques first and then the actual dishes follow fairly easily. That should satisfy the geek in me.

And no, I did not think of this because of that stupid movie, which I did not see. I am, however, pleased that the whole thing started off as a blog.

December 24, 2010

Archaeological treasure

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 10:53 am

For real! As you know, I’ve been reading through The City of Akhenaten II looking for info on bathroom/lavatories. Rather unobtrusively on p.59 came this passage:

[House] 76 was entered from Crock of Gold Square, by a door in a curved boundary wall.

Hmmmm. Odd name for a place, ‘Crock of Gold Square’, wonder where they got that from? The other streets have fairly descriptive names, such as Straight Street and Greek Street, apparently named thus by various excavators based on their characteristics or what sort of objects were found there. Musta missed mention of any crocks of gold though. . . .

To the north and east are two small courts, in the latter of which lay a small jar with a saucer over the mouth as a lid. With a certain amount of unwillingness to perform what they knew by experience to be a fruitless and troublesome task, the workmen prized [you never hear that word anymore, ed.] off the lid and shook the earth inside to loosen it. A bar of gold dropped out.

! ! ! ! !

Well, that’s pretty cool. But wait, there’s more!

There came twenty-two bars of gold, much silver, and a figurine of a Hittite god in silver with a gold cap.

Yowsa. Probably needless to say, I’ve never found anything like that. Makes my little bronze mirror seem fairly pathetic in comparison. Now, recall that they had brought up the term ‘Crock of Gold Square’ in passing early on a previous page, leaving the reader to wonder just what the heck was going on. He rounds it out in typical understated fashion:

Now perhaps the name — ‘Crock of Gold Square’ — seems justified to you.

I’ve posted several times on other hordes like this (e.g., here and here), and one often wonders what they were for. Owners hiding their possessions before an invasion? For some ritual purpose? Here, they speculate otherwise:

This hoard, found as it was in the courtyard of a hovel, must have formed part of a thief’s loot. Perhaps he had even raided the Hall of Foreign Tribute, less than a mile away; he had melted down all the gold and was already using it, for he had cut off pieces as he needed them, from the bars; he had crushed up the silver ready to be melted down and then the end came.

I had been thinking this may have been a craftsman’s store, perhaps a jewelers, that he had kept in a safe place, although there isn’t any indication of factory work going on nearby. Seems odd that a thief would be melting his loot down, which seems to me rather a conspicuous activity, sure to attract attention. I suppose he could have stolen a jewelers store of raw material and been cutting it up to use as his own store of wealth. Seems plausible to me, although I suppose that’s about all you can say about it.

They have a whole page devoted to photos of the find both when it was found, opened, and a composite of the contents, as well as a detailed description of the contents. Definitely a spectacular find. It ends with this little (literally) footnote to the find:

The vase was lying less than a foot below the surface. A chip had been made in the lid . . . by the tethering stake of a local worthy. His feelings on hearing what he had missed are recorded, but inconvenient to print.

Ha!

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