July 31, 2012

Digital data collection update

Filed under: Cemeteries — acagle @ 7:28 pm

Well, not really, more of a cemetery data collection update. I finished the project a while back, but as I looked over the data and thought of a few ways to analyze it, I decided I had a major weakness if I ever wanted to publish one aspect of it: namely, detecting the 1918 influenza pandemic. It seemed pretty obvious when I did some preliminary analysis early on, but publishing is a different animal and one has to at least minimize biases as much as possible. Obviously, this wasn’t a demographic study to begin with, so there are inherent limitations anyway.

The problem crops up because I only looked at burials from before 1920 which leaves only one year of data (1919) after the pandemic year. So while I could easily compare the 1918 death profile with a lot of earlier years, there was only one after. That means that almost all I could say was that 1918 was different from previous years, but whether it was solely related to something in 1918 and not, for example, something from 1918 and after, was comparatively weakly supported.

So I’m going back out tomorrow to collect basic data — age and sex mostly — for some years afterwards. Probably 1920-25, maybe up to 1929. I figure if I get 100 or so from a variety of locations it should at least allay some criticisms that I haven’t ruled out some change not entirely specific to 1918.

UPDATE: Decided it would be useless to collect more data since the two sets would be incomparable: one’s a tabulation of the full population and the other’s a sample. So, I work with what I got.

Tomb raiders!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:18 pm

Archaeologists Discover the Tomb of a Mayan Prince in Mexico

“As part of the 2012 excavation campaign a tomb has been unearthed roughly 1.5 meters below the southern rooms of the K2 building that can be dated back to right after the end of the influence of Calakmul and where a prince most likely was buried. Inscriptions on various containers found in the burial tomb chamber point to this fact,” explains Dr. Delvendahl. The walls of the vault are made of brick and were covered with a corbel vault, typical for the Mayan culture. In the interior of this tomb chamber which dates back 1,300 years, the remains of a young man were discovered who was buried on his back with his arms folded over his stomach. Around him were the remains of lavish burial offerings such as four ceramic plates and five ceramic cups in an exceptionally preserved state, some of which were decorated with spectacular paintings and reliefs. A unique plate with the painting in the codex-style was lying on the skull of the deceased.

Lost civilization pots. . . .found (and not by archaeologists)

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:16 pm

U.S. border agents find rare artifacts

The archaeologists believe the pots are hundreds of years old but still haven’t determined their exact age or who made them. That could take a year or more.

What they do know is that the discovery of the pots was a rare and unusual find.

. . .

Sitting on the surface in sandy soil, they had been undisturbed since they were carefully placed there by human hands.

What’s more, the pots were discovered not by archaeologists digging through ruins, but by U.S. Border Patrol agents looking for signs of illegal immigrants hiding in the mountains.

Big people. . . .found

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:12 pm

Archaeologists unearth colossal human sculpture

An international team of archaeologists recently unearthed a colossal human structure along with an ornately decorated semi-circular column in southeastern Turkey.



Both pieces were originally part of a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC).

“These newly discovered Tayinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition,” explained Professor Tim Harrison of the University of Toronto.



I don’t really know how significant these are — Hittites aren’t my area — but I thought it was interesting that they eye inlays were actually preserved. You don’t see that very often.

Traveling the world to bring you a constant variety of. . . . .breasts

Filed under: Historic — acagle @ 3:42 pm

600-year-old linen bras found in Austrian castle

A revolutionary discovery is rewriting the history of underwear: Some 600 years ago, women wore bras.

The University of Innsbruck said Wednesday that archeologists found four linen bras dating from the Middle Ages in an Austrian castle. Fashion experts describe the find as surprising because the bra had commonly been thought to be only little more than 100 years old as women abandoned the tight corset.

Instead, it appears the bra came first, followed by the corset, followed by the reinvented bra.

I vaguely recall posting this earlier, but was unable to find it. The article says that it’s rather fancily decorated, so one would imagine that this isn’t the earliest one. It also noted that women went commando prior to the 19th century as well, an intriguing little concept.

Photo at the link, and I shall forego the temptation to provide y’all with an Artist’s Conception. . . . .

From the field

Filed under: Field photos — acagle @ 2:32 pm

At least one modern artifactish photo from the recent trip:

Desert Fox

I’ll leave this up for a while to elicit any guesses as to the subject matter.

July 30, 2012

Gophers go underwater

Filed under: Historic, Underwater archaeology — acagle @ 7:03 pm

Researchers move from Minnetonka to other lakes to scan for wrecks

Two researchers who scrutinized the bottom of Lake Minnetonka for possible shipwrecks are turning their underwater sights on Lake Waconia in Carver County and White Bear Lake in Ramsey County.

Ann Merriman and her husband, Chris Olson, are archaeologists who together founded the nonprofit Maritime Heritage Minnesota in 2005. Their quest is history, not treasure, since the steamboats, barges, sailboats and other objects they’ve identified were usually stripped of anything valuable and intentionally sunk when they became outdated.

The couple use inexpensive but high-quality sonar equipment to scan the bottom of lakes and rivers methodically, searching for possible archaeological sites.

Generally of only local historical interest, but it shows what fairly simple projects can accomplish. Of course, they haven’t done any actual diving yet to verify any of the finds. . . . .

Yet another new source of health information

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 3:16 pm

Christina Warinner: it’s a good thing our ancestors didn’t floss their teeth

Christina Warinner is an archaeological geneticist. Based at the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, she’s unlocking the secrets of the origins of disease by extracting DNA from fossilised dental plaque – the gunge that causes tooth decay.

Very neat stuff. There’s also a short video at the link from a TED lecture Warinner gave summarizing pretty much the same things. If they can really get DNA from certain upper respiratory infections it would add yet another source for ancient disease DNA — you can often get it from mummies as well, either from lung tissue or elsewhere. I think coprolites may actually end up being more common than she suggests. . . .it’s not something people have generally looked for. In Egypt especially I had a devil of a time finding any information at all on something as simple as where people went to the bathroom. I suspect latrine areas, especially in more arid regions (e.g.) may end up being far more extensive and common than assumed and will probably be a gold mine of health and diet information.

Also, try not imposing sharia law. . . .

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 3:01 pm

In Egypt, archaeologists reopen tombs to woo tourists

Egypt’s tourism industry has been battered since last year’s revolution, but here, beside the pyramids of Giza, officials are trying to attract the visitors back.

The tomb of Meresankh, whose name means lover of life, will be opened to the public for the first time in nearly 25 years later this year, while five other tombs of high priests — buried under the desert sands for decades — will be thrown open.

“We want to give people a reason to come back, to give them something new,” said Ali Asfar, director general of archaeology on the Giza plateau.
. . .

To the south of Cairo, authorities are also planning to reopen the famous Serapeum at Sakkara, a massive underground temple where sacred bulls were thought to have been buried in the huge granite and basalt sarcophagi — each weighing 60 to 100 tons — that sit in chambers flanking the long galleries.

I didn’t know the Serapeum was closed off. I think I went in there in 1996 or perhaps earlier in the 1990s. I have to say, that was the creepiest place I’d been in over there, more so than the bottom of Hatchepsut’s unused tomb. Long lines of huge sarcophagi with their lids open, just like some alien race had awoken from the dead. . . . .shudder

Modern Artifacts: An ode to a local landmark

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 11:16 am

Before we return to true ArchaeoBlogging, a brief reminiscence of my recent trip back to the motherland of Wisconsin. This is kind of an odd entry, because at first blush one might think it will be another bit of musing on some nostalgic aspect of my childhood when, in fact, that’s not really the case at all. On the other hand, the subject does go back to my childhood years and presents something of a case study in the right way to either “do retro” or at least maintain it. To wit, first a photograph:

Desert Fox

Those are some of the carhops from the Gille’s Frozen Custard Drive-In in Fond du Lac, WI. A true drive-in from the old days: no indoor seating at all. It’s been there in its present form since the late 1940s, largely unchanged for the most part; check the History link for a summary of the place.

Now, I remember Gille’s from my youth, driving past it so many times it’s not worth considering how many. Odd thing is, we never, ever stopped there when I was a kid. I’m not sure why not. We did frequent the local A&W drive-in both as a family and when we were out on our own; ditto the local Dairy Queen, although that wasn’t a drive-in. Maybe we weren’t too sure about the whole “custard” thing, I dunno. But we never did, so I really have no personal memories of the place, other than seeing it a lot.

Fast forward to the 1990s and the ArchaeoWife and I going back to Fondyberg for various vacations. For whatever reason, during one of those trips we decided to stop in. O.M.G. How did I ever not go there?? It’s not a quantum leap over traditional ice cream, but their sundaes are just oh-so-yummy. And so easy, which is, indirectly, one reason we never went there. See, at Gille’s, when you need a carhop to come over, you turn on your lights and one of them pops over in a jiffy. At the A&W, by contrast, they have big menus at each stall with an intercom system. To this day I have kind of a bad feeling about those things (and that A&W) because one of the first times I remember going there, my dad pressed the intercom button, the voice came on, and dad gave her our order. Silence. We waited for something (anything!) to happen, but still. . . .nothing. Tried it again. Still nothing. We eventually just drove off in disgust, and I’ve never felt the same way about the place since.

But getting back to Gille’s, we’ve been going there often on every trip since and I can’t really say enough good things about the place. It’s still got that old-timey drive-in look-and-feel to it, right down to the hand-painted big-board menu. A few years ago, we (and quite a few people, no doubt) started walking instead of driving there — it’s a pleasant walk from the homestead and makes you feel a bit less guilty about eating a sundae after dinner — and they thoughtfully started putting some picnic tables (always clean and in good repair) at the back of the parking lot on the empty lot they owned (see History link above), eventually adding in a nice canopy. The lot is also nicely groomed lawn with some shade trees, so it’s pleasant back there.

The nice thing is that, despite being old-timey and probably having much original equipment, it’s all clean and in good condition, not run down and dirty or falling apart or anything. Everything is well-maintained and manages to give you that old fashioned drive-in experience without seeming too ‘old’. And altogether much nicer than the modern take on 1950s diner/drive-ins.

The best part is the service. We’ve never been disappointed there. The headlights-on thing is simple, but incredibly effective. And the staff, at least the carhops that we’ve dealt with over the years, are always always always pleasant, well-trained, and efficient. And, er, well, generally young and female. =) The nice thing is, they haven’t tried to “sex up” the car hops with miniskirts and roller skates or what have you; that’s their usual summer attire in the photo above: standardized, functional, probably comfortable, but “attractive” without being distracting. They’re nearly always moving; your headlights aren’t on for more than a minute before one of them comes over to take your order (which they’ve never gotten wrong) or remove your tray. And they know how to make change in their head! Like I said, well trained and simply a pleasure to deal with.

As I said, most of them are in high school or maybe early college, although there are a few older women, probably mostly during the non-summer seasons (I think they’re usually open from about March until late November). I chatted with a couple of them while waiting for the ArchaeoWife this last time; two were starting their first year of college this fall, one locally and the other at UW-Madison. One of them wore a pedometer once and found she’d walked nine miles in a shift, and the manager also chimed in and said another had clocked up 12 miles. As I say, they’re working. Yeah, I did also inquire as to whether they’d ever had any male carhops, but they only knew of a couple that “hadn’t worked out”. Not that I’m complaining. . . . .

Whatever the case, the young ladies out on the front lines are a great credit to the company, and I wanted to give them a shout-out here, as well as to the organization as a whole: really a well-run small business that serves the customer well. They only have three locations, all in Wisconsin, so none of you will probably ever visit the place, but I hope to at least leave you with a good idea of how a good, old fashioned drive-in can really function well in the modern world.

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