January 12, 2016

All I ever found was rocks.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:50 pm

Pantego kids excited about unearthed object; archaeologists not so much

Perhaps laid bare by rain runoff, a raised piece of the object was seen poking through the earth, beneath a few inches of green, leafy ground cover.

The boys wasted no time pouncing on the opportunity.

“I thought it was just a brick that said “Mexico” on it,” said William Lassiter, 12, a sixth-grader at Hill. “But they started digging it more, then it started just growing bigger.”

“We were just over here walking around,” Brandon added. “This has been here for years, and we just saw it and wanted to dig it up, because we had nothing else to do. But it turns out it was something interesting, so we kept digging it.”

I can’t say much about it because the ($)@*#%)(*$)_(%$@^%( thing kept starting an auto-play video which I &#$%ING CAN’T STAND.

It’s. . um, time

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:45 pm

For tea! Archaeologists discover world’s oldest tea buried with ancient Chinese emperor

Archaeologists have discovered the oldest tea in the world among the treasures buried with a Chinese emperor.

New scientific evidence suggests that ancient Chinese royals were partial to a cuppa – at least 2150 years ago.

Indeed, they seem to have liked it so much that they insisted on being buried with it – so they could enjoy a cup of char in the next world.

Tea struggles with diet soda for my very soul.

Modern (non)artifacts

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 7:39 pm


My article on Fortran, This is Not Your Father’s FORTRAN, brought back a lot of memories about the language. It also reminded me of other languages from my time at college and shortly thereafter, say pre-1978.

At that time there were the three original languages – FORTRAN, LISP, and COBOL. These originals are still used although none make the lists of popular languages. I never did any COBOL but did some work with Pascal, Forth, and SNOBOL which are from that era. Of those, SNOBOL quickly faded but the others are still around. SNOBOL was a text processing language that basically lost out to AWK, PERL, and regular expressions. Given how cryptic regular expressions are it’s amazing another language from that time, APL – A Programming Language, didn’t survive. APL was referred to as a ‘write only language’ because it was often easier to simply rewrite a piece of code than to debug it.

I learned on Pascal initially, except for a tiny bit of Basic earlier. Then moved on to machine and assembler and (God rot its eternal soul) C. I even did a couple of archaeology programs in it, including an occurrence seriation that was originally in Fortran (I eventually re-translated it into Access Basic). (never did work like it was advertised)

I even did a little bit in COBOL once. Lawdy what a mess.


Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:33 pm

‘A bronze age Pompeii’: archaeologists hail discovery of Peterborough site

Almost 3,000 years after being destroyed by fire, the astonishingly well preserved remains of two Bronze Age houses and their contents have been discovered at a quarry site in Peterborough.

The artefacts include a collection of everyday domestic objects unprecedented from any site in Britain, including jewellery, spears, daggers, giant food storage jars and delicate drinking cups, glass beads, textiles and a copper spindle with thread still wound around it.

The remains of the large wooden houses, built on stilts in a waterlogged fenland site beside the ancient course of the river Nene, are the best preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain. The most poignant object, suggesting that the last meal in the house was abandoned as the owners fled, was a cooking pot containing a wooden spoon and the remains of food calcified from the heat of the fire.

Apparently abandoned during use. These things are valuable for both the range of material that survives and also the spatial positioning of the objects and features. Of course, it’s still a snapshot of the dwellings at this particular time so their extensibility to other places/times is limited.

Video is kind of useless.

January 11, 2016

More from the annals of settled science

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 8:15 pm

Pathogens found in Otzi’s stomach

That’s not the settled part. More:

Scientists are continually unearthing new facts about Homo sapiens from the mummified remains of Ötzi, the Copper Age man, who was discovered in a glacier in 1991. Five years ago, after Ötzi’s genome was completely deciphered, it seemed that the wellspring of spectacular discoveries about the past would soon dry up. An international team of scientists working with paleopathologist Albert Zink and microbiologist Frank Maixner from the European Academy (EURAC) in Bozen/Bolzano have now succeeded in demonstrating the presence of Helicobacter pylori in Ötzi’s stomach contents, a bacterium found in half of all humans today. The theory that humans were already infected with this stomach bacterium at the very beginning of their history could well be true. The scientists succeeded in decoding the complete genome of the bacterium.

That’s not either, actually. Interesting though. But here it is:

The scientists found a potentially virulent strain of bacteria, to which Ötzi’s immune system had already reacted. “We showed the presence of marker proteins which we see today in patients infected with Helicobacter,” said the microbiologist.

A tenth of infected people develop further clinical complications, such as gastritis or stomach ulcers, mostly in old age.

I’m old enough to remember when it was just plain nuts to think that bacteria or something caused ulcers.

If they could, they probably did

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:10 pm

Were Panamanian islanders dolphin hunters?

Precolombian seafarers left what is now mainland Panama to settle on Pedro González Island in the Perlas archipelago about 6,000 years ago, crossing 50-70 kilometers (31-44 miles) of choppy seas — probably in dugout canoes. Dolphins were an important part of the diet of island residents according to Smithsonian archeologist Richard Cooke and colleagues from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and Colombia’s Universidad del Norte.

“This raises intriguing questions,” said Cooke, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “Were the island’s first known inhabitants dolphin hunters or did they merely scavenge beached animals?”

I would think there’d be more evidence of that. They tend to be quicker critters than yer average big ol’ whale, but at least up here (northwest coast) there’s no shortage of marine mammals (though they’re not the dominant species). Perhaps this is one of a few places where hunting them is relatively easy.

January 9, 2016

“There was no monitor.”

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 9:14 am

The Triumph of Email: Why does one of the world’s most reviled technologies keep winning?

In the mobile Internet age, checking email is simultaneously a nervous tic and, for many workers, a tether to the office. A person’s email inbox is where forgotten passwords are revived; where mass-mailings are collected; and where pumpkin-pie recipes, toddler photos, and absurd one-liners are shared. The inbox, then, is a place of convergence: for junk, for work, for advertising, and still sometimes for informal, intimate correspondence. Email works just the way it’s supposed to, and better than it used to, but people seem to hate it more than ever.

Over the course of about half a century, email went from being obscure and specialized, to mega-popular and beloved, to derided and barely tolerated. With email’s reputation now cratering, service providers offer tools to help you hit “inbox zero,” while startups promise to kill email altogether. It’s even become fashionable in tech circles to brag about how little a person uses email anymore.

I don’t hate email. Never did. I love email. I can communicate with someone who’s not right there and can compose thoughtful responses (or not, I suppose) instead of having to respond right now on the phone. I can send said communication to the other side of the planet nearly instantaneously. I can send files with it so we’re talking about the same thing.

Email is wonderful.

It’s abused, obviously — what isn’t? — but I’ve managed to keep at least my main email relatively free from spam. And it takes a bit more thought to create words that mean what you’re really trying to convey; it’s not just typing what you’re thinking (or shouldn’t be, most of the time). But it still rocks.

January 8, 2016

Things wot happen in the field stay in the field

Filed under: Field photos — acagle @ 5:31 pm

Until some idiot posts them on the Internet.

Desert Fox

Garum and toilets again

Filed under: Public Health, Rome — acagle @ 10:21 am

Roman toilets gave no clear health benefit, and Romanisation actually spread parasitesT

he Romans are well known for introducing sanitation technology to Europe around 2,000 years ago, including public multi-seat latrines with washing facilities, sewerage systems, piped drinking water from aqueducts, and heated public baths for washing. Romans also developed laws designed to keep their towns free of excrement and rubbish. However, new archaeological research has revealed that – for all their apparently hygienic innovations – intestinal parasites such as whipworm, roundworm and Entamoeba histolytica dysentery did not decrease as expected in Roman times compared with the preceding Iron Age, they gradually increased.

I’m going to have to read the original paper. Reading through the article it may not be that the various public health systems described — the toilets and running water in particular — didn’t do anything positive but that if they did (which I still suspect they did) they were swamped by other practices that acted to spread disease. I.e., you go use a clean toilet but then jump in a filthy bath afterwards. I also wonder how much increased population densities may have played as well. But whatever, see what you think.

January 7, 2016

Funny story

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 2:06 pm

Desert Fox

Which may or may not have a point. As some may recall, I did a monument survey of Calvary Cemetery a couple of years ago (okay, 3), etc. Part of what I found during that was that there seemed to be a big influx of burials around 1918/1919 and the character of the burials (demographics) seemed to be consistent with the influenza epidemic. Since I cut it off at 1919 I didn’t have data past that to see if the influx continued on — suggesting it wasn’t influenza, just an increase for other reasons. So I thought that I would collect more data from 1920 on to see what the actual pattern was. Basically it consisted of walking the cemetery and recording basic data on markers from between 1920 and 1929 — sex, DOB, date of death, age — to add to what I’d already collected. A basic demographic survey of a burial population, standard sort of research in archaeology and history, paleodemography, etc.

I emphasize “research” for a reason.

So I was talking to someone at the local Catholic church (Calvary is a Catholic cemetery) and she suggested asking the Parish Boy Scouts to see if a few of them might want to spend a few hours — literally, a few hours — walking the cemetery and recording this data. Hence, I sent an email to someone who sent it on to a Scout representative.

I expected a “Sure, they’d do that” or perhaps a “No, we’d like to pass, thank you”.

Instead, I got the following, which I reproduce in full here, along with comments of my own, with names and such censored to protect identities. I may even append the second response, which was just as wordy and irrelevant to what I was asking. At first it annoyed me — I responded back with some answers and a gentle plea that if no one is interested, that’s fine — but after the second one, I found the whole thing so absurd that even now I laugh. Please enjoy, and also try to learn that brevity is the soul of both wit and politeness.

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