March 23, 2015

Well, kinda

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 6:54 pm

Ring brings ancient Viking, Islamic civilizations closer together

More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.

Excavators of a Viking trading center in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s. Until now, it was thought that it featured a violet amethyst engraved with Arabic-looking characters. But closer inspection with a scanning electron microscope revealed that the presumed amethyst is colored glass (an exotic material at the time), say biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University and his colleagues.

An inscription on the glass inset reads either “for Allah” or “to Allah” in an ancient Arabic script, the researchers report February 23 in Scanning.

I’m not sure what the big deal is. There were certainly trade routes moving goods all around the Mediterranean and up into Europe for a long time before that. The Vikings didn’t necessarily have to have direct contact with any Muslims: they just have to be the last recipient of trade for the ring.

March 18, 2015

A really modern artifact

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 7:50 pm

This here, ladies and gentlemen, is my old trumpet:
Desert Fox

Played it for probably 10 years back in school, quit after graduation and have barely touched it since 1980. Yes, I’ve schlepped it around the whole time. It’s a Bach though I’m not sure how good it really is. I was never very good at it, although I played first trumpet as a senior. Lack of practicing, mainly because I wasn’t that into band music (I just did it for the chicks, ha).

Anyway, I had taken up guitar about 18 months ago (almost two years actually) because I wanted to learn some new skill in my old age and always wanted to learn guitar (for the chicks, ha). It’s been tough slogging. The last 3 months or so my left (fretting) forearm has really been hurting and I was wondering if maybe it was from the guitar, as I’d recently started doing bar chords which require a lot of muscle in that area. So I stopped the guitar for a couple (now few) weeks to see if it helped (maybe), and in the meantime took out my old axe and started noodling around.

And you know I wasn’t too bad at it. Yeah, my lips were completely out of shape and I could barely hit a middle G consistently, but it was actually kind of fun fiddling with it. And I’ve made really decent progress lately, although my playing time is limited due to lips muscles giving out after 15-20 minutes. But I’m hitting high D’s already and halfway decently.

I admit I’ve always been a Herb Alpert fan but I never played his stuff back in school. I’ve started getting a little practice with one of his old song books, mostly just for the fingering practice and such, although I’d like to play some of them at some point. Unlike the guitar, I actually know what I’m doing. And what I should be doing. And how to get there. In a way, I’m kind of making up for my high school (and before) playing days, by practicing and doing the things I wasn’t very good at then, like hitting high notes bang on right from the get go. That always scared me. “How can I just pop out a high G??!!”

Holding it may even be helping my forearm.

So, who knows, maybe I’ll end up switching to play trumpet again. I would really like to learn those old Tijuana Brass tunes. Maybe even join an Oom-Pa band? One thing is, I actually look forward to practicing it, which was becoming a chore with the geetar.

My point of view confirmed

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Statues destroyed by Islamic State in Mosul ‘were fakes with originals safely in Baghdad’

The jihadists of Islamic State enraged many when they filmed themselves destroying Iraq’s ancient treasures but the head of the country’s national antiquities department confirmed they were plaster copies of priceless originals.
“None of the artefacts destroyed in the video is an original,” Fawzye al-Mahdi told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Curators at the Baghdad Museum studied the video and found that many of the artefacts that appeared to have been destroyed were in fact safe inside their own museum.
They also found that others are held in museums around the world.

I thought in a couple of the videos that the objects looked pretty. . . . .perfect. But I didn’t think most of them were.

But at least someone agrees with me:

“We should be glad that the most important relics of our past are well-protected in foreign museums when considering the barbarism we are currently experiencing,” Ms al-Mahdi told Deutsche Welle.

Spread ‘em around and decrease the chances that they’ll be destroyed, says I. And even we may end up in similar circumstances some day.

Someone figured out Stonehenge. Again.

Filed under: Stonehenge — acagle @ 7:16 pm

Circular thinking: Stonehenge’s origin is subject of new theory

Whether it was a Druid temple, an astronomical calendar or a centre for healing, the mystery of Stonehenge has long been a source of speculation and debate. Now a dramatic new theory suggests that the prehistoric monument was in fact “an ancient Mecca on stilts”.

The megaliths would not have been used for ceremonies at ground level, but would instead have supported a circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed to the rotating heavens, the theory suggests.

Julian Spalding, an art critic and former director of some of the UK’s leading museums, argues that the stones were foundations for a vast platform, long since lost – “a great altar” raised up high towards the heavens and able to support the weight of hundreds of worshippers.

Meh. He’s got quite a bit wrong. Egyptian monuments weren’t really built up except for the pyramids; the sacred of sacreds was in the interior ground floor of the building. If something were up on top of those things, other than a light wooden structure (which you wouldn’t need a bunch of giant stones to hold up anyway) I think you’d find notches and such to anchor any larger structure.

So, I’ll just throw it out there and let y’all decide.

Semi-historical archaeology

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Archaeological exploits possible in Mom’s deep-freeze

I’ve sometimes wondered what tomorrow’s archaeologists might deduce from those two massive, rusting cocoons of steel. After all, these appliances were built in the early 1960s – when a deep-freeze was a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. Back then, if you bought a freezer with your husband, it meant you were never getting divorced. It would be too much work to move it out of the basement. And so there were actually chest freezers made by International Harvester – the same company that manufactured trucks and tractors. In other words, a freezer could double as a bomb shelter for a family of five.

These food fortresses would be so impenetrable – and their contents so meticulously bagged and Saran-wrapped – that a cinnamon roll could easily survive into the year 2329 without a whisper of freezer burn. And so scientists could still survey the contents to see how the people of the late 20th century and early 21st century lived.


My parents had one but I have not yet gotten one. Mainly because for two people it’s not really worth it. We used it for two reasons. First is, my parents were in the Air Force and so every couple of months would drive down to Great Lakes Naval Station and stock up at the commissary there, and put lots of the frozen stuff away. Second, when I was younger they’d go in on a side of beef with someone else and so we’d have all these white-butcher-paper-wrapped packages in the freezer for months at a time and slowly work our way through it.

Pigs and chickens. Chicken and pigs.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:03 pm

New Research Reveals Why Pig-Use in Middle East Declined

The humble pig has a long and often poorly understood history. As an excellent source of protein, the pig has been a useful animal for humans in many areas of the world for thousands of years. Its use in the Middle East, however, has a more complex history. New research has sought to explore this complicated past.
Richard W. Redding, from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan, is an expert at studying animal bones in archaeological contexts. He has studied the role of subsistence behaviour in the evolution of human culture, in particular, how societies shift from a hunter-gatherer mode of subsistence to a more stable form of food production.
His new research, published recently in Journal of Archaeological Research, attempts to examine why the pig disappeared from the human subsistence system in the Middle East. Redding’s research is important for our understanding of the historical reasons behind cultural practices which prohibit the consumption of pork.

We worked at Kom el-Hisn together in the 1980s and are editing a volume on the place. One note though, in an urban context pigs can be used as refuse disposal units, essentially turning trash into protein. Herds of pigs were kept in Cairo until recently for that very reason, and were probably used in many other places as well.

March 17, 2015

Ugh. No thanks

Filed under: Digital Archaeology — acagle @ 7:11 pm

Archaeologists See and Smell the Past With Augmented Reality

Try to picture a time machine.

You probably envisioned a tricked-out DeLorean or, perhaps, a blue, spinning phone booth, right? But today, time travel isn’t so much about fast cars or alien technology as it is about tweaking our perception of reality. In fact, if you’re reading this on a tablet, you’re holding a time machine of sorts in your hands right now.

Of course, your iPad won’t actually transport you back in time, but it can serve as a window into another world. Imagine visiting the Parthenon, for example, and when you point your iPad toward the crumbled structure, you see the majestic building, but as it was thousands of years ago. You can even walk toward and around the structure, and so long as you’re peering through the tablet, it’s as if you were walking through the past.

Certainly cool, but as I’ve argued before it can give us a false sense of security that we know what things looked like. Not sure of the research potential. . . . .I suppose you could test out the effects of spatial relationships in your reconstructed landscapes that might give some new information.


Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:05 pm

Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Egyptian Tombs With Stunning Murals

An American team of archaeologists have discovered two ancient Egyptian tombs near Luxor. Incredibly, its beautifully adorned walls, though 3,500 years old, have retained their vivid colors, allowing us to see these amazing murals in what is practically their original glory.

The tombs were unearthed by archaeologists from the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) alongside Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. Both tombs were discovered last week while the archaeologists were mapping an area of Sheik Abd Qurna, a courtyard referred to as Theban Tomb 110.

In April I’ll be doing a talk at the ARCE annual meetings in Houston. I’m sure I’ll have more on this, though I don’t think this article gives the ARCE people’s names.

Including the bunny snake! (in the comments)
Desert Fox

Old news

Filed under: Alcohol — acagle @ 7:00 pm

(But then, isn’t it all?) Letter from Ireland: Mystery of the Fulacht Fiadh

When we arrive at the site, Moore shows me the basic features of a fulacht fiadh—a horseshoe-shaped mound of soil and rocks surrounding a depression big enough to park a small car in. Moore climbs the four-and-a-half-foot mound and quickly wipes away some of the soil to expose the layer of stones. He then points to the depression. “If we were to excavate, we’d find a trough dug into the ground there,” he says. It takes us only 15 minutes to fully explore the still-buried site.

Although commonplace and easy to identify, the fulacht fiadh remains enigmatic. There is no consensus among archaeologists about what they were primarily used for. Various theories—such as cooking, textile production, bathing, and Moore’s personal hypothesis, a type of ancient microbrewery—have all been proposed. But a lack of consistent artifacts associated with any of these activities at excavated fulacht fiadh sites continues to shroud the purpose of the burnt mounds in mystery.

Probably didn’t post this when it was first posted. The article pretty much covers any objections: No corroborating evidence of their brewing role. IIRC, Egypt had something similar though.

March 16, 2015

I dunno, I’ve seen much better backstories. . . . .

Filed under: Antiquities Market — acagle @ 7:00 pm

Urban Archaeology to auction historic items — how about a Parisian mermaid with a great backstory for your pool?

Not really much archaeology there, but I think it’s a worthy pursuit. Not that much different from what went on in antiquity really, stuff from buildings was endlessly recycled, such as the casing stones from the pyramids were used to build much of old Cairo.

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