November 2, 2015

They left?

Filed under: Cemeteries — acagle @ 9:07 am

Why Iron Age Burial Practices Are Making a Comeback

According to the Telegraph, Iron Age burial practices are on trend. Interesting, you might think, so people are leaving their dead out in the open to decompose? No? Cremation is on the up? Well, possibly. Oh, well then perhaps they mean that more people are being buried crouched in stone cists? Wrong again!

Apparently, results from a survey of undertakers (conducted as part of a wider study into modern funerary practice) reveal that there is a growing trend in people asking to be buried with their most prized possessions.

Two things:
1) I would probably want to be buried with my old cats’ cremated remains. After all, what would happen to them afterwards? I figured either that or whichever one of us were the last one standing would take them out and distribute the ashes in some pleasant place before they go.
2) I’ve always kind of wanted to be buried with a bunch of bizarre, seemingly ritual stuff just to confuse people in the future. You know, like a bowling ball next to my head, a parrot’s wing across my breast, and three paris of glasses on my face.

October 27, 2015

“There was far less spins and flips involved, and a lot more desperate attempts to stab somebody however and wherever possible”

Filed under: Media — acagle @ 2:03 pm


Although Hollywood sword fighting is almost an art in itself because you have to make it look good but not get anyone hurt. Kind of the opposite.

Full length video of the film at the link.


Filed under: Vikings! — acagle @ 1:53 pm

I can’t even find one stinking’ arryhead: Hiker Discovers 1,200-Year-Old Viking Sword in Norway

While hiking across the mountain plateau that runs between western and eastern Norway, Goran Olsen sat down to take a break. That’s when he spotted a rusty sword blade lying under some rocks on the well-traveled mountain path. Archaeologists have identified Olsen’s find as a type of Viking sword made circa A.D. 750. That makes it some 1,265 years old, though the scientists have warned this is not an exact date.

Double-edged and made of wrought iron, the sword measures just over 30 inches long (77 centimeters). Though covered in rust, and lacking a handle, it is otherwise in excellent condition. The Haukeli mountains are covered in snow and frost at least six months out of the year, and experience little humidity in summer, conditions that may explain why the sword is so well preserved. As County Conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd told CNN: “It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking Age that are so well-preserved…[the sword] might be used today if you sharpened the edge.”

I will not be Old

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 6:31 am

Annals of obsolescence

This distinction isn’t as widely understood as it should be. Most new technologies make our lives easier without changing them other than superficially. The compact disc, for example, was a convenience, not a revolution. Unlike the iPod, it didn’t alter our relationship to the world of music. The answering machine, by contrast, really did transform the way in which we used the telephone by making it possible to screen incoming calls. As soon as that possibility became a reality, the place of the telephone in daily life underwent a profound change, and never changed back.

Not everyone is open to such change. Sooner or later each generation comes to a great technological divide, a chasm that most of its aging members are unable or unwilling to cross. For my mother, who was born mere weeks before the Great Depression, that chasm was the invention of the personal computer. She owned an answering machine—I bought it for her—but she never screened her calls, nor did she learn how to use a computer. When the PC became a routine part of American life, she was officially old. The world had passed her by.

The author and I are kind of in the same boat, roughly the same age, and we’ve noticed the same things. I recall when I first wrote something on a computer — actually, with a halfway decent word processor (WordPerfect 5.1, which roooooolz) — and I thought that it changed everything. I could cut and paste text! I could delete it completely! NO MORE WHITEOUT! I didn’t do too much writing on a typewriter, to be honest. I guess in college I did some papers on one, but I don’t remember spending a whole lot of time on them. But I adapted to computers and the Internet easily.

I also adapted to iPods (and the like) and smart phones, although I took my time with those because frankly I didn’t really need one until I started doing CRM. Nowadays I text like a sumbitch. I adopted Facebook and blogging, but not Twitter or Instagram. I happily read books on an iPad. I have, however, promised myself (or perhaps it never occurred to me) that I shall never Act Old. I am not going to be one of those people who have no clue about [insert modern technology here]. I may not use them all, but I’m not going to be stuck in the comfortable past.

Interesting observation also on how certain technologies change the way we do things, as opposed to just making incremental changes to things we already do. You can apply this to the past, obviously. Ceramics, when being made as maybe heating stones, didn’t really change anything, but once people started making vessels out of them it opened up a whole new range of activities. I’m sure some archaeologist somewhere has come up with a whole terminology for this. . . .

October 24, 2015

Archaeoblog is going to the, well, you know. . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 5:44 am

Dogs were first domesticated in Central Asia, not China or Europe

Sometime before fifteen thousand years ago, humans started domesticating Eurasian gray wolves. Researchers are in agreement that this happened somewhere on the Eurasian continent, but getting any more specific than that has proven difficult. A new paper in PNAS suggests that the region around modern Mongolia or Nepal might be where it all began.

Previous evidence has painted a conflicting picture. The earliest archaeological evidence of dog domestication comes from Europe and Siberia. Meanwhile, genetic evidence from mitochondrial DNA (passed down to individuals by their mothers) and Y chromosomes (which travel down the male line) places the origin of dogs in southern China around 16,000 years ago.

Who knows where this is going to end up. The “village dog” idea is what people tend to imagine when batting around ideas of how dogs became domesticated initially: hanging around villages where there was a source of food garbage. That was one thing that bothered me in Egypt where there are a LOT of village dogs. At first I had assumed that they were considered almost vermin and wasn’t it awful that no one cared about all those dogs? Although not what we would think of as “caring for” them, the villagers would feed them and look out for them in some ways, largely because they acted as sentinels more or less. Although there has been some interbreeding with the dogs that (mostly) foreigners have brought in, they tend to look remarkably similar: like a basic light brown/tan plain old dog. But, as the article notes, they have a lot of genetic diversity.

October 19, 2015


Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 11:22 am

NY Pipeline to Go Through Sites Containing Ancient Artifacts

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Previous digs at construction sites and scientific excavations nearby have produced a wealth of arrowheads, stone tools, pottery shards and campfire remnants dating back as much as 5,000 years.

Schoharie County officials want to know exactly where the sites are so they can weigh in on proposed protective measures. But their attempts to get the information from FERC were rebuffed because of federal regulations designed to protect sites from looting. The county’s planning department filed a Freedom of Information request, which was denied, and now they’re appealing that decision.

“The county is saying we don’t want to advertise where sites are, but to make recommendations for mitigation efforts, we have to know the location of the sites,” said Shane Nickle, senior planner for the county.

Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for the pipeline company, said FERC regulations prohibit the company from disclosing sensitive cultural resource locations to third parties other than the federal agency and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Unintended consequences.

Bodies V. Data

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 11:18 am

Human Bodies Vs. Data: Doing the Right Thing With Native Remains

Indians and anthropologists can get along in an atmosphere of mutual respect. So I always believed and tried to assume, though I can’t deny I’ve had some nasty battles when working on NAGPRA issues for the Texas Indian Bar Association over the remains of dead Indians that I persist in understanding as the remains of dead humans, something more than scientific data.

NAGPRA was a heavy political lift over many years. Tim McKeown’s book, In the Smaller Scope of Conscience, is an excellent blow-by-blow of the legislative fight that resulted in NAGPRA, but that battle was preceded by many public battles over the status of Indian remains and grave goods. By the time NAGPRA became law in 1990, it was fair to ask what was to become of the relationship between the academic discipline of anthropology and American Indians?

There has always been a tendency on the rez to make fun of cultural anthropologists in a friendly way, but physical anthropologists were stirring up genuine anger.

Really not much examination of nor insight into the issue, mainly just a propaganda piece.

October 17, 2015

It is rather odd

Filed under: Cemeteries — acagle @ 6:36 am

Medieval graves found near Exeter ‘mystify’ archaeologists

The discovery of 70 graves found by archaeologists on a site earmarked for housing has mystified experts.
The burials are thought to be from the 13th or 14th Century and were found near Exeter, Devon.
Archaeologist Richard Greatorex said: “These burials are very rare because they’re not in a graveyard, on consecrated ground and they’re individual graves.”

One assumes the dating is correct. Maybe they were convicts or some such. Outcasts of some sort? Foreigners?

What the Internets are made for

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 6:19 am

Collection of NASA photos

October 16, 2015

Make up your minds!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 9:26 am

Do We Really Need to Sleep 7 Hours a Night?

Among sleep researchers it is widely believed that people sleep differently today than they did 150 years ago. Many argue that the invention of the electric light bulb in the late 1800s — and all the artificially lit environments that followed — dramatically changed our sleep patterns. Exposure to artificial light at night, whether from light bulbs or computer screens, throws off the body’s biological clock, delaying and reducing sleep, experts say.

Some historians have also argued that it is not natural for people to sleep straight through the night. They say that before the introduction of artificial light it was normal for people to sleep in two intervals separated by an hour of wakefulness, a phenomenon known as segmented sleep, or “first” and “second” sleep.
. . .
Among those they chose to follow were the Hadza people, who spend their days hunting and foraging in northern Tanzania, much as their ancestors have for tens of thousands of years; the San of Namibia, who have lived as hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari for at least 20,000 years; and the Tsimané, a seminomadic group that lives in the Andean foothills of Bolivia, near the farthest reaches of the human migration out of Africa.

I have a couple of problems with the article. The HG’s in question probably aren’t entirely representative of some Paleolithic (or Pleistocene) ancestors; that denies that any change has taken place over the past few thousand years, plus they’re not entirely ‘pristine’ by any measure. Their relative health also isn’t all that directly tied to the amount of sleep they get either. But they do provide useful critiques of sleeping patterns, with (one would assume, even though one shouldn’t) data to back up their assessments of the amount and times of sleep they get. I wonder how good their data is on the calories expended, etc.? I know a lot of the earlier data on HGs has been subject to criticism.

They also mention the “first sleep, second sleep” idea that I’ve at least referred to as well here. True, there’s little hard data on it, but it is at least mentioned in contemporary writings. I also thought the temperature hypothesis was interesting. I’ve read in more than one place that a cooler room makes it easier to sleep, and that is my personal experience as well (yay anecdata!).

Of course, there’s the usual caveats about not believing much of anything social/behavioral science says anyway. Don’t trust much of anything beyond physics.

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