August 14, 2014

They wanted their mummies early

Filed under: Egypt, Mummies — acagle @ 11:01 am

Mummy-Making Began Long Before Pharaohs

The ancient Egyptians began mummifying bodies as far back as 6,000 years ago, analysis of Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic funerary wrappings has revealed.

The finding predates the origins of mummification in ancient Egypt by 1,500 years, indicating that resin-soaked textiles used in the prehistoric period (c. 4500 – 3350 B.C.) are the true antecedents of Egyptian mummification.

I’m a little skeptical that the identified materials were used for embalming proper. Possibly the compounds had some other qualities that they were using them for earlier? But then, the antibacterial properties could have gone some way towards preserving some of the soft tissues they came in contact with, so perhaps they’re really onto something.

August 12, 2014

Okay then.

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 6:53 pm

Woman finds 80 skeletons crammed into Ikea bags

Centuries-old skeletons should probably be 6 feet under—not overflowing out of blue Ikea bags and shoved under a tarp in a Scandinavian church. But that’s exactly what Kicki Karlén says she recently found at the Kläckeberga church in Sweden.

“There were loads of skulls and bones stuffed into Ikea bags—I counted up to 80,” she tells the Expressen newspaper via the Local. “I became angry, very angry about how they were just sitting there.”

Desert Fox

I have to agree, that’s probably as decent a set of storage containers as one might want. Still, you ought to figure out what to do with them ager five years.

Update on the battlefield find

Filed under: Battlefield archaeology — acagle @ 3:24 pm

From yesterday (or so), the Danish bog skeletons, with some pictures.

August 11, 2014

Battlefield archaeology

Filed under: Battlefield archaeology — acagle @ 3:47 pm

Warriors’ Bones Reveal Bizarre Iron Age Rituals

The bones of dozens of Iron Age warriors found in Denmark were collected and ritually mutilated after spending months on the battlefield, archaeologists say.

At least six months after the soldiers died, their bones were collected, scraped of remaining flesh, sorted and dumped in a lake. Some were handled in a truly bizarre manner; for instance, four pelvises were found strung on a stick.

“We think it’s a kind of ritual closure of the war,” said Mads Kähler Holst, project manager at the dig and head of the department of archaeology at the Moesgård Museum in Denmark. The victors seem to have carried out their gruesome work on a spit of land extending into the lake where the bones were dumped, the researchers said.

They think it’s a battlefield because they were all males and showed trauma similar to battle wounds. There was one photo at the link, but I think the rest are unrelated.

Almost anywhere in Europe, probably

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 3:42 pm

Every house in Norfolk within 200 metres of an archaeological site, find or historic building

A new report also reveals that, on average, every house in Norfolk is within 200 metres of an archaeological site, find or historic building, with the county’s ground continuing to provide fascinating glimpses into the lives of our ancestors.

The historic haul is revealed in the annual report of Norfolk County Council’s Historic Environment service, which details the work of the team which records, researches and helps to protect Norfolk’s remarkable heritage.

The report shows how nearly 15,000 “finds” – mainly by metal detectorists – were sent to the county council for recording and researching during the last year alone.

Of course, it depends on how you define a “site”, but since most of the places in Europe have been occupied for millennia you pretty much can’t get away from it.

Explore an Egyptian tomb

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 10:26 am

The tomb of Ankhtifi at Mo’alla

The tomb belongs to the provincial governor (nomarch – being the leader of a nome) and military leader Ankhtifi who exercised the power in the south of the Upper Egypt under the IXth Herakleopolitain Dynasty (around 2100 B.C.).

The tomb had been discovered by chance by quarrymen in 1928. It had suffered a lot, but the great autobiography engraved on the pillars is preserved well enough well and illuminates some of the complicate political events which occurred at the time of the obscure First Intermediate Period. It also brings precious indications on the status and the power of a nomarch at this time. The painted scenes, often mutilated, present some original characters. If they testify of a knowledge of the iconographic program of the tombs of the Old Kingdom at Giza and Saqqara, their style is provincial, with frequent clumsiness and sometimes grotesque aspects.

Excellent page(s) on the tomb.

August 9, 2014

No more critical thinking?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 3:40 pm

Let’s Stop Trying To Teach Students Critical Thinking

Many teachers say they strive to teach their students to be critical thinkers. They even pride themselves on it; after all, who wants children to just take in knowledge passively? But there is a problem with the widespread treatment of critical thinking as a skill to be taught.

The truth is that you can’t teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself. This involves more than asking young people to “look critically” at something, as if criticism was a mechanical task. . .This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think. It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation. This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world. It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.

I mostly agree with that and have been saying something similar for years. Critical thinking isn’t necessarily a “skill” you learn on its own, but it arises out of a deep understanding and knowledge of a particular subject. This is where rote learning comes in and why supposedly ‘critical thinking’ in schools these days is just window dressing: the students simply don’t get the deep factual knowledge they need to even begin to think critically about anything. How can you, for example, examine the Civil War in any critical sense (or what someone is saying about the Civil War) if you don’t even know what century it took place in? It’s tedious and can be boring but until you have knowledge at your fingertips you can’t tell BS from anything else.

Also, it wasn’t really mentioned in the article, but it ought to be stressed that being ‘critical’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘negative’. It’s entirely legitimate to critically examine something and note the good things in it, some which the author/speaker may not have even been aiming for.

August 8, 2014

Free mummy research

Filed under: Mummies, Online publications — acagle @ 2:18 pm

From Papers on Anthropology:

Several papers, not just on Egyptian mummies. Be sure to check out Jasmine Day’s essay on the ethics of displaying mummies. I may have posted something related to that earlier.

August 5, 2014

Back to Flores we go

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 3:22 pm

Flores bones show features of Down syndrome, not a new ‘Hobbit’ human

In October 2004, excavation of fragmentary skeletal remains from the island of Flores in Indonesia yielded what was called “the most important find in human evolution for 100 years.” Its discoverers dubbed the find Homo floresiensis, a name suggesting a previously unknown species of human.

Now detailed reanalysis by an international team of researchers including Robert B. Eckhardt, professor of developmental genetics and evolution at Penn State, Maciej Henneberg, professor of anatomy and pathology at the University of Adelaide, and Kenneth Hsü, a Chinese geologist and paleoclimatologist, suggests that the single specimen on which the new designation depends, known as LB1, does not represent a new species. Instead, it is the skeleton of a developmentally abnormal human and, according to the researchers, contains important features most consistent with a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Among the key bits:

In the first place, they write, the original figures for cranial volume and stature are underestimates, “markedly lower than any later attempts to confirm them.” Eckhardt, Henneberg, and other researchers have consistently found a cranial volume of about 430 milliliters (26.2 cubic inches).
“The difference is significant, and the revised figure falls in the range predicted for a modern human with Down syndrome from the same geographic region,” Eckhardt said.
The original estimate of 3.5 feet for the creature’s height was based on extrapolation combining the short thighbone with a formula derived from an African pygmy population. But humans with Down syndrome also have diagnostically short thighbones, Eckhardt said.

I dunno, I’ve been skeptical of the new species designation since it was discovered. This probably doesn’t nail it down, but it’s made me more heavily weighted to the plain ol’ Homo sapiens sapiens side of things.

August 4, 2014

No big surprise there

Filed under: Neanderthals — acagle @ 7:54 pm

Hot Stew in the Ice Age? Evidence Shows Neanderthals Boiled Food

“I think it’s pretty likely the Neanderthals boiled,” said University of Michigan archaeologist John Speth at a recent meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Austin, Texas. “They were around for a long time, and they were very clever with fire.”
. . .
But based on evidence from ancient bones, spears, and porridge, Speth believes our Stone Age cousins likely boiled their food. He suggests that Neanderthals boiled using only a skin bag or a birch bark tray by relying on a trick of chemistry: Water will boil at a temperature below the ignition point of almost any container, even flammable bark or hides.

The evidence isn’t all that great, but it doesn’t seem impossible either. Not sure what one could use to definitively nail down boiling though.

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