(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Archaeology

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on”*…

 

Why do archaeological fraudsters work so hard to deceive us?  Because bad science makes for good stories: “What Lies Beneath.”

And for run-downs of archaeological hoaxes both amusing and illuminating, visit here and here.

[image above sourced here]

* Terry Pratchett, The Truth

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As we dig, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt; he was born on this date in 1769.  The younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, Alexander was a geographer, naturalist, explorer, and champion of Romantic philosophy.  Among many other contributions to human knowledge, his quantitative work on botanical geography laid the foundation for the field of biogeography; his advocacy of long-term systematic geophysical measurement laid the foundation for modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs”*…

 

The digging of Crossrail, London’s new twenty-three-billion-dollar east-west underground commuter line, has been one long party for archeologists. Since construction began, in 2009, imposing encampments, clad in blue fencing and busy with trucks, have appeared across the city, providing access points for the cranes and the huge boring machines that are needed to carve out tunnels, vents, and stations along the line’s seventy-three miles. Almost always, there have also been archeologists on the scene, clipboards and trowels in hand, to see what can be unearthed from the briefly exposed soil. So far, there have been excavations at thirty of Crossrail’s forty building sites, yielding up a section of a medieval barge, in Canning Town; a Bronze Age wooden walkway, in Plumstead; and the remains of a Mesolithic campfire, in North Woolwich.

On a recent, gray spring afternoon, I went to see the latest, and largest, Crossrail dig, across the road from Liverpool Street station, in the middle of the financial district, where a new ticket hall will soon occupy the space previously filled by London’s first municipal graveyard. The New Churchyard, an acre in size, was first used in 1569, not long after an outbreak of bubonic plague, as an alternative to the overcrowded parish plots inside the old city walls. It was not attached to any church, which made it a natural resting place for radicals, nonconformists, migrants, mad people, and drifters—Londoners, in other words. It closed some time in the seventeen-twenties, full many times over. Ten thousand people were buried there; in 1984, a partial excavation found graves dug through graves, eight skeletons per cubic meter…

More urban archaeology at “Bedlam’s Big Dig.”

* William Shakespeare, Richard II

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As we memento mori, we might recall that it was on this date in 1606 that King James I, having inherited the English and Irish thrones to go with the Scottish monarchy that (as James IV) he already had, decreed the design of a new flag for his domains, according to which the flag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George’s Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire on a blue background, known as the Saltire or St Andrew’s Cross), would be joined together, forming the flag of England and Scotland for maritime purposes. King James also began to refer to a “Kingdom of Great Britaine”, although the union remained a personal one.  The flag– known as the Union Flag or Union Jack– was adopted as the national flag in 1707, after the completion of the Treaty of Union and the passage of the Acts of Union.

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Written by LW

April 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery”*…

 

A survey of 43 countries published on October 30th by the Pew Research Centre of Washington, DC, shows that people in emerging markets are within a whisker of expressing the same level of satisfaction with their lot as people in rich countries. The Pew poll asks respondents to measure, on a scale from zero to ten, how good their lives are. (Those who say between seven and ten are counted as happy.) In 2007, 57% of respondents in rich countries put themselves in the top four tiers; in emerging markets the share was 33%; in poor countries only 16%—a classic expression of the standard view that richer people are more likely to be happy. But in 2014, 54% of rich-country respondents counted themselves as happy, whereas in emerging markets the percentage jumped to 51%…

More at “Money and Happiness.”

* Groucho Marx

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As we wander past a warm gun, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that British archaeologist Howard Carter and his crew discovered a step leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  The subsequent discovery of Tut’s nearly-intact tomb was a world-wide sensation, and ignited renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which “King Tut”‘s burial mask, now in Cairo Museum, remains the popular symbol.

(For an amusing– and enlightening– explication of “The Mummy’s Curse,” click here.)

Mask of Tutankhamun’s mummy

source

 

Written by LW

November 4, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Dinosaurs did not walk with humans. The evolutionary record says different. They gamboled”*…

 

Emily Graslie, host/writer of the educational YouTube series The Brain Scoop, has branched out to manage the wonderful Tumblr “…is not a dinosaur.”

This blog is a result of an erroneous mistake; one day I referred to Dimetrodon as a mammal-like reptile in front of a vertebrate paleomammalogist. These animals are not at all members of Reptilia; they are Synapsids – four-legged, back-boned animals that span back 315 million years on a completely different evolutionary branch on the tree of life.

Since then, I’ve found Dimetrodon partying with members of Dinosauria across the pages of coloring books and frolicking in the aisles of toy stores, surrounded by lifeforms which evolved some 66 million years after those ancient mammalian relatives…

And she’s shared; for example…

aurusallos:

isnotadinosaur:

This is one of my favorites – I’ll reblog whomever points out all of the discrepancies in this one image. You’ll also get a puppy*
*probably not

Upper-left feathered thing: probably an Archaeopteryx, but they have been proven to have black feathers. Although kudos to the authors/artists for allowing feathered dinosaurs to somewhat grace the cover! (Darn publishing logos)

Left green thing: an aetosaur, most likely. NOT DINOSAURS

Dimetrodon: PELYCOSAUR, NOT A DINOSAUR, SYNAPSID NOT A DIAPSID, UGHHHHHHHH. DIDN’T EVEN LIVE IN THE MESOZOIC.

Stegosaurus: head shape wrong, and dopey tail is not anatomically correct

Blue Ornithomimus thing: FOUR TOES ON THE GROUND? I don’t think so! And pronated wrists, not to mention the lack of feathers…

Protoceratops: legs sprawled out to the side instead of underneath, also missing the lower beak

Velociraptor pair: NO FEATHERS, TOO BIG, BROKEN HIPS (Sauruschian hips followed a 90 degree rule, meaning the femur does not bend back more than 90 degrees), more pronated wrists, wrong skull shape, and what are toe claws

Assumed Pteranodon: wimpy arm and shoulder musculature, missing pyncofibers, and wrong skull shape (although it might be viable, I’m scared to continue going through and trying to find pterosaur skeletals right now because of David Peters and his misleading work).

Also, many of these creatures are geographically misplaced, so even if they weren’t all from different time periods (Permian-Cretaceous), they probably wouldn’t have interacted much.

And, of course, the slightly off-center type of the title of the book is bugging me as a graphic design freak, but oh well.

ETA: More about the Dimetrodon: This illustration shows it with erect legs when it actually had sprawling legs, and the skull/mouth shape is not accurate either.

They just messed up bad with this one.

ETA2: While I do not know that much about paleobotany, I believe that most of the plants presented are fairly accurate.

I’m so proud I could cry.

 More disambiguation of the distant past at … is not a dinosaur.

* Steve Martin

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As we make Jurassic judgements, we might spare a thought for The Right Honorable John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury PC FRS DCL LLD; he died on this date in 1913.  A banker by trade (and family tradition), Lubbock was an avocational scientist who made significant contributions to ethnography, several branches of biology, and– as a friend and advocate of Darwin– the debate over evolution, and was a central force in establishing archaeology as a scientific discipline.

 source

 

Written by LW

May 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

“You can’t be at the pole and the equator at the same time”*…

 

Harvard grad student Bill Rankin, the proprietor of the fascinating Radical Cartography, has created maps that display the sum of all population living at each degree of latitude or longitude (circa 2000).  As one can see above, there’s a decided northerly bias: roughly 88 percent of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere; about half, north of 27 degrees north.  As Rankin observes, “taking the northern and southern hemispheres together, on average the world’s population lives 24 degrees from the equator.”

As for longitude, there’s a wholly-unsurprising skew to Asia…

[TotH to Geekosystem]

* Vincent van Gogh

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As we search for the strength in numbers, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Claude-Joseph Désiré Charnay; he was born on this date in 1828.  An archaeologist and an inveterate traveller, Charnay is remembered both for his explorations of Mexico and Central America, and for his pioneering use of photography to document his journeys.  Using the then-newly available wet collodion process (which was, coincidentally, invented by Frederick Scott Archer, who died on this date in 1857), Charney became expert at producing large photographic plates in difficult field conditions; he thus created an early photographic record of various cultures (and with Le Plongeon, various archaeological sites) around the world.

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Written by LW

May 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

“Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective and valuable than words”*…

 

What do you expect?

… in love, and indeed in life at large– as illustrated in Bruno Munari’s 1963 book Supplemento al dizionario italiano (from which, the selection above).

Striking the balance between practical guide and practical joke, the reference begins with a collection of gestures published in 1832 in Naples, collated by Canon Andrea de Jorio as “The Ancients’ mimic through the Neapolitan gestures”

… then proceeds as a contemporary update.

I don’t care

More in Supplemento al dizionario italiano.

[TotH to City of Sound]

* “Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective and valuable than words.”  – Francois Rabelais

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As we just gesticulate, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Giovanni Battista Belzoni; he was born on this date in 1778.  The 14th child of a poor barber in Padua, he was a barber, a Capuchin monk, a magician, and a circus strongman before finding his true calling– explorer (and plunderer) of Egyptian antiquities.

Belzoni’s call to action came when he met a British Consul-General named Henry Salt who persuaded him to gather Egyptian treasures to send back to the British Museum.  Under extremely adverse conditions he transported the colossal granite head of Rameses II from Thebes to England, where it is now one of the treasures of the British Museum. Later, he discovered six major royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, including that of Seti I, and brought to the British Museum a spectacular collection of Egyptian antiquities. He was the first person to penetrate the heart of the second pyramid at Giza and the first European to visit the oasis of Siwah and discover the ruined city of Berenice on the Red Sea. He stumbled into the tomb of King Ay, but only noted a wall painting of 12 baboons, leading him to name the chamber ‘Tomb of the 12 Monkeys” (because hieroglyphs had not yet been deciphered, he usually had no idea who or what he had found).

Belzoni had two habits that have contributed to his legacy:  he was a lover of graffiti signatures, and inscribed “Belzoni” on many of Egypt’s antique treasures, where the carvings survive to this day.  And he carried a whip:  which, given that he was one of the models for Indiana Jones, became one of that character’s hallmarks.

 source

 

 

 

Written by LW

November 15, 2012 at 1:01 am

Poems Without Words*…

Move, movement by movement, through the history of art at ArtHistoryImages.org.

* “A picture is a poem without words” – Horace

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As we decide to develop into decent docents, we might send elegant birthday greetings to Gisela Richter; she was born on this date in 1882.  The leading classical archaeologist and art historian of her generation, Richter was a protege of Harriet Boyd Hawes, who (as the first woman to direct an archaeological excavation) clearly understood the difficulties facing a woman trying to break into classical studies.  Richter ultimately became Curator of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1925 to 1948 (the first woman to hold that post); she published dozens of seminal books and papers, and taught at lectured at Columbia, Yale, Bryn Mawr, Oberlin, and American School of Classical Studies in Athens.

 source

Written by LW

August 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

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