Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Rural Egypt oasis provides glimpse of daily life

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

The ancient town of Amheida on the Dakhleh Oasis was and is hundreds of miles away from the political and cultural capitals of Egypt, but it’s been inhabited since the Stone Age and excavations indicate they kept up with the times.

The early settlers were farmers, maybe even before the Nile valley got famous as a center of agriculture. Irrigation is a lot easier when you have a steady supply of water rather than a yearly flooding, as the copious remains of figs and olives indicate.

They also seemed to have been tapped in to the dominant culture, despite their physical distance from it. The Roman and Greek era art found on the site features contemporary mythology and deities.

Then there’s the school. Conventional wisdom has it that teachers were poorly paid and widely reviled generalists hired by parents of would-be functionaries to ensure salable literacy. Amheida’s school, however, tells a different story.

Divided into three rooms lined with benches for more than 50 students, it more closely resembled today’s formal institutions. Students were segregated by subject and age, and the teacher’s lessons were scrawled on the walls, which were treated like blackboards at the time. What remains of that writing has caught Cribiorre’s attention.

“There you have a poem written on the wall in the column in red ink. The poem speaks of rhetoric. It says, ‘come on, get up, get to work,’” she explained. “It’s encouragement from a teacher of rhetoric to his students. But it’s all poetry. In Greek.”

Scholars had thought that rhetoric, not poetry, was taught in Roman Egyptian schools. The schools churned out politicians and bureaucrats, aristocratic young men destined for leadership. Prior to the find, Cribiore had suspected that they might also have learned poetry, and this confirmed it. The teacher had written his lessons in verse, showing that schools from the period were more formal than once believed.

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Best. Fourth of July. Ever.

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

If you’re anywhere near the Niagara Falls area, drop your sad little picnic-n-fireworks plans and haul ass up to Old Niagara Fort because they have the coolest events scheduled for the long weekend.

Old Fort Niagara has guarded the mouth of the Niagara River since 1726, and was in the eye of many a French, British, US and Iroquois storm. This year is the 250th anniversary of the Siege of Niagara, so to commemorate it the fort is throwing the history nerd shindig to end all history nerd shindigs.

More than 2,500 re-enactors plan to gather along the mouth of the Niagara River—more than doubling the population of this tiny village — to commemorate a war for control of North America.

They will wage six battles over the course of three days, attack a tall ship in the harbor and carry out a nighttime artillery salute, all to depict the scene in July 1759 when a British army, along with 1,000 Iroquois allies, laid siege to the Frenchheld fort. [...]

[Thomas Faith, chairman of the re-enactment committee] said that the Rangers and Native American contingents have been working for three years to present two scenarios to be performed in native languages — the French Embassy to the Native Americans at 11 a. m. and the British Embassy to the Native Americans at 2 p. m., both on Saturday.

“This is important because both countries competed on a daily basis for the loyalty of the Iroquois,” he said, adding that it also highlights the crucial role of the interpreters.

You can see the schedule of events here. Look at all the awesome packed into just the first 3 hours of events:

Friday, July 3

10:00 am: Battle on the Beach – A French hunting party from Fort Niagara discovers that British forces have landed east of Fort Niagara. Rangers, Native American warriors, and French troops engage in combat. Both sides are reinforced until a major battle unfolds on the shores of Lake Ontario.

10:00 am – Noon: Meet the British Engineer – Siege Works

11:30 am – 12:30 pm:18th Century Games – British Camp

Noon: L’Iroquoise Attacked – Cove Area
British boats attack the French schooner Iroquoise, anchored in the cove below Fort Niagara.

1:00 pm:Parade and Pageantry – Parade Field
The armies pass in review with over 2,500 reenactors, dressed as Native American warriors, French, British, and American Provincial soldiers.

An attack on a tall ship narrated by the descendant of Rene LaForce, the Iroquoise‘s captain! Artillery bombardment/fireworks display! Three days of reenactment awesomeness, all for $13 bucks a head, kids under 6 get in free.

Be sure to check out the video of the reenactors being adorable here. If I could teleport to New York state I’d be posting from there right now.

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Europe’s culture — pretty much all of it — online

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Two million items from Europe’s museums, archives, libraries, collections of all sorts are now available for the searching on a single website. Just type in a keyword and see what images, video, recordings and texts show up.

I searched for “Galileo” and it returned an entire digitized book from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, along with another 230 other texts, 448 images and 4 videos, including this awesome 1950′s Italian documentary on the importance of an educated populace to the economic and technological fortunes of the country.

Europeana’s list of contributors currently includes piles of national libraries, the International Federation of Television Archives, the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre in Paris.

Started by the European Commission in 2007, this is just the first prototype of a complete European digital library. Version 1.0 will have 6 million digitized items, and is scheduled to launch in 2010.

I’ve been waiting to post this entry since last November when Europeana first debuted, but it was so packed with win that it was instantly overwhelmed with traffic and had to be taken down for over 2 months.

Now it’s finally up and ready for copious, obsessive searching. :boogie:

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Ancient information science

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Archaeologists and computer scientists from the universities of Glasgow, Leicester and Exeter are collaborating to study how the ancients transferred information by analyzing the development of widely-used consumables like pottery and coins.

The project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, will combine archaeology, archaeological science and computer science to investigate Greek, Punic and other civilisations, from the late Bronze age through to classical times.

Prof Peter Van Dommelen, from the University of Glasgow, said: “By tracing the development of techniques and technologies used to create specific objects we will see how the developments crossed temporal, geographical and cultural boundaries.

The researchers hope this analysis will help computer scientists develop more effective and reliable means of transmitting and upgrading information.

It’s sort of like a reverse NASA: instead of inventing new things for space exploration which end up used in a myriad mundane consumer applications, use the ancient mundane to create more advanced computers.

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Deadwood archaeology summer camp

Monday, April 28th, 2008

If you have (or are) a kid between the ages of 9 and 12, run, don’t walk, to the Black Hills of South Dakota to sign up for a week-long archaeology summer camp.

During the week-long camp, kids will get the chance to participate in a real archaeological dig in Deadwood led by real, live, honest-to-goodness archaeologists. Many of Deadwood’s archaeological digs in recent years have been in the old Chinatown district, where the Fee Lee Wong family (pictured above) lived and worked. There hasn’t been any official word yet, but the children in the summer camp may get to learn in this area.

The curriculum includes a crash-course in the archaeological process, as well as hikes from the excavation site to related locations, a visit the State Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City and daily lessons from professionals ranging from general historic preservation to mapping techniques and – perhaps most thrilling of all to a third-grader – how to use a compass!

“But, liv,” I can hear you ask, “how could I afford to send my kids to such an incredible summer camp?” My reply? A quick excavation between the cushions of your couch should do the trick because the total cost for the whole week is $25.

Even if you don’t live in the area, you should seriously consider taking the week of June 23rd for vacation, and hightail it to Deadwood like it’s the Gold Rush all over again. An opportunity like this is just too good to miss, and there are only 20 spots in the camp so the clock is ticking.

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Time Team USA

Monday, April 14th, 2008

The long-running British show about a crack team of archaeologists (and Baldrick) excavating a site in just a few days is coming to the States.

TIME TEAM, USA (w.t.) will take viewers into scientific digs, as experts uncover America’s rich history. The fast-paced series will intertwine high-tech geophysics, artists’ renditions of the past and computer reconstructions with more traditional archeological techniques. But the team of experts will have a mere 72 hours onsite to disinter artifacts and other significant materials; when time’s up, they’ll report what they’ve learned. Camera crews, tracking each step, will give the audience an archaeology-as-it-happens experience.

Some of the sites under consideration include the Indian Mounds of Mississippi and Skull Creek Dune in Oregon.

The US doesn’t provide quite the glamour of the UK when it comes to archaeological sites, though. No Roman forts or medieval cities. I wonder if they’re going to basically stick to pre-Columbian locations or if they might adapt to the newness of the culture and study more recent stuff.

There’s always the Spaniards. Spanish history in the United States goes way back and it’s often been overlooked in favor of the splashier British arrivistes.

Oh, I know! The Lost Colony of Roanoke! That would be a great thing to uncover in 72 hours after historians have spent hundreds of years trying to figure out what happened.

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Ancient mechanics

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Have you ever wondered how people came up with basic mechanical devices like the wheel or the lever? I have, and much more importantly, so have the smart folks at the Archimedes Project.

The Archimedes Project is a joint endeavor of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the Harvard Classics department, the English Department of the University of Missouri and Perseus Project at Tufts University which studies the history of mechanics.

By following the historical record, the Archimedes researchers have discovered that the evolution of physics — or, at least, mechanics — is based on an interplay between practice and theory. The practical use comes first, theory second. Artisans build machines and use them but do not think about why they work. Theorists explain the machines and then derive principles that can be used to construct more complex machines.

The Archimedes researchers say that by studying this dialectic they can better understand what people knew about the natural world at a given time and how that knowledge may have affected their lives.

They’re building a monster online database of their research. It’s not enormously user friendly right at the moment, but it’s still a fantastic resource including all sorts of ancient writings on mechanics.

Of course, as Harvard classics professor Dr. Schiefsky points out, scientists aren’t often classicists as well, so it’s a small group of people who have the ability and inclination to pursue this study.

I am neither scientist not classicist, but ancient science is a subject of endless fascination to me. Gotta prepare for the post-technological apocalypse, donchaknow.

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Free online archaeology program!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Yes, that’s right: free. The only other online program in archaeology I know of is the University of Leicester’s distance learning courses, and they’re both far more complex — book purchases, homework and final exams are involved — and far from free.

National Park Service Archeology Program, however, is easily accessible, entirely online, limited in scope to the ways and means of caring for archaeological collections, aka curating.

Much more broadly, this technical assistance is designed for the global archeological community — professional archeologists (e.g., university professors, CRM principal investigators and their staff, federal, tribal, and state agency staff), graduate students, upper level college students, and others concerned about archeological collections — who are rarely taught this material in formal educational settings. Because “Managing Archeological Collections” is created for primary access and use via the Internet, “global” is a key word here.

Cool, huh? Needless to say, I’m taking it. And even more needless to say, I’ll post all about it, especially the ethics sections. I have high hopes that a program by the NPS will take a firm stance on provenance issues, given how often looters target national parks for devastation in the name of profit.

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Poverty Map of London

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

The London School of Economics has digitized the full archive of Charles Booth’s late 19th c. Inquiry into Life and Labour in London.

Charles Booth’s Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London, undertaken between 1886 and 1903 was one of several surveys of working class life carried out in the 19th century. It is the only survey for which the original notes and data have survived and therefore provides a unique insight into the development of the philosophy and methodology of social investigation in the United Kingdom.

It’s a wonderland of social history, with a particularly engaging map of the city color-coded by income level.

Click here to explore the Poverty Map of London along with a current map to help you get your bearings.

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On the Origin of Seafaring (and other stuff)

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Colgate University archaeologist Dr. Albert J. Ammerman, is known for his work on the origins of Rome and Venice. He also discovered two ancient campsites on the coast of Cyprus which suggest some very ballsy Syrians and Turks hit the open sea for fishing thousands of years before the island was permanently inhabited.

To hear Dr. Ammerman talk about this find in detail and other work he’s done in Italy, check out this fantastic podcast from a Colgate series: Download

It’s a fascinating glimpse into the interdisciplinary, detailed and creative nature of archaeology.

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