Archive for May, 2008

Stonehenge: Best. Headstone. Ever.

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

A new study suggests that Stonehenge was first and foremost a burial ground, most likely for one highly prominent family.

The earliest cremation, a pile of burned bones and teeth, came from one of 56 pits called the Aubrey Holes.

These remains were dated to the monument’s first phase, when a circular bank and ditch were created on Salisbury Plain.

The second cremation, from inside the ditch surrounding Stonehenge, is said to be that of an adult buried between 2930 to 2870 B.C.

The latest burial studied, from the ditch’s northern side, was identified as that of a woman in her twenties. It dates to 2570 to 2340 B.C.—the period when the huge sandstone blocks known as sarsen stones were put up.

“We’re looking at a long-term use of the monument for burying the dead,” Parker Pearson said.

It’s estimated that up to 240 people are buried at Stonehenge in total, mainly in the Aubrey Holes. It is the largest known cemetery of its time in Britain.

I had no idea there were so many people buried right in the thick of things at Stonehenge. Those fellows last month only referred to one body buried nearby as evidence for their Neolithic Lourdes theory.

Instead, the place is ringed with burials (see the red spots on the map).

Not that the fact that there seems to have been some sort of dynastic burial situation going on before and while the stones went up necessarily conflicts with the healing temple idea. They just didn’t include that data in their PR materials.

Horn baby bottles?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

It’s quite clever design, really. They drank out of the broad side once they grew up, so why not out of the small end as babies?

It’s like a natural funnel (that just happens to resemble those ear trumpets old Victorian gentlemen used).

Here the archeologists found wooden feeding devices made of cow horns. The Slavs used to attach leather sacks with milk to the broad ends of hollow horns and their babies would suck the milk through holes in the narrow part of horns.

How can a wooden feeding device be made of cow horns, you ask? Best not delve. Sometimes the press release translations can get a little wacky.

No preliminary dating of the find yet, but I’m going to front like I know what I’m saying and guess that it’s medieval. Veliky Novgorod was big in the middle ages.

Indy pisses off Peru

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

It was bound to happen.

Viewers here cringed when the world’s most famous fictional archaeologist arrives in Peru and announces that he learned to speak Quechua, the language of indigenous people across the Andes, when he was captured by Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

Villa and his revolutionaries raided the US town of Columbus, New Mexico in 1916 — and in an episode of the 1990s TV show, “The Young Indiana Jones,” the young Jones is kidnapped.

But Villa’s men spoke Spanish, not Quechua, which is spoken by some 10 million people in places like Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Wake up, people! Lucas did that on purpose to embrace the Campbellian mythos of pompously imperialist and ethnically confused 30’s adventure stories to which all his Indiana Jones movies are a loving, humble, even pious, homage.

Oh, and another thing, Peru (if that’s your real name):

The movie also shows quicksand, man-eating ants and enormous Hawaiian waterfalls, all of which do not exist in the Peruvian Amazonia.

I’m not falling for the “no man-eating ants or bottomless pits of sandspooge here” line again. There’s just no oversight on these chamber of commerce slogans.

He he… Scramasax…

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

The skeleton of a thousand-year-old Lombard warrior skeleton was found buried with his horse in Testona, Italy.

“This is a very rare find,” said Gabriella Pantò, the archaeologist leading the dig. “We have not seen many precedents in Italy. We have seen horses’ heads buried with warriors, but this find shows the area is vitally important,” she added. […]

The warrior was also buried with a treasure chest being x-rayed by archaeologists. In addition, a small bag held a pair of pincers, a bronze belt buckle and some armour.

He wore a ring on his left index finger and also had both a knife and a “scramasax”, a short sword designed for close combat.

I’m confused about the dating. The Lombards had been defeated by the Franks in the 8th century in the Turin area. A thousand years ago when the above fellow and his poor horse were buried, the Lombards were centuries away from their warrior heydey.

How do they know he wasn’t a Frank? The sequential conqueror/conquered cultures seem to have borrowed from each other liberally. The first Holy Roman Emperor Otto I used the famous Iron Crown of Lombardy when he was ever-so-fatefully crowned by the pope in 951 A.D., and that was 200 years after Pepin first spanked the Lombards in northern Italy.

Maybe his accessories mark him as a Lombard. The belt buckle, perhaps. Because lots of Germanic and Frankish peoples rocked the scramasax. He he… Scramasax.

Skeleton in the basement = real estate gold

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Homebuyers in York have a unique opportunity to buy a lovely Georgian home with a Roman burial chamber for a basement, complete with visible skeleton.

The skeleton is visible and has been entombed in an archway which forms part of the chamber, currently used as a store room, and is described by the current owner as his “Roman princess”.

Estate agents have dismissed any ghoulish overtones and Ben Pridden, manager of Savills York, said: “It’s in its own room really, so you’re not aware it’s there at all and imagine the fun to be had at a Hallowe’en party – taking your guests down to the basement to see a real skeleton.

“I don’t think it will deter buyers.”

Oh please. No need to be coy. We all know this is real estate gold, Jerry, GOLD! The minimum offer price is $1.2 million dollars. The skeleton is at least $575,999 of that value.

Also, would it kill you to hand out a picture along with the press release? :facepalm:

Hide your shame, mummy!

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Manchester Museum has enshrouded 3 mummies formerly displayed au naturel after some visitors complained.

The decision has been greeted with dismay, and not a little derision, by archaeologists and museum aficionados alike.

Josh Lennon, a museum visitor, said: “This is preposterous. Surely people realise that if they go to see Egyptian remains some of them may not be dressed in their best bib and tucker.

“The museum response to complaints is pure Monty Python – they have now covered them from head to foot, rendering the exhibition a non-exhibition. It is hilarious.”

Renown Egyptian archaeologist and secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council on Antiquities Zawi Hawass, on the other hand, is all for the cover-up.

“Covering up the mummies is a very important decision. I myself am of this position on an ethical basis, not a religious one,” Hawass told reporters in Cairo.

“We don’t want people to see our naked bodies when we are dead, so why should we allow ourselves to view the bodies and expose them in this manner?” he asked.

Fair enough, but I seem to recall seeing rows upon rows of nekkid mummies under plexiglass at the Cairo Museum.

And really, what is the point of having them on display at all if they’re completely wrapped in modern cotton? Might as well just throw a bundle of sticks in there and call it Ramses.

“Hollywood Chinese”

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

It’s a documentary on the history of portrayals of Asian characters in American films.

Featuring clips from more than 90 films — the earliest from the 1890s — “Hollywood Chinese” shines a light on the accomplishments of the Chinese, from the first American film produced in the U.S. by a Chinese American in 1917 to director Ang Lee winning the Academy Award two years ago for “Brokeback Mountain.”

Among the Chinese and Chinese Americans profiled in the film are Lee, Wayne Wang, Joan Chen, David Henry Hwang, B.D. Wong, James Hong and Nancy Kwan. Dong also talks with the ninetysomething Rainer about playing an Asian and to Christopher Lee, who played Fu Manchu in several British films.

The documentary is 10 years in the making, and the director actually found original reels of “The Curse of Quon Gwon,” the first Chinese-American movie and one of the first directed by a woman, Marion Wong.

For more details on the production and some clips from the movie, see the “Hollywood Chinese” website. I don’t see anything about David Carradine getting Caine instead of Bruce Lee. They better be on that.

If the documentary isn’t playing in your neck of the woods, tune in to Turner Classic Movies every Tuesday and Thursday in June at 8:00 P.M. EST for their “Race and Hollywood: Asian Images in Film” festival.

Each night’s collection of films will be centered on a particular theme, such as a look at the career of Anna May Wong, the legendary actress whose roles during the 1930s and 1940s ranged from victims to temptresses; a collection of detective films, including the long-running Charlie Chan series; an exploration of how movies have depicted interracial and intercultural relationships; an examination of Asian depictions in films made during and after World War II; and a look at contemporary Asians stars, such as Ming Wen and Jackie Chan. The festival will also feature discussions about the Hollywood practice of casting non-Asian actors and actresses in Asian roles.

I’m on that like white on rice, if you’ll pardon the cheap racist stereotype pun. Seriously, this is not the kind of coverage one often gets on American basic cable. Most definitely worth seeking out.

Damn your sultry eyes, Jones!1

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Do you know how I come up with entry-worthy stories for this here wee bloggeh? Every day I check 4 or 5 news sites that I’ve found to have a good range of archaeology/history themed news, but my the bulk of my finds come from a vast panoply of Google News Alerts that I have set up.

Every day, several times a day, Google News sends me a list of articles that have appeared using a certain keyword. I have about 10 or so keywords so I get piles of alerts often packed with irrelevancy but there are always some nuggets worth the panning.

Stop looking at me like that!1Well, thanks to one Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr., some of my richest ore, the “archaeology” “archaeologist” family of keywords, has turned pyrite. Every single story is about that damn movie! It’s Indiana Jones is a horrible archaeologist here and Indiana Jones makes archaeology look sexy there, like, 10 times a day.

It’s not just the journalists, either. Archaeological society and university department/club press releases read like the pink, heart-shaped diaries of a bobby soxer.

I can’t takes it no more!11 I might have to boycott the movie to protest the hell the Lucas/Spielberg publicity machine has put me through. Or at least delay watching it until the furore dies down.

Oh okay, I’ll probably see it this weekend, let’s be honest, but I’ll be totally frikkin grumpy about it!

Galilean buffaloes

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Workers building a sewage line in Galilee have discovered a huge stalactite cave full of pre-historic tools and animal bones.

According to Dr. Ofer Marder, head of the Prehistory Branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority who examined the cave, “It seems that during the past 40-50 years no cave has been found with such a wealth of prehistoric finds and certainly not inside such a lovely stalactite cave. The cave includes a number of chambers, of which the main chamber measures c. 60 x 80 meters. Inside it is a soil accumulation that contains numerous flint tools that were knapped by man and a variety of zoological remains of animals that are no longer present in our country’s landscape such as the red deer, fallow deer, buffalo and even the remains of bears”.

Preliminary investigations date the cave occupation to 40,000-20,000 years ago, but it might have been occupied even earlier than that.

I wonder what kind of buffaloes they were. Were they water buffaloes or woolly ones or some gigantic aurochs type beastie? Either way, cute!

Happy 125th Birthday, Brooklyn Bridge!

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Technically the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge is May 24th, but the city is getting the party started early with a concert by the New York Philharmonic and fireworks this evening.

The 6,000-foot-long landmark is one of the nation’s oldest suspension bridges and among its most treasured.

Tourists flock to see its interplay of architectural grace and muscle and its commanding views of the Manhattan skyline. Historians note its role in shaping the city: It linked Manhattan with what was then a largely rural Brooklyn, helping spur a Brooklyn growth spurt, Schweiger said. Brooklyn’s population grew by 42 percent between 1880 and 1890, while Manhattan’s grew by about 26 percent, census figures show. […]

Building the bridge took 13 years, cost $15 million and claimed several lives, including that of its celebrated designer, John Roebling. He succumbed to an infection after being hurt while looking over the site. His son, Washington Roebling, took over the project.

It was also the inspiration for my favorite chewing gum as a kid. Tip: if you can find it, the licorice flavor is the best gum evar.

Mmm… Brooklyn gum…Brooklyn gum was created by the Italian candy company Perfetti after World War II when American GIs introduced locals to American chewing gum.

The name and Brooklyn Bridge logo were meant to give the gum an American image, said Anna Re, a Perfetti spokeswoman.

“The Brooklyn Bridge was a true symbol of America,” Re said. “The idea was very effective, because everyone still thinks that Brooklyn [gum] is an American product.”

They certainly had me fooled, and I was buying it 30+ years later.

Back on topic, the celebrations will continue for 5 days of lectures, films, and general fun stuff, including a chance to wave to Londoners via the magic of the mysterious Telectroscope.





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