ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
A daughter of one of my colleagues went to Mexico and brought this back to her mother. Who thought it would suit me very well. And she was so right about that!
 photo Cat_skel_totebag_zps0c1d6df0.jpg

And in other news:

- First and foremost, the English Heritage guidelines to animal bone recording and analysis is out. "These guidelines aim to promote high professional standards in zooarchaeological practice in project planning, excavation, reporting and achiving. The guidance supports archaeology advisors, project managers, field staff and zooarchaeologists through outlining the potential of animal bones from archaeological sites, highlighting the importance of archaeological methods and promoting understanding of zooarchaeological reports and datasets." Highly useful and I recommend it even if you live and work elsewhere. Free to download, and there's a limited print-run for those of you who prefer paper.

- Neolithic carpentry discovered in Germany, namely a woodlined well, with advanced jointing. There's also an open access academic article for those of you who prefer to go into depth with this.

- A gorgeous bark shafted Bronze Age flint dagger was found in Denmark. Sadly the bark only remains on one side of the handle. I love it when you see the organic material. It's so rare that it survives, and without it we assume intellectually that of course they must have wrapped the handles with something, but to actually see it - then it really sinks into the brain. (article in Danish)

- Another Danish find: a Viking Age Thor's hammer with runes, declaring it to be a hammer. (article in Danish)

- A new Ph.D. thesis on Early Medieval ironworking: The Early Medieval Cutting Edge of Technology: An archaeometallurgical, technological and social study of the manufacture and use of Anglo-Saxon and Viking iron knives, and their contribution to the early medieval iron economy. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds very interesting.

- Earliest cave paintings (so far) discovered in Indonesia. 40,000 years old!!!!

- Irresistible title of academic article, Yes/No?
ossamenta: Radcliffe Camera and Brasenose College, Oxford (Oxford)
Since I wrote the bone report for the Queen's College kitchen excavations in 2009 or thereabouts, I had in mind to research college diets for an article. Previous work has been done on differences in diet between different groups in Medieval British society: rural, urban, elite and ecclesiastical*, but from what I could see in the QC assemblage college diet seem to be a fifth group. Bearing in mind that there are only two universities in Medieval Britain: Oxford and Cambridge, so the sample size is a bit small... I was all set up for some serious library time this weekend, checking all I could find on the historical sources - naturally not found in any single book (because that would be easy), but hidden here and there in old records (thankfully most of these would be transcribed and/or translated into modern English). And then Friday struck me down with a cold. :-( So I guess it will have to wait until next weekend.

*: see N.Sykes, 2007. "The Norman Conquest: A Zooarchaeological Perspective", Archaeopress; Oxford, and N.Sykes, 2006. From cu and sceap to beffe and motton: the management, distribution and consumption of cattle and sheep AD 410-1550, in "Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition" (eds C.Woolgar, D.Serjeantson and T.Waldron), Oxford University Press; Oxford, pages 56-71.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
- Archaeologists have found a new trelleborg! (Danish article) These kinds of fortifications were all built in the 980s and have the same symmetrical design: circular rampart with four gates in each direction and roads between them crossing at a right angle in the middle. In each quarter there were four long houses around a central square. There are only five certain trelleborgs, as well as a couple of similar fortifications in Denmark and southern Sweden. I was lucky once, flying home, and we passed straight over the trelleborg outside Slagelse. It was so cool to see it from the air.

- A man in Norway found a Viking Age blacksmith burial in his garden! (More detailed Norwegian article)

- The perfect present for the nautically minded Viking Age enthusiast: Your very own custom built Viking ship replica As expected, it's a rather expensive present.

- Or perhaps you would prefer an anatomically correct armchair?

- In case you were morbidly curious: The grim details of Richard III's death

- And if you want to know more about human osteology, human evolution, paleopathology, forensic archaeology etc, the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO) have created a forum for both members and members of the public to join and discuss things to your hearts content.

- Extinct humans passed high altitude gene to Tibetans
ossamenta: Moominpappa sitting on a rock in the sea, writing on his typewriter (Muminpappa skriver)
What a day! Two much useful concrit emails on my ph.d. proposal, one offer of co-authorship on a zooarch article, and I heard about not one, but two (!) interesting conferences!

First, there's a textile conference in London 10-11 October with some interesting talks on hair nets, tablet weaving, fingerloop braiding and other things definitely not related to animal bone (well, I guess the tablets could be made of bone...).

Then, there is a conference on animal husbandry in the western Roman empire in Sheffield 20-22 November. I deal with quite a lot of Roman sites, so it could be very useful for me. £60 is not bad for 2.5 days, but then you have to add accomodation cost. I'm tempted, but I ought to wait until the programme is posted so I can do a better usefulness/cost evaluation.

And now, back to proposal wrangling.
ossamenta: Moominpappa sitting on a rock in the sea, writing on his typewriter (Muminpappa skriver)
Ironically, I have no doubts whatsoever that I'm able to write a great Ph.D, but getting a great Ph.D. application off the ground... I'm tearing my hair out here.


Sep. 4th, 2014 08:23 pm
ossamenta: Text: Women and geeks first! Oh no wait that's all of us. (Women and geeks first)
Tonight is quiet. I'm taking a break from my Ph.D. thoughts and am instead relaxing with embroidery and listening to podcasts.

The single science podcast was Human and animal science, who had Naomi Sykes from Nottingham University talking about zooarchaeology and how her chickens made her re-think how we present our analyses.

All the rest were sci-fi related (In case you had missed it, I'm a big SF/Fantasy nerd, mostly on the literary side as opposed to film/tv):

- Kate Elliott and N.K. Jemisin talk reader, writer, and publisher bias on Rocket Talk ("How do our own blind spots influence the choices we make? How does that impact society? How can we do better?") Kate Elliott is an awesome epic fantasy writer who deserves to be better known. Try the Spirit walker trilogy (Cold magic, Cold fire, Cold steel) for an "Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency fantasy adventure with airships, Phoenician spies, the intelligent descendents of troodons, and a dash of steampunk whose gas lamps can be easily doused by the touch of a powerful cold mage." N.K. Jemisin is perhaps better known, author of the Inheritance trilogy and the Dreamblood duology.

- Skiffy and Fanty interviewed Kameron Hurley, whose new book Mirror Empire I'm really excited about. ("We tackle the political nature of fiction, Grimdark, feminism, and silly things") Kameron Hurley's previous books (God's war, Infidel, Rapture) are an excellent example of books you need to whack over the head on people who claim women can't write grimdark. God's war was horrifying to read, but an excellent world building and interesting characters kept me going and I'm very glad I did.

Are there any other good sci-fi or history focussed podcasts you think I should listen to?
ossamenta: Moominpappa sitting on a rock in the sea, writing on his typewriter (Muminpappa skriver)
I'm getting to that awkward stage of proposal writing: when you look at the methodology chapter of a thesis and marvel at the perfectness of the language and then look at your own first draft of your proposal, and it looks like shit. Nevermind that yours is a first draft and the thesis is probably a sixth or even tenth draft, language polished until it shines.

But it's just a matter of getting through it. Rewrite, get feedback and rewrite again.

ossamenta: Close-up of Viking Age rune stone (Ashmolean runestone)
Isn't it nice when this is your writing environment:

view from the 1st floor café at the Natural History Museum in Oxford: glass panelled ceiling, ornate ironworks, stone columns

Hopefully tomorrow will be another good writing day, although considering the weather forecast (rain, rain, more rain, bit of sunshine somewhere just to get your hopes up, rain) it will probably spent at home.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I haven’t been to any archaeo/zooarch conferences since EAA2012, and since I can’t afford to go to ICAZ (this time it’s in Argentina!), I was very glad to see that the Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum was going to have their annual-ish* conference in London, and doubly glad that due to ICAZ the registration fee was only £10! The programme was very interesting and well worth one holiday from my yearly allowance.

*: meetings in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Talk summaries under the cut )

The Institute of Archaeology is in the middle of the UCL complex between Euston Road and the British Museum, so it’s easy to get to (and they have a lovely little terrace on the top floor with a view over the trees in the square opposite!). The drawback is of course limited space for (for example) reference collections, but the students have access to the Natural History Museum’s collections which is a huge help for bone identification, particularly since UCL specialises in Near East and African zooarchaeology. We were given a tour of the lab, and they have some really interesting things, such as Simon Hillson’s loose tooth collection and part of the pathological bones used by Don Brothwell when he and John Baker wrote Animal diseases in archaeology in 1980. When our guide opened the "Pathology: infections" drawer, there was that wonderful combined oooh and eeeww sound you get when a bunch of zooarchaeologists see a cow mandible with an advanced stage of "lumpy jaw".

several animal bones with bone changing pathologies
One of the pathology drawers. The lumpy jaw cattle mandible is at the top, in the middle of the photo.

UCL archaeology department terrace
UCL archaeology department terrace
The lunch terrace at the archaeology department
ossamenta: Text: Women and geeks first! Oh no wait that's all of us. (Women and geeks first)
Two days in on my holiday and I'm already exhausted. I started this morning with taking the train to Copenhagen to be at the library when it opened. There was no problem with getting a library card even if I don't live in Denmark! After I got the books I wanted from the stacks* I went straight back to the station and took a train back to Sweden, but continued to Lund, where I needed access to an e-journal. Downloaded the articles I needed and went back to Malmö again for the third and most important event: Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch's signing at the SciFi bookshop! The shop was quite full and it took me 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to the front of the queue and get my books signed. I might take advantage of their Copenhagen signing on Tuesday and bring more books...

It's been a really full day and I've promised myself not to have the alarm on tomorrow and to do nothing important. Perhaps cycling out to the beach in the late morning and check out the water temperature. Might bring a bikini and towel just in case.

*: History professor's labour of love, published when he was in his 80s. One single copy in Sweden, in the Royal Library in Stockholm, ten copies in Denmark (Copenhagen library was the place with assumed easiest access).
ossamenta: A flock of sheep from a medieval manuscript (Sheep)
As part of my Ph.D. idea I'm exploring ways to identify castrated sheep from their bones. Castrates were very popular as wool producers, since they grew big and their fleeces weren't affected by hormonal changes from breeding. Medieval records from wool producing flocks show the presence of large numbers of ewes and castrates, but hardly any rams. So if you want to detect wool producing sheep flocks, you want many adult/older ewes and castrates.

I did a study on some sheep skeletons in Denmark many years ago, and wanted to do a follow-up on a different breed, just in case the traits I found on the Danish sheep were breed specific. So today was spent in the stores of English Heritage in Portsmouth, looking at many sheep skeletons. As expected, things weren't totally obvious, but a bit complicated. Still, when I did a blind test, I got almost all sheep correctly sexed. So there is certainly something about my method.

Now I need to put up my notes in a file and send them back to EH, as part of the deal to use their collection is the requirement that they get a record of what I did. And then sort out my next step on my research. It will involve lots of photos, and even more sheep skeletons...
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
In about two weeks time I'm off to London for the Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum's conference. Since I'm neither a postgrad nor a PhD student I won't give a talk, but instead I will sit and listen to several interesting talks and take copious amounts of notes. It will be such fun!

- A new Viking Age female figurine has been found! Just as with the 2012 find of the figurine with sword and shield, there are lots of dress details which I'm sure will delight any authenticity minded Viking Age re-enactors.

- Keeping in the small figurine theme: A 13th century Limoges enamel Madonna found buried under Danish church floor.

- If you ever wondered where a penguin's knees are, look no further.

- The Walbrook Discovery Programme has a blog post up on animal remains from Roman butchery.

- "Let's just say an unbearable smell was emitted" - how to reduce a blue whale to a pile of bones. I'm so impressed at the size of those vertebrae! Although I'm glad I wasn't there in person, and that internet doesn't (yet) do smell-o-vision...

- One of the advantages of a British Museum membership is tickets to members' lectures. Luckily for us who a) aren't members or b) couldn't go, Mary Beard's Pompeii lecture is now online. Thanks BM!
ossamenta: Moominpappa sitting on a rock in the sea, writing on his typewriter (Muminpappa skriver)
It's been quite a productive weekend. Saturday was spent writing on things related to my Ph.D. proposal, and on Sunday I sat sewing. I wanted to write more, but I reached the stage where I need access to some library articles (and the library had closed by then). As it turns out, they don't have one of the journals I need, so I will have to ask for it elsewhere. If I'm lucky my boss might have copies - they're in her specialist field.

I sincerely wish this coming week had a bank holiday Monday (or even Tuesday - I'm not picky), but unfortunately we're all out of lovely three day weekends until the end of August. I was really getting used to them in May.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I've been rather busy lately, working on a new PhD proposal. Admittedly, there is unlikely to be any post/grants announced before summer, but that's no excuse to wait until the last minute. This time I will leave the crafts mainly behind, instead focussing on animal husbandry strategies (well, that's seriously simplified, but it will have to do) in Early Medieval Scandinavia/southern Baltic area. Oxford's libraries don't have everything I need for background research, but luckily I can use the copac database to see what other UK libraries have available. So last Saturday I headed into London and the British Library. Photocopying/scanning is rather expensive there (25p/single page, no spreads allowed), and unfortunately my tired brain didn't think to check academia.edu until afterwards. So I spent £3 on an article I could just have downloaded for free... Note to self: have lunch first so the blood sugar levels are up before you make any financial decisions! But it's a good library, with excellent sit-writing facilities. There are usually lots of students (and others) there, so it might be hard to get a seat unless you come early or use the reading rooms.

(For London tourists: the BL's permanent exhibition is very good, ranging from medieval manuscripts to Beatles' songs. They usually have interesting temporary exhibitions too, so worth checking out)

I've also found a new favourite café for writing: upstairs at the Natural History Museum. A lovely view over the collections, enough far away that the children downstairs create ignorable white noise, and as a bonus there are small glass cases along the balcony so you can learn something as you have your tea/coffee.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Associate Professor in archaeological methods with emphasis on archaeological osteology at the University of Bergen, Norway - why I wouldn't mind at all! Pity they require applicants with a Ph.D...

Note to self, get working on your Ph.D. idea during the Easter holiday!
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
My plans for last Sunday went awry. My intentions were to go to the Natural History Museum, where their conservator Bethany Palumbo and Ben Garrod - of Secrets of bones fame - would put together a capybara skeleton, and then go next door to the Radcliffe Science library for some serious writing. Instead I got stuck at the capybara table, and ended up helping them getting the carpals and tarsals together. Very tricky as there wasn't any picture of which bones went where, so it was all trial and error on matching up the joint surfaces. We used whitetack (i.e. a white version of blu-tack) to keep the small bones together before they were getting set permanently with glue and/or wire. Unfortunately it's not as secure as glue since body heat makes it malleable, so as I was holding the tacked bones trying to find a matching piece, they kept twisting slightly apart - very irritating. There are just so many little bones in the wrist and ankle joints, so unless you know which bone goes where, it often hard to even tell if a bone is a carpal or a tarsal.

I was quite surprised by the capybara skeleton. Since it's the world's largest rodent, I had been wondering if it would look more like beaver (the largest rodent in Europe) - which admittedly lives more in water than capybaras do and therefore might have bones more adapted for that - or an unscaled rat? Instead, with the exception of the rodent like skull and shoulder blades, the bones remind me more of a pig!

Ben and Bethany didn't manage to fully assemble the capybara before the museum closed. Hopefully there will be a second event (The capybara strikes back? The wrath of the capybara?) so the museum will have a whole capybara skeleton on display.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
The observant ones among you may have noticed a lack of blogging carnival posts in February. The topic "general blogging about archaeology and blogging" didn't appeal to me, and I wasn't the only one. But now, it's the final blogging carnival post, and I'm not sitting out on that one.

The last question is where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go? I leave it up to you to choose between reflecting on you and your blog personally or all of archaeology blogging/bloggers or both. Tells us your goals for blogging. Or if you have none why that is? Tell us the direction that you hope blogging takes in archaeology.

I think blogging is a really good way to spread your knowledge far and wide, meet people who can give you clues to how artefacts work, and learn things from related fields. Find your soul mate(s), realise you're not the only weirdo out there (and if so many of us are weird, shouldn't that just be a sign that we're quite within the range of normal really?). Blogging is a bit of an odd beast: partly normal conversation, partly popular science writing. And it is a skill to find the balance, particularly if you usually tend to write more formally academic things. Too much jargon shuts others out, no jargon and you have to explain in long paragraphs instead of using a single word. I hope blogging will be a fully accepted way of sharing knowledge - too often much more status is put on academic articles than popular science writing, even if the latter probably will be more influential in the long run. After all, if the public don't find us useful and interesting, they won't raise an eyebrow if budgets towards humanities or museums get cut - perhaps even be the ones to suggest the cuts.

I hope I can find more time* to write longer posts, to inform my readers of things I've learnt, perhaps things that are practical knowledge (how do you lay out a skeleton quickly to see which bits you have?), interesting new books or articles, weird bones and gross pathologies. Is there anything in particular you'd like to know or see?

*: and everyone who knows me are laughing their faces off. I really have too many things** on my plate already....
**: of course there is no such thing as too many interesting things to do, although there is such a thing as too few hours in the day.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
I got the Oxbow 2014 bargain catalogue in the post the other day, and there are quite a few books that could be worth buying if you're interested in old bones and such. I have most myself (so I can't make use of the bargain price this time) and I really recommend them.

- Extinctions and Invasions: A Social History of British Fauna: Eight thousand years ago, when the sea cut Britain off from the rest of the Continent, the island's fauna was very different: most of the animals familiar to us today were not present, whilst others, now extinct, were abundant. Over the course of millennia humans have manipulated Britain's fauna. Certain species were brought to extinction and in their place new animals were introduced: some transported purposefully by invading populations, others sent as royal gifts from far off lands, whilst several species arrived as stowaways. The story of each is fascinating, telling of the changing and multi-layered relationship between humans and animals. Drawing on new research in the fields of archaeology, ecology and history, this book examines how human society, culture, diet, lifestyles and even whole landscapes were fundamentally shaped by the animal extinctions and introductions that occurred in Britain since the last Ice Age. (£7.95)
- Farmers, Monks and Aristocrats: The environmental archaeology of Anglo-Saxon Flixborough: The environmental archaeological evidence from the major estate centre at Flixborough (in particular the animal bone assemblage) provides a series of unique insights into Anglo-Saxon life in England during the 8th to 10th centuries. The research reveals detailed evidence for the local and regional environment, many aspects of the local and regional agricultural economy, changing resource exploitation strategies and the extent of possible trade and exchange networks. Bioarchaeological data from Flixborough have documented for the first time, in a detailed and systematic way, the significant shift in social and economic aspects of wider Anglo-Saxon life during the 9th century AD., and comment on the possible role of external factors such as the arrival of Scandinavians in the life and development of the settlement. (£9.95)
- Aspects of Anglo-Scandinavian York : The ten chapters in this book, each written by a specialist, place the Coppergate discoveries within the wider context of Viking Yorvik whilst demonstrating how far the study of Anglo-Scandinavian York has progressed in the last quarter century. Includes animal bones, plant remains, coinage, crafts, inscriptions, place- and streetnames etc. (£6.95)
- Excavations at Grimes Graves, Fascicule 4 : Subtitled 'Animals, environment and the Bronze Age economy' this volume describes the Bronze Age midden deposits found in Shaft X, and discusses and interprets the rich faunal deposits. (£4.95) If you've read an animal bone report that referenced Legge for cattle ageing, this is the book they were using.
- Safe Moor'd in Greenwich Tier: A Study of the Skeletons of Royal Navy Sailors and Marines excavated at the Royal Hospital Greenwich : Recent excavations in the cemetary revealed the burials of over a hundred Greenwich Pensioners, who had ended their long and colourful lives at the Hospital. These were sailors and mariners that sailed and fought in Britain's numerous wars of the 18th century. The hazards and physical demands of their lives are clearly reflected in their skeletons, with fractures, infections, amputations, joint disease and scurvy being common. Osteological findings are interpreted in the light of rich documentary sources on the social history of the lowerdeck of Nelson's Navy, and form an invaluable alternative data set in reconstructing the extraordinary lives of these 'picked and brine pickled survivors'. (£5) This is such a bargain!
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Last weekend I went up really early* to go to Preston in Lancashire for the twice-yearly Professional Zooarchaeology Group meeting. Usually, at least for (northern) Europe, when we identify equid bones, we call them “horse”. This may not be entirely accurate, particularly for Roman and post-Roman periods, when donkeys and mules were also used for transport. Horses and donkey, not to mention mules, can be really tricky to identify correctly to species, so this equid meeting included a identificaton session at the end.

The talks ranged from early domestication to size increases to horse burials. Read more... )

*: seriously, England, why is it not possible to go north at a reasonable hour on a Saturday? I know you think the universe revolves around London, but seriously... I couldn't even get to Birmingham early enough to catch another train towards Preston. Going south to London was easy, and then the morning London-Glasgow train got me to Preston in time for the meeting.

The event was livetweeted at #pzg, for those of you who live for twitter.

Mood swing

Feb. 5th, 2014 09:30 pm
ossamenta: Close-up of Viking Age rune stone (Ashmolean runestone)
It's amazing how one single little email can tip the week from meh/crap into happy fun research mood. Bring on the weekend!


ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)

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