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: 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: (Book store = shiny!)
The spring Oxbow catalogue came yesterday. So many wonderful books…. If only I had more money for buying them, more space to store them and more time to read them. But there are some really cool stuff that I feel the need to if not acquire, then to read them in the uni library.

cut )
ossamenta: Text: Women and geeks first! Oh no wait that's all of us. (Women and geeks first)
I read today on A stitch in time that the Danish re-enactor Maria Lind Heel has started a crowdfunding project to get the needlebound mitten from Ribe radiocarbon dated. The mitten, found in the 1950s, has only been dated to "Medieval" which, quite frankly, isn't good enough if you want to discuss the spread of stitch types. And as there are relatively few needlebound items out there, every information is worth a lot for researchers.

I've tried needlebinding (aka nålbindning, naalbinding) myself, but never got enough good that I could actually make anything. Trouble with the tension, and the only way to get better is to practice. Sadly, I didn't have time to practice enough, as my life is full of so many other things. Still, reading Maria's blog makes me realise how much you can find out about needlebinding. All the different stitches, and their place in time and space. What we know was made with needlebinding and what we think was not (how do you actually prove a negative...). I'm not even sure what stitch I was using when I tried it.

So, to help a fellow textil nerd out, I donated some money for the project. If you want to do the same, the page is here: http://www.booomerang.dk/projects/stot-datering-af-den-nalebundne-vante-fra-middelalderens-ribe/

The site is in Danish, but the relevant parts have been translated to English.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Current Roman things in London are not just the artefacts and bodycasts from Pompeji and Herculaneum that are exhibited in the British Museum (not seen yet, must remember to book ticket!) but there is also a huge excavation at the banks of the Walbrook. BBC had a feature on it a few days ago, including a slideshow of some really nice artefacts. Being a wetland site, the wood is fantastically well preserved. There are even writing tablets (still containing the text!). If you want to know more about Roman London and the everyday work on a commercial urban dig, go to the site blog: Walbrook discovery programme.
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Going to the EAA conference whetted my appetite for conferences as a means to soak the brain in interesting knowledge and meeting interesting people. So at the beginning of November I went to the Craft and people conference in London. The conference aimed at exploring ways to approach the craftspeople behind the objects, studying (for example) status within the community, transferral of skills, and degree of aptitude. It might not be particularly within my work role, but it could mean useful things for the theoretical side of my Ph.D. proposal, and of course, there’s always the possibility for useful connections with other archaeologists.

The talks were very interesting, even if admittedly slightly biased towards Bronze Age and the Ancient Near East, neither a thing I’m that particularly interested in per se. But what I liked was that several of the speakers and poster presenters were skilled craftspersons themselves, for example Barbara Armbruster (goldsmith), Andrew Appleby* (potter), Katarina Botwid (potter) and Giovanna Fregni (bronze smith). It’s so easy to dabble in a craft (or several) which gives you a fair bit of knowledge, but usually not enough to realise just how little you know.

There is a publication planned, so if you are interested, keep an eye out for it (hopefully next year).

*: The only one, iirc, who wasn’t an archaeologist himself.

Some of the interesting things under cut )
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I had a great time at the EAA conference, although I really would have liked a clone or two just for the extensive programme. How do you choose between so many interesting talks? I decided to go for the ”useful” option rather than the ”interesting” option. Obviously, it’s always better when these two categories mix. So in the end, I decided to go to the sessions ”Baltic urbanism”, ”Life in the city”, ”Famine, murrain and plague”, ”Settled and intinerant craft people” and sneak into the Scandinavian-related talks in ”War and warfare” and the wear traces talk in ”From bone to bead”. Obviously not all taks were relevant to me or memorable, but luckily, several were.

Read more... )
It was a good conference, and I managed to do some touristing too among all the conferencing, networking and socialising. I went on a day trip to Tallinn (gorgeous medieval city which made me miss Visby very much) and took a boat out to the 18th century fortress Soumenlinna (a great way to spend some hours). A visit is recommended.

Misc. links

Jul. 4th, 2012 07:21 pm
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I have re-surfaced after a really fun dance weekend, and while I am still very tired and have sore feet (it was so worth it!), there's no rest for the wicked (nor for anyone else either), as the big EEK project continues. Luckily I have been given an extended deadline, which was very welcome. I'm still in the recording stage, so I can't tell you if there's anything very interesting there, as these things usually first show up when you start number crunching.

But I've seen some interesting stuff online:

- Medieval horse harness with lots of bling found in Ireland. I'd love to see it in person, or, better yet, a reconstruction so you can see how shiny it would have been when it was in use.

- Excavations in northern Germany seem to have found the remains of Sliasthorp, a town connected to the Norse elite of the area. Sliasthorp lies near the trading centre Haithabu/Hedeby, similar to the situation of Adelsö and Birka in Sweden (possibly Uppåkra and Lund as well, although Lund was founded much later). This suggests that the founding of these trading places may have been directly associated with the elite rather than with traders. The trading places would also have been under control of the elite.

- And if you're interested in Flemish archaeology, Onroerend Erfgoed (the Flemish equivalent of English Heritage) has put up several of their publications online, which you can both search and browse. There is no English version of the site, but it seems fairly straightforward.

- The knitted 16th century cap collection of the Museum of London is now online. 73 caps, coifs, cap fragments, linings and earpieces have been photographed, with captions containing contextual and technical information. To browse the caps, please go to the Collections Online and enter ‘cap’ in the Keyword field with the date range 1500-1600 in the search fields.

- The seventh conference on experimental archaeology will take place in january 2013 at the University of Cardiff, Wales. Papers on any any topic related to experimental archaeology are welcome, but those that touch on the relationship between experimental and experiential* approaches are particularly welcome.The deadline for papers is July, although the webpage doesn't state if it's the first of the month or the end of the month. Hopefully the latter.

*: An experiment can be repeated by the same researcher or others. Experiential archaeology is about the experience, for example building an Iron Age house and live in it to see how the construction worked in practice. What most of the re-enactment community call experimental archaeology is in fact experiential.

- And a very interesting post from Bones don't lie discusses new research on using stable isotopes for sexing human remains. While there is an overlap in the ratios of iron isotopes between males and females, the overlap was not greater than a normal sex determination using the pelvis. Only one French assemblage was used for the study, and obviously more research is needed to see what the results are for other regions.
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
Yesterday I and two colleagues went to the Integrating zooarchaeology and stable isotopes-conference in Cambridge. I had to get up very early, but it was worth it. About half of the talks were relevant to me, even if the practical applications may be beyond my normal budgets.

Of particular interest to me were:
- the fallow deer project, on (among other topics) the introduction of fallow deer in Europe. The isotope studies are only beginning, but there are evidence for first generation imports at the Roman villa in Fishbourne on the south coast of England.

- Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of animals and grains from the Danebury Iron Age hillfort and from surrounding sites suggest that the simple model of surrounding producer sites and a high status central consumer site must be revised. Such a model would result in different isotope values on the producer sites, reflecting the different local geology, and wide-ranging isotope values on the consumer site encompassing all isotope values from the producer sites. The research is ongoing, but since the isotope values on all sites were very similar, it may indicate a more complex trade and exchange system.

- Pigs from medieval urban sites are usually interpreted as being ”backyard pigs”, fed on scraps and kept for meat. Several contemporary written sources confirm the presence of pigs kept in urban environments, and so far little time and money has been spent trying to contradict this. However, isotope analysis on pig bones from Medieval York indicate that the vast majority of the sampled animals (N:23) were fed the same protein-low diet as sheep from York and pigs from the nearby village Wharram Percy, suggesting that they were kept on pannage in rural areas. Obviously more research (and samples!) are needed but it is apparent that medieval (and Roman? Saxon? Post-medieval?) pig keeping was more complex than what zooarchaeologist normally have assumed.

- Strontium values on cattle teeth from the Late Iron Age/Roman village Owslebury, near Winchester, showed three different ranges of isotope values, indicating three different origin regions for these cattle. Unfortunately we only got to see the strontium map of entire Britain, and to ”accurately” pinpoint possible origin regions for these animals you need a much more detailed map, as small pockets of different geologies can be found within sections of the dominant geology in a particular region. Again, more research is needed.

As you can see, there are several people who’s future Ph.D.s and research ideas I will keep an eye out for. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find personal research sites for these topics, but if any blog reader is interested, name and contact details should be found on the conference webpage.

It was a good day out, and I could finally visit the archaeology and anthropology museum, which was closed for rebuilding the other times I’ve been to Cambridge. They had one of the Star Carr antler frontlets!!! If only I had brought my camera…

Interestingly, the gender ratio on the conference participants skewed heavily to women. About 80% women! Seriously, where are the male archaeologists? Are they not interested in isotopes or in zooarchaeology? I knew environmental archaeology in Britain is predominantly female, but I didn't expect laboratory archaeology to be the same. I'd guess that British archaeology as a whole would be at least 40-60% either way, but what on earth are the men specialising in/researching then?


If I have got anything wrong in my write-ups, please let me know.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Almost the end of November, and on the day after tomorrow the Christmas countdown will begin. Thankfully I've bought most of the presents already (except for the stuff I'll buy at the airport) so I don't have to think about that in the weekend. I might go down to town just to have a hot chocolate and do some people watching.

I wonder what December will be like this year. Last year we had a very cold winter, but so far it's been a very warm autumn. Perhaps it will be a warm vinter too? On one hand, I do love snow and a cold winter, but on the other hand, no snow and higher temperatures means less heating costs. And less chance of Heathrow being closed due to 2 cm snow the day I'm flying in or out... Last year I managed to get out of the UK on one of the last flights before they closed the airport.

Autumn trees on Hampstead Heath, London
Is this what the end of November looks like? Seems more like early-mid October to me...


I've posted two pictures for the photo-meme, if you didn't keep an eye out on the old post.


If you're into environmental archaeology and want to give a talk or present a poster at a conference, the 2012 spring meeting of the Association for Environmental Archaeology will take place on 21st April 2012 at Plymouth University, UK. This year's theme is New trends in environmental archaeology. It will be a student focused meeting, although attendance and presentation from practitioners from the commercial sector and more established academics is encouraged. Oral and poster presentations on any aspect of Environmental Archaeology are welcomed and it is hoped that the full range of sub-disciplines of environmental archaeology will be represented. A limited number of travel bursaries will be available to student presenters. The deadline for abstract submission (250 words max) is 1st February. Registration forms will be up on the AEA website shortly. For further information or to submit an abstract please contact Marta Perez (marta.perez [at] plymouth.ac.uk).


The proceedings from the 7th meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group (WBRG) held in September 2009 at the Archaeological Institute of the University of Wrocław, Poland, has recently been published in the following volume:
J. Baron & B. Kufel-Diakowska (eds), 2011. Written in Bones. Studies on technological and social context of past faunal skeletal remains, Wrocław: Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytet Wrocławski
The individual papers as well as the complete volume are accessible online as pdf-files.

I really recommend you having a look at the papers. There's a good variety on time periods and topics, however, the papers only discuss finds from European countries.
ossamenta: Close-up of Viking Age rune stone (Ashmolean runestone)
I can't believe it's already November. At least here in England it's still quite a nice autumn: leaves in many different colours and it's not too cold yet. I shouldn't complain. Although I still feel time is passing too quickly. Christmas decorations are up in the larger shops, and I guess it'll only be a short time until they start pumping out the Christmas music too...

For extra fun and joy I'm now working on four sites: I got an evaluation that needs to be in very soon, and that must take precedence over the other sites. Evaluations are "pre-excavations", where we set out trenches across the entire development area and then see what we find in these. That way we can estimate how much archaeology there will be in the development area, which then influences how much it will cost to properly excavate the area. This will then get tendered on, so if you estimate too high, you are not very likely to get the job. On the other hand, if you estimate too low you will either do a rush job which English Heritage/the county archaeologist will not like and force you to do a better job (but for the same low cost...), or you risk losing money if it turns out that there was more exciting and costly things below ground that you originally expected and costed for. It's fine line to walk between doing a good job and actually getting the job contract.


In case you wonder, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, or the blogging/short story/knitting/whatever equivalent. I'm writing a lot in my job and both the ph.d. applications, the job application and the conference talk have kept me extra busy this year. Technically I could tackle the UFO* pile, but I think that will be a "slowly but surely"-project rather than a focussed "let's keep all evenings very busy"-project. Best of luck to you who are giving NaNoWriMo a go.

*: UnFinished Object


There has been more info on the spindle whorl I linked to in last post: the back of the piece is also decorated and shows some wear, indicating that it's been made from another artefact. The archaeologists are unsure whether the decoration would be runes or a Sami pattern. There are also small holes on the back, two of which contain small bits of iron.

And since I assume only a few of you read online horse magazines, here's a link to an article on the new evidence for horse domestication in Saudi Arabia and in Kazakhstan. (Thanks to Lee Broderick from the ZooArch list)

Close-up on some of the Swedish finds that are going to be in a touring exhibition on Vikings in 2012. [personal profile] pearl, this is relevant to your interests.

Back again

Oct. 26th, 2011 09:06 pm
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I'm back at work now, and luckily no emergencies had come up while I was away. I'm the only animal bone expert there (apart from my fish specialist boss) so unfortunately I can't delegate site visits and such. The holiday was lovely, but as usual too short. Holidays always are, aren't they? I didn't do that much, mainly visiting friends and family and relaxed. I got some good tips on how to angle my ph.d. proposal for next time, so now I have lots of reading to do for next year.

Work is continuing in the busy-mode. Right now I'm juggling three different sites, all in the process of being phased - which is why I can't do them one by one: I do the phased part of one site, then go over to the next, while the rest of site one gets phased. If I had lots of time (which you never do in commercial archaeology) I could record all the bones from the entire site, regardless of phasing and then ignore the unphased bones later when it came to the actual analysis/write-up. But since I'm on a limited budget, I can only record bones from securely phased contexts, ergo this site juggling.

I came across a couple of interesting things, which I thought I'd share with you:
- A decorated spindle whorl from an Iron Age Swedish site.

- A workshop at the archaeology department at Lund University (Sweden) Thursday 3 November 15.15-18.00: To find Iron Age settlements with metal detectoring. (All in Swedish though)
Talks: Kristina Jennbert: Vadå metalldetektering?; Charlotte Fabech: Bebyggelse och metallföremål - en landskapsarkeologisk utmaning. Tanker efter undersökningarna i Stora Hammar; Håkan Svensson: Det glimmar på dumphögen - om avbaningsarkeologins begränsningar och möjligheter; Birgitta Hårdh: Fibulor som massmaterial.

- An intact Viking Age boat burial found in Scotland.
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Work has been intense lately, but soon I'm off home for a week's relaxing, sewing (for a steampunk Halloween event), testing a couple of new cookie recipes, and meeting friends. I can't wait!

But first, a couple of quick links:

- “An Atlas of Medieval Combs from Northern Europe” by Steve Ashby. Published online on the open access journal Internet Archaeology.
Summary: As an aid to understanding chronology, economics, identity and culture contact, the early medieval bone/antler hair-comb is an under-exploited resource, despite the existence of an extensive literature borne out of a long-standing tradition of empirical research. Such research has been undertaken according to diverse traditions, is scattered amongst site reports and grey literature, regional, national, and international journals, and is published in a number of different languages.
The present article provides a general synthesis of this data, together with the author's personal research, situated within a broad view of chronology and geography. It presents the author's classification of early medieval composite combs, and applies this in a review of comb typology in space and time. It makes use of recently excavated material from little-known and unpublished sites, as well as the classic studies of familiar towns and 'emporia'. The atlas is intended for use as a reference piece that may be accessed according to need, and read in a non-linear fashion. Thus, it may act as a first port-of-call for scholars researching the material culture of a particular spatio-temporal context, while simultaneously facilitating rapid characterisation of freshly excavated finds material. It should provide a useful complement to recent and ongoing question-oriented research on combs.

- The UK based Medieval Dress and Textile Society (MEDSAT) has their autumn meeting Saturday 22nd October in the British Museum, London. I would have loved to go, as the theme of this meeting is "Reconstruction, Living History, Re-enactment" (programme). There are some interesting talks, and some interesting people - of any of you readers go, please let me know how it went.

- Keeping in the textile theme, the Smithsonian has developed a less destructive technique to date silk items, using the natural deterioration of silk’s amino acids to determine its age by calculating that change over time (a process known as racemization). Only a tiny millimeter-size sample is required, takes 20 minutes, and consumes only nanoliters of the amino acid mixture. The process is accurate within 50 to 100 years of the silk’s creation. How awesome is that! Even if it's not possible to do exact dating (for the Medieval and Post-medieval periods checking changes in fashion may be a better option), the small amount of silk needed makes it a far better dating method than radiocarbon.
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Glaciers are melting, and since ice preserves organic material (like mammoths in Siberia), artefacts are popping out of the ice, so to speak. But if you don't collect them quickly, they will start to decompose and will soon be gone. In Norway, archaeologists have surveyed the receeding Breheim glacier, and have found lots of artefacts from Iron Age hunting sites, among them a woollen kirtle dated to 300AD! I can't say how awesome this is: there are so few complete garments from this time period. Other finds include shoes, hunting equipment and textiles. I haven't been able to find more detailed information (except that the kirtle is woven in a diamond twill), but I guess once the post-excavation is done, there will be some articles or press releases.

A Norwegian article has pictures of the kirtle and two videos. This slideshow gives a good view of the "site" and some more finds.

And if you're actually in Oslo, you can see lots of these finds (but not the kirtle) at the Museum of Cultural History, in the temporary exhibition The archaeology of ice. If you're like me, not in Oslo, you will have to satisfy yourself with a slideshow of the exhibition (click "Utstillingen" in the upper right corner of the previous link), which includes several of the finds: combs, arrows, textiles, as well as more ambigious wood and bark artefacts).
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
Winchester is an interesting town. The ”first” settlement was an Iron Age hill fort, then at c. 70AD the Romans came and established a town there. In the early and mid-Saxon period there seems to be a decline of the town, but in 662AD Winchester becomes the site of the bishopric, and then becomes the capital of the kingdom of Wessex. After the Norman invasion London takes over the throne (so to speak), but Winchester remained the site of the bishopric. And not just any bishopric: the See of Winchester was one of the wealthiest in Medieval England.

winchester book cover

The Northgate House, Staple Gardens and Winchester Discovery Centre (formerly Winchester Library) sites are located in the north-west corner of the Roman and Medieval town, within the walls*. The Saxon (and Medieval) street Brudene Stret (nowadays Staple Gardens) separates the sites. There is plot continuation throughout the Late Saxon, Anglo-Norman and High Medieval periods, which lent itself to comparisons between the plots both spatially and chronologically. However, in the early 13th century, the buildings on the northwest side of Brudene Stret were demolished and the area formed part of the Archdeacon’s residence.

The book gives an introduction to the sites, including documentary evidence from the Medieval period and land use over time. The next few chapters discuss the two sites by period: Prehistoric and Roman, Late Saxon (c. 850-1150), and Anglo-Norman/Medieval (c. 1150-1550). The latter two chapters are discussed by property, which would facilitate easy chronological comparison. Thereafter follows a discussion of the site in a wider context, again by period. Here the Late Saxon and Anglo-Norman/Medieval periods are combined and form a substantial chapter, discussing the creation of the town, building development, water supply, pit function, industry and craft (metal working, textile working, skinning and furriering**, bone and horn working), and the Archdeacon’s residence.

There is a short chapter on the scientific dating evidence, i.e. radio carbon dating and archaeomagnetic dating, a method which was chosen since there was an abundance of fired hearths in situ throughout the Saxon period. A large number of dating samples were taken to form a detailed phasing of the site, trying to find out whether the properties were laid out at the same time, or grew more organically. Other research aims included finding out whether the settlement existed before or after the ”official” foundation of the burh, and trying to calibrate the pottery dating sequence.

That’s half the book. The other half is devoted to the finds. Lots of pottery, from prehistoric to post-medieval, much building material such as tile, stone and painted wall plaster, 305 Roman coins, several ”small finds”, i.e. metal and bone objects, glass and shale. The small finds are significantly summarized in the book (a shame, as I found lots of worked bone mounts when I did my analysis, and I haven’t got around to check the cd yet - mea culpa), and the full report is included on an accompanying cd. In fact, all specialist reports, including scientific dating, are included in full on the cd. The finds section in the book also includes the ecofacts, i.e. animal bone (a lot, including evidence for a furrier’s workshop), molluscs (not many), charcoal, seeds and other plant remains (a lot, including evidence for dyeing, probably textiles), as well as human bone (mainly a small number of Roman infant burials), intestinal parasites (very few). There’s also a summary of an analysis of soil micromorphology, chemistry and magnetic susceptibility.

As with the Lankhills book, there are plenty of drawing and colour photographs throughout the book. I would recommend the book to anyone with an interest in urban archaeology from these periods.


*: The layout of the town wall didn’t change much over the centuries. Waste not, want not, I guess.
**: This is one of the sites I use for my tawyers and furriers talk at the conference in Gdansk in September. It’s (AFAIK) the second site in Britain where they have found dumps of bones from squirrel feet - one of the most common fine furs in the Medieval period and subject of a huge industry and trade. The other site is much later in the period: The Bedern in York (14th century).

B.M. Ford and S. Teague, 2011. Winchester - a city in the making. Archaeological investigations beteeen 2002 and 2007 on the sites of Northgate House, Staple Gardens and the former Winchester Library, Jewry Street. Oxford Archaeology Monograph No. 12.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
First, thanks for the well-wishes. The interview seemed to go well: some things that they liked about me, and some things I could improve on. We'll see what happens.

The new Oxbow summer catalogue is out and I thought I'd give a shout-out to some that seemed interesting. A lot of the catalogue is on Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, which I'm not enough familiar with to tell which books are of general relevance and which are only for the artefact/regional specialists. If you are interested in those periods I recommend you check out their website. An exception was made for books of interest to re-enactors and people interested in making replicas of historical finds, as there were a few of those in the Roman section.

Cut for lots of books )
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
- Remember the mass grave of decapitated Vikings in Dorset? It turned out one of them had filed front teeth, just like some other men in Viking Age Scandinavia. No-one knows what these modifications signified. A religious thing? Local tradition? Strange and short-lived fashion? Inspiration from foreign travels? They are rare, only 24 skeletons of the 557 analysed in the original study had them. The grooves may have been filled with coloured wax or resin creating decorative patterns. I wonder if such grooves exist in other cultures from this period? I assume that if you're not looking for them, they can easily be missed.


- During a few hours last Sunday, just as much rain fell in Copenhagen as what falls in June, July and August combined! Needless to say, the sewers couldn't cope and there were floods everywhere. A friend of mine told me that the big excavation area for the metro turned into a huge 2m deep pool! I don't envy her the cleanup of the site... But there are several more important rescue operations going on right now, not just peoples' basement flats and shops, which of course are very important for the owners, but stuff of national and international importance: The basements of the Geological Museum and the Museum of Medicine history have been flooded, threatening unique fossil* collections and large collections of medieval human remains, for instance the Æbelholt monastery burials, an important assemblage for pathologies. Archaeological finds are normally stored in acidfree carton boxes, good for storage, but very bad in water immersion. There is a huge risk for mixing finds, whether bone or stone. And where on earth would you have space to dry tens of thousands of skeletons? The buildings have sustained damage, so they will definitely need to consider alternative storage places.

*: Being stone, they will survive the water, but the paper records and boxes which identify and separate them are at serious risk for damage.


- On a more cheerful note: A corgi skeleton drawing.


- Eldrimner has started food blogging again. This summer he's at the late 15th/early 16th fortified manor Glimmingehus and cooks renaissance and medieval food.


- And a new thing I learned from an old study: These Medieval combs are often called weaving combs in archaeological reports. No-one seem to know exactly what they would do with them while weaving, but they are ridiculously long for combing human hair. They are made from cattle metapodials and have sometimes decorations. Often there is a drilled hole near the top, or the natural hole in the bone is used. A study of Dutch combs, both these "weaving combs" and normal combs, in the early 1990s analysed lice and fleas found in combs, and guess what: every louse and flea they found in the "weaving combs" were human head lice/fleas. Lice and fleas have normally a specific species they use as a host and therefore they can be good indicators in archaeology. So, apparently, they were used in human hair. I still think they're too long to be used for normal combing, but that's just me.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
As one of the contributors, I got a copy of the new Lankhills cemetery book last Friday. The book is so new it’s not out in the bookshops yet, but will probably be in the online catalogues next week or so.

Lankhills book cover


It’s a very thorough book, with good illustrations and (several) photographs. It deals with the AD300-400 cemetery outside the Roman town Venta Bulgarum, now Winchester, in southern England. The site has been excavated previously, see for example Clark, 1979, The Roman cemetery at Lankhills, Winchester studies Vol.3. A total of 807 inhumation burials and 32 cremations have been excavated so far. The latest excavations, which this book covers, recovered 284 articulated skeletons, 100 deposits of disarticulated bones and 25 cremations. This latest assemblage also includes some unusual burials, such as eight prone inhumations (i.e. buried face to the ground) and five decapitated skeletons, one of which was an infant.

The main part of the book consists of the grave catalogue, artefact analysis and human remains analysis. The grave catalogue has colour drawings of almost every inhumation, including drawings of pottery and photographs of most grave goods (glass beads, bracelets of copper alloy and shale, rings of copper alloy and silver (including a few intaglio ones), copper alloy brooches (including one with inscription - this is featured on the book cover), bone combs, copper alloy buckles, knives, hair pins, spindle whorls and one glass vessel and a pair of decorated spurs). The hob nails and the textile imprints on artefacts are discussed (and photographed) in the artefact chapter, as is the pottery. The artefact chapter also includes analysis and discussion of each of the abovementioned artefact types, as well as coffin nails, coins and tiles.

The human remains analysis has the usual detailed studies of age, sex and stature, as well as a very extensive pathology section. There is much variation in the pathologies, not just the usual caries, fractures and osteoarthritis, but amputations, decapitations, DISH, cribra and femora orbitalia, osteomas, ankylosis, Perthes’ disease, necrosis, spondylosis, sinusitis, rickets and possible scurvy (as well as several other pathological conditions).

Smaller parts of the book discuss the cremation burials (including pyre technology), burnt and unburnt animal remains in the graves, isotope analysis and funerary rites. The isotope analysis concerns both 13C + 15N and oxygen + strontium. The 13C and 15N analysis focusses on unusual individual graves (DISH, decapitations, prone burials, ones with unusual grave goods) to see if the diet of these people differed from the rest of the population. The oxygen and strontium analysis on the other hand discusses ancestry. Samples were taken from 40 individuals, of which 11 showed non-british signatures: 10 were from the mediterranean region and one possibly from central Europe. The discussion on funerary rites includes the use of coffins and shrouds, body position and grave goods.

All in all, if you’re interested in Roman artefacts, or Roman human remains, I recommend getting hold of this book, or at least checking it out in the local university library. Even if you’re only interested in human paleopathology in general it might be worth having a look.


P. Booth, A. Simmonds, A. Boyle, S. Clough, H.E.M. Cool and D. Poore, 2010. The late Roman cemetery at Lankhills, Winchester. Excavations 2000-2005. Oxford Archaeology Monograph No. 10.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
When I was an undergraduate, one of the high moments was when the Oxbow catalogue came to the library. Pure archaeology porn! Lots of books to put on the Christmas wishlist.

And then I moved to Oxford, and found that my route to work took me past their office. Even better, I found that you could go in there and browse their bookshelves! Sometimes there was a sign saying "SALE" (extremely tempting, and very dangerous for the bank account).

Today, the new winter catalogue came to the office. Not so many interesting books for me this time (which probably is good, as it does add up, and I have some travel plans to save money for), but I thought I'd give a shout-out to any re-enactors or craftsmen reading this.
The Salisbury Museum's Medieval artefact catalogues are on sale for £9.95 each:
- Harness pendants, seals, rings, spurs, tiles, coins, mortars, etc.
- Pilgrim Souvenirs and secular badges
- Bone Objects, Enamels, Glass Vessels, Pottery, Jettons, Cloth Seals, Bullae and other Base Metal Objects

And not forgetting the textile people:
- Dress in Anglo-Saxon England £14.95
ossamenta: Picture of an owl from a Medieval manuscript (Medieval owl)
Normally, bone artefacts should be separated from the animal bone, since different experts are dealing with these two categories. However, sometimes the artefacts are tricky, and not so obviously worked. Which is when I find them, bag them separately and put them aside to go to the finds specialist. And it's not only bone artefacts - I sometimes find pottery sherds. Although in those cases I assume the person sorting the finds from that context was very very tired that day. Most pottery sherds are rather easily distinguished from bone.

My latest find was a bone quill. It's a radius from a large bird, probably goose, but I need to check it against a good reference collection first. Quills like these were commonly used in the medieval period, not only by monks, but by other scribes too (court records, recipe collections, merchants' inventories etc). Here are instructions on how to make one yourself.


Medieval bird bone quill


And here's a close-up of the tip, with some soil still remaining in the marrow cavity:
Medieval bird bone quill - close-up of tip

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