ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
I have to take a break from the big rural Roman site, since there are a few smaller sites with urgent deadlines that have to go first. In one way, it's nice to have a bit of a break, think about other time periods and regions, having to write and not just record. But on the other hand it would be nice just to get on with it, and finish one site before starting another. But that's commercial archaeology for you.


I was linked to this, and found Trowelblazers - a site about female archaeologists at the beginning of the 20th century.
"Why hadn't I heard of these women? Not the individual names -- I can barely name any male archaeologists from that period -- but the idea of these women, working in such numbers and even leading their fields. It was as though we'd blithely wiped them all from our popular imaginations, and thus allowed each woman to be easily dismissed [...] as an exception-to-the-masculine- rule.

Martin Rundqvist posted about a really interesting site dug by our colleagues in Salisbury: 800 years of human sacrifice in Kent. Isotope analyses show that some of the dead people grew up in Scandinavia, some in the Mediterranean, and some were local. The researchers think that the sacrificed people could have been slaves, raided from various places in Europe, ending up in Kent. Perhaps the people with local isotope signatures were children of slaves who originally came from elsewhere?

Katy Meyers at Bones don't lie posted about another isotope project. This time it's an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bamburgh, in northern England, where they found a great variation of isotope signatures among the population. The researchers argue that this settlement may have been connected to a religious community, where people could have come from all over Christian Europe for pilgrimage or for settling into the community.

The ultimate memento mori, a great idea for Halloween, or just plain fun for the bone mad among us? A Dutch artist 3D prints his own skeleton. I can see so many possibilities with this :-) .
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Another couple of days and then I'm off to Helsinki and the EAA conference! I had a look at the programme today, and realised I need a time machine or a clone. Possibly two clones. There are so many interesting talks and some of them clash really badly.

Other interesting things:
- The isotope conference I went to a couple of months ago is up now online as podcasts! What a good idea for all interested people who couldn't make it to Cambridge.
- Gorgeous gallery of Danish aerial archaeology: Everything from World War II defense systems to Iron Age houses.
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: Fossil of a pterosaur (Rhamphorhyncus longicaudus). (Flygödlefossil)
Blogposts with links are often called linkspam, but personally, I think that's the wrong word. Spam is something I don't want, whereas interesting links will brighten up my day. Therefore, I will call these posts linksoup, since soup is delicious! :-)


I found an interesting blog today: Powered by osteons, written by a human bone specialist in Italy. Lots of Roman posts, but also a great variety of interesting stuff, such as the use of sulphur isotope analysis to research fish consumption and the age of weaning.

Contagions is a more specialised blog, about historic infectious disease. I had only time to poke around a bit, but found posts on trench fever and the black death. As some of you probably already have heard, dna from Yersinia pestis has been extracted from several skeletons from a plague pit in London, thus confirming that Yersinia was (at least one of) the bacteria that wrecked havoc in Europe in the mid-14th century. (More info, and some background to the debate)


Yersinia pestis: Isn't she cute!


On a Mesolithic site in Sweden, archaeologists have found human skulls on stakes, placed in a shallow lake near the settlement. For once, the use of "ritual" doesn't seem far-fetched. I can't wait to read the report on this site. The Mesolithic has a special place in my heart, ever since I studied prehistoric archaeology in Lund. So many rich sites in Scania and Denmark, with not only bone and antler but also wood. On the other hand, Mesolithic sites that only yield flint scatters, as is the case in most of Britain, is rather boring.
(More detailed information on the site and ceremonial deposit in the site blog - only in Swedish, though)

Going even further back in time, dinosaur feathers have been found in amber! Unfortunately I didn't see any when I was on the lookout for nice amber in Gdansk.

For those of you who are based near London, or a planning a winter visit, the new exhibition
Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination will be at the British Library from 11 November-13 March.

And don't forget to put a note in the calendar for 2013: a big Viking exhibition at the National Museum in Denmark (Copenhagen), the Museum für Vor- und Frügeschichte (Berlin) and the British Museum (London). The National Museum in Denmark has a blog on the ongoing work with creating the exhibition (Danish only).

Keeping on the historical side, I must recommend Reel history: a blog series on the accuracy on various historical movies. On a related note, the fabulous Isis* wrote a post on how the present fashion is reflected in historical movies.

*: I adore 18th century fashion (the movie Dangerous Liasons, anyone?) and someday I will get around to make a 18th century outfit.


Various useful sources I found online:
- Abstracts from the 15th meeting of the ICAZ fish remains working group in 2009 (pdf)
- London lives 1690-1800: crime, poverty and social policy in the metropolis. Digitised and searchable primary sources focussing on middle and lower class Londoners. The sources include over 240,000 manuscript and printed pages from eight London archives and is supplemented by fifteen datasets created by other projects.
- A ph.d. thesis which is right in my interest sphere: Marianne Erath, Studien zum mitelalterlichen Knochenschnitzerhandwerk : die Entwicklung eines spezialiserten Handwerks in Konstanz (Studies on Medieval craft of bone-turners: development of a specialised handcraft in Konstanz) (pdf)
- My colleague Jessica Grimm's thesis Animal keeping and the use of animal products in medieval Emden (Lower Saxony, Germany).
- Another interesting ph.d. - on medieval textiles and fashion rather than bone: Eva I. Andersson (2006) Kläderna och människan i medeltidens Sverige och Norge (Clothing and the individual in Medieval Sweden and Norway) (pdf)
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
The African guy in my last post: I googled and found more info! In the Daily Mail, surprisingly enough*. They don't go into proper details, but there are more info regarding methods and results than in the other article.




*: The Daily Mail is a British tabloid of a rather conservative bent. An American friend of mine explained it as "something like a tabloid version of Fox News, with less of a conscience." Now, that won't help those of you who have no idea what Fox News is. But you can have a song instead.
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
The irritating part of being an osteologist (well, one irritating part anyway) is that you know so many exceptions to the rules, and complications that when you see articles as this one: A skeleton excavated in the ruins of an Ipswich friary has been identified as a medieval African man, which of course is really interesting, but I do wonder how much of the statements (for example "the man was born a Muslim in 13th-Century Tunisia, who was taken to England during the ninth Crusade. It is thought he converted to Christianity before living in England for over ten years, [...] before a burial in the Friary itself.") are journalistic shortcuts and how much the scientists could actually pinpoint? 13th century - sure, I accept that. But why specifically Tunisia, and not just "coastal north Africa"? Inquiring minds want to know!

Yes, I could write to the archaeological unit that did the excavation, but you know, that would be work :-) . Or wait until the proper report gets published.


On a less grumbly note, I can recommend the following site blogs (in Swedish only, I'm afraid) for those of you who have a yearning for being out in the muck and finding cool things:
- Åkroken i Nyköping: Medieval.
- Motala Ström: Mesolithic and Neolithic (and some Iron Age too).
- Kvarteret Druvan/Dovhjorten i Jönköping: 17th century and Medieval.

Any tips on other interesting site blogs?
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
Remember the mass grave in Dorset I blogged about earlier? The isotope analysis has come in, and the results are just where I wanted them. No faffing about "possibly southern England, possibly central Europe, possibly Norway - so, we really can't tell". No, instead the results are pretty unambigously pointing towards Scandinavia: oxygen is outside the British range and suggests a cold northern climate - one individual may even have spent his childhood above the artic circle! Further, the range of the strontium and oxygen values indicate no common local origin for these men: they may have been from Scandinavia, but did not come from the same village or region. The carbon and nitrogen values are right in the middle of those from other Scandinavian Viking Age skeletons, but are slightly off-centre from British skeletons. Radio carbon analysis suggest that they died sometime between 910-1030 AD.

Since the isotope analysis is based on teeth, the results are valid for the individual's childhood, and not necessarily their adulthood. While we absorb minerals from our food and drink into our skeleton, the tooth enamel is fixed once the crown has formed, whereas the mineral content in bones are constantly re-modelled over our lifetimes. IIRC it takes 7-10 years to shift isoptopes in bone. Having said that, most of the men in the mass grave were young adults, some still in their late teens.

The story is all over the main UK papers and the BBC was here earlier for a short filming session.

ETA: A Youtube video with more information - and images of bones with chop mark damage
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
I have had some plans to write a post on isotope analysis and all the cool things you can do with that in archaeology, seeing as I had mentioned isotopes before, and perhaps not all readers were familiar with that. Today is not that day. Today is the day when I get forcefully reminded of my intentions, as Bristol University hope to, via isotopes, identify the remains of Queen Eadgyth (Edith), an Anglo-Saxon princess who married Otto I, the Holy Roman emperor in the early 10th century.

Her skeleton was found in a large early 16th century monument in Magdeburg Cathedral, wrapped in silk within a lead coffin inscribed: “The rescued remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus, after the second renovation of this monument in 1510." However, since there was a large trade in relics during the Middle Ages, and since bodies of nobles and royality could be skeletised if they had died inconveniently far from their intended burial place, it's not 100% certain that the skeleton actually is Eadgyth. Hopefully the tests will be able to tell whether this woman came from England or from elsewhere.

I will keep you posted.


- Press release
- A more detailed report from The Independent

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ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
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