ossamenta: Medieval manuscript showing a man trimming the thickness of a hide with a knife (Pergamenter)
I've had so much to tell, but been too busy to sit down and actually post.

In April, I was given a grant to continue and finalize my sheep sexing study. The trip to Historic England's skeleton reference collection would merit a post on its own, and that was indeed the plan. But, life happened. To cut a long story short, all sheep pelves from the Medieval Wool Project has been recorded and while I still need to properly analyse the results, there seem to be a pattern in sex-related morphology. I should be able to show ways of identifying castrated sheep, provided I can clearly explain morphological changes in a 3D object in words and pictures. Somehow a video might be easier, but that's not so easy to publish in journals.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I've been trying to get a PhD for several years now. The application to an osteology PhD at Uppsala University this January got me to the interview stage, but they chose someone else in the end. But I'm not been one to give up easily, so I kept an eye out for other options and kept applying. And finally, Lund University liked my research proposal and offered me a PhD position! So for the next four years I will bury myself in parchment production (look - new icon!), literacy, medieval animal husbandry strategies, craft organization etc. It will be so much fun!

It's already July, and my deadline clock is ticking. I'm moving at the end of the month, so I have to pack everything - and after eleven years working here, I have a lot of articles and books. Knowledge is a light burden, books and articles less so. I will miss Oxford and my colleagues so much. It's been really fun working here, with such a variety of projects, both in time period and site type. And despite my best intentions earlier, I will unfortunately miss both the IMC in Leeds and the EAA conference in Vilnius; there is simply not enough money or time right now.

But it's a beautiful sunny Sunday out there, and I should go out and enjoy the day. Perhaps the new exhibition at the Ashmolean, or tea and cake at a café?
ossamenta: A flock of sheep from a medieval manuscript (Sheep)
My plan for a quiet December, with time to finish some sewing and crafting projects before Christmas, has been totally smashed. Last Friday, I found out that Uppsala University in Sweden has announced one fully funded Ph.D. position in archaeology (in Uppsala) and one in osteology (in their Gotland campus). Both have deadlines in the beginning of January, so that's me writing and thinking proposals all December. I'm very tempted to head off to the library today to check out a book that sounds very useful, but it's supposed to be gale force winds and heavy rain in an hour or so according to the forecast, so it would be better to postpone the library visit until Monday or Tuesday evening.

I'm a tad bit concerned about the osteology Ph.D., though. I've studied at the Gotland campus one term during my undergraduate years, and while the town (Visby) is lovely, and I'd love to live there again, it is also a bit remote. Will there be enough relevant books in the university library, or do I have to fly to Stockholm or Uppsala on a regular basis to be able to do my research? Because that will eat up a fair bit of the grant. Well, I'll phone the university next week and ask a lot of questions, so there's no need to worry too much today. Perhaps I will dedicate this day to sewing and crafting and have a proper relaxing Sunday.
ossamenta: A flock of sheep from a medieval manuscript (Sheep)
I've recorded three quarters of the Medieval Wool Project sheep skeletons at Historic England, and could probably do the rest in a day. But after recording a small assemblage from an archaeological site I think I might have to revise my methodology, i.e. split one trait into two. Which would, of course add a fair bit of time to my remaining recording time. Not to mention being a general pain in the neck.

I just want to get this thing done, so I can concentrate on organising with a museum to have a look at a couple of assemblages to use my method on. Admittedly, first the method must be tested, but that's for other people (so not to risk bias - is the written up method clear and concise for its purpose, and does the sexed traits in one sheep population match those of another population?).
ossamenta: Close-up of Viking Age rune stone (Ashmolean runestone)
Spring has finally sprung, and as my mood picks up again with the longer daylight hours, I'll try to get into the the habit of posting more often. Remember, this blog is not dead, just occasionally a bit dormant.

In the ongoing saga of my Ph.D. attempts, it has turned out that there might not be enough assemblages of enough large size to do all the things I wanted to do. Sigh. I talked to a colleague about my options, and she adviced me to go for one of my alternative research ideas. Naturally, that was the most vague and least pre-researched one. So now I'm back in the library all evenings and checking that I have enough material for it to work. It's slow going. But at least they have a lot of books and journals, not limited to those within the UK border. Hopefully I'll have assembled a decent amount of data by the end of the month and can see if the new Ph.D. idea is doable.

Otherwise it's been the classic grumble of "if only I had more money"* - not only because most of my Ph.D. problems could be solved that way: German universities seem to be happy to accept most Ph.D. students, but the drawback is that you have to fund your 3-4 years of ph.d.ing yourself by grants or money in the bank. Last year, or possibly the year before, an interesting conference on environmental urban archaeology was announced on the ZooArch mailing list and I carefully printed the email to remind me to check for papers as the time drew near. Naturally I only just recalled the conference, and sure enough: lots of interesting papers, but not only did the early bird option end mid-March, what with travel and accommodation even €120 would be too expensive for me right now. I'll just have to see if any of the talks ends up on Academia.edu or in journals later on... I will have to have the same approach with the European Archaeology Association's annual conference as well. It's in Glasgow this year and, again, interesting talks and sessions. I'm particularly interested in the wool session and Lee Broderick just posted his abstract on the use of waste to interpret trade and craft in Medieval towns (probably for the dirt session). And yes, you can apply for travel and registration cost grants, but as an employed independent researcher who is neither presenting a poster, a talk or chairing a session, it would be extremely unlikely for me to get one. And I don't begrudge the Ph.D. students who get them. They probably earn less than I.

But I have to put money aside for next year. Not only is it the ICAZ (International council for ArchaeoZoology) every-four-year-conference, but that year's theme for the International Medieval Congress in Leeds is Food, feast and famine. The IMC has been on my wish list for many years, and now there is actually a theme that is really relevant to my work! I had to sit on my hands to not attempt to present a paper - as much as I would have loved to do that, I'm actually way too busy right now and adding more important things is not going to help.

*: Money this year is going towards one pair of handmade medieval shoes for re-enactment (finally! proper shoes that suits my time period!!!) and a holiday trip home to Sweden.
ossamenta: Close-up of Viking Age rune stone (Ashmolean runestone)
My Christmas holiday has been much spent on chasing down reports as part of the preparations for my ph.d. application. Unfortunately, what I thought would be a couple of days worth of relentless database searches and archive reading turned out to be almost a case of Catch 22: It wasn't possible for me to access the archives' lists of excavations, but if I could give the archivists a list of the sites I was interested in, they could let me have a look at them. But how do you know what sites are of interest if you don't know what sites have been analysed? So I had to track down individual osteologists and ask for their help as well as reading reports and look at the bibliographies. Double unfortunately, most of the country closes down over the Christmas holidays, usually counted as nearest weekend before Christmas Eve (if occuring mid-week or earlier) until Epiphany (6th January). Well, no-one claimed that research was easy...

But all has not been reading archaeology until my eyes bled. I have read some great books, done some work on my embroideries, looked at gorgeous traditional woven blankets, wall hangings and cushions exhibited at Ystad Museum, and went for long walks in the snow (we almost had a white Christmas, as it started snowing on Christmas Day and only now has melted).

The fireworks are really getting on outside, even if it's not quite midnight yet, so I'll leave you for now and I'll see you again in 2015!
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.
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.

Sigh.
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: 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.

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: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
Today I had the day off, not spending time in the sunny outdoors, but sitting in the university library for about eight hours reading Medieval German guild regulations. Unfortunately not all books complied with the Bodleian's photocopying regulations so I had to do a lot of copying by hand. It's a pain in the ass, particularly when you have to go back and check for spelling errors. It's not just the changes in spelling over 600 years, there are also changes within Germany. Today I've gone through regulations for Cologne and Lüneburg, and tomorrow I'm back at the library, going through bibliographies to see which other guild regulations are available. I know that the university library have some digitized, which means I hopefully can read them at home, if the log-in works. Others I will have to order from the stacks, and some I will have to read at the British Library in London. Hopefully I will find some nice patterns, or some exciting details that can be of use for my tanning Ph.D. idea.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I think I will remember 2012 for two things: the huge EEK report and going to conferences. Admittedly, I will do some work on EEK in 2013 when I get my report back with comments, but most of the work was done this year. Hopefully next year will bring slightly smaller assemblages (it's always nice when everything can fit into one office so you don't have to request van+driver if you need to get hold of some bones for re-checking stuff). I went to two conferences this year: The big EAA conference in Helsinki and a small craft conference in London. Both were very stimulating and once I get back to Oxford after the holidays I will take some time to work on my Ph.D. proposal, testing the waters in Germany/Denmark/The Netherlands.


And while I'm at it, I might just as well go through and delete some bookmarked links I thought would make for interesting reading:

- A different way of doing faunal history: Scientists use wormholes in old books to see the geographical and chronological spread of two furniture beetles.

- Coffin birth - how it happens and why. This is not only relevant for human osteologists, as we occasionally find animal burials containing an adult animal with associated foetal remains. Did the animal die while giving birth, before, or after? Or are the adult and foetus/newborn not related at all?

- A long account, but one very much worth reading, of the identification and eradication of kuru, the "laughing death" disease connected to the eating of human remains. And kuru is not the only disease that's gone, last year the livestock disease rinderpest was officially declared eradicated.

- Two very interesting posts on methods for interdisciplinary research (part 1, part 2), which I feel I need to read much closer as it has huge relevance for my Ph.D. proposal. Unfortunately, one cannot know everything, and knowing when to stop trying to learn things oneself and going asking experts is tremendously important. However, one also needs to know a fair amount of the "other subject" in order to ask the right questions.

- And finally, something for the bone-minded knitters among you :-) .
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Today I sent off my fifth Ph.D. application, to Lund University in Sweden. I hope this one will have more success than the other ones. But all is not rest and quiet now - there are lots of things happening this spring and summer, and that's excluding my actual job.

Ahead of me are:
- Making a poster for the European Association of Archaeologists's annual meeting in Helsinki this August.
- Writing (and giving) a talk on animals in Roman Britain for the university's Roman discussion forum sometime next term.
- start working on the university diet article.
- help with the organisation of the Oxford Lindy Exchange. Possibly doing a guided tour of Oxford.

Somewhere in all this I will also have to work on the New Year resolutions (well, technically I don't make resolutions, I make plans, as these feel more flexible and can easily be postponed to next year if circumstances warrant), i.e. reducing my pile of almost finished craft objects.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
After much irritation due to a probably collision with online forms and office firewall, and last minute editing (I need this reference - oops, it's in the office), the Ph.D. application is handed in. I ought to work on the leg warmers tonight, to get the pattern finished so I can start on the left one. However, my brain has already decided that this will be a relaxing evening, with takeaway and a good book.

One of my favourite authors, [livejournal.com profile] jo_graham has a new book out later this year and Michelle Moran, who apparently is a big historical fiction writer in the US, is going to blurb it. And since the idea of blurbing is to get fans of the blurber to buy the book, I figure this could go in the other direction too. So now I have a book on Madame Tussaud (the one of waxwork fame) in my bag. Since Graham's book also takes place during the French revolution and Directoriat, it will be interesting to compare them.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
One week at work and I'm already feeling quite knackered. Although, to be fair, that probably has more to do with the Ph.D. application for Uppsala University that's due on Monday than the work situation per se. And it's getting chilly too over here: just a few degrees plus for the next few days. I have to go to the fabric shop tomorrow to see if I can get hold of some good wool to make leg warmers. I swear there is a small but persistent draught from the window in my office and all the cold gathers below my desk.

I've also been asked to do a talk for the university's Roman discussion forum this term. That will be fun! Admittedly it will also mean work, since I have no base to build the talk on. And in contrast to the medieval period there are no pretty manuscript images to catch the audience's eyes and interest. On the plus side, if they're not interested in animals, then they won't come. It's not like a conference where you have to sit through uninteresting talks to get to what to you is the good bits.


And to finish this post: an example on why collaboration with science and archaeology is good: "To the naked eye, the white, powdery substance appeared to be plaster. That’s what the professional and volunteer archaeologists at a dig in Israel concluded. To be certain, though, they subjected the chalky dust to spectroscopy and a petrographic microscope, only to discover that it was not a manufactured substance, but decayed plant life and fecal matter." And that's how you turn a house into a stable...
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
Today I got the response to the last of my three Ph.D. applications this year, and the answer was no. Still, from their comments, the only negative thing that was apparent was my small list of academic publications (one). I don't think I messed up the interview, even if I probably did some rabbit in headlight impressions when I got questions I never had considered (Do you see this as an article based Ph.D. or a monograph?).

Contrary to the archaeologists in Stockholm and the osteologists in Lund, the Laborative archaeologists in Stockholm didn't include the commentaries on all applications, so I can't tell whether everyone of us six who got to the interview stage was good (and one, obviously, outstanding), or whether my application were one of the weakest in comparison. Oh, well. Back to the drawing board and better luck next time. Still, there's still the job application to the National Board of Antiquities, which if I get it (*fingers crossed*) would get me back in Swedish osteology/archaeology, get me more money and thereby hopefully give me better opportunities to do some background research for a future Ph.D.

Next step is checking the archaeological background for my research towns (Greifswald, Stralsund and Rostock) and gather more information on everything. And of course, find the time to write academic publications.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
Life's been an absolute whirlwind lately. Not only have I registred for the Urban Environmental Archaeology conference and started writing my talk/abstract, but also sent off a job application as animal bones specialist at the National Board of Antiquities in Sweden. In the midst of this, Stockholm e-mailed me for an interview for the Ph.D. in laborative archaeology! So tomorrow very early, I'm off to the airport. The interview is not until Thursday, but with short notices I'm flying budget airlines, and they don't fly as regularly as British Airways or SAS. Still, it means another day in Stockholm, which can be put to good use. Probably general sightseeing, as I'm forbidden to buy any even remotedly bulky items (see: budget airlines: luggage restrictions, luggage fees).

Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
Two Ph.D. applications are on their way to Stockholm. Fingers crossed that at least one of them will appeal to the people in charge.

To celebrate this I had an minty chocolate ice cream on my way back from the post office. We're having fantastic weather here (sunny 18°C!) so one might as well enjoy it while it's here. Unfortunately I've been spending the whole week indoors - I'd really like a deck chair and a massive extension cord for the computer so I can work outside - and will continue to do so on Saturday, since an entire day was spent fixing the last bits on the applications. Normally I'd just work a few extra hours each evening to make up for lost time, but there's an important deadline coming up, and my choices got a bit limited.

At least I'm having Sunday off, as I'm meeting a designer friend in London who is making me some custome jewellery. Unfortunately that means missing the Ladies' Lindy and Sewing Circle, Oxford Chapter sewing get-together, but there'll always be another time.

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ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
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