ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
- If you are a student who wants to go to the Association for Environmental Archaeology's spring conference in Orkney (combineable with the spring PZG meeting and archaeomalacology working group meeting), but are short of cash, the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) is offering seven bursaries (deadline 15 February).

- The deadline for Association for Environmental Archaeology's research grant is the 31st January. If you're like me, a member of the AEA and planning to do some environmental archaeology related research in 2016, don't forget to apply!

- There is a fully funded PhD on offer at York University, on Mesolithic bone tools and peptide mass fingerprinting for species identification (deadline 11 February). Post-MA me (2000-2001 or so) would have gone for it immediately, but I've not done anything Mesolithic in ages. Well, not since writing my MA dissertation. The project sounds really cool though! Best of luck to whoever gets it.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I looked at last year's End of the Year review, and had a bit of deja vu. This has been another Christmas spent writing PhD applications. Hopefully I'll have better luck with these ones.

Otherwise, 2015 has been quite a good year for me. Workwise I've been occupied with one Roman semi-urban site with a huge bone working deposit and one Iron Age - Roman rural site with lots of Iron Age ritual deposits, i.e. weird semi-articulated or whole animal burials often in pits. All the recording has been done for the last one, and in January I'll write the report. I'd like to find time to write an article on the bone working deposit - they are not that common from Roman sites, and this one is quite odd compared to other published ones.

I went to the PZG meeting in August, where we discussed interesting new research and methods of dog/fox/wolf identification. Then in the beginning of September I went to Glasgow for the EAA conference and had a great time! It was followed up with a short holiday in Edinburgh (it's only an hour away from Glasgow, so whyever not?). I apologise for not having written up the conference report yet. I tried to do some tweeting, but I fear this tweet summarizes my conference-tweeting experience. On the other hand, I like twitter as a snapshot commentary and I will definitely keep using it. On the third hand, I'm enough old-school not to have notification of incoming tweets/emails, so it's more an intermittent use than ongoing tweeting for me.

Research-wise, I did some recording of sheep pelves for a sheep sexing study, but I've realised that I need more data (of course...) so my research continues next year. I'm also looking forward to doing the assessment (i.e. preliminary recording and analysis of potential in a bone assemblage) for an Oxford college kitchen assemblage.
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)
In the current bone assemblage I'm recording I came across a sheep burial (probably remains from a feast - deposited in a pit right at the entrance to a big enclosure and with chop marks on the ribs) that made me raise both my eyebrows in a 'you got to be kidding me'- way.

The pelvis looked like the castrated sheep in English Heritage's collection, but the horn cores looked like typical ram horn cores... I'm working on the theory that this is a relatively late* castrated sheep, and that pelvis shape will override horn core shape in the complicated way hormones can shape the body. Definitely a case of more information needed, damnit! I can see myself trying to get hold of records of other sheep burials just to build up a dataset. This would be particularly relevant if late castration will have a difference in how horn cores and pelves develop.

It's unfortunate that most animal bone assemblages come from food and butchery waste, where the bones are only individual fragments, entirely disassociated with the animal they came from. Such a difference from research on human remains, where we (mostly) deal with the entire person and can see how diseases/traumas could affect the whole body, not just single body parts.

*: The flocks from EH's collection had to follow modern day animal welfare regulations, which state that castration of livestock must occur within the first few days after birth.
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: (Book store = shiny!)
Spotted on the New Book Display shelves in the fabulous* Sackler library in Oxford (dealing with archaeology, classics and art history):

Gitte Hansen, Steven P. Ashby and Irene Baug (eds) (2015) Everyday products in the Middle Ages. Crafts, consumption and the individual in northern Europe c. AD 800-1600. Oxbow Books.

I’ve heard about this book for a while now, but was waiting to see it in the flesh, as it were, before deciding to buy or not. And it seems like a highly useful book if you are interested in basic consumer goods, its production, the craftspeople and the consumers in Medieval northern Europe.

The list of contents is up at the publisher, and it has quite a variety in its topics, from general articles on craftspeople, to pottery and glass imports, leather working, bone and antler working, textiles, stone working, iron production and blacksmithing.

*: not because it’s particularly fancy – it’s not – but because they have so much useful and interesting stuff.
ossamenta: Medieval glass painting of St James (York, UK) (St Jakob (York))
I'm all brained out after the conference. Expect an update-post sometime after next week or so, when I'm back on track again. In short, it was great. Heard lots of interesting talks, met lots of interesting people and managed to do some sightseeing as well. Now I'm in Edinburgh on a post-conference mini-holiday and have spent some hours wandering around Old Town. The amount of souvenir shops and tartan tat is amazing in a scary way. I can't believe how all those shops can make enough profit to survive (admittedly the mark-up must be huge, the tourists are many, but there is so much competition).
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
It's the end of the first conference day and I'm knackered. Talks from 8am to 6pm - I filled nine A4 pages in my notebook. But it was interesting talks, on topics as shattered as scientific analyses of Roman eggshells, written records on 14th century sheep houses, and medieval urban waste managements. And then there was a party afterwards in the greenhouses in the botanical gardens. I was too busy taking notes to tweet someting - hope you weren't too disappointed. Tomorrow will be a bit easier: the talks only lasts until half past three. Hopefully I can find some time to see the Hunterian museum.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Soon I'm off very early to bed, since I need to get up very early (way before sunrise) and start my travels to the EAA conference in Glasgow. I hope I can get some sleep on the way there...

I also hope to start on my almost brand new twitter account. We'll see how it goes. It probably won't be live tweeting, since I will be too busy taking notes.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
This was the 10th anniversary of the Professional Zooarchaeology Group, and it was held in Fort Cumberland, a 18th century fort in Portsmouth where (parts of) Historic England have their offices. There were lots of good talks, celebratory cake and wine, a guided tour of the fort, and a very interesting workshop on identifying dogs from wolves and foxes, as well as sexing dogs.

cut for serious length )
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I spent the entire day washing buckets and my fingernails are not happy (the gloves are not tight around the wrist, so water seep in from the hose spray).

Small bones and charred seeds etc are usually recovered via soil samples, and it's the environmental department that deals with processing these and washing the buckets to send them out to the next site. Normally there's no problem with keeping up with demand, but when all sites (or what felt like all) call for 20 or 40 buckets each for the end of the week we suddenly found ourselves with 180 buckets to wash. Unfortunately that coincided with a large move of samples between offices: 2000 buckets from us to Cambridge, and that was a full-time job for all environmentalists*. Since I didn't have any urgent deadlines, I was asked to wash as many buckets as I could.

I washed 120, and at the end of the day my colleague came and asked if I wanted the bad or the good news first. One site put in an order for 160 buckets... On the plus side, the deadline is not until Monday and I don't have to wash all of them.

*: As a bone specialist I'm sort of between finds (handcollected bones) and enviro (sieved bones), although in the office administration I fall under enviro. So, technically part of the environmental department, although in reality a bit to the side from the soil processing part of it.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
It's been a lovely but very busy weekend. It was the 10th anniversary of the Professional Zooarchaeology Group, and in honour of that the meeting stretched across the whole weekend, and not just the Saturday. It was held in Fort Cumberland, the listed 18th century fort on the outskirts of Portsmouth, where Historic England, the research part of English Heritage, is. The topics for the meeting were Roman zooarchaeology and dogs. We were also treated to a guided tour of the fort (more interesting than I had assumed - if you get a chance, don't miss it). After the meeting, we had dinner together at a fish restaurant at the seafront and on Sunday we had an excursion to Portchester Castle (probably the only medieval castle that was built within a Roman fort (and still has the Roman walls standing!) and Fishbourne Roman palace.

And now I have to deal with the aftermath of the meeting: contact the people I need to contact about various things, decipher my notes and re-write them, and do an Ossamenta post about the talks. My handwriting is not the tidiest, but when I write really fast, trying to keep up with a speaker, letters can be lost, transposed or only the mere rudimentaries of them gets put to paper. Luckily I at least know the context of the talk.

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It says "variability within towns". Obvious, right?
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Ecumenical matter)
Forgot these ones:

- Recently retired Professor of Archaeology at York and well-known zooarchaeologist Terry O'Connor posted useful advice for newbie zooarchaeologists. Read it well: there is much truth in it.

- Some supercool Danish finds include a deposit of c.2000 small gold spirals dated to the Bronze Age. They think the spirals were possibly part of clothing decoration. (Danish article)
And last year they found 5000 year old foot prints as they were excavating for the Femern Belt tunnel.

- Bone assemblages that probably represent waste from feasts are found now and again in archaeology. Organising elaborate feasts was not only a way to display wealth (you could afford to slaughter this many animals) but also to bring a community together. An unusual feasting assemblage has been found in Llanmaes, an Iron Age site in Wales. About 80% of all bones from livestock came from pig – in itself unusual – but most of the pig bones came from the right fore limb. Such patterns are very unusual, and the archaeologists think that the bones represent joints that were brought to a communal feast where each participant brought an equal (literally) share of the food.
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
There's so many things going on in my life now that I've been neglecting this blog a bit, and in particular letting the interesting links build up. I hope I can get rid of a fair few in this post.

- Author Nicola Griffith wrote an interesting post about elves, gender, Anglo-Saxon medical practice and how this was changed by Christianization.

- Another author (and historian), Kari Sperring did an half-hour talk at Exilicon on the real history of the three musketeers (video)

- A newly discovered velociraptor ancestor with feathers.

- In line with strange and mysterious ritual stuff, an Iron Age site in Dorset produced composite animals deposited in pits: A cow with horse legs, a sheep with an extra head at its bum etc. It will be very interesting to read the subsequent research and see what they can find out about Iron Age beliefs.

- Isotope research have revealed some very interesting things over the years, often upending our previous beliefs and assumptions. The newest thing that's come to my knowledge is a study of the famous Egtved girl in Denmark. She's one of the Bronze Age oak coffin burials that were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th century, where circumstances had managed preservation of organic remains, and they are subsequently our main source for Scandinavian Bronze Age clothing. Researchers took isotope samples from her teeth, hair, nails as well as from her clothing and found out that she wasn't Danish at all! (nor was her clothing) The isotope signatures point elsewhere, possibly what's now southeastern Germany (the geology is consistent with this, but more importantly (as this type of geology is found elsewhere) the archaeological record indicates a relationship between Denmark and this area during the Bronze Age). Correlating hair growth rate and several samples along one strand of hair, they also found that she had been going back and forth between Denmark and the other region (probably NW Germany) during her last two years in life. (A more detailed article in Danish)

- Of course, sometimes science makes things more boring. A DNA analysis of the hair tufts and hair cords found on the Norse settlement The Farm Beneath the Sand on Greenland changed the species identification from bear, bison and muskox (signifying trade with North America) to horse and goat (not signifying trade with North America).

- Neanderthal bone flutes were apparently made by hyenas, not Neanderthals.

- There's a new theory on why the wooly mammoth became extinct: osteoporosis may have "helped".

- The Paston Letters is one of the largest archives of 15th-century English private correspondence, comprising about 1000 letters and documents including petitions, leases, wills and even shopping lists. They offer a unique glimpse into the personal lives of three generations of the Paston family from Norfolk over a period of 70 years. A large part of the collection have now been scanned and put online at the British Library's website.

- If you are in New York, don't miss the Medieval rings exhibition at the Met museum.

- Pottery enthusiasts might like this intact wine vessel found in Early Medieval layers in the Danish town Ribe.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I've been contacted by Fleur Schinning, from the University of Leiden, where she's writing her MA dissertation on the use of blogs and social media and how they contribute to the accessibility of archaeology. She's asking the readers of several archaeology blogs - of which this is one - to fill in a questionnaire on why they're reading archaeology blogs etc. If that doesn't stir your heart enough (seriously: we like to help students and researchers here, ok!), you also have the chance to win six issues of Archaeology Magazine.

Public archaeology has been developing considerably in the Netherlands for the last couple of years, but much can still be improved concerning public outreach activities. This is why I have decided to focus my research on communication methods that are favourable in our current digital age and might make archaeology more accessible for a wider public.

For my research I will be looking at several blogs from both the UK and USA; in these countries blogging seems widely accepted and used a lot as a tool in creating support for archaeology, and I have come across some very interesting and successful blogs, of which your blog is one.

To be able to explore how blogging in archaeology contributes to public archaeology, I would like to question the bloggers and blog readers of these blogs. This is where my request comes in. I have set up a questionnaire in which I ask the visitors of your blog several questions regarding their motives for visiting the blog and so on.

The questionnaire can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/forms/z3BAUTyYUL. All participants also have a chance to win a small prize; 6 issues of Archaeology Magazine!
ossamenta: A flock of sheep from a medieval manuscript (Sheep)
I am going to the EAA! Train tickets have been bought, and I'm hoping to find accommodation via Airb'n'b (hostels are not bad, but there is always a risk of loud drunk people in the middle of the night). And once payday has come, I'll register for the conference. Travel and accomodation are definitely prioritized as they are more time crucial when you want to get the cheaper options.

I went to Matthew Collins' talk on his work on Medieval parchment and DNA at the University's Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art (RLAHA) last Tuesday, and it made me so enthusiastic about all the cool things you can find out through research. Sometimes work is a bit repetitive and it's good to take the time to digest the new research that is happening. His (and his colleagues') work is really interesting. Since parchment is essentially dried skin it contains DNA, much better preserved than that in leather objects found on archaeological digs. And by using a rubber you can extract bits of DNA - no need to actually destroy parts of the parchment, just send in the scraps to the laboratory - and see what animal the parchment was made of, what sex it was, and potentially track breeds through time. He also said that if you could digitize manuscripts to such high resolution that you could see the hair follicles you could potentially see if it came from a young or adult animals (much smaller distance between follicles in young animals). Unfortunately most manuscript digitizations are not done to such high resolution, as researchers have been focussing on the actual text and images on the pages. There are probably hundreds of thousands of Medieval manuscripts and legal documents in UK archives, not to mention what's out there in the rest of Europe (and in museums/archives in the rest of the world). Such a massive source!
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I'm still in two minds whether to go to the EAA conference or not. There are a couple of really interesting sessions that could be very useful for my ph.d. idea, but it is not a cheap conference. If I could see how many talks will be relevant for me, it would help me make the decision (because I would have to buy travel tickets very soon before the prices rise). They were supposed to publish the programme the last of May, but it's still not up. The general session programme is, on the other hand, and I found out that the sessions I have a real or vague interest in, are all on the Thursday. And the two very interesting sessions are in full conflict...

Admittedly having everything on the Thursday would mean that the rest of the conference days could mostly be set aside for sightseeing, which would be on the plus side of things. I've never been to Scotland, so the conference would give me a chance to see Glasgow (and Edinburgh - after all, it's only an hour away on the train), even if the Highlands and the Hebridees would have to wait for another time.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
After over ten years as a zooarchaeologists, most bones have a certain ordinariness about them. It's butchery waste, sometimes industrial waste, and the occasional buried animal. Even if it's artefacts or pathologies you would at least have spotted similar bones in books or articles. But now and again you find a bone that makes you go WTF?

The latest one came from an Iron Age pit from a large settlement in Oxfordshire. It's a cheek part of a horse mandible with a smooth hole in it. Unfortunately we only have one half of the mandible, but I assume it was originally part of a set (as opposed to cattle mandibles, the two sides of horse mandibles are fused). The hole is smooth on all edges, so it couldn't have been suspended stationary for all its use - if so, only one part would have been smooth. The cord may have been large enough to fill the hole entirely, but it must have moved occasionally in order to smoothen the edges.

I have no idea how to interpret this. I have never seen anything similar in any book or article. Are we dealing with the partial remains of a horse head that was displayed and later discarded? I know that the classic definition of "ritual" being an "All-purpose explanation used where nothing else comes to mind" (recommended book, btw), but I can't think of any other way to explain this.

 photo P1060264_zpsajdn6by4.jpg

 photo P1060266_zpsk9z32dlj.jpg
Close-up of hole
ossamenta: Close-up of Viking Age rune stone (Ashmolean runestone)
The best way to cheer yourself up when work seem relentless and all is rain and cold, is to go on holiday. Admittedly, I didn't go to a sunny beach, but home to Sweden to relax and meet up with my friends. As a bonus, I could get hold of an article I needed for the Ph.D. background research. It was in a somewhat obscure US journal, so only a few UK libraries had it (none I had access to), one Swedish uni library and one Danish one. So today I went across the Sound to Copenhagen and had a lovely wander around in gorgeous sunny weather. And got the article as well.

I nipped in to the National Museum and had a look at their Danefæ* exhibition: all the new exciting finds found by the public and bought by the museum. They had - among other finds - the hammer with runes I linked to last year, and the newly found enamel owl, that I meant to link to, but never got around to. Well, better late than never I guess... Btw, if you can read Danish here's a more detailed report on the owl.

*: The principle behind danefæ goes back to Danish Medieval laws, stating that gold objects found in the soil belongs to the king. Today, objects of gold, silver, worked amber or ivory (finds that consist of other metals may be classified as Danefæ - it depends on what kind of object it is, for example all old coins are Danefæ regardless of what metal they are) found in the ground has to be donated to the state, in most cases this means the local museum. The finder receives a reward based on the metal value. As far as I can tell, the system seems to work (with the usual exceptions of assholes, but any large enough group has those). Quite different from the UK, where such objects belong to the finder, who may sell them at an auction to the highest bidder, thus risking that they are lost to both the public and the researchers.

 photo P1060484_zpsijrhtcnx.jpg
The Thor's hammer.

 photo P1060483_zpsejkxqphy.jpg
A Roman period enamel owl. If the museum makes a replica for their shop I'm quite tempted to buy one.
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: Weasel skull (Default)

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