ossamenta: Text: Women and geeks first! Oh no wait that's all of us. (Women and geeks first)
So that was 2013. A good year, if rather unremarkable eventwise. The main drawback was a computer ready for retirement mid-autumn, causing me to be without computer and internet until Christmas. Still trying to get a feel for the new one. There has been quite a few changes in software, not all of them for the better. Hopefully some of those might improve with upgrades.

Work was dominated by two huge rural sites, one Iron Age/Roman and one Roman. I’ve finished recording one of them and the other is still ongoing. I’m waiting for the phasing – a problem with large sites: ideally I should only record securely dated contexts, but if I have to wait for the phasing to be done, I haven’t got enough time for recording or analysis before the deadline – and once the phasing is done I can start analysing one site and do the final recording of the other.

I didn’t go to any conferences, but to two PZG meetings (i.e. the Professional Zooarchaeology Group, an association of zooarchaeologists in the UK who meet twice a year to discuss methodologies, new research, case studies etc), one on identification of canids (dog/wolf/fox etc), felids (cat/wild cat/lynx etc) and mustelids (badger/otter/marten/mink/weasel/stoat etc), and one on pathologies. Very fun and useful!

As I was without computer for so long, I thought I would have lots of time for crafts in the autumn. Erm, not so much. Or at least not in the sense of having things finished. I did finish my crocheted shawl I had been working on for a while, and it’s lovely and huge and warm. That was my first crochet since I guess I was about eleven/twelve. The pattern was very easy and very forgiving with uneven gauge. Thoroughly recommended. The only drawback is that it makes a equalsided triangle, and I would have preferred one with a wider angle so you could tie the ends behind your back without having a shawl that went down to your knees. Of course this is possible, by using other stitches, but it’s not something I would like to improvise as a beginner.
I also did a couple of needlebooks, some shown here, but the others are not entirely finished. The embroidery is done, but I need to add the lining and do the closing straps. I like brick stitch embroidery. It’s quite fast once you get the pattern (usually after the first two repeats) and enough mindless that you can combine it with watching tv.
In contrast, I haven’t yet quite “got” Scanian woollen embroidery, perhaps because it’s a figures, rather than geometric repeats. I’m still working on my pin cushion, but it’s perhaps telling that I started a new brickstitch needlebook rather than kept going with the pin cushion. However, I love the look of Scanian woollen embroidery, and I will persevere!

I also tried a different craft this year: wood carving. It’s something I’ve long wanted to do, but there hasn’t been many opportunities for it. There are weekend and week courses, but they are usually held somewhere in the countryside, and without a car they can be difficult to get to. Plus you have to add accomodation and food to the cost. But Barn the Spoon in London does day-courses, and I managed to book myself for one. If having the choice, his week-long courses (evenings, not full days) are probably better, as there is more time to absorb things. The day-course was eight hours, and after six I felt my brain was saturated with new knowledge. However, it was great fun and I’m now a proud owner of one spatula and two spoons. Not the prettiest spoons: chunky and uneven in the carving, but not bad for an absolute beginner. I can see the shapes of really pretty spoons inside them! Actually, one of the spoons turned out to be an awesome baking spoon, perfect for making doughs.

I went to two big dancing events: the Oxford Lindy Exchange and the Cambridge Lindy Exchange. Both had good bands to dance to and lovely dancers to dance with, but I think I prefer the Oxford exchange. Mainly because a sunny summer event (picknicks!) is far nicer than a rainy late autumn event. The Cambridge treasure hunt was quite fun though. Maybe we should nick the idea?

So what else did I do in 2013? I didn’t go to any plays, only saw two films (Much ado about nothing and Hobbit 2), didn’t travel abroad (apart from home to visit family and friends), but I did go to several exhibitions and read a lot of books.

I did some calculations and found out that there were so many high-profile exhibitions at the British Museum that it would be profitable to shell out for a membership. They are rather expensive, but you get free entrance to all special exhibitions, no need to book tickets, just go past the queue and head in! Quite good when all weekend tickets have been booked already on two exhibitions you just have to see. And 10% off shop and café is not to be sneezed at either, even if that’s not the main draw. So I got to see Ice Age art, things from Pompeii, South American gold artefacts and Japanese porn. I also saw the 17th century Cheapside treasure hoard at the Museum of London and the Viking exhibition at the National Museum in Copenhagen. The latter will come to the British Museum in spring, and since my membership card will still be valid then, I’ll probably see it again. After all, it’s free.

As usual, I read lots of books. I was very lucky this year, as my favourite author trio: Jo Graham, Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, all came out with books. What I really love about their writing is the solid sense of history. Admittedly I’m not an expert in any of the time periods they deal with, so there may be things other readers would raise their eyebrows for, but I can’t feel that the characters are spokespersons for modern people, as sometimes happens, or that period social norms are ignored for character convenience. Also, as one reviewer put it: “adult characters acting like god-damn adults!”
- The Emperor’s Agent is the second in Jo Graham’s series about Elza Versfelt (a.k.a. Ida St Elme), going from naive socialite in Directoriate France to Napoleon’s spymaster (think Judi Dench’s M). It’s based on Ida St Elme’s memoirs, but also connected to Graham’s other series, The Numinous World (Black ships, Hand of Isis, Stealing fire), which follows the reincarnated soul of a person, sometimes woman, sometimes man, always with an affinity to the divine (admittedly, far easier to be “god-touched” in ancient Egypt than in enlightment Paris…). Readers of both series will probably recognise characters from the ancient world popping up in their new bodies in 18/19th century France. This is not a strictly historical novel, perhaps more historical fantasy, as Graham uses reincarnation, gods and magical rituals to good effect.
- If I had been very lucky I would have got two books in 2013 from Jo Graham’s and Melissa Scott’s series The Order of the Air, about a avation team/members of a magical lodge in the late 1920s and 1930s. But due to marketing, only Steel Blues (#2) was published in 2013, and Silver Bullet (#3) is due early this year. This series is actually part of the Numinous World, although there is very little cross-over. Elza’s and Michel’s new incarnations have a brief interacting with the team in Steel Blues, but you wouldn’t need to read either series to enjoy the other one. Steel Blues is a great team adventure in the same style as the previous book in the series, dealing with a cross-continental aviation race, a stolen necklace with a curse on it, a Russian countess (alleged) and jewel thief (verified), and the unsolved murders of the New Orleans Axeman.
- Death by silver, by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, is a detective story/gay romance set in an AU Victorian England where magic not only exists, but is fully integrated in society. Magic (here: metaphysics) can for example be studied at university, there are reputable (and disreputable) dealers in enchanted objects, correspondence courses in magic suitable for housewifes etc. The story involves metaphysician Ned Mathey whose client was found murdered by an enchanted candlestick the day after Mathey had performed a curse-removing spell from all silverware in the house. Mathey brings in consulting detective Julian Lynes (an old schoolfriend and currently friends-with-benefits) in order to solve the mystery and clear his own reputation. Book two, A non-conforming death, is coming this year, and I’m really looking forward to meeting Mathey, Lynes and Mathey’s awesome secretary Miss Frost again.
- Another praised book was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, which I expect to see shortlisted for the Tiptree award. In a far future world, where the Radch empire is expanding across space, one of its huge warship/AIs has found itself betrayed and almost entirely destroyed, its mind residing solely in a single ancillary (i.e. a human from a conquered world whose brain is entirely overwritten with the AI’s conciousness) soldier, rather than in the ship itself and in the hundreds of ancillaries it once was. And One Esk Nineteen is out for revenge, if she can get offworld and find the Radch emperor.
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: Weasel skull (Default)
In this post I will put any of my articles and essays that can be downloaded. It is linked in the blog frame, so you don't need to bookmark it. There are some uni essays that I will put up here, but they need to be scanned and converted to pdf first. It may take a while, since it's not high up on my priority list.


- To eat or not to eat? The significance of the cut marks on the bones from wild canids, mustelids and felids from the Danish Ertebølle site Hjerk Nor (MA essay in osteoarchaeology, 2000).
The essay discusses the use of wild canids, mustelids and felids at Hjerk Nor, a Danish Ertebølle site with an unusually high amount of 'fur animal' bones. The bones from these species were studied in a microscope, and the placement of the cut marks were compared finds from two Neolithic sites in the Netherlands: Hazendonk and Swifterbant, and from one Neolithic and three Mesolithic sites in Denmark: Kongemose, Muldbjerg I, Præstelyng, and Tybrind Vig. All 'fur animal' species at Hjerk Nor were utilised for both skin and meat. Cutmarks deriving from dismembering and filleting were particularly plentiful on wild cat and otter.

Download as pdf.


- Identifiering av garverier i en arkeologisk kontext - metoder och möjligheter (MA essay in archaeology, 2010).
The essay deals with possibilities of identifying tanneries in archaeological excavations. The geographical and chronological emphasis is early medieval northern Europe, although the methods would apply for earlier and later periods and other regions as well. Documents, artefacts and pictorial evidence were examined to see what tannery indicators they could yield archaeologically. Crafts associated with the use of tanning products and tanning waste as raw material were also taken into consideration. As conclusion, the identification of tanneries is dependent on many different indicators, such as location, tanning vats, tools, dumps of horn cores, foot bones, lime and bark. Several of these indicators are not exclusive to tanneries, and it is therefore important to use as many indicators as possible in order to form a secure identification of tannery activity. The long association with shoemaking further complicates identification of tanneries.

Download as pdf. Note that this essay is written in Swedish, so it's of limited use for most people, but then again, there are lots of pictures of tanning tools, medieval images of tanners etc, which are less language dependent.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
Every second year the German town Lübeck hosts a big symposium on urban archaeology, focussing on the Hanseatic region, i.e. the parts of northern Europe where this mercantile alliance of cities and guilds formed a trade monopoly during the 13th-17th centuries.

Yesterday I saw that the Sackler library - the arts and archaeology library in Oxford - had bought five books with papers from those symposia, and naturally I was very curious. Two in particular merited browsing: Crafts and Luxury and Lifestyle.

The Crafts book was very interesting: an overvew of the archaeological evidence of various crafts in 43 medieval towns in 14 countries, ranging from Cork in the west to Novgorod in the east, and from Konstanz in the south to Bergen in the north. There are only two craft specific articles: on paternoster bead making (focussing on Konstanz) and on building construction in Pskov. Now, despite I’m saying overview, the papers are enough detailed to yield useful information for each craft that was discussed. Naturally all crafts in these towns have not been included, since many leave little or no identifiable remains at all. I found it very interesting to see what’s been found in other towns, particularly for ways to identify craft activites from archaeological remains.

The luxury symposium was held two years later, in 2006, and concern more ”shinier” items. Not to the level of royal luxury, but more well off merchants and nobility. The area and countries present are mostly the same as in the Crafts symposium. This book was not so relevant for me, since I’m mostly interested in everyday crafts, and while animal bones can be used to discuss status, this is hardly mentioned at all here. Still, the book would be very useful for archaeologists and finds specialists that are interested in ways to express high status through objects during the Middle Ages and Early Modern period and to archaeologically identify high-status households.

I can highly recommend these books not only for archaeologists, but also for re-enactors, as photos and drawings of many interesting objects have been included. Unfortunately there are no colour photographs, probably to keep the cost down. Even so, a quick search showed that the books cost €50 each, so I guess it’s more a matter of inter library loan and photocopying the relevant pages rather than actually buying the books. Language-wise, the papers are either in English or in German. It’s a rough 50-50 split, and all summaries are in the other language.

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ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
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