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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 )
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Or, as the proper title of the meeting was: Mammalian carnivores in the archaeological record: Methodological and interpretive aspects. This time the Professional Zooarchaeology Group went to Salisbury, to the office of Wessex Archaeology. It’s not far from Old Sarum, the predecessor to Salisbury (founded 1219). The buildings, including the cathedral and the castle, are all gone now. The motte and the Iron Age hillfort that Old Sarum was located upon is all that remains. I sort of wished I had taken the train an hour earlier, so I would have had time to run around there and explore a bit. But just sort of. After all, I’m not that much of a morning person…

 photo OldSarum_zpsda42e12a.jpg
Old Sarum seen from the road.

The talks were quite varied, from cave bears to identification of ferrets/polecats.

Cut for length and pictures )
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- 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.


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January 2019

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