ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
A daughter of one of my colleagues went to Mexico and brought this back to her mother. Who thought it would suit me very well. And she was so right about that!
 photo Cat_skel_totebag_zps0c1d6df0.jpg


And in other news:

- First and foremost, the English Heritage guidelines to animal bone recording and analysis is out. "These guidelines aim to promote high professional standards in zooarchaeological practice in project planning, excavation, reporting and achiving. The guidance supports archaeology advisors, project managers, field staff and zooarchaeologists through outlining the potential of animal bones from archaeological sites, highlighting the importance of archaeological methods and promoting understanding of zooarchaeological reports and datasets." Highly useful and I recommend it even if you live and work elsewhere. Free to download, and there's a limited print-run for those of you who prefer paper.

- Neolithic carpentry discovered in Germany, namely a woodlined well, with advanced jointing. There's also an open access academic article for those of you who prefer to go into depth with this.

- A gorgeous bark shafted Bronze Age flint dagger was found in Denmark. Sadly the bark only remains on one side of the handle. I love it when you see the organic material. It's so rare that it survives, and without it we assume intellectually that of course they must have wrapped the handles with something, but to actually see it - then it really sinks into the brain. (article in Danish)

- Another Danish find: a Viking Age Thor's hammer with runes, declaring it to be a hammer. (article in Danish)

- A new Ph.D. thesis on Early Medieval ironworking: The Early Medieval Cutting Edge of Technology: An archaeometallurgical, technological and social study of the manufacture and use of Anglo-Saxon and Viking iron knives, and their contribution to the early medieval iron economy. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds very interesting.

- Earliest cave paintings (so far) discovered in Indonesia. 40,000 years old!!!!

- Irresistible title of academic article, Yes/No?
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I haven’t been to any archaeo/zooarch conferences since EAA2012, and since I can’t afford to go to ICAZ (this time it’s in Argentina!), I was very glad to see that the Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum was going to have their annual-ish* conference in London, and doubly glad that due to ICAZ the registration fee was only £10! The programme was very interesting and well worth one holiday from my yearly allowance.

*: meetings in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Talk summaries under the cut )

The Institute of Archaeology is in the middle of the UCL complex between Euston Road and the British Museum, so it’s easy to get to (and they have a lovely little terrace on the top floor with a view over the trees in the square opposite!). The drawback is of course limited space for (for example) reference collections, but the students have access to the Natural History Museum’s collections which is a huge help for bone identification, particularly since UCL specialises in Near East and African zooarchaeology. We were given a tour of the lab, and they have some really interesting things, such as Simon Hillson’s loose tooth collection and part of the pathological bones used by Don Brothwell when he and John Baker wrote Animal diseases in archaeology in 1980. When our guide opened the "Pathology: infections" drawer, there was that wonderful combined oooh and eeeww sound you get when a bunch of zooarchaeologists see a cow mandible with an advanced stage of "lumpy jaw".

several animal bones with bone changing pathologies
One of the pathology drawers. The lumpy jaw cattle mandible is at the top, in the middle of the photo.


UCL archaeology department terrace
UCL archaeology department terrace
The lunch terrace at the archaeology department
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
After the usual cattle, sheep, horse, pig and dog bones it's fun to find some (relatively) unusual species. If the bones are a bit wonky, so much the better. This one turned out to be bone of the (last) week!

It's a cat tibia, which has fractured across its upper part. The fibula has also fractured, become partially fused to the tibia and twisted 180°. A new joint facet has formed on the now inner side. The medial side of the tibia has an abscess, which indicates that when the fracture healed, an infection set in. The bone is smooth (although it has become very eroded in the soil), so the cat lived for a long while after the fracture.

Unfortunately the lower part of the fibula was never recovered from the pit.


Fractured (but healed) cat tibia
The whole tibia. The upper part is towards the right.

Fractured (but healed) cat tibia
The lateral (outer) side. The original fibula joint is clearly visible.

Photobucket
The medial side with the abscess.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Naturally, the days when something exciting breaks the news, are days when I for various reasons or other can't post. Some of you may already have heard about these things, but hopefully for others it might be new and exciting:

- the National Antiquity Board in Sweden has received money to digitalize the multi-volume series Sveriges runinskrifter (Sweden's rune inscriptions). At the end of 2011 the first version of searchable pdfs will go online. Future plans include an interactive platform called e-runic, from where you will be able so search other sources for runes. (Swedish article).

- The awesome highstatus early Medieval site Uppåkra, in southern Sweden, just outside Lund, is known for really cool finds. At the end of this year's excavations they found a 8th century mount, depicting a winged man. As far as I know it's unique. Current theories are that it could be Weyland Smith as he escapes king Nidhad wearing the wings of birds, or a depiction of a man with Freya's magic falcon cloak. (Aardvarchaeology has two close-up images). (Site diary - in Swedish)

- If you're into the Palaeolithic or Mesolithic, you might want to make sure that you have 24-25th March free, when Durham University (UK) organizes the conference Where The Wild Things Are: Recent Advances in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Research. Topics include Tools & Technology, Landscapes & Environments, Subsistence & Animals, and Ritual & Society. Abstract submission deadline is 17th December.
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: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
... would probably not smell sweet at all, but nevermind that.

One of my continuous "pulling my hair out-frustrations" regarding the essay writing has been trying to find out when tanners emerge as a separate craft. According to Ælfric's Colloquy, from the 10th century, tanners not only made the leather, but also made shoes, belts, harnesses etc. Interestingly, the translator in the pdf linked above uses the word "tanner", where the original has "sceowyrhta" (shoemaker). The town law of Visby (on Gotland, present day Sweden), from 1332-1335) has a section on fees for craftsmen in order to practice their craft. Tanners are mentioned specifically, which has lead to interpretation of this as evidence for a tanners' guild. This would be quite interesting, since the earliest guild charters for tanners in Sweden and Denmark are from the 1630s.

Archaeological evidence for this shift to specialisation is scant: so far I've only heard of one site in Novgorod, which contained waste from both tanning and shoemaking, until the 12-13th centuries, when layers of animal hair and ashes disappear, suggesting that the site was now only occupied by specialised shoemakers, and that tanning occurred elsewhere (Hald 1972).

What we do have instead are written sources (not many, admittedly). Bynames could be used as craft signifiers, and hopefully we can also attach an address to that person. Well, we have to have a broad definition of "address" here. A street name if we're lucky, otherwise a parish. And coming back to the subject line: names. Specifically craft signifying bynames. Already in 1150, a Johannes coriarius witnessed a grant of land in York. Coriarius is usually translated as tanner*, except in one British dictionary, where it also is translated as currier**. Currier is the word used by Lisa Liddy, when discussing leatherworkers in Medieval York (Liddy 2003). This is rather problematic. As a currier is a specialist within the tanning craft, this would suggest that the York leather industry was highly specialised during the 12th century. As comparison, in Sweden, curriers (lädertågare) only occur in Stockholm during the 17th century. I wonder why the person writing the dictionary included currier when no other dictionary does? Other problematic definitions include pellifex/skinner, who sometimes is a whittawyer, sometimes a furrier, and sometimes a tanner.

Of course, these definitions are only properly valid for the high Middle Ages, and may have changed slightly since the Viking Age/Early Middle Ages, which is what I'm writing about. How will we ever know? Extrapolating backwards is tricky, as there are thousands of things that may have changed, most of which never occur to us when we try to set the likely variables.



*: Niermeyer's Medieval Latin dictionary (2002), Mittellateinisch Wörterbuch (1999), Woordenboek van het middeleeuws latijn van de noordelijke Nederlanden (1981). Coriarius is absent from the Danish Medieval Latin dictionary. I have not been able to find a dictionary for Medieval Latin from Swedish sources, though.
**: Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British sources (1981)



Hald, M. (1972) Primitive shoes. An archaeological-ethnological study based upon shoe finds from the Jutland peninsula. Danmarks Nationalmuseum, Köpenhamn, ISBN: 87-480-7282-6.

Liddy, L. (2003) ”Current documentary knowledge”, i Mould, Q., Carlisle, I. & Cameron, E. Leather and leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York. The archaeology of York: The small finds: 17/16. York Archaeological Trust and The Council for British Archaeology. ISBN: 1-902771-36-2. pp. 3222-3226.

Profile

ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
ossamenta

October 2017

S M T W T F S
12345 67
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 20th, 2017 07:43 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios