ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
One week of this term’s student excavation at Uppåkra has finished – one more to go – and I could easily fall asleep at 8pm. Possibly a combination of a full week of continuous outdoor work and being on a very windy site (with continuous noise from the motorway as a bonus). Extermely windy today, as a storm was moving in. Luckily we had time to cover the trench for the weekend before the downpour hit.

Uppåkra is a very interesting place: inhabited from the Roman Iron Age to the end of the Viking Age, with its heyday as a high-status site in the Migration and Vendel periods. Unfortunately, we’re not digging at the centre of the site, where you would regularly find nice artefacts (even gold!), but at a craft/production area in the periphery. This trench has been excavated for several terms, but now we’re almost at the very bottom, and it will most likely be finished by next term’s students. The finds are less exciting: postholes, two hearths, some animal bone, some flint flakes from the Stone Age, the odd sherd of pottery. On the plus side, this means that the report will be easy to write, and there is almost no extra cost for conservation of metal objects. The students seem to be happy with the excavation, although of course it’s always more fun when you keep finding things…

If you want to know more about Uppåkra, all the articles about the site have been digitised at the department website: http://www.uppakra.lu.se/uppakrastudier/
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
The weather has turned, and I can breathe again. I'm not happy in hot weather (for hot, read over 26°C) and this summer has for basically all of July and half of August been around 28-30°C. All my plans for summer were scrapped, as there was only enough functioning brain to re-read simple books and even then only for short moments each day.

The good news is that I did so much in late spring/early summer that there will undoubtedly be material for several posts. (the bad news is that autumn will be very busy and my supervisor insists that I must write on my actual thesis.)

As always, click on the images to see them in proper size.

In the end of April I went to Stockholm for the second Nordic ZooArch meeting, held at the Archaeology department of the university. I took the night train, thereby being able to go to the research seminar that my department had that afternoon, and I saved a bit of money on hotel rooms, which is always a bonus. The drawback is that you arrive in Stockholm at 6am, and I’m not a morning person. But with a meeting start at 10am, there was plenty of time for a slow wake-up (you have until 7am to leave the train), leisurely breakfast and sorting out a travel card for the metro/buses.

The archaeology department is set a bit apart from the main campus. The drawback is that it’s further to walk if you want to buy lunch, but on the other hand they have a great view over a small lake and much more nature (including roe deer in the woods) than the rest of the campus.

Wooded area, overlooking a lake, with tables and benches
Not a bad place for your lunch or afternoon fika...

Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are mainly mutually intelliglible (barring strong regional accents) and on the previous meeting everyone spoke their own language. The official languages on this meeting included English, since now we had a few Finnish participants. In Finland you have to learn Swedish in school, since it’s officially a bilingual country, but as with such things, if you are forced to do something and have no incentive to learn and to keep it up (say, if you don’t live in a Swedish speaking area), you tend to forget most of it. So one can’t assume that Finns will be able to follow an academic talk in Swedish (or for that matter, Danish).

The talks were very diverse, ranging from Mesolithic fur animals to Medieval waste management; from 19th century fish oil production to the historical/cultural history of goats in Finland; from animal keeping on early Medieval central places to fish fermenting in the Mesolithic. We also discussed how to manage collections and decided that we wanted to make a reference collection database, so we can find out where a specific species can be found in case we need to use it for comparison. A similar database has just been launched in the UK: The National Zooarchaeological Reference Resource, and I’ve had much use of it already, trying to find calf mandibles (but that’s another story for another day).

After the two-day conference I had a Sunday off, and decided to be a tourist and see the Vasa. It’s a fantastic ship, but unfortunately you only see it from the outside – not even a model to show what the interior looks like. And since she sank on the maiden voyage (1628), there were relatively few items on board. Contrast this to the Mary Rose (1545), where we have so many finds, but only half the ship. I also went to the open-air museum/Nordic zoo Skansen for the first time. It was very early in the season, so few houses were open to the public. But still, a nice day out.

16th century tall ship seen from below.
The Vasa from below

16th century tall ship seen from above/the side.
The Vasa from above

Monday was back to PhD-ing, but this time in Stockholm. I met up with the people at the National Archive who has helped me with sampling of the parchment charters and went to the Royal Library to have a look at some books and articles. Tuesday I took the train to Uppsala to meet with a conservator at the University Library trying to convince them to do some sampling for me (spoiler: I succeeded!). Since it was my first time in Uppsala I also did some touristing of the Gustavianum museum and the Cathedral. Not my favourite cathedral, but it has the 16th century Sture garments! No photos of those, since there are lots on the internet and besides, the interesting bit is the construction and I can get that from books. Wednesday was again an early start, when I left Stockholm for home, stopping in Linköping on the way to sample some books and charters in the diocese library.

All in all a good couple of days, but quite intense!

Narrow alley in Stockholm's Old Town at night, lit by street light and the moon
The Old Town in Stockholm by night
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
I'm trying to get as much information I can about medieval trade in paper and parchment, and purchases of the same. This means reading published account books (there's no time for me to decipher original account books), and hopefully they have a register that includes more than just places and persons.

I found one such book, Danske middelalderlige regnskaber (Danish medieval accounts), in the library while looking for something else*. The register noted both paper and parchment several times, so I was all set to photocopy those pages. I was a bit confused when I discovered that the book started on page 238, and I couldn't make head or tail about it. And since some of those papers and parchments were on pages prior to that, it was important that I found out what on earth was going on.

And on the front page, in a very small font, was printed "second part". No, the library didn't have the first volume. And it didn't seem as if any other Swedish library had. Now, luckily, I live close to Copenhagen, so I checked the Danish Royal Library's catalogue, just in case. Potentially there could have been a fuck-up and the first part was never printed - who knows? But the catalogue said they had two copies, one "Volume 1,1" and one "Volume 1,2". And they were in the reading room, not in a off-site store somewhere. Jackpot!

So with a very short notice (I found this out in the very late afternoon), I packed my bag and the next morning headed off in a different direction than the usual. A bit of oopses on the way: had to get more Danish currency, top-up my pay-as-you-go rail card, run to the platform...

I was distracted on the way to the library by the realisation that today was a Tuesday and the Glyptoteket museum had free entry. And they had a new exhibition on about a Roman silverware treasure found in France many years ago. A bit embarrasingly, I've never before been to Glyptoteket mainly due to the entrance fee and the fact that Ancient Greece/Rome isn't really my main interest. But today, how could I refuse? It took only an hour or so to walk through the interesting bits, including the exhibition. I suspect that a good guide would really bring the statues to life (so to speak), but it's a very traditional museum, with more statues than non-statues. The winter garden with its massive palm trees is on the other hand lovely!

I found the book quickly in the Royal Library** and got the references I needed. Next option was either sit there and write something, or go window shopping. Window shopping won. I had a list of second-hand bookshops to tick off, and while it wasn't a beautiful day, the promised sleet hadn't arrived. My second jackpot was at Vagnsgaard's***, where I found a book on guilds in Medieval Scandinavia that looked like it could be highly useful.

I walked until it felt like my feet would fall off, and then took the train home. All but one of the bookshops had been visited. And as I got out from the station, the first snowflakes started to fall. Right now, the grass is covered in snow, but it has melted on the cycle paths and pavements. I wonder what it will look like when I wake up tomorrow?

*: this is very typical.
**: The Royal Library does a decently priced and tasty lunch. Couldn't actually finish my sandwich!
***: Of all the second-hand bookshops I visited, Vagnsgaard's on Fiolstræde is the best one from an archaeological/historical perspective.
ossamenta: Medieval manuscript showing a man trimming the thickness of a hide with a knife (Pergamenter)
And suddenly… it was March! February has passed quickly, and not just because it’s the shortest month. The first weeks went as usual, some writing, lots of emails sent out, books borrowed and articles downloaded. Stella, one of the PhD students here, nailed her thesis* on the fifth.


*: Yes, literally. It’s a tradition in some Swedish universities, that when the thesis is published** – usually one month before the defence – you nail it to a designated board at your faculty. Some places do it electronically on the department or faculty webpage, others only nail an abstract/bibliographic information sheet, Lund Uni makes you nail the whole book. This is a way to publicly acknowledge that the thesis is available to read for those who wants to before the defence.

**: As opposed to, for example Britain, Swedish theses are published and available to purchase. The disadvantage is that “passed with minor/major corrections” is not possible – if there are any things to correct, it’s too late for that. As a consequence, you either pass or (God forbid) fail.


All was well, and then, one Friday afternoon I felt my throat being a bit sore. And was utterly knocked out by what I would describe as “a cold that wanted to be a flu but didn’t make it all the way”. My throat was razor blades for two days, and I can’t really remember that Saturday happened. I was off for the entire week, and unfortunately missed a day-long research seminar that I really wanted to attend.

Just as I was getting better, it was time to fly to England for a week-long research trip. Before Christmas I was asked to contribute a paper for a conference held in honour of my MA supervisor, who’s been a mentor for me. Obviously I couldn’t say no. The topic was very wide (interactions between humans and birds), but it was still a bit of a struggle to think of a subject for the paper, as I’m not really doing anything with birds. That said, I decided to do something on the use of geese for writing/literacy, which is sort of part of my PhD. The main focus on the research trip was information on a specific type of artefact made from (mostly) geese radius bones, mostly believed to be used for writing, but quite frankly we don’t really know.

I could not go to every place that has these artefacts, so I concentrated on visiting the places with most finds. It was a very busy week: flying there on Monday, Museum of London and various London libraries on Tuesday, York Archaeological Trust on Wednesday, Norwich Museum on Thursday, and Oxfordshire County Museum on Friday. The actual information gathering didn’t take that long, but since I had had to buy train tickets well in advance to avoid extortionate ticket prices, I had made sure I had plenty of time for my research. As a consequence, I had five hours to kill in both York and Norwich… There’s only so much you can walk around and see/do in five hours on a cold February when your body really wants a proper afternoon nap.

The trip was well planned timewise (apart from the whole exhausting cold thing): I could have a weekend in Oxford where I could see the Bodleian Library’s Designing English exhibition (recommended!) and participate in a weekend lindy hop workshop/social dance event! The dance classes were very good, but it was not until the Sunday evening dance that I felt well enough to dance more than one dance. A bit of a shame, as the bands were really good. But I had good music to listen to, good dancers to watch and lovely people to talk to. Definitely worth it!

And as I was heading to the airport, I felt my throat being a bit sore again. I didn’t really dare to push through and hope it would go away, so I spent the next few days at home, drinking hot ginger and honey water. It seems to have worked (*knock on wood*).

So that was my February.

Last Friday (3rd March), Stella defended her thesis and can now call herself Dr. Macheridis!
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
2017 was a relatively busy year: first a few months in York, a mini zooarch conference in Århus, another one in Cardiff, an enforced 4 week summer holiday (quite nice), and then an autumn of emailing people for access to collections etc. My plan was to do all the local museum stuff in October-November or so. That failed. Hopefully I can do the last local museum in January-February. *fingers crossed*

I hope 2018 will be a good year. It will certainly be busy: first I have an intense course in historical/archaeological theory, a mini research trip to the UK, museum visits in Sweden, zooarch conference in Stockholm, writing a conference paper to present in UK in June, a London visit (HAMILTON!!!), possibly a PhD student conference in York, the enforced summer holiday, lab work (100+ samples), writing grant applications for more sampling, and of course write the thesis.

My original plan for 2018 also included the EAA (European archaeology association) conference in Barcelona (never been, would be a fun place to visit) in September. It's also the same time as the ICAZ zooarchaeology conference, this time in Ankara. I'd sort of like to go, as next time (2022) will be not in Europe* and subsequently much more expensive for me, but... time. Money. The usual. I do get access to grants, but there are lots of students and it's no guarantee that you will be fully reimbursed - or even get the grant. EAA will be c. £200 + travel and accommodation. ICAZ is not cheap either.

*: Yes, technically Ankara is in Asia, I know...
ossamenta: Medieval manuscript showing a man trimming the thickness of a hide with a knife (Pergamenter)
Today was a work-at-home day. It's good to be able to work from any place, particularly when rain is forecasted for the entire afternoon... The plan for today and tomorrow was to write most of the chapter on Medieval husbandry in Scandinavia. However...

I'm clearly more tired from last week's illness than I thought, and slept until 10am. I have since then read the applications we will discuss in the Research Board on Friday, copied relevant parts of a bibliography and checked which of these books can be found in Sweden (and ordered inter-library loans), had lunch, had an afternoon nap (see tiredness, above), sent off an email with anti-harassment guidelines for a forthcoming meeting, and... not even written a word on the chapter. Oops. By now it's definitely time for dinner, so I foresee evening writing, and of course there's also tomorrow.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
How is it almost mid-December??? This week started out well, admittedly with an early start for two obligatory department meetings, but then I went home to do the final window washing and Christmas curtains/decoration set-up, which I hadn't finished on Sunday (you can't really wash windows when it's dark outside, and dark comes unexpectedly early...), aiming to make up for lost hours in the evening. Well that failed. Just after the curtains and the star and the advent candelabras were up, my slow-going sore throat really started going. So, to bed, big cup of tea with ginger and honey. That was Monday. Thursday morning it seems to have migrated to my sinuses, and I'm a bit of a snot factory today. Staying home tomorrow as well, and have cancelled the dance workshop on Saturday :-( . Hopefully someone else can take my space (assuming there is a stand-by queue).

So in short, this is a lost week, going by in a daze with a semi-porridge brain, alternating between being in bed and refreshing twitter, dreamwidth and askhistorians. Only enough brain to re-read comfort books. Not altogether lost, admittedly: I have done some work on my planned talk at a conference in June - gathering data, nothing brainy like writing - and I have written and posted the Christmas cards. Hurrah...

I have seen some things that may be of interest:
- The Medieval Marginalia Paraphrenalia kickstarter - get your very own badge with a nun picking penises (and/or a dragon and snail-jousting rabbit). It was funded within a few hours, proving (as the creator stated) it's far easier to market a nun picking from a penis tree than to write a PhD!
- The first book in The Comfortable Courtesan series has been published. Excellent story, great comfort reading (no pun intended). Lots of good historical background info on the webpage.
- The report on the Medieval furrier site from Northampton has been published in Northampton Archaeology, vol.39 - I should probably do a blog post about furrier sites. After all, I've done the report on one of them.
- An Old French grammar cheat sheet, downloadable from Academia.edu and printable.
ossamenta: Medieval manuscript showing a man trimming the thickness of a hide with a knife (Pergamenter)
The weeks pass by, and suddenly it's almost November. I saw the first Christmas decorated shop yesterday (it's basically mid-October!!!!), and I'm quite certain that when I'm old I will look back in nostalgia to a time when Christmas decorations didn't start at Easter. It's that beautiful time of autumn when the leaves are all going into yellow but there's still lots of green ones. No going for a walk today though: it rained _all_ day.

I've started going through writing related artefacts from one of the Lund museums, and I hope I can start on the other one mid-November or so. They're in the middle of finalising a new permanent exhibition, so I doubt they can find the time for me right now.

Bone stylus with metal end
Bone stylus with a metal end for writing. The smooth end on the other side is for erasing the wax tablet.

Bone stylus (square head)
Another type of bone stylus. This one has never had a metal end, instead the bone shaft has been carved to a point. And it's tiny! Almost too small for my hands even.

Other than that, I keep writing the sections I can write, waiting for interlibrary loans to arrive, references to check and more books to order. Lund has a pretty good library, and thankfully the interlibrary loan system is easy to use when you need to find books they don't have.

I'm thinking of starting a PhD work diary again. I had good intentions at the beginning, but didn't keep it up when I got back from York. It's good to have one, so you can see what you've been doing - sometimes it feels like you've done absolutely nothing and are so far behind that you have to work 24/7 just to keep up. And that's a bad thing. Weekends are there for a reason (she said, who is planning to work on Sunday to make up for lost time mid-week). But that will be after my holiday next week. I'm off to London to see the Scythians exhibition at the British Museum, and do some research at various libraries there. Despite what I said about the interlibrary loan system, it's not perfect, and sometimes you have to pay for international loans. Worth it for a whole book, but not really for an article if you're not absolutely sure you'll need it.

Bone stylus (hexagonal shaft, triangular head)
Finally, a very unusual bone stylus: a hexagonal shaft and a triangular head. This one has a metal tip, but it's been broken off at the shaft and very little is remaining.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
This week has been semi-positive: some emails have returned with useful information, but there are others I need to send an reminder to on Monday morning. The usual information hunt is ongoing, where one interlibrary loan leads to another, as the information I assumed were there, is not _quite_ there. Sigh.

But a chance nip-in to a second hand bookshop this afternoon was very rewarding. At least one archaeologist had been culling their bookshelves (judging from the dedication, one book had belonged to the guy who was professor in prehistoric archaeology when I was an undergrad) and the books were in pristine or at least pristine-ish condition! It wasn't a case of "OMG I've been on the lookout for this book forever", but more a "oh, this could be useful". But the books were cheap, so I ended up buying nine of them. And I already had three books in my bag to do some work at home... My poor hands did not appreciate the book haul.

All in all, a good start to the weekend. Friday evening will be spent on the sofa, doing language checks on an article for a colleague. But I have tea and chocolate, and a tasty cardamom roll, so no complaints from me!


Sep. 24th, 2017 09:44 pm
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Last Tuesday was a fun day. One of our professors had recently retired, and as sort of a leaving present, a whole bunch of us at the department and lots of other people (ex-colleagues etc) went on an excursion to several sites that had been important to her in her career. Admittedly, this being archaeology, a lot of sites were passed by on the road as there is not much point in standing in the middle of a field looking at nothing. Prehistoric settlement sites in Scandinavia aren't really famous for visible above ground remains.

But we stopped the bus at two Bronze Age burial mounds, and at a peninsula with several Stone Age caves. One mound had to my knowledge not been excavated, but the other one had been and the burial chamber and entrance way had been recently restored. If I had brought a torch I would have been tempted to sneak in.

The Ålabodarna Bronze Age burial mound in its landscape, between sea and farmstead. (Click to embiggen.)

The very narrow entrance to the burial mound. (Click to embiggen.)

View from the top of the burial mound toward the sea. Denmark's coast is on the horizon. (Click to embiggen.)

The Stone Age caves (well, obviously formed in an geological age and not the Stone Age, but they were used in the Stone Age for temporary occupation) were the highlight. I had never been to one before, but now I want to go back and explore that area more. Scania is said to be flat as a pancake, but the Kullaberg peninsula is one of the not flat parts. Lots of people come here for rock climbing.

It was a long steep path down to the stony beach. Thankfully there were stairs (wood or natural stone, nothing fancy or easily walked), but my legs didn’t appreciate it as much as my eyes did. The beach was gorgeous, with lots of photo opportunities if you liked rock formations. There were several caves accessible from those stairs. The main one is at the beach itself, and you could get to another one at next beach along by stairs up a rocky formation and then a narrow path down the other side. The caves are all tiny, so they can only have been used for temporary shelter (annual seal hunts or sea bird egg collections?).

First part of the path. We're still in a lovely decidious wood. (Click to embiggen.)

The first stairs. Now you can (just about) see the beach! (Click to embiggen.)

A part without stairs, just a stony path. Still a long way to go until we're down on the beach. (Click to embiggen.)

The beach! Cliffs to the right...(Click to embiggen.)

... and more cliffs to the left. (Click to embiggen.)

The beach "next door". (Click to embiggen.)

A funny little plant growing on the cliffside. If you know what it is, please let me know. (Click to embiggen.)

Windswept heather growing on the cliffside. I wonder how old that plant is? (Click to embiggen.)
ossamenta: Medieval manuscript showing a man trimming the thickness of a hide with a knife (Pergamenter)
And here I thought that I could go through my Flixborough books tonight and write up the section on Flixborough so I didn't have to take them to the office (the library don't have any of them, and they weigh a fair bit (A4 size books, total width c.10cm)). But no. I need more time - which I don't have as it's close to midnight and I'm oh so tired.

So, guess who has to carry a bunch of heavy books to and from the bus tomorrow?
ossamenta: Medieval manuscript showing a man trimming the thickness of a hide with a knife (Pergamenter)
Two weeks in and I've already had a glimpse of my (potential) future: yesterday the woman I'm sharing the office with had her disputation. This is the final part of the long years towards a PhD. It's a public defense of your thesis, with where an "opponent" (usually an expert in your field from a different university) asks you questions about your thesis - about methodology decisions and your results - and you have to answer them. Hopefully it'll be an interesting discussion. The room also includes a grading "jury" (higher-ups from other departments) who also asks you questions and will be the ones who decide whether you could give satisfactorily answers and if you should be accepted as a doctor. Of course once you reach the disputation defence it's 99% certain the answer will be yes, but still...

It was a good disputation: relevant questions leading to a discussion, and quite short, only 1.5 hours (worst case scenario they go on for many hours). The room was packed - people sitting in the aisles - and I could feel the oxygen slowly slipping out. I hope I managed to yawn discreetly. Then we all headed off to the department for snacks and drinks while grading jury discussed for an hour (!). But finally they emerged and pronounced Lovisa a Doctor of Philosophy!

In the evening there was the traditional post-disputation dinner which I had been invited to. A three course meal in - again - a packed room (we were four people below the official limit), with lots of speeches, toasts and songs. My brain was running forward in time thinking about which people I would invite for my dinner, who would give speeches and what would they say. I had a really good time, but with plans for Saturday I decided to leave "early" before the trains became infrequent. (and my body still decided to wake up at 8am even though I could sleep in...)


ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)

January 2019

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