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: 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.

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The Thor's hammer.

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A Roman period enamel owl. If the museum makes a replica for their shop I'm quite tempted to buy one.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
In about two weeks time I'm off to London for the Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum's conference. Since I'm neither a postgrad nor a PhD student I won't give a talk, but instead I will sit and listen to several interesting talks and take copious amounts of notes. It will be such fun!


- A new Viking Age female figurine has been found! Just as with the 2012 find of the figurine with sword and shield, there are lots of dress details which I'm sure will delight any authenticity minded Viking Age re-enactors.

- Keeping in the small figurine theme: A 13th century Limoges enamel Madonna found buried under Danish church floor.

- If you ever wondered where a penguin's knees are, look no further.

- The Walbrook Discovery Programme has a blog post up on animal remains from Roman butchery.

- "Let's just say an unbearable smell was emitted" - how to reduce a blue whale to a pile of bones. I'm so impressed at the size of those vertebrae! Although I'm glad I wasn't there in person, and that internet doesn't (yet) do smell-o-vision...

- One of the advantages of a British Museum membership is tickets to members' lectures. Luckily for us who a) aren't members or b) couldn't go, Mary Beard's Pompeii lecture is now online. Thanks BM!
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Current Roman things in London are not just the artefacts and bodycasts from Pompeji and Herculaneum that are exhibited in the British Museum (not seen yet, must remember to book ticket!) but there is also a huge excavation at the banks of the Walbrook. BBC had a feature on it a few days ago, including a slideshow of some really nice artefacts. Being a wetland site, the wood is fantastically well preserved. There are even writing tablets (still containing the text!). If you want to know more about Roman London and the everyday work on a commercial urban dig, go to the site blog: Walbrook discovery programme.
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
Yesterday I and two colleagues went to the Integrating zooarchaeology and stable isotopes-conference in Cambridge. I had to get up very early, but it was worth it. About half of the talks were relevant to me, even if the practical applications may be beyond my normal budgets.

Of particular interest to me were:
- the fallow deer project, on (among other topics) the introduction of fallow deer in Europe. The isotope studies are only beginning, but there are evidence for first generation imports at the Roman villa in Fishbourne on the south coast of England.

- Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of animals and grains from the Danebury Iron Age hillfort and from surrounding sites suggest that the simple model of surrounding producer sites and a high status central consumer site must be revised. Such a model would result in different isotope values on the producer sites, reflecting the different local geology, and wide-ranging isotope values on the consumer site encompassing all isotope values from the producer sites. The research is ongoing, but since the isotope values on all sites were very similar, it may indicate a more complex trade and exchange system.

- Pigs from medieval urban sites are usually interpreted as being ”backyard pigs”, fed on scraps and kept for meat. Several contemporary written sources confirm the presence of pigs kept in urban environments, and so far little time and money has been spent trying to contradict this. However, isotope analysis on pig bones from Medieval York indicate that the vast majority of the sampled animals (N:23) were fed the same protein-low diet as sheep from York and pigs from the nearby village Wharram Percy, suggesting that they were kept on pannage in rural areas. Obviously more research (and samples!) are needed but it is apparent that medieval (and Roman? Saxon? Post-medieval?) pig keeping was more complex than what zooarchaeologist normally have assumed.

- Strontium values on cattle teeth from the Late Iron Age/Roman village Owslebury, near Winchester, showed three different ranges of isotope values, indicating three different origin regions for these cattle. Unfortunately we only got to see the strontium map of entire Britain, and to ”accurately” pinpoint possible origin regions for these animals you need a much more detailed map, as small pockets of different geologies can be found within sections of the dominant geology in a particular region. Again, more research is needed.

As you can see, there are several people who’s future Ph.D.s and research ideas I will keep an eye out for. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find personal research sites for these topics, but if any blog reader is interested, name and contact details should be found on the conference webpage.

It was a good day out, and I could finally visit the archaeology and anthropology museum, which was closed for rebuilding the other times I’ve been to Cambridge. They had one of the Star Carr antler frontlets!!! If only I had brought my camera…

Interestingly, the gender ratio on the conference participants skewed heavily to women. About 80% women! Seriously, where are the male archaeologists? Are they not interested in isotopes or in zooarchaeology? I knew environmental archaeology in Britain is predominantly female, but I didn't expect laboratory archaeology to be the same. I'd guess that British archaeology as a whole would be at least 40-60% either way, but what on earth are the men specialising in/researching then?


If I have got anything wrong in my write-ups, please let me know.
ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
First, thanks for the well-wishes. The interview seemed to go well: some things that they liked about me, and some things I could improve on. We'll see what happens.

The new Oxbow summer catalogue is out and I thought I'd give a shout-out to some that seemed interesting. A lot of the catalogue is on Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, which I'm not enough familiar with to tell which books are of general relevance and which are only for the artefact/regional specialists. If you are interested in those periods I recommend you check out their website. An exception was made for books of interest to re-enactors and people interested in making replicas of historical finds, as there were a few of those in the Roman section.

Cut for lots of books )
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
The fancy Roman helmet I posted about a few weeks ago was sold at the auction for 2.3 million pounds! Unsurprisingly, the amount raised by the Tullie House Museum wasn't near enough. A shame, as I guess that the buyer won't let the helmet be displayed at a public exhibition.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
Last week, it was all over the news in Britain: a very rare and elaborate masked bronze helmet from the Roman period had been found in northern England by a metal detectorist. It's the third found in Britain, and is now at risk from being sold to a private collector. It's expected to sell for at least £300,000 at Christie's. The British Museum spent a lot of their money (and money donated from individuals) to save the Staffordshire hoard, and can't step in to save the helmet for the public. Instead, the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle is trying to raise money to keep the helmet in the same county it was found. They have only a few weeks to do this, as the auction is on the 7th October. If you can spare some cash, please donate. If the museum can buy the helmet, it will go on display in their Roman frontier gallery. Leftover money, or God forbid, not enough money to acquire the helmet, will go towards the museum's extensive Roman collections.

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