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: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
There's so many things going on in my life now that I've been neglecting this blog a bit, and in particular letting the interesting links build up. I hope I can get rid of a fair few in this post.

- Author Nicola Griffith wrote an interesting post about elves, gender, Anglo-Saxon medical practice and how this was changed by Christianization.

- Another author (and historian), Kari Sperring did an half-hour talk at Exilicon on the real history of the three musketeers (video)

- A newly discovered velociraptor ancestor with feathers.

- In line with strange and mysterious ritual stuff, an Iron Age site in Dorset produced composite animals deposited in pits: A cow with horse legs, a sheep with an extra head at its bum etc. It will be very interesting to read the subsequent research and see what they can find out about Iron Age beliefs.

- Isotope research have revealed some very interesting things over the years, often upending our previous beliefs and assumptions. The newest thing that's come to my knowledge is a study of the famous Egtved girl in Denmark. She's one of the Bronze Age oak coffin burials that were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th century, where circumstances had managed preservation of organic remains, and they are subsequently our main source for Scandinavian Bronze Age clothing. Researchers took isotope samples from her teeth, hair, nails as well as from her clothing and found out that she wasn't Danish at all! (nor was her clothing) The isotope signatures point elsewhere, possibly what's now southeastern Germany (the geology is consistent with this, but more importantly (as this type of geology is found elsewhere) the archaeological record indicates a relationship between Denmark and this area during the Bronze Age). Correlating hair growth rate and several samples along one strand of hair, they also found that she had been going back and forth between Denmark and the other region (probably NW Germany) during her last two years in life. (A more detailed article in Danish)

- Of course, sometimes science makes things more boring. A DNA analysis of the hair tufts and hair cords found on the Norse settlement The Farm Beneath the Sand on Greenland changed the species identification from bear, bison and muskox (signifying trade with North America) to horse and goat (not signifying trade with North America).

- Neanderthal bone flutes were apparently made by hyenas, not Neanderthals.

- There's a new theory on why the wooly mammoth became extinct: osteoporosis may have "helped".

- The Paston Letters is one of the largest archives of 15th-century English private correspondence, comprising about 1000 letters and documents including petitions, leases, wills and even shopping lists. They offer a unique glimpse into the personal lives of three generations of the Paston family from Norfolk over a period of 70 years. A large part of the collection have now been scanned and put online at the British Library's website.

- If you are in New York, don't miss the Medieval rings exhibition at the Met museum.

- Pottery enthusiasts might like this intact wine vessel found in Early Medieval layers in the Danish town Ribe.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Flygödlefossil)
I'm not very impressed with March so far. Especially when compared to the unusually warm March of 2012: A year ago I went to Canterbury and walked along the river eating ice cream. I certainly wouldn't do it now. Quite frankly I'm more in the mood for curling up on the sofa with a hot drink and a good book. Thankfully yesterday's snow is mostly gone now, but the temperature is hovering around 0°C, mostly on the wrong side.

 photo Canterburymarch-12_zps0632a870.jpg
Pretty, sunny Canterbury...

But I might at least pass on a few links and close the tabs:

- On my wish list: the unconventional paleoart book All yesterdays, rejecting the standard view of these extinct animals, and by comparison showing us what future paleontonlogists might have thought cats, monkeys and birds would have looked like if they only had the skeletons to go by. The talks from the book launch are well worth watching, even if you have no budget to buy the book itself. Reviews by What's in Johns freezer? (a cool* anatomy blog) and Tor.com, with several illustrations.

*: no pun intended....

- I was linked to a piece in Science Nordic about how fish corrupt carbon dating of pots, which unfortunately lacked several details from the original Danish source (not the Danish version of the Science Nordic page, that's the same as the English one). For starters, it's not the pots that are radio carbon dated, as most people interested in archaeology would realise, as pottery itself doesn't contain carbon (if it has been tempered by organic material, this would likely burn away in the firing), but burnt food crusts on the inside. Due to the reservoir effect of marine life, if the burnt food contained fish, shellfish or other marine creatures, the radiocarbon dating could be off by several hundred or thousand years. And since it is hard to tell what any carbonised crust originally contained, it would be problematic to use radio carbon dating of food crusts alone as a way to, for example, date the introduction of pottery.

- The Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated Irish gospel manuscript, is now online!

- and from the hilarious site WTF evolution? (go home evolution, you're drunk!), scientists are trying to resurrect a frog species that used its stomach as a womb. It's a recent extinction (and discovery, too: it was discovered in 1972, and extinct in 1983) so they have plenty of genetic material to work with. And considering the world wide threat to frogs due to habitat loss, it may be a good thing to have experience in - we certainly will need it again.
ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. Not much blog-worthy has happened here, though, so you've hardly missed much. That said, I've seen a couple of interesting research news in the last few days/weeks that I thought I'd share:

1632 is a well-known date in Swedish history. A Thirty Years' War battle in Lützen, in present-day Germany, mostly known for peasoup fog ("Lützendimma" in Swedish) and the death of the Swedish king, Gustaf II Adolf. A German research team has started to excavate one of the mass graves and hopefully they will get some interesting results from the analysis. As is common today, they will do isotope analysis to see if they can see where the soldiers came from. Not only were Swedes and Germans (or people from what later would become Germany) present, but both sides had hired mercenaries. The article talked about the placement of the bodies in the grave ("They were, at least, carefully laid to rest. The bodies were gathered from the battlefield and placed in a grave next to the street, arranged in two rows with their legs facing each other."), but looking at the pictures in the photo gallery, some men are lying face-down! I wonder if that was a common phenomenon (getting smelly? not caring that much for strangers/soldiers), or for some reason or other these persons either had the most horrible face wounds or the people burying them (probably civilians from Lützen) wanted to shame them after death.

And thanks to Katrin Kania (A stitch in time), I found an interesting study on the use of medieval prayerbooks - by using wear patterns from residual oil and dirt left by the readers' fingers! Which texts were mostly read? How were the books held? Modern science is so cool! (even when it doesn't involve cloning dinosaurs for T.rex burgers)


ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)

January 2019

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