ossamenta: Weasel skull (Ecumenical matter)
Forgot these ones:

- Recently retired Professor of Archaeology at York and well-known zooarchaeologist Terry O'Connor posted useful advice for newbie zooarchaeologists. Read it well: there is much truth in it.

- Some supercool Danish finds include a deposit of c.2000 small gold spirals dated to the Bronze Age. They think the spirals were possibly part of clothing decoration. (Danish article)
And last year they found 5000 year old foot prints as they were excavating for the Femern Belt tunnel.

- Bone assemblages that probably represent waste from feasts are found now and again in archaeology. Organising elaborate feasts was not only a way to display wealth (you could afford to slaughter this many animals) but also to bring a community together. An unusual feasting assemblage has been found in Llanmaes, an Iron Age site in Wales. About 80% of all bones from livestock came from pig – in itself unusual – but most of the pig bones came from the right fore limb. Such patterns are very unusual, and the archaeologists think that the bones represent joints that were brought to a communal feast where each participant brought an equal (literally) share of the food.
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 (Default)
If you have any money to spare after rent, bills, Christmas presents etc, there are two osteoarchaeology-relevant causes that would appreciate a contribution.

The Grant Museum in London needs money to clean 39 of their mounted skeletons from extremely rare species (quagga, Ganges river dolphin etc). It's a really cool museum - Victorian style cluttered cases with skeletons, wet specimens, taxidermies etc - and since it's been around since 1828 as a teaching collection they have some really cool things in there. A visit is recommended.

Swedish archaeologists want to finish the excavation of one of the houses in Sandby ring fort, analyse the finds and publish the report. I thought I had linked to this interesting site before, but apparently not (or I just hid the link very well). Anyway, it's a ring fort on the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea, just off the Swedish coast. When the archaeologists did a small excavation a few years ago, they found not only lots of gold artefacts and Roman coins, but also several skeletons. The dead hadn't been buried, but left where they fell. Some showed evidence of battle injuries, suggesting that what we are seeing is the remains of a massacre. Not your average site! It's definitely worth watching the video on kickstarter to see some shiny shiny things (and some skeletons).
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: Picture of an owl from a Medieval manuscript (Medieval owl)
Normally, bone artefacts should be separated from the animal bone, since different experts are dealing with these two categories. However, sometimes the artefacts are tricky, and not so obviously worked. Which is when I find them, bag them separately and put them aside to go to the finds specialist. And it's not only bone artefacts - I sometimes find pottery sherds. Although in those cases I assume the person sorting the finds from that context was very very tired that day. Most pottery sherds are rather easily distinguished from bone.

My latest find was a bone quill. It's a radius from a large bird, probably goose, but I need to check it against a good reference collection first. Quills like these were commonly used in the medieval period, not only by monks, but by other scribes too (court records, recipe collections, merchants' inventories etc). Here are instructions on how to make one yourself.

Medieval bird bone quill

And here's a close-up of the tip, with some soil still remaining in the marrow cavity:
Medieval bird bone quill - close-up of tip
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I'm in between bone reports at the moment, so I spend my time helping the enviromental department with soil sample processing. We take soil samples on excavations to find remains of charred grains, small fish bones, snails etc - i.e. things we can't find by hacking out a ditch with a mattock (depite popular belief, trowels aren't the most commonly used tools on excavations). Soil samples are also taken from burials. After the skeleton has been recorded and removed, the grave fill gets sampled so we don't miss small bones - particularly when the graves contain infants or small children - possible foetal remains or calcified cysts.

Buckets with soil then come to the processing area, where the environmental archaeologists sieve them through various mesh sizes. Not the most exciting part of archaeology in my opinion, since I don't find charred grains and snails to be that interesting. But yesterday the soil revealed something that made my day: an Anglo-Saxon spindle whorl! I don't think I've ever seen one outside a museum before.

Anglo-Saxon spindle whorl
Admittedly not that exciting, but compared to the rest of the stuff that remained in the mesh - 96% gravel, 1% pottery fragments, 2% bone, 1% snails - it was utterly awesome.
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.


ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)

January 2019

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