Following up on Becoming Binford, here’s my Binford trading card, along with a nice quote for those who thought the quest for obscurity started with post-modernism.
There was in Athens a house, spacious and open, but with an infamous reputation, as if filled with pestilence. For in the dead of night, a noise like the clashing of iron could be heard. And if one listened carefully, it sounded like the rattling of chains. At first the noise seemed to be at a distance, but then it would approach, nearer, nearer, nearer. Suddenly a phantom would appear, an old man, pale and emaciated, with a long beard, and hair that appeared driven by the wind. The fetters on his feet and hands rattled as he moved them.
Any dwellers in the house passed sleepless nights under the most dismal terrors imaginable. The nights without rest led them to a kind of madness, and as the horrors in their minds increased, onto a path toward death. Even in the daytime–when the phantom did not appear–the memory of the nightmare was so strong that it still passed before their eyes. The terror remained when the cause of it was gone.
Damned as uninhabitable, the house was at last deserted, left to the spectral monster. But in hope that some tenant might be found who was unaware of the malevolence within it, the house was posted for rent or sale.
It happened that a philosopher named Athenodorus came to Athens at that time. Reading the posted bill, he discovered the dwelling’s price. The extraordinary cheapness raised his suspicion, yet when he heard the whole story, he was not in the least put off. Indeed, he was eager to take the place. And did so immediately.
As evening drew near, Athenodorus had a couch prepared for him in the front section of the house. He asked for a light and his writing materials, then dismissed his retainers. To keep his mind from being distracted by vain terrors of imaginary noises and apparitions, he directed all his energy toward his writing.
For a time the night was silent. Then came the rattling of fetters. Athenodorus neither lifted up his eyes, nor laid down his pen. Instead he closed his ears by concentrating on his work. But the noise increased and advanced closer till it seemed to be at the door, and at last in the very chamber. Athenodorus looked round and saw the apparition exactly as it had been described to him. It stood before him, beckoning with one finger.
Athenodorus made a sign with his hand that the visitor should wait a little, and bent over his work. The ghost, however, shook the chains over the philosopher’s head, beckoning as before. Athenodorus now took up his lamp and followed. The ghost moved slowly, as if held back by his chains. Once it reached the courtyard, it suddenly vanished.
Athenodorus, now deserted, carefully marked the spot with a handful of grass and leaves. The next day he asked the magistrate to have the spot dug up. There they found–intertwined with chains–the bones that were all that remained of a body that had long lain in the ground. Carefully, the skeletal relics were collected and given proper burial, at public expense. The tortured ancient was at rest. And the house in Athens was haunted no more.Ghost story from Pliny’s Letters
A story in the Guardian on the Getty Museum, though it’s hardly the only major museum in the world with this problem. SAFE points to the LA Times which has another story, Getting it right at the Getty, talking about the issue.
Had my photo taken with Efrosyni for a Greek paper, Ta Nea, yesterday. I’m the one on the left in glasses. We’re frequently confused for one another. Not by anyone who’s met us both I should add, but for some reason we both get called Efrosyni if she or I gives a paper on our work separately.
The one they’ll probably use is one without the glasses. Though you still can’t see my eyes as they’re nearly closed in the bright sunlight.
Term will be starting soon and a new intake of first years will be wondering what is wanted from an essay. I’ve updated my file, but I may re-write it again before term starts.
Panic. Photo by ckirkman.
I remember panicking at the thought of writing 2000 words when I did my first Ancient History essay, so if you’re still worried with a fortnight to go before the deadline, here’s how I’d tackle a first year essay.
Rule One. This is important. Tattoo it to friend’s head so you don’t forget.
READ THE QUESTION
I was in London today, and thought I’d take a photo for 64 Baker Street, who I know is a fan.
That’s a phrase that grates sometimes. “There could be something in it.” It doesn’t seem to matter what outrageous tale you make up, it doesn’t take too long before you find someone who’ll gently shake their head, hmm and say “Well, there could be something in it.”
This does crop up as a phrase from graduates in Archaeology and Ancient History from most universities that I’ve met. Interestingly I often hear in association to claims about Atlantis or Pyramids on Mars. Obviously the Face on Mars isn’t an actual face, but there could be something in it. If readers from the hard sciences are feeling unduly smug, I also struggled with a Physics post-doc who was convinced that interbreeding with aliens was a possibility, when we find them. We share no DNA with alien life, if it exists. We do however share something like 47% of our DNA with cabbages (I think that the figure varies a lot depending on how you measure it). A Human-cabbage hybrid would seem more likely. You can insert a joke about the politician of your choice here.
Twenty first century e-Science met the ancient Roman world in a Hampshire field this summer. For the first time, archaeologists excavating at the Silchester Roman site used e-Science techniques to record their finds. The techniques will be demonstrated at the e-Science All Hands meeting in Nottingham on 20–22 September.
The archaeologists are participating in a project to build a Virtual Research Environment (VRE) that will enable geographically-dispersed researchers with an interest in the work to collaborate through on-line links. The project is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).
Silchester is one of the most important Roman sites in Britain. The town layout remains just as it was when the Romans abandoned it in the fifth century AD because nobody has built on it since. The excavations are of wide interest to Romanists throughout the UK and beyond.
This is another difficult book to read. Like The Pig That Wants to be Eaten, it invites the reader to put it down and think about it. Unfortunately this reader was having his house rebuilt at the time, which meant it kept disappearing once it was put down. The book, like the title suggests, considers archaeology as a practice of popular culture and examines how our view of archaeology might change as a result.
It’s not a book that you can read quickly and review. The argument isn’t densely written, it accessible and that makes it more provocative. In addition theses are added in snazzy boxes which reduce arguments to soundbite form which can make them even more challenging. As an example is Thesis 3:
Archaeology is about searching and finding treasure underground.
This should be easy enough to demolish.
There’s an interesting press release below the fold. Examination of Neanderthal teeth suggests that their childhood phase was a lot longer than previously thought. It is currently thought that Neanderthal children grew up a lot faster than their modern counterparts. A big bit of the evidence in favour of this is examination of perikymata. These are markings in teeth that show how the tooth grew, a bit like rings in tree trunks.
Previous work suggested that Neanderthals grew up to 15% faster than modern humans. Thus they reached maturity faster and this meant less time was necessary for guiding them to maturity. This is a handy thing, as evidence of age of death suggests that a Neanderthal was doing well to reach thirty. In addition they were martyrs to arthritis, so it would be an advantage to have rapidly growing children.
However Debra Guatelli-Steinberg, an anthropology professor, at Ohio State has gone back and examined what yardstick was used to measure the Neanderthal growth against. Teaming up with academics from other universities she’s examined teeth from a wide variety of modern people and found that Neanderthal growth actually falls within a comparable range.
This is potentially very exciting. If Neanderthal children did take a lot of care, where did this come from? Normally you’d expect the parents, but in this case there’s a strong possibility that the parents would be injured or dead, and the longer the childhood, the more likely a child is to become an orphan while a dependent. We’ve tended to think that life for a Neanderthal was nasty, brutish and short – and that they were too. Instead more and more evidence is suggesting that they were rather sophisticated.
I’ve now discovered there’s a Dental Anthropology Association. That sounds like hard work.
The press release is below.