Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Quirks in Blogger

Blogger has some quirks that I've tried to fix recently.  All of 'blogs I follow' in the sidebar got knocked off.  Other weird stuff happens that seem like stability issues.  So I'm still adding stuff back in to the sidebar as I realize they're missing.

The Blogger app for small devices sucks as well.  You'd think a zillion dollar company would have an app that is a little more stable and user friendly.  Nope.

Anyhow, bear with me.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Britain's Bronze Age Mummies (Time Team)

Bronze Age freaks, articulated display skeletons, mummies and other weird stuff.
Beam to you tv.  1 hr episode.

Click settings for subtitles, then click your preferred subtitle language.

Barbarians Don't Need Archaeology or Cursive (Tony Robbins)

Sir Tony Robinson (the narrator of Time Team) is in the news recently (Guardian) concerning the removal of archaeology and certain other subjects from the A-Level GCE exams in Britain.

For all intents and purposes, the British GCE is the college entrance equivalent of the SAT or ACT in the United States, also required for a high school diploma.

This follows a general trend in the West to gouge out everything that isn't one of two or three core subjects, but 'reading' may be too controversial or discriminatory to last much longer itself.  Much of this is being driven by institutional reaction to social change and trends, but there is also modern pedagogical cancer that views learning as a statistical science; achieve the most economical effort with minimal divergence in outcomes.

At one time adults taught and children learned with the goal of becoming roundly capable and independent citizens, maybe some would even become enlightened.  Now it's all metric-based bullshit.

I guess barbarians don't need to know cursive, speaking, music, history or archaeology.  We shouldn't challenge students.  In a way, that makes sense.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Call for Boggers (Guardian UK)

I just entered a contest to blog on an archaeology/anthropology topic for the Guardian UK.

The submission page is rather simple; click on the link and it'll take you to an easy day question form. I know that some of you commenting on this blog have blogs, degrees and professional experience, so just want to throw this out there for the hoodied masses.

I'd post my submission but I'm running through airports this evening.  My own idea was concerning the destruction of our archaeological heritage and landscapes.  Let me know if you submit something and good luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Creating Ancient GeoSpatial Model (Pellegrini, Pouncett, Pearson, Richards, 2016)

An Isotope Geostastical Model via Nature:  Supplementary excel on burials [here].

All previous human mobility studies have compared ancient individuals directly against various geologies that imprecisely deduced that person's history of movement.  The authors spend some time describing why this is problematic, the obvious problem being that without context, the isotopic values are even more difficult to interpret.

What they do here is slightly different in that they look at the variation of an area and subtract the obvious movers (or account for greater variation).  They presume that the majority of non-misfits are local (and on predicted values by the local geology) and then create a profile for what a local of a given area looks like.  (I read it quickly, but I think that is close to the reduced version)

This is part of steady drip from the Beaker People Project

Tooth enamel oxygen "isoscapes" show a high degree of mobility in prehistoric Britain
Pellegrini, M. et al. Tooth enamel oxygen “isoscapes” show a high degree of human mobility in prehistoric Britain. Sci. Rep. 6, 34986; doi: 10.1038/srep34986 (2016)
A geostatistical model to predict human skeletal oxygen isotope values (δ18Op) in Britain is presented here based on a new dataset of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age human teeth. The spatial statistics which underpin this model allow the identification of individuals interpreted as ‘non-local’ to the areas where they were buried (spatial outliers). A marked variation in δ18Op is observed in several areas, including the Stonehenge region, the Peak District, and the Yorkshire Wolds, suggesting a high degree of human mobility. These areas, rich in funerary and ceremonial monuments, may have formed focal points for people, some of whom would have travelled long distances, ultimately being buried there. The dataset and model represent a baseline for future archaeological studies, avoiding the complex conversions from skeletal to water δ18O values–a process known to be problematic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Environmental Changes in the Balearic Islands (Burjachs et al, 2016)

As surprising as this may be, the Balearic Islands were unoccupied until around 2,200 B.C.  If before this, then it must have been an almost invisibly small population.

In essence, it is at the cusp of the Beaker period that humans begin occupying the islands and very quickly a number of its weird native animals suddenly go extinct and massive soil erosion begins taking place.  It is within this frame that it was speculated (maybe Waldren?) that people with a Beaker identity were responsible, as I believed due to slash and burn agricultural practices.

At least from the abstract, this process was independent of human activity and began occurring before human occupation and those climatic factors are almost totally responsible.  Maybe there is a combination of climate change that is exasperated by human activity.

Overview of environmental changes and human colonization in the Balearic Islands (Western Mediterranean) and their impacts on vegetation composition during the Holocene

Francesc Burjachs, , Ramon Pérez-Obiol, , Llorenç Picornell-Gelabert, , Jordi Revelles, , Gabriel Servera-Vives, , Isabel Expósito, , Errikarta-Imanol Yll,
(2016) Journal of Archaeological Science


According to radiometric dates and the current state of research, the Balearic Islands were not colonized by humans prior to c. 4420/4220 cal yr BP. Therefore, it is possible to know the natural evolution of the landscape of the Balearic Islands for the first two-thirds of the Holocene (c. 10,000 to c. 4300 cal yr BP). This study aims to improve our understanding of the respective roles of human societies and/or climate in the transformation of vegetation cover during the Late Holocene in this Western Mediterranean archipelago. The results show the importance and control of climate oscillations in the evolution of vegetation throughout the Early and Middle Holocene. Our data clearly show that the transformation of the landscape started before the first human settlements. In Minorca (north-eastern Gymnesian Islands), this upheaval occurred between 5825 and 4675 cal yr BP (fourth to third millennium BC), while in Majorca (the largest of the Gymnesian Islands) the transition is less well dated, oscillating between 7169 and 2535 cal yr BP. In the southern Pityusic Islands, observed changes in Ibiza are less pronounced and coincide with the 4.2 cal kyr BP climate event, synchronous with human colonization. The correlation between forest fires and rapid climate events, as well as the resilience of vegetation until the Middle Ages (tenth century) in Ibiza, suggest that the evolution of climatic conditions is the preponderant parameter for explaining Holocene vegetation changes on these islands.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"7 Bizarre Ancient Cutlures"

Andrew sends clickbait via LiveScience

"7 Bizarre Ancient Cultures That History Forgot"

7 of 7 is the Beaker Phenomenon..

Oliver Lermercier made this point in a recent presentation, that 'the real enigma of the Beaker Culture is not the Beakers themselves, but the limits of archaeological science given such a narrow period so distant in the past and without a historical record' or that effect.

And to that point, as this distance in time is closed with decades of research to come, maybe the adjective 'enigma' will be replaced with 'pioneering' as the people of this time become slightly less mysterious and much more personable.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Origin of Domestic Cats

Of cats and men: the paleogenetic history of the dispersal of cats in the ancient world
bioRxiv preprint first posted online Oct. 9, 2016; doi:

The origin and dispersal of the domestic cat remain elusive despite its importance to human societies around the world. Archaeological evidence for domestication centers in the Near East and in Egypt is contested, and genetic data on modern cats show that Felis silvestris lybica, the subspecies of wild cat inhabiting at present the Near East and Northern Africa, is the only ancestor of the domestic cat. Here we provide the first broad geographic and chronological dataset of ancient cat mtDNA sequences, drawing on archaeological specimens from across western Eurasia and northern and eastern Africa,
dating from throughout the Holocene and spanning ~9,000 years. We characterized the ancient phylogeography of F. s. lybica, showing that it expanded up to southeastern Europe prior to the Neolithic, and reconstructed the subsequent movements that profoundly transformed its distribution and shaped its early cultural history. We found that maternal lineages from both the Near East and Egypt contributed to the gene pool of the domestic cat at different historical times, with the Near Eastern population providing the first major contribution during the Neolithic and the Egyptian cat spreading efficiently across the Old World during the Classical period. This expansion pattern and range suggest dispersal along maritime and terrestrial routes of trade and connectivity. Late trait selection is suggested by the first occurrence in our dataset of the major allele for blotched-tabby body marking not earlier than during the Late Middle Ages.

Upcoming Stuff...

Here's some upcoming symposiums:

1.  Archéologie et Gobelets XXI

May 17-21 in Kiel. Societe Prehistorique Francaise [Link]

"Preliminary programme
Wednesday 17th May 2017
Arrival, registration and welcome/reception
Thursday 18th May 2017
Session I: “Beakerscapes”: New Perspectives on the Bell Beaker Phenomenon
Conference dinner
Friday 19th May 2017
Excursion around Kiel
Saturday 20th May 2017
Session II: Beyond the Beaker: New Finds, Methods and Data
Practical workshop: bring your own Beakers!"*
(From the Call for papers [Link])

2.  Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium

November 18, 19 at UCL London [Link and Link]

"The 3rd symposium aims to explore how archaeological research can aid our understanding of social change during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods (4000 – 1500 cal. BC), both in the UK and beyond. The theme of this year’s conference; ‘anarchy in the UK?’, challenges speakers to construct alternative pasts that either diverge from, disrupt, or invert linear narratives of social evolution. Must ‘progress’ remain inextricably linked with increasing levels of hierarchical control, or does the evidence suggest a more chaotic and socially pluralistic past?"

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Brotlaibidol, Brotlaibidole, Loaf Idols

What the heck are these things?! 

Via Welt

The above brotlaibidol came out of grave that is being called "Prince of the Nebra Sky Disk".  Story at Welt.

Brotlaibidol aus Mangolding Lkr. Regensburg (commons)
Brotlaibidol (German) or Brotlaibidole (Italian) or in English commonly known as "loaf idols", they appear from North Central Italy and Slovakia to Northern Germany in the Bronze Age, mostly with cultures born from or influenced by the prior Bell Beaker including Polada, Terremerre and Unetice, although one partial loaf from Italy appears to be from a Beaker context at the turn of the 2nd millennium.

These are called "loaf idols" and are rather small, usually made of unbaked clay in a tiny tablet format.  Some appear to have been painted red and included white encrustation, similar to Beaker pottery, which may further highlight their funerary function.

There is a great question as to what these objects were for.  Do they contain primitive proto-writing like the pre-Elamite tablets?  Are they stamps for leather or another material?  Do they record quantitative or contractual information in primitive way?
Closeup from the Polada Culture

Seeing 3D images might be helpful from The Brotlaibidole project.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Netheravon collared urn (3D Interactive)

I can't get this interactive Sketchfab model to work.  I'll post now and try on another device later.

At Wessex Archaeology, Karen Nichols has posted the reconstruction and modelling of this weirdly enormous Early Bronze Age urn that was found in Wiltshire.  It was found with an archer's bracer, copper chisel, a decorated bone handle of a sort, and containing cremated human bone.

Based on the materials I'm guessing a single man was cremated, not an entire village!

This is just a snip, you'll have to click below.

Here's the link to Karen's blog [here]

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Economics and Assery (Shai et al, 2016)

Here's an interesting paper on the importance of the ass in the developing Near Eastern World Economy.  Before I get to the paper, let's start by asking a simple question.

Based on the morphology of horses in Western Europe in the Early Bronze Age, is it possible that many of the unrefined tarpan-like domestic horses are in-fact hinnies or mules?  I'm not sure a tarpan or hinny are distinguishable from the skeleton or teeth alone because they are very similar, but we do know that 1) morphologically modern horses were present 2)  asses were also present before disappearing again.*

Generally, it is in the Beaker period that horses begin appearing in Western Europe before exponentiating rapidly in the Bronze Age.  (Davis, 1987)
Donkeys from Tomb of Ti, 5th Dynasty (2,500-2,300 B.C.)

We have seen unequivocal genetic proof that the ass was present in Chalcolithic Iberia (Cardoso et al, 2013) and there should be reasonable certainty that this misplaced Iberian beast was a domestic work and trade animal.  Within the context of Iberian trade networks reaching into Continental Europe, the importance of proving the existence of this animal at this location/time period cannot be underscored enough.

The authors of this paper examine the surprisingly deep domestic history of the ass, but also consider the physical stress indicators that point to the ass being used as a pack animal.  They stress the importance of this animal in the formation of a sophisticated economy that allowed commodities to be moved with greater efficiency.

Another interesting facet to the Shai et al case is the architectural implications in ancient Near Eastern cities for accommodating a donkey with a pack.  This may be true as well for some of the passageways of walled enclosures of Portugal.    

The Importance of the Donkey as a Pack Animal in the Early Bronze Age Southern Levant:
A View from Tell es-Safi/ Gath

By Itzhaq Shai, Haskel J. Greenfield, Annie Brown, Shira Albaz and Aren M. Maeir
Deutscher Verein zur Erforschung Palastinas
(2016) [Link]

In this paper, we review the evidence for the use of the domestic donkey as a mode of transportation in the Early Bronze Age. The study will present the domestic donkey remains (artefactual and zoological) and their archaeological context from the Early Bronze Age III domestic neighborhood at Tell esSafi/ Gath. The remains indicate the significant role that donkeys played in the daily life of the inhabitants. This reflects on our understanding of their role in the trade networks and mode of transportation that existed within the emerging urban cultures in the southern Levant during the 3rd mill. B.C.E.
* It could be that the ass periodically fell out of favor due to innovations and circumstances that kept making it obsolete in Europe.  These could be the improvement or availability of roads, bridges, carts, wagons, shipping, shepherd dogs, ponies, draught horses and fields.

Conversely, as the lion and wolf population dwindled and Europe became less wild, attacks on livestock [this post] became less common.  The frugal mid-line browsing donkey is less desirable as Europe is deforested.  Basically it's a case of having the awesome skills but in the wrong job.