All posts by meggiemacdonald

The Roundup #62

The world may not have ended on Friday with the inauguration of Idiot Boy, but it sure feels like it did. “Alternative facts” are now a thing (I guess we’ve moved on from #fakenews because the new Administration doesn’t yet have control of the media). On Saturday, something like three million people marched in protest across all seven continents (yes, there were even people in Antarctica protesting the sorry state of affairs in the US right now), and that gave hope to a large number of people who do really feel the world they know may be coming to an end.

In other news, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/The Islamic State destroyed the Tetrapylon in Palmyra after retaking part of the city. And a couple of idiots tried to sneak in to the Colosseum and fell four meters.

Otherwise, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

The skeleton of a horse has been discovered near the Colosseum in Rome, likely dating from the High Middle Ages.

At a hill fort excavation in southern Scotland, archaeologists feel they may have identified the royal seat of the ancient kingdom of Rheged.

A fortified gatehouse at the entrance to a copper mine has been discovered in Israel.

An inscribed pendant has been discovered at Sobibor extermination camp in Poland.

An unusual stone found in Croatia may have been kept as a curiosity by Neanderthals living there at the time.

From the CBC:

Evidence from the Bluefish Caves in Yukon Territory in Canada may reveal the site to be the oldest in North America.

The Roundup #61

As America marches slowly towards its demise, I would compare it to the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940, but that would be rude. Although, one could say that neither group really knew what they were getting in to until they got there and realized that they’re fucked.

But the archaeological world continues to trudge along, hunting for grant funding, and work permits in countries where most people are worried about getting shot. So here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

A toy discovered in 1890 is helping archaeologists understand how chariots were designed in the Roman world.

A cistern used as a food storage facility has been discovered during construction in London, England.

Evidence of long-distance trade has been identified from stone tools and flint unearthed during construction work in St. Andrews, Scotland.

The earliest evidence of silk production yet discovered has been identified in Henan province, China.

Delays in studying the site at Oahu where the Attack on Pearl Harbor occurred continue to generate questions about the events and the site itself.

From the Guardian:

Plans are in place to dig a traffic tunnel underneath Stonehenge, ostensibly to relieve traffic congestion around the site, while archaeologists and historians are decrying the vandalization of the remarkable site.

And a curator of the Folger Shakespeare Library has found definitive proof among research on the Elizabethan College of Heralds that Shakespeare the player is also Shakespeare from Stratford who tried to apply for a coat of arms through the College in the 16th century.

The Roundup #60

Welcome to 2017, everyone! Things are still insane, but now we’ve got a whole new year to add to the insanity that happens in it. I took time away from the internets over the holidays, so here’s the latest roundup from then to now. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Drones are taking high resolution photos of caribou fences in the Northwest Territories believed to have been built by the Sahtu Dene a century ago.

Rock art showing a menorah, a cross, and a key have been identified at a site in Israel.

Excavations on the Japanese island of Honshu are yielding new information on the dimensions of a medieval fort that fell to the Tokugawa Shogunate after a prolonged siege.

If you don’t know already, I’m in love with neolithic figurines, and this discovery in Turkey has given me goosebumps. More on this here.

A prehistoric garden has been discovered near Vancouver, Canada.

An Egyptian relief from the reign of Hatshepsut has been repatriated.

In the Smithsonian:

Apparently bats like to argue.

The Roundup #59

Further ensuing madness. The American Electoral College has spoken, and a fair number of people are huddling under blankets in their closets. Palmyra was lost (again) to ISIS, and Aleppo is getting wiped off the face of the earth (some more), and well, yeah. On the upside, I’m on holiday now until the New Year. That helps, right?

This week’s roundup was a nice distraction. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Banquo’s Walk may be less poltergeist and more practical, as it appears that the site was a clay mine rather than the site of the perambulations of one of literature’s most famous ghosts.

Facial reconstruction has offered us a glimpse of the visage of a man who lived in Jericho nearly 10,000 years ago.

What was previously thought to be a minor village appears instead to be a major settlement in northern Greece.

Excavations are ongoing at Abydos in Egypt, specifically a boat burial likely associated with Senusret III.

The remains of a beautiful wood panel have been discovered in an ancient road on Honshu in Japan.

From the Smithsonian:

A rare first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica has sold for a record $3.7 million.

From The New York Times:

The restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece continues apace.

The Roundup #58

Everyone lost their minds this week, and with good reason, when a feathered dinosaur tail complete with a few vertebrae was discovered encased in amber in Myanmar. The CBC and The Economist were two such sites that picked up on this story. There was also the remarkable Twitter spat between a (clearly uneducated) member of UKIP and Cambridge Professor of Classics Mary Beard, although the outrage was limited to the tweets from the UKIP dude. Professor Beard engages angry people on Twitter with a grace and consideration that I certainly wouldn’t have the fortitude for. Kudos!

Otherwise, without further ado, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Evidence of malaria in the remains of people from Italy has been confirmed by geneticists at McMaster University in Canada.

‘Tis the season for reporting on diseases, it seems. Evidence from pots from an Iron Age fort in Germany suggest a hemorrhagic fever was present in the population in the last half of the first millenium BCE.

Facial reconstruction from the skull of Robert the Bruce offers us a glimpse of what the Medieval Scottish king may have looked like.

From the Smithsonian:

A two thousand year old pet cemetery has been discovered in Egypt. Stephen King and Molly aka The Thing of Evil would be pleased.

From the CBC:

Further evidence regarding the doomed Franklin Expedition suggests that low zinc levels may have exacerbated low immune function that contributed to the deaths of the crew of the HMS Erebus and Terror.

From the Guardian:

Shellfish from which the famed Tyrian purple was drawn appear to have vanished from the eastern Mediterranean, a likely result of rising ocean temperatures and loss of habitat.

The Roundup #57

The Trump Twitter Wars are establishing themselves as part of cultural lore, now that women and Alec Baldwin are firing back. And I learned today for the first time about the Nemi Ships.  Holy gods!

Otherwise, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Don’t forget to always clean your bodies, and your plates. Evidence from Lapa do Santo in Brazil suggest that people not only defleshed bodies before burial, but they may also have cannibalized them nearly 10,000 years ago.

A network of smugglers has been exposed and several items repatriated from the US to Egypt following work by US Immigration and Customs.

Bitumen from the Sutton Hoo site appears to have originated near the Dead Sea, suggesting that trade was more extensive than previously thought.

A pair of mummified legs likely belonged to Queen Nefertari, wife of Pharaoh Rameses II, have been identified in Italy. Still wondering where the rest of of her is, though…

Earthenworks discovered on the Japanese island of Kyushu may show evidence of an invasion during the 7th century from Korea.

A theatre in the Roman province of Thrace (modern Bulgaria, near Plovdiv) appears to be older than originally thought following the discovery of an inscription near the site dating to the reign of the Emperor Domitian.

From the Smithsonian:

A remarkable video feature on the restoration of a 17th century map found shoved up a chimney in Aberdeen.

A more detailed article on the recently discovered site outside Abydos in Egypt.

The Roundup #56

I’ve spent the weekend reorganizing the furniture in my house so that it works a little better and feels new and fresh, enjoying the new OK Go music video, and generally avoiding the post-truth era as much as possible.

As such, this week’s roundup is rather scant. Here goes. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Petroglyphs in Jordan are yielding intriguing information on nomadic peoples in the area thousands of years ago.

From The Guardian:

Intrepid researchers have discovered that Donald Trump’s grandfather was banished from Germany in the early part of the 20th century. Because of course.

From the Economist (just because):

Statistical evidence that the All Blacks are perhaps the most dominant rugby team ever.

From The New York Times:

Recent evidence suggests that one of the first recorded caesarean sections successfully performed was in Prague in 1337.

From JSTOR:

A feature on remembering Wounded Knee. If you don’t know what this is, read Dee Brown’s 1970 book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and you’ll never have to ask again.

The Weaponization of Language: Musings on the Rise of the Right and Protectionism in the Western World

I hate the word ‘waiting’. It’s so goddamned onomatopoeic. Long vowels punctuated by what appears to be a strong consonant – suggesting a climax or ending, perhaps? – only to be carried on with for another three letters, dragged along by the soft palate until you’re practically gurgling. Fuck ‘waiting’. At least with words like ‘stagnation’, you can feel your feet stuck in the mud. Or ‘boredom’, that sublimely alienating experience because it is so dependent on the individual.

And just as the rage peaks in cathartic waves, a pair of frightened animal eyes looks at you, and you realize you’ve been terrorizing another alienated being, one left alone by the necessities of the day-to-day. And that, truly, is the cause of the rage and the self-loathing and the fury and the tears that never actually come so that your eyes burn with the uselessness of it: the necessities of the day-to-day sap not only the will to live but the physical value in doing so. I don’t feel beyond frustration, that slightly itchy wool that sticks to you with the damp.

However, if “words, words, words… [are] all we’ve got to go on”, and if it cannot be considered entirely a saving ‘grace’, perhaps it can be in words where my frustration and rage vents into reality and I can once again know what it is to enjoy a day.

THE WEAPONIZATION OF LANGUAGE

Yes We Can. I’m With Her. Make America Great Again. Britain First. Better Together. As with so many things, the US election of late has affected the world at large and the way we think within it. Preaching the importance of civic engagement aside, let’s take a look at what we’re asked to engage with. An idea? Certainly. A slogan? Without any doubt at all. A common understanding? Now hang on a minute there… If understanding is wrought from comprehension and communication (and there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that’s true, as well as hardly any suggesting it’s false), we bring to the black-and-white fore something that is hardly either or both but always, as Schrodinger’s Cat, something in between.

The recent US election has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that one thing we are not doing is talking to each other. And as a result we don’t hear each other, we don’t listen, we don’t empathize, we don’t recognize. A permanent, polarizing social othering has anchored itself in the one avenue for political expression everyone is most familiar with: the ballot box. We vote for our candidate, not theirs. We vote for policies that will make our lives better, not those that would change the way we do things. We don’t consider that a policy that might not bear the kind of fruit we like on our ice cream sundaes might be in the best interest of more than just our bottom line.

And there you are: what is a bottom line? As I understand it, it is nothing more than the literal bottom line of a page – a financial statement, or ledger, in fact – where we see if we are ‘in the red’ or ‘in the black’ (as Interac would prefer us to be – great slogan, by the way!). When did any human society become reduced to red vs black, ahead or behind? Isn’t the whole existence of the nation state – although I understand that that term may be a tad anachronistic in some cases now – predicated on the complexities of the society that makes up a nation state existing in an eternal state of compromise? Give and take? Help and hinder? Show and tell?

Again, here’s the trouble. We’re not showing or telling anymore. We’re suggesting. And in the most political way possible, we are doing so without actually saying anything. Gods forbid the political establishment actually say something that could be taken as fact, or as an opinion, a position, or a thought! George Carlin ranted about this in one of his many great stand-up comedy shows, ultimately arguing that if we had kept the phrase ‘shell shock’ to describe the psychological affects of war on individuals, those individuals would not have to fight so hard or suffer in such silence for the support they so desperately need.

So what are we talking about here? We are talking about the weaponization of language. However, in a grotesque twist of fate, this weaponization has evolved counter to all other weapons of humankind. There are no targeting scanners, no weapons-lock mechanisms, no highly accurate surveys of the underground caverns for the Red October to escape through. Our words in the political sphere – so diluted of meaning as to suggest a myriad of potential ideas – have been weaponized through over-generalization. We are not sure, so we guess.

For example: “Make America Great Again”. What does ‘great’ mean in this context? Who is the do-er of the action ‘make’? Is it a command, relinquishing all responsibility from the person uttering this phrase to the people hearing it? And ‘again’? When was this? Do we know? Can we know? Even the word ‘America’ leaves much to be desired in its lack of cohesion. What ‘America’ are we talking about? Whose ‘America’ do we mean? How can we follow instructions if they are not clear? “Just following orders” is the refrain of a bygone era, but do you know which one? Are you sure?

The ‘aww shucks’ era of public speaking needs to end. If you don’t understand, find out. If you can’t understand, try. We’re not all just Average Joes because ‘The Average Joe’ was an idea developed in this hideously diluted politico-speak to make sure no one felt left out. Don’t feel left out! Get involved! Don’t be afraid your voice won’t be heard, or that you’ve missed the point, or that you don’t understand. Miss the point! Don’t understand! In your apparent confusion you will lead political language into the light. If you don’t understand, someone hasn’t done their job to make it understandable. And no, I do NOT mean by dumbing down an idea into words of five letters or less. Slogans and catch phrases don’t explain anything. They offer a hook, nothing more. Conversation, dialogue, discourse, discussion, consideration, debate allow people to work out an idea, try it from different angles, see where it fits in the house, or if it should be on the porch instead. There’s a reason so many of those words in English start with a ‘d’. Duh!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHTFULNESS:

George Carlin’s full bit on soft language and political correctness, and ‘the intention of the words behind them that make them good or bad’, and the importance of context, ‘you can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth. I hate words that conceal the truth…’

The Atlantic’s response to Trump’s ‘locker room talk’ and the way it’s being spun in the media – not ‘explicit sex talk’ but ‘sexual assault’.

The etymology of political language, starting with ambition.

Neil MacGregor’s Guardian article on Britain’s view of itself.

The Roundup #55

It’s been one hell of a couple weeks. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Leonard Cohen died, and I now know what’s left of a body after it’s hit by a train. All fun stuff, you can imagine.

During the Mosul offensive in Iraq, it appears that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh have made efforts to destroy anything in their path as they retreat, including more of the ancient site of Nimrud in the north. Reuters has reported on it, as has the Smithsonian – specifically regarding the ziggurat destroyed there – and History Today offers a retrospective on the city for those hoping to learn more.

So, as a respite, here is the roundup from the last two weeks. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Otzi the Ice Man’s outfit was assembled from five different animal species, suggesting there was more going on than straight-up subsistence living.

Would you like a crocodile mummy? Why not 50 for the price of one? New evidence shows that a crocodile mummy actually contains the mummies of 47 hatchlings as well, folded into the wrappings of the larger animal.

Does anyone remember the scavenger-doctor character Tom Hanks played in Cloud Atlas? Hunting around for real teeth for dentures wasn’t made up, as these from Tuscany and suggest.

A possible site for the final resting place of the last emperor of the Inca may be on the table, after archaeologists began excavating at Maiqui-Machay in Ecuador.

An odd thing: a pot from a Roman camp site in Switzerland containing oil lamps with images of Luna, gladiators, peacocks, and other figures.

Archaeologists working at a site in Kazakhstan have unearthed stone structures containing a variety of treasures suggesting that the people living here were wealthy as well as originally nomadic.

Mosaic floors found in Turkey! Need I say more?

Hundreds of graves for monks have been discovered at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire.

A feature on an Islamic palace found near Jericho.

Petroglyphs in Hawaii were uncovered after shifting sand revealed them in July.

A burial causeway in Aswan dating to the 12th dynasty has been discovered in Egypt.

Evidence of a mythical flood that ushered in the Xia dynasty in China has been discovered.

Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre is currently being excavated in London. Of the many items discovered there are ticket boxes and parts of costumes.

And ongoing excavations at Tel Gezer in Israel are revealing some stunning finds.

The Roundup #54

Just a few days until the American election and the anti-Trump/anti-Clinton rhetoric is beyond exhausting. As Obama says: “Don’t boo. Vote.” And as one of the mother’s in Titanic said, “It’ll all be over soon.”

So without further ado, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From Archaeology.org:

Osteologists report that they may have found the remains of Amelia Earhart (again, some more) after examining the records of bones (rather than the bones themselves, which have been lost) discovered on a remote island in Kiribati.

Evidence from caves in Ethiopia suggest a more ubiquitous use of ochre throughout the Middle Stone Age.

A remarkably well-preserved shipwreck has been discovered in shallow waters off the Aland Islands in Finland.

Ostrich eggshell beads of incredible craftsmanship have been discovered in Siberia.

A Phoenician shipwreck off the coast of Malta has yielded more information on local and international trade in the area.

A massive find: a hippodrome mosaic has been discovered in Cyprus, one of less than 10 on the subject so far unearthed.