The Roundup #91

Two big pieces of news this week. First, researchers think they have discovered the disease that killed massive numbers of Aztecs – some estimate 80% of the population – in 1545. And second, a man-made pyramidal structure on one of the Greek islands has also been found to include other remarkable finds, including the beginnings of urban enterprise nearly 4,000 years ago.

Beyond that, here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From the CBC:

The 2016 discovery of a beautifully preserved antler arrow and bronze arrowhead found in the Yukon has been announced.

From Archaeology:

Further reporting on the disease – called “cocolitzli” in primary sources – that killed so many Aztecs in the 16th century.

Further reporting also on the pyramidal site at Dhaskalio in Greece.

Evidence of beer brewing has been identified in Greece dating to the Bronze Age. I’m not sure if this pushes the date back for brewing beer in Greece, so if anyone has any follow up to this, let me know.

From the Smithsonian:

Excavations – led by former Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, Zahi Hawass – have begun on what could possibly be the tomb of Ankhesenamun, the sister-queen of King Tut.


Best of 2017 Roundup

There’s been a lot in the news this year – not all of it great (mostly the gameshow antics coming out of the US) – but there have been some great discoveries this year that will reinforce your love of the world and all the history in it. One thing I noticed while going back over my posts from this year is that I apparently only started regular weekly roundups in July. The routine has turned out to be a good one, and there’s lots to look back on and enjoy again.

This “Best of” list has nothing to do with clicks, likes, celebrity, or star-power. Rather it’s a selection of the stories from this past year that I found particularly endearing. Enjoy!


My ongoing love of very old votive objects – particularly Venus figurines – was well fed this year with this discovery from Turkey.

The seat of the ancient kingdom of Rheged has been identified in Scotland.

The ongoing construction of Metro Line C in Rome has yielded some fantastic finds, including the barracks of the Praetorian Guard.

New evidence suggests that Greek theatres had moveable sets.

Evidence that Phoenicians manufactured disposable figures of gods makes for an all new dimension to this commercial, seafaring people.

What is being called “Little Pompeii” has been discovered near Lyon in France.

The USS Indianapolis has been discovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Philippines.

Connections between the Viking and Arab worlds are becoming more clear following the identification of Arab text on Viking silk.

A possible inscription by the mysterious Sea Peoples is being translated from Luwian.

One of many stories of repatriation this year, marble from the Nemi ships is being returned to Italy.

Previously classified documents regarding President John F. Kennedy have been released and are being reviewed.

Better late than never, Ovid’s exile has been overturned.

Excavations have identified Caesar’s original landing site in Britain.

Archaeologists are releasing images of the items discovered in the Griffin Warrior tomb at Pylos.

And my person favourite of the year: wolves have been seen around Rome again for the first time in decades.


It seems like a long time ago, but ISIS/ISIL/Daesh destroyed much of the ancient site of Palmyra, including the famous Tetrapylon back in January.

Also from January is a rather appalling story of plans to build a freeway under Stonehenge. Paving paradise and putting up a parking lot seems positively ideal in comparison.

A live cannon ball discovered in Quebec City during routine construction dates back to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in the 1700s.


The history of citrus fruit is ever changing, most recently due to the work of archaeobotanist Dafna Langgut.

A watercolour painting of a bird has been discovered in Antarctica.

A triceratops was discovered during construction work in Denver, Colorado.

What appears to be a figure with a feathered headdress was unearthed in Siberia.

Possibly the oldest original manuscript of the 100 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade has been saved from auction after France declared it a national treasure.

The oldest known compound eye has been identified from a fossil more than 500 million years old.

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.


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!


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 #44

On this historic day, as France battles the tiny nation of Iceland for a berth in the Euro Cup semi-finals, I may find it hard to concentrate while watching this match – particularly since France has just gone up 2-0 in the first 20 minutes! – but I’ll do my best.

There was a #tbt article this week on refereeing in gladiatorial combats. And Mary Beard spoke to the Times Literary Supplement about the EU referendum.

With that, and without further ado, here is this week’s roundup. Enjoy!


Arson experts are ever in demand as archaeologists in Denmark are currently investigating whether a Viking palace was deliberately set alight nearly a thousand years ago.

An example of why I love archaeologists: having found a hunk of rock in southern Greece, archaeologists suggest it is part of the throne of the kings of Mycenae, because of course.

At the site of Hippos, near the Sea of Galilee, archaeologists believe they may have identified a sanctuary of Pan, following the discovery of a bronze mask of the god nearby.

Artefacts are popping up all over the place, most recently on a beach in Israel, where a lifeguard discovered a 12th century Crusader-era oil lamp during his regular rounds.

A medieval weapons manufacturing site has been discovered near Lake Baikal in Siberia.

In Hungary, work is ongoing at the site of the Mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, where it is possible that the remains of his son may be discovered in the mosque next door.

It’s entirely possible that the partial remains of the Buddha have been discovered in Nanjing.

Ancient languages never cease being tricky, as attempts to translate this stone stele are proving.

From the Smithsonian:

If you’ve ever wanted to know what the Confederate “Rebel Yell” sounded like, here you go.

The schooner Royal Albert has been discovered in Lake Ontario after she sank in 1868.



The Roundup #40

Not much going on this week, or rather not much getting reported on. But that could have a wide variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with the fact that the Toronto Raptors just made it to the Eastern Conference Finals (no, seriously, it didn’t).

Enough beating about the bush. Here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!


The Muscogee Creek people of Florida are working to restore their cultural traditions to their lives.

Evidence of female human sacrifice from Peru further indicates the ‘great cultural upheaval’ that was going on at the time.

Possibly the world’s oldest axe has been discovered in Australia.

A New Jersey family may have found the site where Washington and his troops camped after crossing the Delaware during the American Revolutionary War.

And a small Egyptian sarcophagus from the 6th century BC contains the remains of a fetus approximately 18 weeks old.

From the Guardian:

From artefacts discovered in a sink hole in Florida, archaeologists are reexamining the history of native peoples in Pre-Columbian America.