Psychedelic Disney Elephant

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I am an admirer of all things psychedelic in art and music. My wife recently bought a second-hand copy of Disney’s animated feature film Dumbo — dubbed in Finnish of all languages. But we’re a multilingual family and the kids are used to someone always gabbling incomprehensibly, so they didn’t mind.

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Anthropology Book Reviews On-line

The Anthropology Review Database currently contains 2667 reviews and citations, almost exclusively of books/films/CDs on social anthropology. A cool feature of the site is that they offer review copies to volunteer reviewers: currently there are 162 titles available. So if you feel that you would have something intelligent to say about a book on Japanese American beauty pageants, one on political life in Cairo’s New Quarters, or a film about the Karen people of Burma — then get thee to the web site and sign up for duty.

Thanks to Howard Williams for the tip.

Migration Period Beast Noodles

Scandinavian animal art starts in the late 4th century AD and goes through a long series of innovative styles until it’s abandoned in the 12th century and a naive version of Continental Romanesque takes over.

One of the weirdest, funniest and most abstruse varieties of animal art is what Bernhard Salin called Style I. It was invented in Jutland about AD 450 and flourished for less than a century in its South Scandinavian central areas. Wilhelm Holmquist characterised it as the “style of dismemberment”, and that pretty much tells you what it’s about. Most Style I artwork comes down to us as small pieces of cast copper-alloy or silver metalwork with decorative relief panels, densely packed with something that looks like ramen noodles. If you take your time and know what to look for, you’ll find bits of animals in the noodles, and after a while entire beasts will coalesce out of the mess. Usually they’re fighting each other rabidly. In some cases you’ll see them brooding among bits of human bodies, as if they had just made a meal of some would-be dragon slayer. Bente Magnus has suggested that these compositions are about the Twilight of the Gods, a complex of myths that may have felt quite believable in the chaotic Migration Period after the collapse of Western Rome.

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My dear colleague Barry Ager at the British Museum sent me an off-print the other day of a paper he’d just published. It’s a study of a piece from the workshop of a Style I artisan: a lead model for a sword pommel of c. AD 500, measuring 93 by 18 by 10 mm. The pommel sits at the end of the sword grip and keeps the weapon from flying out of your hand when you swing it. Lead models were an intermediate stage on the way from an original made of boxwood or beeswax to the finished cast metalwork. They were intended to have a very short life span before being re-melted, and are thus very uncommon finds. This particular piece is unique but unfortunately decontextualised, that is, we don’t know where it was found or what kind of site it was. But it’s most likely a clandestine metal detector find from southern Scandinavia or southern England.

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Achiever Without A Cause

A gifted friend of mine suffers from a continuous psychological dilemma. He wants to be more productive and become somewhat famous, but he’s pretty lazy and there isn’t anything in particular he really wants to do. So, despite being hugely talented, he often feels inadequate. His problem is that he wants to have done things, but he doesn’t want to do them.

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New Story from the Grumpy Old Bookman

i-ca5afe797d97b39ce031b1438c22351d-pp517ebdae.pngBritish author and elderblogger Michael Allen, a.k.a. the Grumpy Old Bookman, has just released Lucius the Club. It’s a new 48-page crime story available as a free CC-licensed PDF and a €4 chapbook from Lulu. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve enjoyed his other recent fiction very much and I follow his blog on a daily basis.

Get the file and read a few pages! What have you got to lose?

Update 21 March: Read it yesterday on my handheld. Excellent work, evoking a very English world of post-war kitchen-sink noir.

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No Career Available in Scandinavian Archaeology

A recurring theme in my blogging of the past year (e.g. here: 1234) has been that a degree in Scandinavian archaeology (BA, MA or PhD) is almost entirely useless from a career perspective. The reason is that our labour market is over-populated at all levels, from the lowly shovel-wielder to the august professor. In my past posts, I’ve documented this in various ways.

Since getting my degree in 2003, I’ve applied for twelve academic jobs in Scandinavia, all requiring a PhD in archaeology. A number of temporary jobs have also been given discreetely to people already within departments, which is the standard way to get teaching experience, but the twelve listed below are almost all that have been offered publicly (and one of them was never given to anyone, as funding turned out to be wanting). I have thus amassed a little dataset that should be representative.

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Science Blogging Anthology Published

The Open Laboratory - order hereCoturnix over at A Blog Around the Clock announces that the 2006 Science Blogging Anthology has now been published. The title is The Open Laboratory. Very apt! As mentioned here before, the volume contains a piece by yours truly. Get it while it’s fresh!


Zivkovic, Bora. 2007. The Open Laboratory. The best writing on science blogs 2006. Chapel Hill, NC: Lulu. 336 pp.
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New Golden Sword Hilt From Lincolnshire

The British Museum has purchased a set of 7th century golden garnet-studded sword hilt mounts from a metal detectorist who found them at Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, England, in 2002.

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It’s a funny find: the hilt has clearly been deposited in one piece with all the mounts held together by the tang of the sword, but there’s no trace of the blade and no evidence for any ploughed-out grave. It seems to be a well-documented case of a contextless find. Unless there’s a settlement there that isn’t mentioned in the BM press release.

The interlace decoration looks non-animal-art from the pics and is most likely of English make. Its closest parallels in Scandinavian art is Salin’s Style II, Arwidsson’s sub-style C, dating from c. 600 to 750. Link.

Thanks to Svante Fischer for the tip.

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