Viking Period Amber Gaming Pieces

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The other day, I collected the larger finds from 2005’s boat grave excavations at the conservator’s studio. Among them are 23 amber gaming pieces, of which I have now taken nice photographs. The pieces’ median dimensions are about 35 by 24 mm.
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New Apples in Stereo Album

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Robert Schneider, one of my favourite neopsychedelic musicians, has a new album out, this time with his main band again, The Apples in Stereo. His previous album Expo was issued in 2005 with The Marbles and is an excellent synth-driven yet lo-fi effort. Before that he did two non-psych albums in 2005 (with Ulysses) and 2002 (with the Apples) which didn’t do much for me, so the last time the Apples released anything good was in 2000 with the radiant Discovery of a World Inside the Moone.

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Winter Dig Blues

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A buddy of mine sent me a reminder today of why I am happy to not be a contract archaeologist. It’s twelve below zero centigrade around here, and still a number of unfortunate Linköping colleagues are out digging. And they’re not digging Tut-ankh-amen’s tomb today either: apparently they’ve been assigned the task of excavating and documenting an ancient ploughsoil. Yes, an expanse of clayey soil churned by the ard or plough a long, long time ago. Poor bastards!

See those fuzzy blotches in the pic? They’re snowflakes.

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Village of Shame and Honour

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In recent years I’ve been involved in some archaeological fieldwork at Skamby in Kuddby parish, Östergötland, Sweden. I like to get a handle on the names of places where I work, what they mean, how they used to be pronounced in the Middle Ages. I was particularly interested in learning about Skamby, because read in modern Swedish, this very uncommon name means “Shame Village”.

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Mooney & Sokal

Here‘s a must-read for anyone interested in the integrity of science, in the face both of post-modern hyperrelativism and of politically motivated distortion. It’s a succinct op-ed in the L.A. Times co-written by Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, and Alan Sokal, the man who killed pretentious post-modernism with his 1996 hoax paper “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”. Say Mooney & Sokal:

“… we propose a combination of political activism and institutional reform. Congress needs to establish safeguards to protect the integrity of scientific information in Washington — strong whistle-blower protections for scientists who work in government agencies would be a good start.

We also need a strengthening of the government scientific advisory apparatus, starting with the revival of the Office of Technology Assessment. And we need congressional committees to continue with their investigations of cases of science abuse within the Bush administration, in order to learn what other reforms are necessary.”

Narrow-Gauge Mind

i-ef7ff2642e0ee7790611456b0fc89841-T304712A.jpgMany people who excel at something do so by concentrating on a few tightly defined areas of interest. A colleague of mine once explained to me that she has a narrow-gauge mind (Sw. smalspårig). I like that expression a lot: this woman hasn’t got a one-track mind (Sw. enkelspårig), nor a narrow mind, it’s just narrow gauge. In her case, it seems that the tracks of her mind lead either to Iron Age small finds or to reading mystery novels.

Another colleague once conversed with me for the first time when I was between marriages and pretty one-tracked on the subject of women. This friendly stranger listened patiently as I recounted my recent woes and victories, and then replied, in his cultured Scanian dialect: “Yes, I understand completely. Myself, I’m only really interested in two things: archaeology and sex.”

Perhaps anyone who dedicates their life to something as abstruse and non-lucrative as archaeology is likely to have a narrow-gauge mind.

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La Grange

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For about a week, the relentless riff from ZZ Top’s 1973 hit song “La Grange” has been playing in my head. Such a great, great song, not least the powerful and exact drumming. And the vocals are really funny, with the singer sounding like a right old lecher.

So I got the album, Tres Hombres, and read up a little on ZZ Top. Like the Stones, they’re the kind of great band you never think to get any records from, because they’re all over rock radio anyway.

I was kind of stunned to find that the trio’s members were 23, 24 and 24 in 1973. They must have looked pretty incongruous, three fresh-faced white Texas kids sounding like grizzled blues veterans from the wrong side of the tracks.

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