Taken Up the Slack

With Aard, I’m now back at 19,000, the Technorati rank I had with my old blog shortly before I moved to ScienceBlogs. It took a bit more than three months. Now, if only Google would give me a fookin’ PageRank…


Dreams of Ancient Glory

A recent addition to the excellent Runeberg Project e-text repository is the 1931 re-issue of Sven Petter Bexell’s 1819 work Hallands historia och beskrivning. It’s a patriotic history and description of the province of Halland, a part of Sweden’s southwest coast that belonged to Denmark for many centuries. Below is a fine example of just how fanciful early 19th century place-name scholarship and historical writing could be. Source-criticism hadn’t really become a formalised set of techniques yet at this point.
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Inger Österholm 1942-2007

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Inger Österholm died the night between Wednesday and Thursday after a long battle with illness. For over two decades, she was a driving force behind the Ajvide excavations on Gotland, where countless archaeology students from Stockholm and Visby received their first taste of fieldwork. Inger specialised in the Neolithic of Gotland, as seen in her seminal 1989 doctoral thesis, Bosättningsmönstret på Gotland under stenåldern. She was a tireless teacher, fieldworker and university administrator, and always very good to me during my post-grad work with Gotland’s largest 1st Millennium cemetery. It will take time to adapt mentally to the fact that she is no longer there in the archaeology of Gotland.

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Lars Lundqvist Blogs

i-e7d0ac2d0bbb6f95f5c61e8f6787637c-rosebyggare.jpgMy buddy Lars Lundqvist, long-time regular Dear Reader and contributor of excellent archaeopix, started a blog three weeks ago: Arkland. It’s in Swedish, it’s finely illustrated, and it’s mainly about Swedish archaeology. Yes, this is the guy who did all those cool digs at Slöinge, Vittene and Saleby. Go have a look and write a comment or two!

Mugabe’s Chinese Tech Support

As reported profusely in the mainstream media, the Chinese government is investing in iffy African regimes to secure access to the troubled continent’s raw materials. For years, Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe has for instance received Chinese tech and training to control information flow: phone-tapping, radio jamming and internet-monitoring. You scratch my dictatorial back, I’ll scratch yours, little brother.

British-run short-wave radio station SW Radio Africa is routinely jammed in Zimbabwe’s cities. Now, reports the BBC’s global tech news program & podcast Digital Planet, the radio station is offering Zimbabweans free news headlines as daily cellphone text messages. During the recent clamp-down on the opposition, those in Zimbabwe who actually knew what was going on did so largely thanks to cellphones.

My old phone is in Tanzania, by the way.

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Book Review: Moalem, Survival of the Sickest


Survival of the Sickest is a collection of eight pop-sci essays on medicine from an evolutionary perspective. It does not present any single cohesive line of argument, but the book’s title refers to one of the main themes: the idea that common hereditary diseases would not have become widespread in the gene pool unless they once conferred an adaptive edge on individuals.

I read the book quite avidly and it is unlikely to disappoint anyone with an interest in the subject. Yet still I feel that it’s a flawed piece of work in two important and interlinked respects: scientific credibility and writing style.
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I no longer listen much to the synth pop I loved in my teens. The artist that has perhaps dropped most dramatically in my affections is Jean-Michel Jarre, largely because I really dug him once. But I still listen to one of his albums with great pleasure: 1984’s Zoolook.

This disc sounds as if the bombastic and sentimental Frenchman has been slipped something ergotoid in his coffee by the sound-effects crew from the first Star Wars movie and then herded into the studio, tailed by Laurie Anderson and two dozen Ewoks. After a spacey opening dirge, things pick up: extraterrestrial party animals titter and croak madly in the background as vocoder and a truckload of primitive synthesizers meld and groove, neatly structured by acoustic percussion and funky slap bass, raï style. It’s psychedelic New Age synthesizer music from a galaxy far, far away: the perfect soundtrack to a Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent comic. On no other disc is Jean-Michel Jarre so charmingly and disarmingly playful.

Update 27 March: Three degrees of Jean-Michel Jarre! The other day I met my buddy Frédéric’s partner John and found out that he went to school with Jarre’s son in Paris back in the 80s!

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An important skill in archaeology is what my friend and mentor Jan Peder Lamm calls fragmentology: the ability to identify objects when all you have is small pieces. The only way to learn this well is to look at a lot of objects. So here’s a fragmentological exercise for you, Dear Reader: of what two objects have the fragments in the pictures been parts? And what parts? And even if you find them really easy, the most important question may be, which details guided your identification? The round thing measures about 14 cm across, the shiny thing about 2.5 cm.
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