Queer Theory of Ancient Gods

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Very timely with the discovery of the Kaga foil-figure model, my buddy Ing-Marie Back Danielsson has published her PhD thesis in archaeology, Masking Moments. The transitions of bodies and beings in Late Iron Age Scandinavia (available on-line). There’s a picture of a foil-figure or other late-1st Millennium human representation on almost every page. The viva is on Thursday Friday 20 April in Stockholm, and the opponent none other than that enfant terrible of the British Neolithic, Julian Thomas. Reading his fine 1991 book Rethinking the Neolithic, I remember wondering if there is anything in the archaeological record of Neolithic Britain that is not the product of ostentatious rituals.
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Seven Brooches in Kaga

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This entry was first published over the cell-phone network on my old site, without pix, on Tuesday 10 April.

Our Kaga site was very good to us today as well. 26 person-hours of metal detecting, six 1st Millennium brooches: four small equal-armed of the later 6th century, one disc-shaped with inlay socket of the 6/7th century, and part of a 5th century large equal-armed relief brooch. The latter has non-animal-art decoration in the Nydam style, a rare and exclusive piece of jewellery, fits nicely with the foil figure model. Also a High Medieval annular brooch. I’m crap at metal detecting: found only a piece of typically ugly late-1st Millennium pottery by eye and a 17th century coin. But I’m happy anyway. Lovely site!

After finishing in Kaga we went to Varv in a beautiful sunny evening, metal-detected for eight person-hours around a classic find-spot and found jack shit. Took a look at the village churchyard, abandoned in the 1850s when the Medieval church was torn down (bastards!). Cool to see a churchyard untouched since then, all tussocks and leaning headstones, none of the boring 20th century ones that dominate active rural churchyards.

Close-up pix below the fold.
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R.U. Sirius Show Turns 100

i-b01159603699d97c2032c85a94cd262e-rusirius-badge.jpgAnother one of my favourite podcasts hits 100 instalments: the R.U. Sirius show. It’s cyber-counterculture talk radio with ample references to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but done in a geeky, distinctly literate manner. R.U. Sirius himself used to be the editor of seminal cyber-mag Mondo 2000 back in the day, and is now an elder statesman on the trippy fringe of technology. By his own admission, he likes to spend a Sunday afternoon reading a thick book while stoned, and him and his posse of witty co-chatterers are a delight to hear.

Among recent guests on the show we find security expert Bruce Schneier, sexpert and anthologist Suzie Bright, science fiction author and copyleft activist Cory Doctorow, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, comedian Will Franken and retired U.S. military psychedelics researcher James Ketchum.

The R.U. Sirius show is good, smart, addled leftie fun. Turn on your computer, tune in the podcast feed, and don’t let the earbuds of your mp3 player drop out.

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Kaga Gold Foil Figure Model

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This entry was first published over the cell-phone network on my old site, without pix, on Monday 9 April.

This morning I woke up in an unexpected and not very welcome winter wonderland. Driving the 2.5 hours to Linköping on summer tyres was scary. But the snow was gone by lunch. An icy wind persisted.

I’m writing this from the kitchen of a little house we’re renting at the hostel in Mjölby. Today my crew of six did 27 person-hours of metal detecting at our site in Kaga parish, collecting about a hundred objects, most dating from the past three centuries. Only one can be dated before AD 1100, which would be a big disappointment but for one thing. We have found something extremely rare and unbeatably relevant to my research!
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Ophistokont

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A Dear Reader who calls themself Ophistokont made me curious about what this intriguing word might mean. It’s very rare, with only seven Google hits and no entry in Merriam-Webster. Ophi- should have to do with snakes. -stok- calls stoichiometry to mind, having to do with elements. -ont has to do with being. Something that forms the basic element of a snake-like thing, maybe?

I didn’t make that up unaided. Those seven Google hits explain (mostly in German) that an ophistokont is the end of a single-cell being from which its motile flagellum extends. These little whip-like outboard motors have been the object of creationist speculation along the lines that “this is too cool to have evolved by natural selection”: speculation refuted here.

Firefox Rages Against the Dying of the Light

i-53f1fe496623e4c51c57ccb54d9022e0-firefox.jpgI’ve run Firefox 2.0 under three different operating systems on several machines. And every time I start this otherwise excellent program after re-booting, it gives me the following error message

“Your last Firefox session closed unexpectedly. You can restore the tabs and windows from your previous session, or start a new session if you think the problem was related to a page you were viewing.”

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Blogging from a Ploughed Field

This week I’m doing fieldwork in Östergötland with friends, colleagues and Aard regulars from the Gothenburg Historical Society, the County Museum and the State Excavation Unit. We’re continuing our metal detecting campaign from last spring, returning to the sites in Kaga and Hagebyhöga, and having a look at four new ones in Heda, Varv, Askeby and Östra Husby. Our objective is to find aristocratic farmstead sites of the period AD 400-1000. Swedish State Broadcasting’s science show for kids, Hjärnkontoret, will pay us a visit.

One thing I miss since moving to ScienceBlogs is the ability to blog by e-mail. As long-time Dear Readers may remember, one reason that I got my hand-held computer was to be able to blog from wherever, whenever, using the cell phone net. But my Blogger site is still live and accepting e-mailed entries. If I don’t find a wireless access point to reach Aard, then I’ll send my fieldwork dispatches to Salto sobrius instead and move them here when I get home. Please check out Salto periodically this week. Meanwhile, I’ve scheduled a few entries to appear here as well.

In other news, I’ve registered this blog in my home municipality of Nacka at bloggkartan.se.

Escape Pod turns 100

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One of my favourite podcasts, Escape Pod, currently offers its one hundredth weekly show. Congratulations Steve & Co, that is so impressive! I’ve listened to almost every one of the shows, offering excellent short stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Number 100 is Isaac Asimov’s classic “Nightfall”. And it’s not just about the stories: Steve Eley’s intros and outros are always a treat to hear. Dear Reader, check out Escape Pod’s web site and have a listen. It’s free, and donations are voluntary. Highly recommended!

Toad Love

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Geocaching in the little nature preserve at Lake Kyrksjön in the western burbs of Stockholm, I came across this passionate couple. Every spring there are wild toad orgies in the wetlands around here. The males sing madly for days, mounting and clinging to anything vaguely like a female — including human hands. The females are much larger and may be seen crawling along doggedly with up to three sex-crazed males hanging onto them. A funny thing about the toads is that they live through this intense springtime awakening with the same grumpy deadpan facial expression as always.