Read Thou Daryl Gregory

i-8436793c18400f9a06d4ab51eb1ff295-DjgAtCabin.jpgDaryl Gregory’s short fiction is quite remarkable. For the two past years, he’s managed to top both the Hartwell & Kramer and the Dozois Year’s Best anthologies with “Second Person, Present Tense” and “Damascus”. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun by saying too much about the stories: just that they are science fiction stories about neuropsychology. One about the neurological basis of selfhood, the other about the neurological basis of religious epiphany. Gregory is a materialist and a skeptic, my kind of guy, and he’s also a fine stylist with great psychological insight.

Check out the man’s web site: there’s a lot of e-text there, and also a blog. Gregory’s first novel is due out in 2008, and chances are he’ll become huge. Read him now and you’ll be able to say that you were down with him from the start.

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Medieval Brick Kilns


Longtime Dear Readers may remember me blogging about the excavations in my friend Jan Peder’s garden last summer. Beside his house is a ruin mound full of heavily burnt and vitrified Medieval-style bricks, and he’s gotten funds together to do some excavations there. The original idea was that the feature might be the remains of a defensive tower or other aristocratic building. Last year’s work established that it was in fact the remains of a brick kiln, which is also evidence of somebody powerful in the vicinity. 16th century pottery found inside the kiln gives the latest possible date for its use. An early date is supported by the absence of clay pipe fragments. I did some metal detecting around the trench last year but found only evidence for Jan Peder’s family’s 20th century activities.


Earlier today I visited to Jan Peder’s place and checked out a new section trench dug by Ylva Stenqvist and Johan Runer. It’s clarified the stratigraphy of the thing and suggests that there were at least two kilns, side by side. Nowhere in the trenches has the subsoil been reached, just a massive layer of brick, half of which is too heavily burnt and half insufficiently fired. A limestone collapse layer on top of the bricks seems to be remains of the kilns’ vaulted ceilings. I checked the trench walls & floors plus the new spoil dumps with the metal detector, but the burnt bricks were confusing the machine and I got only loud iron signals out of it.


Divers have checked out the nearby sea floor and found scattered bricks of the same Medieval type as was produced in the kilns — note the barnacles on one brick in the picture and compare with the other one from dry land. The site is on land belonging to Boo manor, right by a heavily trafficked Medieval shipping thoroughfare toward Stockholm, where there was great demand for bricks from about 1250 onward. I guess that would be the lower limit of the kilns’ possible dates. There must have been many buildings at the site, not least living and working quarters, and I’d love to see it stripped down to the bone on a larger scale. Unfortunately this would a) be expensive and b) obliterate Jan Peder’s garden, and so is unlikely to happen.

Read more about the site on paper in Ledungen.

Ringstedt, N., Rahmqvist, S. & Lamm, J.P. 2007. Märklig fornlämning i Saltsjö Boo. Ledungen 33:1, March 2007. Stockholms läns hembygdsförbund. Stockholm.

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Your Nearest Archaeological Site

Here’s an idea for bloggers with an archaeological bent. I’m thinking of putting together a one-off carnival about people’s nearest archaeological sites. You go to the nearest site you’re aware of, snap a picture of it and explain (in as many or few words you like) the site’s significance and life-history in a blog entry. Then you send me the link, and when I’ve got a fair number, I put them together in a link-fest, plug it on Reddit & Co, everybody votes for it and we all get a traffic spike. You don’t need any formal qualifications to contribute.

Sound like fun? Please leave a comment if you’re interested.

Update 25 June: Loads of bloggers have expressed interest in this project and I’ve already received the first submission. So, Dear Reader, go for it! As soon as I have nine submissions, the carnival goes live, and subsequent contributions will be added as they appear.

Update 27 June: Three contributions so far and looking good…

Update 1 July: Five contributions, keep ’em coming!

Update 19 July: Carnival on-line now.


i-eab5ab57e6939624f93faaecbfd98135-helicopter-Italian-army-RF.jpgThe other day I suddenly understood the etymology of the word “helicopter”. Many would probably try to take the word apart as heli-copter, which makes no sense. I mean, what does it mean to copt helis? “I am a copter and I sure love coptin’ them old helis.”

What you need to do is look at words like Pteranodon (meaning “tooth on wing”), Diptera (meaning “two-wings”) and “helix”. Helico-pter! Helix-wing! Suddenly there’s a new nerdy option for the hyphenation of that word.

I once read a newspaper article about record producer Phil Spector, where he was poetically described as “helicopter paranoid”. This expression has stayed with me as an unsolved mystery. What can the journalist have meant? That Phil was afraid of visitations by the genus Helicoptera? That he was so paranoid that his head was spinning faster than the rotor of a chopper? I wonder if it’s possible to be omnibus schizoid or tricycle neurotic.

I once saw Apocalypse Now re-made as a sword-and-sorcery fantasy stage play. The helicopters had been replaced by winged lizards. Now I wonder if they were pterodactyls and if the writer was on to the etymology of the word “helicopter”.

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Slovak Chamber Grave Perfectly Preserved


Yesterday I met a Slovakian colleague, the amiable Matej Ruttkay of the Institute of Archaeology at the Slovak Academy of Sciences. We had an animated conversation in broken German about 1st Millennium graves and he showed me loads of find pix. Matej’s own excavations are absolutely ace, with some really weird Style II metalwork, not actually very far from the Scandinavian prototypes yet clearly of local make. But what blew my mind was the pix and news of the Poprad-Matejovce chamber grave, excavated by Matej’s colleagues last summer and not yet widely publicised. It’s an extremely well-preserved waterlogged chamber grave of c. AD 400, robbed of some furnishings in antiquity but retaining every single piece of wood in pristine condition. See those wooden beams in the pic? That’s the roof of the chamber, 16 centuries old.

The burial has an AD 375 gold coin pendant, a brass sheet vessel, three axes, lathe-turned wooden furniture, a set of shears in a basket, textiles, burnished pottery and probably loads of stuff that wasn’t in Matej’s pics. This thing was sitting alone, two metres below the ground surface, in the middle of an industrial development. Geophysical survey didn’t turn up any neighbours.

More about the find at the Slovak Spectator: click here and scroll down to the heading “Tomb of 5th century Germanic leader”.

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Radio Stars

You listen to a podcast that you like for months and years and you start feeling like you know the people on the show a little. Their voices are certainly familiar and you know a bit about their personalities. And so you start to wonder what they look like. At least I did. So by various means I’ve located pix of the people behind my favourite podcasts. Check them out! These guys rule my mp3 player and they should be on yours as well.

The R.U. Sirius show: R.U. Sirius, Jeff Diehl, Diana Brown, Steve Robles.

Escape Pod: Steve Eley, Jonathon Sullivan.

Skepticality: Swoopy, Derek.

Digital Planet: Bill Thompson, Gareth Mitchell.

The Seanachai: Parick Maclean.

Anybody got better pix of Sullivan, Robles and Maclean? Dear Reader, are you at this moment perchance Sullivan, Robles and/or Maclean?

BTW, guess what happens if you search for my surname on Flickr.

We couldn’t find any photos matching rundkvist.

Did you mean randiest?

Update same day: Says Diana Brown (appending this portrait photo where she looks really delectable and I ain’t sharing it with you guys, so there), “Thank you for your very kind mention of our work on Aardvarchaeology. Your blog rules! Thanks for listening.”

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Me and My ISP

i-c34d3f590ebe776edea4ef79955510fa-algonet_logo.gifMe and my Internet Service Provider go way back. I got my account with in early 1995 and put up my still current web site there after a few months. I’ve been using my e-mail address there as my main one ever since, publishing it indiscriminately all over the web and UseNet, and still I don’t get too much spam.

Algonet is a legacy domain. There is no longer an ISP by that name: the domain and its user accounts have passed from ISP to ISP and are currently handled by an outfit called Glocalnet. Since new Algonet accounts haven’t been issued for years, I guess us users are a dwindling group of old-timers now. But the service is satisfactory, it offers unix shell access and there are several reasons why I would’t want to lose it. For instance, since my website has been around for so long, it has an inbelievably high Google search position for “arkeologi“, the Swedish and Norwegian word for archaeology. These days, of course, I very rarely connect to the net via that account’s modem pool, relying instead on broadband connections.

Algonet was started by my childhood friend Ragnar Lönn, the kid who introduced me to role playing games, currently the proprietor of Gatorhole. At the time, he was living on Älgö, “Elk Island” outside Saltsjöbaden, and that’s the etymology of the name Algonet. This looks really obvious to non-Scandies, but to us, those diacritics turn A and O into entirely different characters. For all we can see, Algonet might as well be named Elginet and it wouldn’t look less like Älgönet to us.

Here’s more in Swedish about the early 90s introduction of home internet access in Sweden.

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