Anthro Blog Carnival

The twenty-third Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is on-line at The John Hawks Anthropology Weblog. Check it out! Archaeology and anthropology to scratch your itch and soothe your yearnings.

The next open hosting slot is on 24 October. All bloggers with an interest in the subject are welcome to volunteer to me. You don’t have to be an anthropologist — you don’t even have to be anthropoid!

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Jules Verne’s Tomb

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Being an archaeologist, I like tombs, and being a science fiction fan, I like Jules Verne. So you can imagine that I’d like Jules Verne’s tomb regardless of what it looked like. As it turns out, David Nessle has pictures from Amiens showing the tomb in question, and it’s an incredible piece of work. Look at the lettering! Look at that sculpture! “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Jules Verne who’s been resurrected and learned to fly!”

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Stockholm Blogmeet 11 September

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Last night’s blogmeet was even better than the previous one: more people, some lady bloggers, some archaeologists and all presided over by Prof. Steve Steve. The professor was in a wild mood and immediately upon arriving did something indescribable with a large tabasco bottle, claiming that this was “good for his posture”. Kind of disconcerting to have a conversation with a senior academic boasting that kind of… accommodation skills while he’s… on the bottle.

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Missing from the picture are myself (holding the camera) and Lars L of Arkland (who ended up outside the frame because it was too dark for me to see anything on the camera screen and I was too stupid to look through the peephole). In the pic are, clockwise and starting front left:

There seemed to be a general feeling that we all liked each other far too much to wait six months until the next blogmeet, so let’s do it again in early December. Love ya, guys!

Boat Under Ex-Pub Awaits Excavation

Here’s a story kindly brough to my attention by Tegumai, Paddy, Hans and Ian Joe (am I forgetting anyone?). Pub in Wirral near Liverpool is torn down in 1938 to make room for a car park. Buried wooden boat is found by demolition men, who are ordered to keep quiet and cover it up. Nottingham archaeologist Stephen Harding hears the rumour and locates the wreck with ground-penetrating radar, hopes to excavate it, suggests that it has Scandy traits, hopes for Viking Period date. There’s little info so far, but I look forward to learning what kind of vessel they’ve got there!

Oseberg Skeletons Exhumed

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The Oseberg ship burial of Norway is a mind-blowing find, full of Early Viking Period carved woodwork and textiles of unparalelled quality. Dated by dendrochronology to AD 834, the long ship and its contents were sealed under a clay barrow, perfectly preserved when excavated in 1904. I consider myself a stakeholder in the Oseberg find, as it was excavated by Gotlander Gabriel Gustafson. In 1881-82 G.G. had performed the first excavations with useful documentation at the Barshalder cemetery on which I wrote my dissertation some 110 years later.

The Oseberg barrow was opened during the Viking Period, maybe by robbers, more likely by descendants of the buried who wished to collect relics. Most of the metalwork was removed at this time. Parts of two skeletons were found in the collapsed robber’s tunnel, belonging to an older woman and a younger one. They are usually interpreted as one main character of the burial and one murdered thrall, but ideas diverge about who was who. Also, my buddy Fedir Androshchuk has pointed out (in Fornvännen 2005) that the burial contains three sets of many things, and that the remaining bronze metalwork is parts of ostentatious riding gear that is otherwise only found in male graves. His daring re-interpretation is that the Oseberg burial was actually a male grave with two murdered women, from which the male skeleton and weaponry were removed by relic hunters. This would explain why the female bodies were dropped unceremoniously in the tunnel. Ibn Fadlan reports that Scandinavians (most likely Swedes, I’m very sorry) in Russia murdered a thrall girl for her master’s funeral in AD 921.

Anyway, the Oseberg bones were reinterred in the barrow in 1948: silly and sad but true. Yesterday they were exhumed for laboratory analyses. Egil Mikkelsen and his team hope to establish by DNA analysis whether the two women were related to each other, what kind of diet they had, and whether they had eaten the same kind of things. The latter data might decide once and for all who’s the servant. Or show that both were.

Next in turn is the Gokstad barrow, where bones from an AD 910ish ship burial were reinterred in 1928. Neither that assemblage nor the Oseberg one will be reinterred after the analyses.

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Thanks to Dear Reader Tegumai Bopsulai for the link.

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2nd Science Blogging Conference

i-5c338cf4774ce357dadd339ac736d1b8-2008NCSBClogo200.pngAs mentioned here before, I’m going to The Amazing Meeting 5.5 skepticism conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 25-26 January. Now I’ve also signed up for the 2nd Science Blogging Conference in Durham, NC, the preceding weekend. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be co-organising a session at the NC conference with John McKay of the Archy blog. The theme will be “Blogging about the Social Sciences and Humanities”.

(There was some confusion about what to call this thing. In Sweden, archaeology is in the humanities along with history, religion studies, classics, philology etc. In the US, my discipline is part of anthropology, which is in the social sciences. But I am almost entirely ignorant of the sciences US people call social ones, except for anthropology. And I’d feel lost and lonely without my historian, religion studies, classicist and philologist buddies. So it’s SocSci and Hum.)

Dear Reader, do you blog about the social sciences and/or humanities? Or do you have a favourite blog about these things that I should know about? Then please comment away! And start thinking about how to get to North Carolina in January.

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Indecipherable Punk Reactions

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Punk musician G.G. Allin (1956-93) led a short hard life marked by drug binges, violence, mental illness and on-stage coprophagy. I’ve never heard any of his music, but reading about this legendary underground figure I came across the above remarkable photograph.

Dear Reader, please disregard for a moment the guy to the left who is covered in blood and feces. Look at the audience members to the right. What are they feeling? What do their expressions signify?

Maniacal glee? Revulsion battling with fascination? Is the bearded guy dancing? Has the leftmost guy just smoothened his features for the camera? What are they thinking? I really have no idea. It’s like a photograph from Mars.

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I’m Feminine

A memory: Eric, one of the kids from mellanstadiet when I was ten or eleven. Him and another boy were taught a tap dancing routine by our gay counter-tenor music teacher Rune, performing it woodenly in the lecture hall for the entire school. They wore striped vests and straw hats, their faces expressing a mixture of concentration and a dawning realisation that perhaps they were making absolute fools of themselves. Steppens söner, “Sons of the Steppe/Tap Dance”. But us in the audience didn’t know enough to realise how naff it all was.

Anyway, Eric was a pretty boy with an elfin face, and so I wasn’t too offended once when he called after me, “Hey Rundkvist, you’re so fucking… feminine!”. I’m not sure he knew what it meant. I did, but I didn’t think it carried much clout as insults went. I knew I was neither more nor less girly than the other kids. And I certainly wasn’t a Son of the Steppe.