Fresh Scandy Academic Archaeogossip

For readers with an interest in Scandy archaeology and academic gossip, here and here are two brand new evaluation reports (in Scandy) on the applicants to an assistant professor job (forskarassistent) in Stockholm. According to the evaluation verdict, the job is likely to be given either to a 43-y-o theoretician or a 39-y-o Mayanist. Both are older than me and far more in tune than myself with the ideals of the post-processual generation of scholars to which the evaluators belong.

As for myself, the evaluators gave me a pretty low grade. Both correctly describe me as strongly empiricist, hostile to general theoretical discussion and wary of far-reaching interpretations. As usual, the decision has come down to personal preferences: they intend those words about my work as criticism, I accept them as ideals. In fact, one of the papers I submitted for evaluation was an opinion piece forming an aggressive attack on theoretical archaeology, and it pleases me in a grim sort of way to see that one of the evaluators was clearly quite irked by it. (She isn’t the first colleague to display ruffled feathers over that particular piece.)

They don’t like my archaeology. I not only don’t like theirs, I question whether much of it is archaeology at all.

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Jeff Medkeff on Automated Optical Astronomy

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I wrote my 1990 high-school graduation paper about the search for a trans-plutonian planet. (That’s where I got hoodwinked by Zecharia Sitchin.) In its conclusion, I suggested that the search for such close-yet-dim objects could be automated with computer-controlled telescopes and automated image processing.

This is actually what happened. Here’s an informative new video clip by my brother in skeptical blogging, Jeff the Blue Collar Scientist, describing work at the privately owned Junk Bond Observatory in Arizona, where asteroids and comets are being sought. Yep, 18 years down the road, in our own solar system they aren’t looking for planet-sized objects anymore, they’re down to bits of rock and ice a kilometer across.

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Nine-Year-Olds Like Roborally

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Now and then I like to play board games: mostly Blokus, Drakborgen (a.k.a. Dungeonquest), Scrabble and Roborally. The latter is an award-winning 1994 game where each player programs a robot to move through a treacherous obstacle course and tag a series of numbered flags. More often than not, your robot ends up a smoking laser-riddled wreck or disappears down a bottomless hole.

On the box, Roborally is recommended from age 12 up. I am proud to be able to tell you that the game works just fine with (bright, geeky) 9-year-olds as well. Yesterday after lunch I took Junior and his pal geocaching, and then we played Roborally. It was a breeze for them to understand and enjoy it. And I, of course, was very happy to beat them most mercilessly. While I still can, you know.

(Junior asks me to point out that as I tagged the last flag, his robot was nearly at the penultimate one.)

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Swedish Monastic Archaeology Boom

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Monastic archaeology is enjoying a boom right now in Sweden. Elisabet Regner has written up and analysed Frödin’s many years of fieldwork at Alvastra (founded in 1143), Lars ErsgÃ¥rd & Marie Holmström have published the results of their 90s project around that same monastery, Marie Ohlsén is doing fieldwork at Krokek (founded in the 1430s), Gunhild Eriksdotter has reevaluated Dalby (founded before 1066), Maria Vretemark & Tony Axelsson are finding amazing things at Varnhem (founded c. 1150) and Göran Tagesson is digging at Vretakloster (founded c. 1110 and mentioned here before). Have I forgotten anyone?

Now Göran Tagesson, Elisabeth Regner and their local associates are hosting a conference on monastic archaeology at Vretakloster, not far from where me and the guys did some metal detecting recently. The conference will take place 4-5 September. You can download the schedule and paper abstracts here, featuring:

  • Lars Hermanson on “Vreta nunnery and sacral power”
  • Christian Lovén on “Vreta and its founders”
  • Alf Ericson on “Vreta nunnery’s oldest land ownership”
  • Patrick B. McGuire on “The nuns of Vreta in a European perspective”
  • Catharina Andersson on “Convent and aristocracy. Vreta from the perspective of gender and donations”
  • Gunilla Gardelin on “Vreta and stonemason organisation in Medieval Östergötland”
  • Elisabet Regner on “Vreta — just another Swedish nunnery?”
  • Johanna Bergqvist on “Archaeological evidence for the practice of medicine at Vreta”
  • Karin Lindeblad on “Medieval garden archaeology”
  • Frédéric Elfver on “Coins from Vreta nunnery”
  • Martin Berntsson on “Vreta and the Reformation”

Anybody with an interest in the subject is welcome to sign up to participate.

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