ScienceBlogs Solvent Again

I just got paid half a year’s back wages by the ScienceBlogs Overlords. Christmas came early! No, I mean, last Christmas came late!

Paying me off wasn’t such a big deal as I usually make only $75 a month. But at least two of the heaviest hitters here on Sb have also been paid. That’s a tidy sum each, which can only mean that the angel investor we’ve been hearing about back-stage has now taken over Sb’s assets and liabilities. Excellent news! ScienceBlogs is not dead!


Sankt Joachimsthal: the Buck Starts Here

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Sankt Joachimsthal (“Valley of Saint Joachim”) is the German name of Jáchymov, a small town in the Czech Republic. It’s in the Erzgebirge mountains near the country’s north-western border towards Germany. This place currently has only a bit more than three thousand inhabitants, and yet its name is used daily by billions of people worldwide. Jáchymov is the birthplace of the Valley Coin, the Thaler, the daler, the dollar.


In 1516 a major silver lode was discovered near the Bohemian village of Conradsgrün. The following year the village was re-christened Sankt Joachimsthal, and in 1519 the first Joachimsthaler coin was struck. The mint was owned by the Counts of Schlick, who grew immensely rich from it. With time the name of the characteristic high-silver coin was applied to similar ones elsewhere, until in the 18th century Daler coins were current in most of Europe.

Toward the end of that century the United States and Canada found themselves in need of their own national currencies free from any links with English coinage, and so they adopted something approximating the silver “dollars” of continental Europe. And not only that, but also the rest, is history.

Signs of Spring

Last Wednesday I saw the first snowdrop. Last Saturday I heard the first blackbird evensong. Magpies are making these soft chirping noises that spell “let’s get it on”. This morning it was above 5 Celsius in the shade, and I skipped my long-johns for the first time this year. And when I went out the door, my daughter pointed out the first scilla bud. Spring is here!

Dear Reader, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, what signs of spring have you seen?

What Are You Waiting For?

I’m waiting to hear about jobs I’ve applied for in Norway and the UK. I’m waiting for responses to a few funding applications. I’m waiting for the snow to melt and the start of fieldwork season.

Dear Reader, what are you waiting for?

Recent Archaeomags

Skalk’s first issue for 2011 opens with a great article by Mr. Bronze Age Religion himself, Flemming Kaul. It deals with two wooden votive helmets found in a bog on Lolland in Denmark. Their closest parallels are from a big multiperiod deposit of pre-Roman metal helmets found at Negova/Negau in Slovenia. One of the latter carries an extremely early inscription in Germanic, the name Harigasti, which makes the link to the Uglemose find even more interesting.

Kaul shows further parallels from coeval situla art where boxers compete for similar helmets. And then comes a passage that made me laugh (and I translate):

“Thus there is no doubt that helmets like these served as sporting trophies. And among the Greeks such trophies, like cauldrons on tripods, could be deposited in a temple as part of the temple hoard. The 26 helmets from Negau may similarly have been a collection of sporting trophies kept in a local sanctuary, where as the generations passed helmets were added one by one. Shortly before 100 BC the Cimbri or some other Germanic tribe came by, stole the helmets, dedicated them to Harigast [their god of war?] and deposited them as a sacrifice. The Cimbri, as it were, robbed the local boxing club of its trophy collection.”

Moving on, I also liked Pernille Pantmann’s and Inge Bødker Enghoff’s piece about a well-preserved and well-excavated Bronze Age settlement on Zealand where bone preservation was particularly fine. The median length of the codfish eaten there was 55-60 cm which shows that these people did a lot of deep-water line fishing from the boats we see so often in the rock art of neighbouring regions. And the site has rich deposits of metalworking debris too. Good stuff!

Current Archaeology #251 came with the excellent news that a privately owned album of excavation photographs from Sutton Hoo’s mound 1 has come to light. This is extremely valuable as the dig was hasty and the detailed documentation of the ship remains was lost during WW2. The photographers were two school teachers on holiday, Barbara Wagstaff and Mercie Lack.

An interesting idea reached me via a book review: Barry Cunliffe and John Koch’s anthology Celtic from the West is devoted to the proposition that the Celtic languages entered Europe from the West via IE-speaking early metal prospectors who came by boat around the Iberian peninsula. Only later would Gaul and Central Europe have been Celtified. Interesting indeed! The fact that our oldest evidence for Celtic languages is from the South-East is of course because that was where literate Greeks were around to document the language situation.

Another cool tidbit is that Roman sites in the UK and 19th century sites with imported Classical sculpture have local living micropopulations of Mediterranean land snails!

Current Archaeology #252 celebrates the 200th episode of Time Team and takes an in-depth look at the geophysical underpinnings of the show. How else would one get a good overview of a site in three days of fieldwork?

Of great interest to me because of my current work is a piece by conservators Laura McLean and Stefanie White on a ploughed-out bronze axe hoard recently found and salvaged at Burnham in Essex by a detectorist. It was in a pot whose bottom part, with its bronze contents, was still in situ. Over a hundred pieces of metalwork including fifty socketed axe frags, eight socketed spearhead frags, seven sword frags, three sickle frags, two gouges and lots of casting waste.

I don’t know the English typochronology well enough to date the hoard (Ewart Park phase maybe?). But it’s certainly Late Bronze Age and not EB, given that it’s socked axes and not flanged ones or palstaves. And I believe the Brits never get the really short socketed axes of our per. V and VI. So my guess is that that this hoard should be Final British Bronze, 8th century BC.

CA’s international sister publication Current World Archaeology is out with its 45th issue. It’s a Southern Italy special, with little I can comment on, but there’s also a piece by Ellen Marie Næss on the Oseberg ship-burial skeletons. As we have seen here, they were reburied and recently disinterred again, and new osteological results await academic publication. But Norwegian colleagues of mine tell me that the new alleged findings are a little too weird to have been missed by the osteologists on the original Oseberg team. Per Holck has some explaining to do before we accept that all the ship-grave people he examines turn out to have strange deformities, like Morgani’s syndrome.

Archaeology Magazine is published in New York state. Issue #64:2 has a good feature by Lauren Hilgers on Han Dynasty rural settlements in Henan sealed catastrophically and preserved when the Yellow River flooded 2000 years ago. I must say though that I don’t like the Chinese habit of building exhibition halls over deturfed and cleaned archaeological layers to show them to the public. Of course all manner of plants and fungi immediately colonise the surfaces, and they have to spray them with chemicals. Better to do your dig, backfill and put the site under grass for the next excavator.

A piece on battlefield archaeology at Towton in Yorkshire (where armies clashed in 1461) is interesting but contains a baffling line of argument. The investigators have found shards of a small brass cannon. They have taken upon themselves to analyse whether there is residue of gunpowder and lead on the insides. There is, and so the investigators allow themselves to argue that the cannon was fired in the battle. But how on Earth do they think that the thing would have shattered and remained on the battlefield unless it had been fired!?

[More about ; .]

DDoS Attacks on Sb from Turkey and Qatar

Hi Bloggers,

Let me apologize again for the problems that many of you and your readers are experiencing. The attack is ongoing, originating from Turkey and Qatar, and until it stops, Rackspace must block IP ranges in order for the site to be accessible to anyone. They are also unwilling to manually unblock hundreds upon hundreds of individual IPs. They have advised that we invest in a firewall and additional services from them, but we are still working out what these will cost and how effective they will be. I am not sure if I was correct in thinking that these attacks are not malicious, but I said so because we were told the attackers were trying to use our servers as an open proxy, with the request “GET [and here’s the URL of a Turkish website advertising a remedy for lower-back pain] HTTP/1.1.” Upon reflection, I have no idea what that means.

Best wishes,
Wes Dodson

Juniorette Sings Cohen

Juniorette is a precocious seven years old. Here’s her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 song “Hallelujah”, with the Swedish lyrics by Py Bäckman. The performance is influenced to a certain degree by another young Swedish singer’s version, Molly Sandén’s on her 2009 album Samma himmel.

While Cohen’s beautiful lyrics deal mainly with broken love affairs through biblical allusions (compare the Pixies’ “Dead” and “Gouge Away“!), Bäckman’s lyrics are a bit too churchy for my taste. “[The song] has something that takes hold of you / And leads you from night to day / And suddenly you want to sing ‘Hallelujah'”.

Did you know, Dear Reader, that “Hallelujah” is a formulaic Hebrew expression meaning “praise / sing praises to JHWH”?

Juniorette is not churchy. On Saturday I drove her and a friend home from a birthday party for a classmate whose dad is a Swedish Church minister and a really nice guy. (Junior has a steady babysitting gig there.) Juniorette’s friend commented that though Nora’s dad isn’t the parish shepherd proper, he’s usually the one officiating at church. “Does your family believe in God!?”, asked my daughter incredulously. “Yeah, but we don’t go to church often”, said her friend. “I’ve been, like, maybe five times?”.

I’ve written before about the casual godlessness common among modern Scandinavians.

Should I Put Together an Aard E-Book?

Here’s an idea that I’d like some reader feedback on.

Would it be worthwhile to put together an EPUB e-book, about as long as a 200-page paperback, of selected blog entries of mine? I’m thinking I’d organise it in thematic sections and sort each section chronologically. And publish the thing for free on Smashwords.

If I go through with this, what EPUB authoring software should I use? Preferably for Linux.