Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Four Stone Hearth #45 - Caves, Graves and Audio-files Edition

Caves, Graves and Audio-files

Welcome to this latest edition of
Four Stone Hearth, which once again, I'm very pleased to be hosting here. The title refers to a few of the topics that comprise this issue, but there's also a pretty wide variety and sizeable quantity of all sorts of other anthro reading to get stuck into as well.

The 'Caves' element in the headline refers to a couple of endangered caves I've linked to at the end of this, whilst the 'Graves' and 'Audio-files' entries will make themselves apparent as you read through.

I've included a fair few archaeology posts in this edition, the first of which is from Magnus Reuterdahl at Testimony of the Spade, who tells us of his...

components will make themselves apparent as you read through.
Excavations at Konserthusparken in Linköping - Summary Week 2...., whilst the Week 1 summary and Part 2 are worth checking out too, as he and his team explore archaeology dating from the Mediaeval to the late 18th century, not helped by what he describes a as burning hot sun which makes for difficult excavation conditions - sounds like thirsty work.

And news of another dig from Martin Rundkvist at Aardvarchaeology...

Test Pitting at Djurhamn

about which which he tells us...

I spent Thursday and Friday digging test pits with a group of energetic volunteers at Djurhamn, the first two of seven planned days in the field. The great Ehrsson brothers are now joined by an equally solid Ehrsson nephew, among other hard-working people.

We're looking for archaeological evidence for historically attested land activity around a harbour whose seafloor is covered with 17th and 18th century refuse dumped from ships. Written sources collected by Katarina Schoerner mention "the big quay" and "the military camp" including an "ale hut", but we have no idea where they were, really.

see also 33 Test Pits

Antiquarian's Attic points us in the direction of a Roman shopping centre at Caerwent, South Wales - Venta Silurum was an important Roman town in the 3rd century AD, and is one of the best preserved towns of that era, largely due to the fact that over time, it lost influence, and was never built upon, leaving its traces today, largely intact across an area of 44 acres.

Afafrensis meanwhile, advises us that two somewhat older sites, Sunghir and Pech de l'Aze have their own dedicated websites, and further of Pennsylvania University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ongoing project aimed at digitizing their entire collection.

Archaeozoology has an informative post,

'Integrating Phytoliths Within Use-Wear/Residue Studies of Stone Tools',

which discusses the use to which obsidian artefacts excavated in Papua New Guinea, were put - a phytolith preserves a floral record long after the plant itself has decayed and of which there is no other trace - a very interesting way of enabling us to reconstruct plant presence and use by prehistoric people from any number of dates and sites.

Time now for a spot of TV, as Alun at Clioaudio gives a relatively positive review of Bonekickers, currently airing on BBC 1 - I haven't seen it, and after reading some of the reviews, I wasn't sure I wanted to - so it's good to read something a little more constructive than some fo the stuff that's been appearing on what have been described to me as 'hate forums'.

And Kris Hirst chips in with a quick post on the same subject, in which she includes a useful set of links relating to the show, adding that she hopes that the negative publicity which has greeted the first episodes won't result in the series being pulled before it has time to be networked abroad.

One person who originally alerted me to the furore surrounding Bonekickers, is Dennis Price, and it's to his blog Eternal Idol that we next turn, as he asks whether or not a 10th Century Anglo-Saxon poem, 'The Ruin' could be referring to Stonehenge - at first glance it seems a long shot, and it will be up to the individual reader to make up his or her mind - but the poem itself is worth reading in it's original form - I don't understand Anglo-Saxon, but reading through 'The Ruin' it struck me as having a particularly lyrical quality to it, as I tried to imagine how it would sound when read aloud.

(correction: 18/07/08 - 'The Ruin' is of course, part of the Book of Exeter, which is a 10th century compilation. When 'The Ruin' was actually written is unknown, and in the opinion of Professor Drout, referred to in the article at Eternal Idol, could have originated some time before the various components of the compilation were assembled.)

For the 'Graves' part of the title, Anne Gilbert at 'A Writer's Daily Grind' has this post, 'Happy 100th, La Chapelle Aux Saints' which, blogged from Anthrosite discusses the discovery of this famous Neanderthal, intentionally buried after his death, some 45,000 years ago...

He was described as having been buried, and the picture above shows this quite clearly. Furthermore, someone must have cared for him in some way, before he died, since he had only a few teeth left. He was also arthritic, but this was not noticed or noted until fifty years after his discovery.

plus this snippet...

Anyway, if any reader happens to be in southwestern France between July 25 and August 8, they might want to drop by and at the very least, view the fossil, which will be on display. There are also a bunch of lectures and presentations during this time.

If you can work out how to get there, it should be well worth a visit.

More graves, and for this we're off to Chile, and the recent discovery of eight mummies dating back 4,500 years, and which are perfectly preserved - here's a note about the Chinchorro culture from Stone Pages...

Morro de Arica is known for its mummies. Several hundred of them, some as old as 7,000 years, were discovered in 1983 in the area. In 2005, University of Tarapaca archaeologists found 50 Chinchorro mummies, dating back to 4,000 BCE, during the demolition of a house. The unusually large number of mummies found in the sector indicate that one of the oldest Chinchorro cemeteries may have been located there. The Chinchorros are presumed to have died out or migrated in the first century CE.

Two final Archaeo-posts, both of which address the subject of looting, collecting, loss of data and more - Carl at Hot Cup of Joe talks us through the subject in his ongoing series, 'Stolen and Looted' with reference to the Great Basin, while Kris Hirst, in 'Artifact Collectors and Professional Archaeology' adds that the archaeology profession could embrace the collector, who in turn could be advised as to how to provide much more useful information on their finds to archaeology in general.

We next head off to South East Asia, and Maju at Leherensuge asks, 'What if...Y-DNA K Diversified After Toba?' - which was the catastrophic eruption which occurred around 74 kya, an event believed by many to have had such a devastating effect that human populations were reduced to a few thousand worldwide, creating a so-called genetic bottle-neck in the process, whereas other opinion holds that there is no real evidence to support this.

And whilst we're over in that part of the world, it's time for a more linguistic consideration of our distant past, and to that effect we have this from Realm of Manjusri

Indus Valley Civilisation Spoke Altaic....

Whilst has this...

The Diversity of Languages in the Caucasus

and Babel's Dawn has this...

Language Adpated To Us, which discusses a paper '“Language as Shaped by the Brain",

...and in a similar vein, we have this from Neurophilosophy, 'The Shakespeared Brain', which discusses something called 'functional shift', as described here...

Functional shift was often employed by the Bard - for example, when he wrote "lip something loving into my ear," or when a character from The Winter's Tale says that "thoughts would think my blood". Sentences structured in such a way are linguistically economical, because the meanings in them are compressed, but they also violate the laws of grammar, and are therefore processed somewhat differently from conventionally structured sentences.

Over at Music 000001, Victor Grauer has an posted an entry, 'Music of the Great Tradition - 24, Old Europe and the Role of Women', to which this is the opening paragraph...

When Alan Lomax collected folk music in Spain and Italy during the 1950's, he was struck by certain differences in singing style between north and south in both countries, that appeared related to the role of women. Specifically, where women played a more important and active role in the society and had a certain amount of sexual freedom, as in the north, voices tended to be more open, relaxed and "well blended," and there was a tendency to sing in groups, often polyphonically.

Where women played a subordinate role, and their sexuality was strictly controlled, as in the south, voices tended to be constricted and tense, solo singing was more common, and group singing usually in harsh unison. Since Lomax was something of a Freudian -- and a disciple of Margaret Mead -- it's not difficult to see how he could have associated sexual tension with vocal tension, male-female harmony with musical harmony.

John Hawks, in 'Hearing At Atapuerca' reminds us of a 2004 study, backed up with more recent research from Atapuerca, into how analysis of the archaic middle ear has revealed than hominids living more than half a million years ago had the same aural capacities as ourselves, leading researchers to conclude that this is an indication that early humans were capable of speech much earlier than is generally accepted, and which I imagine would have allowed for an early capacity for hearing and creating music, or at least singing.

I received three submissions from Neuroanthropology...

When Pink Ribbons Are No Comfort - On Humor and Breast Cancer

...from which I've taken this explanatory paragraph...

Breast cancer is...funny? Well, no. In fact, there is nothing humorous about chemotherapy, mastectomies, hysterectomies, and the looming fear of death. But when a breast cancer patient initiates humor, especially with those outside of ‘cancer-world,’ she is forcing the receiver of the humor to recognize that there is more to her than just the disease, the doctors, and thumbs-up enthusiasm.

The Cultural Brain in Five Flavors

which is a prelude to a Critical Sciences workshop, and the five types of cultural brain that Daniel Lende is suggesting might exist, as described here...

The Symbolic Brain: Culture, meaning and the brain combined.
The Inequality Brain: Bad outcomes through society, power, and the brain.
The Theory Brain: Neuroscience impacts social science theory.
The Brain Transformed: Social science impacts brain theory.
The Critical Brain: Taking down bad brain justifications and examining the cultural uses of the brain.

There is a fuller explanation of these terms within the article, and once you've finished that, we have this essay,

'Get Into Trance: Felicitas Goodman',

which discusses the work of this German anthropologist, and specifically her studies of bodily posture and how they can relate to different states of ecstatic trance, as briefly described by her...

In addition to much abstract ornamentation, the archeological record of human artistic activity also contains human representations. Upon close scrutiny, most of these human effigies share a curious feature of a non-ordinary body posture such as the hands placed on the middle of the body, the fingers spread in an unexpected way or the tongue hanging out.

In 1977, in connection with my ongoing research concerning altered states of consciousness, I had the research subjects assume one of these non-ordinary postures and then added a rhythmic stimulation. To my surprise, the subjects reported a variety of visionary experiences. Apparently, I had inadvertently stumbled onto a very ancient shamanic system that had hitherto gone unrecognized. During initial research, a number of regularities became evident. The visionary experience varied according to the posture….

...There were postures mediating divination, shape-shifting, or even healing. It became clear that the postures were rituals, each one containing its own implicit myth.

Trance rituals would appear to have very deep roots in the human story, though at what stage in prehistory they began to be used is something of a mystery - is this activity something specific to anatomical moderns - (i.e. us), or did archaic species such as the Neanderthals have any such experiences? By this I'm wondering whether there's something specific in the way our modern brains are wired that allows for this sort of phenomena, or whether it's something that could have been allowed for by archaic brain architecture as well.

...and a final post I noticed from the same site...

More Videos and Podcasts For Your Neuroanth Pleasure

...a good few links worth checking, especially for a layperson with a general interest, for whom neuroscience academic papers might be too technical to fully grasp. I usually listen to 'All in the Mind', another weekly podcast, the most interesting of which I heard recently was Dr. Michael Gazzanigan discussing left- and right-brain research over the past 45 years, and whether free will exists, and the implications of damaged brains with regard to criminal culpability.

Next, we're heading briefly off into space, as we visit
Centauri Dreams, where Paul Gilster offers some comment on...

The Ethics of Interstellar Journeying

...a topic I find to be of enduring interest is how we as humans will construct societies of the future, particularly those humans whose entire lives will be spent on other worlds or even travelling through space en route to who knows where. How humans will cope with life in the stars, and to what extent we will design humans who might turn out to be something other than human, and the types of societies they in turn will create, is as yet, anyone's guess.

On a related note, John Hawks recently wrote a post, 'Cybernetics and the Brain-controlled Robot' in which he refers to a very surprising observation, to wit...

The main purpose of the walking robot experiment was to demonstrate just how precisely brain activity could be translated, but it produced another interesting result: It actually took less time for the brain signal to travel from the monkey in North Carolina to the robot in Japan than it took to go from the primate’s brain to its own muscles. At any given moment, then, the bot was receiving the command to walk before the monkey’s body did.

Very strange indeed, but the most surprising thing I noticed on John Hawks' blog this week, was the inclusion of
remote central in his Archaeology blogroll, for which I'm truly grateful (and not a little surprised), and as such I'd like to say a big thanks to him for that, and of course to everyone else who has seen fit to do likewise over this past couple of years.

Christina offers us some thoughts on nudity, prudence and censorship, and what constitutes pornography as opposed to art, in 'Nude Or Prude' - with particular reference to Sigur Ros, who recently released a video full of naked people to accompany their single 'Goobeldigook', which needless to say has been pulled from YouTube. Christina also refers to Paddy K's related post, in which he opines that in general, or at least in public, most humans tend to look better dressed - especially when out for 'A Wee Walk', up in Scotland. (I'd like to confirm that during the compilation of this 4SH, I remained fully dressed at all times.)

Next, we look at the story of how a teacher, John Freshwater, faces being for teaching so-called 'creation science' in the classroom - as well as for
'branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device' (NCSE)

Here's a more detailed discussion,
'The Firing of John Freshwater' from Café Philos, with plenty of comments to get stuck into , and which receives further wordage over at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, Ed Darrell has a post 'Darwin and Eugenics? Wrong Again'.

Off to Iraq next, and although I haven't followed the HTS debate that has been ongoing these past months, this article, ''Questioning the "Top Ten Misconceptions About the Human Terrain System" at Open Anthropology is definitely worth reading, especially if you read the 'Top 10 Misconceptions' post first - although at first reading the HTS post seems fair enough, replete with good intentions, the reality of the operations so far would seem to indicate that the program is largely ineffective in this respect.

As far as I can tell, there are very few, if any anthropologists or Social Scientists of Iraqi descent involved in this - whether anthropology in particular, or Social Sciences in general, even existed under the Saddam regime, I'm not sure.

Assuming this project will for the time being progress, in spite of the very well expressed arguments against it, in my opinion it might be better to engage - and if necessary, train and educate - Iraqi nationals who at least speak and understand the relevant languages and dialects, and who would be more directly familiar with local and national, socio-political and cultural issues and mores, than some of the HTS people appear to have been in the recent past.

In a long-term context however, I think the beneficial effects of HTS will be negligible, no matter how well-intentioned and motivated some of its proponents might be - especially given the chequered history of past involvements between the anthropology profession, government agencies and the military (not to mention corporations).

Perhaps a more constructive plan would be for the (re-?)establishment of a social sciences program in Iraq, for citizens living there - bearing in mind that the entire State infrastructure of Iraq was been effectively dismantled by the West since 2003, the least that could be done, (and where possible) would be to repair the damage, replace what has been lost, and where necessary or desirable, equip the educational system to include such fields as the social sciences, assuming there to be sufficient interest or demand for them.

(I'm almost tempted to add that if there were to be social scientists educated and trained in Iraq, there'd be no need for an HTS program during future invasions by the West, as there would be anthropologists and social scientists aplenty, already in situ, and more or less willing to help out the latest uninvited guests to their land - but as there is no apparent exit strategy, it's unlikely there will be another invasion for the foreseeable future.)

Finally, here's a couple of posts from me - I've started a mini-series of posts discussing endangered caves in Europe, where through a mixture of misfortune and maladministration, caves containing Palaeolithic art, such as Praileaitz and Lascaux are in danger of effectively being destroyed, whilst another, as mentioned by Julien at A Very Remote Period Indeed, Grotta Paglicci, (see also) needs urgent aid to repair physical damage caused by collapse - I still haven't finished writing this last post, (along with about a million others) but hopefully it will appear at some point soon.

That's it for this time round, so once again, thanks for taking the time to read this, and many thanks also to everyone who contributed content to this edition; on July 30th, Magnus at Testimony of the Spade will be hosting Four Stone Hearth, so there's plenty of time to get those submissions in - and if you want to host an edition, please contact Martin Rundkvist here.

image: El Chorro/Malaga by Alex from here

- the picture at top is intended as a nod in the direction of the approaching summer holidays, and thus to wish bon voyage, feliz viaje, happy trails etc. to anyone travelling afar, using modes of transport that might include, but not be limited to, planes, trains and automobiles.


Maximilian C. Forte said...

I think that your suggestion about building up an Iraqi social science is a very good and constructive one.

Tim said...

Maximilian - thanks for your comment - I think there's vast scope within Iraq for a social sciences program, especially given the complexities of the region and the various peoples who inhabit it, the current 'War on Terror' notwithstanding.

I'm sure there must be a great many highly articulate people from all regions of Iraq who would be very keen on the idea, and who would have plenty to learn and subsequently inform the outside world, and of course, their fellow citizens.

Vast amounts of damage and loss have been inflicted on Iraq, much of which can never be repaired or regained, so to me it makes sense to create new things which weren't there before, and which in turn will hopefully be of benefit to people in the future.

Setting up such programs might not happen in the near future, but once the situation across Iraq has stabilised sufficiently, and with properly motivated people involved, small initiatives (at first) should be relatively easy to realise - and not even that expensive, given the multiple billions of dollars that continue to be spent there.

I'm not sure how easy it would be to do the same thing in for example, Afghanistan, but again, small projects here and there to begin with, could reap considerable benefits in the longer term.

Anne Gilbert said...

Thanks for mentioning my little piece on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of La Chapelle aux Saintes! I'm really very pleased that people are actually reading my blog! It's only been up for a little over a year, and it's partly about my writing process, as well as stuff about Neandertals(because they're in my WIP's, so I hope it appeals to a, shall we say, broad segment.

Again thanks,
Anne G

Tim said...

Thanks Anne - I've left a comment on your original post, as I forgot to tell you it was included in that 4SH - btw, if you wanted to host an edition of your own, there are plenty of vacant slots, just check the 4SH website for details etc if you're interested, and you'd hopefully attract more readers to your blog at the same time.

Anyway, congrats on your first year of blogging, and good luck for the future years too.

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