fun stuff, journal, lithics, university

Lithics, Line Art & Limericks

An unlucky lithics student named Joan

Couldn’t tell between ice cream and stone

She ran into grief

When she fractured her teeth –

She’d fancied a taste of a Hertzian Cone.

Image credit: pexels.com

• A Hertzian Cone is a kind of break that happens when you chip a material which fractures conchoidally such as glass, rock, chocolate and frozen toffee (I’m not joking). Link is to the Wikipedia page.

Most people will recognise the above format as the Limerick, popularised by Edward Lear who lived in the late 19th century.

Our class was encouraged to write limericks about Lithics over the week and submit them, and then the teaching staff would collate and judge them over drinks at the student pub (very serious business!).

Anyway, that limerick was the one I was most proud of. The judges preferred another one of mine though – which was among the several poems that got read aloud, and that was nice!

A classmate won a bottle of wine for their funny poem. This, and the fact that someone brought in a surprise cake for the whole class in celebration of a fellow student’s birthday made me feel that this entire experience was really wholesome.

Good times!

🍰🍰🍰


I enrolled in a topic on Lithics

But found myself confronted with Physics

So when given a rock, I went straight into shock

And couldn’t record its specifics.


… And recording we did a lot of, for the next few days.

We got into a bit of drawing. There are some specific conventions and methods that archaeologists must follow when drawing stone artefacts – it’s actually more of a technical recording than realism, like a map.

Something that blew my mind: I have done other kinds of drawing AND I did maths to the very end of high school, but somehow I’d never used a set square for drawing before in my life.

I’d always just thought this thing was another kind of ruler. The more you know.

Image credit: dreamstime

So anyway, we got to using those to draw outlines of some artefacts…

Image: mine!

… and adding the conventions – parallel lines for flake scars (where thin bits have come off), and stippled dots for anywhere that’s a rock cortex (ie the outside bit).

Drawing of a flake!

That second poem was tongue-in-cheek. We had a lot of fun and am unbelievably grateful that I enrolled!


Did you know what a set square was?! Do you like limericks/have your own favourite one?

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fun stuff

On Blades and Boulders

This post includes some trivia and other updates:

• In 1907, the last mountain in Japan thought left unclimbed was Mt. Tsurugi. A team went up the mountain that year… and found that someone had left a sword there. Later this sword turned out to be over 1000 years old* (Wikipedia).

That sword is now enshrined in a museum, and you can read its leaflet here. A sword is a pretty badass way to leave a marker somewhere. Imagine if one had been left on the moon, instead of a flag.

🗡🗡🗡

On the topic of Japanese blades:

• Japanese chefs’ knives are some of the most expensive in the world. Making them is an art craft that has been handed down over many generations.


• I am deciding whether for Semester 2 I would prefer to take a topic on Rock Art or Stone Artefacts.

Fun fact:

• Some Indigenous cultures make markings on cave walls for gender-specific viewing – only women are meant to see some paintings, and men others. If I study rock art this coming semester, I could tell you why. 🎨🪨

• On the other hand, stone tools are the ancestors of knives, which is decidedly awesome.

• The above aside, I have not applied for further topics in Archaeology for 2022; the reason being that a clean multiple of X (ie X, 2X, 4X) number of uni topics have to be completed by December, to keep non-Archaeology options on the table for 2023. I could apply for more later, but won’t yet. Watch this space.

• I turned a year older. Encouragingly, a friend commented over one lunchtime that I was not fretting about the usual existential crises. This might be attributed to currently having partially-baked life goals, or being in a food coma that afternoon, or both.

One of my favourite cartoons. Artist unknown, but they are spot on.

Anyway, how are you? Do you like knives? If you were hypothetically forced to enter and view one of two museum exhibitions by a short and obsessed museum warden – one full of cave paintings and one full of stone tools – which room would you select?

Image credit: pexels.com

*Yes, I did read about Mt. Tsurugi in a viral social media post before recycling this here.

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journal, university

Intro to being a pro

In first lecture of Introduction to Professional Archaeology, they went into the discussion of what it means to be a “professional”.

This is something that surprised me. In all my years at school this was only mentioned once in passing as “being paid for your knowledge”. That was it!

Who knew that there is a whole oeuvre about professionalism out there in the world.

There is no hard definition about what makes a profession, but there is a consensus that the criteria include:

• having an established system of technical skills and knowledge in a specialty

• having your skills toolkit transferable into a different setting fairly comfortably – if you exclude this criterion, what you are doing is then a job.

• community sanction*, as in, an in-group that agrees you can work as one of them

• a standard of ethical conduct.

When I think of the word “professional” my mind wants to conjure an image of a suit and tie, which is probably not necessarily in the criteria.

Professionals tend to be thought of as having a healthy income, but Archaeology is an example that we should really regard professions as “an attitude, not a rate of pay”.

A good question they asked was: would you consider painting as a profession, or a trade?

I mean, houses do get professionally painted so I would have said both.

What do you think makes a profession?


Some fun archaeological facts uncovered during this week’s content:

• Beer was invented over five thousand years ago, as is confirmed by the discovery of breweries in Ancient Egypt. Drinking beer was safer than drinking water because the fermentation process stopped people of antiquity from getting dysentery.

• A lot of what we know about modern landfills was confirmed by archaeologists. I know from background reading this is called garbology.

• It is a complete myth that biodegradable items going into the trash is better than plastic (because of methane being released), and

• Hot dogs have been found entirely intact in landfill strata estimated to be several decades old. Ew…

🌭🌭🌭

More fun stuff to come! I will do my best not to make this blog a repackaging of the whole university course.


*how the word sanction can mean both approval and political ostracism, I am very interested to know.

All images from pexels.com.

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journal

Before This Blog

Image credit: pexels.com

After an Ultra Bad Work Day in 2021, I thought, “I can’t do this anymore, I’m going to change my career to something, anything else.” I jumped onto a university website to look at what degrees exist.

Archaeology, of course, came first under ‘A’.

(I liked telling this story to a few friends as it got some laughs. It made me sound like someone who creates their travel plans by pointing blindly at a world map. The partner jokes that if I had started elsewhere I’d be doing Zoology.)

In truth, I looked at this list, and realised I knew nothing about Archaeology as a profession. Curious, and bored, I Googled, “is Archaeology boring?”

One of the top results is Dr Colleen Morgan’s blog post, Stop Saying Archaeology is Actually Boring. She exhorts those in the profession to please, for the love of Ancient Egyptian Gods* stop beginning their presentations to the lay public with, “you might think that my work is like Indiana Jones, but it’s not nearly so exciting. Anyway, here are some broken pots I found…”

Her writing about her career is compelling and vibrant. My favourite quote of hers would have to be:

As archaeologists we are the discoverers and keepers and storytellers of the different ways we have found to be human.

Dr Colleen Morgan

***

Reading that line gave me the feeling that my inner escape artist had just been handed a passcode out of a locked room. I went on a massive reading spree after that.

I do mean to reach out to Dr Morgan personally, but wanted to do it when I had made some headway into the Certificate first. I hope this namedrop isn’t too creepy. She (phD and awesome) is a lot more famous than I (Miss Nobody) am, anyway.

Another article I read soon after was from Cracked.com, which describes the reality of Archaeology in a fun way: “It’s like putting together an enormous puzzle after your dog chewed the box with the picture to shreds and somebody stole half the pieces.”

It was a Hasty Generalisation, but after a few articles I thought, Archaeologists are good writers!

I went down a big rabbit hole reading about both archaeology and forensic anthropology for a few weeks before I made Dreams Of Digging.

*my embellishment, and I’ve paraphrased to summarise the gist of her plea.


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Australia, journal

Kangaroo Island: Fire and Water

Vivonne Bay

Here we went exploring. This bay is the second place in a row I’ve learnt that was named after a very nice lady, Catherine de Vivonne.

(The other place and person was Adelaide, the Queen in the 1830s, who was kind and 27 years her husband’s junior. She influenced King William to cut out swearing and drinking, and was loved by all.)

Anyway, over at Vivonne we found some ruins!

Stairs from the beach to nowhere

These weren’t terribly old ruins – the charred bits indicated they were probably burnt in the 2019-2020 bushfires – that time when pretty much all of Australia was ablaze.

There were no signs saying NO CLIMBING, so we went up for science.

The view at the top.

The fires on Kangaroo Island that summer ravaged 48% of the whole place. This report also details the destruction of habitat for various species. That summer, you could see red skies and smoke from more than 150km away.

A lot of animals died, sadly. But there still is surviving wildlife. Like this jewel-like bug…

… and this endangered and rare bird, the hooded plover:

Seal Bay

At Seal Bay (which would probably have been better named Sea Lion Bay), there are often many sea lions on the beach. You can pay to watch as animals flaunt the life we runners of the rat race all dream of (although to be fair, they do spend 3 days at sea hunting, and 3 days recuperating).

Zzzz. The dream!

A little inland lies the skeleton of a young whale that was maybe trying to do the same thing as the sea lions, but never made it back to the water. Poor thing.

The young whale, which conservation park has fenced off for teaching purposes. RIP.

Dolphins at Penneshaw

Driving along the coast, the partner spotted some blobs in the water and wondered aloud if they were dolphins, at which I yelled “WHERE?” and jumped out the car.

So now I can say I’ve seen the rival species to our intelligence in the wild. Seriously, if you have ever seen pictures of a dolphin’s brain you would possibly be alarmed, and glad they don’t have feet and opposable thumbs, or the world might have been theirs while we were fluffing around in caves, discovering fire. Maybe.


Ever explored some old abandoned sites/tempered your SO’s language/beached yourself/seen interesting creatures?

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ancient rome

On Inflated Stories

Apparently, this badger is now a more accomplished archaeologist than many, having discovered in Spain the biggest number of Roman coins ever to be found (209). Well done Badger.

🦡


I have completed all five weeks of Futurelearn learning about Ancient Rome.

The professor is super passionate, and the videos are easily digestible at about 5-8minutes long each, and there are several interactive Panorama features so it feels like you are virtually visiting some of the sites in Rome itself.

To share some fun information I learnt, it is that the emperors of Rome put buildings on their coins as propaganda.

Image source: wiki commons.

Given how huge Ancient Rome was, many people wouldn’t have been able to travel and see such buildings for themselves, and so the intent was to brag about these massive works and public projects, far and wide.

The colosseum, from Pexels.com

Sometimes, the buildings were put on coins before they were finished, as archaeologists have found buildings on coins that never really existed. (Seems like politicians over-promising and under-delivering is a practice of old, old, old.)

Below is a link to Futurelearn, where many of the courses seem seriously fascinating. I am not being paid to say this*.

In some belated news, my colleague with Christmas-flu didn’t have COVID.

I am going away this coming weekend (for the first time in two years 💀), but will still be in Australia! Will try to visit and post things from museums.


*This one time I wrote a glowing review of something I bought, and then later it got flagged as being a paid promo. I was writing (unpaid) to humorous effect. Guess they couldn’t believe that someone could like a new vacuum cleaner that much.

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First brush

Turns out I don’t have to go trekking to the hinterlands to dig for artefacts after all. Yesterday evening, while digging a small ditch in our yard to place a doorframe for our chicken coop, my partner hit something with his shovel.

The cool thing was, it looked not unlike the hilt of a sword.

Treasure!

Of course this was exciting and fitting with everything else I’ve been going on about. Maybe it was prophetic. I had visions of pulling it out of the ground, whereupon it would symbolise the fulfilment of destiny, like an Australian, modern-day, budget-version of King Arthur.

I’d never guessed I would be doing something archaeological where we regularly feed the chickens.

There were a few things which occurred that would not be permissible at a true excavation site:

• the partner purposely whacked the artefact with a hammer, which bent it,

• we started forcefully stabbing at the ground around it with large garden poles, trying to loosen the soil,

• there were chickens running around probably wondering what the heck we were doing, and

• as I scraped away at the dirt and wildly fantasised about it being the tip of an iceberg and how it was probably attached to an enormous machine beneath our feet, the partner abandoned duty and ran away to paint, of all things.

(To be fair he went to work on the chicken coop door. As in, actually completing the task we were in the yard for).

It was clear that the object wasn’t a sword – more like a stake of some kind, with two washers. The thing wouldn’t budge at all, even after I had uncovered about 40cm of it.

A stake

Eventually it got dark, so we stopped.

🗡

This story has a boring ending, because while I was at work today, the partner reburied the object and finished the coop door so the chickens can be safe from predators.

So that was that. No unsheathing of a Symbol of Truth And Justice by the Fated, Chosen Protagonist. Just the spotting of some metal stick that got covered up again.

I think probably what happened is we unearthed an old garden stake. Given the timeline of our home, it is likely 25+ years old. The item seemed to be made of black iron and could have been smithed. It could indicate where ground level used to be. But I do wonder if it is attached to something deeper underground that forms part of a network – piping, perhaps. Anyone recognise it?

The exciting spin on all this is: last night I was arms-deep in the earth, in a fox-infested* area, uncovering a mysterious sword-like item, and my first, as a fledgling archaeologist. Hooray!

Next time, it will be complete, and something historical, for real.


*A fox came and hunted chickens in our yard, once.

🦊

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journal

Waxing Philosophical: Little Black Hen

A fact about me: I like to joke that I hoard chickens. I have six dinosaurs living in the back yard. One of them is a bantam named Puck. Fully grown, she is pigeon-sized – small, round, black, and the first night I got her, she hurled herself from a rooftop, halfway across the yard in a giant parabola, flying like well-smacked hockey puck.

Yesterday I watched Puck poke around near some flowers.

Unbeknownst to her, she was walking right on top of the grave of a white chicken, named Pillow. Poor Pillow died in January last year during a ~40C heat wave. (Digging graves for pets is the kind of digging that I don’t dream about.)

Watching Puck yesterday got me pondering. If Pillow hadn’t died, Puck would not be walking on Pillow’s grave. Puck wouldn’t even have come to live with us. She would have ended up in a small-town fodder store, and then sold to who knows where.

Puck wouldn’t have been named Puck, but something else by another owner, like Daisy or Berry, or whatever else people like to name their chooks.

I felt a strange wonderment, then. Similar conditions apply to all of us.

The lady who lived in our house before us was an Italian woman, Mrs B.R, who passed away in old age. (My partner continued to receive her magazine subscription from Italy for a good decade, until I moved in and plugged a polite request to unsubscribe into a translating app and emailed that to the editor in Italian.)

Mrs. B.R walked on the same linoleum tiles as us.

If she had gone on living – besides scoring an entry in he Guinness Book of World Records for having the most birthdays ever – Mrs. B.R could still be living here, and this house wouldn’t be our home. We would be somewhere else.

How many resting places in antiquity do we unknowingly walk over, every day?

The only reason any of us lead the lives we do is because other people in history have made room for us. For better or worse, their actions, lives and passing away – all of these have determined how our lives are sized, and shaped.

Call it a thought experiment, or an exercise in sonder; maybe this is the butterfly effect, or a glimpse of Indra’s net. It was just something that struck me, watching a little bantam chicken, scratching the earth and going about her day.

Puck beside the Everlastings

Other two images from pexels.com

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ancient rome, journal

Roman roots and other origins

Here’s hoping everyone had a lovely Christmas and/or Holiday/weekend. To update, I unfortunately have not discovered the graves of any long-lost rulers*, or the remains of any ancient civilisations. but I am working on it (in theory).

Because Christmas and Boxing Day this year landed on a Saturday and a Sunday, the Public Holidays in Australia were designated for Monday and Tuesday, so people working the traditional weekdays could have their breaks.

So, confusingly, today we are observing Boxing Day. This seems like a very Australian thing to do – milk every holiday for as much time off work as possible – but perhaps it’s international?

Apparently the origin of Boxing Day is debated, but may have to do with a late Roman/early Christian tradition of placing boxes of alms and offerings in churches after Christmas Day (Source: Wikipedia).

🎁📦🗳

Of some new words I learnt this week, the one which I thought the funniest was vomitorium. The Latin root is the verb vomō/vomere, “to spew forth”. A vomitorium is – or was – a passage which vomits a large amount of people out of the amphitheatre after a show.

A vomitorium

Other interesting derivatives:

• the English word ‘palace’ is derived from Palatine Hill, the very place where Rome was founded.

• The Latin word anima has a broad meaning, connoting ‘breath’, ‘life’, ‘soul’.

I was thinking about the English word ‘animate’, connoting movement, and the Chinese word for ‘animal’, 動物, which is literally “moving thing”. I can’t help but think that maybe the earliest hunters must have been trying to differentiate between bovine and boulders while hunting – “No, Steve, we throw the spear at the one that runs!”


In other news, I am waiting to hear back from a colleague who came down with flu-like symptoms on Christmas Day – so unlucky – for their COVID test results, to see if I am to isolate as a close contact. Hopefully everything turns out fine.

That’s all for the time being! Stay safe all.


*I meant to write an On This Day post to mark the publication of King Tut’s excavation which appeared in the Illustrated London News in December 1922, but I got busy and missed the date. How cool though, that this discovery happened just over exactly 99 years ago.

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

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university

Enrolments open

I have had a tricky week, not least because it began with my car getting rear-ended*. But everything is okay because university enrolments are open.

What I have been looking forward to the most is the Introductory subject/paper**/topic to Archaeology. Really it is about diving into the nitty-gritty of navigating the profession.

The topic overview on the university website promises that I, the student, will learn about (lightly paraphrased):

  • ethical problems facing archaeologists,
  • the legal rigmarole that must be adhered to by archaeologists,
  • how to survive project planning in Cultural Heritage Management,
  • how to write a half decent archaeologist’s report,
  • the consequences and ramifications of mangling ethical practice in archaeology.

Et voila, the very Framework Skeleton of Professional Archaeology. Hopefully the reality of studying this is delicious and not dry.


*Driving and I already have a fraught relationship. Anyway, I’m fine, but my poor car made loud alien whirring noises in the brief time it took to get from the collision site to work to be safely towed. On the bright side, I can now tick “operate a vehicle that sounds like a space shuttle” off my bucket list.

** the university where I did my undergrad degree in NZ, calls topics ‘papers’. This makes sense but is apparently confusing from an Oz perspective. Is it called ‘papers’ only in Kiwi vernacular?

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