fun stuff, journal, news

Shining some Light

Recently, a serendipitous discovery was made at Cincinnati museum. There was a (in my opinion) fairly ordinary looking plate from the century with engravings of the Buddha’s name, that was kept in storage for the last six-ish decades.

The curator, Dr Sung, found that if light was shone and reflected off in a certain way, it depicted a meditating Buddha. Which I reckon is terribly clever on the part of the artist, who lived in the 15th-16th century and likely never looked up ways to make this happen on WikiHow.

The reflection in question:

Above images: Rob Deslongchamps from Cincinnati Art Museum

Quite cool!

I first saw this article on Good News Network, which is a network with only good news – a lot of which is relevant to historical discoveries (I’ve taken to blocking most news sites on my phone in the last few weeks because the headlines are all doom and gloom.*)

On the subject of light, there is currently an event this week/month across central city that is showcasing different light effects/art made by people, which is awesome.


Some fun stuff related to light:

• In ancient China, people believed that solar eclipses were happening because a giant dragon was eating the sun (talk about high on the Scoville scale 🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶)

• On Wikipedia, Nikola Tesla’s name does not come up on the list of scientists who contributed to the incandescent light bulb. (I wasn’t sure if it was one of the things he and Thomas Edison had competing bragging rights over so I checked).

• By a small degree, green light relaxes the eye muscles for focusing, more so than yellow or red light.


I briefly did some homework about rock art while deciding on topics, but eventually decided to select the topic on looking at stone tools in Australia. This actually came down to scheduling, as it fits much better with everything else in my life. This particular topic is a short intensive that starts toward the end of the year.

Perhaps this means I will restructure this blog and/or diversify content – have to decide!

How are you? Do you peruse or avoid the news? What your tolerance level for spicy food? (Mine: mild) Has your blog changed as you changed, and how?

* I saw this quote the other day, and quite liked it:


Before This Blog

Image credit:

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, 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.


End of Short Course

And just like that, the week-long short course in Human Osteology is over!

Before today, I had had a vision of myself becoming the Hermione Granger of the Archaeology School: That is to say, walking out of the Human Osteology test having received full marks. I would be serenely emitting a cool aura, with my newly-minted wisdom and immaculate smarts in the world of skeletal identification. When asked how it went, I would be laughing demurely yet truthfully – “Mm yes, I did in fact get everything right”.

But that went out the window, thanks to a question in the quiz. Out of a collection, we were asked to identify one bone that came from animal remains. There was a long bone that looked strange in the fuzzy photograph, and long story short I pretty much circled a person’s leg thinking it came from a giraffe.

Image from

It sounds ridiculous, but to be fair, the lecturer had tricked us earlier this week with a picture of a cat femur, which looks very similar to a human femur.

My answer:

Photo of part of the test paper. Reasoning was not completely silly.

But the final result was fine and everyone passed, so hooray!

The Dean of Archaeology came in at the end to have a chat with us. We learnt that some archaeology schools have courses where they bury animal carcasses and go excavate it a year later, to see what uncovering that would be like in the real world. Then, the class buries a fresh carcass so the students the following year can do the same thing and have something to excavate. The Dean is considering introducing such a topic.

All in all, it’s been a satisfying week. I gained new skills. Giraffes notwithstanding, I can now determine from a pile of bones the minimum number of humans in those remains, the biological sex of the individual, their (broadly speaking) likely ancestry, stature, and age at death.

This week I had conversations with interesting people too – in fact, come to think, I talked to archaeologists in person for the first time ever (they really exist!). Several of the students this week already have bachelor degrees in Archaeology and life experiences in the field.

One guy said he does land surveys, working with First Nations people to see if there are sacred burial sites so people can avoid disturbing them. Another girl has a job which changes from project to project. Her stories ranged from moving grave sites – uncovering objects which people held dear and fighting for the items to be kept with the owner’s remains – to flying in helicopters and trying to get away from thunderstorms.

It all sounded very unpredictable and exciting.

“It can be dangerous,” she said.

My line of work has been rewarding in its own way. But, just about all the highlights have occurred literally within the enclosure of four walls.

A long time ago, I read this quote, and have always remembered it:

Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.

Robin Sharma

In the past, I used to laugh about the unchanging nature of desk work with the joke that one day, on my death bed, I’ll look back over my life like a reel, only to discover that a huge segment of the whole thing just appears entirely the same.

Chronological bar graph to represent variation in events over lifetime. See how exciting it is? No, neither.

I laughed, but also privately worried that it would be true. Hopefully, this is something that can be avoided.

For the time being, the first week of study is finished, and it’s back to business as usual this weekend.