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:

fun stuff, journal

Auckland Museum

I have been on a break to see fam. Here’s a smattering of random facts and photos I gleaned from a trip to Auckland Museum.

• New Zealand broke off from a supercontinent Gondwana millions of years ago.

• At one point, Gondwana formed the southern part of an even bigger supercontinent, Pangaea.

This big chicken bird, now extinct, is/was a Giant Moa. When it walked the earth it reached 3m in height. Sexual dimorphism meant that females were bigger than males.

The Moa egg had a volume of up to 4 Litres, or roughly the equivalent of 60-65 chicken eggs. That is one big breakfast…

Every bird is the cutest bird (says me), and this statement extends to the NZ national icon, the kiwi*. At school, I learnt that:

• the kiwi’s egg takes up more space inside the female’s body than any other bird.

• unlike most birds, which have their nostrils quite close to their face, the kiwi has its nostrils at the end of its beak for sniffing out insects.


Speaking of which, there were a lot on display.

The New Zealand weta is one of the heaviest insects in the world. It is herbivorous and presumably harmless, given circulating photos of people holding them with their bare hands, but I think I just wouldn’t.

These beetles look a lot like jewels.

There were a lot of bugs… all dead.

When I was growing up, the museum had a tank of live cockroaches, which I would stare at endlessly in horrified fascination. Sadly, it wasn’t there this time round.


Re: the natural world, there was a whole section on Volcanoes, as most New Zealanders basically live on top an active site.

• Volcanoes are necessary for life to form on a planet.

• The Jarkata Incident, is an aviation event which happened in June 1982. Mt Galunggung in Indonesia blew up, unbeknownst to the pilots of British Airways Flight 009, who were headed to Auckland, and the commercial plane flew right through the volcanic ash. All the engines failed, and the debris damaged the windscreen, yet the pilots managed to land the plane safely. What heroes!! Here’s the wiki page on it.


If you have ever wanted to experience a volcanic apocalypse, there is a simulator in the museum which shows you over 12 minutes how things might look and feel if a volcano erupted in Auckland. The simulation happens in a fake living room, with a large screen that resembles a window to Auckland harbour, and the room shakes as if in an earthquake as well.

Here is the fake living room and its aftermath, after the house had been engulfed by a fake tsunami.


So anyway, after the apocalypse we went to see bowls.

There was a room full of ancient art from around the world, including ceramics, I saw this humongous Japanese bowl, which was designed for bread-making, but really would have been perfect for the Moa egg.

Auckland museum has various sections dedicated to Polynesian and Māori culture and history.

Food knives. I would totally feel badass buttering my bread with something like this.
Check out these shields…

I found this little story particularly interesting:

This tea-towel was made in the 1960s, and was kindly gifted to Auckland Museum so that the woman depicted, Harimate, a respected ancestor, would be spared being treated like an ordinary dish cloth.

Would you, hypothetically, use a tea towel for drying crockery, if a family member’s face was on it? I think I wouldn’t, particularly for parents and grandparents. But if it was a sibling and I had lost a recent argument about who was doing the dishes … hmm.


*If you have ever wanted to see what kiwis look like when they are happy, here’s a video that was released from a sanctuary.

I received results for last semester. My grades were surprising, as I did better in the one I was worried about, and worse in the one where I thought I was kicking butt. As no one will see these grades, they may matter as much as Instagram Likes or high scores in an arcade game. But, I passed, so yay!


I hope everyone is fine. Have you been to New Zealand? Have you slept through an earthquake? I have. Are you freaked out by bugs?

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:

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


Let’s talk about looting

It’s been 12 years since the Pixar film UP was released. I felt like watching a re-run of it on my day off and one particular line from the film caught my attention.

When Charles Muntz the explorer meets and welcomes Carl and Russell to his home, he shows off his private collection of artefacts/skeletons, and says:

“Most of the collection is housed in the world’s top museums; New York, Munich, London. Of course, I kept the best for myself.”

I now know from reading around that this line is majorly full of major red flags!


The private collection of discovered items which belong in museums is seen as a no-no.

There is a distinct correlation between private collecting and archaeological looting, which is when people go to historical sites and essentially just take things. (If you buy ‘em, they’ll supply ‘em.) This feeds the illegal trade, and if the item is not documented correctly at the time of removal, it becomes nearly worthless without its historical context.

The knock-on effect is that this deprives groups of people from studying their cultural heritage and being connected to their roots. The story of that very item is lost to all future generations and history.

So what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t historical items be finders’ keepers? Well no. This is where the study of Humanities is important. It’s somewhat analogous to the difference between, say, taking your dog to the vet who trained at university, instead of that dodgy guy up the road who ‘studied’ by dissecting animals in his own garage and without oversight or ethics approval.

Some other fun and dire facts about collecting and looting I have learnt:

• When people do illegal archaeological looting, they leave distinctive holes in the ground, like pock marks. This is looked out for by archaeologists via satellite when they are surveying sites.

Holes made by cowboys, in the non-horse-riding sense of the word. Image credit: wikimedia commons

• eBay was initially feared to be the place where an illegal trade of artefacts would boom – but it has, surprisingly, had a protective effect, and has offset archaeological looting. This is because naughty people have decided they make more money creating forgeries of items than they would pillaging historical sites.

• According to this article, if you look for antiques on eBay, it is estimated that 5% are definitely genuine, 30% are definitely forgeries, and the last two thirds lie somewhere in the middle, needing specialist attention to determine if it’s the real deal.


Out of curiosity, I did a quick search on eBay using the keyword ‘antique’ and this turned 990,000+ results. I tried to narrow this down, and did a search for ‘antique artefact’, which turned with much fewer, 141 results. Some of them looked suspicious, but several just resembled souvenirs.

Then suddenly, all these sponsored advertisements started appearing! The links lead to artefacts that did indeed look like they belonged in a museum. Eep. Hopefully that wasn’t a genuine pot with Egyptian/Roman origins being sold online.


“Can you keep what you find?” Is a question that is often pitched at archaeologists. In summary, the answer is no. I guess those of us with magpie-like tendencies that need to be satisfied would do less detriment hoarding other things, and leaving cultural heritage items alone.

In some uplifting (dated) news, a charitable foundation once won the auction where some sacred Native American masks were being sold, and donated them back to the Hopi tribe. Read about it here.