Monday, October 20, 2014

"Domesticating Space Construction, Community, and Cosmology in the Late Prehistoric Near East"

"Structuring interactions, structuring ideas: Domestication of space in the prehistoric Near East" is the introductory essay by E. B. Banning and Michael Chazan from University of Toronto, describing the scope and context of the various papers. 

From "Architecture and the symbolic construction of new worlds" by Trevor Watkins, describing structure EA 30, dating to "Period 2, the earliest aceramic Neolithic period" at " Jerf al-Ahmar, on the Euphrates in north Syria", the second essay.

"At the end of its life, it was emptied, a human head was placed in it, and in the central area a decapitated body was spread-eagled.

And then the structure was destroyed by fire, its burning roof collapsing on the decapitated body. Finally, the structure
was obliterated as the cavity left by its destruction was filled with more than 300 m3 of soil."

Terminating the life of a building was a practice that spanned a greater part of the Neolithic, as indicated by the much later decommissioning of a structure at Ness of Brodgar, an event marked by a vast feast on domesticated animals, hundreds of whose bones were discovered in the vicinity.

'via Blog this'

"Die spätepipaläolithische und frühneolithische Entwicklung im westlichen Vorderasien "

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

BBC News - Cave paintings change ideas about the origin of art

BBC News - Cave paintings change ideas about the origin of art:

'via Blog this'

Intriguing news from Sulawesi, where cave paintings dated to 40kya have been reported in Nature, making them as ancient as the oldest known such art from the Franco-Cantabrian region of western Europe.

Eerily similar in style and content to their European counterparts, the paintings depict images/stencils of human hands, whilst other figurative images show a high degree of aptitude in both execution and anatomical accuracy.

Curiously however, little mention is made of Australian rock art, which is thought to date to roughly the same period, if not earlier.

Friday, October 03, 2014

"The first South Americans: Extreme living" : Nature News & Comment

The first South Americans: Extreme living : Nature News & Comment:

'via Blog this'

Although much of the discussion regarding the earliest settlers of the New World tends to focus on the Clovis First theory in North America, it's becoming increasingly clear that South America has an intriguing prehistory of its own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Light on the Dawn: a new perspective on the Neolithic Revolution - Rhind lectures 2009

New Light on the Dawn: a new perspective on the Neolithic Revolution

An excellent series of talks given by Trevor Watkins, speaking at the Rhind Lectures of 2009, in which he documents the extraordinary, yet still poorly understood cultural and symbolic changes in the Near East/Southwest Asia, that preceded agriculture and the associated domestication of cereals and selected fauna.

Not least of these changes in the way humans viewed and shaped the world around them was the invention of architecture, and the ways in which memory was both created and stored.

Not only were residential - and unfortified - villages constructed for the living, but special provision was made for the dead, whose remains were often incorporated into the very buildings inhabited by the living. This variously involved remains being put into the original foundations, stored beneath the floor, or deposited at the end of a building's life, whereupon the structure itself might on occasion be burnt or buried.

Additionally, great importance seems to have been attached to small public buildings, where communal activities of both practical and ritual types appear to have taken place - activities or modes of thought which may well have traced their roots much further back into prehistory, but were for the first time practiced in settlements that in some instances lasted hundreds of years.

For many decades of the 20th century, much thought and a great deal of writing was concerned with trying to work out why people discarded the hunter/gatherer or foraging lifestyle in favour of farming - but as archaeological research has progressed, the question has shifted to trying to fathom what set of factors caused humans living around 11,000-13,000 years ago to start living in permanent co-residence, whilst devoting no little effort to observing or acknowledging what they evidently perceived to be supernatural events and forces that had begun to pervade their consciousness - all the while continuing to rely on foraging as their primary method of food acquisition - cereals were to some extent exploited, but the road to domestication, whereby the seeds grew sufficiently large enough to make their harvesting practicable, was a process that took a good few hundred years.

It'll take a few hours to sit through the entire set of talks, but I can hardly imagine a better way of spending such time in pursuit of constructive viewing and listening - unless of course you happen to believe the world was magically created a few thousand years ago, in which case accounts of people living millennia beforehand will only make you feel slightly less good about things.

image: Jerf el -Ahmar

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Mexican Suitcase

The Mexican Suitcase/ La maleta mexicana


Rediscovered Spanish Civil War negatives - audio with transcript from PRI's
The World.

Flickr set

Image: by Robert Capa [Ernest Hemingway (third from the left), New York Times journalist Herbert Matthews (second from the left) and two Republican soldiers, Teruel, Spain], late December, 1937. Negative.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Essay of the Week - George Orwell: Politics and the English Language (1946)

Before and during the recent break in this blog's output, I had long been aware of at least one major set of flaws in my writing, namely too many repeated phrases, and rambling prose that promised little and delivered less.

Despite having written many thousands of words across hundreds of posts, reading them back often gave me a sense that there was far too much padding and not nearly enough fact - easy on the eye maybe, but lacking in substance, which all too often had been forced out by the metaphor.

I came across the linked essay, written by Orwell in 1946, while listening to an edition of the Stone Ape podcast, which I will discuss in more detail another time.

In it, Orwell rails against the use of florid, metaphorical language, and in particular the way in which he thought the English language had been twisted beyond recognition - or meaning - in the political realm by those wishing to hide their true intentions or opinions.

It's an instructive piece - witty, forthright, and strewn with examples of what the author tells us is writing of the worst kind. But as even he admits, a cursory glance through the essay reveals that Orwell succumbs to exactly the same faults as he is pointing out. Here's an example:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Note the way he uses the word 'barbarous' right at the very end - he might have used words like 'ghastly' or 'awful' as Anglo-Saxon/Middle English equivalents, rather than the more languid (and overtly Latin) 'barbarous' - he must have been aware of this anomaly, so I wonder what he meant by including it, or whether he was just poking fun at himself by signing off with a flourish of the type he so evidently dislikes.

A final thought - is there any such an thing as an Anglo-Saxon thesaurus, and more to the point, what would be the AS equivalent word for 'thesaurus'?

A pdf version of the essay can be found here, via Stanford University

A collection of Orwell essays, including that already mentioned can be found here, via Adelaide University, (originally via thebeliever07, from where I used the image at top)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shedding New Light on Saturn and Enceladus/Test post

Shedding New Light on Saturn (Dec. 27, 2009) - Planetary Radio | The Planetary Society

As The Crust Turns: Cassini Data Show Enceladus in Motion - NASA JPL

A recent podcast from the Planetary Society featured the Cassini mission at Saturn, home to shimmering rings and mysterious moons, where the spacecraft has been busily shuttling its way around the system capturing images and assorted data as tirelessly as it does efficiently, for over 5 years.

The glint on Titan comes in for special mention, being one of those long sought after images that was finally snapped by dint of luck rather than specific timing - a methane lake at the north pole was glimpsed as the light from the rising sun, giving the specular reflection.

Iapetus, tidally locked, has a leading side that is 10 times darker than the opposite, which when the 79 day rotation, sweeping up the dust from other moons, giving it a reddish appearance.

The hexagon at Saturn's north pole, the cause of whose shape has been a mystery since first spotted 30 years ago - wider than 2 Earths, jetstream 220 mph, active for an unknown period of time, longevity a mystery, when set against ephemeral hurricanes on Earth.

Wave features at the corners of the polygon, multi-walled structures go all the way to the top of Saturn's atmosphere.

Very dim and large new ring found.

Is Enceladus the only active body/moon in the Saturnian system?