ARTIFACT SPRING 2013
ARCHAEOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY MAGAZINE
ARTIFACT IS... Editor-in-Chief Eugenia Ellanskaya Creative Director Ruthy Mason Editors Eugenia Ellanskaya Lewis Glynn Dexter Findley Contributors Eve Hoon Michael Yap Dexter Findley Giles Carey Lewis Glynn Max Horder
The Alternative Heritage World 03
The Uncanny: Haunted Cityscape 05 MICHAEL YAP Anthropology and Cybersociality 07 DEXTER FINDLEY Rethinking the domestic architecture of early Neolithic Orkney 09
Interview with Phil Harding 13
Circle of Death: elitism and the archaeological media 15 Thanks to... LEWIS GLYNN Stephen Shennan Bill Sillar Decriminalizing the Cocoa Leaf 17 Judy Medrington MAX HORDER The Current Archaeology Team Cover Photography Claudia da Lanรงa Lisa Randisi
News and Reviews 19
Artifact is an Archaeology and Anthropology magazine based in the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, London. If you have any queries, comments, or would like to write for us, email the address below: firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright Artifact 2012. All rights reserved.
of Finn McCool’s existence that lie in the natural basalt formations shaped like a “Giant’s Boot”, a “Wishing Chair” and “The Organ” he supposedly played.
Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan, 2002
In any discussion of World Heritage Sites, I would put good money on hedging the bet that one of the following sites would find its way into the agenda: TajMahal, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Giza, Petra, Vatican City, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Great Wall of China, or Angkor Wat. Yet, it might surprise some to find out that there are in fact 962 UNESCO World Heritage Sites today, some of which exist under a more specified group for “intangible” or “in danger”. The list grows every year as sites of exceptional nature and culture are brought to light, and nations lobby to have their historic ruins or natural wilderness sites on the map to
bring prestige, tourism and a commitment to saving the irreplaceable. With roughly enough sites to discover one daily for the next 3 years, surely some must have fallen through the cracks of our awareness. What are these more elusive sites and where are they? Numerous lists have been compiled to explore the “Most Interesting”, “Best Suited for Children”, “Most Mysterious” and even “Best Candidates for Future” world heritage sites. Artifact makes a forage into this debate with our own list of 10 of the lesser-known UNESCO sites in the world (with an obvious archaeological bias):
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, 1986
The result of an ancient volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago, Giant’s Causeway is an area of 40,000 polygonal basalt columns sticking dramatically out of the sea. These columns formed by the contractions in the chalk beds as lava cooled and caused horizontal and vertical fractures which formed the unique hexagonal columns. Northern Ireland’s only Heritage Site, and its pride and joy - Irish legend tells of a giant Finn McCool who built a causeway to Scotland and was challenged by a much larger Scottish opponent, who he managed to trick and send fleeing, tearing up the causeway behind him desperately so he could not be pursued. Most guides to the Causeway implore visitors to find the clues of Finn McCool’s existence that lie in
Rising 1900m above sea level and located quite a distance away from any form of civilization, the Minaret of Jam grows out of a deep valley along the Hari-rud River of the otherwise barren landscape. To say that it stands out would be an understatement as the Minaret is an impressive 62m in height. It is carved in relief with Kufic inscription and was built in 1194 by the Sultan of the ancient city of Firuzkuh. It is one of the few examples of the impressive quality of architecture and decoration in the Islamic Period and has not been restored in any way since it was first built, yet still preserves the deep turquoise colour of glazed tiles that adorn its face.
IulissatIcefjord, Greenland, 2004
Containing the fastest and most active ice-stream in the world, Sermeq Kujalleq, the Iulissat Icefjord is a fjord in Greenland calved by glacial activity. It accounts for 10% of the production of all Greenland ice, more than any glacier beyond Antarctica. The glacier calves around 46 cubic kilometers of ice every year. If you melted this amount of ice, the resulting amount of water could cover the annual consumption of water in the USA. Owing to its relative ease of accessibility, it has been the focus for scientific attention in helping us to understand the last Ice Age in the Quaternary Period and other processes related to climate change. Its northern location also makes it a prime tourist attraction for catching the ever-elusive Northern Lights phenomenon.
Petroglyphs of Tamgal, Kazakhstan, 2004
Located in the Tamgaly Gorge in the Chu-Ili mountains of Kazakhstan is
a concentrated mass of 5000 petroglyphs ranging from the Bronze Ages to the 20th century. The name “Tamgaly” translated from Kazakh means “painted or marked place”. These stone carvings have been instrumental in helping us to understand the shift in social organization across the times: from scenes of solar deities and zoomorphic beings in the Bronze Ages, to hunting in the Iron Ages and warriors in the modern periods of the Turks.The five distinct periods show clear differentiations in style and colour of the carvings.
Old Towns of Djenne, Mali, 1988
Inhabited since 250 B.C., Djenné became a market centre and an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was one of the centres for the propagation of Islam. Its traditional houses, of which nearly 2,000 have survived, are built on hillocks as protection from the seasonal floods. The complex of Djenne represents an iconic traditional
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houses, of which nearly 2,000 have survived, are built on hillocks as protection from the seasonal floods. The complex of Djenne represents an iconic traditional African mudbrick village which appears to rise from the sand itself.
Mont St. Michael, France, 1979
Perched on a rocky island in the middle of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stands a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey has been described as a “technical and artistic tour de force”, having to face the environmental challenges of its unique location. As of 2009, its population was 44 though more than 3 million people visit it annually. Before the causeway and dam were put
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a chronological account of human activities and environmental changes over at least 100,000 years.
Vredefort Dome, South Africa, 2005
in place to make visiting the Abbey safe, the Mont was connected to the mainland by a thin natural bridge that was covered at high tide and revealed only at low tide.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Canada, 1981
In south-west Alberta, the remains of marked trails and an aboriginal camp, and a tumulus where vast quantities of American Bison skeletons were found, are evidence of a custom practiced by aboriginal peoples of the North American plains for nearly 6,000 years. Using their excellent knowledge of the topography and of buffalo behaviour, they killed their prey by chasing them over a precipice, granting this particular heritage site a unique name no other can claim ownership to.
Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, Egypt, 2005
The site contains fossils showing the earliest species of whale, the Archaeoceti suborder, crucial to piecing together the evolutionary sequence from land mammals to ocean going creatures. Skeletons of sea cows, elephants, crocodiles and sea turtles were also discovered at this rich site with such a high preservation quality that even stomach contents were found in tact.
The original “Deep Impact” inspiration that dates back 2,023 million years, Vredefort Dome bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event where an asteroid of 5-10km in diameter hit the earth. The devastating global effects are hinted at in this deep astrobleme crater of roughly 300km in diameter, making it the largest known impact structure on earth that can be seen from space. Eve Hoon
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Tsodilo, Botswana, 2001
With one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world, Tsodilo has been called the ‘’Louvre of the Desert’’. Over 4,500 paintings are preserved in an area of only 10 km2 of the Kalahari Desert. The archaeological record of the area gives
The huge grey estate-monoliths that hang upon the London cityscape are a provocative architectural statement. Following the death of the Heygate estate in South London and the verdict announced last May to the symbolically named Robin Hood Gardens estate in East London, it is high time to talk about their ambivalent existence. Do they embody a beautifully simplistic utopia or an architectural and psychological dread? These images show nothing other than the ‘ghosts’ of the future of metropolitan living. This Brutalist architecture shows a future that Britain was not ready for and today they simply manifest “machines for living in”. They provoke inspired reflections of a bleak post-industrial world: a double contrast, which creates the effect of uncanny. The uncanny is that very phenomenon responsible for the ambivalent reaction these build-
ings impose. So how did it all come about? The 19th century saw the cityscape change forever with the first machine-produced iron framework. The industrial revolution had begun its unstoppable journey to improve the living standards of the world’s population. In the post World War I era the architectural innovations that were largely hidden in 19th century structural design began to articulate themselves in the future of metropolitan design. This strive for architectural modernism saw its construction process as the subconsciousness of the architecture, which to this period remained dormant in its impulses. The aesthetic maze sprawling Victorian design was to become the functional, symmetrical urban dwellings that we see in these photographs. The urban dread and
anxiety, which haunted the 19th century inhabitants, was to be replaced by modern internal psychological fears, with which many of us are probably too familiar. The effect of Renaissance, Romanticism and the human form on the domestic milieu gave birth to a new environment of inhumane and emotionless architecture. Its outcome – the “generalised uncanny anxiety”- became a common emotion amongst city occupants as they struggled to assimilate this world, both familiar and yet so unfamiliar. The ambiguity of the uncanny is precisely in its void supernatural aspect, waiting to be filled with ghosts, revenants and eerie associations. It invites a crucial uncertainty and obscurity. Surprisingly it is these ambiguities that stand at the heart of our very ontology, our individual and cultural perception of space, time, and history. Seeing the
The Uncanny The Haunted Cityscape
importance of location in a globalising world, Freud foresaw the paradigmal importance of the uncanny as the future of many academic disciplines such as semiotics, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis.
“A fundamentally unliveable modern condition” – Anthony Vidler This phenomenon we are looking at is peculiarly subjective. The uncanny affect is a victimizing manipulation of the stylistic formation of our proximate surroundings. The fluidity of these styles, their architectural reformation and morphing through time is in many ways responsible for that disconcerting feeling of the uncanny. Just like in a familiar moment of terror where one is disturbed by his miscalculations of a mannequin’s actuality. Freud warned against the mesmerising lure and threat of the uncanny, where the boundary between reality and fantasy is uncontrollably blurred. In this way, it is easy to see how the arcades and exhibition halls of Paris could be residues of a dream world.
This psychological tension is
accurately tackled by Freud’s idea of the ‘death drive’, in which an animate form will unconsciously yearn, to an extent, to return to its inanimate form. The conflicting ‘life instinct’ in the unconscious mind creates a momentary shock upon the appearance of an inanimate ‘double’, which eradicates the desire for motionlessness and mortality, like that present in a mannequin, and thus creates the uncanny affect. In this way the uncanny is defined by at least one certainty - that of an individual’s eventual death. The divide between ‘private’ and ‘public’ space became radically blurred, with the increasingly temporary location of city residents, owed largely to the infrastructural revolution. Martin Heidegger sums this up very neatly: “Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the modern world”. The era of Brutalism reflected a post World War II, economically depressed Britain. Cost-efficiency was the central objective to housing the population. Architecture is a symptom of what was truly going on in the period. The bleak and honest style of the photographs we see mirrors the antibourgeois style of the housing, which many architects preferred even when costs were not an issue due to the ‘honesty’ and flexibility of designing with concrete. Today Brutalist style housing estates are synonymous with urban decay, claustrophobia and criminal activity. This style epitomises toughness and longevity, however they are ironically typically dilapidated without plans for serious renovation. Today the images strike angst into the mind of the viewer. This is due partly to the sensationalization of fear, enhanced by the
media, of the metropolis. Also historically, a large number of charismatic authorities have expressed their dislike for Brutalism. Photography and film, along with the Industrial Revolution has often led into a troubling new interior landscape of the uncanny by only further accentuating this new, intensely visual environment of mechanical simulation and trickery. What I hope to have shown is that developed cities will inevitably have unconscious demons of ‘darkness’ due to the uncanny effect, which occurs by virtue of the spatial perplexity initiated by structural change. The uncanny of the metropolis is idiosyncratic and fluid, accentuated subjectively by photography, film and opinion. The pictures represent the ghosts of an earlier social idealism: the feeling of Uncanny is internalised, a reminder of the complex feelings of anxiety we associate with the familiar yet unfamiliar, day-by-day. Michael Yap
Anthropology and Cybersociality
We are living through a period in time in which the way humans live is rapidly changing. The internet and its mass of content, the World Wide Web, are turning conventional means of social interaction and communication on their head, creating incredible, exciting new frontiers of human social experience. Social groups have become transnational and alocal, ideas are communicable at lightspeed, information is being de-commoditized and open-sourcing is empowering group invention of everything from software to new technology outside of traditional economic structures. Ours is an age of information post-scarcity. Other aspects of human global society, from nation-states to the whole concept of an economy (be it neoliberal or socialist in its slant), look positively nineteenthcentury in comparison. It’s clear the rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do. Perhaps this is the core reason for the on-going conflict over internet censorship: simply because the web is such an intrinsically different channel of social and cultural interaction, it’s at irreconcilable odds with ‘pre-web’ ways of thinking by default. It is egalitarian, in a world centred around economic and power exchange; much information on it is free, in an economy where everything is a commodity; it enables seamless international communication in a world where some parties would like to see the integrity of their nations’ social structures remain intact. Hence we have the Great Firewall of China and Syria’s total internet blackout on the extreme end of the spectrum, and the banning of The Pirate Bay and suppression of copyright infringement on the lesser. Like everything else, the web is seeing its fair
share amongst monopolization attempts. Ad revenue-driven sites like Facebook are among the biggest on the web (second biggest, to be exact), and the venerable monarch of the internet - Google - is funded pretty much entirely through its AdSense program. For these sites you, the user, are the commodity. Yet AdBlock software for web browsers has the most popular and easy-to-install plugins and Google and Facebook’s hegemonies are far from set in stone. And in terms of site popularity, Wikipedia runs a close third place, an open-source, not-for-profit encyclopedia site of immense scope and popularity.
“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had” - Eric Schmidt But the real beauty of the web doesn’t lie in its information-banks. It lies in the new ways it lets humans socialise and create their social reality. As Boellstorff predicted in his early 2000s book Coming of Age in Second Life, we’ve seen a gradual blurring between the virtual and the real (two words that are problematic in themselves). To start with a rather dramatic example, 2005 saw an event called the ‘Corrupted Blood Incident’ in the World of Warcraft MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), where
a code error enabled players to transport a virtual plague virus outside of its determined confines and into the wider game world. This caused something of an international catastrophe within the game, with not only players but non-player entities in the game environment becoming infected. This led to massive death counts: new players who had recently shelled out for WoW membership found their characters killed instantly, rendering the game unplayable. The most interesting part comes when we see how the players reacted. Most fled populated areas, shunned player interaction and stockpiled resources. Select groups of players became terrorist cells, hiding in far-out parts of the game world and conducting something of a guerilla war against the game’s coders (who were trying to limit the in-game damage and their own realworld financial loss), by re-infecting purged areas and spreading the disease to uninfected areas. The Corrupted Blood incident was so pivotal that disaster strategists have used it to study the public’s real-world behaviour in times of emergency, perhaps the first time that academics in unrelated fields have acknowledged that ‘virtual’ human behaviours are just as valid as their ‘real’ equivalents. We’ve also seen our social and cultural frontiers expanded virtually in a less futuristic way. The site Kickstarter.com has democratized the project funding process: eeveryone from authors, film-makers, programmers to game developers can crowd-source funding for their projects without relying on the whims of traditional financing giants. Users of media sharing sites (such as YouTube) are spearheading a quiet revolution in the TV and music worlds, with user-made internet
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TV series (such as the excellent Video Game High School) and self-supported musicians gaining levels of exposure and popularity without the need of TV networks or record companies, or even TVs and records themselves. Authors are self-publishing and reaching new audiences through ebook sites (the tepid yet incredibly popular Fifty Shades series began life as an online fan-fiction of the equally tepid Twilight series). The average individual (if one exists) can reach an audience of thousands through blogs and vlogs. Certain individuals’ primary social circles are online and virtual: the early 2000s stereotype of the introvert basement dweller whiling his life away on niche discussion boards foreshadowed our increasingly ‘virtual’ social life; with web romances, close friendships between people who’ve never met ‘IRL’ (in real life) and long distance relationships maintained by Skype increasingly becoming the norm. Perhaps the most exciting change is coming from elements in the open source community which are working on open manufacturing and design, aided by 3D printers (RepRap, the first low-cost 3D printer was itself designed and released under the GNU (General Public Licence), facilitating the de-commoditization of, well, commodities. Rather alarmingly, one group, in the true spirit of the Second Amendment, have succeeded in designing, ‘printing’ and assembling an open-source gun. Where does all this leave anthropology? In quite a difficult position, it seems. The current seminal anthropological work on cybersociality is the aforementioned Coming of Age in Second Life, a study on the MMORPG Second Life and virtual society
“Fads swept the youth of the Sprawl 8 at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly” - William Gibson, Neuromancer.
in general, although Daniel Miller’s latest offering, Digital Anthropology, may well prove to be a much-needed update in the study of the net’s influence on our social behaviour. After all, the net moves fast. Second Life was popular in the early-2000s when Boellstorff conducted his study, but since then both the MMORPG scene and the web in general have changed dramatically. Herein lies the problem for anthropologists. Cybercultures and subcultures appear, have their heyday and lose relevance in a matter of months. To take an example close to home, look at the trend of ‘Advice Animal’ memes (itself an incredibly broad banner under which many smaller internet sub-memes fall). For about eight months, they were all over the web. UCL even had its own little page, ‘UCL Memes’, which itself was ferociously popular before disintegrating utterly. Now, barely two years after this type of internet meme arose, they are seen as incredibly passé and old-hat, and users are open to the same derision as a middle-aged parent trying to be ‘down with the kids’. Other internet trends such a lolcats and ragecomics (which this very publication once flirted with, a few issues back), have likewise seen a heyday of pervasive popularity, only to find themselves become seen as over-worn and kitsch. And these are just major examples. In reality, the web is full of millions of these cultures and subcultures, memes and tropes which vary wildly in number of participants. If an anthropologist were to conduct a study on a specific Advice Animal or ragecomic form, their work would probably lose its immediacy and relevance before it was even published.
look at just how much actual stuff there is to study. The rate of increase of material culture creation since the blossoming of the web is terrifyingly high, to the extent that our current creation rate outstrips that of preweb societies by many orders of magnitude. More videos are uploaded to YouTube in one month than has been churned out by the 3 major US networks since television began. With such incomprehensible quantities of subject matter, can anthropologists ever come close to conducting studies relevant to even a small portion of it?
The situation is compounded when you
It seems certain that some form of shift is going to occur, a shift that mirrors the current social revolution we’re experiencing. After all, the last time patterns of social interaction shifted so dramatically was probably during the transition from egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies to farming communities with nascent economies. Just as farming’s resource surplus led to the emergence of prime aspects of contemporary human society such as social stratification, wealth divides and powerful elites; cybersociality’s alocalism, information abundance and extending of the ‘real’ will spur far-reaching social change that we can only conjecture about at this point in time. This will be a challenge with which many disciplines will have to wrestle: how to maintain their relevance in a rapidly changing age. Even the body of academia itself, so timeless and monolithic, may have to adapt to survive. There’s no reason why anthropological study can’t reflect this shift, and act as the prime lens through which cybersociality is formally understood: it just has to keep up.
Rethinking the domestic architecture of Early Neolithic Orkney Giles Carey, email@example.com Introduction
The Orkney Isles, located off the north coast of Scotland (figure 1), form one of the most intensely studied archaeological areas in north-west Europe. Key to their continuing attraction, as a “core area” for research (Barclay, 2004: 34-37), is the “almost perfect survival” of “exceptional Neolithic remains” of stone-built houses, tombs and ceremonial monuments (Park-
er Pearson and Richards, 1994: 41; Cummings and Pannett, 2005:14). The cluster of Late Neolithic monuments - Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae - inscribed in 1999 as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site (Downes, 2005: 2), have long dominated our understanding of domestic and ritual life. This focus has emphasised both the chronological separateness of 3rd millennium BC Orkney, and an implied hierarchy of significance, especially with these monuments and those of earlier periods (McClannahan, 2006: 102). The perceived “striking and extraordinary” nature of stone-built house and tomb has provided a powerful legacy for interpretation of the whole of the Orcadian Neolithic (Barclay, 2000: 275). However, the evidence now emerging from the 4th millennium BC – the
Early Neolithic – is a picture of considerable variance in domestic architecture, importantly with the use of both wood and stone attested to in the excavated evidence. The purpose of this article is to briefly review the nature of this evidence, and to highlight the implications for locating and understanding the full variability inherent within occupation practice in this period.
An assessment of the current evidence
For nearly 70 years, the site of Knap of Howar, on Papa Westray, stood as the only example of Early Neolithic buildings in Orkney (see figure 2). After being exposed during an erosion event in the 1930s, local landowner, William Traill and the antiquarian William Kirkness cleared out and carried out initial excavations on these two conjoined stone buildings (Traill and Kirkness, 1937: 309) . Subsequently,
Discovering Early Orkney Neolithic Domestic Architecture
Figure 2: The architectural repertoire of Early Neolithic buildings in Orkney, as exemplified by Knap of Howar Dr. Anna Ritchie’s excavations, between 1973 and 1975 revealed more detail of the site, interpreted as the farmstead of an extended family engaged in mixed agriculture (Ritchie, 1983: 56-58). Both stone-built houses are formed of double-skinned walling, cored with midden material. They are rectangular in form, with rounded corners, and sub-divided by orthostats set into the ‘pinched’ wall form. This architectural repertoire has been taken as typical, providing a blueprint for what the Orcadian Early Neolithic house “should be like” (Downes and Richards, 2000: 167). The radiocarbon assays for Knap of Howar have confirmed occupation c.3360-3030 BC, and now a number of sites have produced very similar dates, suggesting contemporaneous occupation across both Mainland and outlying islands of the Orkney archipelago (see figure 3).
Figure 1: Domestic settlement in Orkney in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC
In the 1980s, Colin Richards started to re-examine the evidence for other Early Neolithic houses in Orkney, such as the structure underlying the complex Iron Age site at Howe, near Stromness (Ballin Smith, 1994: Chapter 2). This had been initially interpreted as a mortuary structure, but similarities in architectural form with the Knap of Howar houses might suggest an Early Neolithic date. This is a similar situation
to that found more recently at Knowes of Trotty, where a small rectangular structure underlies one of the barrows in this cemetery, constructed nearly a millennium later (Card and Downes, 2006: 27; Card, 2005: 177; Sheridan and Schulting, 2006: 205). Subsequent excavation on a number of sites has begun to further demonstrate the variability of occupation practice in the 4th millennium BC. The site at Stonehall, on the slopes of Cuween Hill, for instance, rather than being an ‘isolated’ farmstead appears to represent a much more clustered settlement, usually associated with the Late Neolithic, as at Skara Brae. The remains of up to seven possible houses were recorded here (Carruthers and Richards, 2000: 64), within an area 150m by 150m, with a rapid sequence of rebuilding and several shifts in settlement focus. Perhaps the most important finding of Richard’s excavation programme, however, was the discovery of a primary timber phase of construction to the Early Neolithic settlement on the slopes of Wideford Hill, below the famous tomb. For the first time, this was unequivocal evidence that timber did form part of the architectural repertoire in the 4th millennium BC, and that traces of such structures can survive (Wickham-Jones, 2006: 26).
Three post-built structures were recorded at Wideford Hill, two of similar sub-circular form (structures 1 and 2), with a third that, at least in its latter phase, resembles a rectilinear organisation of space (Structure 3). The decaying remains of Structure 2 formed a focus for the construction of a stone-built longhouse (House 1), probably whilst the decaying posts of the earlier timber structure were still in situ. This all reveals a “close grained sequence of building replacement and continuity of occupation” (Richards, 2003: 6), spanning 3350 – 2920 cal BC, with a complex interplay between construction materials.
The emerging picture
Recent excavations on Wyre, a small island in between Mainland and Rousay, have revealed a similar complex, and fluid relationship between timber and stonebuilt elements of the architecture at the settlement of Braes of Ha’Breck (Lee and Thomas, 2012). In one trench, a post-built longhouse with a central fire pit was rapidly dismantled and its posts were ripped out prior to the construction of a stone-built house almost on exactly the same footprint, although a new hearth was constructed. In another trench, a short-lived timber house, consisting of 14 post-holes around a scoop hearth, seems to have been replaced by two conjoined stone houses. Whilst post-excavation analyses of these results is still ongoing,
it is clear that use of construction material is not simply a material consideration, but also relies upon a series of socially-embedded decisions. This is of particular importance in light of recent palaeo-environmental studies, which point to the fact that Orkney may not have been as treeless in the Neolithic as previously thought, with a diverse pattern of woodland survival, in some areas into the Bronze Age (Farrell et al., forth: 10). It is clear, therefore that the timber buildings at Wideford Hill and Braes of Ha’Breck may be “representative of a much broader distribution” (Richards, 2003: 19). This has wide-ranging implications for how such sites are looked for, given their ephemerality set against the visibility of stone in the archaeological record of the Northern Isles.
Locating Early Neolithic Orkney
The problems in locating such ephemeral sites are demonstrated with recent work carried out by the author at Deepdale, West Mainland. Fieldwalking had originally suggested that an Early Neolithic flint scatter here might relate to in situ structural remains, possibly of a wooden nature (Richards, 2005:16), but subsequent fieldwork had not borne this out. Through the application of high-resolution geophysical survey at this site, it was hoped that the exact nature of settlement in this location could be clarified. The results are consistent with midden material, a ‘signature’ also found in the geophysical survey results from Braes of Ha’Breck
and Green, Eday. However, even with survey at high resolution, there was no definition to these areas of magnetic enhancement, suggestive of structural remains. Therefore, debate remains over what such a lithic scatter might represent. Certainly the work has underlined the difficulty in prospection of sites of this type (Carey, 2012).
The purpose of this brief article has been to show that the emerging picture of settlement variability in Early Neolithic Orkney needs consideration in its own right, not just as a preface to the impressive monumental Later Neolithic. The implications of the evidence requires us not only to revise the way we interpret such sites, but also the way we look for them. In particular, the unequivocal evidence for the use of timber in house construction alongside stone reminds us that material choices are not just born out of environmental necessity, but exist within a complex web of social engagements with the world in the 4th millennium BC.
This research was conducted as part of an MA dissertation at Orkney College UHI. Thanks are due to all who have allowed me access to unpublished material, particularly D. Lee and A. Thomas, N. Card and J. Downes. I must also thank both Jane Downes and Martin Carruthers for all their input.
* Barclay, G. 2004 ‘…Scotland cannot have been an inviting country for agricultural settlement’: a history of the Neolithic of Scotland In: I. Shepherd and G. Barclay (eds.) Scotland in Ancient Europe: The Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Scotland in their European Context Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland pp.31-44 * Ballin Smith, B. 1994 Howe: Four Millennia of Orkney Prehistory Excavations 19781982 Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland * Card, N. 2005 Knowes of Trotty [In: P. Ashmore (ed.) A List of Archaeological Radiocarbon Dates] Discovery and Excavation in Scotland NS 6 p.177 * Card, N. and Downes, J. 2006 Knowes of Trotty 2006 Data Structure Report Unpublished report. OAT * Carey, G. 2012 The domestic architecture of Early Neolithic Orkney in a wider interpretative context: some implications of recent discoveries Unpublished MA Dissertation. UHI [available at http://bit.ly/NeoOrk] * Carruthers, M. and Richards, C. 2000 Stonehall (Firth parish) Neolithic settlement Discovery and Excavation in Scotland NS 1 p.64 * Cummings, V. and Pannett, A. 2005 Island views: the settings of the chambered cairns of southern Orkney In: V. Cummings and A. Pannett (eds.) Set in Stone: New Approaches to Neolithic Monuments in Scotland Oxford: Oxbow pp.14-24
Figure 3: Distribution of radiocarbon dates available for Orcadian Early Neolithic settlement. The ‘core’ of this distribution lies c.3360-3030 cal BC. Generated with OxCal v3.10
Figure 4: The results of high resolution magnetic survey across the area of the flint scatter at Deepdale. * Downes, J. and Richards, C. 2000 Excavating the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Orkney: Recognition and Interpretation in the Field In: A. Ritchie (ed.) Neolithic Orkney in its European Context Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research pp.159168 * Farrell, M., et al., forth Neolithic settlement at the woodland’s edge: palynological data and timber architecture in Orkney, Scotland, Journal of Archaeological Science 2012 * McClannahan, A. 2006 Monuments In Practice: The Heart Of Neolithic Orkney In Its Contemporary Context Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Manchester
* Lee, D. and Thomas, A. 2012 Orkney’s First Farmers: Early Neolithic Settlement on Wyre Current Archaeology 268 pp.13-19 * Parker Pearson, M. and Richards, C. 1994 Architecture and Order: Spatial Representation and Archaeology In: M. Parker Pearson and C. Richards (eds.) Architecture and Order: Approaches to Social Space London: Routledge pp.38-72 * Richards, C. 2003 Excavation of the early Neolithic settlement at Wideford Hill, Mainland, Orkney: Structures Report for Historic Scotland Unpublished report. University of Manchester * Richards, C. 2005 The Neolithic Settlement
of Orkney In: C. Richards (ed.) Dwelling among the monuments Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research pp. 7-22 * Ritchie, A. 1983 Excavation of a Neolithic farmstead at the Knap of Howar, Papa Westray, Orkney Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 113 pp.40-121 * Traill, W. and Kirkness, W. 1937 Hower, Prehistoric Structure on Papa Westray Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 71 pp.309-322 * Wickham-Jones, C. 2006 Between the Wind and the Water: World Heritage Orkney Macclesfield: Windgather Press
with Phil Harding I N T E R V I E W Phil has been an active archaeologist since the 1970s. A familiar face on Channel 4’s TimeTeam, he is Archaeologist of The Year 2013 awarded by the Current Archaeology Magazine. With the end of TimeTeam last autumn, Phil is currently involved in an exciting new project Operation Nightingale to aid rehabilitation of injured soldiers (see next issue to learn more about this project). Meanwhile Eugenia Ellanskaya and Ruthy Mason are very excited to deliver to you their crisp interview from the Current Archaeology Awards night and share Phil’s tips on how to be a happy archaeologist
Today you are being nominated as an Archaeologist of the Year. How does it feel and what are your plans for the future? My plans for the future is just to carry on and do more archaeology. I have been an archaeologist all my life. I don’t think I am going to change anything now, you know it’s too late. I was born to be an archaeologist and I will die an archaeologist. I don’t think I will ever do anything else, I never wanted to as long as I have the mental faculties to do it and the ability to study… And that I would probably like to do more of in the future, as my body slows down, and believe me it does. You always want to carry on digging taking stuff out of the ground and find out what does it mean. We have heard that before becoming a professional archaeologist you have tried other things as well. There is a rumour that you have worked at a puppet factory at some point. What was that like? Well, it was a job. I am not saying I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I did know what I wanted to do. I wanted to become an archaeologist! I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist. I didn’t go to university. I didn’t work hard enough. So it was an issue of marking time, something to do with yourself. I had a good friend, who went to do archaeology and her uncle owned a factory. A lot of the people who worked there were women and made to work part-time, and so they didn’t work so frequently. There was sickness that went through the schools, so they couldn’t come in the morning… It was a pretty flexible working regime, which suited me down to the ground. She said “I can get you a job in there, which means you can leave work early, then get home in the evenings and write essays and learn up, retake your A-levels and try to go to university that way”. But it still didn’t work! Is there any particular experience that was a turning point in your career? Something that got you to where you are today, an experience that “made” you? No. Not really. I suppose, the real turning point was going on my first dig in Wiltshire. The point was that at the back of my mind built into me was this preordained thing that I was going to be an archaeologist, that I was born to be an archaeologist and I would die an archaeologist. You know, there is no argument about it. Of course, when I was very young, I didn’t know what archaeology was. To me it was all history, it was the past. So there is this whole thing about segregating history, as in written documents, and archaeology, study through artefacts and actual excavations. I didn’t realise there was a difference. I had to find out the difference between the two. What was your early excavation experience like in Wiltshire? I went on my first dig, when my parents took me on an excavation. I was 8 years old. I can remember it very very clearly. There was nobody digging there. The dig was over. But I can remember very clearly going into
the excavation. Again I didn’t understand what had happened to create that trench. My parents were encouraged to take me down mainly because I was interested in history. And so it was only when I went on my first dig, that I really discovered what archaeology was all about and then you know if you got that kind of family tree which is the study of the past and then it splits off and it becomes history on one side and then archaeology on the other side. Then it splits again and you become a prehistorian, or a Roman specialist or a Medievalist. Then it splits again and you might be studying stone tools, or pottery or environmental stuff. Then it might split again so you’d be studying stone tools through learning about it from books, or actually knapping it. So of course this tree constantly keeps splitting and splitting, but underneath the whole canopy if you like is all the study of the past. Things must have changed since then… What archaeological “super power” have you developed? I am a knapper. I am a stone tool specialist. I don’t mean to say that I am not clever, yet I am not one of those great academic minds, let’s put it like that. I consider myself the kind of bloke who gets down the hole and digs a hole, and actually gets down and does it. I suppose one of the reasons I didn’t go to university apart from the fact that back in those days there weren’t all that many universities that did archaeology is that I have a serious love, a serious respect for people who do things, when people make things…People who lived 10,000 years ago made things, they weren’t great academics, they weren’t great professors. They made things, because they had to, there was no machinery. There’s people who pontificate and expand on it, but have you ever done it? Well, how can you know what it was like if you have never done it? Try and grasp how those people must have felt instead of learning about it. See where they went right, see where they went wrong. See where they are at their frustration, see the disappointments of making a stone tool, when it breaks in half, that damn thing! Tell me about it! Well don’t tell me about it, I have done it. You have had a serious flint accident as well, haven’t you? Ye, I mean I had bits of flint in my eye, not very often. You probably ought to wear goggles and all the rest of it, but again we are very wrapped up about safety. And everything is “don’t do this”, “don’t go there”, what have you. I have cut myself. But when I am dealing with young kids, I don’t like to see young kids knapping flint because they don’t really have the control and the skills, and of course they are very delicate. What they love to do though is to wallow around in pieces of flint, and you bet your life on it because their skin is so soft. And then they cut themselves and they want to show their friends and they scream “Look!”, and it’s kind of like this badge of honour. They are very proud of the
blood. You never get any tears or wailing about being damaged, and really it’s so sharp that it heals very quickly. In some way we as students are probably the opposite. We are yet to do things on a large scale… At times studying archaeology in an academic institution can be restricting. Despite the fieldwork opportunities and excellent resources, we are pressured to find our place in the real world. What would your advice be for our future? The only advice that I will ever give anybody is the advice that was given to me. It’s a very simple piece of advice: If you want to do it enough, go and do it. And go and do it to the best of your ability. Do it for as long as you can. And if you get to the point, where you find you really cannot do it anymore, you then turn around and say “well, at least I tried”. And you have definitely lived by it! October 2012 has marked an end to decades of TimeTeam phenomenon. With some people’s criticism coming towards television archaeology as “dumbing down” the discipline what would you say to them? Rubbish. It is not dumbing down the discipline. Without TimeTeam there are an incredible number of sites that would never never have been looked at, simply because there is not enough money to do it. We have gone in there and we have done what I consider to be good work. I wouldn’t allow it to be done in my name, if I’m there, without we do it to the best of our ability. It doesn’t mean to say we can’t make it accessible to the public. So you are killing two birds with one stone. You are creating good archive, good archaeology for the future and for the present, which you are also making it accessible to everybody else. You can wrap up a billion and one simple things in a complicated language and confuse and baffle people, when you can say it simply. We aren’t changing the story. Alright, sometimes on TimeTeam you have to round things up a bit or round them down a bit. You have to take out some of the grey middle, where you can’t say that it might be this or it might be that, and we aren’t sure about this or that. If it’s definitely grey, then you have to say it, but other than that you definitely have to come in one way and say “yes it is” or “no it isn’t”. And damn it all. It’s only speculation. It’s only expressing your ideas, it’s taking the evidence that you got in the ground and interpreting it, coming up with a viable possibility. You are not making it up. Finally, our favourite question. If you were to describe yourself in three words what would they be? A happy archaeologist.
Many thanks to Current Archaeology for the oportunity to speak to Phil Harding at their annual archaeology conference, March 2013
THE CIRCLE OF DEATH
IMAGE ON PREVIOUS PAGE: THE UNICORN LAIR IN KOREA IMAGES ON CURRENT PAGE: LEFT: STILL FROM INDIANA JONES RIGHT: PROMOTIONAL IMAGE FROM THE FILM ‘THE MUMMY’
Elitism and the archaeological media
Archaeology exists within the vacuum of a constructed paradox. It takes no stretch of the imagination to understand that archaeology exists to understand the long and complex past of the human race. Logical progression would dictate that a special relationship should therefore exist between archaeology and both the academics and the public. Would it not therefore be totally ridiculous if a subject that concerns the shared past of humanity had isolated itself into a darkened world of elitism and academic ignorance? The sad fact of the matter is, that this ‘hypothetical’ derisory filled situation actually characterises the genuine state of archaeology. Take your seats in the theatre of shame as I reveal the worrying truth about a once great discipline. Archaeology aims to understand the human past. Interestingly, the appearance of the word ‘past’ opens up a world of debate. In a traditional sense ‘the past’ can be broken down into two distinct chronological periods. The ancient past is usually characterised as the era that constitutes the origin of humanity and the rise of the famous complex societies like Greece, Egypt and Rome. The modern past often detaches itself from archaeology and enters the historical region, usually stretching from the Middle Ages to the end of the Cold War. There are not enough words in existence on the planet for me to explain just how absurdly pointless and restricting this traditional view is. Academics love a good definition – everything must have a specific description that can be tested against past theories and data. Why have they decided that the best thing to do is to remove any semblance of continuation, flow and dynamics and replace these with very strict chronology? Firstly, the past by definition concerns everything that has
already happened – so in many ways the modern world in which we live is still a study of the past. Business, economics and politics are all in their own ways a study of the past. Does that mean everyone is an archaeologist? We are all using ‘past’ evidence to understand humanity after all. Archaeology is about everyone, for everyone. Why would anyone try and take that away from us? We appear to be living in a time in which we are ruled by our outrageous passion for drama, gossip and stereotypes. The relentless vehicle that is the media has done nothing but project these traditional stereotypes onto the receptacles of the public. I have never been one to blow my own trumpet, but I have formulated a theory on how the media presents stories about our past. This theory shall from this moment on be known as ‘Superlative Theory’; the complexity of this cognitive output of my brain is not too high. In essence, for the publication of any archaeological news story it has to be the greatest, oldest, smallest, largest or anything that ends in -est. It could probably be argued that this is a good thing that the big stories are being revealed to the masses, but this is where I tell you that this is entirely wrong and detrimental to the archaeological discipline. Within archaeology, the most important discoveries with the greatest significance for our heritage do not fall into these categories. And therefore because of this, the public have no exposure. In addition to this deep rooted annoyance, the media is only interested within the traditional interests of Western colonialism; this often manifests itself in subjects such as Egypt or the Classical World. Do not even get me started on archaeology and the film industry.
Well now I have mentioned it, let us get stuck into the stereotypical world of cinematic productions of archaeology. Indiana Jones has become a national treasure, representing the idealised romantic view of the archaeologist. And in more recent years, the evolution of the Lara Croft character has created a female role model, proving the power of women in the pursuit of the past. These characters have actually done a great deal in advertising archaeology; it may not be accurate but it is attractive to the adventurer within all of us. These ‘archaeologists’ operate under an inaccurate paradigm and appear to destroy the past instead of preserving it. Seems to be cutting their own nose off to spite their face there. What is the origin of these stereotypes? Ironically enough, this can be put down to the world of academic archaeology. Within the literature, the interest seems to only be placed on others involved in academia. Apparently, archaeology is only for archaeologists. What happened to archaeology being for everyone? I want to weep for humanity. Due to the idiocy of academia, archaeology has now isolated itself from the public to the point where the field of ‘Public Archaeology’ had to be developed. Personally, if archaeology had been undertaken correctly in the first place, there would be no need for public archaeology at all; archaeology inherently deals with the public. What have we done? World heritage is the single most important aspect of humanity, why has it now taken a back seat in the study of the past? I just hope that eventually archaeology can be done properly. We can hope right? Lewis Glynn
Decriminalizing the Coca Leaf Indigenous groups across Bolivia declared victory this month after the U.N.decriminalised traditional cultivation and consumption of the coca leaf. The decision added further momentum to the administration of President Evo Morales, formerly the leader of the most powerful Bolivian trade union for the Cocalero (or rural coca cultivators). The significance of the amendment is not simply that it eases the persecution on traditional coca growers or that it alleviates the suffering that accompanies their way of life. It has become symbolic of the ideological shift away from the global ‘war on drugs’ that has eradicated hundreds of thousands of lives, destroyed families, impoverished whole communities and brought entire nation-states to their knees. A number of facts are needed to appreciate quite how the leaves of a small Andean bush can be implicated in the turmoil that is now synonymous with drug related violence in Colombia and Mexico. The essence of this relationship rests on the knowledge that although coca is indeed the primary ingredient of cocaine, they are in no way the same. The transmutation from the former to the latter requires a heavy amount of industrial
processing as well as the addition of an assortment of chemical compounds. The coca leaf in its natural and unadulterated form has been a staple constituent of indigenous cultural life for those societies living within modern day Bolivia, Peru and Colombia for millennia. Chewing coca leaves acts as a mild stimulant and aids people in overcoming the altitude sickness common to the low levels of oxygen in the Andes. Besides its medicinal properties, the coca leaf is an integral part of many ancestral rituals and spiritual ceremonies practised by the traditional Quechua and Aymara speaking peoples of Bolivia. Furthermore, unlike cocaine, getting high off coca leaf is nothing short of impossible. Given the asymmetry between the consumption of traditional coca leaf and the contemporary manufacture of cocaine, one would hope to find solid empirical justification for the original U.N. decision to ban both in 1961. Unfortunately, none exists. Rather, the stipulation to criminalise the right of traditional peasant cultivators to grow coca rests ultimately on theU.N. ‘Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf ’ published in 1950. The view widely taken by contem-
porary researchers is that this report was deeply flawed. Not only was it scientifically sloppy, it also reflected the then prejudiced Western perception of traditional rural communities. Even intellectuals in Latin America considered the chewing of coca to a reflection of the ‘backward’ or ‘primitive’ nature of indigenous people. Authentic evidence to support a total ban on coca was genuinely lacking. Regardless, after enough pressure this designation was enacted in law and it lasted nearly half a century. Aside from encouraging implicit racism against rural Bolivians, the 1950 report actually had little influence over general narcotic policy until the critical implication of criminal regulation laid out by the 1961 U.N. Convention. This authorised both a complete clampdown on coca growing and set a target to completely phase out global coca cultivation within 25 years. The fact that cocaine is stronger, cheaper and more widely available than at any other time in history is testament to the utter failure of these policies. Nevertheless, it appears that with the removal of the coca leaf ban this month a more balanced and informed approach to tackling
the international drug trade is on the way. But it would be a mistake to understand this shift simply as a case in which ideology has adapted to more precise and meticulous empirical data. It must be understood within the context of shifting geo-political relations combined with the rise of national phenomena – specifically that of the election of President Evo Morales. With regards to the former, it would be helpful to bear in mind the perspective taken by a growing body of theorists in suggesting that the global war on drugs is in reality a more tacit form of domination by the United States taken in relation to Latin America, or what it considers to be its own ‘backyard’. No other country takes such an aggressive and zealous approach to promoting complete international criminalisation of narcotics. Although it is true that many countries have even harsher penalties for drug offences, only the U.S. persecutes and punishes other states that do not comply with its point of view on drugs or accept its right to intervene wherever, or whenever, it wants. The consequences of this are beyond the scope of this article. Needless to say, however, it is relevant to point outthat the U.S. is at great pains to fight narcotic consumption, not by concentrating on suppressing demand at home, but instead by claiming the right to militarise and discipline weak and under-developed Latin American states for their lamentable position in relation to supply. The lack of solidarity in support of American proselytization for continued prohibition of the coca leaf this month should be analysed in relation to the readjustment of global power relations and general decline of United States hegemony. Latin America is beginning to finally assert itself as an autonomous and developed collective, indeed, the only Latin American state to vote against Bolivia in 2013 was Mexico. There are other components necessary to understand contemporary occurrences in Bolivia. A significant juncture occurred with the 2007 U.N. Declaration on the ‘Rights of Indigenous Peoples’. The document asserts that native communities have a human right to practice their cultural traditions without fear of persecution. The U.N. is authorised as a transnational body to uphold and protect these rights, although the extent of
its effectiveness is still largely up for debate. The election of Evo Morales in 2006 and the establishment of a new constitution in 2009 have likewise added strength to growing regional movements that reassert ancestral religious practices after centuries of destruction and exploitation. Bolivia was the first and only country to publicly denounce the 1961 stipulation to criminalise coca leaf, which, unremarkably, unleashed a barrage of criticism from Western powers. The administration was condemned for a supposed weakness in fighting the never-ending ‘war’ against illegal drug production. Even more ridiculous, however, the only country that still expressed the wish to completely eradicate the traditional use of coca leaf was Sweden – a country so far removed culturally, economically and geographically from the social disintegration and suffering wrought by the drug conflict that an objection of this type crosses the dangerous line from absurdity into utter lunacy. The outcome of this shift in both global perception and legal framework to support it should be welcomed with a cautious optimism. Just last year, at the Summit of the Organisation of American States (O.A.S.) in Cartagena, the discussion finally (if tacitly) seemed to recognise that there is growing urgency in approaching the global narcotics trade with an alternative attitude. The recent U.N. decision to consign criminalisation of traditional uses of coca to the dustbin of legal history should be perceived to be one concrete materialisation of common sense not always associated withpoliticians, especially when taking into consideration that being ‘tough on drugs’ is a sure fire way to win votes back home. Given all the hysteria about Bolivia, however, we would expect this small land-locked Andean nation to be the prime exporter of coca. In reality, it trails both Peru and Colombia in terms of hectares of coca produced and destined for export. Reports from both the U.N. and US government in 2011 suggest that Bolivia actually produces less than half as compared with these other two countries. Not just that, but in 2011coca production has actually dropped by 13%. Morales has
sought to deflect disapproval against his ‘pro-coca’ politics by encouraging cooperation with local farmers and authorising them to grow a certain amount of coca each year. In this way, they can supplement what little income they do receive with other crops such as coffee. Much of the time, Bolivian cultivators of coca are punished for growing one of the few crops that actually gives them enough of a return to live off. It was never the intention of the Bolivian government to make the industrial development of cocaine easier; in fact, the current administration has been relatively successful in confiscating cocaine production facilities across the country. Whether or not one thinks that legalisation and regulation of cocaine is a good idea, one can say with absolute certainty that the Bolivian government does not have the intention of easing the manufacture of cocaine. Neither does any solid evidence exist to suggest that his policies do so. For the first time in a long while can we find the lives of peasant farmers, and not cartel members, getting easier. It should be taken into consideration that there was indeed political fallout between the U.S. and Bolivia after the latter expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008 and the entire D.E.A. a short time after that. But it is perhaps the one sole advantage of being a small, under-developed country like Bolivia that slating dominant international power structures is less likely to stir global antagonism. This month’s decriminalisation of the traditional use of coca leaf is more symbolic than anything else, and is unlikely to affect the lives of anyone other than small groups of indigenous farmers in the Andes. But even if the global social and political effect is minimal, easing the persecution of the Bolivian poor because of their only source of income is an accomplishment that must be celebrated. So too must we appreciate that every journey does start with a single step, and never neglect to remember the abject failure and misery wrought over the past half century in the war against drug consumption. The decision is most certainly a step in the right direction. Max Horder
A News R T I F A C T
and Reviews Breaking the Maya Code by by Michael D. Coe
It was not until 1950s that one of the many conundrums in the history of writing, the mysterious Maya script, had at last been cracked. De-coding the records born in a context both relatively recent (about 3rd BCE) and distinct has certainly paved a way for a whole chunk of unexpected and novel cultural content to be elucidated. Outside of its academic impact, it has done wonders for the global New Age community, so culturally remote and vastly unaware of the true Maya. Who could have known that eternally remote locales in the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica would one day add such vivid legitimacy to the recent expectations of the cataclysmic shifts and draconian forecasts of the Apocalypse. On a more serious note...although there is a substantial illustration and explanation of the script, this is not exactly a master-the-ancientlanguage guide for dummies. It wonâ€™t get you speaking Maya, yet it is a wonderful account of the breakthrough into an ancient mystery by an experienced Mayanist Michael Coe.
Donâ€™t you dare say Alien: Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered a cemetery containing numerous human burials with evidence of artificial cranial deformation. In the village of Onovas, south Sonora, excavation has uncovered the earliest example of a Pre-Hispanic funerary site, which has been dated to over 1,000 years ago. The appearance of artificial cranial deformation is more often than not linked with the belief that ancient human societies existed alongside alien overlords. This enforced media assumption removes the emphasis from an archaeological example of a fascinating cultural practice from our past. Artificial cranial deformation was carried out on children by applying force to their skull from a young age. From previous archaeological examples, this practice can take the form of flat shapes, elongated shapes which is achieved through binding the head between two pieces of wood, conical shapes and rounded shapes which is possible through binding with cloth. The practice was most commonly used to differentiate social class for ritual purposes. The site at Onovas has revealed a total of 25 individuals, 17 of which are children and 8 adults. Of the remains, 13
show signs of artificial cranial deformation. There is further evidence of dentil mutilation which has also been associated with the path to adolescence. The high number of young individuals at the site suggest the high chance of death through this practice. This discovery suggests that the influence of Mesoamerican societies extended much further north than was previously thought, lead archaeologist Cristina Garcia Moreno has said. It is possible that the levels of communication both socially and economically was much greater than was previously thought. Investigations at the site are ongoing and hope to reveal a wealth of exciting new data. Lewis Glynn
Born in Africa by Martin Meredith
For anyone familiar with palaeoanthropology, or simply fascinated by origins of human life, this book is a gem: a mesmerising, illustrated guide to this complex quest. Taking the Out-of-Africa side of the argument for origins of modern human behaviour, it reads like a dream, while backing up everything with solid academic data. The true stories behind the discoveries of earliest human fossils, from Australopithecines to Homo sapiens, make the whole book come alive. This is indeed a handy and accessible publication of our evolutionary dance through time.
Nomadology: the War Machine by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
I discovered this book for the wrong reason: I was meant to be researching for my dissertation regarding Eurasian nomads. Yet, it seems the nomadic question is an acute one on a very global scale. The war machine can occur anywhere, it is anything in opposition to mainstream. This anarchic book is an attack on ideology and plays around with the issue of de-terretorialisation in the global world, where borders are substantially blurred. The relationship between (in)dividuals and environment has always been dynamic, yet history has always been written from the point of view of sedentary societies. Historically nomads have always been in a complex relationship with the state, which in turn has attempted to appropriate them or disenfranchise them. This could be another prank of intellectual buggery on behalf of Deleuze. But then, tell me whatâ€™s not to like about a book that helps to discover the rebellious postmodern nomad in you?
Cover photos by Lewis Glynn
Published on Mar 27, 2013