Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Dugong worship

Yahoo! News: French find prehistoric animal worship site
PARIS (AFP) – French archaeologists have discovered the oldest known place of worship dedicated to the dugong, or sea cow, on an island just north of Dubai, two research centres said Thursday.

The sanctuary, believed to date back to 3,500 to 3,200 years BCE, was discovered on Akab island in the United Arab Emirates, 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Dubai.

(Hat tip to Caroline Tully.)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Member numbers rocketing

This suggests that people who want to rebury human remains are in a minority amongst Pagans.

New widget

I have just added a "recommended reading" widget to the sidebar of the blog. Check it out and earn some funds for Pagans for Archaeology!

Human remains at Stonehenge

The government has issued a response to an e-petition requesting the reburial of remains from the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge.

Apparently the Ministry of Justice licence for exhuming the bones stipulated that they must be reburied after two years anyway.

Is two years actually long enough for studying human remains? How will the remains be protected from decay once they are returned to the ground? What if better techniques are devised for studying them in the future?

Monday, 28 September 2009

What do we mean by respect?

We have been discussing the meaning of respect on the Pagans for Archaeology mailing list, and whether the dead have rights. (In international law, the dead do not have rights, but we do have responsibilities to them.)

Nick Ford has written an excellent article clarifying his views on the matter:
Honouring the Ancient Dead': The Care of Elderly Souls and the Rights of Bone Fragments to a Quiet Life. Here's an excerpt:
We know little or nothing about nearly all long-dead people - and generically, what can one say of them? That - just to take one example - the Neolithics are the people who gave us climate change and soil erosion through deforestation and over-grazing? The ones who invented open-cast mining?

I see no necessity at all of according the right to treatment of ancient human remains that demonstrates this assumption that the remains of the long-dead are inherently worthy of the kind of romantic veneration advocated by HAD, but rather a question of its arguable desirability. I do not believe there is an epistemology of positive recognition of the long-dead, whether individually or collectively, and remains do not have rights, even if their deposition was accorded a high profile (often, quite literally) at the time. Has anyone ever heard of a patient suing a hospital for custody of an amputated limb, or a dentist for an extracted tooth? (And this, with an indisputable right of possession of the inanimate by the animate).

Friday, 25 September 2009

Not so far from the truth

An amusing skit on NewsBiscuit about Stonehenge...
'Stonehenge was to be a place where local merchants and tradesmen could gather, in order to peddle their wares and services to the thousands of Bronze Age tribes people who occupied Salisbury Plain at the time'. The document includes a plan, which shows that originally 600 stalls were to be constructed over a 200 acre site that would have also boasted ample grazing for 3500 Oxen and cart. ‘Stonehenge was essentially going to be the world’s first out of town shopping centre,’ said Dr. Bogaard.
Actually they do think that stone circles were used for trade and politics as well as ritual, so it's not as far-fetched as it sounds. For instance, Arbor Low is located at the meeting point of the boundaries of three tribal lands - so could well have been used for trade and negotiation. Just as churches were used as sanctuaries from the law, a stone circle could have been neutral territory because of its sacredness.

I did like the idea of druids as pharmacists, as well.

Hat-tip to Cariadwen.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Staffordshire hoard

An amazing hoard of Saxon jewellery and sword fittings of the standard of Sutton Hoo has been found in Staffordshire.

It also made the front page of the BBC website, and there's a BBC article about it:
Experts said the collection of 1,500 gold and silver pieces, which may date back to the 7th Century, was unparalleled in size.

It has been declared treasure by South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh, meaning it belongs to the Crown.

Terry Herbert, who found it on farmland using a metal detector, said it "was what metal detectorists dream of".

It may take more than a year for it to be valued.
There is also a special website devoted to the Staffordshire hoard.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Open Archive

Open Archive - a new web based system for accessing our past

The wealth of information gathered by local archaeological groups and societies on excavations, surveys and documentary research is one of the important sources of data for the study of archaeology in the UK. Currently, this archive of British archaeology is stored locally, within libraries and local history centres as well as with the originating group themselves. In addition, PhDs and other research can be found in locations often scattered throughout the country. The premise of Open Archive is to collect the records of the past and present and share them with everybody.

Open Archive is an accessible library of user generated reports and publications where archaeology societies, PhD research students, graveyard recording and community groups can share their discoveries with a wide audience.

The easy to use interface combines intuitive searches by period, type of project and location with a map based view showing the location of the selected documents. Each item can then be viewed as either a short description or as the complete publication. This resource creates a public portal to the records of our shared heritage that were previously only available on a few local archaeology group websites OR as paper copies in the local library. The idea is to allow this to be both interactive and open to sharing via feeds and direct data transfer.

This looks like a really great resource, and very usable too.