Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging: Lost & Found Edition

Catching up on a few bits of archaeological news that occurred while I was away...


Hatshepsut was fat and bald
8 Jul 2007, 0017 hrs IST,ANI

WASHINGTON: Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest female Pharaoh was fat, balding and had beard. (She wore a false beard along with men's clothing when she proclaimed herself the Pharaoh of Egypt).

Back in June, DNA testing confirmed that a mummy in the Cairo museum was in fact that of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who reigned during the 15th century B.C. Much has indeed been made of the fact that she wore a false beard (as portrayed below), although this ignores the fact that a beard was standard part of pharaonic regalia, and it might actually have been odder if she hadn't worn one (in fact, Ancient Egyptian has no separate word for a female ruler; Hatshepsut is referred to as "king" on inscriptions). Despite the horrendous condition of her health at death (there is evidence that she was suffering from some or all of diabetes, liver cancer, bone cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, rampaging tooth decay, and an unidentified skin ailment), she was, in her day, considered a ravishing beauty. She was also an energetic and competent pharaoh, particularly in the area of building projects, and may also have taken part in a number of military excursions.

Click to enlarge

A brief word on the tooth decay issue. According to the ancient sources, Egyptian bread was extraordinarily hard on one's teeth, due to the presence of sand in the dough, and abcesses like the one that actually killed Hatshepsut must have been fairly common.

Ancient Egyptian teeth

On final extract from the article:

Findings revealed that Hatshepsut was balding in front, but let the hair on the back of her head grow really long. The Egyptian Queen also sported black and red nail polish, a rather Goth look for someone past middle age, reports LiveScience.

Archaeologists have so far failed to find Hatshepsut's storied collection of KMDFM albums.


Well, they didn't find the lake - they knew that was there. It was what was in it that was interesting:

UK divers find 'underwater village'
7/18/2007 2:29:00 PM - Erinn Piller

A team of divers have come across building remains in a lake in Wiltshire that may help solve the mystery of the lost village of Bowood.

Legend has it that the village was 'drowned' 250 years ago when Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, a famous English landscape gardener, flooded the area to make way for a new design he had envisioned for the area.

I'm interested here in how a village that was only "lost" a couple of centuries ago managed to get completely forgotten. One would think that some sort of record would have survived, somewhere.


Father and son discover 10th century Viking hoard buried in field
By Arifa Akbar
Published: 20 July 2007

The most important Viking treasures to be discovered in Britain for 150 years have been unearthed by a father and son while metal detecting in North Yorkshire.

David and Andrew Whelan uncovered the hoard, which dates back to the 10th century, in Harrogate. The British Museum said yesterday that the treasures were of global significance and could shed new light on the period.

Jumping ahead a bit:

After transporting the hoard to their home, they left it on their kitchen counter while they went to report it to their local finds liaison officer in Leeds. It was transferred to the British Museum where conservators carefully examined each item over months.

The British system for monitoring amateur archaeologists works extremely well, most of the time, and there is comparatively little friction between "professional" diggers and the folks who haul their metal detectors around on weekends. There is, in fact, a formal code of conduct, agreed upon by both amateurs and pros, and since it went into effect, the number of reported finds has skyrocketed. What's more, these finds are getting processed properly, with their provenances recorded, as opposed to simply sold off on the black market. This is a very good thing.

This is not:


No, they didn't actually lose the Trevi Fountain; as far as I know, it's still there. However, the ancient aquaduct which supplied it was damaged in the course of a construction project:

Pipe blunder robs Trevi's supply

Water is being diverted to the Trevi from another ancient aqueduct
A builder's mistake has cut off the water supply to one of Rome's most famous fountains - the Trevi.

Water company Acea said the wall of an ancient Roman aqueduct which supplies the fountain was damaged by builders constructing an underground garage.

The aquaduct in question is the Aqua Virgo, built originally in the late first century B.C. under the auspices of the same Marcus Agrippa whose name adorns The Pantheon. It was restored in the 8th century A.D., and then again during the Renaissance.

The Aqua Virgo carried 100,000 cubic metres of water per day over a course whose net downslope was about a tenth of a degree, which is pretty snazzy engineering when you think about it. Understandably, the locals are fairly pissed over the damage done to the aquaduct:

"The Aqua Virgo aqueduct was one of two Roman water channels built underground. It was one of the few to escape being destroyed by the barbarians and to survive intact," Mr Signore said.

"Unfortunately, it has been destroyed by their descendants," he added.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Minor Note

There have been a couple of additions to the list of blogs upon which our shadowy cabal of senior editors has turned a favourable eye. This one, and this one, to be precise.

Home Again

Well, I am back (logging on to gloat about Conrad Black doesn't count, pleasurable though it is). And, as usual, I take a certain amount of comfort in seeing that some things around the old homestead never change. Ted Byfield, for example.

Mounties made big miss-take
You cannot have a police force without a code of rules -- most of them unwritten

Now, I confess, when I saw that headline, my first thought was "I don't know what the deal is with 'miss-take', but there is no way that Ted has written a column the RCMP's recent difficulties on the existence of female police officers in its ranks. Not even Ted is that divorced from reality. Link, maybe, but not Ted." Ooh, how wrong I was, as we're about to see:

I was talking last week to a veteran Mountie, retired from the RCMP now for more than 30 years, after a career that was at least that long and took him to the rank, I believe, of inspector, though I'm not sure about that.

Ok, beginning a column with an admission that you don't know who you were talking to. That's some interesting rhetorical technique, there.

"What," I asked "has gone wrong? Why is it that an institution, which for well over a century managed to operate with scarcely a blemish on its record, now encounters problems at every turn.

Discipline problems, training problems, money control problems -- so much so that a civilian has been called in to take them over."

"Scarcely a blemish", hmmmm? Well, I suppose, if you don't count the strike-breaking. Or the other strike-breaking. Or the Regina Riot. Or the getting infiltrated by Soviet spies. Or the barn-burning. Or rather a lot of other things.

Warning: The history of your police force may differ somewhat from the illustration.

"Too long," he said. "I've been far too long away from them to make any worthwhile observations."

I knew he would say this and it may be largely true. But perhaps not entirely.

"Well did you see any changes even in your day that could have led to the problems we have today?"

He was slow to answer me, but I knew he wanted to say something, but was hesitant to do so.

Don't be a tease, Ted.

"Come on, out with it," I said.

That's better.

"Don't misunderstand me," he said at last, "but I think it started with the women. I think when we took women into the force, that began a major change. And that change has led to what we have today.

"You don't mean to say," I said, "that women caused all the problems that the Mounties are now confronted with.?"

"No, no, not at all," he said. "Women make very good officers, much better in some ways than men."

"Then how did they start the problem?

What you've really got to love here is how Ted "gutless little puke" Byfield is setting up this anonymous and potentially imaginary RCMP veteran to take the fall for him. I also enjoyed a good chuckle at Ted's faked astonishment and horror over the officer's pronouncement; this from a man who's made a career out of misogyny. Anyway, onwards...

He then explained that up until women began to appear in the Mountie uniform, the RCMP was very much like a military unit. It had a kind of regimental discipline. A code.

Some of it was spelled out. Some of it was just assumed.

You just knew what you were supposed to do, and if you didn't do it you were out. And there were some things you were not supposed to do, and if you did them you were out even faster.

Union-busting and spying on people who disagreed with the government, for example, were very much in the "to-do" pile.

There were written rules, of course. But these were mostly unwritten rules, and they governed conduct from the lowest ranks to the very top.

It was at the top, he said, where the rules were less specific, but they were there none the less. And it is at the top where the greatest dangers to the force always lie.

I thought the greatest danger to the force was women, Ted. Try to stay focused, here.

It had to do with the relations between the police and the government, a very delicate area. The force was responsible to the government. Canada is a democracy and it had to be. An absolutely independent police force would be an impediment to democracy, and all over the world all through history, police forces and military forces have become so independent they have taken over governments.

But on the other side, they had to be ready to enforce the law, when the government itself, or people in the government broke it.

So there was a fine line which the commissioners of his day, he said, well understood and toed it.

Then what happened?

Anyway, when the women came, everything changed.

Read that line out loud to yourself, and see if you don't fall over laughing. It sounds like the tagline from a 1950s-era B-movie.

A police force of men, and a police force of men and women, are not the same thing.

Well, I gotta admit, that statement is 100% true. * Bangs head on desk *

What you can say, what you can do, how you behave and where, all this must change.

Yup, no more farting in the squad room for you, Mr. 1970s-vintage RCMP Officer!

And these changes quickly meant that the rules must change too.

But change to what, exactly?

"Even in my day," he said, "no one was altogether sure. The effect of the women was to destabilize the rules, and already a kind of basic uncertainty began to become evident among us all."

Then they were pretty fucking stupid rules, weren't they.

He was not saying, he stressed, that there should be no women in the Mounties.

Oh, fuck off. First of all, let's drop the charade about your mysterious informant shall we Ted? This is you, Ted Byfield, putting forth your, Ted Byfield's, opinion. Secondly, quit trying to cover your ass; everybody, including your idiot fellow-travellers, understands that what you are trying to say is precisely that women should not be RCMP officers, because apparently the arrival of women on the force caused the RCMP to mismanage its pension fund 30 years later. Which is ridiculous, a fact that ought to surprise nobody.

But you cannot have a police force without a code of rules, most of them unwritten, and you cannot invent a new code overnight.

It must be the product of experience. It takes years and years to develop a new code. And during this transitional period, all sorts of things will go wrong.

And that, he figures, is what's gone wrong in the Mounties.

And a great many other things in society, you come to think about it.

We need a new set of rules and we don't have them.

Oh, fuck off again. We do have a new set of rules, including the one that says that women can be police officers. You just don't like them.

Anyway, for a much better and funnier look at this particular masterpiece of Ted's, go here.