Friday, March 23, 2007

In Days of Yore

... I had a model train set. It was very cool. It was not quite as cool as this one (via Fark).

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Short, smelly edition.

Aphrodite perfumes sniffed out
22nd March 2007, 8:45 WST

The world’s oldest perfumes have been found on Cyprus by a team of archaeologists.

The perfumes were scented with extracts of lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander and kept in tiny, translucent alabaster bottles. The remaining traces found in Pyrgos, in the south of the island, are more than 4000 years old.

As the article goes on to point out, it's appropriate that the material was found on Cyprus, given that that island is the traditional site of the birth of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love.

The birth of Aphrodite

Anyway, the interesting thing here is that not only were Bronze Age Cypriots making perfumes, they were apparently doing so in bulk; the size of the recently discovered "perfume factory" is about 43,000 square feet. This is not terribly surprising - perfume in the ancient world was as much a luxury item as it is now.

An elaborate bronze-age perfume bottle

Perfume maintained its popularity through the age of Classical Greece; the infamous courtesan Lais of Corinth (10,000 drachmas per "appointment", apparently!), is said to have developed her own perfume from orange blossoms and oyster shells in the 4th century B.C., a perfume which has never been successfully duplicated. The Romans, too, were very into perfumes; some figures from the time of Augustus indicate that roughly 3,000 tons of frankincense was used in Rome per year.

Ancient Roman perfume bottles

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kyle Young Revisited

I used to blog about Kyle Young a lot. It was a terrible case - a troubled young man, 16 years old, who died falling down an elevator shaft at the Edmonton Law Courts building, after having been pushed against the elevator doors by two (count 'em) jail guards. This happened, incidentally, when he was shackled so that he couldn't raise his hands above his waist. Anyway, the incident triggered shock and horror among decent people, and a fatality inquiry whose final report is here.

Sadly but not surprisingly, it also triggered a minor outburst of that "Rrrr, he had it comin', hang 'em high, darn bleedin'-hearts" sort of masturbation that occurs around here whenever an incident like that happens. Said minor outburst is apparently not over yet. Earlier today, I was politely informed in the comments sections to a couple of posts on Kyle Young that I am a "fuckin' stoner" and an "idiot", and that the whole thing was "entirely Kyle Young’s fault, end of story."

The fatality inquiry concluded that procedures had not been followed in number of different areas (ya don't say), and also included this little tid-bit about the training of guards (warning: the link's a PDF):

Mr. Bertsch testified that to his knowledge there is no jurisdiction in Canada that provides specific training with respect to the handling of prisoners in the Youth Criminal Justice system. In this regard, I note that the National Union of Correctional Officers and Youth Facility Workers working session report, Ottawa, September 22nd and 23rd, 2005 which may be found at, makes specific reference to training with respect to handling of youth prisoners. It is of interest to note that Alberta appears not to be part of that National Union, or at least did not attend that session. It would appear that there are training programs with respect to handling of youth prisoners.

Yes, it would appear so, and it would appear that Alberta was sitting them out at the time of Kyle Young's death (hilariously, I made a snarky comment in one of my earlier posts on the subject about the guards being "presumable trained" - joke's on me, I suppose). Now, credit where credit is due, that barn door has been slammed firmly shut, despite the alarming lack of horses within, and that's largely due to the findings of the Kyle Young inquiry. So, perhaps we should edit "entirely Kyle Young’s fault, end of story" to read "entirely Kyle Young's fault, except in the multitude of areas where it wasn't, in fact, Kyle Young's fault in any way, shape, or form, but rather the result of what amounted to pretty much a system-wide clusterfuck, end of story." Of course, if we did that, we'd be depriving certain people of their god-given right to gloat over the deaths of children.

Finally, for dessert, we have a wee quiz:

Question: Where is the computer located upon which our esteemed correspondent, "Reeltyme123", posted his/her/its insightful comments?

A) A three-masted schooner ship, sailing the seas in search of the lost continent of Atlantis.
B) My imagination.
C) Mordor.
D) Alberta Justice.

If you picked "D", give yourself an extra scoop of ice cream.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Judge to Rob Anders: "Nice Try, You Snivelling Little Jackoff"

More or less, anyway:

Calgary judge overturns Tory MP's acclamation
Last Updated: Friday, March 16, 2007 | 1:53 PM MT
CBC News

A judge has overturned the acclamation of Tory MP Rob Anders and ordered a new nomination meeting in the riding of Calgary West.

Apparently Anders was a wee bit worried that some of his constituents might have noticed what an appalling piece of work he is, so he and his friends essentially rigged the nomination process. And got spanked for it in court, much to the joy of sentient beings everywhere.

A gentle reminder about Rob Anders:

"[Honouring Nelson Mendela is a] total political-correctness poster-boy thing... He was a Communist. He was a terrorist..." --Rob Anders, 2001

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Musical Interlude

Sorry for the lack of activity this week. It's been busy in a number of ways. Hopefully, there will be a) a Friday Archaeology Blogging at some point this weekend, and b) regular stuff next week. By way of apology, I give you this: A Japanese ska band performing, in Japanese, an Italian second-world-war anti-fascist partisan song.

For the sake of comparison, here's the song in its original language, with Celtic-y bits thrown in.

Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging
Grab bag o'Roman stuff edition.

A couple of recent developments in the world of Roman archaeology:

Roman settlement found next to 'devil's hill'
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Evidence of a Roman sacred site has been discovered at the foot of a man-made hill created thousands of years before the Romans arrived in Britain, it was announced yesterday.

That would be Silbury Hill:

Click to see larger version

It's a massive construction, originally terraced, with a presumably ceremonial walkway to the top. It's surrounded by a sort of moat, bridged by two causeways (the material used to build the hill was originally dug out of the moat). It was probably built in about 2600 B.C., roughly contemporary with some of the early phases of Stonehenge. Various myths and legends have arisen about the hill; according to one tradition, it is the tomb of the legendary King Sil and his golden horse. Another tale, the source of the "Devil's Hill" moniker, relates that the devil was carrying a load of earth to drop on a nearby town. When he was stopped by some priests from Avebury, he dropped the dirt, creating Silbury Hill. Although various theories have been put forward (e.g. an enormous sundial), the truth is that we have no idea whatsoever what that hill was built for, or how it was used in neolithic times.

Returning to the Romans, it's not at all surprising that they would build a religious site there. Contrary to what one might expect, the Romans were extremely open-minded about other religions (they tended to outlaw religions only in cases where there were issues of pubic order), to the point where they made a practice of adopting the worship of "foreign" gods. A prime example of this is the Egyptian goddess Isis, whose cult became very popular in Roman Italy.

The Temple of Isis at Pompeii - click to enlarge

The main question, yet to be answered, about the Roman site at Silbury Hill is to which deity it was devoted. It remains distinctly possible that it was actually a Celtic deity whose worship was promoted at the site.

Anyway, moving along, awhile back I did a Friday Archaeology Blogging on the insignia of Maxentius. There have been further developments:

Scepter from Roman emperor exhibited
Telegraph, 27 February 2007

The scepter, which is topped by a blue orb that represents the earth, was discovered at the end of last year and is believed to have been held by Emperor Maxentius, who ruled for six years until 312AD.

This is the best picture of the scepter that I've been able to find so far.

Hopefully, we'll get a chance to see the rest of the insignia soon.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Archaeology Blogging

is in the oven, and will be served at some point tomorrow.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Michael Coren Pens Another Dispatch From Under His Bed

Unsurprisingly, the Sun's resident fascist (well, one of them) is displeased with the Supreme Court. What is also unsurprising is the Coren's level of terror has reached the point where he isn't even trying to hide it anymore.

Supremely foolish

I'm sure we all feel a lot safer now that the Supreme Court has ruled in a unanimous judgment that the government's security certificate system, used to detain foreign-born terror suspects, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gave the government a year to re-write the laws.

That, by the way, is your government. The one that represents you, whatever party for which you voted.

Thank you for the civics lesson.

Just as a Liberal government would also represent all of the people. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, represents the Canadian legal community, which is arguably the most elitist and powerful in the country.

So a group of unelected and unaccountable judges have slapped your government on the wrist and told it to go away and change the way it protects its people.

That is correct. They did that because, in this country, we still have something usually referred to as The Rule of Law, which basically indicates that the government that represents all of us etc. etc. cannot in fact break the law of the land. Sometimes this concept works, sometimes it doesn't. This time it did.

Because they know more than the men and women of the police and armed forces, more than terrorism experts, more than agents who have put their lives on the line for years.

They know a fuck of a lot more about the situation than you do, Mike.

The certificates in question have hardly ever been used. A great deal of time and money was spent on something that concerned only half-a-dozen people.

That's right, because the Charter indicates that it is not legal to do what the security certificates were intended to do to even one person. Even if that person frightens Michael Coren.

Another example of the slow-motion surrender that seems so fashionable amongst Canada's chattering classes.

The argument, of course, is that this is all about freedom and that it is in our interests to speak out, because it will be someone else today, you and me tomorrow.

Thing is, this is utter nonsense. It won't be me or you because we don't closely associate with people and groups who believe in violent jihad against the West.

Brilliant! There is, of course, no possibility whatsoever that any government might ever be even slightly tempted to use the security certificates except against ferocious swarthy terrorists. Nope, no chance of that at all.

There is always the remote possibility that an innocent person may suffer, but surely the vast majority of Canadians see that as an entirely acceptable risk.

No, Mike, the vast majority of Canadians, the smart ones anyway, see you as a cowardly, disgusting, twerp. You just reinforced their opinion. And of course, when Coren starts going on about how acceptable it is that innocent people may get fucked over, he means "innocent people who are not Michael Coren, his family, or his very very few friends" (note to Mike: an unrequited crush on Barbara Amiel-Black does not count as "friendship").

The thousands of corpses in New York, Madrid and London are bloody evidence of this. Three cities that are particularly significant because they are in countries very much like Canada, where pluralism, tolerance and democracy reign, and Muslims, like everyone else, have full and equal rights.

It mattered not a spit. If anything, the greater the compromise, apparently, the greater the chance of armed attack by terrorists. People who slowly decapitate a chained and bound captive, play with the severed head and then literally splash around in the victim's blood are not likely to be influenced by compromise.

Yes, they're terrorists, we get it. Terrorists should be arrested and charged. I still don't see how giving the government carte blanche to vanish people is going to help with all this.

Whether we like it or not, we are in a great cultural war against terrorists who care even less for human rights than they do for human beings. They torture and murder innocent human beings on a daily basis. If anybody still doubts this, they are either a repugnant fellow traveller, or a complete fool.

We must not abandon our liberties in the battle for safety,

This after writing an entire column explaining why we have to do exactly that...

but nor must we abandon our safety in some blind attempt to appear fashionably liberal. The British, for example, have turned the other cheek to Islamic extremists in their country for a generation and now, according to Ml5, face a greater terrorist threat than at any time in their history.

This is not a game. Not some dinner-party debate where complacent people take comfortable positions.

Actually Mike, I'm very comfortable in my position that Canada should not hand itself over to fascism in order to defend itself against terrorism. I'm very very comfortable in my position that we should not be picking up political pointers from the likes of Augusto Pinochet.

While we argue the niceties of the Charter, the enemies of everything for which Canada and the West stand are planning to kill us. And we have a Supreme Court decision that is supremely foolish and another case of cowardice in the face of the enemy.

Do you ever get the feeling that Michael Coren really enjoys being afraid of things?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Whatever-Day-This-Is Archaeology Blogging
Fun with petroglyphs edition!

First of all, this edition of Friday Archaeology Blogging will have nothing to do with ossuaries believed by some to contain the remains of a particular middle-eastern family. This is for two reasons. First of all, I haven't seen the documentary yet. Secondly, I rather skeptical of the whole Biblical Archaeology thing to begin with.

The earliest human inhabitants of Hawaii seem to have arrived on the islands about 1400 years ago, probably journeying from points south and west. This relatively recent date for the arrival of humans is probably related to the remoteness of the Hawaiian islands. The early Hawaiians lived under a very stratified caste system referred to as "kapu". In terms of material remains, they did not leave much, although some worship sites (Hawaiian word: Heiau) have survived.

Pu'ukohola Heiau - click to enlarge

What these early inhabitants did leave behind are quite of lot of petroglyphs, images carved into the volcanic rock of the islands. Subject matter includes people in canoes,

people by themselves (very often sexually explicit, as in the case the petroglyph shown below),

and some that seem to be simply geometric shapes.

Animals, including starfish, turtles, and tiger sharks, were also represented, although I couldn't find a really satisfactory image of such a petroglyph. Nor did the arrival of Captain James Cook, in 1778, put an end to the practice of carving petroglyphs, although the kapu system fell apart not long after the arrival of the Europeans. The example below quite clearly shows a fully-rigged ship, and therefore must date to after Cook's visit.

The meaning of the petroglyphs is, not surprisingly, somewhat open to interpretation. They were believed to bring good luck, as long as the stone upon which they were carved was not moved. In general, they have survived fairly well; however, there is a problem in that the petroglyphs are generally outdoors, and thus exposed to the elements. Hawaii's copious rainfall has eroded some of them almost to the point of invisibility.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Graduate Conference

Yup, it's grad conference weekend here, and this evening's keynote speaker is a fellow who's actually on my committee, so it behooves me to go along and here him speak (that, and the fact that he's a brilliant scholar and I want to hear what he has to say). All of which is a long-winded way of saying that Friday Archaeology Blogging will be along tomorrow afternoon at some point. It'll be Hawaiian.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Now this is funny stuff, and the list of blogs I like is duly updated! Originally via Canadian Cynic.

Oh, Goody.

Scripture-affirming Creation Museum set to open in June
Allie Martin
March 1, 2007

A state-of-the-art museum dedicated to the biblical account of creation will open this spring in Ohio. The 50,000-square-foot Creation Museum, which is located in the Greater Cincinnati area, is scheduled to open its doors on Memorial Day.

Great. Because the number-one most important thing about a museum is whether or not it's "scripture affirming." Take that, British Museum!

The Creation Museum is a project of Answers in Genesis (AiG), an apologetics ministry based in Kentucky. The new attraction will feature many educational displays, including life-size dinosaur models, fossil and mineral collections, and other live exhibits designed to teach and to proclaim the authority of biblical scripture.

Now, this is very... Excuse me, somebody wishes to say something.

"God fucking dammit! I did not, repeat did not live my entire life in the Paleozoic ooze so that some dickhead could put my cousins on display with a little plaque explaining that they hung out with Abraham. Fuck! Incidentally, this picture of me comes from this site, which you should definitely go and look at. It's a fuck of a lot more interesting than a diorama of Jesus riding a stegosaurus, that's for sure. Thanks, back to you."

No, thank you Mr. Trilobite.

Dr. Ken Ham, president of AiG, says the $27-million project will be more than just entertaining. “It’s as good as anything Disneyland or Universal Studios could do, but it’s not entertainment; it's 'edutainment,'" he insists. "It's education, using these exhibits."

As interesting as the museum itself promises to be, Ham believes it will be just as interesting to watch how it is received. "I believe it’s going to make not just an impact in the Creation world and not just an impact in North America," he says, "but an impact in Christendom. I believe it’s [going to be] a significant event in Christendom when this museum is open.”

Ah, gotta love the sweet, sweet, smell of hubris. Here's an excerpt from a future history textbook:

  • c. A.D. 33: The crucifixion of Jesus Christ
  • c. A.D. 150: The earliest known manuscript of the Bible is composed.
  • A.D. 313: The Edict of Milan is proclaimed. Christianity becomes a legal religion in the Roman Empire.
  • A.D. 1517: Martin Luther publishes his 95 Theses On the Power of Indulgences, officially kicking off the Protestant Reformation.
  • A.D. 1962-1965: The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, aka Vatican II.
  • A.D. 2007: The Creation Museum opens in the Greater Cincinnati area! Hey look, it's got a picture of Noah putting the unicorns on the ark!

Methinks not.

In fact, various media from around the world have already expressed avid and increasing interest in the Creation Museum, the AiG spokesman notes. However, he says, as the opening date draws closer, attacks from secularists have increased as well.

Ooh, evil secularists. They'll be legalizing Halloween next!

In talking to these secularists, Ham points out, "you realize these sort of people don’t want answers; what they want to do is publicly ridicule Christians, publicly ridicule the Bible." Whenever he is interviewed by people like that, the creation apologist says, "I’m also thinking of the people who are listening, and [I’m] trusting that God will use the answers that I give to open their hearts to the truth.”

I doubt the good Dr. Ham would like the truths that God is using his answers to open my heart to. I also doubt that that sentence was very grammatical.

Ham calls the Creation Museum a "walk through history" that will counter evolutionary natural history exhibits that turn minds against Christ and scripture. He says AiG's new, alternative "edutainment" place, opening this June, will proclaim the Bible as supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice that scripture addresses.

Use the word "edutainment" once, shame on you. Use it twice, you really are a jackass. And on that note, I'm going off to look at the Burgess Shale website some more.