Blogging’s been low what with many boxes to unpack and no broadband connection. But things are getting into shape at home. Hope I find the electric drill tonight so I can get some of the paintings up off the floor.
Archaeology Magazine is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America and so tends to concentrate on areas of the world where US archaeologists work. I recently got a complimentary subscription and received the Jan/Feb issue, whose cover story is a richly illustrated feature piece about Maya beauty ideals (abstract available on-line). My dentist was fascinated to see the filed teeth inlaid with jade disclets. Good stuff!
As I’ve said before, archaeology really isn’t one discipline like chemistry or astronomy, but a quilt of regional specialities whose practicioners share many methods but needn’t pay any attention to each others’ work. So though I read this magazine issue with keen general interest, there’s hardly anything in it that’s useful to me as a professional. One of the featured stories is about the underwater rubble of a collapsed High Medieval English town that fell prey to shore erosion (abstract available on-line), but otherwise there is very little about Northern Europe. Still, to gauge the geographical scope of the mag, I’ll have to look at more than a single issue. (Lovecraftians may note that the town’s name was Dunwich.)
The most gripping piece (full text available on-line) covers the forensic archaeology of a mass grave full of women and children murdered in 1988 during Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds:
The archaeologist testified for four hours on behalf of the entire team. … he presented the 17 selected victims from Muthanna, one by one. He showed photos of each skeleton in the grave, the individual’s gunshot wounds, and the personal effects found with the body. These ranged from a young child’s prayer beads and little red shoes to a woman’s spoon for measuring medicine or powdered milk. Finally, Trimble exhibited photos of a mannequin wearing each victim’s attire. As he spoke, he tried to maintain as much eye contact as he could with the judges. Partway through his presentation, however, he noticed one judge dabbing his eye. Two others soon followed suit. At first Trimble was puzzled, thinking something was wrong. Then he realised what was happening. “My God,” he thought, “they are all crying”.
I look forward to the next issue of this top-notch pop-sci mag.