Recent Archaeomags

Archaeology mags have accreted on my shelf, though something’s happened to my subscription to the always enjoyable Current Archaeology. I’ve written the editors.

Populär Arkeologi 2010:4 opens with a look at the garishly painted reality of Classical sculpture. The only place where you could see white marble statues in ancient Greece and Rome was actually a sculptor’s workshop.

Then there’s a spread by my buddies and Fornvännen contributors about this summer’s rock-art discoveries in Småland province, reported on here and here back in May.

Johan Rönnby reports on a beautifully preserved 17th century shipwreck found at 125 meters’ depth in the Baltic, where it can only be studied remotely. Lovely pix! The wreck actually came to light during the search for a Swedish DC 3 shot down by the Russians in 1952 (see the Catalina affair: they eventually found the plane too and I saw some of the finds from it in 2007).

My Estonian correspondent Gilleke Kopamees reports on two unbelievable 8th century mass graves in ships of warriors with Scandy equipment found on the island of Saaremaa (mentioned here in 2008).

Skalk is in fine form with issue 2010:5 (October): we get an Early Roman Period burial found in Jutland with the weirdest and most wonderful preservation conditions. The dead girl’s bones and soft tissue are gone, but all animal fibres are preserved, that is, every stitch of her dress and every little braid of her intricate hairdo. A landmark find!

Then there’s a piece on metal-detecting that makes the same point that Håkan Svensson & Bengt Söderberg made in Fornvännen 2009: our ideas about where powerful people resided in 1st millennium AD Scandyland are entirely dependent on whether we metal-detect the ploughsoil before we strip it off or not.

Gamers will like the historical pieces on a gambling-happy Danish noblewoman in the 18th century and on playing-cards with sheet music on them (gotta send that last paper to Mattias).

Archaeology Magazine’s Nov/Dec issue (#63:6) has six pages on the archaeology of chocolate (reminding me now of this paper on prehistoric coca processing in the new Antiquity issue). Interesting stuff, though I must say that I still don’t understand why ancient Mesoamericans bothered with chocolate. I mean, they had no milk and no sugar. Without those ingredients, chocolate just tastes bad, and seen as a recreational drug it’s simply ridiculous. The effect of theobromine on your mood and perception of reality is so weak that I think most people wouldn’t be able to identify it in a blind test. The Mesoamerican way was to mix the stuff with corn flour, chili, flower petals or vanilla, plus water. No thanks.

But the feature pieces on the no longer very enigmatic Etruscans and the archaeology of the World Trade Centre building-site are good. And I was intrigued to read Heinrich Härke’s piece on a truly strange Chinese-influenced island settlement in the Russian republic of Tuva. All in all an unusually interesting issue of the mag.


  1. #1 Peter N
    December 23, 2010

    “The Mesoamerican way was to mix the stuff with corn flour, chili, flower petals or vanilla, plus water. No thanks.”

    Sounds like Mexican mole (“mol-eh”, not the rodent!) sauce, which is delicious! Try it if you get a chance!

  2. #2 Martin R
    December 23, 2010

    If I’m gonna have it with fajitas I’d like to skip the vanilla, please. (-;

  3. #3 Birger Johansson
    December 23, 2010

    “and seen as a recreational drug it’s simply ridiculous”

    …naah. Those aliens von Däniken wrote about surely provided them with a genetically modified coca that stoned the indians out of their minds 🙂

    “the island of Saaremaa”
    I am curious to which extent it was possible for the people in the Baltic region to hang on to some kind of organised society in the face of (presumed) frequent raids by Scandinavian bands, once the technology of clinker-built ships was mature.

    I mean, the civilization of bronze-age Crete was not only toppled, but erased under the centuries-long onslaught of sea raiders. No big settlements survived close to the coast. The even earlier Cycladic culture was nipped in the bud with the arrival of bronze weapons and organised piracy.

    When you have sea raiders as close neighbours you better have some serious defensive capacity, or you are toast.

  4. #4 Martin R
    December 24, 2010

    to which extent it was possible for the people in the Baltic region to hang on to some kind of organised society in the face of (presumed) frequent raids by Scandinavian bands

    It was even harder in Scandinavia. Vikings weren’t nationalists. They hit whoever was weak. Settlements moved a bit inland and people armed themselves. Saaremaa was known as a pirate nest in its own right.

  5. #5 William
    December 24, 2010

    Uh… Martin, you know that fajitas are tex-mex right? Contrast Fajita with Mole poblano.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    December 27, 2010

    (OT) Rand Paul had some charming ideas about whether business owners should be allowed to discriminate on basis of race.
    Hmm…if archaeology can have a social dimension, maybe we can include [North American paleo-conservative magazine of choice]? It would be a perfect display of the archaeology of ideas which even European conservatives have abandoned as way too crude (snark) ?

  7. #7 Martin R
    December 27, 2010

    Yeah, some US neo-con propaganda is exactly what’s missing from my reading…

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.