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Pet the doggy

It’s been a while since we checked in with the Prehistory Guys, but we were bored this afternoon and it turns out they have a project at Göbekli Tepe. Link goes to a whole playlist of short films about it.

Super interesting stuff. This is 10,000 years ago, just at the end of the last ice age, and they had cisterns for storing water and pipes capped with limestone moving the water around the complex.

They still think the builders were nomadic hunter-gatherers, even after finding this gigantic stone complex. As of 2021, only 5% of the known site has been excavated.

Did I tell you I bumped into one of the Prehistory Guys in town? Not surprisingly, he was at a historic attraction. I gave him the side-eye for the longest time, before sidling over and blurting out, “hey, you’re that YouTube guy, aren’t you?”

Then it got super awkward. A big fan would’ve known his name. After a few minutes scraping my toe on the pavement and clearing my throat, I slunk off.

Michael Bott is his name.

We kind of went off the channel because they spend way too much time photographing each other staring at the really cool thing. Oi! You! Show me the really cool thing.

I gave up on Cosmos for the same reason. Thirteen hours of Carl Sagan making the “ooo!” face.

May 21, 2024 — 6:58 pm
Comments: 4

More moo

We went back to visit the moo cows today. You know, the farm shop with the milk vending machine.

Milk vending machines since have become something of a thing locally. Hippies!

Changing the subject – by a real lot – did you know they think they’ve found Sodom? An archeologist working on a site called Tall el-Hammam came upon a layer of weirdly burned roofs and melted stuff and said to himself say, this looks a whole lot like the wrath of God.

“The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a 50-m-wide bolide” — a meteor that explodes in midair — “detonated with 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.”


What was unlike destruction caused by earthquakes or warfare were pottery shards with their outer surfaces melted into glass, some bubbled as if boiled, “bubbled” and melted building brick and plaster, suggesting some unknown high-temperature event. Objects of daily life, carbonized pieces of wooden beams, charred grain, bones and limestone cobbles were burned to a chalklike consistency.

Other scientists have rubbished it, of course. They think he just dug up an ordinary smelter and flipped. The archeologist is from a Bible college, apparently.

When I went hiking in Exeter, Rhode Island, I often passed a residential road called Sodom Trail. I never dared go up it.

July 12, 2023 — 5:39 pm
Comments: 8

Obviously, a cheese platter

Actually, no. I have no idea what this is. It’s called the Schist Disk or the Disc of Sabu.

It was found in in 1936 by Egyptologist Brian Walter Emery in the tomb of Prince Sabu, son of Adjuib Pharaoh, governor of the First Dynasty. That was, like, 5,000 years ago. It’s made of schist, a metamorphic rock that’s shaped over time in linear layers (it can be split along those lines, hence the name).

Schist is described as hard but brittle, so probably not a wheel. This thing is about two feet wide, and nobody can work out how the hell they made it. It’s not an unusual material and not absolutely unique in shape, but it would have been extremely difficult to work with this precision with the tools they had.

To give you an idea of the era we’re talking, there were also flint knives in the tomb.

I think it was made in some kind of grinding or sanding action, but it’s awfully precise. I wondered if it made a sound when spun around. This guy thinks it was an incense burner. This is the original link, gived my by Uncle B.

And yes, Lavendergirl takes it with Tom Sizemore. See you back here Friday! Or before. You can come before, you just can’t pick anyone in the Dead Pool.

March 7, 2023 — 8:24 pm
Comments: 11

This a weird one

Photo by the Center for Egyptological Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, or CER RAS, who conducted the dig.

What you’re looking at is a pile of dead dogs with a child on top. The 8-year-old – sex is near impossible to determine at this age – was buried on a pile of 142 dogs. All died at the same time; no evidence of violence.

But wait! There’s more! The child was buried with a linen bag over its head.

The necropolis is in Faiyum Oasis, about 60 miles southwest of Cairo, and had burials in it for 1,100 years. Earliest so far is 400 BC. They have uncovered one other corpse with a bag over its head, and he was apparently executed (arrow to the chest).

The only clue, bits of blue clay were found around the dogs. Similar to stuff they find in Egyptian reservoirs.

So my guess is, the child was minding a pack of dogs. The Egyptians used dogs for hunting. And then something – a flash flood, little Timmy down a well? – and they all drowned together. As for the linen bag, though, I haven’t a theory.

January 17, 2023 — 6:10 pm
Comments: 4

I’m sure you’ve seen this: they finally discovered the wreck of Shackleton’s ship Endurance this week, 107 years after it went down and four miles from its last recorded location (hence the time it took to find it).

I hoped to link to a definitive article with lots of good pictures, but it’s honestly more interesting to do a Google Images search of “endurance ship” because it turns up so many great pictures of her before she sank.

This video of the wreck itself is amazing. She went down in water so cold that wood-eating beasties can’t survive, hence the astonishing state of preservation.

I’d also like to link to his Britannica entry because it has audio of him talking about his adventures, recorded in 1910. Early audio recordings are so spooky.

Lumme a good creepy shipwreck. Have a great weekend, everyone!

March 11, 2022 — 8:23 pm
Comments: 4

Racton Man!

Dude looks like he’s fixing to give that spine a smooch, doesn’t he?

The skeleton is Racton Man, buried 4,000 years ago near Racton in West Sussex. Another win for the detectorists, who turned up his dagger and the rivets from its handle first. He was holding it in both hands in front of his face.

One article I read said the dagger was the oldest bronze object ever found in Britain, so high status guy. He was six foot tall, heavily built and over 45. He died with unhealed cuts on his upper arm bones, so probably in a fight.

He also had spinal degeneration (probably age-related), a chronic sinus infection and tooth decay. I wonder what he used to treat those things.

He was found in the Eighties, but they’ve only fairly recently got grant money to do the isotope analysis, etc. You’d be amazed how much of this stuff is dug up and stored in a local councils warehouse and only years or decades later do they scrape up enough funding to do the fun a part.

November 2, 2021 — 8:31 pm
Comments: 3


Just finished attending the Prehistoric Society’s AGM and waiting for the lecture to begin. Lecture topic: Genetic change and relatedness in Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain.

‘Chalcolithic’ is a problematic term. It’s the Copper Age – a brief period after the Neolithic and before they figured out a little tin mixed into the copper made a much harder metal called bronze, hence the Bronze Age.

But Chalcolithic doesn’t translate to Copper Age, it translates to Copper Stoneage. Pff! Most historians just call it the end of the Stone Age.

Pic is a chalcolithic settlement from Wikipedia.

Oops! It’s starting.

October 20, 2021 — 5:45 pm
Comments: 10

The archeologists are at it again…

They’ve recently found two of these very round stone balls in an ancient tomb in Scotland. Yes, I am resisting the urge to make a stone balls joke of some description.

About twenty ancient stone balls have been found in the Orkneys and others across Scotland. I was sure I had posted about them before, but I can’t find any such post. The ones in the upper right corner of this Wikipedia article are examples of what I’m talking about.

So what are they?

Researchers say the stones were probably used as both weapons and symbols of power.

Symbols of power? Really? I get that it would be difficult to make such a thing with hand tools, so maybe it was a high status item but…a symbol of power?

Don’t they make more sense as a neolithic one of these?

September 14, 2021 — 6:42 pm
Comments: 7

Even your fingerprints are gendered

I’ve spent all day at a Zoom prehistory conference. Again. Last one on my schedule.

One of the most interesting talks was a woman who studies finger prints and marks on Iron Age clay pots.

She started by taking fingerprints from 350 modern people to make a baseline. Turns out, fingerprints are sexually dimorphic. I mean, yes, the taller you are the bigger your prints regardless of gender, but apparently you can tell the difference between the fingerprints of a large woman and a small man: the man’s ridges are thicker.

Then she had to calculate average height, which was 4% shorter in the Bronze Age and 6% shorter in the Iron Age. Agriculture shortened people (and lives) – less variety in the diet.

Finally, she had to take off another 6% for clay shrinkage during firing.

She studied two kinds of pots. The first were large cooking and storage pots that were decorated with finger-pokes. Some random, some in patterns. The second were roughly made, utilitarian troughs squished together and fired on the spot for the purposes of evaporating salt water into salt.

Turns out, the big pots were made and decorated entirely by women and children, some as young as five, and the salt troughs were slammed together entirely by men and teenage boys (the youngest was 12).

I love the mental image of Iron Age tots being encouraged to poke pots, randomly.

I hope the highly gendered roles stuck in some craws. Academics (I follow a lot of these same people on Twitter) are woke as hell these days.

June 18, 2021 — 6:12 pm
Comments: 8

Gammon pride

If you have spent any time at all on Limey social media, you will have heard a wokester call an Englishman a gammon. This is especially meant to invoke, I think, a white man of a certain age, pink and fatty. For reasons we can guess, gammons seem to be particularly found of calling other gammons gammons.

I say we own it. And why not? Gammon is a cut of pork they sell here – it’s simply uncooked ham. And who doesn’t love ham? Except, of course, strict adherents to certain pig-deprived religions.

The pig – the wild boar – was sacred to many ancient Germanic gods and goddesses. Tacitus, writing in the First Century, said the Germanic tribes wore boarskins into battle. Boars were a symbol of ferocity worn on the helmets of Anglo-Saxon warriors (Beowolf, for a famous example).

The spectacular Iron Age Garton Slack chariot burial, in East Yorkshire, featured a whole chariot, two horses and a warrior with the head of a pig split open, food side up, on his chest. A last meal in the afterlife.

The archaeological evidence tells us that for hundreds of years, people came from all corners of the island, driving pigs before them, to a giant pork feast at the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge. Among other sacred sites.

In short, pigs: a wonderful, magical animal.

June 17, 2021 — 8:54 pm
Comments: 12