Anyway, the archaeologist showed me a shallow elongated oval wooden vessel with a slight depression in it, that had been on display. She explained that for a very long time it had been believed it was used for offerings as part of religious ceremonies. Only when she first began working there as a student this struck her as odd since she remembered her grandma had used an almost identical vessel for kneading dough for bread. Needless to say, its purpose has since been relabeled.
Her observation to me was that in archaeology, any time researchers are uncertain of the purpose of an object they tend to ascribe a religious meaning to it and so any time an object is described as having a religious significance one should always take that assessment with a grain of salt.
one of my favorite books of all time.
I actively look for these books I remember little snatches of... I thought this one was a Stanislaw Lem book, and though I really, really enjoyed "Memoirs found in a bathtub" - but that wasn't this. The chant of "sanitized for your protection" during the ritual use of the toilet really sticks out in my childhood memory. I wonder if it will be as great, reading it as an adult?
They then picked up a wedge shaped chunk of stone used it as a hand axe for a few minutes, took a chunk that had cracked off it to use as a knife, smashed it again to make a scraping tool and on and on.
I think it's just hard to understand how tools in the past were used.
I doubt kids in the past would hear from their parents such bullshit like "you can't dice these eggs with this, it's for dicing onions", etc.
It's not consumerism it's specialisation: with the advance of sedentarisation and techno-industrial might, we can afford to go beyond one tool doing a bit of everything not very well (e.g. shave and punch holes and cut food and …) and instead use plenty of tools which do one job very efficiently or conveniently.
The price difference isn't particularly justified, but presumably "face razor" and "leg razor" doesn't sell as well.
Not to mention phones are really quite good at being mp3 players and GPS devices and cameras at least for the average person, so the tradeoff is not big.
I suspect the reason most archaeological finds are attributed to a single purpose is a much simpler one: it can sometimes be hard to derive an accurate description for a lot of tools when you're only looking for a single use. Trying to find multiple uses is therefore going to be an order of magnitude harder. So you therefore go with the most easily identifiable use case.
I bet the ancient ones had the same problem when someone used a small shard of rock for a job that a larger shard was clearly better suited for! ;)
So if an animal is doing something prominently that isn't hunting or fighting or mating or raising young and others are watching but not getting upset by it, mating display is probably a reasonably safe assumption.
Sometimes the distinction between ritual and practical use is absolute, i.e "the sacred chalice shall only be used for services", or sometimes sacred vs. profane is distinguished by timing, or the incanting of particular verses.
In general, we have an overly dualistic view ("it is one or the other") of of the sacred and profane as pertains to ancient objects, perhaps influenced by the dualities pervasive in Western philosophical systems.
My favorite examples in archeology is the Chaco Canyon Cultures. If you are in the western US, have a 4 wheel drive car, and a free few days, I'd go no where else. Those people are an astonishing mystery. You know how with some places, going on the journey is kinda the point? Sometimes with archeology, that's kinda true too. You find out things along the way, you get a feel for the peoples, you get in their heads, you empathize.
The Chacoans are the rare exception to that process. Chaco is a place of questions and not much more. Despite decades of work on the canyon, we know nearly nothing about them. Nothing makes any sense, getting into their heads has proven nearly impossible; it's very difficult to empathize with them across the centuries. The only plan right now is to rebury all the pueblos and wait for new technology to come out, really.
Cool thing is, though, you can go right up to the ruins and interact with them any way you please. Not that you should, but you can. Since it's a bit hard to get to, the rangers pretty much let any visitor roam free. If you are looking a very 'Indiana Jones' kinda vacation, Chaco Canyon should be #1 on your list.
Chaco Canyon is not very close to any large-ish city to begin with. Just driving from Albuquerque is about 3 hours to get to the 4-wheel-drive-only road into the park. That road is generously described as 'washboard' in the best of conditions, which are rare. Once there, there is only tent camping. Water and toilets are available, but not any food or drink though, 'amenities' are sparse. It's difficult to get to and stay at, so you really have to want to be there. Though I may not know too much about the current zeitgeist of Insta' , I'd imagine that Chaco is not 'worth' the trip if you are just there for the photos and likes. However, if you are there to experience the archeology, the people, and the astounding mystery of the Chacoans, the effort is very much worth it. Besides, the stars at night are some of the clearest I've ever seen, and those show up terribly on a phone camera.
Most Puebloan peoples seemed to have gathered at Chaco a few times a year, during the heyday. There is some evidence of continuous habitation at Chaco, but not as many as you'd expect. To me, an interesting thing is that the Puebloan peoples do not share genetic markers that would indicate that Chaco was used as a place to mix and mingle the bloodlines, so to speak. It's very strange that the young people would not 'notice' each other in the large gatherings every year. Also, the kivas have very different usages in the different tribes, despite their near universal religious significance in all the tribes. Some are used as sweat-lodge type structures, some are sprouting houses for crops, some have foot powered drums in them, etc.
So despite the common heritage, each tribe of Puebloan peoples is still very distinct, even genetically. Again, Chaco is a place of questions, not answers. The closer you look, the stranger it gets.
Acoustic studies of the kiva pits show that giant drums, beaten with the feet, had resonances that may have interacted with canyon walls too. But the largest kiva in existence at Chetro Ketl, perfectly south of Pueblo Bonito, is no where near the canyon walls and the size of the kiva makes the resonance in the far sub-sonic for human hearing. In the kiva at Chetro Ketl, there is also evidence of layers of burn sand and dust going down many meters into the ground. There's at least a dozen PhD theses waiting in that dirt.
Also, the layout of Pueblo Bonito is only the first few stories of the building. For preservation, they have buried the lower stories of the pueblo. When you look at the full design plan, it makes zero sense. The mostly rectangular rooms have doors that lead to all kinds of weird places. There are nearly no hearths, and the rooms would have been in total darkness, as little evidence is found of suit on what remains of the roofs (lots of destruction has taken place, so who knows in the end).
We do have evidence from the oldest parts of Pueblo Bonito (the Pueblo was built in stages over about 300 years), that near total darkness was the norm. Skeletons of macaques (yes, from the Yucatan!) show severe deformities associated with lack of sunlight. Also, pottery shards have cacao residue on them from other parts of Central America. The oldest part of Pueblo Bonito is also the only part that has burial of human remains. There, 4 people (likely some form of sub-priest) were interned above 2 other people (likely higher priest-like persons), one of whom likely died of leg wounds just before burial, all in the structure and above the ground level at the time. Coincidentally, half of all the turquoise ever discovered via archeology was found with these 6 people. That's a LOT of turquoise. No other bodies have ever been discovered in the Canyon and very little 'trash' is in the Canyon as well.
Sorry for the ramble. But Chaco really is a place of questions, not answers. It's very unique in the world for this reason and well worth the visit and deep-dives into it.
The word "brickbat" refers to a piece of brick used as a weapon. In modern times, since bricks are small and guns exist, it is likely describing half of a broken building or paving brick, thrown at a line of police with plastic riot shields. In ancient times, it could have been a literal brick on a literal bat.
Imagine how durable a wooden baseball bat is. It's a pretty decent weapon on its own, but if you whack anything harder than flesh with it, you might damage it. So you soak the wood, coat the end with clay, inscribe a two-page treatise on how your enemies are total bastards and they just suck so much, and put it in the kiln. Now you have a hard and brittle brick-ceramic surface, over a softer but more durable wooden core. The composite weapon is superior to an all-brick club, which would snap off at the shaft whenever you hit someone with it, and a wooden club, which would split with the grain if you hit something hard with too much force. The brick coating keeps the wood from splitting. The wood core keeps the brick head from shattering.
The modern example is tightly wrapping a baseball bat with a coil of barbed wire or baling wire. The tensile strength of the wire keeps the bat from splitting. Ceramic technology has advanced a lot since the bronze age, too. The auto-glass windshield on your car is a sandwich of hard glass and soft plastic, that is at once clear enough to see through, hard enough to deflect flying debris without scratching, and durable enough to sometimes also deflect hard objects without cracking. In addition, if it does break, it doesn't turn itself into sharp knives that could cut you.
The ancients used wood (and leather) the way we now use plastic. If you sandwich wood and brick, it's not as good as sandwiching glass and plastic, but it's the same concept.
It sounds like they had a thing of capturing enemies, tying them down in a net, and then bashing them to death to really show them who was boss. If this mace wasn't entirely ceremonial, it was probably at least used in fairly controlled circumstances.
Sometimes once is enough!
This photo caption makes more sense if you are inscribing your gripe against the city you are warring with on your weapon:
It is possible that a mace head with cuneiform inscriptions served a ceremonial purpose. Executions of captured prisoners, maybe? I imagine it would have been like Negan from the Walking Dead, except barbed wire hadn't been invented yet.
If the picture in this article is the mace, it's clear from the cuneiform that the 'object' would be upside down if it were in a vase orientation. Rarely ever do you start an impression from the left and trail off to the right.
Oh, and it is a genuinely fun game.
I wasn't sure if this was an allusion to a coin flip.
Turns out there are actual 2 sided die though.
If one cone has finger-grips added, the die can also be spun like a top. These are teetotums. A dreidel is essentially a teetotum d4.
For a d2, you add two parallel planes to represent the two stable results, and unstable-angled planes on the sides so that the die will always roll from them onto one of the stable planes on any flat, level surface. Or you can just curve the two sides, such that they meet at a point.
You can even make a (nontrivial) fair d1 with a clever arrangement of planes on the barrel. When rolled, the fair d1 will always come to rest on the same face, without being unbalanced, because all other planar faces are angled to roll the die to an adjacent face. I can't recall if dice of this type are dependent on being rolled in Earth gravity or not, but it seemed like they were dependent on angle of repose in some way.
I'm not sure I've come across so many new words outside of a science paper that I didn't understand :S .
What would be the use case for a d1 ?
It's a die that always comes up 1, without cheating. How is that not art?
I find it rather confusing that way, though; I think I've read it as "AHEAD STOP" and mentally scratched my head every time I've seen text like that (which isn't too often).
Ogham. Not exclusively bottom to top, but basically written around a standing stone in a ↱↴ fashion.
This bizarre creature was discovered that walked on spikes. Then it was realized that it was just upside down, and in fact was just a worm with spines sticking out the top.
The docent giving us a tour told us about the mixup of a dinosaur head, and this story sprung to mind when reading this.
The story was amazing to me as a kid, adults were wrong sometimes and they could fix their mistakes.
It'll be hollow since they thought it was a vase.
It's unlikely the filler is solid, these reconstructions are generally made as faithfully as possible to the original without too much synthesis. So it should be the same shape as the original is presumed to have, but no engravings or anything which might be unreasonably speculative.
Funny to think that one day we'll be that 4,000-5,000 year old ancient civilization. Modern 'archaeologists' will be quite lucky in this regard. Digital records don't leave much room for ambiguity, and there are already countless organizations working on preservation as a purpose in and of itself, and other organizations working on data preservation for less idealistic reasons.
There will probably 4 tiers of history. Prehistory, glyphic history, written history, and finally digitized history. Well that's making the probably bad assumption that there's no tech beyond digital that we cannot even yet conceive of. Even to the smartest man of the pre-electric era, the notion of digital data storage and transmission would just be literally inconceivable.
You say that, but there's data on media from 40 years ago that can't be accessed either because of bit rot or because the technology no longer exists. Hell, most of the content on the internet from 20 years ago has since vanished forever.
As for digital storage in general.. magnetic storage is quite good. Leave your harddrive on the shelf for a few decades and it'll probably still be ok. At least the magnetically stored data. Spin up the disk every two years and the rest is taken care of too. But Flash storage gradually lose data, it's not permanent. Come back in twenty and it's gone.
To keep digital data you'll have to implement a scheme of regularly refresh + copy/convert to newer media. That's a Herculean task if you want to keep all that we currently have of digital records.
Whereas a stone tablet will keep nicely.