About Paleotool

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee fiddler...mostly

The Mermaid

Originally posted on Zygoma:

As you may already know, I’ve been doing a lot of work on a mermaid specimen in the collections of the Horniman Museum & Gardens over the last few years.

The upshot of all that activity is that I have a paper written in a journal that will be hitting the bookshelves any day now. As you may have heard me say before, the specimen is not made of a monkey attached to a fish – I know that after undertaking painstaking examination of the specimen using CT scanning equipment and DNA sampling and good old fashioned anatomical investigation.

IMGP0507

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Instead it appears to be a real creature of uncertain taxonomic affiliation. The teeth suggest a link to the Wrasse family, the tail to the Carp and the torso to no known living group, so I have designated this specimen as the type for its species and have named it Pseudosiren paradoxoides

View original 25 more words

Following Up on the South Bank

The South Bank of the Clovis site refers to an area at the southern end of the prehistoric pond around which lie a group of cultural sites spanning a time from the end of the last ice age until recent historic times.  This watering hole provided a marshy habitat for plants and animals and was the focus of human activity for the last 14,000 years.

SouthBank

The South Bank area of the Clovis site. View to the southwest.

Professional research on the South Bank of the Clovis site has been going on since the mid-1930s.  In fact, this is the area of the Clovis site where it was discovered for the first time, beyond any legitimate doubt, that humans were hunting mammoths in North America.  Other than the spear points we now know as Clovis, major discoveries in the South Bank area include bone spear points embedded in mammoth, spokeshaves, gravers, Levallois blades, turtle shells, bone flakers, bone foreshafts, and a variety of knives and other cutting tools.

Although more work has been done in the South Bank area than any other portion of the site, only a tiny fraction of all the work in this area has been published to date.  A few of us are working hard to remedy this and I have dedicated my career to unraveling the mess of 80+ years of excavation, sampling, and recording of this site.

Howard

Edgar Howard at the Clovis site, 1933.

What we’re up to now.  A building was placed over a small portion of the South Bank in the 1990s to preserve in situ some of the spectacular preserved specimens from this area.  As time permits, we are slowing removing the overburden in this area to reveal the palimpsest of bison kills, butchering, and other activities in this area.  A particularly good crew of excavators with faunal experience were willing to volunteer some of their time over the past couple weeks and huge progress is being made.

 

Here’s a gallery of random photographs from the excavations so far.

Thanks to those who are giving time to this project of mine.  Since, for me, archaeology isn’t worth doing without disseminating the information to the broader public I’ll update the blog as we continue to make progress.  Unfortunately, day-to-day operations of the Landmark and the university take precedent over the fun stuff like this so it will be back to the grindstone before too long.

Logical Flaws in the Study “Northeastern North American Pleistocene Megafauna Chronologically Overlapped Minimally with Paleoindians”

Originally posted on GeorgiaBeforePeople:

Mark Twain popularized the old adage, “there are lies, damned lies, and  statistics.”  Statistics can be used to show just about anything.  David Stockman headed Ronald Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget in the early 1980′s.  He dazzled the media with statistics he used to show the virtues of Reaganonomics.  Today, Mr. Stockman admits it was all a  conjob.  I’m not claiming the recent study entitled “Northeastern North American Pleistocene Megafauna Chronologically Overlapped Minimally with Paleoindians,” an article published in the February Volume of Quaternary Science Reviews , uses statistics in as dishonest a manner, but I do believe the results and conclusions should be viewed with suspicion.

Matthew Boulanger and R. Lee Lyman, anthropologists from the University of Missouri, compiled a list of radio-carbon dated Paleoindian sites from New York, Pennsylvania, New England, and parts of eastern Canada.  They also compiled a list of radio-carbon dated late Pleistocene megafaunal remains from…

View original 1,718 more words

Making Tools

Originally posted on Paleotool's Weblog:

Back to the beginnings.  Larry Kinsella is a great flint knapper and an all-around talented guy who, amongst other things, recreates stone-age technologies from his home near Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (one of the great cities of the prehistoric world) in Illinois.
archymo-2

A 6.35 kilogram (14 US pound) nodule of Burlington chert.

Back in 2008, Larry, prompted by Tim Baumann, created a great lithic experiment for a Missouri Archaeology Month poster.

On May 28th,2008, Larry received an e-mail from Dr. Tim Baumann:
Larry, “I still need your help with the Missouri Archaeology Month Poster.
The theme for 2008 is prehistoric lithic resources in Missouri. The back of the poster will have unmodified samples of chert and other lithic resources used by Native Americans in Missouri. I am working with Jack Ray and utilizing his new book on Ozarks lithic resources. Jack is also organizing the fall symposium on…

View original 639 more words

What is the use of Archaeology? Naysayers crushed by Rev. #WhyArchMatters

Originally posted on Doug's Archaeology:

“But archaeology is not simply valuable as a purveyor of facts and evidences for the use of the historian. It elevates the mind of man; it enlarges his soul; it divests us of a part of our selfishness; it lifts us out of the rut of our every-day life; it makes our hearts beat in sympathy with those who cannot repay us even the “tribute of a sigh”; it educes affections which bless us and tend to make us blessings to all around, but which are apt to be dried up by too long and too intimate an acquaintance with the market-place and the exchange.”

A few weeks ago I posted about how to write to your elected representatives.  This week I have reason to do so as the US congress is looking to cut the funding to Social and Behavioral Sciences of which Archaeology is a part of…

View original 2,692 more words

What is a curator?

Originally posted on Zygoma:

What is a curator?

Every so often I’ll meet someone who asks me what I do; this draws the response “I’m a natural history curator”*. Sometimes I will then be faced with the dreaded follow-up question “what does that mean?”

I hate it when this happens, because the curatorial role involves lots of different things and it can be hard to summarise them in any kind of concise and intelligible way. Different museums expect different things from curators, which will usually depend on the rest of the staffing structure. So when I answer I can only really answer for myself and what I think MY curatorial role entails.

DSC02587

The most obvious responsibility is “curating collections”, which is not actually an explanation in any meaningful way. To curate more or less means to “take care of”, but these days the museum sector has become professionalised and there are other specialists who take…

View original 776 more words

CFPo: THEN DIG – The Senses and Aesthetics of Archaeological Science

Originally posted on Middle Savagery:

CFPO_Then_Dig

I’m very excited to be co-editing a new issue of THEN DIG – the Open Access, Open Peer Review archaeology blog with Dr. Andrew Roddick. Here is an excerpt from the Call for Posts:

In this issue of Then Dig we explore encounters with the past in the context of archaeological science. From the abstract expressionist appreciation of ceramic thin sections, to the treasure hunt for phytoliths under a microscope, to the severe precautionary costumes of the Clean Room, we investigate the aesthetic, the multisensorial, and the profound in archaeological science.

After a small hiatus, the blog/journal has been thriving. I’ll be posting the last submission associated with the Zeitgeist theme very soon, and there’s a great line-up that Dr. James Flexner has put together from a conference on Oceania that will also be going up shortly.

I’ve also very much enjoyed the Open Peer Review style. It is…

View original 86 more words