Tuesday, 20 August 2013

An interesting tutorial on making mummies


This is one great tutorial I enjoyed. Better than many books I read on mummies

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Man Who Rediscovered an Ancient Civilization

India celebrated its independence from Great Britain on 15th August. It is an occasion for celebration and introspection for every Indian to celebrate her rebirth or perhaps her birth as a nation 67 years ago. On this occasion, here is a small piece on once celebrated Briton who is neither celebrated much in India nor in Britain, but whose contributions to both is immense.

The 17th and 18th centuries were very interesting times. For the first time, mankind was witnessing one particular race dominate the world not on the basis of warfare, but on the basis of innovation and industry. Those times are now called as the industrial revolution. In roughly 300 years , a small island nation and technically the southern part of a small island nation called England was building capacity for production of goods never seen before and using the world as a stage to source raw material and a market for finished goods. During those heady times, the conventional wisdom in the island nation was that all other nations were inferior in intellect and learning and there was little wisdom in going beyond some poorer European nations to gather any knowledge.
William Jones (Image may be copyrighted)

During those days, a genius was born to the gentleman who gave the symbol of pi to the world and Mary Nix Jones. This genius  was named William Jones after his father. Early in his childhood, young Wiliam lost his father. Without his fathers’  source of income from patronage, there was acute shortage of money in the household.  This loss of patronage was to influence key decisions in Jones’ later life. However, his mother thought him to read and he was able to read by the age of 4.

His mother managed to enrol the young William to Harrow. Here, his genius was identified by the Shipley brothers who played an important role of influence throughout his life.  He went on to Oxford at age 17 in 1763 where he was recognized as a brilliant student. The Shipleys helped him land  job in the influential  Spencer family household at Althorpe. Oxford and Althrope became cradles for learning his first foreign languages – Italian, Spanish, Portuguese which were fashionable and Arabic and Persian which were exotic.

His level of competence in languages soon started earning him plaudits and he was first commissioned by the King of Denmark to translate the life of Nadir Shah. He went on to translate Asian poems, took up learning music and also wrote on Persian grammar and went on to work on Persian poetry.

Remembering the pangs his family had to go through with his fathers loss of patronage, Jones broke free from the Spencers and took up law. He also qualified at the Oxford . He took up law and qualified for  the bar at the Temple  .  More plaudits followed.  He was admitted to the Royal society.

It was the time of American war of independence and Jones, a person who stood for world learning and liberty in the early years cultivated deep friendship with Benjamin Franklin and was not popular for his sympathy for the American cause. While Jones was trying for an embassy job in Turkey for which he was definitely eminently qualified, his sympathy to the American cause scuttled his chances.

His breakaway from the Spencers and his sympathy to the Americans was to have a huge beneficial impact to India. In 1783, after the dust had settled down on the American war, Jones was appointed as one of the judges in East Indies and he came to Calcutta. He was also knighted and married his long time love Anna Maria Shipley.

On his voyage he saw the ancient lands of Persia, Arabia and India surrounding his frigate and he conceived what became the famous Asiatic society. This is from where his contributions became immense to India, Britain and mankind.  While it was fashionable for his country of birth to denounce contributions of her colonies, this genius chose to investigate and learn from the country he adopted.

Here was a pioneering Briton who believed that he would function better as a judge if he studied the  local laws and customs. He put himself to the task and set up the Asiatic society with the purpose of Asian studies including almost everything concerning man and nature within the geographical limits of the continent” . He envisaged this to reach the same scale as the Royal society during the innaugral speech of the society in 1784. In his first speech at the Society, Jones was just talking about Asia having imagination and Europe being scientific. But his relentless pursuit had vastly changed opinion by the time his last speech came about in a decade.

He quickly identified the study of local languages as essential to study the advances made by ancient India.  He studied these and was able to  relate dates of the Gupta empire. He also studied and dated Budhism. He pursued studying Indian monuments and their influence elsewhere. It was an age when some of the best Indian monuments today were in a obscure state of utter neglect and complete disrepair that had lasted centuries. He saw India’s maritime laws centuries before their codification in Europe. He acknowledged advances in dyeing and its possible beneficial  impact  on the then sunrise British textile Industry.

He deciphered ancient Indian texts and was able to understand the advances made in metallurgy, the decimal scale , chess, astronomy (which was far superior to what Galeleo and Copernicus discovered many centuries later) and logic. He aso saw the commonalities with the ancient culture of India with other ancient cultures much before the ancient alien advocates stringed multiple controversial theories.

In literature and art, he is acknowledged as the pioneer of comparative philology. He had studied ancient Art forms. He was the first European to translate Kalidasa, acknowledge Panchatantra, Hitopadesha, the Upanishads, Vedas, Vyasa’s Mahabharatha and Puranas. He translated Firdausi, Abulola and the Koran. In his lifetime, he had known more than 20 languages

His followers later went on to form the Archeological Society of India which went on to discover and protect monuments – an activity that it continues to this day. In Europe, he transformed the impression of India in particular and  Asia from an ignorant aborigine land to a society of ancient culture learning. He made Asian studies fashionable.

It has to be remembered in the context  of history that India was largely plundered and ruled by migrants from Central Asia and Persia for six  centuries before the British and some of the ancient works, languages and monuments were ignored or neglected.  But, Jones was someone without any prejudice and immense curiosity. He systematically befriended learning  and assiduously studied the customs ,traditions and more importantly the main languages used. While his health in India was always letting him down, his sense of purpose was always propping him up. He finally succumbed to liver inflammation in India in 1794 leaving his adopted country and his country of birth much richer. It is sad that the Indian school textbooks have little mention of this Briton who led the rediscovery of  ancient India. Here is respect to this great man when India remembers its independence from Britain.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Acrostic Archaeology

This is one of three things I wrote for my final exercise of the ADLS course. It's an acrostic poem using words from the course as well as words generally relating to archaeology. Enjoy!




Harris matrix







York ware






Yuan Dynasty


Indiana Jones

Time Team


Landscape archaeology





Radiocarbon dating

Experimental archaeology

Test pits


~~Random Logic~~

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Elegy on the End of ADLS

This is something I wrote that summarized how I felt about ALDS. I just posted it on the forum there but thought I can put it up here as well

Elegy on the End of ADLS

Lo,  the time is nigh to bid adieu
To Lauren and Andy and all the rest too,   
And not last,never!  to our intrepid Sue,
As we journey on to courses anew.

We reached out and touched the past, each one
From moon to moon, and sun to sun 
We toiled and labored and had our fun
Speak not of dull moments!  for there were none.

Dowsing and drawing and digging and dating,
Surveying and sifting, always back filling,
Finding and measuring, labeling and archiving,
Conserving, preserving, for truth always striving.

The poetry of stone, the beauty of pot
The tool knapped, the metal wrought
The script deciphered, the stories bones brought
The questions asked, the answers sought.

3d models of shapeless heads,
Sifting through garbage, stymied with dread,
We wrote, we argued, we mapped, we read,
We flirted with Paxil, enough said !

We sojourned on with indefatigable peers,
Those wise of wit, and mature years,
To you all a big thanks and three cheers
O! to carry on thus, forever near.

But, miles away, most of us, I wish we could drown
In the august atmosphere at Brown
O! To belong to such a place of renown
Whose generosity knows no bounds.

So, move on we must anon, to A Brief History,
To Volcanoes and Modern Poetry,
To Dino-Paleontology,
Never forgetting this camaraderie.

Let the future students in Coursera hark,
For in these virtual strata have we left our mark,
To new from old, to light from dark,
The start of something new, a spark

Of love for archaeology, so Sue
Please ! Lead us on to ADLS 2...

The Wildlife of the Taj Mahal

When the Taj Mahal is described, usually they use words like 'a teardrop on the face of time' or 'a monument of extreme beauty' or 'a memorial to everlasting love' and rot like that. One descriptor usually not used, but that I will now add to the list, is 'a venue for screeching parakeets'.

That's right, the Taj Mahal is parakeet heaven, along with Shah Jahan's paradise, along with quite a few other birds, including red-vented bulbuls, probably red-cheeked bulbuls, eternal mynas, rats-on-wings (crows in this case), infestations of pigeons, and quite a few egrets flying past as well as Black Kites. You can guess that I was reprimanded for paying more attention to wildlife than one of the most famous monuments in the world. Which isn't really the case, but that's an argument for another day. For the moment, let's just say that I was admiring the contrast of a man-made wonder and the brilliant green of a nature-made wonder. I love history, and I love natural history. What combination could be better?

We also visited Agra Fort (a long history of over.... well, over quite a lot of years graces this place, mostly involving some king, emperor, or person coming and saying oh! someone's built something here! let's destroy it and build something bigger and better!) in whose dark rooms filled with beautiful but barely visible paintings and wonderfully carved alcoves that had become the home of bats. We never saw them. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that I'm making that up, more to do with the pungent smell that preceded a room containing them and hovered about your nostrils after you left, coughing. I spotted two parakeets that had probably made this beautiful place their nesting ground, too. Ah well.

Then we went to Fatehpur Sikri, a city that Akbar had built for himself, lived in for ten years, and then promptly abandoned to the ravages of time. These rulers! The ravages of time had left it very well preserved, actually, and along with marveling at the beautifully carved pillar at the center of the Diwan-i-Khas (3D model following) I also marveled at the beauty of my first Plain Tiger (no, NOT like the orange-and-black striped one. This one's a butterfly.) And at the slovenliness of pigs. (Luckily, not inside the complex) And at the delicateness of the Astrologer's Seat. And the remarkable grazing habits of goats. (Again, not inside the complex... pheuf!) And at the.... well, you get the idea. History, natural history. History, natural history. I've often thought the two to be unable to reside together, and perhaps that is the case with more prolonged interaction. Tree roots, while providing wonderful resting places for birds, can also be the most wonderful destroyers of buildings. I was reading somewhere where, upon opening a door in a temple, they found bat's poop piled up to the height of seven feet! Yet, when the the two coincide, I find it wonderfully beautiful and remarkable. What do you think?

Pictures to be added later.


Assignment 8, Option #1

So, I got graded down on this assignment as I went over the word limit, which is entirely my fault, but I still liked it so here it is!


Go to the link, I can't copy and paste it plus then it would be too long.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Viminacium: The Mammoth Graveyard discovered in Serbia

Hi, I'm Tamara from Serbia and I would like to share with you the information about the site near Serbia's capital Belgrade. It is Viminacium - Roman city and military camp which was laying under the fields for so many years. The great thing is that there's no new town build on the site so the excavations may go pretty forward (in the ideal world).

Unfortunately, back in 80s, near the site it was built an electrical power plant, but now the archaeology is in full speed and they do the great job. What is interesting archaeologists found what may be the first mammoth graveyard, with the well preserved remains of few skeletons.

Here are a few links that can also be viewed:

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Share Your Thoughts!

Hey! So I thought it would be wonderful for all of us to put down our thoughts about the course ADLS (Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets) even though I know a lot has been discussed on the forums of the course page. The blog made available to everyone will be a good place to collect all feedback.

Here are my thoughts:

I took up this course purely out of interest. I had some time on hand and decided to do a course for fun. Initially I was a bit apprehensive when I realised that we would have assignments to submit. I us kept wondering what kind of assignments could they possibly expect us to do! As I began the course however, I started enjoying myself so much. The assignments turned out to be very interesting and many were thought provoking. We were given a chance to "Think like an Akkadian" where we could try writing in the cuneform script and talk about our experience. We also had a chance to describe any site and have our peers guess it through various clues and location details. The above mentioned exercises were just two among so many others. I have come away learning so much that I am more intrigued and interested in the work done by archaeologists and all the various people involved from biologists to anthropologists to geologists etc.

So here I am rambling on. Why don't yu guys tell us what your experiences with the course were!

Interactions: Animals and Archaeology

So, this is an exercise to explore when you visit archaeological sites, mostly, to see how animals interact with history, and with what consequences. For example, without the dog, how would we have found the Lascaux cave paintings? But how many misinterpretations have been caused by dogs digging up ancient bones, teeth marks being mistaken for something else? And how do animals reside in archaeological sites, and what are the consequences? Is it beneficial, ever? All I'm asking you to do is keep these questions in mind when you visit historical sites, and to notice the wildlife around them, and ask yourselves about the consequences of this wildlife. And then write a blog post if you feel like it. If you are OK with it, and specify as such, I may publish that blog post additionally as a guest post on another blog of mine (and the origin of my pseudonym), amazinganimalssociety.blogspot.com.

800-year-old human skulls discovered in Limerick

Has anybody seen this?

Incidentally, Irish Archaeology has a Facebook page, which is fascinating if you're into Irish archaeology, like me.

Who Owns the Past?

This was what I submitted for my final assignment of the course. I am not as creative as a lot of people who wrote odes, poems, etc. I just wrote what I felt. I hope you like it.
Option #1: Who owns the past?

Well, I really do not really know how to answer this assignment, but I am going to give it a go the way I understand it.

The past is something that happened before today, a few years ago, A hundred years ago and so on. I do not think there is any specific definition for this. It is a word used to describe events that occurred before a specific time which can vary from place to place or person to person etc. It is evident that a lot of things have happened or do happen to finally end up where we are in the world today (i mean situation wise). Historians, archaeologists and other people involved have been able to identify and document the lives of people hundreds and hundreds of years before now. The past is like a story of sorts.

I do not believe that the past belongs to any one person or any one place. It belongs to everyone and the world in it's entirety. Many different decisions and paths were taken before we get to where we are now. We can only second guess what people of a certain time were thinking based on their location at the time of some incident or in a situation and their physical behaviour. We cannot begin to imagine what would have been going through anyone's minds hence the point of second guessing. For example, when the British had control of India, there were many freedom fighters who stood up to fight for the independence of the country. One of them for example was Mahatma Gandhi who strongly believed in and followed a policy of 'ahimsa' (non-violence). Now let us imagine a situation in which he did not follow such a policy. There is a possibility that many more wars or fights may have happened and India may or may not have gotten it's independence when it did. Another part of history we can look at are the world wars. Thinking of how the countries were allied with each other, if even one country had later changed it's position, the course taken by the was may have been different than how we know it to be today. Thus the past ends up being a culmination of different events, people, decisions and actions that has led the world to arrive at where it is today.

Okay so I seem to have deviated a little. Moving back to topic, the past belongs to everyone. No one person has the right to claim the past or any event in the past. Archaeologically speaking, every structure, monument and other things that have been uncovered, belongs to not one person or nation but to the world as a whole. It should be available for everyone to view, cherish and understand as well as study.

Archaeology's dirty secrets as this course sought to explain are some basic things every person should be made aware of. I believe that it is important for every person to understand and appreciate the history and the legacy passed on to us from before and we should be careful and try to preserve what we can for the future.

I really hope I haven't strayed too much from the topic and I hope this response is alright because once I began writing, the words just wouldn't stop. I have really enjoyed this course and I will ensure more people are made aware about the need to preserve the architecture, artifacts and anything else we can for ourselves and the future. At the end of the day, it is all just one huge story that doesn't seem to have an ending.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

First Exercise!

Option #1 (and the only one!)
Accidental finds in archaeology.
Yes, we've learned about satellite imagery and ground surveying, and yes, I have fallen in love with Google Earth, but either way, that kind of finding just screams BORING. In a way. Now, what about the world of the accidental? The dog that dug about a bone that just happened to be 2 million years old... wait a minute, I have Neanderthals in my back yard? Things like that. So, my little ADLS minions, go out and find a time when something that has been found accidentally and has had major (or no) historical and archaeological consequence because of it, then write it up, make a collage representing it, make a video, whatever, then post it to the blog. Or, have a look around your area and find something extremely important historically yourself, then pretend to the magazines that you were just going for a walk and just happened to have checked out that place on Google Earth before and you just happened to have a metal detector, shovel and toothbrush. Go, go, go! Do it at your own will and at your own pace, and I frankly don't care if it's submitted this time next year.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What You Can Do With This Blog (and other stuff)

Hello! Hello! Hello! Good day to you, anonymous people in cyberspace. Sometimes I do feel like I'm going crazy, you know, typing things and sending them out to what may be an empty audience. Ah well. Let's be crazy together, then.
Oh, and I nearly forgot to introduce myself. I'm the Glasswing Butterfly, aka look-at-the-forums-if-you-want-my-real-name. So, if you're here, I'll start with a few assumptions, that a) you're a member of Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets, a hugely successful online MOOC by Brown University, more specifically the Great Sue Alcock (may she ever find old stuff). Oh, and b) you want to continue the fantabulous experience of this course.
Option b) may be carried out by the following instructions:
  1. Send your email to an admin, emails may be found on the forums;
  2. Who will then make you a contributor to this blog, if you have a Gmail account;
  3. If you don't, one of these two will be carried out:
    1. You WILL CREATE ONE IMMEDIATELY!!!! And hop to it! (Honestly, I'm not employed by Google);
    2. You will email your posts to ilovebookstanvidg@gmail.com, or, again, another admin;\
  4. And in the matter of posts, what they may be, and may not;
    1. Updates on events in the archaeological world (news, finds, conventions, etc. etc.). If one person could take the responsibility of compiling the best news at the beginning of every week?
    2. Some old archaeological exercises from the MOOC that you want to share;
    3. Setting a new archaeological exercise of your own devise, or of the internet's, or of the Great Sue Alcock (may she ever find old stuff), which must comply to the following conditions;
      1. There are no conditions.
      2. I lied.
      3. It can't be an exercise on- oh, I don't know, binary code, or the science of traveling: basically, it should be related to archaeology or history. But don't worry, you'll be hard-pressed to find a discipline that doesn't relate to those two.
    4. Responses to an archaeological exercise set by someone, that may be within your time and at your own will, as short and as long, as long as they are relevant to the topic.
    5. Anything else you can think of that relates to archaeology, or history!

      Yay! Now that's over with....
  5. LET'S PARTY!!!!!
 The Glasswing Butterfly

Welcome to Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets: The Blog.

Welcome to Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets: The Blog.

This is a follow up to the fantastic massive online open course(MOOC) offered by Brown University through the Coursera website. The course was run by the wonderful Professor Sue Alcock of the Joukowsky Institute and an equally fantastic team. It was a fun, an informative, and an interactive course for all. We, the students, got to challenge ourselves in ways many of us hadn't dared to.

Unfortunately, as all good things do, it had to come to an end and after eight weeks many of us decided that we really didn't want to give it up. So we decided to start this blog. Here we will post and share bits and pieces related to archaeology in some way.

So stick around, read, and comment, and let us know what you think. Hopefully you will learn something you didn't know and learn to see the world around a little bit differently.

-Random Logic AKA Nat