Posts From July, 2011

Light years away by Edurne Rubio – a review

I have been fortunate to attend a representation of “Light years away” by Ms. Edurne Rubio in Groningen, Netherlands. The artist is the daughter of one of the explorers of the cave system of Ojo Guareña, near Burgos, Spain and has a long and intimate connection with the caves. The performance mixes monologue, surround sound, video and theatrical performance. In its basic structure, it is the representation of a guided tour of the caves, one that is imaginary and not constricted by time or space. For those not knowing the caves, it is an extraordinary long (about 110 km known) cave system, with several subterranean lakes, at least 6 levels, and multiple openings. The upper cave system was frequented by humans from the Upper Paleolithic to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age, in different moments, before being rediscovered only in the past century. There are significant traces of human presence, including complex panels of rock art, residues of torches, burials, and even ancient... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Internet for archaeology (VTS)

I am pleased to announce that my virtual training suite (VTS), an electronic module aimed at students unfamiliar with key electronic resources for archaeology, is now available for download. I hope to be able to update that short course in the near future. I would add to the list of useful resources the The Ancient World Online blog, especially for its list of (mostly) free e-journals. The VTS remains still useful and fairly updated for now, so please have a look if you do not know it already. The guide is suitable for students from FE to postgraduate level, and staff may find useful too.

A few more thoughts on science and how people perceives it

Just a few days ago, in my previous post, I discussed how people (including those who need to take public decisions) can have personal ideas of what science is. This was prompted by my own observations of recent archaeological news that I discussed in this blog and the publication of the BBC Science coverage report that criticised the current state of affairs. One of the points that I tried to make was that science very rarely comes to definitive conclusions or achieves understandings that need not any further work. This is not a criticism of science, I fault those thinking of science as a belief, that cannot be challenged or modified. Science is more like a collective baggage of knowledge, which is constantly revised, improved and expanded as new data, models, theories and discoveries are made. There are things that are now known very well, but our explanations have also moved forward to more complex situations, and what is known is never satisfactory for researchers. If it was,... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Review of BBC Science Coverage

I have briefly discussed in a few posts now that the reporting of science (and archaeology) has been concerned too much with headline-grabbing piece of news rather than meditated news, as it should be done by journalists. Evidence of this comes from the reporting of climate-change (reports about ancient climates) and human evolution that I have discussed multiple times. I commented several news, pointing out that whilst the research behind the news is serious and laudable, the actual news generalise or oversimplify matters to a point where contradictory news can make the round of mass media the same week (e.g. whether Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans ever met). The result is confusion for the general public and ridicule to solid science. The general public cannot be told different things without explanation, as this appears as if scientists do not know, or are bickering unprofessionally. I generally use the BBC as primary source for scientific news, since it is the... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Earliest Europeans yet

Another important paper on human evolution has been published, this time in PlosONE, using evidence from the archaeological site of Buran-Kaya III located in Crimea (Ukraine). In a twist that simply reinforces my feeling that research in human evolution is still too cutting-edge to actually prove anything one way or another, Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans did coexist in Europe according to this latest study. I wrote less than two months ago about the possibility that they did not coexist, according to the latest study then. I did express some caution then on some headlines ("preliminary results"; "not that important"). I am not against any of the studies: each advances our understanding and is valuable, but it is frankly ridiculous what is being deduced or inferred from such regional studies on much larger scales. Researchers in the field do not do that, but just about everyone else does it given the interest on the topic. The final result will be, as usual, that many... Read the rest of this entry »
 

About writing

It is recent news that the American state of Indiana will no longer require schoolchildren to learn handwriting. This news has been discussed in America at length and I do not wish to outline pros and cons of such a move. Instead, I present here some reflections prompted by the news. I think that prioritising typewriting is a good choice: today computers and electronic equipment rule. Even if I have used exclusively handwriting in my school days, I can say that the vast majority of my written communication is typewritten, and so it has been for long. There are times that I pick up a pen and find myself at loss on how to use it. Yet, I still use a pen on occasion. I can understand that schools should concentrate on core skills, and the curricula are always expanding, pressuring teachers on balancing what can be done in a class and what must be excluded. In the UK there have been recent calls from politicians to teach how to be a good citizen and other basic skills in Higher... Read the rest of this entry »
 

Exotica in the prehistoric Mediterranean

I am happy to announce that the edited volume Exotica in the prehistoric Mediterranean is now out. This volume was ideated after a successful session that I organised at the 13th meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Zadar, Croatia. All papers have been peer reviewed and checked for quality (including proof reading). As editor, I wrote some interstitial texts to group and bridge the papers, so that readers can follow a single narrative cover to cover or access any contribution independently. The type of contributions make it suitable for both students and researchers. It is possible to treat the papers as advanced studies of exotica using a broad selection of methodological approaches and interests as you would expect from a reader for students or as an up to date summary of recent research by leading researchers. I am particularly happy to note the international character of the volume, with contributors based in 11 countries. The volume is relatively compact at 216 ... Read the rest of this entry »