Monday, 14 April 2014

Palaeolithic Pests and Neolithic Nightmares: Were Prehistoric Children Really as Bad as You Think?

File:Neanderthals - Artist's rendition of Earth approximately 60,000 years ago.jpg
When you picture a prehistoric child, what do you see?

Popular culture and biological evidence have influenced our belief that children in prehistory were unruly, temperamental and ultimately extremely violent. There have been two interesting articles published this month that aim to shed light on prehistoric childhood.

A research team from PALAEO (Centre forHuman Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York recently offered a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group. This research results from an investigation into Neanderthal burial sites which suggests that children’s graves were generally more elaborate graves than those of older individuals.

“The traditional view sees Neanderthal childhood as unusually harsh, difficult and dangerous. This accords with preconceptions about Neanderthal inferiority and an inability to protect children epitomising Neanderthal decline. Our research found that a close attachment and particular attention to children is a more plausible interpretation of the archaeological evidence, explaining an unusual focus on infants and children in burial, and setting Neanderthal symbolism within a context which is likely to have included children.” Said Dr Spikins from the research team involved in the project.

A second paper, published as an advance article in  European Journal of Archaeology and titled Ageing, Childhood and Social Identity in the Early Neolithic of Central Europe, also challenges the traditional preconception of prehistoric children. In this case focusing on the children of the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik culture, the article argues that Neolithic children could have played an active role in their communities from a young age and visits the discovery of handmade tools, particularly smaller versions of axes or ‘grave goods’ that could be found in the child graves. These tools suggest that not only did children play an active role in their communities from a young age but also suggest an acknowledged engagement with the process of growing and learning into adulthood.

Read Ageing, Childhood and Social Identity in the Early Neolithic of Central Europe here >

Monday, 7 April 2014

NEW EVENT: 2014 American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo on The Innovation Edge

18–21 May, Seattle, USA

Innovation is a defining quality of our time. Creating the new, reimagining the old, adapting the present to changing needs have become the goals of the best and the brightest among us. To go from the seed of an idea to universally adopted reality seems to take mere weeks—reading books on our phones, wearing a computer, printing three-dimensional objects in our own homes.

So how can museums engage, support and sustain innovation in their communities? Can they serve as engines of innovation?

Hosted by the American Alliance of Museums, the 2014 Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Seattle aims to explore how museums can gain that Innovation Edge by showcasing the best and most innovative models in education, conservation, exhibitions, audience engagement and development.

MuseumExpo highlights
  • The show floor will be an interactive extension of more than 150 educational sessions and events. More than 300 exhibitors will display and demonstrate cost- and time-saving solutions and cutting-edge technologies for the museum community and exhibit the latest in technology, exhibit design, lighting, security and countless other innovations critical to the museum field.
  • Big idea sessions: Leading and up-and-coming voices from outside the museum field will share innovations, experiences and insights with museum professionals. Speakers this year include: Erik Larson, the award winning and New York Times bestselling author of Thunderstruck, Isaac’s Storm, Lethal Passage and The Naked Consumer; David Fleming, the Director of National Museums Liverpool (NML) and former President and current Vice President of the UK Museums Association; and Denis Hayes, Time magazines “Hero of the Planet,” former Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Professor of engineering and human ecology at Stanford University.
  • Marketplace of ideas: An open-air forum in which museum professionals have the opportunity to participate in informal discussions and exchange ideas on timely issues brought to you by the Professional Networks.
  • "The Un-Conference Room": This on-site "pop-up" room facilitates ten, 75-minute meetings on any subject of the speakers choosing and is promoted it to attendees via social media. 

For further information, please visit the Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo website

Monday, 31 March 2014

Yes Virginia, There Were Cows in the Tunnels

Happy Birthday to us! Yes, it's the blog's first birthday this week and to celebrate I decided to revisit everyone's favourite post, "Ginger" the 300lb nude statue found in Brooklyn, and the folks at Historical Perspectives Inc. Unfortunately Ginger's identity still remains a mystery so this post is dedicated to a topic that's just as sexy - cattle tunnels.

"The city of New York is replete with tales of mythic creatures in various shapes and sizes – as well as degrees of lethality – lurking beneath the streets, dwelling in the dark, ambling through the miles of tunnels that carry the city’s water, effluent, and utilities. Most notably are the infamous alligators of New York that have yet to be tapped to fill the demand for women’s purses at upscale shops on Fifth Avenue, yet alone confirmed. What few New Yorkers do not realize is that another type of creature, far less lethal but massive by comparison, once did stroll beneath the pavement.   
The west side of Manhattan’s Midtown was once home to the city’s abattoirs and an assortment of noxious industries that grew up around the processing of animals into meat and various by-products (e.g., glue, swill milk, and bone meal). For years, cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals were shipped in trains from the Midwest to the stockyards of New Jersey, where they were then ferried across the Hudson River to short-term holding pens on docks and pens tightly packed along the shore of West Street. Herding the cows (and sheep) across the street and the rail line that ran along the waterfront was a dangerous affair. Cowboys on horseback were hired to escort trains along the shoreline, stopping traffic and herds in order to prevent collisions.
In a 1990s study of Manhattan’s West Side Highway – now known as Route 9A – two cattle tunnels were identified by Historical Perspectives, Inc. Research completed by Cece Saunders and Faline Schneiderman recovered blueprints, building permits, and lithographs of these two brick features – built in the 1870s and 1930s – to safely allow animals passage to their impending fate. One was built at West 34th Street; the other slightly north at West 38th Street. Documents indicate that at least one of the tunnels was never dismantled. Of note is the careful consideration given by the State Historic Preservation Office as to whether the purported tunnels, if uncovered in an excavation, should be treated as archaeological features or historic structures. Neither tunnel has been confirmed archaeologically, but they have captured the public’s interest and attained mythological proportions."

Historical Perspectives, Inc. is a women-owned cultural resources consulting firm that has been in business since 1982. The firm offers a wide variety of archaeological and historic structures services including archival research and archaeological reconnaissance surveys to visual impact analysis, historic structures recordation, and interpretive exhibit and publication development. Incorporated in the State of Connecticut, HPI works throughout Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. HPI has also completed over 400 individual projects in New York City."

Faline Schneiderman, MA, Vice President
Historical Perspectives, Inc.

Monday, 24 March 2014

What can you do with an archaeology degree besides be an archaeologist?

It's a tough time to be a graduate. Jobs in any sector are scarce and the chances of being able to actually apply what you have learned through your degree in the workplace are slim.

This is a very real problem for students of archaeology and Beatrix Arendt addresses options available in "Making it Work: Using Archaeology to Build Job Skills for Careers Other Than Archaeology" in the latest issue of Public Archaeology.

"A recent online article in The Daily Beast listed archaeology as one of the thirteen most useless undergraduate degrees. The article failed to identify transferable job skills gained while engaged in archaeological work. Further, archaeological field programmes and labs offer an alternative learning environment that benefits some students.
This article reviews two archaeological projects that used archaeology as a form of social activism to provide employment and education to an under-served community as a fundamental aspect of its goals. The Hopedale Archaeology Project is an archaeology field project based in a north-east Canadian community that provides education and work opportunities for Inuit students. The Veterans Curation Program based in the United States provides temporary employment to recently discharged military veterans in an archaeological and archival curation lab. These programmes assist individuals to
re-establish themselves within the workforce and add to their academic and professional growth, as well as incorporate a public outreach component that makes archaeology and history more accessible to the public.
Most archaeologists engage in a wide range of administrative and management skills to conduct excavations as well as computer and digitization skills, which are applicable in practically all work environments. Harnessing these skill sets and using them for alternative education and work opportunities can make archaeology and history more accessible to the public, while assisting individuals to re-establish themselves within the workforce by adding to their academic and professional growth.
Engaging in archaeological projects lends itself to the development of specific learning situations, particularly incorporating active learning where individuals have the opportunity to explore and experiment. Many other researchers have explored the educational value of archaeology via activities that require analytical thinking, problem-solving, and cooperation; however, few have analysed the potential for using archaeology as a tool that provides transferable job skills in fields outside of archaeology."

Monday, 17 March 2014

An Unbroken History: Conserving East Asian Works of Art and Heritage

IIC 2014 Congress

Monday 22 September 2014 to Friday 26 September 2014

IIC is delighted to present the 25th biennial IIC Congress and, for the first time, IIC is holding this essential international conservation event in a sub-tropical region - which brings its own, very particular problems of preventive conservation.

The 2014 Congress will be held at Hong Kong’s City Hall, situated in the very heart of the city.

Objects of art and heritage generally reveal their significance through different senses: their form and appearance; the messages and stories they contain; the knowledge and information hidden within them. Hence, conservation efforts are meant not only to assist the study of the history and the making of our heritage but also to help us to appreciate and to revivify its beauties and merits. Each form and artefact of East Asian art and heritage, in addition to assuming a unique style and nature, carries an important meaning from and testimony to the culture and history of the people and the region that created them.

The IIC 2014 Hong Kong Congress will provide a platform to bring together a wide variety of views and dialogues to address the various areas of work, study and analysis involved in the conservation of East Asian art and heritage. It will focus on how conservation helps to retain or recover and then communicate the messages that East Asian art and heritage carry, and will address how the history or meaning of this art and heritage affects the decision-making processes and course of conservation treatments. Different conservation approaches, and hence methodologies, will be discussed and examined, and will link in to the unveiling of traditional craftsmanship, manufacturing materials and patterns of use or previous restorations. With advances in technology, an increasingly efficient flow of information and a growing awareness of conservation ethics, more specific and sustainable ways to treat art and heritage, as compared to traditional approaches, will also be explored.

These different approaches to conservation may be applied to the treatment of a wide range of objects and materials: scroll paintings and calligraphy; prints; textiles and costumes; wall paintings; sculpture; furniture and lacquer wares; jewellery, ceramics and metalwork of all varieties pertinent to the region. The conservation of the built heritage, including historical and archaeological sites, monuments and historic buildings with distinctive oriental features is an important aspect of conservation in the region. The intangible cultural heritage of a community, its traditions, customs and rituals, its music, folk arts and crafts, has a value that is incalculable, but it may wither and diminish inconspicuously, unable to compete with the pressures of the strident modern world, if we are unaware of its importance. Innovative approaches and methods are required if we are to preserve the relics and objects which are inseparable parts of the intangible cultural heritage and complement efforts in its preservation.

Register now!
You can register easily at the IIC web-site: