Tuesday, 27 May 2014

For peat's sake! Colossal peat bog discovered in Congo

The BBC reported today that a "colossal peat bog" the size of England has been discovered in a remote region of the Congo. The bog is thought to contain over a billion tonnes of peat and "scientists say investigating the carbon-rich material could shed light on 10,000 years of environmental change in this little-studied region".

Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, said: "It's remarkable that there are parts of the planet that are still uncharted territory." He added: "Few people venture into these swamps as they are quite difficult places to move around in and work in."

Satellite images initially hinted at the presence of the enormous tropical peatland, but an expedition, starting from Itanga village in April, confirmed it was there. The discovery team, from the University of Leeds, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Congo and Congo-Brazzaville's Marien Ngouabi University, had to contend with dwarf crocodiles, gorillas and elephants as they explored the area. However they said the biggest challenge was soggy feet.

Now they've found all this peat, what do they do with it?

'An Experimental Approach to the Disaggregation of Samples from Peat Deposits', by Joanna Bending and published in Volume 10 (2005) of Environmental Archaeology, explores how the analysis of plant macrofossils from peat deposits is a common procedure, but little work has been undertaken to assess the chemical and mechanical methods of disaggregating samples mentioned by researchers in their methodologies. 

In the article experimental work was carried out on material from a peat monolith from the Faroe Islands to ascertain the effectiveness of processing using a sonic bath, sodium carbonate and potassium hydroxide for disaggregating the samples. The amount of damage caused to different modern plant parts was also assessed. The results indicate that sodium carbonate and potassium hydroxide are the most effective methods of disaggregation. Damage to plant parts was caused more quickly by potassium hydroxide than sodium carbonate.

Read the full article for free >

'Colossal peat bog discovered in Congo' >

Monday, 19 May 2014

Building a 'community of archaeologists' and the value of social media

Guest blogger: John Lowe
At the 2014 Society for American Archaeology Annual Meetings, I presented a paper entitled “Building a Community of Archaeologists through Social Media” during the Blogging Archaeology Again session. I focused on how microblogging social media platforms such as Twitter are useful in “building a ‘community of archaeologists” that goes beyond typical job networking.” Much of my talk is similar to or based on ideas expressed by Lorna Richardson in her 2012 chapter “Twitter & Archaeology: An Archaeological Network in 140 Characters or Less,” as well as utilizing survey data from her ongoing dissertation research.
Basically, I have mostly switched from blogging in a traditional sense (such as this) to using twitter as a “microblog”. One reason for this is that Twitter is a much more dynamic format for discussing archaeology. Twitter is a more conversational medium, while blog posts are more soliloquies. Put another way, blogs are like a presentation at a conference, while Twitter is the “conference bar”, where the real discussions take place.
I originally conceived of Twitter as a place for doing public archaeology outreach and education (using the #archaeology and #CRMArch hashtags to increase my visibility), as well as networking. However, as I became more active on Twitter and interacted with archaeologists around the world, I changed my approach. I found that I cared more about archaeologists than archaeology. The value of a person wasn’t as a connection, but the connection itself. I think this might have a particular appeal to archaeologists, who are often isolated due to work and school locations, not to mention lack of funds for conferences and travel; even those in academic settings may be isolated in their specialization. Live-tweeting of conferences using official or unofficial hashtags allows people all over to read session highlights and participate in the discussion during real-time (well over 20,000 during the #SAA2014 meetings).
This Twitter archaeology community is valuable, particularly for younger working archaeologists and those still in school. People can commiserate, seek support, share advice and suggestions, support formal and informal mentoring, and forge friendships outside of a professional setting and beyond the field. It transcends regional, professional, specialization, and class boundaries. It is a highly inclusive medium that values regular activity, personality, willingness to engage as well as useful information and accuracy. The inclusivity of Twitter might appeal to women and early career scientists who may not feel safe, comfortable or welcome in more traditional academic and professional settings.
A shining example of Twitter collaboration amongst archaeologists from different countries and specialties is the
TrowelBlazers project, a blog and Twitter feed highlighting the early and often unheralded contributions of women in archaeology and related sciences. This project was started by people who knew each other through Twitter, and is a group effort that has inspired other similar projects.
The Twitter archaeology community is made up of all types of people, including some who might not consider themselves a part of it based on Richardson’s (2014) survey. Some choose to focus solely on archaeology, and are looking for and/or solely posting news and links. Others comment and engage in discussions related to archaeology, often within their area of interest or expertise, but keep their personal life and thoughts separate (some even maintain a separate account to do so). And there are some, like myself, who tweet both archaeological and personal information and thoughts, who share photos and links related to outside interests. The way I see it, in the field we talk about our work, but we also talk a lot about food, we listen to music, and we tell all sorts of crazy stories and jokes. We all like food and beer and we study humans and are human, not archaeobots. Think of Neil DeGrasse Tyson!
So how does one build a community of archaeologists (as opposed to an archaeological community) on Twitter, as implied in the title of this talk? Organically. It just happened, and keeps happening, as people with common interests start to talk with each other, share data and ideas, become familiar and then become friends. And sometimes, the “virtual conference social” becomes real, and friends meet “for real”, and get together to talk about archaeology and the other things that humans do.

Richardson, Lorna

2012: Twitter & Archaeology: An Archaeological Network in 140 Characters or Less in Archaeology & Digital Communication: Towards Strategies of Public Engagement, ed. C. Bonacchi.  Archetype Publications, London.

2014: “Summary Report with Comments”, manuscript published by the author, available at https://www.academia.edu/6862829/Twitter_and_Archaeology_survey_2014

Monday, 12 May 2014

Turkish delights: European Association of Archaeologists 20th Annual Meeting

Date: 10-14 September 2014
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Registration: https://www.eaa2014istanbul.org/paket 
Papers and posters: https://www.eaa2014istanbul.org/sayfa/142 

Due to its central location among distinct cultural geographies, Istanbul has always been a world city of focal importance from early prehistory to the present, adorned with the fabulous relics of three great empires. Linking east and west, past and present, the city is unique as a multicultural metropolis.
The organizing committee has taken the 2014 EAA Meeting as an occasion to conduct a series of parallel cultural activities to create synergy on cultural heritage in Istanbul by setting archaeological and art exhibitions, book and restoration fairs in different parts of the town. The participants to the Congress will be provided with a rich and varied selection of archaeological and cultural tours providing an opportunity to visit sites and monuments all over Turkey.

EAA Istanbul 2014 Meeting, hosted by Istanbul Technical University, will be held at Taşkışla Campus of the Faculty of Architecture. Taşkışla Campus is a historical building, centrally situated in the European part of Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus. It is in a walking distance to major hotels, budget accommodation facilities and Istanbul’s world famous hub of entertainment.

Become a member of the EAA >

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

PhD opportunities in “Faith in Food, Food in Faith” Network

This White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) network approaches the study of food and dietary practice in the past through molecular archaeology, nutritional epidemiology, zooarchaeology, history of medicine and artefactual archaeology. The studentships are aligned to different fields and time periods within the network but each explores the relationships between food, health, religion, social status, migration and identity. As part of a network the successful candidates will be expected to work together to enable inter-disciplinary engagement, for example, through a student-run conference.

The network will create an invigorating environment for the production, exchange and dissemination of research on diet, drawing on strengths in both science and the arts & humanities.

Three doctoral studentships are available for start 1 October 2014:
  • Studentship 1 (based at Sheffield): Animal Husbandry in Sicily during the Islamic-Christian Transition, 8th-12th Centuries
  • Studentship 2 (based at York): Food and Faith in Medieval Spain
  • Studentship 3 (based at Leeds): Food and Nutrient Intake in Low Income Families: A Comparative Study

The application process

Applicants should have an undergraduate degree (normally 2:1 or above, or equivalent) and be studying for, or have completed, a Masters degree (or have experience deemed to be equivalent to a Masters degree) in a subject relevant to the main discipline highlighted in each studentship. A willingness to undergo sufficient training when needed in the other disciplines is essential. Applicants whose first language is not English must meet the English Language requirements of the relevant university and department.

IMPORTANT: In addition to submitting the form to the individual institutions, you must send a copy of your application to the network co-ordinator, i.mccleery@leeds.ac.uk, by 5pm on Friday 13 June 2014.