Monday, 27 October 2014

Why did the Vampire read C-U-D-I? And four other totally random questions answered for Halloween....

It’s Halloween this weekend so I thought I’d tell you some fun facts about its history and the some of the characters you'll expect to see on your doorstep on Friday... Ok so I cheated a bit this week and brought in more history than archaeology but I found it interesting so you hopefully you will too!

Why is Halloween celebrated on the 31st October? Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"). The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.

Why do we wear Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating ?
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of "souling," when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas 
(November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).

Why are mummies always screaming?
For well over a century, the contorted features of ancient mummies have led to speculation of untold pain and horrible deaths. Archaeologists uncovering ancient tombs have often found the mummified corpses with their mouths agape or lips pulled back as if they are screaming or writhing in pain, indeed this has led to the portrayal of mummies in this state in the media, fiction and in your Halloween costumes.

So why were the mummies found with these terrified and pained expressions? 
The reason is a lot less horryfiying that you’d expect and simply due to the decomposition of a body after rigor mortis – if the jaw isn't strapped shut when a body is mummified it naturally falls open as the muscles relax during the process of decay, leaving a permanent "scream."

Why do witches fly on brooms sticks?
Why do witches fly on broom sticks? To get high of course!  Although you may be rolling your eyes at reading that, I bet you didn’t know that the joke is also surprisingly accurate....
According to research the reason is pharmacological. Hallucinogenic chemicals called tropane alkaloids are made by a number of plants including Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Hyoscyamus niger (henbane), Mandragora officinarum (mandrake), and Datura stramonium (jimsonweed).

During the Middle Ages, parts of these plants were used to make “brews,” “oyntments,” or “witches’ salves” for witchcraft, sorcery, and other nefarious activities.  It was quickly discovered that injesting these ointments led to some terrible sideeffects such as vomiting, rashes etc. and so in order to avoid these side-effects the hallucinogenic compounds were absorbed into the skin and the fastest way to get the ointment into your blood was through sweat glands. So how did the alleged witches apply said ointments? Yep you guessed it, by using the broomsticks!

You can read the rest below, but I warn you its definitely not something you can tell your kids!

Oh and finally...

Why did the Vampire read C-U-D-I? Because he heard it had good circulation!
Happy Halloween!

Monday, 20 October 2014

It’s Open Access Week! An overview of OA publishing in archaeology: an interview with Professor Alan Outram

Open Access Week, a global event now entering its eighth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access.

“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research- has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted but  what are the direct and widespread implications for OA publishing in archaeology?

We asked Professor Alan Outram (University of Exeter, UK) the co-editor of new OA journal Science and Technology of Archaeological Research, how to publish OA and the different considerations there might be for the archaeology community.

Professor Alan Outram
 Are there particular reasons why archaeology benefits from OA publishing?Archaeology has a large base of amateur/avocational support, in terms of volunteering, donors and general interest. OA publishing allows these valuable groups greater access to archaeological works, which can only increase interest and support. Archaeologists also work all around the world, often in places where local universities might struggle to fund appropriate digital access to subscription journals.

Why publish Gold OA? 
Open Access publishing is widely accepted to increase both readership and citation levels. It also allows access to a wider set of readers, including those not affiliated to institutions, or those whose institutions cannot afford expensive subscriptions. Increasingly, many funding bodies also require outputs that result from their support to be made freely available through OA. But why choose to pay for ‘Gold’ OA? The ‘gold’ route has some significant benefits, including the immediate open access availability, instead of waiting until the embargo periods of subscription journals to pass. The ‘as published’, properly typeset versions of papers are also made freely available, whereas many subscription journals retain copyright on those and only allow the author’s typescript versions to be made available. ‘Gold’ OA also has the significant benefit of using the publisher’s digital platform for the journal, which increases visibility, and ease of location and use.

What sort of archaeology is most likely to have funding for OA publishing?
Archaeological research funded by research councils is most likely to already have funding for OA. Projects where public impact is a key concern are also more likely to have built in the cost of open access publishing. These factors will depend very much on the policies of the country in which you work.

How much does it cost in general?
Costs to publish a Gold OA article vary widely, but are generally between $1000 to $3000 in the sciences and rather lower in the humanities and social sciences, $99 to $1500.

How does one find funding for that cost?
This will vary considerably, depending upon the country in which you are based. In some countries, for instance the UK, Universities have been given a stream of funding to help cover OA costs for existing research grants. It is also increasingly possible to build OA publishing costs into grant applications, as a valid line item. In some cases, Universities and other research organizations will have put aside some of their own funds to support OA, as they wish to invest in the benefits of increased citation and better public impact. Certainly, some individual researchers even invest in OA themselves, because of the increased exposure it gives to their work.

Who can advise me on how to obtain funding and how to pay?
Your librarian would be a good place to start for advice on local policies and funding.

As one of the Editors of a brand new OA journal in the science and technology of archaeological research, what do you anticipate the challenges will be?
The world of journal publishing is in a transitionary phase, with different models of publishing now competing. Hence, there is the challenge of convincing people that your journal’s model is the right one for their paper. Science and Technology of Archaeological Research offers rapid OA publishing within a rigorous framework of international peer-review, so I think it is a very attractive option. My job is to set the right tone from the outset. Publication with us needs to be fast and efficient, but high standards need to be maintained. Open access must not be confused with vanity publishing! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Brandy is dandy, wine is....awesome! Distilling the Peruvian wine and brandy industry

This month’s Digging Deeper article investigates a topic close to ours and many an archaeologist’s heart .... booze. 

Why? Well wine not! *hiccup*

The article, from the Journal of Field Archaeology, explores the archaeological and historical investigation of the flourishing wine and brandy industry in the Osmore (Moquegua) valley of far southern Peru, or also known as the Moquegua Bodegas Project.

The Moquegua Bodegas Project took place across six summer field seasons between 1985 and 1990, and began with surveys that led to the identification of 130 wine hacienda sites. Subsequent mapping and shovel testing focused on 28 of these sites and more extensive excavations were undertaken at four of them.

The article provides a descriptive overview of all the hacienda sites including discussion on their physical structures, layouts, and sightings in the valley.
You can read the article abstract below:

Spanish colonial settlement of the Moquegua valley of far southern Peru was oriented economically toward production of wine and brandy. A total of 130 wine hacienda sites (bodegas) can be identified there, primarily on the basis of adobe structures on hills bordering the valley. These sites had both residential and “industrial” functions, and their arrangements can be described by four site plans or layouts.

This article describes the “industrial” sectors of the sites, particularly the facilities for wine and brandy making (crushing tanks) rooms holding earthenware fermentation jars, distillery apparatus, and the functionally “specialized” site plan. Facilities were arranged spatially to incorporate gravity flow in moving liquids. The technology and organization of wine-making at the Moquegua sites evince similarities not only with Spanish models, but also with much earlier Roman wine-making.

The article is now available to read online for free, so pour yourself a large glass, sit back and enjoy. Cheers!

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's California Archaeology Month!

California Archaeology Month poster

Ah October, the time of autumn leaves, Halloween and ... archaeology?? 

Yes that’s right it’s California Archaeology Month!

Sponsored by the Society for California Archaeology (SCA), this October various historical societies and state federal government agencies around California will celebrate Californian archaeologists and all things archaeology!

So what is California Archaeology Month?

Observed in October, to integrate with California’s school curriculum on Native American and California history, California Archaeology Month is dedicated to promoting the preservation of the country’s heritage.

Exhibitions and presentations will take place around the state in order to reach out to the public
with information regarding the nature and sensitivity of cultural and heritage resources in California and their accomplishments and challenges.
It aims to show that archaeology is not only a way for people to learn about their place in history but can increase interest in education and environmental concerns.

Find out more about the Archaeology Month on the SCA web page

How can you get involved?

Each year, the SCA publishes an Archaeology Month Poster using contributions from state and federal agencies and member donations, and also makes available a comprehensive Archaeology Month Resources Guide. The posters are distributed to local, state, and federal agencies and private entities to help promote the preservation of California’s archaeological heritage. You can order the poster from their website.

Or why not make Archaeology Month a state-wide celebration by having an event or activity in your county that highlights the fascinating things we learn from archaeology?
You can find ideas or how to volunteer and participate here.

Not wanting to miss out on the celebrations, we’ve given you free access to Volume 4 issue 1 of California Archaeology which you can find here.

Happy California Archaeology Month from