Saturday, January 22, 2022

RIP Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese master of Zen Buddhism, died this week at 95. He spoke fluent English and French and became famous in both the US and Europe, partly because he was expelled from South Vietnam for opposing the war. He wrote, in an antiwar poem,

Beware! Turn around and face your real enemies — ambition, violence hatred and greed.

He corresponded with Martin Luther King on the subject of nonviolence; King later nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He founded a global chain of monasteries and is one of those responsible for making "mindfulness" such a big part of our culture. He was probably less worried about his own death than anyone else of whom I have written here:

Birth and death are only notions. They are not real. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is. 

Magical Beasts Dagger, Vijayanagar, Sixteenth Century

Dagger made in one of the Hindu states in central India, probably Vijayanagar, around 1550. The gilded bronze hilt is set with rubies. The design includes a lion-like beast holding an elephant in its paws, a dragon, and two phoenixes. The length is 42 cm. In the David Museum. 

Debating E.O. Wilson's Legacy

Biologist E.O. Wilson died on December 26. Many of his obituaries had a somewhat guarded tone, because while he was an eminent scientist his career was controversial. On the one hand he was a noted environmentalist and helped introduce the concept of biodiversity into the environmental lexicon. On the other, his 1975 book Sociobiology waded into questions of how much about human societies, sex differences, and so on is genetic, applying the methods he honed studying ant societies to those of humans. Late in life he added a new focus for controversy when he publicly renounced kin selection as the source of altruism in animals in favor of group selection, a model that has become in some hands a justification for militarism. 

The question of how much human behavior is genetic is of course an old one, and it has always been political. Defenders of aristocracy long defended the superiority of noble blood lines; one of the founders of modern liberalism, John Locke, advanced the tabula rasa (blank slate) theory that we in fact inherit nothing. Locke had no evidence for his view, he was simply proposing on the philosophical plane arguments that helped his support his views on politics. Anyway it is not just recent "woke" people who get upset over the political implications of research on human genetics, and it has long been the case that the Left wanted to deny inheritance while the Right talked it up.

Wilson's story took a turn last week when Scientific American ran an essay about him by Monica McLemore, subtitled "We must reckon with his and other scientists’ racist ideas if we want an equitable future." 

His influential text Sociobiology: The New Synthesis contributed to the false dichotomy of nature versus nurture and spawned an entire field of behavioral psychology grounded in the notion that differences among humans could be explained by genetics, inheritance and other biological mechanisms.

E.O. Wilson never supported any "dichotomy," false or otherwise, but he certainly believed that some differences between humans are rooted in genetics. Others did use his work to make simplistic arguments about heredity, but I'm not sure that's his fault. Honestly I found this essay mostly just kind of lame, without any of the fire I expected from others' reaction to it. One passage that made some scientists howl was this one:

First, the so-called normal distribution of statistics assumes that there are default humans who serve as the standard that the rest of us can be accurately measured against. The fact that we don’t adequately take into account differences between experimental and reference group determinants of risk and resilience, particularly in the health sciences, has been a hallmark of inadequate scientific methods based on theoretical underpinnings of a superior subject and an inferior one.

A "normal distribution" is just a kind of curve in the dataset that in fact describes a huge number of natural and human phenomenon; it has nothing to do with the question of human diversity and whether different groups will respond differently to different drugs or whatever. But I get what McLemore was trying to say, and I think it is true that many Big Picture scientific studies sweep a lot of diversity under the rug. As my readers know, I regularly complain about this when it relates to anthropology. Anyway a bunch of scientists were incensed by McLemore's article, mainly because it calls Wilson "racist" without offering any evidence that he believed in meaningful differences between human races. In fact he explicitly denied believing any such thing on multiple occasions. A long list of biologists wrote a rebuttal letter to Scientific American, which refused to print it. So it has been posted online.

The argument over Wilson interests me because much of it hinges on the definition of "racist." To Wilson, and that whole side of science, asking questions about the genetic roots of human behavior is important and interesting, so we should do it. That's what sciences is for. That's what science is. Besides, they often throw in, so far science says nothing material about behavioral differences between races anyway. (It does, of course, have a lot to say about differences between the sexes.)

The scientists who signed the letter believe that science, done properly, cannot possibly be racist. Its goal is to discover the truth about the world, whatever its moral and political implications. It is up to us to adjust our morality and politics to fit reality, and it is emphatically not the job of scientists to alter their findings to fit our morals or our politics. 

To their opponents, all talk about human genetic traits is inherently dangerous. The very idea of approaching questions of genetic difference without ideological preconceptions disturbs them. To them, anyone without a strong ideological preconception against racism is suspect; anyone who thinks there could be a neutral approach to questions of the differences between races is a racist. For many of them, the notion that the truth should be our highest goal is just plain wrong. Our highest goal should be justice, and anyone who disagrees needs to be called out.

Under this definition, Wilson was a racist because he studied human genetic differences without a strong and loudly proclaimed commitment to racial justice. He thus, whatever his intentions, became a tool of racists, and anything that serves racism is itself racist. To a lot of scientists, and many other liberals, this is the most dangerous possible kind of thinking: to them, allowing our politics to dictate what we believe about reality is the definition of totalitarianism. 

Wherever science intersects with morality and politics, there will be conflict. Certain scientists will be shocked that anyone attacks their scientific work on political grounds, but of course they should know better. Topics like human genetic differences, human-induced climate change, welfare economics, and so on are inherently political, and it is foolish to think they could ever be discussed without political consequences. Complaining about wokeness, as many contemporary scientists like to do, hardly scratches the surface of this dynamic, especially when the topic has been controversial for centuries. The letter written on behalf of Wilson makes no attempt to address any of this, and its authors come across as baffled that anyone could see any problem with Wilson's work. Honestly their piece did not impress me any more than McLemore's did.

I believe in the truth, and I don't think it was racist of E.O. Wilson to pursue it. Maybe Wilson's defenders are right to pitch a fit when the word "racist" is applied to him; maybe such charges have to be answered. But if they don't understand where their opponents are coming from, they are unlikely to make much headway against them.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Islamic Metalwork from the David Museum

Brass Casket from Iran, 1300 to 1350. Height 12.8 cm.

Brazier and coal tongs, bronze with engraved decorations Eastern Iran or Afghanistan; 12th-13th century. Height of brazier, 38.5; Diameter at rim: 29 cm

Openwork lamp, Iraq or Iran, 10th century, diameter 40 cm.

Ewer, Andalusia, 10th-11th century. Height 22 cm.

This item is described as a Kashkul or "begging bowl". I suppose that means it was used by some charitable institution, like a school or a hospital, to solicit alms. From Iran, 1500-1550. Tinned copper and brass, 52 cm long.

Helmet, steel and brass, from India or Persia, 19th century. Much more at the David Museum's web site.

LInks 21 January 2022

The garden on the Egyptian scribe Nebamun, from the wall of his tomb, c. 1350 BC

The archaeological record of the Faroe Islands begins around 850 AD, with the arrival of the Vikings. But study of lake sediments reveals that sheep arrived around 500 AD, and presumably somebody must have brought them.

Lovely photographs of the Faroes by Lazar Gintchin.

Polar bears took over an abandoned settlement in the Russian arctic, and Dmitry Kokh has amazing pictures.

Investigation of red light cameras in Chicago finds that they give out many more tickets in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Racism? Something to do with the geometry of poor neighborhoods? Or just a difference in behavior? One complaint I think is legitimate is that the fines ($100 or so) are trivial for well-off people but onerous for the poor. But I think the solution often suggested, making them a percentage of your income, turns what it supposed to be a simple, cheap safety measure into complicated bureaucratic problem.

In an interesting essay at Harper's, Meghan O’Gieblyn ponders the role of routine in her life, and ours.

The news from 9th-century Peru: during the Wari Empire, people at a settlement now called Quilcapampa held communal feasts at which they drink a lot of chicha, a beer-like liquid made from the molle tree, laced with the hallucinogen vilca seeds. The excavators say the ruling elite provided these feasts as a means of maintaining control, but I'm not sure getting everyone roaring drunk is always a good way to keep them under control.

Broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), a grain crop from East Asia, was grown in Iraq by 1100 BC. The archaeologists who published this make it out to be a surprise, but it seems to me one thing we know about early farmers is that they were always on the lookout for new plants and shared them widely. Think how quickly potatoes were taken up in Europe, and hot peppers around the world. 

The underground town of Nushabad, Iran; to me the most impressive thing is that it was somehow completely forgotten for centuries.

New study argues that multiple sclerosis is triggered by viral infection, in particular by the Epstein-Barr virus.

DNA analysis reveals that the animals that pulled Ancient Mesopotamian war wagons, called kunga in our sources, were infertile crosses between domesticated donkeys and wild Syrian asses.

Looking around for something on the political fight over wolf and bear hunting in Montana and Idaho, I found this NY Times piece, which says "predators are part of the culture wars," and this ungated piece at Vox. Some people just hate wild predators and like to blame them for things, possibly because shooting them restores a sense of control. As a rancher you can't do much about Federal range rules or beef prices or the weather, but you can get your gun and defend your land. But there is no evidence that the 1,200 wolves in Montana are having any impact on either ranchers' profits or elk and deer populations.

More "specimen cabinets" by Steffen Dam.

The mysterious habit of concealing shoes in buildings – in foundations, behind walls, under floors, in attics – which goes back at least to the Middle Ages and continued well into the 20th century. Thousands of cases are known.

A list of contemporary "heresies."

Rasmussen poll finds large numbers of Democrats favor harsh penalties for people who refuse to get vaccinated or question the efficacy of Covid vaccines on social media. I suspect most respondents were venting their anger rather than really advocating prison for the unvaccinated, but they're not displaying much tolerance.

The Biden administration calls for an extra $650 million a year to be spent on controlled burns and forest thinning in the west to better control forest fires. (NY Times)

Lots of chatter these days about huge batteries to help out utility grids, but the best way to store a lot of energy is still pumping water uphill: one project being built in Australia will have more storage capacity (350,000 megawatt hours) than all the utility-scale batteries in existence.

Brown Windsor Soup, allegedly a famous lowlight of English cooking, never really existed until after it became a widespread joke.

Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner argue that while the Left in America is bad, the Right is worse and much more dangerous. (New York Times)

Defense vlogger Binkov has a 20-minute video up on how drones will change warfare. He thinks they will only further advantage the richer, better-armed side and will not help weaker forces (terrorists, insurgents) overcome stronger governments.

CIA report says they have no evidence linking "Havana Syndrome", the mysterious ailments suffered by some US diplomats, to "state actor involvement." Sick people used to blame demons or witches, but now they blame microwave attacks.

Politics as a health threat: "the findings from the survey suggest that somewhere between a fifth and a third of adults—roughly 50 to 85 million people—blame politics for causing fatigue, lost sleep, feelings of anger, loss of temper, as well as triggering compulsive behaviors."

The University of Michigan has fired its president for an entirely consensual affair with a subordinate. Ok, he was the president, and it was against the rules, so maybe we should expect him to abide by the rules he is in charge of enforcing. But this bugs me: "Schlissel’s conduct was 'particularly egregious' because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, the board said." (New York Times) Why can't you be against sexual harassment and for consensual relationships between adults? Why is love, which this appears to be, an offense against the smooth running of institutions so offensive it must be stamped out, the perpetrators dismissed? 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

In Praise of Uselessness

Zhuangzi in a much later painting

At Psyche, Helen de Cruz, describes Daoist text from around 300 BC that praises uselessness. In the Zhuangzi (attributed to a Daoist sage called Zhuangzi or Zhuang Zhou, c369-286 BCE) a group of scholars beholds a parade of fantastic animals, including a fish a thousand miles long and a caterpillar that lives a thousand years. Then they come to an immense, ancient tree, so twisted and gnarly as to be useless for providing wood. One scholar dismisses the tree as "big, useless, and spurned by everyone." But Zhuangzi says the tree is wonderful, 

plant it in Not-Even-Anything Village, or the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under it.
Cruz continues:
Zhuangzi lived in an extraordinarily vibrant and fertile period in the development of Chinese thought. These few centuries, referred to as the Warring States period, witnessed the growth of thinkers and schools of thought. . . . These were ‘disputers of the Dao’, who passionately debated the question: what is the good life?

Zhuangzi argued that we can reclaim our lives, and be happier and more fulfilled, if we become more useless. In this, he went against many influential thinkers of his time, such as the Mohists. These followers of Master Mo (c470-391 BCE) prized efficiency and welfare above all. They insisted on cutting away all ‘useless’ parts of life – art, luxury, ritual, culture, leisure, even the expression of emotions – and instead focused on ensuring that people across the social classes receive essential material resources. The Mohists viewed many practices common at the time as immorally wasteful. Rather than a funeral rich with rituals following tradition, such as burial within three layers of coffins and a years-long mourning period, Mohists recommended simply digging a pit deep enough so the body doesn’t smell. You were permitted to cry on your way to and from the burial site, but then you needed to return to work and life.

Although the Mohists wrote more than 2,000 years ago, their ideas sound familiar to modern ears. We frequently hear how we should avoid supposedly useless things, such as pursuing the arts, or a humanities education. Or it’s often said that we should allow for these things only insofar as they benefit the economy or human welfare. You might have felt this discomfort in your own life: the pressure from the meritocracy to serve some purpose, have some benefit, maximize some utility – that everything you do should be, in some sense, useful.

However, as we will show here, Zhuangzi offers an essential antidote to this pernicious means-ends way of thinking. He demonstrates that you can improve your life if you let go of the anxiety of wanting to serve a purpose. To be sure, Zhuangzi doesn’t altogether spurn usefulness. Rather, he argues that usefulness itself should not be life’s bottom line. 

Daoism can be really annoying, but sometimes it helps to be reminded that the universe is very strange, our attempts to control it are bound to fail, and we should appreciate it for what it is.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Trees on Buildings and the Green Aesthetic

This is 1,000 Trees, a mixed use building in Shanghai by Heatherwick Studio. I think it is ok, aesthetically, certainly better than bare concrete and glass. Aesthetically, I like covering buildings with trees and vines.

But this sort of design is not really eco-friendly. Consider the planters in which those thousand trees reside, each at the top of a tall concrete column:

Measuring from drawings, I estimate a typical planter and column top contains around 14 tonnes of reinforced concrete. Each kilogram of reinforced concrete releases 0.111 kilograms of carbon dioxide in its production . . . . A single planter would have an embodied carbon of 1,554 kilogrammes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e). The amount of carbon dioxide a tree absorbs is dynamic, and depends on a variety of factors, but can be estimated as 10 kilogrammes per year for the first 20 years of its life.

This means the carbon dioxide absorbed by a tree would take around 155 years to offset that emitted in the production of the concrete planter.

Of course trees do more than just absorb CO₂, so that isn't the whole equation, but then again just building the planter does not represent the whole cost of the design. In defense of Heatherwick Studio, they don't claim that this building is "green." Which is good, because this building is not green at all, just trendy and expensive.

But plenty of other architects have evoked saving the planet in their designs for tree-covered towers, for example Milan's Bosco Verticale. I haven't seen calculations for these towers, but I am sure keeping trees alive up there costs a lot, and since the actual ecological impact of a thousand small trees is modest, I very much doubt it will offset just the number of extra elevator trips involved in tending the trees. These buildings are expressions of a post-industrial, "green" aesthetic, but they will not help the environment of Milan one bit.

Environmentalism is a mix of science, aesthetics, emotional revulsion against industry, attachment to small-scale communities, and so on. That's ok, everything big, important thing is complex. But if you really care about improving the health of ecosystems, you should defer to science, because a lot of stuff that looks or feels "green" is not.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Susanna Clarke, "Piranesi"

I read this book straight through from beginning to end, something I had not done with any other book in years.

I did not expect to like Piranesi. I knew I would read it, because Clarke's other book, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004), is for me the most remarkable fantasy novel of the past two decades. Despite its great flaws it lingers in my mind like few other books. 

But descriptions of Piranesi put me off. I like fantasies set in worlds that are vast and rich, and this one is the opposite. In it we meet a man, or at any rate a being that thinks of itself as a man, that calls itself Piranesi even though it knows that is not its name. It resides in a vast labyrinth, a crumbling ruin of an enormous palace, the lower floors washed by the sea, the upper chambers obscured by clouds. All the rooms are full of stone statues, each one unique. So far as it knows, this palace is all there is, and the labyrinth goes on forever. It is full of birds and fish, so Piranesi finds plenty of food, but little else besides the endless stone. Piranesi writes:

I am determined to explore as much of the World as I can in my lifetime. To this end I have travelled as far as the Nine-Hundred-and-Sixtieth Hall to the West, the Eight-Hundred-and-Ninetieth Hall to the North and the Seven-Hundred-and-Sixty-Eighth Hall to the South. I have climbed up to the Upper Halls where Clouds move in slow procession and Statues appear suddenly out of the Mists. I have explored the Drowned Halls where the Dark Waters are carpeted with white water lilies. I have seen the Derelict Halls of the East where Ceilings, Floors — sometimes even Walls! — have collapsed and the dimness is split by shafts of grey Light. 

In all these places I have stood in Doorways and looked ahead. I have never seen any indication that the World was coming to an End, but only the regular progression of Halls and Passageways into the Far Distance.

From the beginning we sense there is something off with Piranesi's mind. First, it has no memories of its youth, yet it believes it is about 35 years old. It knows of many things that do not exist within the Labyrinth. It has clothes and other objects that could not have been made in its world. Its memory is obviously faulty, something of which it is intermittently aware.

The story concerns the unraveling of this mystery. Imagine, if you will, one of those Romantic stories about bold human spirits who push the boundaries of knowledge too far, and do something they should not: Frankenstein, or The Great God Pan. Now imagine it told in reverse. That is Piranesi.

But just as with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the plot is not the point of Piranesi. The point is the words, the vast labyrinth of language, and palace built of sentences, paragraphs, and images. For a short book like this one, that is enough for me.

One more example:

An image rises up in my mind. It is the memory of a statue that stands in the nineteenth north-western hall. It is the statue of a man kneeling on his plinth; a sword lies at his side, its blade broken in five pieces. Roundabout lie other broken pieces, the remains of a sphere. The man has used his sword to shatter the sphere because he wanted to understand it, but now he finds that he has destroyed both sphere and sword. This puzzles him, but at the same time part of him refuses to accept that the sphere is broken and worthless. He has picked up some of the fragments and stares at them intently in the hope they they will eventually bring him new knowledge.

More Snow

Snow falling hard at 3:30 PM, the leading edge of a storm that should last until tomorrow.

Today's Place to Daydream about: Blois, France

Blois is an ancient town on the Loire River in central France. 

Most people who visit are on tours of the famous chateaux of the Loire Valley, an amazing collection of Renaissance palaces. The building of these got started when Henry V of England conquered northern France in the early 1400s, forcing the French court south to the Loire. Even after they retook Paris French kings continued to spend a lot of time in Blois, Tours, and nearby country retreats. It was not until the time of Louis XIV that French royalty mostly abandoned this region. 

The old town of Blois, as you will see, is very much a monument to this time: the place may be much older, but almost all the old buildings you can see were built between 1450 and 1700. It therefore has very much the look of the early modern period.

There is one major remnant of medieval Blois: the Tour-Beauvoir. This was the keep of a 12th-century castle that was later incorporated into the walls of the growing town and then used as a prison in to the 19th century.

Blois has an impressive cathedral, but except for its foundations little of it is medieval; construction of the current facade and bell tower began in 1544. You can see how the lingering Gothic of the late middle ages got mixed up with Renaissance neoclassicism.

The structure suffered heavily in the 16th-century Wars of Religion, when Calvinists broke most of the windows. So most of the details you can see date to the 17th century and later.

But it is for palaces, not cathedrals, that the Loire Valley is known, and this is equally true in Blois. The royal palace here grew over the years, as you can see, a series of monarchs each adding his own touch. 

Here you can enter the world of The Three Musketeers, of kings like Francis I and Henry IV, of queens like Marie de Medici. 

The king's bedchamber, as established under Francis I, with Henry IV's bed.

And the queen's.

The palace has famous gardens, including a rose garden.

But what really drew me to Blois was these images of the streets in the old town. Many of the houses here date to the 1500s and 1600s. The gray stone buildings and gray stone pavements speak to me of a the past, especially when photographed under the gray skies so common along Europe's Atlantic fringe.

I imagine merchants and their wives in black cloth and starched white ruffs, gentlemen and ladies in blue and red. I hear horses' hooves, rattling wagons, the voices of market sellers, criers, stevedores, and beggars.

I wish I were there, hearing the footsteps of the Ancien Regime echoing off the stones around me.

Did Michael Avenatti Deserve This?

Michael Avenatti, the sleazeball lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels when she sued Donald Trump, then stole $300,000 from his client, ended up in prison for attempted extortion. He is now suing the government, saying that he was treated harshly in prison because of his public criticism of Donald Trump. Ok, you're thinking, this is Michael Avenatti, surely this is another one of his sleazeball stunts. But wait.

This is from the summary in the Times: 

Mr. Avenatti said in his claim that he had initially been held in solitary confinement in the Santa Ana Jail in Orange County and had then been taken to Manhattan and detained at the now-closed Metropolitan Correctional Center, much of that time in its most secure wing, 10 South.

Traditionally, 10 South was used to hold detainees charged with terrorism and other notorious crimes. Its most notable recent occupant was Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo.

“To take a man who has lived for decades without any criminal convictions, no history of violence,” Mr. Avenatti said in a phone interview with one of his lawyers on the line, “and within 72 hours put him under these conditions where he is housed in the most restrictive, diabolical unit in the entire United States for pretrial detainees, is unheard-of.”
While in detention, Avenatti

spent about 94 days in solitary confinement or under locked-down status. “For the vast majority of that time period, I was in 10 South,” he said in the interview.

Last July, when he was sentenced to two and a half years in the Nike case, Judge Paul G. Gardephe of Federal District Court observed that Mr. Avenatti had been held “in horrific conditions at the M.C.C. for more than three months, in solitary confinement for much of the time and in lockdown for nearly all of it.”

Mr. Avenatti said in the papers that while he was at the M.C.C., he had been prohibited from speaking with relatives or friends, he had been provided no access to fresh air or recreation, temperatures at night had been frigid, and he had been permitted to see the sky only once.

Some of the lockdown was due to Covid, but this really is extremely weird for a white collar crook. And in the category of adding insult to injury,

When he asked for reading material, he said in his claim, he was initially refused and was then provided one book: “Trump: The Art of the Deal.”

I bet the guards are still laughing about that one.

But, really, what is this about? Was Avenatti just an obnoxious jerk? Were the guards really down on him for going after Trump? Or maybe does he have some kind of organized crime connection that hasn't been made public yet, and the bosses used their prison connections to remind him of how much power they have to ruin the rest of his life if he talks about it?

I find the whole business very odd.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Mästermyr Chest

The place known as Mästermyr, on the Swedish island of Gotland, used to be a lake. The lake was drained in the early twentieth century. In 1936 a farmer named Hugo Kraft was plowing up a new section of the resulting mucky fields when his plow struck something solid. It turned out to be this chest. The chest is 90 cm (35 in) long, 26 cm (10 in) wide and 24 cm (9.4 in) high. The chain that wrapped it was locked with a padlock.

For reasons I don't understand, it has proved difficult to date the chest; maybe something about the bog water messed up the radiocarbon profile? Anyway the best the Swedish Historical Museum can do is to say that this is "Viking period," 800-1100 AD.

The chest turned out to be full of tools. If the dating is right, this is the oldest major assemblage of European tools. There are more than 200 objects, including tools for both woodworking and metalworking as well as odds and ends like nails and lock parts.

One guess is that this belonged to a master shipwright, since they had to work with both wood and iron. Wikipedia has the complete list of the objects in the chest, which includes 3 padlocks, 7 hammers, forging tongs, axes, adzes, gouges, chisels, augers, wood files, metal files, and two draw knives. The Swedish Historical Museum has photographs of all of them.

One comment some experts have made is that this stuff looks an awful lot like a Roman tool chest would. The locks, in particular, are pretty much identical to Roman specimens. I don't find this surprising; everyday tools evolved very slowly until modern steel-making made super high-quality metal readily available, and still both a modern blacksmith's hammer and a modern carpenter's claw hammer look pretty much identical to Roman specimens.

One of the more unusual objects is the fire grid, for cooking over an outdoor fire.

So what is this stuff doing in an old lake? Opinions differ as to whether the chest was lost in a boat-wreck, or if it was intentionally hidden. If it was lost, it implies that the owner was itinerant, perhaps traveling from one noble house to another to build or repair ships and boats. However it got there, it is a remarkable look back at the craftsmen of the European past.