Thursday, April 30, 2015

Double Rainbow

Today, 6:43 PM. Perhaps it was a sign of peace for Baltimore.

GM Phases out Coal

Here's a small piece of good environmental news: General Motors has announced that it no longer burns coal. To power its factories GM relies on a mix of on-site power and electricity purchased from the power grid. The announcement applies only to on-site power, so by buying electricity GM still contributes to coal use. But it no longer buys or burns any itself. It still burns a lot of natural gas, but it is also moving into renewable sources:
GM has put huge solar arrays on top of and adjacent to factories in Ohio and Michigan. It made a deal to turn Detroit municipal waste into steam, which will help power one of its Detroit-area plants. In February, it struck a deal to use the output of a wind farm in Mexico to power operations there. Captured landfill gas—which is regarded as a renewable resource—provides about 43 percent of the electricity used at the company’s Fort Wayne Assembly Plant, which is one of the nation’s largest on-site generators of electricity. Such investments have enabled the company to retire all the on-site boilers that used to burn coal. General Motors is already 87 percent of the way toward its goal of using 125 megawatts of renewable energy generating capacity by 2020.
That's only 12 percent of GM's total energy use, but it's still something. GM's announcement shows how removed from the economic mainstream the whole "War on Coal" business is. American business doesn't need coal, and coal is being phased out no matter what Congress decides.

Lidar map of Nixtun-Ch'ich', Guatemala

Wonderfully reveals the grid plan of this Maya city, c. 600 BCE to 300 CE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Flowering Trees of Catonsville

I had to put my car in the shop this morning. They told me it would be about an hour, so I thought, what should I do with the next two hours? I decided to walk home and putter around. It's a perfect spring day, and the neighborhood is full of blossoming trees; all of these pictures were taken on the half mile walk from the garage to my house.

Partisanship and the Baltimore Riots

Conservatives have had a lot to say about the Baltimore riots. This is only to be expected, since the fear of riotous disorder has long lain at the root of conservative thinking, and in America that fear has always been especially focused on poor blacks. So what are they saying?

The Wall Street Journal blames Democrats:
The men and women in charge have been Democrats, and their governing ideas are “progressive.” This model, with its reliance on government and public unions, has dominated urban America as once-vibrant cities such as Baltimore became shells of their former selves. In 1960 Baltimore was America’s sixth largest city with 940,000 people. It has since shed nearly a third of its population and today isn’t in the top 25.

The dysfunctions of the blue-city model are many, but the main failures are three: high crime, low economic growth and failing public schools that serve primarily as jobs programs for teachers and administrators rather than places of learning.
John Nolte concurs:
Baltimore is not America’s problem or shame. That failed city is solely and completely a Democrat problem. Like many failed cities, Detroit comes to mind, and every city besieged recently by rioting, Democrats and their union pals have had carte blanche to inflict their ideas and policies on Baltimore since 1967, the last time there was a Republican Mayor. . . .
This isn't a ridiculous charge; Democrats have been running Baltimore, Detroit, East St. Louis, and other such places for decades. So just the presence of an administration dedicated (or allegedly dedicated) to helping the poor doesn't necessarily achieve anything. But I would note, first, that some of America's most successful cities have also been run for decades by liberals (Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin), and, second, that Baltimore and Detroit have been running against some severe headwinds: the collapse of factory work and the flight of the middle class to suburbs where their property taxes contribute nothing to the cities. This is especially a problem for eastern cities that are geographically small; if Baltimore were as big as Houston it would include pretty much all of its suburbs and its fiscal situation would be radically different. While we're on the subject, white flight from Baltimore didn't just happen, it was engineered by investors through a scam called "block busting"; they would pay one black person to move into a white neighborhood, snap up all the houses during the panic sale and then flip them to black buyers at a big profit, or else turn them into rentals.

But it is certainly true that many liberal city governments have failed badly in many ways. This includes the one most relevant to the current crisis, managing the police. Liberal mayors often have bad relationships with their police departments, so they are reluctant to get too involved in running them, and as a result the police pretty much run themselves. This is a hard problem, and not unique to liberal cities: Houston, for example, has had a lot of trouble with its police. I don't know how to improve these fractured relationships, and I doubt anyone at Instapundit or the Wall Street Journal does either. Shouting "Democrats!" is not likely to help.

Elizabeth Foley expands the complaint about progressive influence:
The rioting in Ferguson and Baltimore isn’t driven by poverty, race, or even police brutality. It’s driven by progressive culture, which teaches that successful business people “didn’t build that,” accepts abortion/divorce/children out of wedlock as normal behavior, proclaims that poor children (particularly minorities) cannot succeed, that police and authority in general are the “enemy,” and that law is rigged against minorities. Urban music, “leaders” like Al Sharpton, and a Democrat strategy of balkanizing Americans through identity politics–echoed daily by mainstream media–has created a culture that has no respect for the rule of law. In the eyes of progressives, the American Dream is dead, and they are literally dancing on its grave.
Hmmm. Does this mean Elizabeth Foley doesn't know that the law in America really is rigged against minorities? Because it is; black Americans are more likely to be stopped by the police, more likely to be searched, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be prosecuted than whites who did the same things, more likely to be convicted, and if they are convicted they get longer sentences than whites. These are facts, not progressive inventions. As for accepting divorce as normal behavior, who idolizes Ronald Reagan, our only divorced president? This gets me back to what I was saying a few days ago, that I absolutely agree poor Americans have issues with values but am not at all sure they are any worse than the problems rich Americans have. Is disrespect for the law a bigger problem in West Baltimore or on Wall Street? West Baltimore is a tough place, but at least they never crashed the world economy. Their illegal wars are a lot less destructive and expensive than the one W launched in Iraq. And how about the problem of illegality among police who regularly violate the law and their own procedures (choke holds, shooting people in the back)?

I would never deny that black urban culture creates barriers between the people in those neighborhoods and the American mainstream. Those barriers are real, and anyone who wants to cross over faces real obstacles. But black culture didn't spring out of the air; it arose from 300 years of oppression and resistance. Blaming Obama, as they like to do on Instapundit ("This madness and chaos and anarchy is a Democrat-driven culture that starts at the top with a racially-divisive White House heartbreakingly effective at ginning up hate and violence") is particularly inane, since we have had riots like these for 50 years, under Democrats and Republicans, in cities run by liberals and cities run by conservatives.

I was moved to respond to these posts not so much because I think they are wrong as because I despise flip partisan responses to hard problems. The problem of how to improve the lives of poor Americans is a very hard one; so are the problems of what to do about minority ghettos, how to help old industrial cities that have lost their factories, how to improve relations between the police and the residents of tough neighborhoods. Shouting about liberalism and blaming the President for "ginning up hate" are just stupid.

Defending Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli at the Supreme Court yesterday. "Lawrence" is the case in which the Court struck down state laws that criminalized gay sex:
May it please the Court:

The opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity. Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of those couples. It demeans their children, and it denies both the couples and their children the stabilizing structure that marriage affords. Now, the Respondents’ principal argument, and what we’ve been discussing this morning so far, is whether the issue of whether this discrimination should persist is something that should be left to the political process, or whether it should be something decided by the Court. And I’d like to make three points about that, if I could.

First, I think it’s important to understand that if this Court concludes that this issue should be left to the political process, what the Court will be saying is that the demeaning, second-class status that gay and lesbian couples now inhabit in States that do not provide for marriage is consistent with the equal protection of the laws. That is not a wait-and-see. That is a validation.

And second, to the extent that the thought is that this can be left to the political process because this issue will take care of itself over time, because attitudes are changing, what I respectfully submit to the Court is that although no one can see the future perfectly, of course, that it seems much more likely to me that the outcome that we’re going to end up with is something that will approximate the nation as a house divided that we had with de jure racial segregation. You may have many States, perhaps most States, in which gay couples can live with equal dignity and status, but you will have a minority of States in which gay couples will be relegated to demeaning, second-class status, and I don’t know why we would want to repeat that history.

And third, I want to expand on what Ms. Bonauto said, that the decision to leave this to the political process is going to impose enormous costs that this Court thought were costs of constitutional stature in Windsor. Thousands and thousands of people are going to live out their lives and to go their deaths without their States ever recognizing the equal dignity of their relationships.

Justice Kennedy: Well, you could have said the same thing ten years ago or so when we had Lawrence. Haven’t we learned a tremendous amount since Lawrence, just in the last ten years?

Verrilli: Yes. And, Your Honor, I actually think that’s quite a critical point that goes to the questions that Your Honor was asking earlier. I do think Lawrence was an important catalyst that has brought us to where we are today. And I think what Lawrence did was provide an assurance that gay and lesbian couples could live openly in society as free people and start families and raise families and participate fully in their communities without fear.

Two things flow from that, I think. One is that it has brought us to the point where we understand now, in a way even that we did not fully understand in Lawrence, that gay and lesbian people and gay and lesbian couples are full and equal members of the community. And what we once thought of as necessary and proper reasons for ostracizing and marginalizing gay people, we now understand do not justify that kind of oppression.

Chief Justice Roberts: The difference, of course, is Lawrence, the whole argument is the State cannot intrude on that personal relationship. This, it seems to me, is different in that what the argument is is the State must sanction. It must approve that relationship. They’re two different questions.

Verrilli: It is different, I agree. And that leads to the second thing I think that Lawrence catalyzed for our society, was it put gay and lesbian couples, gay and lesbian people, in a position for the first time in our history to be able to lay claim to the abiding promise of the Fourteenth Amendment in a way that was just impossible when they were marginalized and ostracized.

And you’re right, Mr. Chief Justice, this is about equal participation, participation on equal terms in a State-conferred status, a State institution. This is different than Lawrence, but I do think that what Lawrence has allowed us to see is that the justifications for excluding gay and lesbian couples from equal participation in this institution don’t hold up.

Paul Dmoch

Paul Dmoch was born in Poland and now lives in Belgium. He says this about his work:
I was born in Warsaw in 1958. Even as a child, I remember being obsessed with light. On sleepless nights in my room, I would watch the movement of car lights reflecting from the wall to the ceiling and back. Years later, I was astonished when I saw Rembrandt's use of light for the first time. I remarked, ''This is the LIGHT''. 
At the time, I also believed in fairytales, in the magical worlds I had heard about. I loved to visualise them in my mind. Later on, I understood that all those worlds I created in my mind simply did not exist. I was very disappointed. But then, when I was 12, one of my teachers helped me to discover my passion for architecture. While studying architecture, I realised that I had found what I had been looking for. As architect, I thought I would be able to create a fantastic world with structure, where light could play on forms. 
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that there were many problems that had nothing to do with architecture, problems related to law, money, foolishness of investors, and so on. I became disillusioned with my career.I had never thought of becoming an artist, but I soon realised that painting would offer me the same opportunities to create my own world of light and to share my love to architecture.
Today, painting interiors is my greatest challenge. It is my chance to share with the entire world the 'genius locci' of the places created by human genius. I am not interested in natural subjects, those not been made by human ''hands''. That's why I paint interiors, because there I can find man's glorious mind. 
I especially like to paint cathedrals. I can feel all the mystery of ''another space'', where we sometimes come, but not spend our lifetime. Inside these structures we feel small and not so important as we sometime think we are. We can see that incredible, enormous structure, filled with endless lights pouring through a stained-glass window. Ecclesiastical interiors give us a chance to contemplate our deepest thoughts. There we think no mundane thoughts - we leave them outside. There is a real border between the ''sacred'' and ''profane''. The harmony of light and darkness, showing all the beauty of details and space, make us calm and deeply happy. For me, light and shadow is a metaphor for the everlasting battle between these two basic elements of human existence. In the contrast between light and darkness lies the secret of every human beginning.


Top to bottom: Divinity School, Oxford; Cistercian Church, Krzeszow, Poland; Church of the Piaristes, Krakow, Poland; Versailles, exterior and Hall of Mirrors; St. Jacques, Anvers; St. Nicholas, Brussels; Westminster Abbey, exterior and Choir; Venice; Door of the Florence Duomo. Below, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, and then something titled La lumière ne montre pas les choses, elle les choisit.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Telling the Truth as a Joke

There were some good laughs in President Obama's stand-up routine the other night, but the most interesting part was when he seemed to reveal his true feelings about some big issues:
After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me, "Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?" And I said, "Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’" (Laughter and applause.)

Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. (Laughter.) New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do. (Laughter and applause.)
Ezra Klein explains:
The tip-off there is, "It's the right thing to do." That's not a joke. That's Obama's actual justification for the aggressive executive actions of his second term — "fuck it, it's the right thing to do." But the norms of politics are such that he typically has to frame his actions as routine, dull, even necessary. He has to search for precedent and downplay the consequences.

It's only on the evening of the White House Correspondents' Dinner when he can say what everyone already knows: his actions are huge, they are controversial, they push the norms of American politics, but fuck it, at a moment when American politics seems increasingly broken, Obama has decided to just go ahead and do what he thinks is right.
Partisan though I am, I see the danger in this; I don't especially want to see President Ted Cruz issuing lots of radical executive orders. But so far as I can tell, this is the only way action is going to happen on two issues that I think are crucial for America: shifting away from fossil fuels and somehow resolving the situation of hundreds of thousands of young people who have grown up in America but cannot get legal status. A Congress that cannot even bring the Dream Act to a vote is pretty much asking to be bypassed by the president.

Our system is designed to keep things from happening. When something really needs to happen that is opposed by powerful interests, the system crashes. Executive action is one of the few solutions on offer, and I respect Obama for doing all he can to make these changes real.

The "Purge" and our Fascination with Anarchy

One of the most interesting details about the Baltimore riots was the way the trouble began last night, with a confrontation between the police and rock-throwing kids right after high schools let out for the day:
Police Commissioner, Anthony W. Batts, said the violence on Monday began with word of a “purge” set to take place at Mondawmin Mall, led by local high school students. Those students confronted about 200 police officers and attacked the police with rocks and cinderblocks after school let out.
Purge? In case you missed it, The Purge was a movie released in 2013 about “an annual 12-hour national holiday in which Americans are legally absolved from every crime, including robbery and homicide.” The film was generally considered pretty bad, but the idea still managed to strike a chord with many viewers. Ever since, police departments around the country have been dogged with rumors of purges:
Last fall, police in Windsor, Conn., tightened security in response to rumors of a “Windsor Purge,” in which teenagers were allegedly planning to spread chaos with BB and paintball guns. No purge occurred.
There have also been postings on the internet about alleged purges, like one in Chicago in which more than a hundred people were supposed to have been killed.

We are fascinated with this myth of a time without rules, when the veneer of civilization would be stripped away and our animal ferocity would emerge unchecked. This explains some of our obsession with post-apocalypse scenarios, from Mad Max to The Walking Dead. And, I suppose, with war. As much as we enjoy civilization, there is a part of us that chafes against its limits, and yearns for a liberating darkness. One way to explore this fantasy is through the notion of a brief window when the limits would be discarded and anarchy would reign. After 12 hours of terror and thrilling freedom, order would return and we could get on with our lives.

But most of us would really rather watch a movie about anarchy, or play the video game, than experience its ugly reality.

Riots in Baltimore

In Baltimore, we're having a little problem with riots. Not a big problem, mind you, whatever you may have heard on the news -- so far the count stands at four stores looted, and a couple of suspicious fires in a city that sees suspicious fires every night. But there is violence, and anger.

It always amuses me when public officials, like the new Attorney General, go on the air to denounce "senseless violence." She may be the first African American woman to hold the office, but she talks like an old white man. I suppose that's her job. But the violence in Baltimore is anything but senseless -- it is a political act. It is a political response to decades of police violence, which everybody from the mayor on down has admitted is a problem. (The city paid out $5.7 million in lawsuits for excessive police force last year, most of  it in amounts of less than $100,000. That's a lot of beatings.) But in defense of the police, they beat people up because they are scared, because there are whole neighborhoods where they are not welcome and they know it, where there are dozens of gang kids who would happily shoot them if they could get away with it. As the mayor put it, the relationship between the police the the black people of Baltimore is "fractured." Everybody knows this, but nobody knows what to do about it. Sometimes, when problems fester, they eventually explode.

Consider this: if there had been no public explosion in Ferguson, would the Justice Department have sent the task force that exposed the city's deep problems with police brutality and judicial screwing of the poor? The revelations were no surprise to any black citizen of Ferguson, but nobody listened to them until they staged a riot. Sometimes violence makes perfect sense.

At a deeper level, the poor, black neighborhoods of Baltimore represent the failings of our society. What are we doing to help poor people in those neighborhoods make their lives better? If you ask me, every positive thing we do (WIC, Medicaid) is largely cancelled by a wrong (jailing millions of men for minor crimes). The Republican party has devoted far more energy to ending the Federal estate tax, which at it current level would fall only on the nation's 10,000 richest families, than it has to helping poor people. In fact its whole philosophy is built around the notion that helping the poor is wrong. You think the poor don't know it?

As I have said here many times, I don't know what would be the best way to help poor Americans who live in dismally poor neighborhoods. But I am certain that doing nothing is only an invitation to trouble. In the long run, the way to end rioting and restore civilization to rotten neighborhoods is to be seriously committed to justice and fairness in ever part of life.

I am also certain that focusing only on violence, as if violence itself were the root of the problem, is shallow and foolish. Many of the acts that made life better for Americans have been accompanied by violence, from the Revolution on. The labor movement, which did so much to create the middle class America we idolize, was born in violent strife and succeeded only because the unions scared scabs away from the mills. A few years ago I did a close study of the Irish workers who took over the digging of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in the 1830s. They drove all the non-Irish workers off the line, and then took to fighting among themselves. When their bosses didn't pay them on time, they stole barrels of gunpowder and threatened to blow up the locks and tunnels they had just finished building. They were vicious. But when the state of Maryland finally intervened decisively and used the militia to break the Irish associations, the wage of a canal digger fell from $1.25 a day to $.85 -- a 32% wage cut for people already on the edge of hunger.

As Malcolm X famously remarked, violence is as American as apple pie. People keep doing it because sometimes it works.

Now it is probably true that these riots in Baltimore will accomplish nothing, except to make some white suburbanites loath black city dwellers even more, and chase a few businesses out of the city. Baltimore already has a black mayor and other officials who would help the city's poor residents if they knew how. But panicking about the "Purge" and endlessly re-running the same 5-minute video of kids throwing bricks at cops is neither helpful nor, to me, even interesting. Sure, arrest a few brick throwers, put out the fires, restore order. But tell me this: what are we going to do next?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meanwhile in Kazakhstan

Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, the only post-Soviet president the nation has ever had, won a fifth term with 97.7% of the vote. Turnout was reported as 95%. This was the best bit:
The chairman of the elections commission called the vote a landmark “expression of civil society, electoral activeness and political responsibility.”

Ingo Arndt, Animal Architecture

Some amazing images from Animal Architecture, a book by German photographer Ingo Arndt. Above, harvest mouse nest. I once found a family of mice in a nest just like this one, in a field of tall grass, and it was one of the coolest natural things I've ever seen. I couldn't believe that a few blades of grass could hold up a mother mouse and half a dozen babies, but it worked.

The love nest of a male vogelkop gardener bower bird, built solely to attract a mate.

Casings of caddis fly nymphs.

Weaver bird nest.

Surface of the nest of a Eurasian median wasp.

And the nest of a reed warbler.

Intact Neolithic Fishing Leister from the Danish Seafloor

Archaeologists in northern Europe have long suspected that certain bone points were part of multi-pronged fishing spears known as leisters. Now Danish archaeologists have reported finding the head of a lesiter intact, with the bone point in position.

This is part of the same seafloor project as the intact ax I wrote about back in November, which continues to produce amazing finds. Above, diagram of how a leister worked. These days most Americans know eels only as part of Japanese or Korean  cuisine, but until the twentieth century they were the most widely eaten fish in Europe and the US, the protein mainstay of many communities close to rivers and wetlands.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring Comes to the Maryland Woods

Yesterday in Patapsco State Park.

My Life

My younger daughter just told me I should have a TV show called Lounge Pants Cooking.

My elder daughter added, "You could lecture people about history while you cook."

That's pretty much it.

Carl Otto Czeschka's Niebelung

Carl Otto Czeschka (1878-1960) was an Austrian artist and graphic designer. His most famous works these days are these illustrations to Franz Keim's De Niebelung, published in 1909. These are large files worth clicking on.

Treating Snakebite in 1303

First, bind the extremity with strong and tight bindings. Second, get an old rooster and pluck its bottom and hold it with its bottom on the bite, and if the rooster dies it is a good sign, because it is a sign that the venom has been drawn out of the body, so apply many roosters until you see that the rooster does not die from the venom.

--Bernard de Gordon, Lilium medicinae (from Ask the Past)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Entertaining Both Sides

New Jersey, 1776;
More than a few people in New Jersey tried to cultivate good relations and strong alliances with both sides. Among them was the Van Horne family, who became highly skilled at this dangerous game. Philip Van Horne was a New York merchant who left the city at the start of the Revolution and moved to a country estate called Convivial Hill or Phill's Hill near Bound Brook in Somerset County, New Jersey, between the armies. He had a large fortune, a habit of hospitality, and five very attractive daughters. Philip's brother, John Van Horne, died at the beginning of the Revolution leaving a widow and three daughters more. The two households visited back and forth and were often confused. Altogether there were eight young "Misses Van Horne," as they were collectively called, "all handsome and well bred." They attracted swarms of officers from every army.

Philip Van Horne was a good friend of New Jersey's Whig governor William Livingston. He also maintained good relations with British and Loyalist officers and received them in his home when they were in the neighborhood. When the American army arrived, they were welcome too, and many American officers stayed in his house. Captain Alexander Graydon found that Mr. Van Horne "alternately entertained the officers of both armies, being visited by one and sometimes by the other. . . . His house, used as a hotel, seemed constantly full."

It was, if nothing else, a considerable feat of scheduling. In the worlds of Leonard Lundin, the Van Horne's "performed prodigies in the difficult art of being all things to all people." Philip Van Horne carefully cultivated friendships with high officers in every camp. He kept up his friendships with leading New Jersey Whigs and cultivated connections with Loyalists and British leaders. He also made a point of doing favors for both sides. When Graydon was captured at Fort Washington, Philip Van Horne helped the soldier's mother to win his release.

His beautiful daughters cultivated connections with younger officers on both sides. As the war went on around them, they danced and flirted happily with men in many uniforms. They encouraged visiting Americans to believe that they were "avowed whigs." British and Hessians took them to be secret Loyalists. Many knew what they were doing, but their combination of genteel Whiggery and sociable Toryism added to their attraction. They were known for "civility to the British officers, hospitality to the Hessians, and sympathy for Americans."

When the Misses Van Horne were in the country, they were courted by Continental officers. When they went to Flat Bush in New York, they were entertained by the British garrison and invited to balls for royal anniversaries. Sometimes the Van Horne sisters were with their uncle in New Brunswick, where Hessian gentlemen came to call. Jaeger Captain Johann Ewald fell madly in love with Jeanette Van Horne. He sent her gifts of "sausages made in the German manner," game birds that his men had shot, and passionate love letters in fractured French. . . .

General Washington did not approve of the ambidextrous Van Hornes, and Philip Van Horne in particular. On January 12, 1777, he wrote sternly to Colonel Reed, "I wish you had brought Vanhorne off with you, for from his noted character there is no dependence to be placed upon his Parole." A few weeks later Washington thought that Van Horne should be ordered into British lines: "Would it not be best to order P. Vanhorne to Brunswick -- these people in my opinion can do us less injury there than anywhere else." But not even George Washington could restrain the Van Hornes. They remained at liberty and flourished happily in an eighteenth-century world where distinctions of rank and wealth sometimes proved more powerful than politics or war.
David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing (2004)

Twenty-Five Archaeology Posts

Wonders of the Frozen Pazyryk Tombs. October 3, 2015. Scythian treasures of cloth, wood, leather, and horn.

Jiroft. April 28, 2020. Wonderful treasures from a previously unknown Bronze Age city in southern Iran.

The Viking Sorceress of Fyrkat. March 3, 2021. The grave of a magical practitioner from 1100 years ago.

Cave Tombs of Talayotic Minorca, March 26, 2015. Wonderfully preserved Bronze Age burials and ritual sites.

Cannibalism at Herxheim, or, Events in the Distant Past, March 14, 2015.

The Mosfell Archaeology Project, December 6, 2014. Archaeology and the sagas in Viking Iceland.

Bronze Age Bactria. March 3, 2016. A fascinating civilization in central Asia almost unknown until the 1970s.

Shieldmaidens: Were there Female Warriors in the Viking Age? September 20, 2014.

The Środa Treasure, November 17, 2014. So much like an adventure novel.

Dholavira: a Harappan City in the Rann of Kutch, October 11, 2014. I love the mysterious civilization of the ancient Indus.

Hasanlu, September 10, 2014. An Iron Age city sacked with fire and sword.

More from the Boneyard of Alken Enge, July 14, 2014. Human sacrifice in Iron Age Denmark.

The 1814 Fortification Ditch in Patterson Park, May 7, 2014. One of the numerous posts from one of my most prominent projects; I chose this one because it includes analysis of the soil layers, the heart of an archaeologist's special skills. Links to all the Patterson Park posts can be found here.

Doggerland and the Great Wave, May 1, 2014. What is more evocative than ancient lands disappearing beneath the waves?

Tillia Tepe, The Hill of Gold, March 31, 2014.

Bronze in 4700 BCE; or, the Metalsmiths of Pločnik, Technology, and Social Change, February 2, 2014.

Moche Civilization and Art, January 11, 2014.

Biskupin, November 11, 2013. An Iron Age town in Poland, wonderfully preserved.

Archaeology and History: Robin Fleming, Britain after Rome: the Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070, October 27, 2013. One of the best ever books using archaeology to reconstruct a historical narrative.

Berenike: Rome's Gateway to India, March 10, 2013.

Climate Change and the Maya Collapse, November 16, 2012.

The Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, July 28, 2012.

The Treasure of Nahal Mishmar, April 6, 2012. Copper Age wonders from Israel.

Novgorod: the Archaeology of Medieval Russia, December 10, 2011.

Cacao for Turquoise, March 19, 2011. What commodities were so valuable that people traded them over hundreds of miles even when they had to be carried in backpacks?

The Gorgan Wall, July 29, 2019. Who built an enormous wall by the Caspian Sea, and why did ancient empires build these vast barriers?

Poisoned Women and Beaded Dresses from Copper Age Spain. November 26, 2021. In 2007 an astonishing find was made at the famous Copper Age site of Valencina de la Concepción in southern Spain, an unlooted tholos tomb dating to around 2850 BC known as the Montelirio Tholos. It contained the bones of twenty strange and fascinating women.