Links Roundup: Really Old Stuff Edition
Exciting news in the world of archaeology!
Der Spiegel reports (auf Deutsch) that Roman glass beads have been found in a fifth-century grave near Kyoto! The reach of Roman trade was astonishing – Roman coins have been found in Vietnam, for example. However, evidence for European-Japanese contact at such an early date remains scarce.
Here are some beautiful photos of the Lascaux cave paintings from Life magazine.
A team of researchers have concluded that Stonehenge was built to commemorate the political unification of Britain by a late stone age culture. According to the press release, “Its stones are thought to have symbolized the ancestors of different groups of earliest farming communities in Britain, with some stones coming from southern England and others from west Wales.”
I find this an extremely attractive hypothesis on its face, which is congruent with the structure of the monument, which appears rather like a group of people standing in a ring, which is a common motif in neolithic Europe. The idea of symbolically expressing social transformation by bringing together totemistic stones corresponding to kinship groups has obvious analogs in cultures as far-flung as the Anatolians in Çatalhöyük, who may have exchanged the skulls of their ancestors to a similar end, and the Tlingit and Haida, who combined symbols and stories into the infamous “totem poles” of the Pacific northwest.
Not all the archaeological news is good, though. Depressed economies and austerity measures are combining to take a toll on excavation and preservation of important artifacts. I was disheartened to see back-to-back articles on the problems facing the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the Trevi Fountain in Rome. It seems hard to believe that institutions of this magnitude could be threatened by lack of adequate funding, but then I hardly would have believed anyone would dig a huge oil pipeline through unexcavated ground at Babylon either.
It’s almost enough to make you think the US should cut the crap and re-fund UNESCO, isn’t it?
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting review of Andrew Robinson’s Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion. Sounds like a lively look at the initial decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Finally, the journal Biblical Archaeology Review has called its own editorial judgement into serious question with a breathless piece endorsing the “Brother of Jesus” inscription. But that’s just, like, my opinion – I invite the reader to make up her own mind.