29 December 2011

Peru's Culture Minister (was) Susana Baca

Clarification: I was late to this one. With the resignation of the Prime Minister and reshuffling of the Peruvian cabinet in mid-December, Baca was replaced as Minister of Culture by Luis Peirano Falconí, a professor of communication studies at the Pontificial Catholic University of Perú. Good luck to Prof. Peirano.

From The Guardian. Susana Baca!



Chosen in July by President Ollanta Humala, Baca is Peru's first Minister of Afro-Peruvian descent. It's a joy to see a giant of culture actually in charge of culture, but I can't say I envy her: being a great artist and being a great administrator are, shall we say, different skill sets. I hope she can find a way to juggle her career while looking after the nation's culture. Not to mention its overworked archaeological sites!



Negra presuntuosa indeed. Bring 'em on, the world could use many more.

Ruins of the 1%: Inequality Worse in 21st Century America than 2nd Century Rome?

New research by Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen suggest that income inequality in the United States today is slightly worse than in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century CE. Their article in Journal of Roman Studies is a good overview of debates on how to measure ancient Rome's GDP, wages, and income distribution. It's also a bit dizzying, but this is not easy stuff to calculate, given the absence of regular economic data.

By their calculations, 10% of the population went hungry, 74% had income 1-1.5 times basic subsistence, and 14% had a 'respectable' income between 1.7 and 10 times basic subsistence. The top 1.5% controlled 15-25% of total income, the next 10% another 15-25%, while the bottom 90% split the remaining half or so of all income. This works out to a Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality, with 1 being perfect inequality and 0 being perfect equality) of 0.42-0.44. By this measure the Roman Empire was actually less unequal than some other pre-modern societies, like 18th-century Britain or France (0.52-0.59) - but only because these societies were richer overall. (You need larger surpluses to foster larger inequality.)

Tim de Chant at Per Square Mile (a fantastic geography blog) places this research in context, noting that the Gini coefficient of the United States is now 0.45 and rising: more unequal than a pre-modern empire famous for its oligarchs and mass enslavement. He concludes on a sobering note:
Schiedel and Friesen aren’t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point that’s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. “Yet the disproportionate visibility of this ‘fortunate decile’ must not let us forget the vast but—to us—inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.” 
Let us never forget: most ruins are ruins of the 1%. An Occupy Archaeology movement would have to include field survey and rural settlement studies in its call to arms.

28 December 2011

Academic Publishers: Suicide Bombers Against the Academy

I lost my marbles the other day when I saw this article from Cambridge University press offering to rent me some academic articles:
For just £3.99, $5.99 or €4.49, users are now able to read single articles online for up to 24 hours, a saving of up to 86 per cent, compared with the cost of purchasing the article.
Of course, you can’t save, print, or do anything with the article except read it on line, then it disappears. What useless crap! Say you’re doing some research and you need a citation. $5.99 might be OK if you only needed one article. But the average academic article has 20-100 citations. And honestly, a good article is not something you read once and have done with it – you need to check it a few times and do some re-reading to absorb it. So this rental is really just a ‘teaser’ – it’s just enough access to decide if you really need to have something, after which you have the privilege of buying one of these articles for $30-$75. Yes, that’s really how much they charge! For one fucking article!

So when I read something like this:
Cambridge University Press is committed to widening dissemination and lowering barriers to accessing journal articles.
… I can smell the bullshit. Article rental is a scam. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg in the larger and much more heinous scam being run by the major academic publishers – Springer, Thomson, Elsevier, a few others – who are looting the academic commons for private profit while denying access to the public and increasing inequality.

Does that sound harsh? I hope so. Because most academic knowledge is produced by scholars whose pay comes from the public purse. The rest – i.e. tuition dollars – is still subsidized heavily by the government as in the form of below-market-rate student loans.

16 December 2011

Palaeo-browsers of the primitive web

The Viola Browser. Love the color scheme
Ars Technica profiles the forgotten web browsers of the early 1990s:
When Tim Berners-Lee arrived at CERN, Geneva's celebrated European Particle Physics Laboratory in 1980, the enterprise had hired him to upgrade the control systems for several of the lab's particle accelerators. But almost immediately, the inventor of the modern webpage noticed a problem: thousands of people were floating in and out of the famous research institute, many of them temporary hires.
"The big challenge for contract programmers was to try to understand the systems, both human and computer, that ran this fantastic playground," Berners-Lee later wrote. "Much of the crucial information existed only in people's heads." 
So in his spare time, he wrote up some software to address this shortfall: a little program he named Enquire. It allowed users to create "nodes"—information-packed index card-style pages that linked to other pages. Unfortunately, the PASCAL application ran on CERN's proprietary operating system. "The few people who saw it thought it was a nice idea, but no one used it. Eventually, the disk was lost, and with it, the original Enquire."
Samba, the first Mac browser. 'Disque dur'! le Français d'internet est fantastique
Some years later Berners-Lee returned to CERN. This time he relaunched his "World Wide Web" project in a way that would more likely secure its success. On August 6, 1991, he published an explanation of WWW on the alt.hypertext usegroup. He also released a code library, libWWW, which he wrote with his assistant Jean-François Groff. The library allowed participants to create their own Web browsers.
"Their efforts—over half a dozen browsers within 18 months—saved the poorly funded Web project and kicked off the Web development community," notes a commemoration of this project by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
This is another step toward mapping the early history of the digital age. Also  a nice example of how the search for a unique inventor or moment of origin for historical movements is a distraction. These palaeo-browsers are an important part of the heritage of the digital age, and at the same time irrelevant. They were part of the evolutionary web that led to Netscape, which eclipsed them all. Here's Netscape's daddy, the original Mosaic browser. I remember using this on some machines when I first got to college in 1994.

14 December 2011

Thursday Links

The Magdalenburg Iron Age tomb complex in Germany is a map of the lunar cycle and constellations (Past Horizons). Ridiculously cool.

A photographer sneaks into China's deserted fake Disneyland (Reuters). China has reached the heritage singularity, full of ruins of a future that won't actually happen.


Antiquity has published a rock art analysis of Johnny Rotten's graffiti on the walls of the Sex Pistols'    old flat on Denmark Street in London.  "Deconstruction of the graffiti...presents a layering of time and changing relations." Yep folks, punk is dead...

I'm beet red

GROSS!

As the memory studies people would say, I'm glad that part of doing history is deciding what part to forget. Via Failblog and/or Easy86 on Tumblr. Hat tip to Katie!

08 December 2011

Guest Post: Beautiful tableware? On beauty and 'doing' pottery

Today's guest post by Rinse Willet, a PhD student at KU Leuven and archaeologist at the Sagalassos project, is a meditation on beauty in objects and what it means for archaeologists who 'do' pottery.

In my study of Roman tableware, I find myself often in awe of the quality of the pieces of terra sigillata, so commonly found throughout the Roman Empire. Millions of these vessels were made from the mid-2nd century BC to the 7th century AD. During this period, Many production centers were active, though dominance of the ancient 'market' shifted over time. The shapes, decorations, and sizes of the vessels changed over time as well.

Yet for this entire period, terra sigillata is associated with the formal serving and eating of food and drink. Though I am intrigued by the sheer effort expended to produce and transport these vessels, but I also have to appreciate how beautifully most of them are made. Is this a fluke on my part, or did the actual users of these vessels think they were beautiful too?
The Portland Vase (Wikimedia)
More after the jump.

23 November 2011

Pepper-spraying cop meme goes archaeopop

It had to happen eventually... From the delightful Pepper Spraying Cop Tumblr. Hat tip Lindsay!

 “Jesus, do you realize how hard it is being in charge of the WHOLE FUCKING SKY? Its rough, man. ROUGH. I got all these assholes praying to me for this or that, I got Osiris crawling up my ass all the time pulling those fucking guilt trips on me because I don’t want to run the family business forever… LAY OFF. Can’t I just take a break for a minute and have a seatAUUUAHAGHAHAGAHAGHGHHHHHHHHHHH”

 “Morguk got wasted and rolled his razor scooter again. God dammit, now we have to schlep all the way over the Euphrates to get parts for that damn thing. Again. Grounding doesn’t work. Taking away internet privileges doesn’t work. Should we send him to boarding school? Would that make us bad parentsAUUAHHAGHAGAHAGHGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”

17 November 2011

Breaking news: Indiana Jones denied tenure

McSweeney's reprints Indiana Jones' tenure denial letter. Bad methodology, never shows up for class, and worse! A highlight:
Meets professional standards of conduct in research and professional activities of the discipline:
The committee was particularly generous (and vociferous) in offering their opinions regarding this criterion. Permit me to list just a few of the more troubling accounts I was privy to during the committee’s meeting. Far more times than I would care to mention, the name “Indiana Jones” (the adopted title Dr. Jones insists on being called) has appeared in governmental reports linking him to the Nazi Party, black-market antiquities dealers, underground cults, human sacrifice, Indian child slave labor, and the Chinese mafia. There are a plethora of international criminal charges against Dr. Jones, which include but are not limited to: bringing unregistered weapons into and out of the country; property damage; desecration of national and historical landmarks; impersonating officials; arson; grand theft (automobiles, motorcycles, aircraft, and watercraft in just a one week span last year); excavating without a permit; countless antiquities violations; public endangerment; voluntary and involuntary manslaughter; and, allegedly, murder.
Dr. Jones’s interpersonal skills and relationships are no better. By Dr. Jones’s own admission, he has repeatedly employed an underage Asian boy as a driver and “personal assistant” during his Far East travels. I will refrain from making any insinuations as to the nature of this relationship, but my intuition insists that it is not a healthy one, nor one to be encouraged.
NO TIME FOR LOVE DR. JONE!!!

14 November 2011

Telecom Italia Mobile Goes Ancient

Telecom Italia Mobile has this fantastic series of ads with ancient Romans chilling out and talking on their cell phones. Love the costume design, good production value trumps the cheerful banality any day.






From the marketing text:

"The secret of Julius Caesar's success? A smartphone for navigating online, chatting with Cleopatra, and uploading battle photos to Facebook! But among the senators, there are some who doubt his supremacy...;)"

Three Forays into the History of Climate Change

From Archaeopop's environmental desk, here's a roundup of three interesting articles on archaeology and the environment:

1) Via Ars Technica, a new paper uses residue analysis to suggest that the advent of farming didn't change everything all at once
A recent paper in PNAS brings some evidence to challenge the prevailing notion that farming immediately and completely changed everything about human society, from diets to economies to tool usage. The authors suggest that hunting and gathering persisted even after farming had been established. They deduce as much from the presence of specific lipid biomarkers left inside ceramic vessels that date from the time that plants and animals were first domesticated.
More evidence that farming was maybe a side-effect of the neolithic revolution, rather than the cause of it. In other words: massive transformation of land use is maybe not necessary for technological advancement.

2)  In Low-tech Magazine, Kris De Decker gives us a fascinating look into the Dutch energy crisis of the 1500s - and its catastrophic environmental effects.
By the time Antwerp came to dominate the world economy, its peat reserves had already been dug out to satisfy the energy needs of Flanders in the course of the preceding two centuries. As a result, peat digging shifted to the neighbouring province of Holland, from where the turf was exported to Antwerp... peat diggers developed a new tool, the "baggerbeugel" (a dredging net on a long pole, there seems to be no English translation for the term). Standing on a small boat or at the waterside, this tool allowed them to cut peat below water level and haul it up. This technique, called "slagturven" (again, no English translation available), greatly enlarged mineable peat reserves...
Worse, however, was the destruction of the landscape and the loss of agricultural land. Wherever the peat was mined below the water table, land disappeared into the waves. This was a rather ironic consequence for a country that spent so much effort reclaiming land on the sea elsewhere on its territory through the use of windmills. Every year, about 115 to 230 hectares of land was lost as a result of peat production below the water table. The exhausted peat bogs formed lakes that expanded to cover vast areas throughout Holland and Utrecht.
3) From Science News: was the Little Ice Age the Native American revenge for all those diseases?
More research that  suggest that the 'pristine' North America found by European settlers was caused by disease rather than some innate Indian rapport with 'nature'.
By the end of the 15th century, between 40 million and 100 million people are thought to have been living in the Americas. Many of them burned trees to make room for crops, leaving behind charcoal deposits that have been found in the soils of Mexico, Nicaragua and other countries. About 500 years ago, this charcoal accumulation plummeted as the people themselves disappeared. Smallpox, diphtheria and other diseases from Europe ultimately wiped out as much as 90 percent of the indigenous population. Trees returned, reforesting an area at least the size of California, Nevle estimated. This new growth could have soaked up between 2 billion and 17 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air.
And thereby cooled the earth enough to cause a century of cold in Europe.  I covered this line of research - which I find very persuasive - in a January article that you should read!


Hope you all enjoyed the non-end-of-the-world on 11/11/11/11:11.

11 November 2011

A Meditation on Medieval Marketing

Over at the Harvard Business Review blog (!) Grant McCracken muses on the marketing secrets of the middle ages (via Boing Boing):
The medieval world took for granted that the universe was filled with secret messages, placed there by God and the correspondences on which the world was built. What did not come from God or nature was made by man in the form of emblems, icons, and insignia insinuated into public life. The home of Sir Francis Bacon was covered with arcana. Only people with a keen eye and a university education could make sense of it.
By the 20th century, all of this was stripped out by the modernist impulse that said form should be about manifest function, not secret meaning. This world was rendered perfectly clear, rational, and transparent. No decoding necessary. Consider Mies van der Rohe's Seagram building. Or Charles and Ray Eames' lounge chair. What you saw was what you got.
Marketing was created in this moment. And the idea was complete transparency. Marketing came to stand for big, bold, simple messages, fired repeatedly at a mass target. "Keep it simple, stupid" was the order of the day. This was a world of absolute clarity and shameless repetition. How things change. The 21st century loves a puzzle. We have the skill and the patience. We have quicker eyes. No couch potatoes, we. Perhaps it's that we now live with so much noise that we are better at decoding signals. We are ready for secret messages. To judge from the rest of popular culture, we are hungry for them.
This is a take on Weber's notion of the disenchantment of the world. After a while, complete simplicity starts to look like idiocy. For some reason this makes me think: were the semiotics of the hipster moment - the emphasis on exclusivity, in-jokes, and irony, symbolized by the elevation of banal products like Pabst Blue Ribbon beer - an attempt to re-enchant this world of spare, obvious, distinctly un-magical consumer products?

UNESCO suspends programs due to US cuts

In the wake of the acceptance of Palestine as a member, UNESCO has had to take a 22% budget cut - since US law forbids the funding of any UN agency that recognizes it. Without American funding, director-general Irina Bokova has announced total suspension of UNESCO programming until the end of the year, for a saving of $35 million.

More in Le Monde (in French).

As Le Monde also notes, Israel is increasingly isolated diplomatically: only 14 members voted against Palestine's admission, including the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and the usual stalwart allies like Lithuania, Panama, the Soloman Islands, and Vanuatu. Outside of the US and western Europe there's no debate whatsoever.

31 October 2011

Palestine joins UNESCO; US Pulls Funding

Congratulations to (the perhaps-one-day State of) Palestine for joining UNESCO. Members voted 107-14 (with 52 abstentions) to grant the Palestinian Authority membership. This is the first time it has gained full admission to a UN body.


This latest step in the Palestine Authority's UN gambit has been a ringing success, though at a cost to UNESCO. Unlike much that the body does, this move was not without real financial and political risk. Apparently the United States is prohibited by law from funding UN bodies that accept Palestinians as members (what the hell?!), and the US supplies 22% of UNESCO's funding. Yet the announcement by Director-General Bokova was couched in the classic language of UN idealism:
we are living in a historical moment, and we all feel at this time the historical weight and importance of this decision, for the Palestinian people and for UNESCO. This is the result of the aspiration of a people to join fully the world family of nations...
She goes on to say that UNESCO continues its commitment to Palestine's cultural heritage, including the development of management plans for Tel Balata in Nablus, the archaeological park of Qasr Hisham, and the Church of the Nativity and Riwaya Museum in Bethlehem. (See the official statement here).



Retaliation from Washington and Tel Aviv followed with predictable speed, per the Guardian:
Within hours, the US announced it would withhold its huge contribution to Unesco's budget as a result of the vote. State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US had no choice due to a 21-year-old law prohibiting the payment of funds to any UN body accepting the Palestinians as full members. A $60m (£38m) transfer that was due later this month would be halted in a move that will have serious consequences for Unesco activities. The US contributes 22% of the agency's annual budget.
Unesco's decision was "regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace [between Israelis and Palestinians]", said Nuland.
Israel also hinted at punitive measures. A statement from the foreign ministry said it would "consider its further steps and ongoing co-operation" with Unesco following the decision. The move was a "unilateral Palestinian manoeuvre which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement", it added.
As an American, it's depressing to see how the hard-core Israeli nationalists have engineered their ideology into our laws, even if it makes no sense for anyone: even Israel, which would benefit from a partner to cooperate with on heritage issues. Assuming that the government is actually serious about a two-state solution, as opposed to the current system of walled enclaves filled with increasingly desperate people who have no freedoms, no rights, and no passports. (It is citizenship in a state, after all, that gives you rights under international law. Palestinians, as stateless people, have no rights - largely due to Israeli military occupation for the last 44 years).

Israel's adamant opposition to the Palestine Authority doing anything that a normal country would do undermines its claims to be in favor of a two-state solution. If you wanted a two-state solution you would want to help your negotiating partner develop the apparatus of statehood, right? So maybe they have some expertise and institutions when they're ready to cut loose on their own?  The far right/military cabal that has hijacked Israel has no desire, however, for Palestine to become a state and will do anything it can to keep it from happening, including historical revisionism such as denying that Rachel's Tomb/Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Bethlehem was ever a mosque - and reinforcing the point by walling it off from the rest of Bethlehem with the 'separation wall'.

Unlike most of Israel's people, who are fine with a two-state solution on more or less the 1967 boundaries, the Israeli far right is still in denial that Palestinians even exist, or could have a heritage of their own. They do exist, however, and unless people like Avigdor Liebermann realize their fantasies of genocide or mass expulsion, there will be either a two-state solution or a one state solution at some point in the future. The latter, of course, could mean the end of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. 

More coverage at BBC News and Al Jazeera English.

18 October 2011

Conspiracy week: white people are Satanic Illuminati Neanderthals!

Here's the all-time winning YouTube video title: "The Satanic Neanderthal Edomite Evolution"


This is one of those weirdo slideshows that is hell-bent on proving a point: in this case, that white people are Edomites, descended from Esau (Jacob's brother in the bible) who had light skin and red hair. Then you connect the dots and realize that the Edomites were Neanderthals! Since they had light skin and hair too, maybe even freckles, and all-non African people today seem probably to have some Neanderthal genes (that much is for reals anyway). The savage Neanderthal genes explain the evil and sadistic behavior of white people in general. Then we get into the Illuminati, Satan, and the NWO! This is so weird, it's totally worth watching. 

This is Black Hebrew Israelite type thinking with extra racism and paranoia thrown in. Undercover Black Man unpacks it pretty well in this article. The formula is pretty familiar however - the white supremacist Christian Identity movement is also interested in the Jacob/Esau story, except that they see the Jews as the evil Edomites, and non-Jewish Europeans as the real Hebrews. Some white supremacist groups are also seizing on the Neanderthal gene findings to "prove" that "race" is real after all. On the other hand, maybe Bob Marley is the real Edomite. It's all so confusing.

These conspiracy theories are funny, you see the same elements repeating themselves over and over again, like there's only a certain number of weird ideas to go around. Take a dash of Illuminati, add some alien interbreeding with humans in antiquity, reference Jacob and Esau or some other Bible story, add a reference to a scientific study or excavation, and you're done! I should make a conspiracy generator.

Not to say there aren't originally freaky theories out there. This guy is my new favorite, he thinks that Silvio Berlusconi is suppressing telepathy and causing unnatural menstruation.

17 October 2011

Conspiracy week: Akhenaten is president!

I just decided this week is gonna be conspiracy week here at Archaeopop. Hold your hats.

Did you know that Barack Obama and his family are clones of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten and his family? If the picture above doesn't convince you... then you'll just have to watch the video. The Illuminati are involved, of course.

Oh yeah, and 50 Cent and Michael Jackson are clones too! and Prince Harry is the reincarnation of whoever's on the Shroud of Turin! Need more information? You should check out this book.
The book's blurb promises us some key info:
Who is this man we call the President? Will he cause a Constitutional crisis? What’s hidden within his name and his statements? Is he the coming Anti-Christ predicted by Nostradamus? Are we witnessing the rise of the Fourth Reich? Or are things much stranger than we thought?
I'll go with "much stranger than we thought".

11 October 2011

EAT LIKE A CAVE MAN

This article first appeared in PORK #3. PORK #4 is out now, get it here!

The Palaeo Diet is an archaeology role-playing game cleverly disguised as a health food fad. The idea is to eat only what was available to our Palaeolithic ancestors, before the invention of agriculture. That includes lots of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, but no cheese, milk, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, beer, wine, or whiskey. It’s the Atkins diet (remember that from the ‘90s? all meat, no carbs) with an archaeopop veneer, as interpreted by bearded tech workers in Brooklyn. 
There’s some truth to it: until 10,000 years ago, people ate very little sugar and no refined carbohydrates. Palaeo fans argue that the real causes of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other ‘diseases of civilization’ are the foods that were introduced in the Neolithic Revolution: processed grains, dairy products, and alcohol. The Palaeo diet means radically rethinking healthy eating: carbohydrates and sugar, not fat, is the enemy.

The diet, which has been featured in the New York Times (in the fashion section, naturally), Time Magazine, and even the Colbert Report, has spawned a tribe of entrepreneurs whose business is getting you in touch with your inner Neanderthal. The ‘Caveman Power Diet’ promises that by cutting out bread, fries, and beer, you will lose weight, increase your energy, detox your system, sharpen your mind, and get in touch with your inner self:
The Caveman Power Diet gets you tuned into your animal instincts, and as a result your senses will become sharper; like an animal in the wild who needs all his senses to survive.
When you are in tune with your animal instincts, you are in tune with your body's wants and needs. Throughout this diet you will notice yourself having more clarity of mind, and a deeper sense of knowing thyself.
The idea of recreating a pure ancient lifestyle is key to the appeal. Last year the NY Times profiled the trend, including French Palaeo guru Erwan Le Corre:
Mr. Le Corre, 38, who once made soap for a living, promotes what he calls “mouvement naturel” at exercise retreats in West Virginia and elsewhere. His workouts include scooting around the underbrush on all fours, leaping between boulders, playing catch with stones, and other activities at which he believes early man excelled. These are the “primal, essential skills that I believe everyone should have,” he said in an interview.
Another caveman trick involves donating blood frequently. The idea is that various hardships might have occasionally left ancient humans a pint short. Asked when he last gave blood, Andrew Sanocki said it had been three months. He and his brother looked at each other. “We’re due,” Andrew said.
Here's Le Corre in action. It's basically parkour in the jungle!


This is definitely a nice change from the office job and the McDonald's drive-through, but the archaeological theories behind the Palaeo diet are about a 50 years out of date. The Palaeolithic used to be taught as the age of ‘MAN THE HUNTER’: endless buffets of wooly mammoth steaks washed down with some wild berries and seeds, while you sit on bearskin rugs around the fire in your cave dwelling. As it turns out, archaeology suggests that animal meat was not a majority in most ancient diets. Men brag about hunting like they brag about anything, but in most cultures women made a greater nutritional contribution with their gathered nuts, grains, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. But the Palaeo diet comes out of folk archaeology, not real archaeology. “Caveman” and “Neanderthal” evoke raw, authentic manliness for a generation of overeducated cubicle serfs with neglected bodies.
But what about the idea that we ‘evolved’ for a Palaeo diet? I'm not so sure. Genes evolve quickly: most sedentary human populations (Europeans, Africans, and most Asians) gained genetic tolerance for lactose and alcohol within a few hundred generations, an eye-blink in evolutionary time. As desperate as we are for absolute truth since we kicked God to the curb, you won’t find it in our genes. They change quickly when they need to. If humans are ‘naturally designed’ to do anything, it’s to adapt to new environments. (This is why the current geological age – the Anthropocene – is named after us).

Which brings me to the next point: which palaeolithic diet are we talking about? Even today, there’s an incredible diversity of hunter-gatherer lifestyles around the world. Native people in the Arctic get 75% of their food from animal fat, but that’s a recent innovation too (the high arctic was only settled around 15,000 years ago). African hunter-gatherers get about 25% of their calories from animal products. And it’s simply not true that grains and starches played no role in Palaeolithic cultures. Aboriginal Australians made (and make) a carb-rich “bush bread”, and in my home state of California, acorns were a staple food in the period before contact. There is no singular ‘Palaeo diet’. The only rule is diversity, adaptation, and change.

As a role-playing game, the Palaeo diet seems like fun – you get to try new eating patterns (including lots of expensive, high quality meat and fish) while feeling superior to everyone down at the pub grubbing on fries. And running around on all fours grunting in the underbrush sounds pretty awesome too. But let’s keep it in perspective! The Palaeo diet is playtime for rich people in the global north. Feeding the world on mostly meat products is ecologically impossible.

Of course, if you're serious about the lifestyle, you gotta catch that fish like this (via Discovery):
There’s also a misanthropic primitivist agenda lurking in the corner. As Ray Audette (of NeanderThin.com) writes:
my definition of nature is the absence of technology. Technology-dependent foods would never be ingested by a human being in Nature. I determined, therefore, to eat only those foods that would be available to me if I were naked of all technology…
What a moron. Humans have always used technology – what else is a stone tool? – and our chimpanzee cousins do too. A human being without technology… is not a human being. It’s a meaningless concept, unless you read it as a theological statement: humans have fallen from the grace of our ancestors and been punished with obesity and disease. If we return to an upright lifestyle, we’ll be rewarded with health, happiness, and long life. It’s a pastiche of Original Sin, with pizza and beer in the place of the apple.

That said, I still find the Palaeo diet appealing. Underneath the bullshit there’s some real sense to it – eating nutrient- and protein-rich foods is good for your body, while sugar and white bread are not. A bit of perspective is in order, which is why I love Kurt Harris’s blog Archevore, which is full of interesting discussion of the Palaeo diet from a scientific perspective. Harris strikes a middle ground: 
That we are eating some things we are clearly inadequately adapted to seems certain, but the idea that the dietary bright line is narrow and exists at the 10,000 year mark is a cartoon view not supported by the science. I believe most of the dietary damage is due to industrial processing amplifying the effect of things that have always been around and were never good for us in the first place, even as I do believe wheat and other grains to the exclusion of animal products has been an issue for 10,000 years.
Want more? There's lots of trainers and lifestyle gurus that will help you get in touch with your inner caveman for a modest fee:

10 October 2011

Playing fetch in the Palaeolithic

Today's mammoth NOMs brought to you by Discovery News:
The remains of three Paleolithic dogs, including one with a mammoth bone in its mouth, have been unearthed at Předmostí in the Czech Republic, according to a new Journal of Archaeological Science paper.
The remains indicate what life was like for these prehistoric dogs in this region, and how humans viewed canines. The dogs appear to have often sunk their teeth into meaty mammoth bones. These weren’t just mammoth in terms of size, but came from actual mammoths.
In the case of the dog found with the bone in its mouth, the researchers believe a human inserted it there after death.
"The thickness of the cortical bone shows that it is from a large mammal, like a rhinoceros, steppe bison or mammoth," lead author Mietje Germonpré told Discovery News. "At Předmostí, mammoth is the best represented animal, with remains from more than 1,000 individuals, so it is probable that the bone fragment is from a mammoth."
I call that burying Fido properly. These dogs had heads with a similar shape to the Siberian husky, but were larger and more muscular. That's a big dog! It's unusual to find such strong evidence of domestication at such an early date, but being an archaeological optimist, I'm more pleased than surprised. So many of the things that surround us have very deep roots, including throwing bones for your favorite furry critter.

25 August 2011

Argh my eyes

It's been a little quiet around here lately. I'm getting married next month, so I've been a bit distracted from things bloggy. Archaeopop will be back in full effect sometime in September.

In the meantime let me scar your retinas with this! (Daily Mirror, via Cracked).

 
Still dazed after being anaesthetised for three hours, a pedigree pet is hauled upright to show off its new tattoo. The controversial “body enhancement” was carried out on Mickey – a rare Canadian Hairless breed also known as a Sphynx cat. His female owner was said to be delighted with the Tutankhamun design inked on to his chest at a tattoo parlour.
She said: “I wanted something new and different for the times we live in.” But horrified animal rights campaigners last night slammed the sick fad in Moscow as barbaric – and fear it could catch on among wealthy pet owners in the West.
It's a Sphynx cat. Get it? Get it? Sphinx? Like the Egyptian thing? Yeah!

02 August 2011

Gladiator graffiti from Ephesos

Gladiator graffiti from Ephesos Terrace House 2. That's the retiarius with his spear and net on the right and the secutor with his shield and funny-looking helmet on the left. Apparently the secutor was supposed to look like a fish, with the retiarius as the fisherman. Kind of a sick metaphor for a bloodsport, but that was the Romans for you, they liked their cruelty dressed up in pastoral sentimentality.

Thanks to Sinan Ilhan for the behind-the-scenes tour that let me get this close!

31 July 2011

Glass Dildos and Palaeolithic Bronzes: Why Private Collections Are Not Always a Good Idea

Here's my first dispatch from Gaziantep, which I visited for 10 days this month. Gaziantep is an up-and-coming metropolis in southeast Turkey that's been making a lot of money off of industry (a lot of European firms make products for the Middle Eastern market in factories there), and also investing a lot of money in parks, museums, and restoration of historic buildings. Since our research was on exactly that, we stopped by some neat places like the new city museum, the Emine Gögüs Kitchen Museum, and the new Zeugma Mosaic Museum (all very cool).

We also stopped by the Medusa Glass Museum, which is a stunning private collection of ancient glass hosted in a charmingly restored Antep house.
It's hard to overstate the quality of the materials - the place is packed with Roman glass and jewelry. It's all completely unprovenienced, of course, and no doubt was all pulled from tombs by looters not too long ago. Not sure how they got the collection legalized.
Seriously, check it out. There's three floors of it: perfume bottles, wine jars, oil bottles, and water jars, all in ancient glass. The quantity and quality is stunning.

Despite the quality of the stuff on display, but there's a total lack of quality control on the labels, with hilarious results. This one is labeled  'ROMAN TIME SEXUAL OBJECT'.

Here's a close up, cause I know you want one.
Now look, I'm willing to call a dong a dong, as in the Swedish archaeo-dildo controversy last year. But these aren't phallus-shaped at all, and believe me, the Romans were not shy about realistic depictions of the phallus. (And, I gotta point out that this looks like a real uncomfortable dildo.) In fact, these look to me like the glass rods used as raw material in glassblowing, given a little 'extra imagination'.

Then we have this thing here, which is labeled 'BREAST PUMP, 2nd Century AD'. I have no idea what this particular vessel is for, but I'm pretty sure it's not a breast pump.

Here's another howler, though you have to be a nerd to laugh really hard: 'PALAEOLITHIC TIME AXE, 3500 BC'. It's made of METAL, dumbass! The Palaeolithic is the 'old stone age'! There was no metal stuff! Plus, it ended about 20,000 years ago in this area. Obviously whoever wrote this got confused with the  Bronze Age, but even then 3500 BC is still way too early.

 
And that axe head doesn't even fit the mold! Who knows, it could be modern, or a fake. There's no way to know.
Though I commend the creators of this museum for having information panels, they apparently used Google translate or something for the English, because it's hilariously incomprehensible. In all, I was left both thrilled by the stuff on the shelf and horrified by the inanity of the people who own it.

Now, I'm not saying this to rag on Gaziantep or Turkey, but rather to point out that private collections are prone to this kind of thing. When I was a kid I remember going with my grandfather to a lot of private galleries and homes with large collections of cool, weird, sometimes ancient artifacts. Inevitably these things were put together by super-enthusiastic collectors who loved the objects but had no idea about their history, and so just made up their own interpretations.

Now there's lots of art market types out there, like say the Getty Foundation's new director, who would like to make it easier to buy and sell antiquities. They run under the assumption that private collectors are all smart, sophisticated, fancy people who are just as good stewards of the past as a public institution or nation-state - therefore we should jettisoning protections against looting and loosening the scrutiny of stolen antiquities. Now, I'm a critic of the mania for state ownership of cultural property too, but let's be real. For every collector who is a highly educated aesthete with impeccable knowledge of ancient history, there's an uninformed dumbasses who can't tell a dildo from a doorknob. With these people you get bad conservation conditions, poor information for visitors (if visitors are even allowed to see the stuff), and ample room for the kind of hilariously ignorant fantasy we see here.

As I've said before, it's not just a question of being pedantic about ancient history. The truth about the past is COOLER than bullshit, and it can mean something to people. Letting random people make up whatever they want about history might be a good business model (see the 'History' channel), but it's a disservice to the future.




29 July 2011

Archaeopop in PORK: The Remix is Old Fashioned

PORK #3 is out on your sophisticated newsstands all over the Best Coast (and select spots on the Beast Coast) of North America. This issue's ARCHAEOPOP column is about the 'Palaeo Diet', the latest diet trend where overeducated westerners are try to get in touch with their inner caveman. Read PORK #3 online here.

In the meantime, here's the ARCHAEOPOP column from Pork #2 (also online here)!

THIS REMIX IS OLD FASHIONED

Since people started filesharing on the internet the media has been parroting this hysteria about ‘stealing’ music. The copyright racketeers want clubs to pay royalties for every song played at an open mic night, and to charge employers for playing CDs at work. In Britain, a woman was sued for singing at the grocery store she worked at without paying royalties for her “performances”. In 2009, ASCAP decided that even ringtones on your phone were a “public performance”! The courts threw it out, because they’re not THAT stupid. And we’ve all heard stories about the battles between the record companies and the entire genres of hiphop and techno over sampling: those fights have been rolling since the 1980s.

Negativeland's ripping parody of U2 and radio personality Kasey Kasem was ruthlessly suppressed by U2 and SST Records in 1992. It was totally unavailable until rescued by YouTube.

Let me lay the archaeo-pop perspective on you, PORK readers. Politicians and record companies would like you to believe that this intellectual “property” trend – which coincidentally makes a lot of money for certain people – is some kind of manifestation of cosmic justice. But that’s bollocks. Copyright didn’t even apply to printed music in America before 1831, and no one thought of charging royalties for performance until the 1880s. Records didn’t hit the mass market until the 1890s. Before then, the idea of a musical performance as a commodity that could be bought and sold was literally unthinkable. It’s been with us barely more than a century.

One century?! Get serious. Pop music has been around as long as people: both us humans and our Neanderthal fuck buddies had flutes by 40-60,000 years ago. (Music could be even older: apes are known to beat rhythms on logs.) In a lot of preliterate traditions, music and stories were shared by travelling bards, whose fame relied on their ability to tell familiar stories in new ways. The stories behind the Odyssey and Iliad were 500 years old by the time they were written down. Before that, bards told the stories in hundreds of different ways, using poetic formulas to make the story familiar but different at the same time. The fame of the bard was in his musical ability – to tell the story well – but also in his ability to innovate based on familiar material: remixing old riffs into something fresh and new. No one thought that someone ‘owned’ the story of Achilles’ rage, or had the exclusive right to sing about how much Nausicäa wanted to get boned by Odysseus.

Music from the bone flute of Divje Babe, Slovenia. Neanderthals weren't ASCAP members, so you can play this flute without paying them.

As soon as we get written history, there’s mention of pop music: as the anecdote goes, a Chinese king once asked the sage Mencius, guiltily, if he was a bad guy for listening to nothing but pop music and ignoring the classics.
On another day, when Mencius was in audience with the King he said, “You told Zhuang Bao that you liked music. Is that really so?” The King blushed. “I’m not capable of appreciating the music of the ancient kings, I just like popular music.” “If Your Majesty loves music deeply, then the state of Chi is not far off! The music of today comes from the music of the past.”
This in the 4th century BC! Already we get the famous tension between music we SHOULD like and the music we actually DO like. In the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman Empire, the music we DO like was transmitted from town to town by solo artists and groups who travelled a circuit of festivals and and auditoriums, often competing for prizes. These groups weren’t exactly like our pop bands: they could include dance, poetry, and music (in the Greek sense, all the arts were ‘music’, i.e. the things of the Muses). But more importantly, they played both pop music and the classics: what artists brought to the table was their performance skills and their ability to make something innovative out of familiar sounds and stories. They played new tunes, but no one told them they had to pay to play the old ones. Reworking a riff so that it got stuck in the heads of girls from Argentomagus to Alexandria: that was dominance.

Fast forward to our century. All of a sudden, music as a physical thing is irrelevant and impossible to control. Music companies that got bloated and smug during the 1970s heyday of album-oriented rock have been watching their sales go down the toilet and responding with typical baby-boomer petulance. "Computers are never going to get worse at copying things," as Cory Doctorow observed in a recent column in the Guardian. There is NO GOING BACK. The music companies have lost the war to control recordings, and within a generation most of humanity’s recording music will be available for free to everyone online. Cretins like Bono whine that no one will ever pick up a guitar again if he doesn’t get paid every time I whistle ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. I’d be happy if he followed through and stopped making crappy albums, but the man is an idiot. Music is hardwired into people. The only interesting question is how it’s made and who can make a living at it. I see two implications from our modern trend. If recordings are free, the experience you pay for is the performance: groups with good stage presence have the edge. And, if you can’t control copyright, you can’t control remixing and music gets in touch with history again. Freed from the need to have recording contracts and obey copyright musicians can focus on being good performers and embedding themselves explicitly into the fabric of music that has gone before.

The digital age, then, has basically returned us to historical normality: the trends everyone was shocked by in the last couple decades (Sampling! Remixing! Filesharing!) return us to a situation that is more 400 BC than 1950 AD. Lady Gaga vs. Judas Priest?  Bards respecting their elders by telling the old stories in new ways. Excellence is not: is it all new? but, does it make us happy? As Mencius says, if you enjoy pop music, you get good Chi. In 100 years – no, in 50 – this war to make the world’s music the private property of some cartels in London and Los Angeles is going to be seen for what it is, a sinister and repulsive attack on human culture.


Remixes and Mashups: The new normal, same as the old normal

LISTEN:
Wax Audio - I'm in love with Judas Priest (Lady Gaga vs. Judas Priest)
A Plus D – I Keep Forgettin To Regulate (Warren G. & Nate Dogg vs. Michael McDonald) 
(courtesy recent sessions of the international mashup network Bootie)

WATCH: Jay-Z vs. Alphaville



Watch: Ghostface vs. Tears for Fears

28 July 2011

I CAN HAZ POTSHERDS

The internet was invented to transport cute cat pictures. We are not immune.
This little varmint lives at the Sagalassos excavation house in Ağlasun, Turkey - and has complete control of the entire project.

27 July 2011

Music to dig by: Wild Yaks, 'Million Years Old'

New archaeopop jam for your Thursday morning: Brooklyn's Wild Yaks ruminate about what it's like to be a million years old.

  Wild Yaks, "Million Years Old" by The FADER

Fine American rock n' roll!
 

21 July 2011

Mohamed Elshahed: The Case Against the Egyptian Museum

From a brilliant article on the politics of the new Egyptian Museum by Mohamed Elshahed, published at Jadaliyya (one of the best Middle East blogs, period). It's an indictment of the security mindset, slavish devotion to foreign mass tourism, and contempt for ordinary people that has characterized Egypt's heritage establishment for the last generation. Long excerpt follows, read it all here:
The Egyptian state has been firmly in control of archaeology and of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities for several decades. Egypt’s first and only Minister of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, personifies the notion that Egyptians are in control of their ancient heritage, previously dominated by Europeans. This control has translated into security-oriented policies that claim to protect artifacts from theft and vandalism. In reality, this has meant protecting artifacts from Egyptian masses, while making them available to tourists. The government has not capitalized on Egypt’s material legacy as a cultural resource central to discourses on national identity and heritage. The Supreme Council of Antiquities’ main goals have been security not accessibility and mass tourism not culture.

My first visit to the Museum as an adult was in 2006, when a friend was visiting Cairo from the United States. As we approached the security checkpoint, a foreboding first encounter with a cultural institution, identification was requested of us. I had never been asked for identification to enter a museum anywhere else in the world, let alone the most important museum in my home country. While she had no problem entering, being American, I was questioned about my relationship with my friend and my reasons for entering the museum. As an Egyptian, who is not a tour guide, I was treated as an object of suspicion.
The real audience for Egypt's antiquities? (elshahedm on Flickr)

This visit made clear to me that the purpose of the Egyptian Museum is purely touristic. Museums have become fortified storehouses for badly labeled, disorganized artifacts meant to be consumed purely as objects with little historical significance besides their apparent old age. Tourists are meant to be the prime consumers of these objects, as they pay seventy to one hundred pounds to enter in contrast to Egyptians who are charged a few pounds.

Adding insult to injury, during the Tahrir protests of 9 March, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities became known as salakhana: the torture chamber. Military police used the museum as a command center, due to its secure location, where they held, interrogated, and tortured protesters. The single most important museum in the country with Egypt’s most valuable artifacts was transformed into a place where Egyptians were beaten and humiliated.
...
There is no excuse for Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities’ current condition with peeling paint and missing artifacts replaced by hand-written notes saying in Arabic “under restoration” or “in a traveling exhibition.” The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is in need of serious remodeling and expansion. This surely will be expensive and will need a grand vision to transform and update this important institution of world heritage.
However, the recent drastic decision to move this urban institution out of the heart of the city and into the desert two kilometers from the Pyramids is a calamity and a disgrace. To signal the decision, in 2006 the red granite colossus of Ramses II that adorned central Cairo since 1955 was removed to a storage facility at the city’s edge, where it awaits a new home in the proposed Grand Egyptian Museum.
Public museums are fundamentally urban centers firmly tied to their metropolitan contexts. The mere visibility of Paris’ Louvre pyramid and inside-out Pompidou Center or New York’s Metropolitan Museum in their urbane settings is as important as the contents of these world-famous buildings. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is forever associated with its Tahrir Square location, especially after the well-photographed and documented uprising that took place at its doorstep. Moving the museum into a desert location outside the city center serves the museum’s current priorities of security and tourist exclusivity. Are these still the priorities of Egypt’s leading museum in light of the unfinished and ongoing uprising?

Sinatra plays the pyramids

Frank Sinatra played the pyramids of Giza on September 27, 1979. This one goes out to Zahi Hawass:

Lots more videos from the concert here. Sadly no pyramid action, 'cause it's at night.

18 July 2011

Egypt: is Hawass finally out?

In Egypt, the Zahi Hawass saga keeps twisting and turning. After resigning, being subject to protests, and then returning to office, the overseer of the pyramids was fired yesterday as part of a cabinet reshuffle. The AP reports:
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's antiquities minister, whose trademark Indiana Jones hat made him one the country's best known figures around the world, was fired Sunday after months of pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of having been too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Zahi Hawass, long chided as publicity loving and short on scientific knowledge, lost his job along with about a dozen other ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to ease pressure from protesters seeking to purge remnants of Mubarak's regime.

"He was the Mubarak of antiquities," said Nora Shalaby, an activist and archaeologist. "He acted as if he owned Egypt's antiquities, and not that they belonged to the people of Egypt." 
Hopefully this means the end of this sort of thing (via Vintagedept on Flickr)
Hawass was immediately replaced by Abdel Fattah Al-Banna as Antiquities Minister. Al-Banna had the merit of being a) not Zahi Hawass and b) frequently present during protests in Tahrir Square. He has met resistance, however, from within Egypt's antiquities establishment, as Al-Masry Al-Youm reports:
The Supreme Council of Antiquities secretariat rejected the appointment of Abdel Fattah al-Banna as antiquities minister. The appointment was part of the cabinet reshuffle ordered by Egypt's prime minister.
In a statement, the secretariat said Banna, a restoration specialist, does not specialize in archaeology and should not assume the ministry's responsibilities.
The statement called for dissolving the Antiquities Ministry and returning its responsibilities to the council, which it said would act as an independent, scientific institute run by specialists.
The new minister looks a bit nervous (Al-Masry Al-Youm)
The last line is the real point: the SCA doesn't appreciate losing its power to a political appointee, whoever he may be. They want the ministry dissolved and overall authority returned to 'specialists'.
I don't know enough about the internal politics of the SCA to have an opinion about whether this is a good idea, or not. I wish the new guy well, though my gut tells me he won't last long either. Hawass? Between cozying up to Mubarak and his own authoritarian personality, he set the stage for an undignified exit.  More AP:
Just before news of his departure, Hawass was heckled near his office Sunday as he left on foot. Protesters tried to block his way, until he jumped into a taxi to get away from the melee, the taxi driver, Mohammed Abdu, said.
I doubt this is the last we'll hear of him, but perhaps his star has finally started to fall.

These day's I'm getting my Egyptology news from the Egyptologists for Egypt group on Facebook, which has an excellent news feed. Check it out!

11 July 2011

Electro-funk, Bewigged

Reader Sean submits the amazing nostalgio-futuristic styles of the Jonzun Crew, an electro-funk outfit ca. 1980-1983 that floats somewhere between Parliament and Kraftwerk.

Images stolen from hell of cool music blog by SALTYKA. As he says:

"These dudes totally rocked it VICTORIAN FUTURISTIC SPACEDUDE style. What more is there to say?? Seriously, these guys were on some whole other thing. They took part of their inspiration from the whole Parliament/Funkadelic spaceship thing, but no one could even come close to the one and only Jonzun Crew."
I have to dispute the 'Victorian' part. It's more like Louis CXXXII with the Three Musketeers in outer space. The band was Michael 'Spaceman' Jonzun, Maurice Starr, 'Gordo' Worthy, 'Stevo' Thorpe, and Princess Loria.
This photo sums up everything good about New York. Read more at SALTYKA, and definitely watch this Pack Jam video off of German television (of course). The costumes there are more sci-fi than archaeo-pop, but aren't they the same thing anyway? The past is what inspires us for the future.

06 July 2011

Ruin Porn: Greek Orphanage, Büyükada

Büyükada is one of the Prince's Islands, in the sea of Marmara just outside of Istanbul. The Büyükada Greek Orphanage (Büyükada Rum Yetimhanesi) is one of the world's largest wooden buildings, now a stunning semi-ruin. Built in the 1898-1899 by French-Turkish architect Alexandre Vallaury, it's the largest and one of the finest examples of Ottoman Beaux-Arts architecture. Vallaury, the head of the architecture department of the School of Fine Arts ("Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi", now Mimar Sinan University), also designed the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and was a friend of Osman Hamdi Bey.

They're serious with the dogs and guards, otherwise I would have been in here in a hot second. The orphanage was used as a government building in the 1940s, and was abandoned in the 1960s. After a lengthy court battle, title to the building was returned to the Greek Orthodox patriarchate last year.


I've had trouble finding interior photos, but this one from the Turkish Forest and Environment Ministry's website gives a taste of the incredible interior decor. There's vague rumors of restoration plans, but I have trouble even imagining the expense involved.

15 June 2011

Greetings from Paestum


Stopped by the ruins of Paestum on the Campanian coast yesterday. The temples are as fantastic as they say. Here's the Temple of Hera II (the sequel!) built around 450 BC. It manages to be rustic and Doric, and refined and Classical, at the same time. Props to John G. Pedley for teaching me about this site well enough that I remember something about it 10 years later.

Sorry for the tumbleweeds here at Archaeopop the last couple weeks, I've been decompressing from a long month in Istanbul and am taking a little vacation on the Campanian coast with Jenny. If it would stop raining, I might have a tan by now.

Sally Binford: archaeologist, sexual liberationist, old-school feminist

Recently I wrote about the death of archaeology pioneer Lewis Binford. His third wife and longtime  collaborator Sally Binford was a pioneering woman archaeologist in a time when most digs didn't allow women in the field, a pioneer of the New Archaeology along with Lew, and a more interesting and wild character than he was (which is saying something): a feminist and sexual liberationist avant la lettre.


Sex writer Susie Bright's blog excerpts a fabulous autobiographical interview (originally published here) from the early 1990s. Here's a few of the archaeological tidbits. Sally Binford started her PhD at the University of Chicago in 1956 (at the age of 32, two things unheard of for a woman at the time):
If ever my feminist conscience was forged it was during the experience of being a grad student in the Anthro Department at the University of Chicago. My interest turned rapidly to prehistory. The guy who was in charge of Old World archaeology was a famous but not very bright man. He was the kind who came on like gangbusters and implied that my Ph.D. was safe only if I hung around his office and made coffee for his distinguished guests and perhaps put out a little on the side.
Anthropology is a strange field because its most famous practitioner at that time was a woman, but Chicago’s department had an all-male faculty and still has. The anthropology graduate faculty at Chicago has never hired a woman. It’s just a scandal. I was not taken seriously because I was overage as well as female.
I split with my husband after the first year. He was convinced I was in school just to have affairs on the side. I was working so hard there was no way I would ever have had time to even carry on that way. It became crystal-clear to me while watching what went on: one thing a grad student should never do was fuck faculty. I got it on with a lot of my fellow students, but never with faculty. I chose as my faculty advisor the only guy who did not put out sexual vibes. He was very dedicated and serious. 
After finishing her PhD on the prehistory of the western Sahara in 1962, and marrying Lewis Binford shortly thereafter. They moved to Santa Barbara in 1965:
Lew did not get tenure at Chicago which surprised no one. In 1965, the  University of California at Santa Barbara was trying to change its ‘surfer school’ image into a real school. The University of California has a nepotism law where two people from the same family can’t get full-time jobs within the Cal system. Lew got the full-time job and I got a part-time job as a lecturer and we moved to Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara was a weird experience for me. I had come from a super academic atmosphere in Chicago, out to this ‘surfer’ campus. I arrived with my hair back in a bun, dressed in my spike heels and knit suits. Little girls were running around in mini skirts and no bras. Everybody was stoned all the time. There were 85 kids in the first class I taught, an introductory course in human evolution. I realized about halfway through the course that one of the reasons I was having trouble in teaching those kids is that they were all stoned.
I changed my teaching technique and went into showing movies and slides like show and tell. I was in total culture shock. I think it is true now, but even truer in the Sixties: there is more cultural difference between the East and California than there is say between the East and England or France. Much more. This is really a strange place. They speak the same language and do the same things but, my God, it’s a whole other scene.
The chairman of the department and two of the faculty members there, who have since become significant names in the field, made the bargain where this would be the one anthropology department, besides Harvard, where no Jews were hired. Sometime that fall I heard this and made a great point of signing myself Sally Rosen Binford. I also made a point of speaking a few words of Yiddish at the faculty gatherings. 
There's lots more like this, and plenty of juicy tidbits about her early life and the craziness Lew Binford inflicted on those around them. I understand there's some embargo on speaking ill of the recently dead, so I'll let Sally do the talking: click here and read the rest!

Besides this seminal text, some more of Sally's academic bibliography can be found here.

I have to agree with Sally - when I moved to the East from northern California, I felt like I had finally moved to America.