27 March 2012

Digging out the real archaeological experience

"Digging Out: Archaeology Makes a Comeback in Iraq" is a wonderful recent report/documentary by Four Corners Media on the December 2011 excavation season by American and Iraqi archaeologists in southern Iraq just outside the ancient city of Ur.

I love this video not only because it is a hopeful message of renewed collaboration between American and Iraqi archaeologists, but it also perfectly captures the day-to-day activities on a typical archaeological excavation in the Middle East. The 5:00AM rush to the site for another day of work, communal meals around the kitchen table, laboratory time in the afternoon washing pottery or running the flotation tank--all of these things are part of the daily rhythm of a project, and things that I miss dearly about fieldwork.

It's been 4 years since I was out and my eye is beginning to twitch for it, especially now that spring has come around and most archaeologists are looking for the light at the end of the semester-tunnel: that light being the bright sun on a clear day out on the tell, nothing but me, my trench, my trowel, and ancient history.

Other than the physical enjoyment I find in working with my hands outside in the dirt, there is the mental aspects of fieldwork. The lack of sleep is a bummer, but Professor Stone really hits the nail on the head when she says there is a certain camaraderie and sense of community that develops on a dig that is very different than what we experience here at home. It really is something special, and the folks I have excavated with I consider some of my closest friends.

25 March 2012


Finally a video game gets it right. My favorite scene from Mass Effect 3:


I used to make fun of Liara (aka "pig nose"), but this scene completely endeared her to me. I'm sorry for all the mean things I ever said Dr. T'Soni!

Her character is actually quite fascinating. As a xenoarchaeologist she has studied ancient alien species (in this case Protheans) and the data she provides saves the entire universe. Oh, and she is a mean shot. Who said archaeologists are all nerdy little mama's boys?

Image from Jill Sandwich because it's awesome

03 March 2012

Yo mama so fat...

..when she sits around the ziggurat, she really sits around the ziggurat!

Assyriology has made it to late night television! On Thursday night Stephen Colbert had an amazingly funny segment on a newly translated cuneiform tablet that was published by Streck and Wasserman in the latest version of the journal Iraq ("Dialogues and riddles: Three Old Babylonian wisdom texts"). Check out the article here.

The jokes the tablet contains (scholars like to call them 'riddles') are dubbed by Colbert as the world's oldest 'yo mama' jokes, and he might not be that far off. This tablet, dating to around 1700 B.C., comes well before the Philogelos ("Laughter Lover" in Greek), a joke book from the 3rd or 4th century discussed in Discovery News and The Guardian a few years ago.

Of course none of this is surprising to us, right? As long as humans have been talking we have been singing, telling stories, and making fun word play including riddles and jokes. It is all part of how humans communicate, and we have been doing it for millennia.

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