From Hermitage to the Skies

In this visual sociology installment using Vine, we go from Melbourne to Canberra to Brisbane. Hold onto your seats, it’s your visual sociology for September, October and November 2015! We’ll see opulent art and enjoy the simplicity of kite-flying and the soothing power of water.


From the Hermitage exhibition, Catherine the Great was inspired by the archaeology of Rome. 6 September

Continue reading From Hermitage to the Skies

Debunking Science Media Hype: Example from Archaeology

Jeff Baker is one of many dedicated scientists on Science on Google+ setting an example of how to improve public science outreach. Jeff is an archaeologist who often writes educational critiques of science journalism. He discusses science news sites that have published misleading headlines or incorrect science.

We need more of this type of writing! The public doesn’t always know when news sites are reporting science incorrectly. It’s up to practising scientists to step up and call attention to lax science journalism. The general public can help too, by asking questions and even posting these to our Science Outreach category using our #AskAScientist  hashtag.

Check out some of Jeff’s posts below where he has critiqued popular science reporting on archaeology.

Continue reading Debunking Science Media Hype: Example from Archaeology

Colonialist Categorisation of ‘Tribes’

Stylised drawing of a Tausug family standing in front of their home in black and white

The concept of a “tribe” reflects how some Indigenous groups think of themselves in some parts of the world. At the same time, this term has also been used by researchers (such as anthropologists and sociologists) as well as state forces who wish to categorise groups into ethnic hierarchies that reflect colonialist ideas. Western governments rely on the label ‘tribe’ to classify groups unfamiliar to them, especially during political conflicts. In its latter use, when the term is imposed rather than fitting the subjective reality of individuals, this classification can be problematic. My post focuses only on the latter categorisation not on Indigenous or other people who identify with a tribe.

When the term “tribe” is imposed, especially during times of political conflict, war and colonisation, it is often muddled up with notions of culture, language, religion and ethnic identity. The notion of tribe hides these overlapping but distinct social relations. It makes social groups seem as if they fit into neat groups, but in reality, the imposed concept of tribes has led to many policy problems.

Let’s take a look at the complex identities of the Tausug and how the notion of ‘tribe,’ as imposed by Spanish and American colonialists, at different points in time, is problematic. Continue reading Colonialist Categorisation of ‘Tribes’

Ancient Reproduction Practices

Bioarchaeologist Kristina Killgrove and her colleague, Ancient Historian Sarah E. Bond, have embarked on a wonderful initiative to bring peer-reviewed science to the public. The Ancient Studies Articles Podcast was recently launched. It features Kristina and Sarah reading aloud interdisciplinary ancient studies, in order to make the field more accessible to visually impaired people. This is an innovative and exciting project that I hope will bring ancient studies to new audiences, and perhaps inspire other fields. This post gives an overview of the project and a summary of the first podcast on the scientific development of contraception in 6th Century Byzantine. Continue reading Ancient Reproduction Practices

19th Century Migrants in North Head in Manly, Sydney

In the 19th century, North Head in Manly, Sydney, became established as Australia’s oldest quarantine station. SBS Australia has chronicled the evolving archaeological study of this historic site. Over 13,000 migrants from all over the world were quarantined there between 1828 and 1984. Archaeologist Annie Clarke says around 580, 600 people died and were buried in three cemeteries at the station. Many more became ill, while others survived and were resettled in Australian society. Clarke is studying over 100 inscriptions on the site, put there by migrants, and her team of researchers are also interviewing descendants of these migrants who arrived by sea.

Continue reading 19th Century Migrants in North Head in Manly, Sydney

Spicy Food and the Development of European Culture

Justin Chung shared an interesting article with new evidence about the use of spices amongst ancient societies. The research calls into question two scientific assumptions. First, the development of European diet. Second, the diffusion of cultural practices between prehistoric groups.

This spicy tale begins with the archaeology team lead by Hayley Saul. The researchers set out to study the use of spices amongst early Neolithic cultures. These are hunter-gatherer groups that paved the way for simple farming communities at the end of the New Stone Age. The researchers studied residues on pottery found in the western Baltic region dating back to 6,100 and 5,750 cal BP (stands for calibrated years before the present).

Continue reading Spicy Food and the Development of European Culture

Remapping Mahendraparvata, Cambodia

The University of Sydney’s archaeology research centre used a device called a “lidar” to find the “lost city” of Mahendraparvata, which was once thriving in Cambodia 1,200 years ago. The expedition of Australian and French archaeologists used GPS co-ordinates to uncover the city’s location. The discovery will allow social scientists from various fields to test new hypotheses about the evolution and demise of the empire of Angkor, which dominated most of south-east Asia for 600 years. Now that the terrain is visible to outsiders, it seems vegetation may have been scarce or unsustainable. Continue reading Remapping Mahendraparvata, Cambodia

Otzi the Iceman

More on Ötzi the Iceman. The South Tyrol Museum of Archeology reports that Ötzi is a “wet mummy”. This term refers to the fact that Ötzi’s cells have retained humidity even after 5,000 years. The Museum’s website documents that:

The body tissue is elastic and suitable for performing detailed scientific investigations. Moreover, he is a natural mummy, unaltered by burial rites or other interventions. The Iceman with his complete clothing and equipment provides a snapshot of Stone Age life in Europe.

In the video above Dr. Albert Zink, Director of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at Eurac, Bozen, talks about how Ötzi’s cells are being used in DNA studies. He has said:

the decoding of the Iceman’s genome offers us a unique opportunity to make important discoveries about the genetic bases of so-called common disorders such as diabetes and circulatory system diseases.