Paisley Cave Coprolites May Not Be From Humans

Well, this keeps Pre-Clovis studies interesting. As reported by Western Digs,

Now, reporting in the Journal of Archaeological Science, another team of researchers says that its analysis of the oldest coprolite from the cave suggests it’s from an herbivore, not a human.

“The specimen under study … was not excreted by a human,” said Ainara Sistiaga, an archaeologist and visiting researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an interview.

“Our results show a predominance of the product of … plant intake. This value is too high to represent a human origin.”

The entrance to one of the Paisley Caves in Oregon. Source: Wikipedia/Bureau of Land Management.


Archaeology, Xbox, and the Legendary E.T. Video Game


USA Today, among others, recently reported that original TV series to be produced for the new Xbox TV will focus on the story of the E.T. video game for the original Atari videogame console. The game is often considered the worst video game ever released, and according to legend, millions of unsold or returned game cartridges were buried in a landfill in Alamagordo, New Mexico in 1983.

The documentary reportedly will include an excavation of the landfill in an attempt to find the remains of the E.T. game cartridges. Paul Mullins has been on top of this story:

An excavation of the Atari dump does not promise an especially compelling material analysis as much as it plumbs the complexities of memory and dissects the intersection of popular imagination and materiality… It seems unlikely that the recovery of any discarded ET games or Atari gaming systems will radically rewrite our understanding of Atari or the broader industry in the early 1980s, …Yet the process of digging the dump—the literal theater of an excavation—is what Fuel is leveraging when observers invoke the project as “archaeology.”

Anthropology bootcamp/internship opportunity

Interesting if pricey opportunities for college students interested in an Anthropology career:
Taught by Carol J. Ellick, author of The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: from Student to a Career and a team of nationally-recognized experts, the Anthropology Career Boot Camp and Internship Program will provide you with the employer-identified knowledge and skills that will prepare you to start your career. The 6-day Boot Camp will be held on the University of Maryland, College Park campus followed by a 6-week long internship within the DC metro area or anywhere across the U.S. Every effort will be made to place interns according to their field of study, area of interest, and geographic preference.

Anthropology Career Boot Camp June 23–28, 2014
on the University of Maryland College Park Campus
ANTH4481: 3 UM undergraduate credits, $952
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as a non-credit workshop, $952

Anthropology Career Internships July 7–August 15, 2014
(Internships must be completed by August 29)
ANTH386: 6 undergraduate credits, $1904*
ANTH789: 6 graduate credits, $3540*

The Name of the Sword

Glamdring, Andúril, Sting. Some weapons have names. Beowulf used the sword Hrunting, King Arthur had Excalibur, and of course the hammer of Thor is Mjölnir. In The Spirit of the Sword and Spear (Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23(1):55-67), Mark Pearce references the named weapons of myth and history to argue that swords and spears can have individual identities, and thus, potentially, biographies. As he says, “I do not mean to argue that prehistoric weapons were regarded as equivalent to humans, but rather that they had some sort of spiritual persona…with its own specific agency, believed to have its own intention and volition. This might have been perceived as some sort of in-dwelling spirit.” (p. 55)

 From these named weapons, he attempts to look farther back in time to ascertain whether swords and other weapons from the Iron Age of Europe also were assigned identities. There are, in fact, at least two Iron Age swords with names stamped onto their blades, although the names could belong to the sword, the owner, or the blacksmith.

 More common are swords and spears that have faces (or geometric designs that could be interpreted as faces), which, Pearce argues, may also indicate that they were given an identity. He is aware that “It is dangerous to use analogies from myth to reconstruct prehistoric reality” (p. 64) and “it is certainly true that human beings have a tendency to interpret unstructured visual stimuli in meaningful ways”  and “It might be easy to over-interpret stimuli that may seem to depict faces.” (p. 62)

 Against these statements, he can muster only a weak defense: “But when looking at the spearheads and swords illustrated in this article, the faces are very striking… It is clearly impossible to demonstrate conclusively that faces are meant, but it does seem evident.” (p. 62)

 It does not help that “in some cases the decoration tends towards the abstract and can be recognized as indicating a face only by reference to, and comparison with, the more figurative examples.” (p. 62)

Yet his main idea is intriguing. Perhaps a less descriptive and more analytical approach would produce stronger results.

 The article is open access and available to download at the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

Great Gallinaceous Jobs in Archaeology

Quick, what’s the most important animal ever domesticated by humans? Cows! No, wait, horses? Or llamas? Oh, of course, the dog.

Nope, those are all wrong. The most important domesticated animal is the chicken.

If you have the right skills, you can be a part of a major new effort to understand human-chicken interactions from prehistory to the present. A British-based research team is looking for help. Not just one or two positions, but three full-time jobs. Ph.D. required. Haven’t written a dissertation yet, but aspire to be a chicken researcher? There are several studentships available, too.

From one of the job announcements:

This collaborative project between eight researchers at the Universities of Bournemouth, Leicester, Nottingham, York, Roehampton and Durham, will explore the natural and cultural history of chickens, the most globally ubiquitous domestic animal.

To elucidate the circumstances and meaning of the westward spread of chickens from their origins in Southeast Asia to Europe and the Americas (from the late prehistoric period to the present), our multi-disciplinary team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geneticists, and zooarchaeologists will integrate the evidence from across their fields to address the following questions:

1) When, how and why did domestication and the early husbandry of chicken take place?

2) How rapidly did chickens spread into different parts of Europe and how was this diffusion linked to population movements, trade or cultural changes?

3) When did poultry and egg production emerge and how intensively were chickens exploited for these products in different regions and periods?

4) When and where did modern chicken breeds develop?

5) How have chickens changed society and culture in antiquity and in modern times?

6) Can evidence from the past be used to transform modern practices of chicken management?

Learn more about this endeavor at the Chicken Co-op.

For the job announcements, go here and search for “chicken”.

More on slate arrows from Norway


This arrowhead of slate had been attached to a shaft that was carbon dated as 5,200 years old. (Photo: Tord Bretten, the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate, Oppdal)

More photos and information on the Norwegian bows and arrows, which are over 5,000 years old, found eroding out of melting glaciers. Visit sciencenordic.