archaeology and the world, february 2022

As archaeologists who surround ourselves, often internalising, the vestiges of past lives—conflicts, daily ephemera, societal shifts manifested in material culture— we cannot separate our intellectual interests from the world we live in. We jump between the long view and checking social media or email feeds. We find grand narratives in the tiniest of grains—evidence of long-distance migration and trade only visible through a microscope.

We recognise that these days, indeed in our connected existence there is a constant onslaught of bad news from near and far: hunger and abandonment, military coups, demonstrations for economic or social change, invasions, systemic violence, violence in the homes down the block, illness, death.

If you are out there concerned about your neighbours, your colleagues, your family, you are not alone. Like our individual identities, a country has multiple layers and meanings. So, I give you…

Excerpt from “My Country, I Will Build You Again” (To the lady of Persian storytelling, Simin Daneshvar) by Simin Behbahani (1927-2014); translated from Persian by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa.

My country, I will build you again,
if need be, with bricks made from my life.
I will build columns to support your roof,
if need be, with my bones.
I will inhale again the perfume of flowers favored by your youth.
I will wash again the blood off your body
with torrents of my tears.
Once more, the darkness will leave this house.

Behbahani, Simin. 2011. “My Country, I Will Build You Again.” In Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan, 425. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.


ICOMOS STATEMENT ON UKRAINE

Follow this link to download a PDF of the statement issued by ICOMOS on 24 February 2022. ‘ICOMOS deplores the lives already lost and threatened by the deterioration of the situation in the Ukrainian territory. ICOMOS also fears that serious threats weigh on Ukraine’s heritage.’

SAVING UKRANIAN CULTURAL HERITAGE ONLINE

A group of heritage professionals have set up a website, tutorials, information for volunteers who wish to participate ‘to identify and archive at-risk sites, digital content, and data in Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions while the country is under attack. We are using a combination of technologies to crawl and archive sites and content, including the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, the Browsertrix crawler and the ArchiveWeb.page browser extension and app of the Webrecorder project.’ See their website (sucho.org) for details on who the team are, their methods, and how to get involved.

CALL FOR PAPERS – DEADLINE 18 MARCH

Call for PapersKnowledge Production in/on Central Asia: Forms, Purposes and Practices by the University of Fribourg for the (CH)/CASNiG Conference, 25-26 August 2022. ‘What does it mean, to produce knowledge about a region? Who is generating this knowledge, where, and to what ends? What are the implications and the effects of these practices?’

videos & a podcast

CAAL partner institution IICAS have been busy out in the field for the Heritage of Karakalpakstan series. Their Facebook page is posting 3D scans of archaeological remains regularly with descriptions in Russian and English. See what they’ve done so far!

Fascinating video from Aeon.co where the German Archaeological Institute ‘Unravelling the surprisingly epic story of the world’s oldest pair of trousers’ have used forensic archaeology to research and reconstruct 3000 yr-old trousers from a burial at Turfan. In their effort to understand these pieces of clothing they had to go back to the sources of wool for these trousers which were woven rather than being cut-assembled. Multidisciplinary and interinstitutional participants, including fashion designers (with coloured pencils rather than computer design), weavers, chemists, animal geneticists, a dendrochronologist who spins wool for a hobby(!) and so many more. Here’s to cooperation, collaboration, teamwork!

The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) uploads videos outlining their ongoing research on a regular basis. This one is hosted by Dr Robert Spengler and focuses on the Ancient Dispersal of Rice out of East Asia. It is wonderful to see how the simple grain which is a staple of so many diets all over the world came to be just that.

While this presentation/video is several years old, the conversation is ongoing and bears repeating: ‘Princeton’s Dr. Khodadad Rezakhani (Associate Research Scholar, Mossavar-Rahmani Center) presents a case for late antique/early medieval Central Asia away from the prevailing paradigms that consider it a periphery of major world civilizations. Through detailing the regional history of Central Asia prior to the rise of Islam, he argues for the merit of studying the history of the region ‘in its own terms.’ This reading, it is maintained, would result in a better understanding of the place of Central Asia within world history. Presented as part of the 2016-17 Mossavar-Rahmani Center Seminar Series.’

UNESCO ‘are working in partnership with PRAXIS at the University of Leeds (UK) and with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to deliver a series of brief reports honing in on key themes within the cultural heritage for sustainable development sphere.’ The series conversations can be viewed or you can download a PDF.

Digging to the other side podcast by Tommy Ng, Anna Coon, Bryan Baldeon, and Daryl Basarte. Edited by Sara Head. “Welcome to the ‘Digging to the Other Side’ podcast, where we talk about archaeology and related topics in North and South America through the perspectives of Asian hyphenated archaeologists. We’ll give insights into how that affects not only our approach to the field of archaeology but also how the field approaches us.

So adjust your perspective and get ready to engage as we take archaeology and dig to the other side.” Link opens in Spotify (sorry).

ENVIRONMENT IN CENTRAL ASIA

The Third Pole has written a research piece ‘World Bank experts on Central Asia’s looming water crisis: Faced with melting glaciers, aridification, migration and increased competition for scarce water resources, Central Asian countries must strengthen transboundary water management to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.’

DIGITAL LITERATURE & ART

Shiva Mihan – Ali Shapouran have written a fascinating piece on Shahnama Studies in the Digital Era for The Digital Orientalist and explore the complexities of studying and accessing this text in digital form.

Old Tibetan Documents Online (OTDO) is a corpus of selected Old Tibetan texts (VIIth to XIIth centuries): Dunhuang manuscripts, Inscriptions and related materials. We provide critically edited texts together with search and KeyWord In Context (KWIC) facilities.’

Bharti Lalwani has written a piece for Hazine on Translating Mughal Paintings into Scents: An Interview with the Curators of Bagh-e Hind, Bharti Lalwani and Nicolas Roth. The online ‘exhibition Bagh-e Hind: Scent Translations of Mughal & Rajput Garden-Paintings represents the collaboration between an academic and a perfumer (who is also an art critic)’ and is truly a small, pleasurable entry into Mughal painting through music (click that button – you won’t be disappointed!), conversation between the curators, photographs of blossoms which opens your senses and imagination.

DATABASES – CHINA

‘The Modern China Geospatial Database (MCGD) seeks to provide an all-encompassing series of datasets for the spatial analysis of modern China. . The ENP-China project has produced a comprehensive series of vector layers related to the administrative geography of China in the Republican period. These data layers are available on the MCGD repository on ArcGIS Online.’

‘The aim of QingMaps is to create an interactive map analysis and research visualization tool for students and researchers. Three large atlases are now online and fully searchable. Raw materials were taken with permission from Wang Qianjin 汪前进 & Liu Ruofang 刘若芳, 清廷三大實測全圖集, 3 Vols., Beijing: Waiwen chubanshe, 2007. QingMaps is evolving—in the project’s next phase, we are working to connect QingMaps to a number of existing platforms and to curricula at Leiden University and the University of Macau.’

A BOOK AND 2 ARTICLES

Tim Winter’s new book The Silk Road: Connecting Histories and Futures (OUP) is out this month in both hardback and paperback. Need I say more?

Ranye, Louise et al. have published an OpenAccess article ‘Detecting Change at Archaeological Sites in North Africa Using Open-Source Satellite Imagery’ which has relevance far outside its geographical case study. From the abstract: ‘Our paper presents a remote sensing workflow for identifying modern activities that threaten archaeological sites.… Human activities, such as construction, agriculture, rubbish dumping and natural processes were successfully detected at archaeological sites by the algorithm, allowing these sites to be prioritised for recording.’

Schulting, Rick et al. have published an OpenAccess article ‘Radiocarbon dating from Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov cemetery reveals complex human responses to socio-ecological stress during the 8.2 ka cooling event’. Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Karelia, northwest Russia… ‘new radiocarbon dating programme, taking into account a correction for freshwater reservoir effects, suggests that the main use of the cemetery spanned only some 100–300 years, centring on ca. 8250 to 8000 cal BP. This coincides remarkably closely with the 8.2 ka cooling event, the most dramatic climatic downturn in the Holocene in the northern hemisphere, inviting an interpretation in terms of human response to a climate-driven environmental change.’

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