October 2010

Among Anglo-Saxons, tonight is Halloween, a rather frivolous holiday with some serious undertones. American movies and TV have propagated the holiday to such an extent however, that the lowest common denominator of the event is relatively well known across the world: small—and big—kids dressing up and collecting candy (“trick-or-treating”). Here’s a pic of my kids six years ago:

Halloween 2004, copyright F. Deblauwe

Of course, the connection with  superstitions about the Undead is easy to spot, be they disguised as the All Souls Christian holiday or el Día de los Muertos in Mexico. As a child in Belgium, we didn’t celebrate Halloween but I did make a scary-face lantern around this time of the year albeit not using a pumpkin but a sugar beet. If I remember correctly, popular lore somehow connected the lanterns with St. Maarten (St. Martin), a saint that actually in some regions of my home province of West Flanders even substituted for Sint Niklaas (St. Nicholas, i.e., Santa) in his gift-giving-to-kids role.

This is primarily an archaeological blog though. So what are the connections between digging up the past and zombies, witches and other scary critters and dark practices? Here are a few choice links:

Archaeology is a famously ghoulish pursuit whose practitioners are always on the look-out for dead bodies to gloat over. If we can’t find a grave, then at least we’ll try to get hold of animal bones from kitchen middens and sacrificial deposits. I’ve seen desperate Mesolithic researchers cackle with funereal glee over the toe bones of long-dead seals. Osteologists are of course the worst necrophiliacs of the lot. But nobody’s immune. There’s an anecdote going around about my old favourite teacher, where he lifts a pelvis out of a Middle Neolithic grave, licks his lips while turning the charnel thing over in his hands, and exclaims, “Now this was a very beautiful woman!”.


Request for Comment: Rome Wasn’t Digitized in a Day: Building a Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classicists

Infrastructure for Humanities Scholarship

CLIR and Tufts University are engaging scholars and academic librarians in examining the services and digital objects classicists have developed, the future needs of the discipline, and the roles of libraries and other curatorial institutions in fostering the infrastructure on which the core intellectual activities of classics and many other disciplines depend. We envision a set of shared services layered over a distributed storage architecture that is seamless to end users, allows multiple contributors, and leverages institutional resources and facilities. Much of this architecture exists at individual projects and institutions; the challenge is to identify the suite of shared services to be developed.

Prior research supported by public and private agencies has created digital resources in classics, which are arguably the most developed and interconnected set of collections and associated services in any discipline outside of the sciences. Questions now posed test the limits of project-based services. The findings of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access, the Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), and two symposia hosted by CLIR (the second with co-sponsorship by NEH) demonstrate that managing digital information requires libraries to play an active role in the research process to ensure appropriate curation and preservation of digital resources. This project will help library professionals understand the challenges of supporting new kinds of publications (e.g., treebanks, or syntactic databases for texts) and services (e.g., named entity identification services optimized for domains such as classical studies) and engage them in designing solutions. The project will also be relevant to areas such as medieval studies, archaeology, and ancient and near eastern languages.

CLIR is seeking public comment on a literature review that identifies existing services, resources, and needs in the field of classics. The report, Rome Wasn’t Digitized in a Day: Building a Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classicists, was produced by Alison Babeu of the Perseus Project at Tufts University. It is intended to inform planning for the next phase of work: description of an infrastructure to support digital classics and related fields of research. (The report is a 1.8 MB .pdf file, please allow time for it to download).

Comments on the draft report should be submitted to Kathlin Smith (ksmithatclirdotorg) by December 1, 2010. We especially encourage the identification of topics or projects that are missing in the report, or that might be represented more fully.

One of many other online projects by the inimitable Chuck Jones, Ancient World Open Bibliographies, draws attention to this:

That report (on p. 11 ff.) cites the following open access bibliographies and bibliographical projects:

Are there others you would have chosen to include?

From Chuck Jones comes the following announcement:

Today is the first day of Open Access Week (October 18-24, 2010).  I am happy to announce, in collaboration with Phoebe Acheson of theUniversity of Georgia Libraries and  Becoming a Classics Librarian, the debut of a new blog: Ancient World Open Bibliographies.  Please have a look and consider subscribing by RSS or email.

This new blog is for discussion and development of a project to collect and solicit annotated bibliographies about subjects relevant to studies of the ancient world.  It is the first concrete step to come from a conversation Pheobe and I began after she posted  Oxford Bibliographies Online: More Rant Than Review. In this blog we will collect existing open access bibliographies we find on the web, and discuss the goals, audience, format, and scope of the final project: a dedicated wiki site collecting bibliographies, which will be open access.

We welcome your participation in the conversation and your contributions to the collection of bibliographies.

A bit of archaeological/anthropological light entertainment this time.

Archaeology requires archaeologists, right? Well, the current or ending recession or economic crisis—depending on which economist or politician you talk to—is felt by archaeological excavators, researchers and teachers alike. Is the workforce shrinking or just becoming more efficient? Are there fewer students enrolling? The Archaeometry SAS blog alerted me to the publication of a new report: Nathan Schlanger and Kenneth Aitchison (eds.), Archaeology and the Global Economic Crisis. Multiple Impacts, Possible Solutions, Tervuren (Belgium), 2010 (available as pdf). This is the table of contents:

1. introduction. Archaeology and the global economic crisis   9
Nathan Schlanger & Kenneth Aitchison
2. the crisis – economic, ideological, and archaeological   13
Jean-Paul Demoule
3. the impact of the recession on archaeology in the republic of ireland   19
James Eogan
4. United Kingdom archaeology in economic crisis   2
Kenneth Aitchison
5. the end of a golden age? the impending effects of the economic collapse on archaeology in higher education in the United Kingdom   31
Anthony Sinclair
6. commercial archaeology in spain: its growth, development, and the impact of the global economic crisis   4
Eva Parga-Dans
7. A crisis with many faces. the impact of the economic recession on dutch archaeology   
Monique H. van den Dries, Karen E. Waugh & Corien Bakker
8. one crisis too many? French archaeology between reform and relaunch   69
Nathan Schlanger & Kai Salas Rossenbach
9. the crisis and changes in cultural heritage legislation in hungary: cul-de-sac or solution?   81
Eszter Bánffy & Pál Raczky
10. Archaeology in crisis: the case of Poland   87
Arkadiusz Marciniak & Micha? Pawleta
11. the impact of the economic crisis on rescue archaeology in russia   97
Asya Engovatova
12. the effect of the global recession on cultural resources management in the United states   103
Jeffry H. Altschul
13. Postscript: on dead canaries, guinea-pigs and other trojan horses   107
Nathan Schlanger
14. Annex i: Job losses in UK archaeology – April 2010   117
Kenneth Aitchison
15. Annex ii: note for administrators and liquidators of archaeological organisations   127
Roger M. Thomas

I also came across a European-Union-funded study on the state of the profession in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK. Written by the same Kenneth Aitchison, its title is Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe: Transnational Report, Reading (UK), 2009. It too is freely available on the web. The contents are:

1.0 Executive Summary  5
2.0 Aim and Objectives  7
3.0 Partnership  8
4.0 Methodology  9
4.1 Data Collection  9
4.2 Data Analysis  9
5.0 Definitions of Archaeologists  10
6.0 Numbers Working in Archaeology  11
7.0 Past Growth of the Sector  13
8.0 Future Growth of the Sector  14
9.0 Age and Gender of Archaeologists  15
10.0 Disability Status of Archaeologists  17
11.0 Country of Origin  18
12.0 Highest Qualifications Gained by Archaeologists  20
13.0 Full-time and Part-time Work in Archaeology  22
14.0 Salaries in Archaeology  23
15.0 Training Needs and Skills Shortages  24
16.0 Transnational Mobility  25
16.1 Barriers to Transnational Mobility – Licensing  26
16.2 Barriers to Transnational Mobility – Qualifications  27
16.3 Barriers to Transnational Mobility – Language  28
17.0 Recommendations  29
18.0 Bibliography  30
Appendix 1: Private Sector and State Funding  31