July 26, 2015

This week at Forbes: Tarim mummies, Synagogue mosaics, 'Diggers' returns, Philip II Part II, Roman medical ideas, DNA of Magna Graecia, and Napoleonic mass grave

Whew, it was a busy week!  Here's what I wrote:

  • The Six Weirdest Ancient Roman Ideas about the Human Body.  My awesome grad student Andrea and I are perusing the Latin literature trying to find neat epigrams for the manuscript I'm writing (a pop-sci book about what Roman bioarch can teach us), and I put up this post based on some of that research.
I'm writing up a post on Iceland to run on Monday... when I leave for Iceland!  I might get around to one more post while I'm in Reykjavik, but expect very little from me as I attempt to actually go on vacation for once.

July 17, 2015

This week at Forbes: Ottoman mass grave, structural violence, cremains buzz Pluto, and Roman zombies

The post title lies somewhat: these are links over the last two weeks, not one.  I've been slacking off of blogging in order to finish up three articles and work on the book.  So here's what was on offer on my Forbes blog over the last fortnight:

  • How Grave Robbers and Medical Students Helped Dehumanize 19th Century Blacks and the Poor.  Ken Nystrom sent me his latest work on structural violence seen in dissections from two upstate NY poorhouses, which is very interesting.  To this, I added some info from Carlina de la Cova's work on structural violence and pulled in an article by James Davidson on dissection and grave robbing from a black cemetery in Dallas.  It's important to understand how medical education was built on the desecration of poor and black graves/bodies in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • The Ashes of Pluto's Discoverer Are Also Flying on New Horizons.  Everyone on the Forbes Science team wanted to get in on the awesome science party that is the new view of Pluto.  I posted this brief bit about the cremains of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto, going further in the universe than human remains ever have.
  • Not All Strange Burials Are Vampires or Zombies, Archaeologists Warn.  This may seem like a no-duh headline for bioarchaeologists, but the paper it's based on, freely accessible in PLOS, is interesting.  It's a rare example of synthesis of bioarchaeological information, across the Roman Empire during the 1st-5th centuries.  So that doesn't mean that the later examples in Eastern Europe aren't "revenant" burials.  But it does mean that there's no good evidence from the Empire that irregular burials are even all that irregular.
Coming up next week: some mtDNA stuff from China, and if I get a response from the author, really cool palaeopathology from Armenia.  Clearly, I'm trying to expand my geographical coverage.... Africa and Australia, I'm coming for you next!

July 15, 2015

Thesis Research on Archaeo Blogging Needs Your Input!

Fleur Schinning, a master's student at Leiden University, is doing her thesis research on methods of communicating archaeology and making it more accessible in the digital age.  As part of that, she is collecting information from both blog authors and blog readers.

Here's where you, dear reader, come in. Fleur would like you to answer a few questions about why you visit this blog (and others).  The questionnaire is pretty short, and you can take it by clicking this link.  All participants can enter to win a small archaeo-related prize as well.

So please help Fleur out with her research if you have the time.  I for one look forward to learning what she finds out about how blogging archaeology contributes to public archaeology in general.

July 8, 2015

Roman Osteology Database - Two Cemeteries from Imperial Rome

The last time I posted news of opening up my database from my PhD dissertation, I felt the need to redact portions of it, as articles were in prep.  But now that they're all submitted (and hopefully going to press soon), I've posted the entire database on FigShare.

Why FigShare?  I had heard about it but never explored it, and had originally put my data at GitHub.  But GitHub is not great for this (although the data are still there), particularly since you can't visualize .mdb files in it, and it was cumbersome to download.  Plus, I wanted a citeable database.  Enter FigShare, which assigns a DOI to whatever you put in your project folder.  Now you can download, use, and cite my data easily.


As noted in the blurb under "Description" there are unpublished data in here.  Notably, there are dental pathologies like caries and wear.  These would make a great project for an MA student or eager BA student, and it would be particularly useful to correlate those with the C/N isotope data that I published (that are also in the database).

I have loads of photographs and a limited amount of additional information that I couldn't make public (e.g., contextual information I got about the sites, which I didn't excavate myself), so do let me know of any needs while I figure out if there is a good way to deposit that info somewhere.

Basically, there is still work that can come out of analyzing these data, but I don't feel right about keeping the database under wraps any longer, particularly since it was funded in large part by an NSF-DDRIG with a requirement to share data.  So here it is!  And if you want to co-author something using these data, just let me know and I'll be happy to help!

New Human Osteology Lab Workbook Now Available

After many years of crafting a series of labs for Human Osteology, a course that I've taught at three different universities serving three very different bodies of students, I decided to stick them all together, along with a bunch of handouts and charts, into one big PDF.  It can be yours in an instant via this link. (Or yours within a week or so if you want the printed copy.)  If you want to check out a sample lab first to whet your appetite, here's a link to that at Academia.edu.

I feel a bit weird about putting a price on it rather than giving it away for free, since I'm all into the open science thing, but I figured that most of you would happily buy me a beer or two at a conference for sharing this, and so that's the cost I put on it. I toyed with the idea of presenting this to a publisher, as a sort of companion text to White's Human Osteology book, but I honestly didn't want to get into things like assessment and teaching theory and instructions for deploying the labs. Also, it'd be much more expensive to buy.

So, as a compromise between giving money to a publisher and giving this away for free, I've slapped a creative commons license on it, which means you can do just about anything you want with it (print for students, stick it on your eLearning site, adapt as needed for your own course) except publish it as your own (duh). I of course always appreciate appropriate credit, especially if you use the activities in an academic paper or presentation.

One thing I've wanted to do for a while is to create fill-in-able PDFs for the lab activities and the charts, but I also think that a Human Osteology workbook that is completely online is perhaps the best idea, especially if students can fill in their assignments and then click a button to email them to the instructor.  I do all my professional data collection in a database (so, paperless) and it's weird to me that I still make my students fill out paper forms.  If you want to help make these labs and worksheets 21st century compliant, drop me a line (killgrove at uwf dot edu). I'd totally be up for collaborating to make this more professional.

Finally, for more about my teaching, you can click on the "Teaching" tag below.  I've got posts on this blog that detail my implementation of activities in the workbook like "OsteOlympics," and there are even some activities that are here on the blog but not in the book like "Osteo 'Beer' Pong."

I'm hoping this helps those of you teaching Human Osteology this coming academic year!  And of course I always welcome feedback (even if it's as simple as a typo in the workbook).

July 6, 2015

Map of Bioarchaeology News Coverage (Beta)

Through the magic of Twitter and Google, as well as a good two hours of data entry, I have made an interactive map of the articles I've written at Forbes.  You should be able to move around the map and click on the various symbols to get headlines, images, time period, and links to learn more.

I primarily did this to visualize my geographic coverage of bioarchaeology, in order to see where coverage is lacking (eastern Asia, Africa, and Australia, which is not a real surprise).  I aim to range widely geographically and temporally, but I'm limited by the languages I can read and by my ability to secure image rights to post at Forbes.

But I also put this together in case it's useful for anyone teaching bioarchaeology, osteology, or public outreach in anthropology.  If there are any fields you'd like to see included, let me know.  And ideally if you want to make a similar map from your blog posts or from a site like LiveScience or Discovery News, both of which cover bioarch news quite frequently, we should be able to merge the data files together to have greater worldwide coverage of bioarchaeology news.

I haven't figured out yet how to make the legend show up.  Red bubbles are for bioarchaeology articles.  Falling rocks are for archaeology articles.  Fire is for human origins articles. The colonnade is for cultural/Greco-Roman articles.  And the people are for forensics or general bioarchaeology articles.  If the symbol is in the middle of the ocean, that means it doesn't have a specific location attached to it.


Oh, and a brief note about how this was made: I used a Google Fusion table.  You can add the Fusion API in your Google Drive, then set up a table that includes all the info you want.  A "location" field allows you to put in lat/lon coordinates.  You can even give it URLs for images, which will also pop up.  It's a short learning curve, and now I have a database I can update whenever I publish a new article, and it should be updated here.  I might figure out a more permanent place for the map than inset into a blog post, but you should be able to copy the URL of the map if you want to include it in your blog or elsewhere as so:

Direct URL for map from fusion tablehttps://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col7+from+1B7w903j7i06cRRFddDkSiM9vQ-rpBLlAizEe_MTL&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=29.735757308966612&lng=-13.77894344824233&t=1&z=2&l=col7&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=GEOCODABLE

Embed Code: (Note: Put a < immediately before the iframe in the code below to embed. If I include it, well, it automatically embeds.  Can't figure out how to display an embed code without it embedding!)

iframe width="500" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col7+from+1B7w903j7i06cRRFddDkSiM9vQ-rpBLlAizEe_MTL&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=29.735757308966612&lng=-13.77894344824233&t=1&z=2&l=col7&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=GEOCODABLE">

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Many thanks to Shawn Graham, Adam Rabinowitz, and Jeffrey Becker for helping me figure out how to put this together and populate it with information!

July 5, 2015

Who needs an osteologist? (Installment 28)

Charity Upson-Taboas sent me this photo that her sister took at Morgan's Cove, a small amusement park-like place in California that specializes in pirate paraphernali.  Now, the bones are fake, but she and I were both less than impressed by the legs.


Previous Installments of Who needs an osteologist?

This week at Forbes: Scurvy at Trump SoHo, Pot Polish in Canada, and Pegasi in Cloudsdale

This is what I wrote this week on my blog at Forbes:

  • 'Pot Polish' on Bones from Franklin's 1845 Arctic Expedition Is Evidence of Cannibalism. This is the latest article to come out on the Franklin Expedition, as research on it seems to be pretty well-funded by the Canadian government.  Basically, this article argues that cannibalism is not just one practice but a range of practices, and this new evidence shows end-stage cannibalism, when bones were crushed for marrow and then boiled to extract the last remaining nutrients.
  • What Cloudsdale and Pegasi in 'My Little Pony' Teach Kids about Classical Greece and Rome. This is a bit different than my normal posts, since it's about the field of classical reception (or: how modern people use and understand classical references), but I've watched a bunch of MLP with my 6-year-old.  Turns out, the classical allusions in MLP are to popular conceptions of the Greco-Roman world and not actually to the Greco-Roman world per se.
Upcoming: later today, a post on an historical mass grave, and later this week, posts on structural violence and maybe one on revenants (vampires! zombies!) if I get around to it.

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