August 31, 2012

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XX

August was not quite as news-filled as July, but there are some interesting finds this month:

  • 2 Aug - A Roman tomb was found in Mondragone (Campania), Italy.  Sounds like there were no human remains found, but there was a bunch of ceramics and a bronze ring.
  • 14 Aug - A necropolis was discovered in the territory of Riardo (Campania), Italy. Plowing uncovered black-glazed vases, pottery, and other artifacts.  The soprintendenza will investigate.  Perhaps my Italian has failed me, but I can't find any information about date on this one.
Eburnation of R shoulder
(photo via S. Haddow)
  • 17 Aug - I just came across the new(ish) blog of Scott Haddow, a bioarchaeologist working at Çatalhöyük. Writing at A Bone to Pick, Haddow has a series of fascinating posts on the skeletons they've been uncovering this summer.  In particular, check out Aug 17 (eburnation of the right shoulder of a Late Roman female) and Aug 3 (which mentions a possible sub-Saharan African woman in a Roman period grave; unfortunately, I don't see a follow-up on the blog).
  • 28 Aug - A murdered child dating to the Roman period has been found at Vindolanda (England). The child was about 10 years old and suffered from a fractured skull.  The child's hands may have been tied.  Interestingly, the report is that the child is from "overseas," but I couldn't find any indication of which isotope/DNA analyses were done or where this find is/will be published.  Seems the child's geographical background was tested for a National Geographic program.  I'd really like to see a publication, though.  Or at least some isotope data. [BBC Coverage]
Murdered child from Roman Vindolanda (photo via BBC)

Scientific Approaches
  • 20 Aug - This profile of the work of Dr. Karin Sowada mentions research done in 2011 on a mummy that was thought to date to the 8th century BC but was actually a Roman-era mummy.
  • 28 Aug - DNA analysis and facial reconstruction were done on what are presumed to be the remains of Zeno, the patron saint of Verona, who died around 380 AD. Not sure why the evaluation of the remains was done by a coroner.  Seems a bioarchaeologist would have been a better choice.

  • 20 Aug - Rosalie David of the University of Manchester has been leading a project to locate thousands of Nubian skeletons and mummies excavated in Egypt between 1907 and 1911.  The remains date to between 4000 BC and 1000 AD and were recovered at the turn of the century following the completion of the Aswan Dam.  David and her colleagues are working to find all the skeletons so they can be fully studied.  There is an associated workshop happening the 29-30 Aug at U Manchester.
Burial from Nubia (photo via PastHorizons)

August 28, 2012

Isaac and Edible Anatomy

It's day two of work-and-school closures owing to Hurricane Isaac's path through the Gulf Coast.  So today's science-for-kids activity in the Powered by Osteons household was: edible anatomy.  We used this Gingerdead Man cookie cutter and a bone-shaped cookie cutter in sugar cookie dough, then "painted" them with colored icing.

Here are my UWF-colored skeletons:

I wish I could say that we had a nice chat about skeletal anatomy (and the fact that one bone is broken and the other bone looks like it has rickets), but once you get a few cookies into a three-year-old who isn't allowed to go outside because of the torrential rain, all bets are off.

August 27, 2012

Isaac, Toddlers, and Science

Owing to the scary track of Hurricane Isaac through the Gulf Coast, my university decided to cancel the first three days of classes this semester. (This is apparently the welcome party Florida is throwing me.)  The local school system is also closed, and my daughter's preschool closed at noon today.

While we wait out what I hope will be just a bad storm (current projections have landfall at least three hours west of us), I stocked up on supplies to keep a 3-year-old entertained for three days, assuming that at least part of that time we may not have power.  So I picked up a new dinosaur puzzle for her, which she quickly finished but pointed to the volcano, asking, "What's that?"

I explained to her what a volcano was and showed her a YouTube video of a volcano erupting.  Then I realized we could just make one.  So you too can make a volcano with your favorite 3-year-old in just a few minutes' time if you have: a ramekin, a funnel with a wide end about the same size as the ramekin, playdoh or clay, baking soda, and vinegar.

Simply fill the ramekin with baking soda.  Upend the funnel and secure it to the ramekin with whatever little bits of groddy playdoh and mixtures of color you have lying around.  Let toddler pour vinegar in and watch the bubbles and "lava" spew out the top:

As you can see, I only had balsamic in the house.  But it made for a reasonable lava color.  Afterwards, the kiddo wanted to taste her experiment.  We dipped some crusty Italian bread in and had a nice little snack (albeit a tad too baking soda-y).  Mmmm, tastes like science!

August 24, 2012

New Courses, New Syllabi

One of my favorite parts of teaching is designing syllabi.  I am the kind of person who loves making lists, so being able to write out my general plan for the semester helps me think about what I want students to learn and gets me excited about all the things I get to cover in the upcoming semester.

I'm also the kind of person who likes having visual clues along with blocks of text, as I find that I can remember bits of information much more easily when they are presented alongside charts, diagrams, or pictures.  It seems that textbook designers also think this way, as today's intro texts have loads of pictures, pages with vocabulary in sidebars, and other nifty aesthetic treatments. In the past, I've "coolified" my syllabi using skeleton fonts and little images for bullet points.  Now that I have a new position at a new university, I figured I ought to step it up a notch.

Here are the front pages of my syllabi for Intro to Forensic Anthropology and Intro to Biological Anthropology.  (Click to embiggen. You can also get the whole syllabus for each course in PDF by clicking the links and/or searching for them via the AAA's Teaching Materials Exchange.)

Keeping in mind I have no background whatsoever in creative design (which means these are fairly over-designed), what do you think?  More or less likely to get a student's attention and deliver the appropriate information than a traditional syllabus is?

August 8, 2012

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival XIX

I'm a bit late posting the Roman bioarchaeology news for the month of July because of my move and new job, but there's a great deal to report on as a result of summer excavations.  Rather than date of announcement, this month the news will be organized based on the historical period the remains are from.

  • Marsiliana, Italy.  Centuries' worth of Etruscan remains are being found thanks to excavation by the Association Etruria Nova.  The 8th-7th c BC necropolis of Macchiabuia, for instance, includes around 40 tombs.  Cremated remains have been found, generally two or more individuals in each tomb.  One tomb interestingly has two cremated individuals (possibly male and female adults) and one inhumed individual (a child), suggesting differential burial practices.  The link above gets you more information about the project, the finds, and the field school.
Pre-Roman (Provinces)
  • Silchester, England. An extensive excavation is finding new information about pre-Roman Britain (1st century BC), particularly in terms of diet.  And it seems that Silchester was pretty much "Roman" before the Roman conquest.  This site has important implications for our continued revision of the idea of "romanization" of the colonies.  (Oh, and there's a skeleton of a little "sacrificial" dog.)
  • Alken, Denmark.  Roughly 200 skeletons have been found in the Jutland peninsula of Denmark dating to around the 1st c BC-1st c AD.  Technically, the Romans never reached that far north, but the traumatic injuries to many of the individuals buried in this cemetery suggest violence, possibly related to the political and social upheaval that was happening just to the south with the onslaught of the Roman army.  DNA analysis is ongoing and should prove very interesting.
Roman Imperial
Decapitation burial in Norfolk
(via BBC)
Early Christian/Late Antiquity
Soldier excavating an Anglo-
Saxon skeleton in Salisbury
(via Medievalists)
Medieval and later
"La Bambina di Fidene," a trepanned Roman child,
now on display at the new Museum of the History
of Medicine in Rome (photo via La Repubblica)
Other News

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