January 30, 2015

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival LXVIII

Some cool new finds, and some interesting new published research this month.  Let's hit it!

New Finds

Tomb of a woman from the 3rd c AD.
Photo by Adriana Romanska.
  • 12 January - Roman link to local cemetery (Luton Today). Seven Roman cremations were found during a dig at a modern cemetery in England (30mi north of London). No more has been reported, though.
  • 28 January - Huge burial site from before 2 thousand years will be analyzed by specialists (Science & Scholarship in Poland). Over 120 burials from the 1st-4th century AD were found in Poland. Burial rituals appear to vary considerably, and there were plenty well-appointed burials. Bioarchaeologists plan to do Sr/C/N isotopes and aDNA analysis.  It would be great to have these data for this part of the Roman Empire!

Amphipolis Updates

  • Becker, M.J. 2014. Dentistry in ancient Rome: direct evidence for extractions based on the teeth from excavations at the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. International Journal of Anthropology 29(4):209-226. tl;dr - Carious, extracted teeth found in a drain during the excavation of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Forum suggest use of the space by a Roman dentist.
  • Manzon, V.S. and E. Gualdi-Russo. Early view. Health patterns of the Etruscan population (6th-3rd centuries BC) in Northern Italy: the case of Spina. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. tl;dr - "The analysis of porotic hyperostosis and osteoperiostitis allowed [us] to determine the general health status of this group, and the analysis of osteoarthritis to hypothesize a gender[ed] division of labor. The results suggest a relatively high left expectancy for the time as well as good health and quality of life."

January 26, 2015

Who needs a classicist? (Installment 3)

Alright, I know I've been remiss in posting... anything.  But the spring semester started on January 6 (yes, really! I don't know why it's that stupidly early), which left me pretty much zero time between semesters to plan for my courses, particularly given the kiddos' daycare/school was closed at the same time.  At some point, I will dig myself out of the insanity of the start of the semester--oh wait, my teaching classroom flooded last week, so it might be a while--but until then, here's a quick installment of the occasional series "Who needs a classicist?"

First up, from The Atlantic (Dec 2014, p. 22):

Oh no, that's... that's not Greek.
I mean, it is an ancient Greek aphorism in origin, but the Greek is γνῶθι σεαυτόν.  This is the Latin translation.

And next, Slate's culture blog (along with a host of other media outlets) covers a movie I have never heard of, the J-Lo vehicle The Boy Next Door.  J-Lo stars as a high school teacher of classics, and her titular paramour apparently gives her a copy of the Iliad, to which she responds, "Oh, a first edition!" Unfortunately, I can't find a clip of that.  More unfortunately, I watched a trailer for the movie and it looks... wow, yeah.

There you have it.  The Atlantic and whoever wrote The Boy Next Door need a classicist. (Maybe they should hire Arum Park, since she pointed both of these out to me!)

January 2, 2015

PbO Year in Review - 2014

It's time for me to take stock of my year in blogging and see what was most popular, but also what I most enjoyed writing and what I want to write about in 2015.

I wrote 82 posts in 2014 and got 181,504 page views this year. Here are some Top 3 lists in a variety of categories, along with stats on number of views, as I'm still planning to argue for the importance of blogging as part of my tenure case.

Most Popular Posts Written in 2014*
  1. Where did Roman babies poop? (3,535 views)
  2. How long was the average Roman foot, and what size shoe did they wear? (3,422 views; also picked up by Smithsonian Magazine online here)
  3. Philip who? On the recent reanalysis of skeletal remains from Vergina (2,945 views)

Most Popular Posts Last Year Not Written in 2014*
  1. Lead poisoning in Rome: the skeletal evidence (10,882 views last year, 56,662 all time views)
  2. Why is anthropology needed? (4,898 views last year, 15,453 all time views)
  3. Teaching skeletal anatomy to kids (4,161 views last year, 15,661 all time views)
Most Shared Posts on Social Media from 2014*
Top Pedagogy Posts of 2014
Most Popular Bones Posts of 2014
  1. Season 10, Episode 1 (6,079 views)
  2. Season 9, Episode 12 (4,649 views)
  3. Season 9, Episode 13 (4,622 views)

[* Excluding Bones reviews.]

Blogging Resolutions for 2015
  1. Find a good way to track views, social media shares, and comments to better demonstrate the impact of my blogging.
  2. Finish posts I thought about or started on in 2014, including: Amputations in Bioarchaeology, Roman Time and Space, and Roman Dentistry.  (A new article is coming out soon on the last topic, so I will write about that as soon as it's published.)
  3. Blog more about my own research.  (I've got three articles that are forthcoming, so I will blog about those as soon as they're out as well, and try to get some media coverage of them.)
I've been blogging about bioarchaeology since 2007, and I've seen my audience grow every year.  While I haven't had the kind of time to write long-form pieces that I did in 2011-2012 (since I got a full-time tenure-track job), I am still enjoying writing Powered by Osteons and like the direction it's evolved into, with regular features like Who needs an osteologist? and the Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival. I also get to share teaching-related posts here and have met a whole bunch of people -- students, fellow researchers, and people interested in skeletons -- through blogging and social media.  Thanks to all of you for making Powered by Osteons a success!

Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival LXVII

It was yet again a slow month in Roman bioarch news, so here's the month of December to kick off your new year...

Roman Empire

  • 3 December -- Shackled individuals found in Gallo-Roman cemetery in southwest France (Past Horizons). Well, this is a super interesting find.  Among several hundred graves found in a
    Shackled Gallo-Roman
    (via Past Horizons)
    cemetery in France were a few skeletons with metal shackles around their necks and/or legs -- four adults had shackles on their left legs, and one of those also had a metal yoke collar, and one child had metal encircling its left wrist.  The archaeologists have not yet hazarded a guess as to why these individuals were shackled or what it means (which is honestly a nice change from the typical craziness of unwarranted conjecture as soon as something interesting is discovered).  If these are indeed remains of slaves, they add considerably to a bioarchaeological understanding of slavery in the Roman world, since for the most part slaves were buried with or near the families they served and were not typically shackled in this way.  That is, it's hard to find concrete evidence of slaves because they were not really treated differently or separately in death as, for example, slaves in the US South were.
  • 5 December -- Anatolia's bone collection sheds light on history (Hurriyet Daily News). This is a short piece on the very large collection of skeletons held by the Hacettepe University Anthropology Laboratory, where over 10,000 remains date from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. Most notable is that the lab has a huge number of Neolithic remains, as this was an important time period for the origins of agriculture in the region and the possible origin of Proto-Indo-Europeans.
  • 16 December -- Million-mummy cemetery unearthed in Egypt (LiveScience) and Million mummy discovery disputed in Egypt (Huffington Post).  A group of researchers at Brigham
    One of the supposedly million
    mummies at Fag el-Gamous
    (via LiveScience)
    Young University have been digging a 1st - 7th century necropolis at Fag el-Gamous in Egypt for three decades. The reports vary, but they seem to have found one mummy amid a cemetery of mostly jumbled bones. It is an important cemetery, as it likely represents the remains of the lower socioeconomic classes who couldn't afford mummification, but the report that there are a million mummies seems to have been fabricated.  The team has excavated 1,700 burials, but it's not clear how many of them are mummies.  To add to that, the Ministry of Antiquities is upset with BYU's announcement, likely because it opens the cemetery up to massive amounts of looting.  So, there are a lot of burials -- skeletons wrapped in textiles -- and likely more to be found.  I do question the extrapolation of 1 million bodies, because there's simply no cemetery in the world that's that well-preserved, but given the six-century time span, I suppose with perfect preservation and taphonomy, it's possible.  Anyway, it'll be interesting to see where this goes, whether BYU gets their excavation permit back, whether the cemetery is looted, etc.
  • 20 December -- A monkey in the Late Roman Army (Strange History). Not a new find per se, but renewed interest in the purposeful burial of a barbary macaque (a monkey even though it's often misnamed the "barbary ape") at Iulia Libica in the Pyrenees. The young male was likely brought or traded far north of his usual habitat, and his diet was not particularly good. There is a publication on this, although not easily obtainable for free (reference here).
  • 27 December -- Researchers try to answer mystery of saintly skull (Past Horizons). The relic skull from medieval Denmark was supposed to be that of St. Lucius, who died around 254 AD. Researchers recently did C14 testing to reveal that it actually dates to about a century or two later. Further, strontium isotopes suggest that the individual may have lived near Rome, where medieval envoys tasked with finding an appropriate relic for St. Lucius may have chosen this one (which itself may have been from any of the massive catacombs snaking underneath the city).  An interesting story of modern scientific detective work.
St. Lucius?  Nope.  (via PastHorizons)

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"What do you mean? This is always how I study skeletons..."

For more news stories on bones in the new year, please follow Powered by Osteons on Facebook.  I post all skeleton-related news stories I find there, not just Roman ones, along with cartoons and other fun things.  Plus, there's a growing number of people commenting smartly on the posts, so come join us on Facebook!  I hope you all had... 

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