Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Material culture but not as we know it

Having a great time at UW, and getting loads of microscope work and writing done! The lab I'm working in even has a big red danger button. I haven't tried pressing it yet. Maybe I'll give it a go if my seminar next week goes badly.

Big Red Button

Here are a few sneak peeks of the types of things I've been finding in the latest lot of samples from Çatalhöyük. The most exciting part of this analysis is going to be the integration of other data sets, especially the microbotanical remains, currently being analysed by archaeobotanist Dr. Ryan at the British Museum. Although we can see the depositional characteristics and micro-context of remains such as microcharcoal and phytoliths in thin section, it can be difficult to identify the types and relative quantities, so it is essential to combine the two approaches to get the most information.

Top left: Ootic limestone pebble. Top right: Lithic chip embedded in ash. Bottom left: Large husk (probably wheat) mixed with ash. Bottom right: coprolite containing digested bone fragment.

In other Seattle related news, check out this article in British Archaeology by Dr. Steve Ashby at York, a really interesting discussion of  artefacts and monuments of grunge music. It is also a great example of the intersection between many areas of geography and archaeology. I used to think it was just Quaternary environmental reconstruction that had relevence to archaeology, but there are so many areas of overlap, including historic, urban, and cultural geography for example (interaction with the enviroment, use of space, cultural landscapes, environmental determinism). The spatial dimension of geography is what sets it apart somewhat from anthropology, and perhaps also it retains more of a positivist approach - in this way archaeology has more in common with geography than sociocultural anthropology? I'm a little rusty on my subject philosophies, but I am curious to see how the shifts in thinking in geography, anthropology and archaeology are related, or if they have informed each other at all. I'll add that to my list of important things to do.

After reading Steve's article I was also struck by the way the 'material culture' of grunge music was presented at the EMP, almost as typologies of flyers, photographs and musical instruments, and also the way these objects evoked memories of what it was like being a teenager listening to such music, and created a particular 'place in the space' (even for myself, who just caught the tail end of it in my very early teens). It again highlights how powerful presentation and images can be, and the importance of cultural heritage management (discussed briefly in a previous blog post).

A palimpsest of posters - micromorphology of the future will reveal cyclical episodes of repostering!

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