Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Blogging Archaeology

I was invited today to take part in a blogging carnival, related to a Blogging in Archaeology session at the upcoming SAA conference. Quite handy actually as I can't attend the conference in person this year due to teaching commitments. What is a blogging carnival you may ask? Check out the original post on Doug's Archaeology here. Each month leading up to the session, a question is posted, and participants can choose to answer it via their blog. The answers are then all summarised at the end of the month. Hopefully this will highlight some new archaeology blogs to add to the long list I already follow (maybe I should do a post about that!).

Anyhoo. Here are my answers to the first set of questions:

Why did you start a blog?

I had been meaning to start one for years before I actually did. I have been a big user of social media since I was an undergrad, but always for personal rather that professional purposes. I eventually started my blog at the beginning of 2012 after organising my first conference. I found it to be quite an effort to advertise a conference and get people to submit papers, even one that had been around for several years, and I realised that having a blog for my professional activities could actually be quite useful.

Why are you still blogging?

After the first few posts I sort of got addicted to updating it and making it look pretty with pictures. But not just that, as I was halfway through my first postdoc and increasingly thinking about the academic job market and how to stand out from the crowd, it became apparent that the use of social media is one way of doing this. Blogging is becoming a useful tool for promoting research both within and beyond the academic sphere, and for having discussions. At some point I realised that it was also a great medium for sharing microscope photographs. I have a huge collection of images that I use for teaching, and only a fraction of them have ever been published. When I was learning micromorphology, it was sometimes very difficult to get good reference images, and I figured by posting these online it might inspire others to take up micromorphology, or at least to make the subject less of a mystery to non-specialists.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Micrograph of the Month: Starch inside a waterlogged seed

Here we have a series of micrographs showing a seed, embedded within waterlogged midden deposits at Neolithic Catalhoyuk. These are the earliest deposits from the Deep Sounding in the South Area, and are some of the only waterlogged contexts at the site. These deposits make a particularly interesting comparison to the later middens at the site, as we can look at the differences between waterlogged and non-waterlogged versions of similar deposit types.

In the many sections I have looked at, getting sections through seeds like this does not occur too often. I have see larger seeds from Celtis (hackberry) more frequently. This teeny little seed looks like it might be a Chenopod (the little bump on the left of the seed is a feature of Chenopods), though I'd have to ask an archaeobotanist to confirm.

The exciting thing about this is you can see the organic part of the seed still preserved within the endocarp - the orangey colour is typical of mineralised organic remains. In the lowermost image you can see the seed in cross polarised light, and the particles within the seed look like yellowish spheres with crosses. These are starch grains, which are often extracted from archaeological sediments to investigate plant use. This is a rare example of these microfossils in situ, both within the seed and within their archaeological context.