Friday, 6 May 2016

Micrograph: Layers within layers

I love this image. It's another one from Catalhoyuk, a nice midden in the South Area (unit 17739). I published a paper on these deposits in Antiquity which included this image, so I'll let you read the paper to find out more about this area and its significance. Here I wanted to show a close up of this image and the beautiful but daunting complexity of archaeological deposits under the microscope. What we are looking at is a tiny fragment of wall plaster mixed in with ashy debris and charcoal. A few years ago I did a post about these plaster deposits, as they are found within buildings at Catalhoyuk, on floors and walls. By counting the layers we can see the frequency with which the inhabitants were re-plastering and 'repainting' their houses - regular cycles of maintenance on an annual and seasonal basis. This layer in the midden shows a fragment which has fallen off a wall, and somehow made its way into the midden, probably through sweeping and dumping of debris, but could potentially also have gotten there through other transport mechanisms, such as on the soles of someone's feet. The unit shows evidence of the deposits having been trampled, so it's a definite possibility. It makes you think about the difficulties in working with microscopic remains such as phytoliths and microcharcoal. The processes of deposition are incredibly complex, and understanding exactly where these materials came from can be difficult. An experimental study by Banerjea et al (2015) showed that geochemical signals can also be the result of material being transported on the soles of feet, often from completely different parts of a site. The signals that are detected archaeologically do not necessarily represent the activity that took place in that area...

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Postdoc and the Professor

The lamp was shining on the desk,
Shining with all its might:
The Postdoc did their best to make
The sentences read right –
This could seem odd because it was
The middle of the night.

The lab was quiet as could be,
The office without a sound.
You could not hear a peep, except
The sampler spinning round:
No conversations could be heard –
No students were around.

The Postdoc and the Professor
Were working close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
The quantities of grading planned:
“If this were only cleared away”,
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven staff with seven pens
Graded for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Postdoc said
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Professor
And shed a bitter tear.

“The time has come,” the Prof she said,
“To talk of other things:
Of papers – grants – and funding apps –
Of seminars – and things –
And if you please reviewer three –
You’ll think that pigs have wings.”

“It seems a shame”, the Postdoc said,
“To play such an evil trick,
After such hard work, analysis
And writing up so quick!”
The Professor said nothing but
“To publish is a trick!”

“The essays,” said the Professor
“We’ve avoided every one!
Shall we now get on with it?”
But answer came there none –
And this was scarcely odd, because,
The Postdoc did a run.