Thursday, 22 June 2017

A day in London

I was hoping to post this whilst on the train but the not so great free wifi scuppered my plans. I arrived in London yesterday evening following a day of exam board meetings. The exam board is where we go through all the marks and see who has passed, what grades they have, and who gets prizes. The whole process is anonymised until final marks are confirmed, then we get to see who got which prizes. I was really happy to see some of the first students I taught when I joined Newcastle finish their degrees and do so well! No names though as I'm not sure the details have been released to students yet.

So, I'm in London for two reasons - firstly to go to an appointment at the Turkish consulate to collect visas for myself and other team members for fieldwork at Catalhoyuk in July, and secondly for University Archaeology Day. I think the last time I went to Turkey was 2013 - how time goes by so quickly! Up until then I had been pretty much every year since 2004! University Archaeology Day is a new event that is led by UCL this year, to showcase all the fantastic work by archaeologists across the UK, and highlight why students should consider coming to study the subject at university. Not sure what to expect, but it will be nice to pop along to some of the talks and catch up with all the new things people are doing. I'm also wearing my new Trowelblazers t shirt for the occasion (I also wore it to the exam board yesterday!).

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Micrograph of the Month: Wood fragment

I'm in the middle of writing a brief introductory paper about the work we are doing at Paisley Caves, which includes some of the micromorphology results from our pilot study. The slides from this site are complex, and also so fascinating. Complex because the are very heterogeneous and include a huge variety of biogenic material, including lots of fragments of plant tissues, and there is also some weird stuff going on with the chemistry in the cave environment. Here is an example of a small fragment of wood, within a layer of mixed material overlying a layer of microfaunal dung pellets. The layer is between two radiocarbon dates approximately 8180 and 9565 years cal BP. In the picture below I've shown it at a range of magnifications, and images C and D show it in PPL (C) and XPL (D). Modern wood in XPL usually looks a bit fluorescent because cellulose is birefringent. Usually with archaeological material I'm much more accustomed to seeing wood in the form of charcoal! The only other material I've seen like this myself in archaeological contexts is waterlogged wood, though a quick but of online research shows that dessicated wood from an Egyptian coffin also retains this property. I haven't yet identified the genus or species of this, though I am hoping a friendly archaeobotanist can perhaps help with this, given that the pore structure seems fairly clear! Most of the species that come to mind from this region are softwoods, whereas this looks like a hardwood of some sort.