Where in the hell am I?

February 24, 2011

Good archaeology stuff from the New York Times

Filed under: archaeology, archeology — Tags: , , , , , — John @ 7:16 pm

I’m generally a fan of the science writing in the New York Times. Often, when I see an archaeology story on the AP news feed, I’ll read it and then look forward to what the Times has to say, as they’re generally a little less sensationalist.

They’ve also been running an interesting blog series called “Scientist at Work” which has featured scientists from many of the different scientific endeavors blogging from the field about their work. A month or so ago, there were some fascinating posts from a paleobotanist recovering plant fossils in Africa. One of the things I like the most about it is that these researchers are all good writers, who seem passionate about their work and want to share it with the public in a comprehensible manner. As anyone who’s read professional technical writing knows, there’s a lot of people unable to do that even to an educated group of their peers!

This week has been exciting because the current work (or most of it) is about an archaeological excavation at the Maya site of Ceibal, in Guatemala. The main authors, Dr. Takeshi Inomata and Dr. Daniela Triadan have done a truly excellent job of presenting the work at the site, including the research goals and why these goals are important. They present the data in a very understandable manner (although it’s largely been introductory and reviewing the past work), and in plain language. There’s a lot of humor as well, particularly in describing camp life. They also give credit to their colleagues and the local workers, which you won’t usually see in National Geographic.

One entry that I particularly enjoyed, given that I just spent the better part of two months analyzing several stone tool assemblages, details the work of the lithic analyst (scroll down a bit in the post to get to that part). It really does take a lot of guts and willpower to measure thousands of rocks and stare at them under a microscope (or in my case, a loupe), and it can take over your life!

The only drawback is that some of the commenters mention fringe Mesoamerican contact/influence theories that are floating around. I wish Drs. Inomata and Triadan would take at least a little time to address them, if not debunk them.

Otherwise, I encourage y’all to read what’s there and keep up with their blogging for a good taste of what serious academic archaeological excavations are like, as a balance to my stream of negative utility surveys. It sure makes me miss my field school!

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