Fun Link for Fridays – The Lascaux Caves Animation

The Lascaux Caves Animation

Click the title above for a fascinating viewpoint regarding the Lascaux Cave paintings (c. 15,000 BCE), which were found in the Dordogne region, southwestern France, in 1940. Many of the paintings seem to represent the animals in various stages of movement, the video linked above demonstrates how they may have been intended to be shown in a state of animation.

Aurochs from the so-called 'Hall of Bulls'
Aurochs from the so-called ‘Hall of Bulls.’
(Click photo for source)

This past summer I was lucky enough to visit the travelling exhibit “Lascaux III” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. This travelling exhibit features the incredibly realistic replica of portions of the caves. The Lascaux caves themselves have been off-limits to tourists since the 1980s (to ensure their preservation) and these replicas are the closest most of us are going to come to seeing the caves for ourselves. They are certainly a pretty good substitute, and the exhibit itself is wonderfully interactive and engaging.

Lascaux III is currently at The Houston Museum of Natural Science until March 23, 2014. It will then be hosted by Le Centre des Sciences in Montréal, Québec from April 19 to September 15, 2014. Lascaux II, the permanent exhibit near the original caves, features similar replicas and can still be visited as well. If you are in any of these areas, I highly recommend visiting.

Fun Link for Fridays – The Gertrude Bell Archive

The Gertrude Bell Archive – Newcastle University

Gertrude Bell set up the Baghdad Museum in Iraq (then Mesopotamia) and was single-handedly responsible for drafting legislation that would keep Mesopotamian artefacts in the country – at a time when artefacts were whisked away to the West faster than the soil they came from could settle.

If you don’t know who Gertrude Bell is, please read more about this incredible female archaeologist from the early 20th century. She became known as the Queen of the Desert, and was immensely influential in the development of not only archaeology in the Middle East (she was fundamental in the opening of the Baghdad Museum), but also the development of the modern borders; she served as a spy during WWI and spoke many languages. She was a kick-ass woman in a time when that was pretty abnormal.

The Gertrude Bell Archive is a fully accessible online collection of her photographs, diaries and letters.

The photos are a bit difficult to search through, and the search function didn’t seem to be working when I was looking through, but they are absolutely worth perusing. Beautiful photos from the middle east c. 1900 – 1918.

Some of Gertrude Bell’s photos of places I have been to!

Jerash (April 1900)

– Jarash (April 1900)
Jerash – the large theatre (from left of cavea looking towards stage) Oval Piazza behind theatre (Forum – ringed by colonnade of Ionic columns) and Jerash in background]

I visited Jerash in 2004 when I was in Jordan participating in my undergraduate archaeological field school. It is a fantastic Roman era city. 

Petra (March 1900) The Deir
Petra (March 1900)
The Deir

Petra (March 1900)
The Deir [Ed – Deir, ‘monastery’, has the largest facade in Petra – 50 metres wide, 45 metres high. Urn rests on free-standing Nabataean capital]

Same trip as Jerash, the Monastery (al-Deir) is at the top of a 45 minute climb the original Nabataean steps. 

Petra (March 1900) The Khaznet Faraoun
Petra (March 1900)
The Khaznet Faraoun

Petra (March 1900)
The Khaznet Faraoun [Khazneh Phar’oun – “Pharoah’s Treasury, the tomb of Nabataean king.

The Khaznet Faraoun at Petra, also known as the treasury, might be a bit familiar. It acted as the location of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I can’t say I found any Grails while I was there. 

Book Review: The Beacon at Alexandria

I first read The Beacon at Alexandria, by Gillian bradshaw in 1999 when I was in Grade 11; it had been leant to me by my latin teacher as ‘a book that I should like’ – I didn’t just like it – I loved it!  It istantly became my favourite book, and it has remained my favourite book ever since. Twelve years ago I reviewed the Beacon at Alexandria on Chapters.ca when I finally purchased my very own copy.

“I will start off by saying that If I could rank this book higher than five I would! I loved this book so much! The characters are incredibly real, so much so that you begin to feel like you know them. There problems become your problems. I found myself loathing Festinus and cheering for young Charis. I guarantee that anyone who picks up this book will enjoy it as much as I did!”

My review remains the only one on this site, but there are many more favourable reviews on goodreads.com.

I think it is safe to say that The Beacon at Alexandria, which is about a head strong and independent thinking girl living in the late Roman Empire, likely inspired some of my early choices in life. – Latin in class in general certainly solidified my desire to study Classics – but The Beacon at Alexandria was about a girl near my own age (at the time, lol) doing what she wanted to do and being successful despite the time, place and political atmosphere she found herself in. I think she inspired me to take risks and every time I read it, which I do every 3 or 4 years, I am inspired anew. Perhaps it is time to pick it up again!

If you love historical fiction, roman history, ancient medicine, women’s literature, religious/political history or just the ancient world in general, I am pretty sure you will love this book too.

Book Review: Ladies of the Field

Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search For Adventure, by Amanda Adams.

Recently I have needed something to remind me of why I love archaeology and why I do what do.  This book has done that for me and more.

Ladies of the Field, by Amanda Adams tells the story of seven of archaeology’s early women trail blazers. Women who broke down gender lines and stood out in what was then very much a man’s world. She examines how each of these amazing women got into archaeology and why they loved it so much.

The women in the book span about 70 years from the earliest days of archaeology in the 1870s with Amelia Edwards to Dorothy Garrod, working in the 1930s & 40s; but they are all wildly influential and inspiring. Their lust for adventure, travel and archaeology so often mimics my own. I see myself in their shoes, and I know that they, unlike so many people in my life, would actually understand me.

Adams suggests; “Perhaps a certain type of personality is attracted to archaeology – an adventurous one to be sure. A little headstrong. Passionate and willing to take risks.”

As an archaeologist myself, I know many women archaeologists and many of us fit this description, but I have also found that most of my lasting friendships have been with other archaeologists. – Even many of the friends I have met and worked with in the museums field are often archaeologists first. It just seems to be how things work.

In 1968 Dorothy Garrod was awarded the Grand Gold medal for her work in archaeology by the Society of Antiquaries of London – which up until that point had been an entirely male institution. During her acceptance speech she commented on the growing number of women in archaeology – She hinted that the flood gates were opening, it was just the beginning.

However, while reading Ladies in the Field it became very apparent that even though these women were some of the most important players in the development of archaeology as we know it today, I was largely learning about them for the first time.

Gertrude Bell set up the Baghdad Museum in Iraq (then Mesopotamia) and was single handedly responsible for drafting legislation that would keep Mesopotamian artefacts in the country – at a time when artefacts were whisked away to the West faster then the soil they came from could settle.

Dorothy Garrod worked tirelessly organizing data on prehistoric settlements throughout the old world, basically developing a chronology of the prehistoric world allowing for us to study the prehistoric world as a cohesive whole.

These feats are astounding! I have to wonder why I did not know these women’s names? Why have all the early archaeologists I have learned about in school been men? When these women clearly deserve to be counted in the ranks of Flinders Petrie and Leonard Woolley, etc..

It is some comfort that today archaeology programmes all over the world are dominated by women, so maybe Garrod was right – the flood gates have opened.  So let’s change the male domination of the history of archaeology and talk about these women with undergrads, write about them, as Amanda Adams has done, and allow them to take their rightful spots in history.

I will leave you with another quote from Ladies of the Field: 

“Archaeology has never been work for the faint of heart. It takes some daring. Its reward is the process (never the treasure alone): the experience of excavation and the little things you find along the way.”

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