Friday, December 24, 2010

Archaeology! Edited Transcript

Serafina Puchkina clears her throat to begin
Serafina Puchkina: Welcome, Ladies, Gentlemen, and urchins. Miss Jed, Mr. Jasper, and I are pleased to welcome you to the December Aether Salon, entitled Archaeology! Thank you all for braving the cold winds and walking uphill in 6 feet of snow so you could be with us today.

As you may know, the Aether Salon meets to discuss steam and Victorian topics on the third Sunday of each month, in Palisades and Academy, New Babbage. We are celebrating two years of Aether Salon, and I hope you are all as plum tickled about being here today as I am. A few reminders before we begin: if you are standing in the back, please move forward onto the maze so that you can be assured of hearing the speaker.

Please hold your questions until the end, and as a courtesy to all, please turn off everything that creates lag: all HUDs, scripts, AOs and so on. Please no weapons, tacky holiday lights, or yappy dogs. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Edited and unedited transcripts will be posted this week at so you can re-read today’s great fun, peruse transcripts of salons gone by,, and see brilliant photographs of past salons. You are encouraged to join the Aether Salon group and receive notifications of future salon events. To join, click the lower right hand corner of the large brown sign by the entrance. We sincerely appreciate the support we receive from everyone in the community and we thank you all.

Many fine people have contributed to today’s salon: We are grateful to Miss Canolli Capalini of Capalini Fine Furnishings for the wonderful salon chairs. Mr. Jasper Kiergarten for his expertise in creating today’s craft. We appreciate all who have contributed to salon. As a reminder, all speakers' fund jar donations go directly to the speaker. Now I will turn the stage over to Miss Jed for the introduction of today’s speaker. Miss Jed?

Jedburgh30 Dagger: Thank you Miss Serafina. I am honored to introduce this month's speaker. Mr Linus Lacombe comes to us from Steelhead, and has had a very busy 2 years in Second Life. He is an avid role player, and has found himself involved in many of the stories that come out of that country. Linus is often out and about in the Steamlands, attending various social functions and dances. He is also a familiar face in Seraph City, playing the part of the intrepid investigative reporter for the Primgraph. Linus is a writer for the Primgraph and Prim Perfect magazines, and is also cast member of the webcomic Quest for the Golden Prim, playing Professor Andrew McMinn.

In the physical world, Linus has a bachelor's degree in Religious Studies and Antiquities, a master's degree in Religious Studies, and has done doctoral work in Religious Studies, specializing in ancient Mediterranean religion, mostly early Christianity and Second Temple Judaism.

On a personal note, I have enjoyed getting to know our speaker over the course of this year, as a fellow cast member in the Quest, and would like to say thank you for his gracious acceptance of the invitation to speak today. Please join me in welcoming Mr Linus Lacombe to the Aether Salon.

Linus Lacombe: Thank you for the fine introduction, Captain! And I would like to thank you for coming out today! Shall we begin? I shall be speaking of four archaeologists today, who I think played important roles in developing the field during the late 19th century

But first, a bit of introduction. Between the early 19th and the early 21st centuries, archaeology as a field has changed much. What was once a field interested in little more than a treasure hunt for beautiful antiquities has become very much a scientific field. In the early 19th century, early archaeologists still dug into ruins and graves, seeking statuary, jewelry and and other ancient works of art.

Theories were often crude or even racist by today's standards. Take the Moundbuilder Theory, which argued that the burial mounds of North America, with their fantastic caches of artifacts, could not have been built by the indigenous peoples of North America, but were rather from a lost “white” race that “savage” Indians had likely killed off. But in the early 21st century, archaeologists tap into sites with far less invasive procedures, meticulously unearthing artifacts with brushes and trowels, gleaning everything they can, from bits of preserved food to building foundations as well as art objects.

21st century archaeologists seek to learn all they can about the cultures and people who used a particular site. There are a variety of dating methods measuring chemical compositions that can be used on artifacts, in laboratory settings, to determine the age of tools and bones. Too, archaeologists of the early 21st century use computers to organize, illustrate, analyze and disseminate the information and data.

While there are many fascinating people, many important milestones, many key sites that I could talk about today, I am going to concentrate on a few individual archaeologists from the mid to late 19th century, their contributions in the field, and the archaeological sites they brought to the attention of the late 19th century world. ((I hope you all can see the board to my has photos I want you to see!))

So, let us look at four archaeologists that I think are important for developing the field in the mid to late 19th century. I would like to start today with Guiseppe Fiorelli, who began his work at Pompeii in 1860. Fiorelli is the handsome gentleman in my first slide. Quite a dapper gent, I would say. Most of you know what Pompeii is, but I will say that it was a Roman town in Italy that was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in August 79 CE (CE stands for Common Era, which corresponds to AD in terms of dating). Here I have provided a map of the Italian pennensula, showing where Pompeii is located in Italy

The town and its contents were very well preserved in the ash; even carbonized food has been unearthed there. Digs had been happening there for well over a century when Fiorelli took charge of the site. If you are done looking at the map, I have a picture of some of the food that has been found At Pompeii. Here we see a loaf of bread, some walnuts, egg shells....very well preseved!

The Kings and Queens of Naples, who had control over such things, had largely used Pompeii as a quarry, from which was extracted statuary and other artwork used to adorn their royal palace. That was largely in the 18th century

Nimue Vaniva: No sense of their own history?

Linus Lacombe: Sure...they just liked the pretty things in their history...they look nicer in palaces that carbonized bread. What Fiorelli brought to the excavations was systematization and thorough recording. In 1864, Fiorelli came upon the idea of filling with Plaster of Paris the cavities in the ash that were left when bodies buried in the ash decomposed.

Matthew Tammas: It was the thinking of the Age. The British Museum sent hunters to track and kill endangered species so as to preserve specimens for display and study.

Linus Lacombe: When the plaster dried and the surrounding fill was removed, a plaster replica of the body would be left, thus preserving in a unique way the bodies of the city’s inhabitants, as they had fallen in 79 CE.

While macabre, it is an excellent way of preserving a key element of the site. Fiorelli also divided the city up and numbered the parts of the city, and the buildings, bringing order to the site and allowing real study of the city to take place. Because of the groundbreaking methods Fiorelli devised and brought to Pompeii, we know more about everyday life in Pompeii than we do of practically any ancient city. Of course, there is the neighboring city of Herculaneum, well preserved as well. Both were buried in the same volcanic eruption of Vesuvius

Another important archaeologist in the mid-to-late 19th century was German businessman and archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890).

Saffia Widdershins: Herculaneum was more middle class. Pompeii was a thriving, bustling port

Linus Lacombe: Exactly, Ms Widdershins

Solace Fairlady: Troy? The Golden Death Mask?

Linus Lacombe: yes...we will be getting to Troy in just a moment. But, here is a picture of Schliemann. Schliemann’s life story is often seen as a romantic one, and he is probably most well remembered for his work with the ancient city of Troy, where battles took place as recalled by Homer in the Iliad. In the 19th century, many thought Troy was likely not a historical city, and its battle not a historical event. Schliemann for one thought Homer had recorded an actual historical event, and he set out to prove that they were real events in Homer's work. Here is a map of Turkey, showing where Troy's ruins are to be found. They are in the extreme northewest corner of turkey, marked here by a blue dot

Based on the work of British archaeologist, Frank Calvert at the site, Schliemann decided that the site, called in Turkish, Hisarlik was, in fact, the site of Troy. In 1868 he submitted a dissertation asserting this, resulting in a PhD in 1869. He conducted a number of archaeological campaigns at Hisarlik in western Asia Minor (modern western Turkey) in the 1870s and 1880s, which he could fund himself. His research there and that of others after him identified the site as ancient Troy.

This slide is a picture of work being done at Troy in Schliemann's day. I do not have a date for it; it was not given. But I think it gives perspective on the size of this undertaking!

Nimue Vaniva: The site was otherwise abandoned?

Linus Lacombe: Yes. Schliemann did not stop there; he also uncovered an ancient civilization known as the Mycenaean culture in Greece. In general, by 21st century standards, Schliemann’s work was “crude and cavalier,” as one textbook author put it, anyway. In his rush to find an historic Homeric Troy, Schliemann dug in a rough-shod manner through upper levels at Hissarlik. Eventually, Schliemann and Calvert parted ways because Schliemann’s approach was so sloppy.

Schliemann also exaggerated the truth at times, throughout his life. In addition to apparently fabricating a dinner eaten with President Millard Fillmore, he made up a story that he and his wife Sofie had themselves recovered a cache of objects Schliemann called "Priam's Treasure." He later admitted to making up the story; his wife was in Greece at the time. However, Schliemann's contributions are important, for he in demonstrated how interpreting the layers of a site (there are 11 of occupation at the site of Troy, for instance) could reveal its deep past and inform archaeologists of the history of a site in various historical periods. That should be 11 layers

Nimue Vaniva: Before and/or after Troy?

Linus Lacombe: Before and after. Up through the Roman period, I believe. He later admitted to making up the story; his wife was in Greece at the time. However, Schliemann's contributions are important, for he in demonstrated how interpreting the layers of a site (there are 11 of occupation at the site of Troy, for instance) could reveal its deep past and inform archaeologists of the history of a site in various historical periods.

Our third archaeologist this afternoon is General Augustus Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, who applied his military experience to archaeology. He insisted upon meticulous field and survey work on the sites he worked. Many of these thorough excavations were done on Roman and Saxon sites discovered on his own estates in southern England. He created site plans and models of the sites he worked, and recorded the exact positions for every object uncovered. As with Fiorelli, he was not concerned with enrichment through retrieving treasure, but with recovering everything, no matter how mundane they might seem. In insisting upon total recording, he was a pioneer. From 1882, Pitt-Rivers was Britain's first Inspector of Ancient Monuments. Perhaps his greatest legacy on paper was his four volume field report on Cranborne Chase (1887-1898), which beautifully illustrates the high standards on which he insisted.

Solace Fairlady: Was he aware of Fiorellis work? Or come to simillar ideas himself?

Linus Lacombe: I do not know if he and Fiorelli were acquainted, but it is hard to imagine that he did not know of Fiorelli's work.
Pitt-Rivers collected thousands of artifacts from sites worldwide, arranging the assemblage chronologically and typologically to show how human artifacts changed and grew in sophistication and style over time. We have already come a long way from treasure hunting, eh?

Pitt-Rivers donated his collection to the University of Oxford, and on its basis the Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884. In the early 21st century, the Museum is a teaching department of the University of Oxford. And there should be a link in materials I provided for the Salon today, directing you to the museum's website.

I would like to conclude today’s presentation with Sir William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). Petrie, a younger contemporary of Pitt-Rivers, was also a pioneer in performing meticulous excavations. As a teenager, he studied Stonehenge. Like Pitt-Rivers, he collected and described everything a dig would yield, not just ”the goodies.” He developed these methods in his work in Egypt and later in Palestine, beginning in the 1880s. Petrie developed a technique of seriation, to determine the proper chronology of graves in the Naqada cemetery, which is in Upper Egypt. To clarify, seriation is a dating technique based on the chronological order of artifacts and collections of artifacts; artifacts appearing most alike are grouped together in forming the series, and change over time can be detected by professionals who deal with the kinds of artifacts being grouped.

Nimue Vaniva: Is this combined with placement at the site?

Linus Lacombe: Yes...recording where an artifact was found, particularly at what level of occupation of a site, would go hand in hand with such techniques of seriation. Petrie later applied his ideas on seriation to Palestinian pottery, beginning about 1890 at a site known as Tel el-Hesi (ancient name unknown). I have provided here a map of Israel/Palestine showing where in the country Tell el-Hesi is located. Working at Tel el-Hesi, with Fredrick Jones Bliss, Petrie is also important as the first excavator to understand the nature and importance of the ancient tell (a mound where layers of settlements are built one atop the previous ones) in the Near East.

Perhaps Petrie’s most prominent single discovery (1896) was the importance of the Merneptha Stele, then the earliest known mention of the nation of Israel in Egyptian documentation. And this is a picture of the actually appears a little squat in this picture

In conclusion, let me say that there are many other archaeologists in the late 19th century, who help bring archaeology from its treasure-hunting era toward the meticulous scientific field it is in the 21st century. There were other important innovations in theory and practice contributing to the development of the field, as well. However, I chose to talk about these particular archaeologists today, for to me they best embody mid to late 19th century archaeology’s growing demand for professionalism and the quest to fully unlock what the ground holds of human history. I thank you.

Serafina Puchkina: Are there questions for our speaker?

Darlingmonster Ember: I have one

Serafina Puchkina: Yes, Miss Ember

Ceejay Writer raises her hand and waits her turn.

Linus Lacombe: I shall do what I can to answer your questions or help you find information if I cannot.

Darlingmonster Ember: Men who change a standard like this... was it results or charm or what that might have given them leverage over systems that were in use for so long?

Linus Lacombe: I think there were many factors involved. Science, the humanities, many fields were developing rapidly in this era.

Nimue Vaniva: What drove such development?

Linus Lacombe: Many intellectuals of the era studied in more fields than their own.

Solace Fairlady: Mr Lacombe described them all as pioneers, which suggests there were NO standards operating before them

Rowan Derryth: Oh Mister Lacombe, on that I must add that Petrie was close with the artist & designer Henry Holiday. They put on a Tableau Vivant of Ancient Egypt together for the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union in 1894.

Linus Lacombe: Fascinating, Ms Derryth! Petrie was an Egyptologist, foremost. But he studied Palestine as well, particularly in the 20th century

Rowan Derryth: HOliday introduced him to his wife, an art student he sent to help him with his illustrations.

Ceejay Writer: The plaster casts made of the victims at Pompeii - how are they holding up, any clue as to the expected lifespan of that plaster of paris?

Linus Lacombe: Well, I am not certain what the lifespan is. Preserved propertly, I would think quite indefinitely.

Ceejay Writer: (Having a relative who was a poor planning artist who cast badly mixed cement statues... I naturally wonder). I do hope they last many generations to come.

Linus Lacombe: I think they use a different substance now, not plaster. My sources suggest they use a transparent glass fibre now

KlausWulfenbach Outlander: Herr Branagh asked earlier about the oldest mention of the Israelites, since you said the stela found was the oldest at its time.

Linus Lacombe: I think it depends, Baron....rather a complex question. There is a record of a people invading Egypt and surrounding regions, called the Hyksos. Some think the Israelites could be related to them.

Nimue Vaniva: I thought the Israelites fought them.

Linus Lacombe: I am not aware of that in the historical record. It looks like the stele is the oldest record of the term "Israel" being used.

Rowan Derryth: I wondered if Pitt-Rivers and Petrie knew each other. I would imagine so, but wondered what their relationship might have been, if any.

Linus Lacombe: Oh, yes. Ms Derryth, I have not run accross anything about their relationship in my researches. However, again, it would be hard to believe that they did not interact and know each others' work

Saffia Widdershins: I would think that they might belong to the same clubs ....

Linus Lacombe: It would be fascinating to know if they did, and would make a great paper for an archaeological history course, I think.

Matthew Tammas: I wish to ask.. of those discussed this evening, who do you feel had the gratest impact regarding how modern archaeology is practiced today?

Linus Lacombe: Mr Tammas, I think that is a great question! Of these, I think that probably Pitt-Rivers did.

Matthew Tammas: Quite true. A salon or lodge can be motivation enough to prepare a paper for presentation. Education does not end when we leave our formal schooling.

Linus Lacombe: Further questions?

Nimue Vaniva: Are there as many crossings between science and art now as there was in the 19th century?

Serafina Puchkina: Thank you, clever and intelligent guests. Fine questions for our speaker!

Linus Lacombe: Indeed...fantastic questions!

Serafina Puchkina: Mr. Kiergarten has the craft. Please take your copy. Thank you so much, Mr Lacombe. This has been excellent!

Rowan Derryth: Miss Vaniva, there are currently some fantastic ones.. looks at the Wellcome Museum in London.

Linus Lacombe: I am honored to have been invited, thank you!

Saffia Widdershins: something worth noting - objects collected by Flinders Petrie are in the Pitt Rivers Museum

Nimue Vaniva: Thank you so much. I will become a salon member if all presentations are so well informed.

Linus Lacombe mumbles "broad academic discourse"

Solace Fairlady: A wonderful introduction to the Salon, thank you both Mr Lacombe, and Mr Kiergarten, Miss Dagger amd Miss Puchkina!

Serafina Puchkina: Please join us in January for salon. The topic will be announced later

Saffia Widdershins: The Salons are so fascinating!

Linus Lacombe: I have learned so much by coming to these salons

Serafina Puchkina: That is due to you all, for we have many interesting people here. Thank you all. Jasper, will you turn over contents of the tip jar to Mr. Lacombe?

KlausWulfenbach Outlander: Well-organised, Herr Lacombe.

Linus Lacombe: Fantastic craft, Mr Kiergarten

Saffia Widdershins: Goodbye everyone!

Jasper Kiergarten: thank you for coming

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