Four Stone Hearth #19

The Four Stone Hearth is posted at Sherd Nerd! This is the 19th edition of the anthropology blog carnival and click the link to Sherd Nerd find a host of links to anthropology bloggers doing their thing in archaeology, cultural anthropology and physical anthropology. Bloggers this month include John Hawks, afarensis, Aardvarchaeology, Testimony of the Spade, and Abnormal Interests among many others.

For those unaware, a blog carnival is a parade and public celebration of posts, gathered together in the same genre for the ease of the reader. One purpose of the carnival is to allow both readers and writers of blogs to become acquainted with blogs they might not otherwise encounter.

If the Four Stone Hearth is something you’re interested in submitting to in the future and you are willing to write post on your blog related to one of the four fields of anthropology (archaeology, cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, or linguistics), click the first link in this paragraph. If interested in hosting this carnival, feel free to click that link and you’ll find the appropriate email address and instructions.

Blogging for Anthropology and Archaeology

If asked, I would probably respond that blogging is something I do, first and foremost, for the sheer fun of it. My secondary motivations include gaining writing experience and notoriety however small they may be. I’m no PZ Myers or J-Walk, but he little feedback I get is meaningful and it motivates me when I know that the information I created on my blog is appreciated, either through direct comments, links to other blogs or regular hits from social bookmarking sites like Digg or del.icio.us.

But, like, perhaps, other bloggers who consider themselves to be in the science genre, I often evaluate myself: am I simply regurgitating news in my field or am I provoking thoughts into discussion and editorializing; and, can I generate original perspectives on fresh ideas in anthropology and archaeology?

I try to be some of all this, not wanting to get stuck in any one mode. Not that there aren’t some very good blogs that do well in any single slant. Anthony at Archaeoblog does a fantastic job at presenting archaeogical news to his audience –so much so that I find myself visiting his blog often just to find out what’s new. Alun Salt, formerly of Archaeoastronomy, now called Clioaudio used to present the Vidi: an irregular roundup of the past on the web, which linked to sites that dealt with archaeology and history in a carnivalesque format. And he did it with great style that was appreciated far and wide! John Hawks gives a fresh perspective on the field of paleoanthropology with lengthy and often well-sourced but always very informative essays on topics that are part of that field’s current events. I’ve yet to find the anthro/archaeo blogger that doesn’t consider his site to be well-respected and authoritative.

Each of these blogs presents information in the field of anthropology in very different ways. There are certainly other blogs that are equally informative, some of which can be found in my sidebar with names like Northstate Science, Afarensis, Aardvarchaeology, and Anthropology.net, each with talented bloggers that meld a combination of the above formats into their writings.

But it is the very act of writing a blog in the fields of anthropology that I’m curious about. Early blogs were records of individuals’ lives, weblogs that were updated in diary-like format (i.e. “July 18, 2007 – 5:30 am: I began the day with brushing my teeth; a short stack of pancakes and backed over the kid’s bike on the way to work…”). Today’s blogs range from fresh and investigative journalism to satire and parody to aggregations of other blogs and news items. What, then, is the best possible purpose of an anthropology blog? Should it be strictly academic? Should it focus on recent news in the fields of anthropology, sharing new journal articles and citations with others that might not have access to them?

If were active in an archaeological project, I would very likely have the desire to share its progress in weblog format, a diary of progress in an excavation or field survey. Unfortunately, however, I haven’t had the opportunity to get involved in a project as yet (work, school, family, etc.), but I’m hopeful that my up-coming graduate studies will change that. In the mean time, I’ve focused on providing commentary to the recent news in archaeology where I’m able to and writing on a few topics that I’ve had the opportunity to study in-depth. Another thing I try to do is cover pseudo-archaeology and skepticism from an archaeological perspective, of which I have a few topics in the works to post soon.

I’m interested in what the other anthropology bloggers think about what purpose, goal, or need is behind blogging for them. I think I recall Duane at Abnormal Interests mentioning in a post that it’s our responsibility to educate and provide references to academic information for those seeking knowledge – a noble and honorable cause that I’m easily behind.

I’m also interested in what blog readers, who don’t necessarily have a blog of their own, think about anthropology blogs and what they like about anthropology blogs –what keeps them coming back? What makes the reader bookmark or share a blog post with social bookmarking sites?

Sorry for the Technical Difficulties

And for the decrease in posts. Between general summer busy-stuff and some minor technical difficulties, I’ve not been able to keep up. I recently had some issues with a couple of .css files that are key to the displaying of 3-columns on my blog, as some of you may have noticed. If you saw a single, large column instead of 3, then you saw what happens when the site that hosts the style-sheets has exceeded bandwidth.

Once I figured out what the issue was, I replaced the style-sheets on my own host and all is well. If you’re using the 3-column Minima hack by Hoctro, please send me an email (cfeagans AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll share with you the solution. Now… hopefully I can get back on track and get a submission to the next Four Stone Hearth!

Video: Dawkins vs. McGrath

I reviewed Alister McGrath’s book, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life over a year ago and have been waiting ever since for Dawkins and McGrath to square of and hash out their disagreements.

John Loftus at, Debunking Christianity, has posted a link to the Google Video of their recent debate. I’m in the middle of watching it now, but, at just over an hour in length, I’m finding it to be a fascinating and the comments following the post are interesting.

Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath [Debunking Christianity]

Review- Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life [Hot Cup of Joe]

The Four Stone Hearth #18 is up at Clioaudio!

And Alun Salt has done a fantastic job! This looks like the biggest turnout yet.

So what are waiting for… click it. Read it.

Ancient Chinese Tombs Destroyed for Modern Consumerism

That’s right: IKEA is branching out to south China and ancient tombs that date as far back as 1800 years are bulldozed for modern home furnishings -Swedish style.

“The tops of some of the tombs were chopped off by bulldozers, disclosing some green bricks,” it said, citing a witness. “The situation of another tomb was even more miserable, because it was dug from the centre by an excavator, leaving only part of the coffin hanging on the mud wall.”

The tombs were described as being built of green bricks embroidered with ornate lotus patterns.

Though not well enforced, Chinese laws allow for the fines of up to $65,000 to be imposed upon those that destroy cultural resources such as this. No doubt the workers were oblivious to the ancient site and were proceeding with a government approved and popular construction project, so fines are probably not likely. Still, it’s a shame there aren’t better CRM practices in place.

A spokesman for IKEA was not immediately available for comment.

No shit.

Dilmun and Punt: Part III

This is the third in a three part series on the subject of Dilmun and Punt: Two Mythical Origins for Two Early Civilizations. In this final segment, I wrap up with discussion of Dilmun and Punt as places of origin for their respective civilizations and offer a bibliography for students or those interested in researching the topic further. I’ll also include links to the other two parts which I’ll add above the folds and at the ends of each part for convenience:

Part I: Mythical References
Part II: Archaeological and Geological Considerations
Part III: Discussion and Bibliography

Discussion

Kramer (1944) concluded that Dilmun isn’t in Bahrain as the majority have suggested, but rather southwestern Iran, based primarily on the information in texts that describes Dilmun at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates. Cornwall (1952) cites at least two others that, likewise, agree that Dilmun is located in Iran, but presents evidence to the contrary in the form of two letters from Nippur that mention Dilmun as being reached by sea. Cornwall previously argued (1946) that the Assyrian use of the term for “in the midst of the sea” (in qabal tam-tim), which referred to islands such as Tyre, Arvad, and Cyprus provided evidence in favor of Bahrain as Dilmun. Another possible location that has had its favor with scholars is the eastern Arabian coast near Dhaharan and Howard-Carter (1987) describes archaeological finds which include steatite vessels with Mesopotamian motifs, un-worked blocks of steatite, lapis, copper ore and other tradable commodities as well as tumuli-tombs.

The tumuli-tombs are, as Lamberg-Karlovsky (1982) suggests, an enigma. Such a large cemetery population created in such a short period of time should have evidence of a large settlement center or centers surrounding it. Yet, as Lamberg-Karlovsky points out, the archaeological surveys of Bahrain do not support such an expectation. He draws a comparison between the Bahrain cemetery complex and that of other cemeteries of antiquity surveyed by modern archaeologists, such as Shahr-i Sokhata. This community spanned 350 acres, which was over twice that of Bahrain, but only had 20,000 burials (p. 46) to Bahrain’s 172,000 – 450,000, depending on if each tumulus contained a single body or an average of three (p. 48). Lamberg-Karlovsky refers to this as “a phenomenon in search of an explanation” and suggests that the island may have held significance in antiquity as a “ceremonial center of pilgrimage,” and, as Dilmun, was a place that interment would provide the eternal life and immortality that was promised Ziusudra. The people buried at the Bahrain complex were not of Bahrain but “from a large geographical area sharing only the fundamental belief in the manner of assuring an after-life.” Such a central place of pilgrimage then provided the basis for the establishment of a trade center (p. 49).

The similarities between Dilmun and Punt are many, but the evidence linking the two directly is thus far missing in the archaeological record. That ancient civilizations of Sumer and Egypt both record in their myths and histories far away lands of sacred and divine significance may be an expectation since both the Egyptians and the Sumerians emerged at a time when the climate was still undergoing changes. The switch from wet to arid conditions following the inundation of the Persian Gulf at around 15,000 BCE finally came at about 4,000 BCE when the sea stopped rising. Egypt, too, experienced similar conditions at around the same time, and early Egyptians eventually abandoned the Nabta Playa perhaps for the Nile Valley.

Both Dilmun and Punt may have begun as points of origins for the Sumerians and Egyptians, respectively. Both of these civilizations have origins that predate writing, so the memory of their ancestral homes must have been orally transmitted until they could be recorded as “the land of the gods” and the “land of the living” –the place “where the sun rises.” If such paradises existed, as two separate places or as one, they may very well have been along coasts or the basin of the Persian Gulf, long since inundated by rising sea levels. The pilgrimages and expeditions to the “lands of the gods” may have been the best attempts that these two societies could offer to reach a now submerged homeland they were forced to abandon several millennia before. Both Dilmun and Punt may have been trade centers (or a single center) that emerged as a result of pilgrimage and geologic circumstance which favored natural harbors and fresh water.

Bibliography and References

Aldred, C. (1987). The Egyptians. London: Thames and Hudson.
Bibby, G. (1969). Looking for Dilmun. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Breasted, J. H. (1906). Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. I, The First to the Seventeenth Dynasties. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Breasted, J. H. (1906a). Ancient Records of Egypt, Vol. II, The Eighteenth Dynasties. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Brewer, D. J., & Teeter, E. (1999). Egypt and the Egyptians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Caspers, E. C. D., & Govindankutty, A. (1978). R. Thapar’s Dravidian Hypothesis for the Locations of Meluhha, Dilmun and Makan: A Critical Reconsideration. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 21(2), 113-145.
Cornwall, P. (1946). On the Location of Dilmun. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 103, 3-11.
Cornwall, P. (1952). Two Letters from Dilmun. Journal for Cuneiform Studies, 6(4), 137-145.
Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Books.
Fagan, B. M. (1994). In the Beginning: An Introduction to Archaeology, 8th ed.. New York: Harper Collins.
Gupta, A. K., Anderson, D. M., Pandey, D. N., & Singhvi, A. K. (2006, April). Adaptation and human migration and evidence of agriculture coincident with changes in the Indian summer monsoon during the Holocene. Current Science, 90(8), 1082-1090.
Harvey, S. P. (2003). Interpreting Punt: Geographic, Cultural and Artistic Landscapes. In D. O’Connor & S. Quirke (Eds.), Mysterious Lands: Encounters with Ancient Egypt (pp. 81-91). London: Institute of Archaeology, UCL.
Howard-Carter, T. (1981). The Tangible Evidence for the Earliest Dilmun. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 33(3/4), 210-223.
Howard-Carter, T. (1987). Dilmun: At Sea or Not at Sea?: A Review Article. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 39(1), 54-117.
Ingman, M., Kaessmann, H., Pääbo, S., & Gyllensten, U. (2000, 7 December). Mitochondrial genome variation and the origin of modern humans. Nature, 408, 708-713.
Kramer, S. N. (1944, Dec.). Dilmun, the Land of the Living. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 96, 18-28.
Kramer, S. N. (1947). Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 1(1), 3-46.
Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. (1982). Dilmun: Gateway to Immortality. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 41(1), 45-50.
Langdon, S. H. (1917). Sumerian Liturgical Texts. In The University Museum Publications of the Babylonian Section (Vol. 10 (2)). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, The University Museum.
Mark, S. (1997). From Egypt to Mesopotamia: A Study of Predynastic Trade Routes. London: Chatham Publishing.
Meeks, D. (2003). Locating Punt. In D. O’Connor & S. Quirke (Eds.), Mysterious Lands: Encounters with Ancient Egypt (pp. 53-80). London: Institute of Archaeology, UCL.
Naville, E. (1907). The Origin of Egyptian Civilisation. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 37, 201-214.
Price, T. D., Tiesler, V., & Burton, J. (2006). Early African diaspora in colonial Campeche, Mexico: Strontium Isotopic Evidence. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 130, 485-490.
Pritchard, J., ed. (1958). The Ancient Near East Volume I: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
PSD. (2006). Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project. Retrieved 30042007, from Babylonian Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology: http://psd.museum.upenn.edu/epsd/index.html.
Singer, D. A., Berger, V. I., & Moring, B. C. (2005). Porphyry Copper Deposits of the World: Database, Maps, and Preliminary Analysis (U.S. Geological Survey No. 02-268). http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1060: U.S. Geological Survey.
Smith, W. S. (1958). The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Thesiger, W. P. (1985). The Marsh Arabs. New York: Harper Collins.
Wendorf, F., & Schild, R. (1998). Nabta Playa and its Role in Northeastern African Prehistory. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 17, 97-123.
Wicker, F. (1998). The Road to Punt. The Geographical Journal, 164(2), 155-167.
Woolley, C. L. (1928). The Sumerians. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

Part I: Mythical References
Part II: Archaeological and Geological Considerations
Part III: Discussion and Bibliography