Samstag, 28. April 2012

Archaeological object of the day

Traditional Korean celadon from the Goryeo dynasty.

Dienstag, 24. April 2012

Old Man Yells at Cloud

So I hear that North Korea has threaten South Korea again and that was the first picture that came to mind. Seriously, North Korea seems more and more like a cartoon villain. 

Montag, 23. April 2012

Underwear of the day

Matt Wilson, a tradie, works his aussiBum.

We weren't the only one (but you knew that)

It's been known for a while that H. Sapiens weren't the sole human species during the beginning of it's history. H. Neanderthalensis was around with us as well, and it has been theorize that we may have interbreed with their population.  The Denisova hominin were around in northern Europe and in the Flores Island in Indonesia, the last vestige of the first wave of human migration lingered as H. Floresiensis. Or so we thought, anyway. There may be new evidence that another human species may have survived in China as the a contemporary of H. Sapiens. Skeletal remains found by Chinese minors, including jaw bones, have been concluded to be different from that as anatomical modern humans, but only dates back to about 14,500 years ago.

I think it's an intriguing thought. If Neanderthal studies have taught us anything is that these four non-modern humans were still just as capable of art and sophistication as modern humans. I will still hold reservations, of course. It's entirely possible for the differences in bone structure be caused by disease or other affliction. Still, it's a great thought.

Dienstag, 17. April 2012

Indigenous people of the Arctic

The Arctic region encompass eight nation states: Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The geography and climate condition of the region can be described as foreboding, invoking an imagery of a cold and bitter landscape. Yet, people not only inhabit in this area, they thrive – contributing to a rich culture built on the relative isolation of the cold climate.
Late 9th century photo of Saami villagers 

The Saami people are traditionally nomadic herders who lived in the northern reaches of Scandinavia. Having been traditionally isolated from the affairs of the rest of Europe, major attempts to include assimilate them occurred in the 17th century – comparatively late in regards to other European groups. Historically, Saami lands contained scattered ritual objects and sacrificial sites symbolizing a connection between the people and the landscape. Most of these sites fell into obscurity upon efforts to convert the Saami people into Lutheranism. Even so, the symbolism of these sites isn’t completely.
Photo of Nivkh men 

The Nivkhs lives in the far east of Russia. They speak a paleosiberian language – a group of languages not related to each other than being influenced by Tungusic and Turkic languages. It is theorized that they have been influential in the peopling of Manchuria, Korea and Japan as evidence of their cultural settlements have been found in those region. It is quite possible they had extensive interactions with the Ainu, another isolate group from Japan, though much of the data for that is lost. Like the Saami they are semi-nomadic, having settlements for winter and summer.
Aleut dancers

Aleuts are a significant group archaeologically, because they provide the model to how the peopling of the Americas occurred. The Aleuts are indigenous to Russia and Alaska share the same language family as the Inuit of the Americas and the Yupik that inhabits similar territories. Along with increased archaeological data, it helps supports the theory that the first people who arrived in the America did so from Asia during the last ice age. One interesting aspect of the cultures of these groups is that gender roles were permeable. Depending on conditions, it is not uncommon for the people to switch gender roles to favor their survival.
Turf houses in Iceland 

Icelanders are the indigenous people of Iceland and its main ethnic group. They are a Germanic people who speak the Nordic branch of the Germanic language. Due to their relative isolation from other Germanic groups, Icelandic reverted some of its Germanic sounds back to its Indo-European roots. Iceland provides us with the most complete source of Nordic Mythology written by Christian monks after the conversion of the islander. Despite conversion, there are still strong aspects of Norse belief in Iceland. It is estimated that half of all Icelanders still consider that elves might exists, for examples. Being short on biodiversity did not stop Icelander from expanding into agriculture and fishing. Indeed all but one mammal in Iceland were introduced by humans for agricultural purposes.

Donnerstag, 12. April 2012

Idiots of the day

One of the great things about Facebook is that we can identify racists pissants one the dime. At the moment, no other case is as polarizing as the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. This tragedy has reminded us that race is still an issue in the United States and that not talking about race does not solve the problem.

Enjoy the stupidity:

Mittwoch, 11. April 2012

Southern grammar

Today in archaeology

A common sight in Angkor temples. What is it? It's a lingam on a yoni. What's that, you ask? It's a sacred representation of the infinity of Shiva, the primary deity in most Angkor temple prior to the conversion of the Khmers into Mahayana then Theravada Buddhism. You want a simpler explanation? 
It's a cock (lingam) penetrating a vagina (yoni). 

Random Model: Rodney Santiago

Underwear: Rufskin

Response to straight acting guys

So I heard it again today: a gay guy who doesn’t care about gay rights or gay pride. I suppose they must get really tired hearing the rest of use harping about injustices and other social justice related rhetoric. I get it, though. You don’t have to worry about that shit, and it’s depressing. Why rock the boat, right?

Well, let me just say I am beyond sick of hearing about how gays guys don’t care their rights or pride. You have the luxury to not care. The rest of us don’t. You may be able to pass off as “straight acting”. The rest of us can’t or won’t. I am glad that you’re privileged enough that society’s homophobia hasn’t reached you (yet). But try to see beyond your nose. It’s not about you, or how comfortable you are. Try and empathize with those of us who live in fear that people will cause them physical harm for being gay, or those us who can’t enjoy the rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. Basically, check your god-damned privilege.

The reason that some of us are so unabashedly prideful and flamboyant is because society has denied us that ability. We are denied the ability to be ourselves – something that our straight counterparts can do without question. We fight for rights, because if we don’t, bigots will take it away. Some of us reject the notion of “straight acting” because it implies that appearing heterosexual is more desirable, or (for gay men) that straight equals masculine. There are bigots out there who say the same thing – which gay people shouldn’t be out about who they are that they should do their best to act straight – and use that demote us to second class citizens. There is nothing wrong with being a flamboyant gay person (unless you start going off about how others aren’t gay because they aren’t flamboyant. Then we’ve got a problem.) But it just seems to me that guys who are irked about flamboyance do so because they can’t handle that people have different flare.

And last thing to consider is that those of us who wave the rainbow flag with pride aren’t any “gayer” than the “straight acting” folks. Many of us could easily appropriate the “straight acting” label if we wanted to. But we don’t. Because why should we settle for being “normal” when we could be happy? No one is forcing you to be flamboyant (if they are then they are wrong too). No one demands you participate in pride week or wear rainbows. Just don't hate on us if we do. M'kay?

Montag, 9. April 2012

42000 year-old painting

The oldest known human painting is from Cueva de Nerja, in Spain, painted some 42000 years ago. Of course, traditions of art may have gone back further, probably done on wood and bones and didn't last. What's most interesting is that these were done by Neanderthals, not Homo Sapiens. It takes down the idea that art was a sudden invention that just happened in the Aurignacian period, which is still a commonly believed misconception.

Via Gizmodo

Freitag, 6. April 2012

Donnerstag, 5. April 2012

Party tips that we all should know

It’s either the end or the beginning of spring break (methinks schools conspire with each other to have spring break on different weeks so that there isn’t a massive influx of young people.) It’s also probably the last quarter for many students. So naturally, Spring is the time to live it up and party. There is nothing wrong with going to a good old kick back with beer pong (unless it’s the fifth one you’ve been to that week and you haven’t been to class) but there are still responsibilities one must take to ensure we create a rape free zone.

1. Be aware of people’s body gestures and speech: One of the easiest ways to see if a person is interested in being around is to pay attention to their body language. If they seem distant, they avoid eye contact, use protective actions (like crossing arms or step back a little), if they respond with short indifferent answers, then its best to move on. Find other people to talk to and perhaps they will be more receptive of you. If you see someone who is uncomfortable by your friend's presence, pull your friend away and take them somewhere else.
2. Don’t be insistent: There is that one guy who is a total jerk ass who doesn’t respect people’s boundary and insist they do what he wants and destroys the party. Don’t be that guy.
3. Respect boundaries: Know what people want. If they are strangers to you, don’t go slapping their asses, giving them huge bear hugs or go “Man that’s one nice piece of ass”. Greet them with a handshake, share a few words and see if you click. You really should only do those things to people that you know will accept it. Don’t assume everyone will see your approaches the same way you do.
4. Don’t take advantage of a drunken person: Don’t try to have sex with a person who is too drunk to say yes or know what they’re doing. Just don’t. Use the golden rule here. If you are not sure if someone is capable of saying yes or capable of self-awareness, err with the side of caution. Assume they are not. If you see someone talking a drunken stranger with them, stop them or go with them. Even if all they were doing was making sure that person has a safe place to sleep, you’ll have the satisfaction of know that you help contribute to that safety. If you noticed that both parties are too drunk, just stop them. It is better that they both know and consent to sex than it is to have total confusion in the morning.
5. Consent can be retracted: Yes isn’t yes forever and no one is obligated to have sex. If a person wants to stop half way, then stop. And frankly it’s better if both parties are enthusiastic about it the whole way through.
6. Have fun, but be nice: Go out and have a drink, share laughs, own people at pong, light a joint, puke on the yard, forget that you had an important meeting in the morning. Do all that but don’t be a jerkass to others. Parties should be fun for everyone not just one person. And trust me; you’re not making the party fun by disrespecting people’s personal boundaries or violating them. If a person is not interested in you than just go somewhere else and enjoy your time. And don’t take it personally either. They don’t know you and they don’t know you’re intents. It’s not about you, and you should respect that.

Mittwoch, 4. April 2012


Can you really call yourself a parent if you're willing to kill your child if you find out they are gay?

Todd Sanfield Collection

Todd Sanfield (not pictured. That's just his underwear :P) is an inspiration for me. A model, a fashion designer and in school still! I hope to be a model and published Anthropologist some day.

Women in Traditional Chinese Painting

Xue Susu (ca. 1564-1637) Cicada on Leaf, Ink and color on silk fan

Confucius doctrines limited the ability of women to become painters throughout Chinese history. Their roles were subordinate to that of their father, husbands, and sons and their talents largely ignored by the male dominate literati. Instead, if they were seen in the world of painting, they were subject matters painted by male artists, thus leaving depictions of women under a male gaze. Among the ranks of known women painters, most were either noble women or prostitutes. Their situations allotted them the ability to express themselves – a privilege few other women enjoyed.

Banpo (ca. 4800 BCE) painted vessel

The history of Chinese painting goes back millenniums to early Neolithic rock paintings. Because none of the earlier paintings had artists attributed to them, we cannot know whether they are male or female. Perhaps both participated in the art. After all, new theories subverts the idea that there clear cut gender roles. The idea that these early Neolithic paintings were done by only men is now being challenge as faulty presupposition based cultural biases instead of studies.

Attributed to Zhou Feng in the Tang Dynasty, Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdress, ink and color on silk

As Chinese civilization continued, paintings steadily evolved into a sophisticated art form. Court paintings, especially, were used as symbols of power and prosperity. Religious painting also flourished. This is perhaps one of the few outlets where women painting were appreciated. Women who became devoted Buddhist could help paint sacred murals in temples. Likewise, women were depicted in central roles in Buddhists painting, in the form goddess and female Buddhas. Perhaps the most prolific of these women were depictions were of the Guanyin, the goddess of compassion and mercy. Court painting took a different route. Almost exclusively male, court painters depicted women in styles that suited their sexual taste. During the Tang Dynasty, voluptuous full figured women in gorgeous skill adorned many painting. These painting showed what noblemen desired in women rather than how women see themselves. These depictions of women carried well into the modern eras. Exception, of course, goes to those painting commissioned by women of power, who did demand their depictions were of equal strength to men.

Mogao cave paintings

Guan Daosheng, Bamboo Grove in Mist and Rain, ink on silk

Women painters took a different subject course. Unlike women painter of the West, Chinese women did not have a prolific number of self-portraits. Instead many of their paintings were that of rocks, flowers and trees accompanying local philosophy. Guan Daosheng (1262-1319), wife of the famed painter Zhao Mengfu, preferred Bamboo as a subject matter. In her paintings and writings she related her concern for her husband and children as well as spoke out against her husband’s idea of taking a concubine. While her art was appreciated, many critics saw her work as too masculine. They subverted traditional expectations of women because her strokes and lines were manly. Perhaps this was influenced by husband’s rough paintings that broke from the softness of earlier artists. In any case, her style broke away from traditional female expectations of artists. It is complimentary to her husband’s form that rejected artistic trends. Wen Shu (1595-1634) focused on the subjects of butterflies and flowers. She used inspirations available to her. Her style suggest strong knowledge in embroider. The productions of her painting often time finished with an inscription by her husband.

Ma Shouzhen, Narcissus, ink on silk

Prostitutes also knew how to paint, partly to entice the literati as customers and also partly because some of them had the agency to do so. In the male dominated society, prostitutes used their talents to get ahead and live comfortably. Many of these women become very intelligent and processed senses in the arts and literatures. Perhaps it is their inferior position in society that allowed the ability to think on their own and to test social boundaries. Ma Shouzhen (1548-1604) presented her paintings as gift to her favored client, an act that would have been presumptuous for women of other classes to do. In a subversive way their paintings were more free and intrepid than what would be expected of noble women.

There are important implications about the role of women in Chinese painting. The few women who were able enter the fields had the ability to challenge, even though limited, what society expected of their gender and of their abilities. In modern times, Chinese painting are now subjected to the type of commercialism that is found in all art. They are consumed as decorative art for the common folks, but many works carries some of the male gaze from earlier works. Perhaps it's time we reevaluate how we see women in Chinese painting - to see them as the creator and the thinker behind it rather than just the subject of it.

Grid map of Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan is an enigma of sorts. For a site of it's size and grandeur, we still haven't completely understood who the Teotihuacanos were. We know it's citizenry was cosmopolitan, consisting of the locals, Oaxacan, Mayans, and other surrounding ethnicity. The city is analogous to how some American cities, such as Detroit, are divided among ethnic groups. We do know about the daily lives of it's citizenry, thanks to many surviving depictions of them and we do know that they greatly influenced surrounding civilizations.

Sonntag, 1. April 2012


Orange looks good on him. Not me though. It would need to be more pastel.

On the appearance of civilizaiton.

It must be the lack of sleep and coffee that's gotten me so jittery and crotchety. It's not usual for one to wake up in the morning cursing at their dreams for obvious intellectual laziness. Or I suppose it is if you stayed up until 4 AM killing hagravens and Foresworn on top of an ancient Nord ruin.

The feeling is mutual.

So I wake up this morning chastising myself because for some reason while in my dream I thought "Who built these ruins? They're so advance and just came out of nowhere". Damn it boy! You're an archæologist. You know goddamn well that's a stupid question. Civilizations don't come out of nowhere. They aren't just spontaneous. My problem with my in-dream reasoning is that it leads to presuppositions and it's intellectually lazy. It leads to presuppositions because when trying to rationalize the idea of "who built this advance civilization", the almost inevitable assumption is that something supernatural/out-worldly did it or that a civilization we're more familiar with did it. Case in point:

Nothing says authority like a poorly skilled hairdresser and a History Channel logo.

Ah History Channel - the only actual history covered is all about Hitler. But I've seems other reasoning that are just as bad. In the 19th century french explorer Henri Mouhot "rediscovered" the Angkor ruins in Cambodia, and his immediate reaction was similar to my dreams. (How he managed to rediscovered something that wasn't really lost is beyond me. The locals knew of the temples.) He was in disbelief of how grand the temple complex were. He could not reason with how advanced the temples seemed with how "backward" the locals were. And this lead to a subtle assumption: White(ish) people made it, because to Mouhot and many other people at the time, Western Europeans were the only capable of such feats. Presuppositions! And this has been used by all sorts of people: Some claim the civilizations of the Andes came from Japan because the vessels "looked similar". Some claim Nubians created the Olmec because of the facial features of the colossal head. Early British scholars assumed the creators of Great Zimbabwe were of Caucasian stock. Some believe the whole of the Americas were populated by Semitic people.

And for no reason, here's some subtle 18th century racism!

Now here's where the intellectually laziness comes in. The Nord ruins in Skyrim were already well explained in the history of the Elder Scrolls. Ysgramor lead the first humans out of Atmora to occupy Tamriel. They built the places. You would know that if read up on the materials ahead of time (some of which are available in-game.) It's also intellectually lazy to assume aliens created any of our modern civilization. You're explaining away a problem rather than doing the proper research. At the very least you should consider the more logical explanations. For Angkor, there existed ruins that dated before them namely Funan ruins, whose existence is recorded in both stonework and Chinese writings (in Oc Eo). As for why the current Khmers at the time of French Colonialism were not building large stone monuments: The Khmers underwent religious change from Hindu and Mahayana Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism. The new religion was not so demanding of their temples (though state leaders did build large temple to show their power, such as those at Udong, in modern Kandal Province, Cambodia.) More over, war with Ayutthaya (pictured above) sacked national resources. The kings no longer had the power to demand the peasant class to build as much as the Angkor kings did. The same goes for the example provided. The Olmecs didn't just appear. There were already numerous cultures predating the Olmec. The colossal heads by no means reflect realistic human heads and therefore couldn't be influenced by Nubians or other east African civilization (and fails completely anyway since the "typical" physical features of the Nubians and their descendants looked nothing like those heads). The superficial similarities between the pottery in the Andes and Jōmon (pre-Classical Japan) are just that - superficial. Anyone who studied those cultures can tell the difference between a Haniwa and Moche pot. The whole idea of the Americas being settle by Semitic people just blatantly ignores everything.

Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to Patrick Starfish when I try to pass those points to others

It's intellectually lazy because you're failing to think it through. You're failing to do the research. But it's all to common isn't it? I make archæological assumption all the time and most of us don't even know to question them. Some are so ingrained, we don't even see what's wrong because others may not see what's wrong. (Gender is one such concept where that happens.) So as I finish this noon with a strong cup of God-know-how-old coffee, I'll sit and hope people don't make the same bad thinking while awake that I did while asleep.