Sunday, 22 March 2015

Bye until Easter?

Yes, there is snow again in Stockholm, so one can have snow and spring flowers in the same places. Anyway, I will be busy over the coming two weeks or so with TRAC and CAA plus it is also time for my son's birthday. I will report from the conferences and share my thoughts on some archaeological matters when I have slightly more time. Now, let me see: should start packing, those grant applications are ready to be sent away, PowerPoint needs doing, report bits from colleague reading etc. etc.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Terror and trade

Nimrud as it at least was (photo: Wikimedia)

This week's most important main archaeological news has been the destruction brought by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the northern Iraq. We have seen lately men with hammers in the museum in Mosul and heard about the demolition of Nimrud and other places. The ancient cemeteries have apparently been pillaged and artefacts sold in order to raise money for the caliphate. Today we have got the news that at least some of the statues may have been modern plaster copies, but not apparently others. In any case, the iconoclasts show no mercy for the people nor their history but try to erase both. As an archaeologist one can only take one stand: against the mindless destruction, prejudice and lack of respect to other people and their past.

Nevertheless, as an individual one feels slightly powerless against the propaganda machinery that tries to fill the enemies with fear. The head of UNESCO has condemned the destruction and Lord Renfrew and others keep the interested audience informed - and have raised the issue long before the hammers reached the tv screens. Locally, in different countries Middle Eastern archaeologists have given interviews and tried to figure out the misinformation and news ducks from the real information dribbling out from Iraq, Syria and Libya. For example, Sanna Aro-Valjus in Finland has raised awareness how illegal antiquities have been used to fund atrocities and Ida Östenberg has revealed how Nimrud was found in the Svenska Dagbladet. However, not all contributions are laudable - and some are downright lamentable and some need to be counteracted by any archaeologist. President and CEO of the Getty Trust has aready earlier made a case against the repatriation of antiquities - his museum is no stranger to the issue of having problems with the provenience of their displayed items. Now he has suggested that UNESCO's policy that secures the right of a country to its patrinomy is the cause to the heritage being at risk. This is taking the awful situation in the Middle East as a hostage to promote own agenda. This kind of 'bandwagonism' does not help heritage.

Taken the complicated situation in the area, a normal archaeologist just does not quite know which side is behind the support sites or how independent and neutral they are, but SAFE and the Syria campaign do exist. In any case, the APAAME project continues to monitor the antiquities in the Middle East from Oxford, and I am sure countless people are scanning through their Goole Earths. It is important for the minorities to know that even if we individuals can do little from our laptops, we can care and try to do little acts of resistance to make people and their past safer. We can read blogs such as the Looting Matters and follow the Chasing Afrodite to stay informed and share the information.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Peer support

From today, for one week only, in order to celebrate the International Women's Day, my two blogs have the exactly same text

The Eve of the International Women's Day could not have been lovelier than spent dining with my fellow 'Mum abroad' Susanna Niiranen - discussing among other topics blogging, photographing, Jagellonica family, children, Villa Lante, grant applications, husbands and wives, restaurants in Stockholm and everything else any person having a full life experience would do. Generally just having splendid time in one of my favourites, Kvarnen, from where we headed to Gamla Stan (it was just so much easier than to try to navigate the trendy places in Södermalm on a Saturday evening).

As a previous NCT (National Childbirth Trust in UK) branch committee member, I know how important it is to meet people in the same situation and share experiences - no matter how you do the parenting and if you are an earth-mother or a career juggernaut. As Susanna said, so many female blogs are about cooking or fashion or decorating - and much fewer, like Susanna's, about women actually having a career, while also having a family and enjoying cooking every now and then. However, I have decided to split my professional blog separate from my more private blog, since I so have things to say about both spheres, but some of the mummy stuff, such as the dealing with the SEN evaluation, school life and bilingual (well, nowadays functionally monolingual for good reasons) family life, is something I rather share more with my peers - the other parents. I also write about adults in my professional blog with their own names, whereas I do not want to write about the friends of Number One Son or their parents in a similar manner.

Well, I have the traditional one child per a female researcher, but Susanna wonders where are the female professors with more than one child? How could we give more hope for the future generations of women and show that you can be a whole person: both to explore and raise a family? Do we women have to try to create a world where 'lattepappor' stare at us in awe and iron our shirts to mirror the one we observe in certain corners? Or do we try to create something truly more equal? The estimates for Sweden to reach gender equality in different aspects of work and family life run between 11 to 125 years, so we will have a lot to do. Happy International Women's Day!

PS. To celebrate, in a more professional manner, do visit the British Women Archaeologists website and follow the Trowelblazers, the stories of those talented and wonderful women who dug it before us.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Multicultural identities: rushing from the BSR to the SIR

Even in my life where a rushed existence is not uncommon, this week quite honestly took the biscuit. On Monday I flew from UK to Sweden while tapping on the train and in the plane. On Tuesday I worked all day in the office at Stockholm preparing different things. On Wednesday I flew to Rome with Professor Arja Karivieri from Stockholm. On Thursday I ran a Multicultural identities workshop in the Swedish Institute in Rome and hosted a dinner afterwards in a restaurant. On Friday I flew back to Sweden after some work e-mailing to Stockholm and Rome. All while the cold I had developed had gone nowhere with very predictable consequences: my world is now silent, since I lost my voice after all that presenting and talking.

Molly Cotton is somewhere there in the photo

Last week in my blog I explained how I managed to land my workshop on a day it really shouldn’t have been on, but this cloud ended up having a few silver linings. At the airport on Wednesday morning while waiting for boarding I had finally time to check, if something was happening in Rome on Wednesday evening, and being the institute circuit in Rome, it was. As a happy coincidence, the Molly Cotton lecture was on that night and my good friend Elisa Perego, whose recent article in the Mélanges de l'École française de Rome (MEFRA) is not only useful in the matters related to ethnic identity, but also discusses my unpublished article on mental distances (I SO need it to come out), was coming down from Milan as well. Some Facebook messaging and texting and we managed to step out of our respective trams almost at the same time. The sad collateral was any hope of a social trip to Villa Lante, the Finnish Institute, to see Tuomas, Simo, Ria and Linda, since the presentation on architect Bassi really could not compete with Gilda Bartoloni and Veii.

Bartoloni on stage

Since I have been lately concentrating on the Archaic period and that weird Middle Republican archaeological draught before the Late Republican boom and my financial situation keeps varying wildly, I have missed some key presentations on the new finds from earlier Orientalising Veii. Bartoloni’s talk 'Veio tra protostoria e storia' filled me with any gaps I may have had on the early history of the wall (clear parallels to Palatium?), the burial on Piazza d’Armi and the potential of certain vase painters residing in Veii first – or at least just after being in Cerveteri. Usefully, all this data will at least partly be found in a new book Novità nella ricerca archeologica a Veio, edited by Cascino, Fusco and Smith. The thing the notice on the British School web site had left out was that the lecture was followed by the presentation of this new volume as well.

Those of us in the audience who had not seen the Archeo note or did not know better were slightly surprised when Professor Bartoloni followed her quite a normal length presentation with a part where she, probably due to the restricted timeframe, basically read out aloud the list of contents of the new volume with added comments while a PowerPoint presentation flicked through the said list with a speed that made reading it impossible. The book presentation would have deserved a longer event of its own where one could have purchased a copy - I would really have liked to have one. Anyway, we managed to be next to the first people at the prosecco table and happy discussions followed, spiced by the comments of the waiters who were jokily reminding Elisa of her time as a grant holder in the School. After this our ways parted and I went to look for Arja for a dinner near the Vatican.

Gleba on textiles

The following day started with a pop to the Fabric of Life workshop, organised by Margarita Gleba and Romina Laurito. My own timetable allowed me only to have short chats with Margarita and Susanna Harris and hear their respective, very informative papers. Margarita draw together the types of textile remains archaeologists have found and gave light on different types of direct and indirect analyses of textile making process, whereas Susanna concentrated on the iconographic analysis of a few chosen items. Margarita’s presentation gave a summary of the textile finds from different very familiar places and Susanna showed some results of her analyses of art work surfaces. She could quantify how the ladies clearly needed to be relatively covered, whereas the men could be naked. Modesty, not equality was the word of the day in pre-Roman Etruria.

Harris on iconography

Then it was time to reassume my Swedish identity and move swiftly between the institutes. I had to tape the signs at the gate, download my presentations, light up the auditorium, chat about the new excavation permit guidelines with the personnel and welcome the few invited participants. This workshop actually grew organically out from a work meeting I needed to have with a few other researchers. In the end, there were four presentations followed by a lunch and very positive discussions. This workshop was different from the Italic languages and databases one, since the main parties were Swedish and Italian researchers and much of the discussion was carried out in Italian. Similarly, our smaller group, which headed for a huge dinner in the erratically named “L'Isola della Pizza” (L'Isola di tutto as Francesco di Gennaro said), discussed solely in Italian. No wonder I end up looking at multiculturalism when my life and reality as a researcher is transformed by an interaction between four countries and the continuous use of four different languages on any given day!

I can only hope that Enrico Benelli takes up my suggestion and publishes his presentation on ‘Epigraphy and identity in Italy, epigraphic responses to incorporation into the Roman state’ in the Opuscula. This would mean that the next Opuscula would have an identity theme with Benelli’s and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill’s potential papers complementing each other chronologically and geographically. Enrico said he expanded from his Archaeological Institute of America paper in January and he truly did not only discuss Tarquinia, but whole Etruria and Veneto.

Walter and Andrea on stage

A group of anthropologists, representing both Soprintendenza speciale dei beni culturali archaeologici di Roma and the University of Rome Tor Vergata presented their most successful ancient DNA results from some Imperial Roman sites. Their studies have so far concentrated on sex and mitochondrial DNA, but they hope to proceed with other lines of enquiry as well in the future. Their results do and will complement those we have from Etruria, published recently for pre-Roman times by Ghirotto et al. (2013).

Fredrik on San Giovenale

Then Fredrik Tobin (Uppsala) presented his studies of tomb architecture and proposography at San Giovenale. This research has direct resonance with my own research and it was interesting to hear that there may be a case against tomb types being equivalent to territorial expansion. We will definitely more about this line of enquiry when contrasted with my research. Fredrik will return to San Giovenale soon, so we definitely hear more from the place at a later stage. But then it was my turn and I discussed a project framework I have developed. Needless to say that multicultural identities were involved, but I will talk about this more at a later stage in my blog.

So that was the week that was. In the end, I did resume my own Finnish identity: having lost all my voice and feeling the cold and travel in my bones I sought healing in the heat of a Finnish sauna and in the steam of a Turkish sauna in the Eriksdal swimming pool. I hope I will recover enough to face tomorrow March that will be murder with its unprecedented workload. If you do not have see this blog updated, it means I am not recuperating and spending my time writing my blog but tapping along trying to finish all I have started - or at least looking for funds trying to do so.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Archaeological congestion

Ever hating when realizing that the only date something can happen is also the date something else is happening. The coming week I will make a fleeting visit to Rome for a meeting that for timetabling reasons can only be on the exactly same day as the really interesting The Fabric of Life: Approaches to Textile Resources, Economy and Production in Ancient Italy workshop in the British School at Rome and Villa Giulia next Thursday. After getting the only date that suited all sorted, I half-casually checked if something elde was happening in Rome. I knew this workshop was taking place in Rome at some point but I did not expect to be there. But now I was going to. So near but so having to do my own work. The lovely part is that I will be able to hear the opening talks by the organisers, but the drawback is that I am creating unfortunate dilemmas for a couple of colleagues. Especially, since I am making one of them giving a presentation - which I really, really want to hear myself. We will also have to hurry with our private meeting later in the afternoon so we can attend a research seminar in the Institute in Swedish afterwards.

I am pretty sure the people sitting around me in the different air planes will be slightly cross, since I am either likely to be tapping onto my laptop working on one of the countless things I should be doing or I will be coughing my lungs off having contracting something that has been around either in Sweden or in England that has seriously affected my 'performance' during the latter part of the half-term. The ironic detail in the current situation is that one of the task I should try to find a slot to do is a lecture on the Punic wars. The fact that the AKS in Sweden combines both classical archaeology and ancient history brings my past as a historian coming back to haunt me.

Anyway, potentially reporting about Rome next week unless other things take my time...

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Have an archaeological Valentine!

Pagodas in Britain (photo: wikimedia)

I had totally forgotten that my trip to home for the February half-term actually coincides with both Valentine’s day and Lupercalia. The latter I only noticed properly after wondering Ida’s tweets in Twitter and seeingng in the New Walk museum Leicester museums advertising a children’s half-term event in the Jewry Wall Museum today. I hang my head in shame, as a kind of Romanist, but this comes to a lady who hardly can remember her son’s birthday when asked in the official papers. At least once I had to phone home to check the correct date from my husband. And I definitely was present there in the delivery room! Unlike in Regal Rome in a cave...

When visiting Twitter, I noticed that more and more archaeological organisations are recognising Valentine’s day with all kinds of themed tweets. There was yesterday even a hashtag called #ArchaeologyValentines that was used for example by ADS. I must say the card ‘I dig you, in a controlled and scientific manner’ is just pure genious. I have to remember to use it in the coming years.

Cofre Castle (photo: wikimedia)

In addition, romantic settings could be found in The Guardian’s ‘10 best ruins in Britain’ that included the atmospheric Corfe Castle, the recent, modern ruin St. Peter’s seminary near Glasgow and the trusted Avebury. Greek colleagues had dusted finds from the previous years and circulated a news item about a couple of skeletons found in a grave hugging each other. These skeletons had now been DNA studied and it turned out that they were appropriately a man and a woman. The pair was buried during the Neolithic, so they had been hugging for 6000 years – found on the Valentine’s Day in Diros cave on Peloponnesos in 2013.

The hugging Greek couple (photo: EPA)

This news reminded me about the related skeleton news in the newspapers lately. This time it was a proper Grim Reaper news from Siberia: a mother who had died in childbirth with twins. 7,700 years may separate us, but this kind of family tragedy can touch anybody’s feelings. I personally feel empathy – especially since it reminds me of a time I myself was digging a skeleton, which turned out to be a woman with a not-full-term fetus under her had along her side. These are human stories - not just cases of the oldest cases of the twins or death at birth, but real past small tragedies.

The ‘death’ has been one of the themes of this week, since I finally had time to do the corrections to the article on attitudes to death that now actually has hope to come out in 2016. Or so Howard Williams, one of the editors of the volume Archaeologists and the Death is saying optimistically. The process of writing this article has been educational. First of all, it has shown me slowly how to do arguments as the British do and how sometimes when I do something in 2003, I will be able to have the references I need in 2007 or 2014 in order to make an argument properly without just having my own word for it. I dearly wish I was slightly ahead of my time instead of just having a poor idea and execution (the former not my own but inspired by other people’s contemporary research).

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Meeting Prince Eugen

Why, oh why, I manage to have my mobile phone battery flat almost every time I visit something marvellous at a whim?! This time around I noticed from Metro that the Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde had a free entry just today to celebrate the 150 years from Prince’s birth. [Luckily the museum provides lovely images on their web site] This bachelor prince was actually a painter as well – and not at any time in the history of art! He managed to be in Paris in the late 19th century when everything new was happening in the art world. His friends in Sweden included many of the artists of the time, who had studied in Paris, sometimes paid by the Prince, and mostly representing the new wave of French painting following cubism and fauvism.

A genuine Eugen

He was not a bad painter, not one of those amateurs who are your bosses or friends of your bosses and you cannot really say anything about the quality of their art work, but a real thing, worthy of Järnefelt or any Finnish national romantic painter with his landscapes. Not that I am a huge specialist, but in traditional painting you can actually say if the landscape pleases the eye or not. He also designed small furniture and silver and glass, so he was a true artisan of his time.

The new exhibition, Prince Eugen 150 years – Facets of a life to give its English name, tells about him and his friends, some of the most important ones female, and reconstructs some of the rooms of the socializing floor to their previous looks at different points of time. You get interiorscapes that intriguely have only fake reproduced photos and knickknacks instead of real family photos – but maybe people really try to nick them. One thing about the Eugen was apparently his love of flowers and you could smell the large bouquets when passing by different rooms.

Isaac Grünewald's work: he was one of the 'baddies'

Prince was an art collector and ultimately built an art gallery to be part of his estate opposite what is now the Viking Line terminal on the other side of the water on the shores of Södermalm. He donated everything – his villa, art gallery, his paintings and collections – to the state so we can enjoy the beautiful gardens and the museum at the spot. This time it was the last week of a very interesting and inspiring Inspiration Matisse exhibition that told the story of the artists who attended Matisse’s art school in Paris at the turn of the century. Not that the story was always pretty: the ‘Young artists’ only allowed men and some of the comments printed on the information boards from the male artists were so misogynist that the value of their art diminished in my eyes immediately. They suggested women only made art for kitchen and their female colleagues in the Swedish and French art schools and academies were good for lovely company and coffee. Then some of the pieces when women could do more than just portraits were truly original. There was one more progressive male teacher in Gothenburg, but the general picture of the 'Young' was not uplifting. Luckily, the result was the foundation of the Swedish society for female artist and their long struggle for their own female only exhibition in the 1920s. Similarly, nowadays we have our own networks!

One of my favorites: a cubist Carlsson Percy

Many of the art works were extremely lovely, but I also learnt that the roots of the paintings of the landscapes and buildings from the 1950s with blue sketch lines I so hate do have their origins in Matisse’s work. The followers of geniuses...