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).

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