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.