L Banks: Artist’s version of the world’s oldest animation

May 3, 2013

L. Banks illustrated a publication about an ancient bowl found at the Burnt City, in what is now Iran.

L. Banks illustrated a publication about an ancient bowl found at the Burnt City, in what is now Iran.

It’s a nice rendering of . . . gee, what is that?

If you remember correctly, it’s a goat.  It’s a goat.

More specifically, it’s the goat depicted on “the world’s oldest animation,” a bowl more than 5,000 years old that some researchers think may have been the earliest attempt to depict animals in motion.

I wrote about the bowl back in 2008.  I learned of it from Kris Hirst at About.com, and I thought it was interesting.  “Animation” in the headline, at spring break, and tens of thousands of kids took a look at the little .gif animation from photos of the bowl.  The post took about ten minutes to compose, and it remains the single most popular post ever at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub (even more popular than the posts about the imaginary Texas chainsaw massacre).

So I stumbled on Banks’s drawing.  Illustration is often high art — the image above is identified as an educational image.  Children’s book?  Don’t know.

Banks has some other very nice illustrations on display, on completely different subjects.  You should go see.

What was that bowl maker trying to show with the goat and tree on that bowl?  Did s/he dream that people would be making images inspired by the bowl, 52 centuries later?

World's oldest animation; bowl from the Burnt City

An animated .gif made from photographic images of a bowl found at the Burnt City, and dated at 5,200 years.


Big bone sale in Dallas

June 11, 2011

Big bones.  Big sale.

Heritage Auction's triceratops, for Jun 12, 2011 auction

Triceratops welcomes bidders and gawkers to the Heritage Auction sale of fossils, gems, meteorites, and other national history ephemera. HA estimates this nearly-complete triceratops, mounted, to be worth about $700,000; less than 24 hours before the live auction, it has an online bid of $500,000 already.

Heritage Auctions set up a bug bunch of fossils, gems, meteorites, taxidermy, and art work from natural materials, for an auction on Sunday, June 12, 2011.

2011 June Dallas Signature Platinum Natural History Auction – Dallas, TX.  Auction #6061.

I can’t afford to bid, but they let me in to get photos.  Nice people.

Heritage Auctions' June special, a triceratops - IMGP6882 photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

Heritage Auctions' June special, a triceratops - photo by Ed Darrell; use permitted with attribution

The triceratops greets visitors and bidders at the display site, the Tower Building at Dallas’s art deco gem, Fair Park.  (If you look at the ceiling above the triceratops, you can see where restorers have stripped away several layers of paint to reveal the original ceiling paintings — original artwork, including murals, was painted over in the years following the dramatic debut of the buildings; restoration work proceeds slowly because of lack of funding.)

Triceratops horridus
Cretaceous
Hell Creek formation, Harding County, South Dakota

Researchers dug this particular specimen out of the ground in 2004.  HA’s description just makes one’s science juices flow:

Triceratops has enjoyed much cultural publicity ever since its discovery. It is an iconic dinosaur that has appeared in movies ranging from black and white cinema to modern movies like “Jurassic Park.” It has also been in cartoons, such as the children’s classic “The Land before Time.” Triceratops is also the official state fossil of South Dakota and the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.

The present specimen was discovered in 2004 in two parts: First, the fossil hunters came upon pieces of dinosaur bone eroding down a gully. Following these bone fragments, they eventually came upon large bones that would indicate the presence of a large Ceratopsian dinosaur. While this large mass of bones was being excavated, other members of the team followed another bone trail which led them to an amazingly well preserved skull 750 feet away from the original discovery. Over the course of months, the specimens were carefully excavated in large blocks; each specimen was covered in plaster jackets and removed from the field to the lab. It was only during preparation that they discovered the dinosaur was a Triceratops, and it happened to be a Triceratops with an incredibly complete skull. The bones and skull were carefully removed from their field jackets and prepared using hand tools. Broken bones were professionally repaired and restored while a few missing elements were cast from other Triceratops skeletons. A custom made mount was created to support the bones and the skull; innovative bracket mounts were crafted for each bone so that no bones had to be damaged in order to mount them. The bones were mounted in osteologically correct position; making it comparable to and possibly surpassing the accuracy of older mounts in museum displays. Though it is impossible to say whether or not the skull is original to the specimen, being discovered 750 feet apart, it is certainly possible that the two elements are associated for a number of reasons: first, the size of the skull is consistent with the proportional size dimensions of the skeleton, and second, the surrounding matrix (host rock) was identical in composition.

The completed skeleton is enormous; measuring 19 feet long from head to tail, 11 feet across, and towering 12 feet tall. The skull itself measures 7 feet long with 3 ½ foot long horns; placing it near the top of the size range for Triceratops skulls. The leg bones stand 10 feet tall from toes to the top of the scapula; dwarfing many other Triceratops skeletons. Given that the skull represents about 30% of a dinosaur’s entire skeleton, the present specimen is about 75% original bone, with the right leg, pelvic region, several cervical vertebrae and a few tail vertebrae being cast reproductions.

Who owns the thing?  Who put it together?   Who is losing the specimen, should it go to a private collection (you got a living room that big?), and which museum really wants it?

But that’s just one of the specimens up for sale at this auction, and not necessarily the best.  Also up for bid:  A stegosaurus, and an allosaurus, posed as a “fighting pair.”

Fighting pair - allosaurus and stegosaurus, from Heritage Auctions' June 12, 2011 sale of fossils IMGP6839 - photo copyright by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

The "fighting pair," an allosaurus (left) and stegosaurus (right) posed in combat positions. Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution.

If it sells, the stegosaurus will cost a lucky bidder more than $1 million.  The allosaurus requires $1.6 million.

Am I jaded?  On the one hand you can’t look at these specimens without thinking they deserve to be seen by kids, and adults, and studied by paleontologists and biologist of all stripes — and so who has the right to sell these off?  On the other hand, this is a Second Gilded Age, and the search for prize fossil specimens is often financed by the proceeds from these auctions.  I enjoyed an hour’s browsing and photographing — a slide presentation on the wonders of America for some sleepy class next fall.

How many of these specimens will I get a chance to see again in the future?

Or, Dear Reader, how many of these will you ever get a chance to see?

HA will sell a lot more than just a few dinosaur fossils.  This same sale includes the largest shark jawbone ever found, stuffed Kodiak and polar bears (from the same hunter), gems, art from petrified wood and fossilized fish, and a large selection of meteorites, including the only meteoroid ever confirmed to have struck and killed a living creature (a cow in Argentine; you can’t toss a stone without hitting a cow in Argentina, I hear).

Giant shark jaw for Heritage Auctions' June 2011 sale

Requires a large wall and high ceilings to display

I don’t plan to go bid; there’s about an hour remaining for online bidding tonight, but if you’re interested and you’ve got your income tax refund burning a hole in your pocket, you can also bid by telephone and hotlink on the internet (go to the Heritage Auction site for details).   Frankly, I don’t think the sale will get the attention it deserves.  I hope these spectacular specimens will land where they can get  a great, admiring and studious audience.


Oldest written melody in history

January 17, 2011

There is the oldest known animated cartoon, 5,200 years old.  There is the oldest known musical instrument, between 7,000 and 9,000 years old.

Now, also, here is the oldest known written melody, too – from 1400 BCE.

Are we to assume that for at least 5,000 years, music was all improvised?  Would that make jazz the oldest musical form?

In the YouTube comments, there is what may be oldest known copyright dispute, too.

Michael Levy performs on the lyre in the video, and he’s the authority on ancient music who put the thing together.  His explanation and website offer a lot more that teachers of world history might use to bring these ancient arts to life.  He explained at YouTube:

This unique video, features my arrangement of the 3400 year old “Hurrian Hymn no.6″, which was discovered in Ugarit ,ancient northern Canaan (now modern Syria) in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuneiform text of the ancient Hurrian language – it is THE oldest written song yet known! Respect, to the amazing ancient culture of Syria…السلام عليكم

Although about 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction.

In short, the Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals — a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre!

Although discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian — they came from modern day Anatolia. The Hurrian Hymn actually dates to the very end of the Hurrian civilisation (c.1400BCE) . The Hurrian civilization dates back to at least 3000 BCE. It is an incredible thought, that just maybe, the musical texts found at Ugarit, preserved precious sacred Hurrian music which may have already been thousands of years old, prior to their inscription for posterity, on the clay tablets found at Ugarit!

My arrangement here, is based on the original transcription of the melody, as interpreted by Prof. Richard Dumbrill. Here is a link to his book, “The Archeomusicology of the Ancient Near East”:
http://bit.ly/d3aovp

A photograph of the actual clay tablet on which the Hurrian Hymn was inscribed, can be seen here:

http://phoenicia.org/music.html

The melody is one of several academic interpretations, from the ambiguous Cuneiform text of the Hurrian language in which it was written. Although many of the meanings of the Hurrian language are now lost in the mists of time, it can be established that the fragmentary Hurrian Hymn which has been found on these precious clay tablets are dedicated to Nikkal; the wife of the moon god.

There are several such interpretations of this melody, but to me, the fabulous interpretation just somehow sounds the most “authentic”. Below is a link to the sheet music, as interpreted by Clint Goss:

http://www.flutekey.com/pdf/HurrianTa…

In my arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn, I have attempted to illustrate an interesting diversity of ancient lyre playing techniques, ranging from the use of “block and strum” improvisation at the end, glissando’s, trills & tremolos, and alternating between harp-like tones in the left hand produced by finger-plucked strings, and guitar-like tones in the right hand, produced by use of the plectrum.

I have arranged the melody in the style of a “Theme and Variations” – I first quote the unadorned melody in the first section, followed by the different lyre techniques described above in the repeat, & also featuring improvisatory passages at the end of the performance.

I am also playing the lyre horizontally – a much more authentic playing position, as depicted in ancient illustrations of Middle Eastern Lyre players:

http://www.hebrewhistory.info/factpap…

This also seems a much more stable playing position to me, and I find it much easier to improvise with string-blocking etc when the lyre is held in this manner.

My arrangement of the melody is much slower than the actual academic interpretation – I wanted the improvisations in the variations on the theme to stand out, and to better illustrate the use of lyre techniques by a more rubato approach to the melody.

All of my 9 albums of mystical, ancient lyre music are now available from iTunes . . .

1)”An Ancient Lyre”: http://bit.ly/dhCozi

2)”King David’s Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel”: http://bit.ly/9PCIua

3)”The Ancient Biblical Lyre”: http://bit.ly/9hTDje

4)”Lyre of the Levites”: http://bit.ly/9baWuM

5)”Apollo’s Lyre”: http://bit.ly/dhCozi

6)”Ancient Times — Music of The Ancient World”: http://bit.ly/aRF5PD

7)”The Ancient Greek Modes”: http://bit.ly/cZks0o

8)”The Ancient Greek Lyre”: http://bit.ly/bxO7Ra

9)”Ancient Visions — New Compositions for an Ancient Lyre”: http://bit.ly/dCPmRN

Physical CDs are also available anywhere in the world from CD Baby, for 3 of my best selling albums:

“An Ancient Lyre”: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mlevy4

“King David’s Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel”: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mlevy

“Lyre of the Levites”: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mlevy2

For full details about my albums of lyre music, and the fascinating ancient historical background, please visit my official website:

http://www.ancientlyre.com

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, who used the video only in passing, oddly enough.


Monkey Day 4 Stone Hearth

December 21, 2010

What the heck is Monkey Day?

The 108th edition of 4 Stone Hearth is up at This is Serious Monkey Business.

A sample:

Over at her blog, Barbara J. King writes about The Cognitive Watershed and Nut-Cracking Monkey Pushback wherein she explains one of the finer (and, in my personal opinion, coolest) aspects of primatology, nut-cracking, and uses bearded capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidosus) to exemplify these foraging techniques. Pretty timely as the holidays approach, eh?

DNApes has also got a fantastic article that’s been hitting the news recently about Monitoring the Health of Endangered, Wild Chimpanzees. I’m particularly interested in disease ecology in primates, so this article was a special treat for me given that it looks at the potential for retroviral diseases in chimpanzees and the risks posed to hunters as a result.

How did humans get HIV, anyway?

Does it seem to you we have fewer blog carnivals coming to town these days?


Relic bomb crater found in Darwin, Australia

October 20, 2010

A bit of World War II history:  Darwin, Australia, took more bombs than Pearl Harbor, during World War II.

We learn this from the Australian Broadcasting Corp. story on the recent rediscovery of a large bomb crater there:

Map of Australia

Map of Australia, from Australia.com

Bomb crater found in Darwin CBD

It has been confirmed that a large hole uncovered by earthworks in Darwin’s CBD is a bomb crater probably created during the first Japanese raid on Darwin in 1942.

The crater was spotted by a passing motorist who reported it to the Department of Heritage.

Archaeologist Silvano Jung has now investigated the site and says it is almost certainly a bomb crater.

“Judging by the diameter of the crater, it was probably a 1,000 pound bomb, or a 500 kilo bomb, dropped by a medium bomber either from Java or Ambon [in Indonesia],” he said.

“Most likely on February 19 [1942] as well.”

Mr Jung says the bomb crater will become a special part of Darwin’s history.

“Often it’s the small things in history that are really important and given that this is the only one, it makes it unique. It’s a unique hole in Darwin,” he said.

Darwin was subjected to 63 bombing raids during the war, with more bombs dropped on the city than Pearl Harbour.

Now we study bomb craters in archaeology.

According to some reports, it is the sole surviving bomb crater from the war, in Darwin:

Northern Territory heritage Minister Karl Hampton said the exciting discovery on McMinn Street provided a clear link with the past.

“World War II is an important part of the Territory’s history and identity,” Mr Hampton said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Territorians are proud of our unique history, and we now have another attraction no other capital city can match – an authentic World War II bomb crater.”


Sleeping dog at the Palace at Knossos

September 10, 2010

Dog at the Palace at Knossos, Crete (Greece) - photo copyright 2010 Kenny Darrell

Sleeping Dog at the Palace at Knossos, Crete (Greece) - photo copyright 2010 Kenny Darrell (free use with attribution)

You recognize the three maidens, of course, the Ladies in Blue fresco.  Dogs wander all over Crete, Kenny discovered.  Strays?  Neighborhood dogs just not bound by a fence?

Maybe this mutt is just a lover of history, or archaeology.  Dreaming of the Knossos that was?  Who will tell the dog the fresco is a reproduction?  Do they duplicate the dog at the display in the Heraklion Museum?

Kenny got inspiration from roaming the ruins of the palace.  Some of his colleagues, he reported, were less interested, because they were ruins.  They had hoped for more of a palace to tour.  Walking through a cradle of civilization, but craving the comforts of guides and air conditioning . . .

From Kenny’s stay in Crete early in the summer.

See also:


World history teachers, take quick note! Paleolithic sources

September 7, 2010

More accurately, sources on the paleolithic.

K. Kris Hirst at About.com blogs about archaeology at least weekly – I just subscribe to her stuff and get it when it comes.  So, file this under “I get e-mail.”

This week, she’s got stuff world history teachers could use on the old stone age.  See if this doesn’t pique your interest:

From K. Kris Hirst, your Guide to Archaeology

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and as every one knows, World History begins with the Paleolithic period–the Old Stone Age, the evolutionary moment from which all of our amazing human culture derives. Keep that trowel sharp!

Guide to the Stone Age
The Stone Age (known to scholars as the Paleolithic era) in human prehistory is the name given to the period between about 2.5 million and 20,000 years ago. It begins with the earliest human-like behaviors of crude stone tool manufacture, and ends with fully modern human hunting and gathering societies…. Read more

Control of Fire
The discovery of fire, or, more precisely, the controlled use of fire was, of necessity, one of the earliest of human discoveries. Fire’s purposes are multiple, some of which are to add light and heat, to cook plants and animals, to clear forests for planting, to heat-treat stone for making stone tools, to burn clay for ceramic objects…Read more

The Invention of Footwear
Believe it or not, we humans have worn shoes of one sort or another for some 40,000 years! Read more

The Ileret Footprints
Not as well known and much younger than the Laetoli footprints are the Ileret footprints, two sets of fossilized footprints of a possible Homo erectus or Homo ergaster discovered at the FwJj14E site, near the modern town of Ileret in Kenya. Read more

See what I mean? Go see what else she’s got.  Some of us are going into the third week, and are already past that lecture . . .


Four Stone Hearth #88: Sit, read and warm yourself

March 20, 2010

Four Stone Hearth #88 rests nicely in the St. Patrick’s Day edition at Ad Hominin.

World history and geography teachers, take special note.  There are real gems in this one.

Lots more stuff.  Which articles do you find compelling?

Odd update, January 23, 2013:  The link to “List of the 100 best blogs for anthropology students” is dead; it went to a page from OnlineDegrees.net.  I have an odd request from that site asking me to remove the link because it’s “over-optimized,” and they are trying to get straight with Google.  It all sounds shady to me.

My apologies, Dear Reader, for having linked to such a shady source as OnlineDegrees.net.  I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

http://www.onlinedegrees.net/blog/2010/100-best-blogs-for-anthropology-students/


Time to start making huge stone heads

November 29, 2009

Well, maybe not yet.

But consider Jared Diamond’s 1997 essay in Discover:

In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?

Among the most riveting mysteries of human history are those posed by vanished civilizations. Everyone who has seen the abandoned buildings of the Khmer, the Maya, or the Anasazi is immediately moved to ask the same question: Why did the societies that erected those structures disappear?

Diamond’s essay appears in different, and longer form (as I recall) as a chapter in his book Collapse.  That book is all about why civilizations collapse.

A lot of it boils down to wasting of resources.  Easter Island had not always been the grass-only rock with just a couple of thousand people clinging to a desperate existence, as Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen found it on Easter Sunday, 1722 (April 5).  When the ancestors of the tiny population found the island, it had forests, and probably animals, and rich enough resources to support a larger population.

Until they deforested it, hunted to near extinction every animal that couldn’t escape, and caused the collapse of their own civilization.

Is this an analogy for what humans are doing to the planet now with pollution, especially atmospheric-warming air pollution?

Diamond concluded his essay:

I suspect, though, that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper. After all, there are those hundreds of abandoned statues to consider. The forest the islanders depended on for rollers and rope didn’t simply disappear one day-it vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation. Our Pacific Northwest loggers are only the latest in a long line of loggers to cry, “Jobs over trees!” The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect: yes, this year we cleared those woods over there, but trees are starting to grow back again on this abandoned garden site here. Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference. Their children could no more have comprehended their parents’ tales than my eight-year-old sons today can comprehend my wife’s and my tales of what Los Angeles was like 30 years ago.

Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

By now the meaning of Easter Island for us should be chillingly obvious. Easter Island is Earth writ small. Today, again, a rising population confronts shrinking resources. We too have no emigration valve, because all human societies are linked by international transport, and we can no more escape into space than the Easter Islanders could flee into the ocean. If we continue to follow our present course, we shall have exhausted the world’s major fisheries, tropical rain forests, fossil fuels, and much of our soil by the time my sons reach my current age.

Resources:

Jared Diamond in a 2003 appearance at TED:


Four Stone Hearth #69 at Wanna Be an Anthropologist

June 21, 2009

Four Stone Hearth #69 plunges into summer, at Wanna Be An Anthropologist.

Quite a thorough edition — there is a lot gathered there, including links to posts about the summer digging of several projects.

There’s a bunch of discussion on open access journals, too, which should be of particular interest to anyone with students doing projects these days.


Bathtub reading on a warm June Sunday

June 7, 2009

I thought everybody does serious reading in the bathtub, no?

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona; the Pima Air & Space Museum now offers bus tours of the 309th Maintenance and Regeneration Groups collection of scrapped and very historic airplanes

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona; the Pima Air & Space Museum now offers bus tours of the 309th Maintenance and Regeneration Group's collection of scrapped and very historic airplanes

Can’t soak all day.


4 Stone Hearth 68 + remote central = good convergence

June 5, 2009

4 Stone Hearth’s 68th incarnation rises at remote central, among my favorite archaeology/anthropology/ancient history blogs.

Tim has done an outstanding job of shaking good stuff out of the internet tree:  Did cooking make humans smartKris Hirst on the human transition to agriculture (every history teacher needs this one);  The new discovery of a Miocene era ape, in Europe; and returning to a topic I spend so many years listening to at the Senate Labor Comittee, is tobacco worse than cocaine?

That’s just scratching the surface.  Go see.


Afarensis back in the old digs

May 10, 2009

Afarensis left the Seed stable. Here’s the new (old) site.

Afarensis skull - symbol of Afarensis  blog

Afarensis skull - symbol of Afarensis blog

Some story there, maybe some drama, maybe not much.  Still worth reading.


Great discoveries at Four Stone Hearth 65

April 27, 2009

Okay, now Four Stone Hearth can apply for Social Security.  It has come of age.

Seriously, FSH 65, hosted by Primate of Modern Aspect, continues the tradition of that particular carnival with great links to great research, in anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics.

Hobbits?  Chimps?  Linguistics? Brains?   It’s all there.  Go see.


Four Stone Hearth #64 at Quiche Moraine

April 12, 2009

Do you have to know geology to get the title of that blog?

Four Stone Hearth 64 is hosted by Quiche Moraine.  Lots of good stuff.  F’rinstance:

With a few hours, an ambitious teacher could get 20 or 30 good bell-ringers out of FSH.  Bell ringers based on real research — what a concept.

A modern version of an ancient hearth - State Cooking Pot of Utah, the Dutch oven - photo by Jason Slemons

A modern version of an ancient hearth - State Cooking Pot of Utah, the Dutch oven - photo by Jason Slemons


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