Friday, August 31, 2012

Helsinki - talks, talks, talks

Today there was no time to visit anything; talks from morning till late.

At first I had a session on the 'role of plants in paleonutritional reassessment' which was quite interesting, especially the recently discovered underwater site of Amsterdam-Yangtzehaven. The site which is 20 m below water level still gave up lots of information about plant food in the Mesolithic. From charred acorn over club rush to prepared celandine tubers (buttercup), a lot of wild plants were used for food in the Mesolithic.
The second session was about circumpolar rock art and somehow taken over by shamans. Still, I didn't know too much about Canadian rock art so it was quite interesting to see some examples from the New World. This is the site of Qajartalik, Quebec which was made by the Dorset culture (2500 BC to AD 500):
Time for lunch with the unicafé's vegan choice of a wrap,  a vegetable chili, brown rice and a soy-yogurt sauce:
In the afternoon I ended up in the climate archaeology section where climatologists were mocking archaeologists for not having a deeper appreciation of their art and still had typologies based on pottery. Some nice talks with an interesting one by Gunhild Eriksdotter about the Little Ice Age and its impact on indoor climate and living comfort. Although working in historical archaeology her findings were interesting and easily transferable into prehistory. Hardwick Hall, a stately manor in England for example had so much windows that it would have been really cold in winter, let alone during the Little Ice Age. But she showed how people could show off with their manors and still live relatively comforting. Bess of Hardwick, who had the manor built moved her smaller sized sleeping rooms to the south side with few windows and had 8 (!) carpets on the floor. So the cold rooms were more or less just for receptions and kitchens.
See her small sleeping chamber in the back? By the way, Hardwick Hall's facade was used for the exterior scenes for Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter 1 and 2.

The last session for today was about 'animal agency'; a lot of criticism against raising animals as capital came through and some carefully softened voices for animal rights. But in general they kept to the archaeological side of it. Kristin Armstrong Oma presented a nice paper (based on her article in the World Archaeology - if you are by any chance an archaeologist, you might want to read it here).
Her talk was about the social interaction between sheep, dog, and man in the Bronze Age when sheep farming intensified because wool was extensively used for textiles and how new husbandry practises evolved that changed not only landscape (grazing areas) and technology but also house architecture (from a two-aisled house -upper illustration- in the Neolithic to a three-aisled house in the Early Bronze Age -lower illustration) to allow animals to be stocked in the house.
taken from:
A nice rock art scene of a shepherd and his dog herding a flock of sheep illustrated her theory that the shared living also built a source of trust which made it easier to handle the sheep.
Rock art scene from Valhaug 1, Rogaland Norway
K. Armstrong Oma 2010, plate 2

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