Monthly Archives: November 2013

Archaeology Films A-Z: The Ancient Hydraulis

Title: The Ancient Hydraulis
Year: 2002
Length: 9.5 minutes
Made by: European Cultural Centre of Delphi
Genre: phenomenological/expository
Authors: Directed by Maria Hatzimihali-Papaliou, who was born in Greece and is part of the New Greek Cinema movement. She has made several documentaries highlighting social issues and disability in addition to her documentaries about ancient Greece. A notable film that combines these topics is People of Peace, a film that juxtaposes excerpts from ancient Greek writers and images of 20th century conflict. Interestingly, the credits list both the filmmakers and the “scientific team” behind the movie.

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 7.19.40 PM

Oh god, she thinks, not another archaeology video with pan-flutey music. Seriously, can’t we think of anything better?

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oh. This is new.

I fully admit that I had no idea what a hydraulis was before the viewing of this video. It is pretty damn cool.

The narrator quotes from primary sources to tell us the power of music in Greek society, how the symphony created by the hydraulis captivated an entire congress. The original 3rd century instrument was powered by a hydraulic air pressure stabilizer that was eventually replaced by bellows, turning the hydraulis into a wind instrument.

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The video streaming kept breaking, so I got to hear this dude sing at least a dozen times. I switched to watching the video on Daily Motion:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x280ns_ancient-hydraulis_creation

We switch to expository mode next, when we learn more about an archaeologist finding the remains of a hydraulis and reconstructing it. The hydraulis eventually turns into our more familiar pipe organ, adopted and then developed by the Catholic church.

There are a few overviews of the site of Dion, during which we learn about the archaeologist Dimitrios Panternalis who found the hydraulis at Dion and is now the president of the New Acropolis Museum. It is a little unfortunate that they don’t have any images of the process of construction, so we continue to see scenic Dion.

The Ancient Hydraulis is a mildly interesting video about a fun bit of experimental archaeology that could have been about half as long. If you are wildly into the Greeks, Classical Archaeology, Experimental Archaeology, or like to hear a yodeling dude, this video is for you.

3.5/5

Zelia Nuttall – Lonely Daughter of Culture

Nuttall

The newest newsletter of the History of Archaeology Interest Group features a short biography of Zelia Nuttall by Peter Diderich. She was one of the earliest female archaeologists and a pioneering scholar of Aztec, Maya, Olmec, and other cultures.

Hopefully Zelia will be featured on Trowelblazers at some point, but I was so seized by this quote by DH Lawrence about a fictional Mrs. Norris, based on Zelia, and the fantastic image hosted by my alma mater, UC Berkeley, that I had to combine the two.

May all of us who muse on the hard stones of archaeological remains take our inspiration from Zelia, and retain a strong sense of humanity & humor.

Telepresence/Teleabsence

brbxoxo

From brbxoxo, empty webcam rooms.

Virtual reality, while often presented as a fully-immersive goggles-and-gloves experience, actually falls along a spectrum. Obviously there are the Neuromancer-esque full simulations that are not currently achievable on one end of the spectrum, and Rudy Rucker’s “where you are when you’re talking on the phone” which Pat Gunkel calls “telepresence.” When you are on the phone you are not entirely in the room you are standing in–some part of you is with the person you are talking to. You are in-between.

I find the telepresence end of the spectrum much more relatable–I even find it a handy metaphor for archaeological practice. Where are you when you are “doing” archaeology? I’d argue (contra Michael Shanks and folks who think that it’s all modern performance) that you are telepresent–not entirely in the present day, but not wholly in the past. In-between, an interstitial space.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now, a parallel between virtual reality and experiencing the past (or, actually, any kind of deep research) as entering an interstitial space. More recently I’ve been thinking about teleabsence. When you are virtually there, but not really there. Let me explain.

Brbxoxo is a website that shows webcam feeds of empty rooms. Rooms that usually have a performer (these are often sex cams) but, for one reason or another, are not currently occupied. Live, but absent.

Another example is live chat with Facebook and Skype. If you have either installed as an app on your iPhone, you appear to always be online. I have gotten untold grief for “ignoring” people because I appear to be present, when I am actually absent.

Or, if you are particularly social-media-savvy, you can be present-absent; if you use Hootsweet or another post scheduler, it can appear that you are posting live to WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, when it is really automated. But do you schedule a post to go live during your official working hours, when it might be misinterpreted as inattention to your official duties?

I wonder, as the absent/present divide becomes increasingly ambiguous online, if it will change the value of present-presence: being in-person, offline, and entirely with the person that you are with. Or will cellphones just become completely integrated as an extension of self?

Behold, the Great White Falcon: Gifting & Gulf Archaeology

Bibby’s Looking for Dilmun is one of my favorite archaeology dig books of all time, with Agatha Christie’s Come Tell Me How You Live as a close second. Looking for Dilmun describes the Danish Mission in the Gulf, looking for the “lost” civilization of the Dilmun, eventually located in Bahrain. Bibby’s writing style is excellent and the book is a lot of fun.

Anyway, one of my favorite passages describes the acquisition of a Greenland falcon, a pure white bird, “save for the jet-black tips of its feathers.” Arab falconry is tied to status and to a sense of heritage, and P.V. Glob, the project director, was aware of this. As Bibby states, a white bird such as the Greenland falcon “had never been seen in the Arabian Gulf; it would be–simply–beyond price.”

As the archaeological team traveled by plane from Copenhagen to Bahrain, the Greenland falcon came with the team in the cabin. The team had visa trouble in Beirut and had resigned themselves to staying in the airport overnight, but mentioned the falcon and got checked into a luxury hotel for their trouble.

When Bibby and Glob arrived in Bahrain, the Highness’s falconer showed up in a limo, put the falcon in the back seat and whizzed away. The Danish have been digging in the Gulf ever since. Much to my delight, I found a photo of the selfsame falcon while looking through Moesgaard Museum’s “Glob and the Garden of Eden” website:

Fig  7.Tif

I wonder what happened to that bird.