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I regularly read nature, science, PNAS, Current Anthropology, Journal of Archaeological Science, American Antiquity, Antiquity, Archäologische Informationen, Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt, (most of them on paper – my one big indulgence and luxury) and whatever tidbits I’m led to by finding them being mentioned somewhere. Whoever happens to share my particular interests can find a list of all the highlights of the current week, together with abstracts and the personal comments I feel compelled to make, here.
For the time being the archive of older entries also resides in my now defunct old blog which offers a search option.
Reich et al.'s conclusion as summarized by Hovenden & Newton is completely unsupported by their data. First they only measure standing biomass instead of primary production as they should have and they do not tell us, if their plots were grazed or excess growth otherwise removed instead of clogging up the plants. But even taking their results at face value, they are obviously unusable.
I have yet to see a sillier and more confusing way of presenting data than the one chosen in Pennisi. Trying to untangle the values, I can not see them to show what it is claimed they do.
If Brace et al. are right, the first British farmers arrived along the Mediterranean route via Spain and not through Hungary and the Bandkeramik. An early connection to seafaring groups is supported by a possible find of beer in the Mesolithic (Smith et al., list of 2015-03-20).
This week it's mostly methodological stuff about molecular archaeology plus an article on the extraction of carbon dioxide from air.
Ponsot et al. is another recent example where the main purpose of research is influencing people and optimizing elite-controlled state propaganda. Something in our society has fundamentally changed in my lifetime.
Lazer et al. take note of a vexing problem: Making media consumers more aware of fake news will result in them becoming more critical of and less prepared to accept state sponsored propaganda and the unified promotion of political correctness. It seems the old monopolies just can't win this one.
The archaeological literature has recently been dominated by DNA studies. Just like in all other cases of assimilating scientific data into cultural topics there will be all kinds of misunderstandings and over interpretations that we have yet to learn how to deal with.
Even after sleeping on it for several nights I still can't make my mind up, if the letter by Wimbush is satire or meant in earnest.
Hassett is popular science aimed at a very general audience, although a better acquaintance with US-American culture than mine is required to get all her jokes. Although the book succeeds in its aim, that does not excuse its lack of rigour. I have already found three serious factual mistakes and as yet I've only reached page 134 of 320. That said I've learnt a lot from those parts where she stays in her own specialty, so on the whole I'd still recommend the book.
Nowadays measurement is easy and comes out of sealed grey boxes to an apparent precision of dozens of digits. Experimenters are in danger of losing all feeling and understanding of their subject matter. Price et al. are a timely reminder of the importance of asking questions before citing numbers and the meaninglessness of measurements as such, however precise they may happen to seem to be.
Climate is changing and always has been. But climate is also a long-term phenomenon with fluctuations and short-term variability as an important constituent element, as Sun et al.'s timely reminder demonstrates.
Was there an “Israel” in some form or other already in the 13th or even 14th century bc? Zwickel & van der Veen provide strong arguments pointing in that direction.
How can Porzig assume there never was an ark of the covenant holding the tablets of law, when I have seen photographs of the chapel it is now housed and sheltered in with my own eyes?
Enrico Fermi may well have dabbled in a little physics now and then, but his most important contribution deserving first rank in any biography were his contributions to the feminist world view, at least according to Formato, that is. If you want the biography by Schwartz to be done justice, then refer to Catherine Westfall's review in nature.
For some reason I never saw Nezafati et al. before and more importantly I never saw them cited anywhere. If their result holds they may have solved the riddle of early tin.
If Marsicek et al. are right we have to drop the European climate optimum of the Bandkeramik and replace it with one at End-Neolithic / Bell Beaker time. What their reconstructions show is a steep rise towards a plateau from 5.5–3 ka BC followed by another sharp step and a higher plateau through the End-Neolithic and Bronze Age times. The implications are far reaching.
What to put here, when I’ve got nothing to add?
Brügmann et al. actually want us to believe, that at the first tentative beginnings with tin-bronze individual metallurgists in a single settlement each had their own personal long distance trading connections. On the other hand those authors have still not bothered to measure the isotopic composition of current commercial tin from sources on different continents to at least get a first picture about the size of possible variation if any. Those publications get more ridiculous by the day.
Nothing especially remarkable this week.
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