settlements

Live dispatches from the Tooth Fairy

So, now you know. The Tooth Fairy is an archaeologist.

Archaeologists get everywhere. Like sand. This also applies to  jobs, so it’s not totally impossible that someone who specialises in the minute structures of teeth (see my previous post from DayofArch 2011) would end up in the overwhelmingly awesome Human Origins Research Group at the Natural History Museum, London.

Natural History Museum

For starters, this is an awesome place to work. Yesterday I found out that during WWII, the collections were evacuated to stately homes across the country to escape the Blitz… complete with associated researchers. And there’s a basement here that’s really a bomb shelter which was used by Churchill as a telephone exchange – part of the secret tunnels which run all under this area up to the Palace and War Rooms. Herman Hess apparently even spent a few nights in the Anthro Stores before his trial.

And today, on the Day of Archaeology, this particular Tooth Fairy is gearing up for more research than you can shake a stick at. In relation to the main project I work on at the NHM I’ve:

uwrapped my new camera toy;

eaten cake and discussed human origins/Euro2012; and

discovered a disturbing image mode setting on the new camera.

I’m also getting ready to go out to the field to look at the teeth of children who died in central Anatolia (Turkey) sometime between 10,500-8,500 years ago.  These are the remains of subadults from the amazing site of Aşıklı Höyük, the earliest settlement of the Anatolian Plateau.

I’ll be looking at the microscopic records of growth captured on every tooth–perikymata–to see how these children lived and grew. Like tree-rings, the lines on the outside of our teeth give a lot of information on how we grew (here‘s a more in-depth explanation). It’s a way to find out about health and development in early childhood at the very beginning of human settlement. Were there lots of growth disruptions? Can we see records of illness that might suggest seasonal diseases related to shifting subsistence patterns? That tell us about birth spacing?

I’m excited to find out. Even if I will totally get green dental impression material all over my nice new lab coat. It’s the price you pay for science!

Anyway, my days are pretty varied, but you can certainly keep up with me @brennawalks, or follow @ah_arkeoloji for more on Aşıklı Höyük.

 

N.B. All opinions etc. are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my benevolent employer. Images under creative commons fair use.

Another Day In The Life (Of An Archaeological Geophysicist)

When self-employed, a year just goes like that <clicks fingers>.

You may have read my Day of Archaeology blog post from last year.

I have since worked in a number of cemeteries searching for unmarked graves using geophysical methods. I spoke at the Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of Victoria conference in April (my first ever conference presentation) and am in the throws of writing my first paper about some work I did over the last year.

I have been undertaking geophysical surveys at the Creswick Cemetery (in Victoria, Australia) for the last year-and-a-bit, tracking down unmarked Chinese graves and an old homestead and associated features (rubbish pits, garden beds, etc.). In all this time, I have been able to test just about every geophysical method under the sun, and so am able to compare the effectiveness of certain methods at detecting certain types of archaeological features. I am hoping it will make a good read. Our data collection phase finished last week, so now it is (academic) reporting time. The client’s report has already been written and is publicly accessible for those interested.

Earlier this week, I had a computer issue and lost all of my tax data. Sadly, my taxes are due today. Hence, I spent the last four days doing nothing but my tax. Needless to say, this hasn’t been a very ‘archaeological’ week. Taxes were finished and submitted late last night, thankfully.

Today, though, I am driving back to Creswick, where three cemeteries nearby heard of my work and are interested in my surveying their empty land to look for any unmarked graves that may be present. Assessing each cemetery prior to providing them with a quotation will take me all of this weekend.

I have also branched out into geodetic surveying (i.e. creating maps of archaeological excavations and landscapes) using GIS, RTK GPS and robotic total stations. These technologies are certainly a far cry from the days of old, when we just used measuring tapes and a compass! I’ve also been using car- and tripod-mounted laser scanners to create full-colour three-dimensional models of archaeological sites, heritage structures and cemeteries (you’d be surprised by how many people want to look at what is written on headstones in a cemetery far, far away). I’m also looking into using airborne LiDAR for a major archaeological prospection project.

That’s about all for me for the year.

And, for those of you wondering, the big settlement project I was getting ready for last year ended up not getting any funding, so it didn’t happen. Anyone fancy donating some cash to the project?

Until next year… feel free to stalk me on my Facebook page , Twitter and my blog.

Live long and prosper.