Egypt at Its Origins – conference day!

Fun! This is a conference day – I love those! One of the best bits of being an archaeologist is sharing ideas and finding out more and more! Lots of stuff to get my head into and to get thinking about. And best of all… being at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. So the day started with leaving the family with the relatives and heading into Manhattan. And then a nice American coffee to perk me up! Predynastic Egypt and what is going on research-wise. It’s all about Hierakonpolis before lunch (ancient Nekhen). Some absolutely great talks – definitely things that link in with my research into the Predynastic population there. And definitely some people that I want to invite to give research talks to us in my department in Southampton. I particularly enjoyed that by Xavier Droux from Oxford – relating the symbolic burials of animals with power, control, annihilation of chaos. Wonderful! And then Sean Dougherty! Obviously great talk – cremated humans! And he’s such a wonderful presenter of material. I think Sean is probably the only pyromaniac human osteologist! One of the most dynamic talks ever!
Lunch was a quick trip for good old NT pizza slice and a sit in Central Park. Gotta do these things and get some fresh air before heading back into the museum. The afternoon started with the eastern Nile Delta. Alice Stevenson had the last talk of the day – always hard to be just before the official conference reception – especially when it is in the Temple of Dendur! But she did a fab job – it’s amazing what we can still do going through past excavation records and material. There’s so much to do – and so much potential. Can we link the records with the human skeletons? I do hope so – and it would be great to do it!
Then it was great – the family came and joined me briefly for the reception. Nothing like the reaction of a toddler to the monumental nature of Egyptian architecture – even if it is Roman! And baby was well-behaved too. Made it out to the roof of the museum – but then it started to rain. We’d planned to walk to the subway but instead it was a flag-down-a-taxi frantically end to the day with 2 wet kids! Great day! Reinvigorated in archaeology and Egyptology! Bring on the skeletons!

Ses Talaies

The entrance (facing west) of the Talaiot at Ses Talaies

On my route to the centre of the island I stopped by at a site I know since it crossed my way by chance several years ago. It’s one of the around five hundred Talaiotic sites known on Mallorca.

Ses Talaies in Google Maps

Ses Talaies is a wonderful place. The old cyclopic walls surrounding a circular Talaiot that has obviously been excavated professionally (trenches still discernable) are sticking out here and there in between the ‘modern’ rubble walls limiting the parcels of land.

Old and 'modern' stone walls at Ses Talaies

The fields close to the Talaiot are full of objects on the surface esp. pottery. One of the old walls is attached to the Talaiot providing ground for dense vegetation of wild olives and almond trees.

I spend about an hour in the shade at the foot of the Talaiot making up my mind on an abstract I submitted just before starting the holidays.

Why that?

I’m invited for a conference in Cairo in October to deliver a keynote on building archaeology and its methods that are supposed to be strongly influenced by modern technology. For many good reasons the organisers of conferences want to have a summary of what will be presented months before the actual event – this summary is also known as an abstract and it has strong implications for the authors. Mostly you have to summarise first and write the talk later. Not always easy especially when you’re asked to contribute something basic and well thought on the methods of an archaeological discipline.

I usually start with a mindmap. It’s a handmade drawing with keywords. The main topics show up early. This basic concept is then complemented with arguments also interconnected with arrows etc. In the end it doesn’t look good, but it’s sufficient to derive a summary.

I have this mindmap with me, so in very relaxed moments I take it out and look at it and bits and pieces of how to communicate the different arguments come into my mind being written down instantly.

People who know me might find in surprising, but it’s still all by hand. I tried to use mindmapping software tools , but it’s not really working out.

So at least I did something quite typical for an archaeologist today…

Please note: When I visit sites that are not prepared for visitors I

  • do not climb on walls
  • do not pick up anything (not even pottery from the surface)
  • and, of course, don’t take anything with me

To keep the archaeological record intact is extremely important. Ses Talaies might be subject of full archaeological investigations in several decades only. We have no idea about techniques applied in the future. The past twenty years most certainly only offer a glimpse on the changes to come.