Last 29th of April has been International Tabletop day, a day to celebrate boardgames around the world. I love playing boardgames. Computer games are great too, no doubt, but there is something about rolling the dice with your hands, moving figures around in the board, exploring magical dungeons or chasing zombies in a Midwest town. The friends, the socialization, the drinks in between rolls… A lot of fun. And of all the events, all the internet posts and YouTube videos to celebrate this event, the best, without any doubt, is the one I am presenting you today: the Royal Game of Ur play-through with Tom Scott and Irving Finkel, the curator of the British Museum who discovered the rules on a cuneiform tablet.
Esta ten sido unha semana moi longa, así que ¿que mellor plan que outro filme de culto pra desfrutar unha tarde de domingo na casa? Tras A Furia dos Titáns e A Momia, retornamos to cinema en cor e ao traballo de Harryhausen no filme que el considerou selo seu mellor traballo, Xasón é os Argonautas.
Pra todos aqueles non familiarizados có mito, esta é a historia de Xasón, o lexítimo pero deposto príncipe de Iolcos, na súa procura do Vélaro de Ouro na fin do mundo, que neste tempo era a semi-mítica terra da Cólquida (que algúns investigares sitúan hoxe en Xeorxia). Esta aventura é coma un reencontro de estrelas do panteón mítico grego, incluíndo Herakles, Peleos, Butes, Cástor e Polideukes, Calais e Thetes, Meleagro, e a única femia do grupo, Atalanta. A tripulación varía con cada versión do mito, pero é claro que se trata da maior aventura dos mitos gregos antes da Guerra de Troia.
As you may remember from a former post, I have been researching lately on MOOCs and the role they can play in the communication of archaeology to larger audiences. In a paper I have recently published I concluded that, if well designed and maintained through time, MOOCs can be an incredibly engaging learning experience. I have enjoyed that research so much that I decided to keep taking and reviewing MOOCs on archaeology and anthropology, not necessarily for a new paper, although you never know, but for this blog. Thus, today I am presenting you with a MOOC that I have finished a couple of days ago and that is one of the best I have ever taken: Rome, A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City, from University of Reading in the platform FutureLearn.
This has been a very long week, so what a better plant than another cult film for Sunday afternoon at home? After Clash of Titans and The Mummy we return to colour and Harryhausen in the film he considered to be his best, Jason and the Argonauts.
For those of you not familiar with the myth, this is the story of Jason, rightful but deposed prince of Iolcos, on his quest to recover the Golden Fleece from the end of the world, which at that time was the semi-mythical land (now some scholars place n Georgia) of Cholquis. Well, his adventure and that of some of the most important heroes in Greece, such as Herakles, Peleos, Butes, Castor and Polydeuces, Calais and Thetes, Meleager and, the only woman of the crew, Atalanta. The crew members vary with each version of the myth, but it is clear this was an all-start adventure for the Greek heroes, and the most important common enterprise before the Trojan War.
I am sharing with you today a great discovery I made a couple of days ago while searching the web for my studies on archaeological outreach. The name is Archaeological Fantasies, a blog started in 2011 and with an associated podcast since 2015. Awesome. Just fantastic. The main goal of the blog and the podcast is to explain from a scientific and easy to understand perspective many of the fantasies defended by pseudoarchaeology, showing how research in done in archaeology and why many of these conspiracy theories cannot be taken seriously at all.
The hosts are Serra Zander and Prof. Kenneth Feder. I discovered Zander’s fascinating work through the blog. It is just incredible. The reviews of pseudoarchaeological books she posts are amazing, beautifully written and plenty of citations to articles that provide the data to support its arguments. In fact, the quality of this research and the fact that is posted in a blog, which is great, but does not have a parallel presence in academic journals, has reinforced some of the ideas I have defended in a recent paper: we should take this topic much more seriously. Ignoring it is not working at all.
With regard to Prof. Feder, he is one of my favourites on this topic. I discovered him in a couple of episodes of Horizon where Atlantologists ideas were reviewed and put to the test, a test they obviously failed. Then I found that he has been actively publishing on these topics for a while, with two books on Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, and Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. I am afraid that they are right now a little bit expensive for me to buy them right now, but if they are half good the arguments he defends in other places, such as these podcasts, I am sure they will be fantastic readings.
I have just listened to the last episode and a bunch of the early ones, so I cannot have an opinion for every single podcast made. But I love them. The clear way in which our job is explained should in fact be a model for us all, since, whether we like it or not, we are all confronted from time to time to some of the same questions the hosts mention, for example, in the same episode. Like them, I got interested in pseudoarchaeology as some kind of hobby/secondary stuff I file from time to time whenever they cross my way, and like them too I have become more and more active on the topic due to the empowerment and legitimization the media has given to pseudoscience in the last years.