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Bone Quiz: Revisiting Germany

14 Oct

Unfortunately I’m only visiting Germany in this blog entry and not personally!  Germany has recently been in both the education news and the osteo news though, so I’m always happy for a tenuous link to one of my favourite countries.

Free Education!

There has been a recent announcement that each of the 16 autonomous states in federal Germany have now abolished their tuition fees at their public universities, with both German and international students being allowed to take academic courses tuition fee free from 14/15 (as long as they are completed within a reasonable timescale).  Each state (Länder government) in Germany is responsible for its own education, higher education and cultural affairs, and higher education is a public system funded with public money.  This is a major step for Germany, although the decision can of course be overturned in the future as states weigh up various options ad political climates change.  Recent economic news has shown that whilst the UK and USA economies are growing (slightly), the Eurozone as a whole is still stagnating and economically contracting – still, Germany is certainly doing better than some of its economic partners in Europe.

Past Populations

Meanwhile, over at the University of West Florida Kristina Killgrove (of Powered by Osteons fame) and graduate research assistant Mariana Zechini have started a new project blog aimed at investigating and digitally documenting archaeological artefacts and biological remains.  One of their first projects was the 3D scanning and modelling of the teeth of individuals from the medieval population of the city of Cölln, in eastern Germany (see here).  Cölln was the sister city to Berlin, each probably founded around the 13th century on opposite sides of the river Spree, which today snakes through modern-day Berlin which now engulfs both sides of the river.

Taking place at the Virtebra lab (Virtual Bones and Artefacts lab) at the university, the aims are to digitally preserve and produce 3D models of the teeth to help kick-start a teaching collection.  The remains, from archaeological deposits identified as the city of Cölln, were recovered from the German excavations of a large medieval cemetery that took place at Petriplatz, Berlin, from 2007-2010, which uncovered the remains of 3718 individuals.  Back in 2013 Dr Killgrove also took the teeth to be tested for strontium isotopes (geographic) at UNC Chapel Hill (read more here) and the latest Virtebra blog post discusses the results of some of these tests (here).  I don’t want to spoil the results, so check out the blog entry and read up on the interesting archaeology of Cölln and Berlin!  The teeth that have been scanned are available and accessible as models at the GitHub site here.

Bones, Bones, Bones…

So this German (osteo and education) news reminded me of the 6 happy weeks I spent in the wonderful city of Magdeburg, on the EU-funded Grampus Heritage organised Leonardo Da Vinci scheme back in 2011.  I worked with a bunch of awesome UK students with a wonderful German team and, rarely for archaeology, it was a fully funded project.  It was on this archaeology trip that I got to excavate human remains in a medieval cemetery, which was a real honour.  But I wonder if anybody who reads this blog wants to test their own osteo skills and identify the bone and its osteological landmarks below….

1. a) Identify the largest skeletal element inside the yellow rectangle.

—-b) Adult/non- adult, and why?  Side the bone.

2. a)  Identify the structures in the red circle.

—-b) Name 2-3 muscles that have tendons that insert on either of the structures.

Memories of Magdeburg, Deutschland. A few of the skeletal elements part way being sorted for cleaning before the specialist documents them. Photograph by author.

I’ll put the answer up in a week or so – in the meantime please feel free to comment away.

LBK Almost Got Away

I almost forgot to mention that I’ve also conducted previous archaeological research into mobility of the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture for my MSc dissertation back in 2012.  The focus was on the statistical testing of the results of a literature review of strontium isotope results from 422 individuals across 9 LBK sites in Central Europe, with the main cluster of sites located in southern Germany.  You can read my research here!

Previous Bone Quiz

Further Information

  • Learn more about the Virtebra Project at the University of West Florida blog site here.
  • Read about how the German state funded universities managed to become tuition-free for both German and International students here at the New Statesman magazine.  Read more here for what the costs involved can be to live and study in Germany, including the costs of attending the private institutions which are not publicly funded.
  • Learn more about Grampus Heritage & Training Limited here.  Opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate UK students to take part in field archaeology in Europe can be found here (undergrads) and here (postgrads).  A previous guest post by Grampus Heritage on this blog highlighting the spectacular range of projects that have been available previously can be found here.

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Bone Quiz Answer

Bonequiz2answers

muscles galore.

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Antiquity Photography Competition

3 Apr

The archaeological journal ‘Antiquity‘ has begun a wonderful photography competition.  The archaeology themed competition (think sites and artefacts) is seeking readers to send in their photographs for each issue of the journal.  In each issue the best two photographs sent in will be printed.  If you are talented behind the lens and make it into an issue, you are then up for ‘photograph of the year’, which if chosen as the overall winner, results in a cash prize of £500.

Photography (including the use of standard black and white film, alongside modern digital technology) is an integral part of the package of archaeology, and is used throughout the discipline in varying forms.  For instance the excavation of an archaeological site and its features (such as trenches, sections and pits) are often recorded by hand and by photography, whereas aerial photography aims to cover large distances relatively quickly, helping to show landscape variation at different times of the day/year.  Photography is also used up close to capture specific details and contours of artefacts, as well as used in surveying to record a landscape at different times of the year to highlight seasonal changes.

This is a great opportunity to show your skills behind the lens and to capture the feeling of a site or an artefact, and to present it to a wider audience.

To read the rules of the competition and submit an entry click here.

My example:

A deserted medieval village, near Hundisburg, Germany.  My archaeology-themed photograph of a site visit, as part of the Grampus Heritage's 2010 project in Magdeburg.

A deserted medieval village, near Hundisburg, Germany. My archaeology-themed photograph of a site visit, as part of the Grampus Heritage‘s 2010 project in Magdeburg.

An example not to follow:

Although a delightful pig, this is definitely not an archaeology-themed photograph.

Although a delightful pig, this is definitely not an archaeology-themed photograph.

I wish any participants the best of luck!

Guest Post: ‘Grampus Heritage & The EU Leonardo Da Vinci Training Programme’ by Joanne Wilkinson.

8 Aug

Joanne Wilkinson gained an undergraduate degree at the University of Nottingham, and has several years experience in commercial archaeology.  Since joining Grampus she has  been involved in a number of archaeological projects around Cumbria, northern England, as well as involvement in Grampus’s EU projects.  Her interests include Roman archaeology, swimming, and she is a board member of a festival committee.


Grampus Heritage and Training Ltd is a non-profit making organisation based in the North West of England. Since 1997 we have been involved in the management and promotion of European projects concerned with culture, heritage, archaeology and the environment. We are promoters of the EU Leonardo Da Vinci Training Programme and provide funded training opportunities through this programme to UK students, recent graduates and young workers to various European countries.

The placements are a chance for participants to experience how sites are run outside the UK. Although they are a training experience, the participants build in confidence as they use what ever they may know about field work as well as being trained in slightly different methods. The placements are not a transfer of UK methods to an EU country, but are a chance for participants to add other skills to their field work experience.

The placements are also a chance for participants to develop and build on their personal skills, as usually the groups live and work together, usually having only met at the airport on the day of departure from the UK. Although not obvious at first, this is also an important part of the placement, as a lot of field work in the UK may mean close quarter living conditions with people that you may not necessarily know.

Students Learning on the 2011 Magdeburg Placement.

Past participants have kept in touch with us and have let us know how they get on. Some Archaeological, Environmental and Traditional Craft participants have informed us that they have since gone back to work with our partners, have chosen to use the sites they have worked on as part of their studies as they continue their education and others have gone into employment after our placements, with one of participants confident that it was her experience on our placement that helped get her the shortlist for interview. In a competitive job market, they are something else to add to CV’s or help towards university quotas of field work for graduation.

The placements are a great chance for undergraduates and graduates to excavate abroad, especially if previously they have not been in a position to do so. We have a variety of periods across our placements from Neolithic to Medieval, allowing us to offer a diverse range of placement opportunities. The placements allow the group to either work together on research excavations or work on rescue excavations. Some allow the group to work with commercial units, others with university research teams, working both in the field and sometimes in the lab.

Undergraduate archaeological opportunities (EASE)

BulgariaRoman site– Roman Baths near the town of Hissarya, in which the Roman occupation is clearly visible. The group works on the baths, helping the archaeologists learn more about this interesting area.

Finland: Stone Age– Kierikki Stone Age Centre. Located near Oulu, the Centre has built up around the Stone Age settlement site and using the evidence found, there are reconstructed buildings, which sometimes our groups help out with during the placement. The Centre is also the location for a Stone Age fair, which our groups take part in every year.

GermanyMedieval Magdeburg- Medieval and other sites which the Unit and university are working on at the time of the placement. As the group work with a commercial unit as well as university, they experience the commercial side to archaeology as well as the research side.

Iceland: Middle Age Period/Field School – The group work on 2 sites during their placement, exposing them to the different methods used at the very different locations. By moving to 2 different sites, they get to see more of Iceland as well.

Portugal: Copper Age – The group work together with other volunteers, being trained on a Copper Age site that sits atop a hill in an area surrounded by significant local archaeological sites, including Palaeolithic open air engravings of the Côa River Valley UNESCO site.

SlovakiaBronze Age– The group continues working on a site that was found during development work and has revealed lots of Hatvan Culture pottery. 2012 saw the group opening and working on a site that was discovered in 2011 through survey which revealed large ditches, which may be the focus of future work.

EASE Slovakia Placement.

Graduate archaeological opportunities (GrEASE):

Bulgaria: Medieval Fortress– The group help the team continue working in the fortress, the past few years having resulted in the discovery of a church and associated grave yard. With the discovery of a castle, fourteen churches, residential areas, craft shops and street networks, Cherven is one of Bulgaria’s more important archaeological centres.

CyprusChristian Basilica – The group continues with work that has been ongoing for the last few years in the areas of the Basilica. The previous groups have helped to uncover intricate mosaic flooring with as many as 16 mosaics designs showing evidence of having origins from all over Cyprus.

IcelandMonastic – The groups have been focusing on a monastery and associated graves, helping the team through their project and assisting with the yearly aims and objectives. The skeletal remains, botanical remains and surgical instruments suggest strongly that the monastery served elderly and sick people.

Italy: Etruscan – The groups assist in the continued research excavations in to the Etruscan period of the area around Marsiliana. The groups have been working on a possible residential building in the hills as well as nearby necropoli.

Romania: Neolithic – New on offer from Grampus the group works with a university team on a Neolithic site. The most recent focus has been on burials of many individuals, whose remains indicate some unusual burial practices.

EASE Bulgaria Placement.

The outcome of our placements are for participants to practice any skills they do have, learn some new skills and methods they may otherwise not encounter in the UK and to see how sites are run outside the UK.  The EASE placements are training experiences, but the placements are not a transfer of UK practices, so the training is something different for participants to experience. We also want participants to put the placement on their CV to highlight the work they have done. We want people to come away from the placement with more enthusiasm towards their studies/career and to feel that they have contributed to research/rescue excavations.

These Bones of Mine Note:

I participated in the 2011 Magdeburg German placement via Grampus Heritage in the UK, and found it a wonderful experience.  It is highly recommended that undergraduates and graduates across the EU access and use programs such as the Leonardi Da Vinci scheme.  For myself, it has given lifelong memories and long lasting friendships.

Photographs From Germany

20 Feb

I’m writing up the next Skeletal Series entry, and it should hopefully grace these pages soon enough.  In the meantime, as I lie in a post-essay malaise, enjoy some more pictures from my summer trip to Germany.   I might have posted one or two of them before.  I recently spent my earnings from coming highly commended for photography in the annual Leonardo Da Vinci Scheme competition, so I’m going to enjoy reading some free travel books on the archaeological and cultural wealth of Peru, so I hope you enjoy some photos!*  A few friends have kindly pointed out grammatical or spelling errors on these pages, please feel free to point any more out.

Alte Nationalgalerie, Museumsinsel, Berlin.

Magdeburger Dom und die Elbe River.

Mike relaxing; I miss this flat.

*All photographs have been taken by myself.

A Moment of History

12 Nov

My photograph of a photograph, a moment in time. Berlin Summer 2011- Altes Museum for Greek, Etruscan & Roman collections.

The first human musculoskeletal anatomy exam is over, relief and fear temper the awaiting results….

 

Grampus Heritage German Excavation Write Up

15 Sep

As previously stated, I recently went to Germany for 6 weeks participating in archaeology with Grampus Heritage.  Here is the first post and here is a post with various photos from the dig.  I completed a short report on the placement, and its available here (2011 excavation), on the Grampus website.  I will re-post the report in full to give an impression of what its like to partake in adventure, and encourage all European undergraduates and post graduates to take part.

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Ease Magdeburg Leonardo Da Vinci Placement 2011

I had the pleasure of spending six weeks in the city of Magdeburg, Germany, on a Leonardo Da Vinci placement, organised by Grampus Heritage and hosted by the Landesamt für Denkmalspflege und Archäologie Sachsen Anhalt in the summer of 2011.  The archaeological work was based both at the archaeological department and two archaeological sites outside Magdeburg.  The first site was a rescue site ahead of road construction at the village of Domersleben, to the west of the city.  This was a previously unknown medieval cemetery, possibly dating from around the 10th century (the dating wasn’t complete or known), or thereabouts.  The second site was a University of Kiel research dig at a Linearbandkeramik (LBK) site located near the town of Hundisburg, again west of Magdeburg.

Our accommodation was located in the north of the city, in 3 flats in one building.  Before I went I invested in a small guide to basic German Language, and now looking back I wish I had spent a few days learning the basics rather than slowly learning them whilst I was there.  It’s definitely recommended as it helps with basic communication with the residents of the city, and whilst shopping alone.

Magdeburg on the Elbe River

The City

Don’t let first sight of the city deceive you! Magdeburg is a glittering diamond of a city, hewn from a historical smorgasbord of repression and destruction (The 30 Years War, Nazism, & Communism to name a few). Yes, it is plain to see the physical damage wrecked on the city from the Communist city planners, but look a bit closer and it becomes plain that Magdeburg has some rather wonderful and strange buildings.  It also has historical architecture to rival any other German city.  On first entering the city via the RE Bahn, we passed several dilapidated buildings and structures, and each with a nervous glance aside, we wondered what we had let ourselves in for.

But we needn’t have worried.  From the rightly famous Gothic Dom (the first gothic cathedral outside France), to Hundertwasser’s ‘Grune Zitadelle’ & the Jahrtausendturm (Millennium Tower), Magdeburg offers architectural treats in various forms from all sorts of eras.  The wide plazas, from the GDR era, offer lovely views down the long main streets.  The trams that go all throughout the city are easy to hop on and off, and are accessible for wheelchairs, bikes or prams etc.  Just don’t make the mistake of not buying a ticket or sharing the wrong ticket as the tram officers can fairly brusque & rude!  It is very much worth having a good walk around the city to understand the different residential areas & where the main attractions can be located after a few days.

The MIllennium Tower & Dom Cloister

The main drinking outlets of Magdeburg city centre are located in Hasselbach Platz, where the bars tend to be open fairly late and where most people congregate on Friday & Saturday’s.  There are some particularly lovely bars just off this area, and the group located a Turkish Shisha bar just near the main museum.  For a small price you can smoke a variety of flavours of shisha & drink some pretty good cocktails.  Definitely recommended!

After work, I enjoyed nothing more than heading to the nearest lake (in this case Neustadt See- more below), and having a swim in one of the little remote beaches dotted along the lake side.  There is no better way to relax after a hard (and hot) day in the office then to swim in the cool waters.  It also offers a chance to try out some basic German with the Magdeburg residents!  For the more adventurous there was also ‘CableIsland’ at Neustadt See, which offers water skiing on the lake.

There are plenty of shops nearby the flats where we stayed (Neustadt Platz, just North of the city centre and a quick ride on the tram), including a variety of food shops.  One of the first things we noticed was the relative cheaper price of food and everyday goods; beer in particular was also cheap!  Some of our favourite food shops were Kaufland & Pennymarkt, which quickly became a mecca for cheap goods and a wide variety of fresh foods.

The Grune Zitadell

In the city centre there were internet cafes (no disabled access though!), large shopping centres such as the Allee centre & the main post office.  There are plenty of little cafes around offering excellent ice creams and a large selection of foods.  An Italian café near the University soon became a favourite.  Also in the city centre was the Opera House, the main museum, and of course the famous Magdeburg cathedral (or Dom).  These are not to be missed!  Just outside the city centre is the rather impressive and somewhat hidden away Magdeburg Zoo with a wide range of animals on display.  Across the river Elbe to the south of the centre there are a variety of parks such as the Elbaeunpark which houses theMilleniumTower, and the Rotehorn park which has numerous cafes and is ideal for a stroll around. Magdeburg is noted for its greenery and has been noted as one of the top green cities in Germany today.

Elephants at Play

The Work & The Unit

As stated the work in Magdeburg, in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt, involved two archaeological digs & finds work at the base.  The first dig, which was open throughout the whole of the six weeks, was a rescue archaeological site which was a medieval cemetery located in the village of Domersleben.  This previously unknown site was earmarked for road construction & expansion, and so ahead of the diggers the cemetery was excavated fully.  We received lifts to and from the site from the on site archaeologists.

Sam & Me excavate a skelly, and view across Domersleben excavation

Altogether at the site numerous burials were found, aligned East to West in the Christian tradition.  On two of the burials knives were found, and it is thought that they cemetery could date from around the 10th to 12th centuries AD.  This was the first time I had worked with human remains in the field, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Although I was only able to get out on site 4 times or so because of how damp the site was and because of my own mobility restrictions, I found it engaging, informative & interesting.  I learnt how to carefully uncover the grave cut, how to record and bag the skeleton, & how to be very careful not to miss out any of the bones in the grave fill.  The German team on this site were kind, instructive and helpful.  It was clear that they expected us to get on with the work, rather than nannying the students.

The other site that opened up in the 3rd week was a research led dig by the University of Kiel, of a LBK site near Hundisburg, around 30 to 40 minutes drive  from Magdeburg.  Although I did not take part in this dig because of accessibility issues, I am reassured it was a hard-working site!  The excavation technique at this site was different then the open air site of Domersleben.  Square meter pits were opened and dug to around 10-15cm with sites found being bagged and pinned in situ.  The hours of work were longer then Domersleben, and the students who worked at this site came back quite tired!

I worked mainly at the finds department, engaging in activities I have little done in British archaeological units.  This included drawing artefacts to archaeological specifications, piecing together medieval roof/floor tiles & helping to glue them, and various Bronze Age pottery pieces, back together when/if they fitted.  I also partook in some finds cleaning including processing of human & animal bone, and the usual suspects of ceramics and tiles.

Drawing the artefacts...

My praise of the German finds department team cannot be higher.  Sven, Rainer, Claudia, Secret, Christine, Angelica & Peter all provided a warm welcoming environment in which to learn new skills and acquire new friends.  The archaeological units in Britain could learn a thing or two from the mighty breakfasts enjoyed here!  At the start of the placement the other students rotated round as to who was volunteering with me, but as the second site opened up I went to the department alone.  I was very happy to work with the finds as they provided help when needed and in particular Rainer Kuhn provided a helpful hand in pointing out points of interest in the city.  He, and others, also provided lifts from the University Platz to the department, of his own accord, which was most helpful to me.

Numerous cleaned finds (spot the human bones!)

At first it seemed as if only Rainer and Claudia could speak English but as the weeks progressed and I tried to speak some basic German, communication became easier, and with the help of the translators of Rainer & Google translate conversations were able to take place.

Life Abroad & Trips Out

We had the weekends free and the days and weeks passed by in an easy hypnotic rhythm as we got used to working and living abroad.  We had day trips out to see archaeological sites around the Magdeburg and Sachsen-Anhalt area.  These were provided by Dr Thomas Webber alongside a few other key archaeologists, and included visits to the Palaeolithic Hundisburg site, a medieval deserted village, a Neolithic Megalithic tomb, a wooden castle, and a road development archaeological site.

Hundisburg Deserted Medieval Village

Neolithic Megalithic tomb near Hundisburg

One of my favourite trips and museums was seeing the Prehistory Museum in Halle.  This has got to be one of the most impressive prehistory museums in Germany, with its range from human evolution (Homo Erectus onwards) up until the Bronze and Iron Ages.  In particular some of the displays of the artefacts and block lifted archaeological specimens were amazing and inspirational.  Whilst in Halle we also got to look at a modern archaeological laboratory and were suitable impressed by the block lifted Neolithic well that Goetz showed us.  Halfway through we also all had a trip overnight to see the sights in Berlin.  This was a fantastic trip, with a delightful stay in a St Christopher hostel in Rosa Luxemburg Platz.

The Reichstag!

We managed to cram in most of the museums on Museum Island (Neues Museum, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Museum etc) alongside seeing the sights such as the Berliner Dom, Brandenburg Tor, the Reichstag, a chilling look around the memorial & museum to the murdered Jews of Europe; as well as a walk to the 1.5km stretch of the Berlin Wall that is now given over to artists.

Museum at the Museum Island, Berlin.

All in all Magdeburg provided the perfect base in which to work and relax, and I’m very thankful that Grampus provided the opportunity to live and work abroad.  I have very few regrets about choosing this placement as it was all set up fine, with enough money given for spending and activities, the training given was competent & the archaeological sites were varied and interesting.  Above all I praise dearly the German staff who provided such a warm environment in which to live, work and learn.

Report online here.

Photographs from the German Excavation

29 Aug

Well I’ve just got back to the UK today after 6 wonderful weeks on placement at Landesamt fur denkmalspfliege und Archaeologie Sachsen Anhalt, which was based in the Sachsen Anhalt state capital of Magdeburg, in Germany.  I’ll do a full write up later in the week, but for now enjoy some photos!

The Domersleben Site

Rescue burial excavation at the medieval site at the village of Domersleben, just outside Magdeburg

The skeleton in the above photo before lifting

Neanderthal from Le Moustier, at the Berlin Neues Museum.

Magdeburg Cathedral & Cloister

The Reichstag in Berlin

Max Plank Institute- sadly not the evolutionary anthropology centre!

View of Otto Von Guericke University, waiting for a lift to Post Excavation

Further information:

Berlin Neues Museum

Max Planck Centre for Evolutionary Anthropology & department for Human Evolution

Magdeburg Cathedral

Otto Von Guericke University

Deutsch Archaeology with Grampus Heritage

17 Jul

Tomorrow I will depart these shores to take part in the EU funded archaeology Leonardo Da Vinci scheme abroad in Germany.  I will be away for 6 weeks courtesy of the lovely Grampus Heritage  organisation, the UK company helping the Leonardo Da Vinci scheme.  In the meantime this blog may not be updated at all.  As such apologies for the rushed recent Skeletal Series post concerning the human hand, it will be updated and completed in time!

Grampus Logo

The dig in Germany will be centered in the city of Magdeburg, a city I am looking forward to exploring and getting to know.  Alongside myself there will also be 6 other UK student volunteers, helping to dig and document finds from numerous rescue excavations around the city and two archaeological sites to the north of the city.  Two sites date from the medieval age, whilst one site to the north consists of a Neolithic megalithic Tomb.  My role will be mostly post excavation work although  I hope to take part in field work, especially at the Neolithic site, if I can!

I heartily endorse that any undergraduate or graduate student takes the time to check out the fully funded European digs offered by grampus Heritage.  In this day and age archaeological fieldwork abroad can be a costly business to take part in and to gain experience in.  All the more to take advantage of the offer that the EU funds.  So for now, I say farewell!  Or auf weidersehen!