Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review | Voices from the Great Hunger:

Reconstructing the lifeways of people who perished in 19th century Kilkenny and London.

Lecture by Drs Julia Beaumont and Janet Montgomery at the Discovery Programme, 19th of March 2014.

Report by Philippa E Barry

In March 2014, the Discovery Programme, in partnership with the Irish Isotopes Research Group (IIRG), was delighted to welcome Drs Julia Beaumont and Janet Montgomery to speak about their work on Great Hunger victims in both Kilkenny and London.  The research was mostly a product of Julia’s PhD for which Janet acted as supervisor.  Janet was instrumental in bringing the use of strontium and lead isotope analysis to investigate human mobility into archaeology in the UK and as such, contributes to the recently formed IIRG.

Julia’s research turned out to be groundbreaking – because they sampled teeth from individuals from known contexts over very specific periods of time, they were able to apply historic data to a Neolithic Scottish population, clarifying to a great extent their subsistence strategies.

Janet introduced the talk and then Julia gave us the background to the work.  She worked as a dentist before going back to university to undertake her PhD.  The goal was to compare two populations enduring restricted diets and to compare victims and survivors of starvation.  The survivors came from Lukin Street, a Catholic cemetery used only between 1843 and 1854 and with documentary evidence for an Irish-speaking priest.  It was fortunate that the Kilkenny Union Workhouse (burials 1847 -1851) had been excavated in advance of development and that the skeletons had been analysed by Jonny Geber (they have since been reburied).   A third population, from Sumburgh Cist in Shetland that Janet was already working on, was used as a comparative population under dietary stress.

The first part of Julia’s talk was entitled a Tale of Two Cities.  Here she gave us the background to the assemblages and talked about what you might expect in the diets of people in the period between 1843 and 1854.  For individuals in the workhouses in particular, the diet would be high in maize or ‘Indian meal’ which was imported from the US to feed the victims.  A diet of maize can be differentiated from a diet of potatoes because maize is a C4 plant – meaning it’s photosynthesis of carbon is different due to the climate in which it usually grows.  Potatoes and most of the native mid- to northern-European plants are C3 plants.

This brought her to a Tale of Two Diets.  Prior to the famine an Irish person’s diet could consist of up to 14lbs a day of potatoes with some extras.  Julia described how there was evidence to suggest that some grew one fingernail a little longer to peel the skins off.  Potatoes would provide sufficient protein and vitamin C, and combined with milk, vitamins A and D.  Once the blight set in, maize replaced the potato as the main element of the diet.

In London, bread would seem to have been the staple carbohydrate, but foods would have been far more varied, with many consuming a large amount of fish as it was considered the cheap meat of the poor.   Some of those buried in London were found with full or partial name plates on the coffin and so far two death certificates have been located.  Julia was also able to use the Reports of the Registrar General for the area around Lukin Street (these are available free from the Wellcome Library) to build up a picture of the living conditions for locals.  It is not often the stories of the poor are revealed in such detail in archaeology, so it is amazing that we know Catherine Cotton died at 11 months and that her isotope signatures confirm she was most likely being breastfed, and that Miguel Pineda, 30, was a mariner, whose diet of fish is also supported by the isotopic analysis.  The tragic element of the research is that many of the confirmed C4/maize consumers in Kilkenny were children when they died.  This suggests that despite having secured nutrition, disease and a weakened immune system resulted in death at ages such as six, seven and thirteen.  Janet and Julia’s incremental dentine research (covered later) highlighted this.

Oxygen and Lead
Janet then took over the talk, introducing work covered in a grant from the Royal Irish Academy. Here the ladies tested for Oxygen (O) in the enamel (to suggest geographic origins) and Lead (Pb) which should be higher in city dwellers exposed to more pollution.

When they ran the oxygen, they found that the Londoners had very variable values, whereas the Kilkenny population were more uniform and had much lower values than would be expected.  One of the Londoners, Georgina Neale was born, raised and died in London and her oxygen value was as expected, so they do not believe that the calibration is off.  Further work will be needed to explain the Kilkenny oxygen values.

19th century Londoners could suffer lead exposure from the air, water pipes, and adulterated foods (they used it to make bread whiter and heavier).  She revealed that women working in lead acetate factories suffered multiple miscarriages as the lead poisoning would pass directly to the foetus and there was the suggestion that some women may have done this on purpose to avoid illness – that was one point that certainly had the attention of the room. 

Generally tooth enamel lead levels are below 0.5 ppm in individuals with little or no lead exposure such as people living in the Neolithic or Bronze Age, but one Londoner sampled had 90 ppm in their teeth.  When blood lead values pass over 10-20 ppm, severe toxicity sets in and neurological and physical effects become apparent.  The Kilkenny population were below 12 ppm, while Londoners had higher levels to varying degrees.  It was possible to identify individuals buried in London who fell within the range seen at Kilkenny using a combination of lead, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen isotopes.

Carbon and Nitrogen
As bone remodelling occurs at a much faster rate in children than in adults, the researchers felt dentine, which grows at a regular rate, would be a better proxy for identifying childhood diets in the adults and determining victims vs. survivors.  To do this, they removed the enamel and divided the dentine into regular sections. 

Starting with nitrogen (N), Fuller et al (2006) had used hair and nail samples from living individuals, showed that nitrogen values altered with breastfeeding and weaning.  Breastfeeding infants are at a higher trophic level to their mothers.  Those infants on formula milk exhibited very low nitrogen values until weaning.  Women suffering from morning sickness can exhibit increased nitrogen values that resemble breast feeding, as their bodies are forced to recycle proteins.  

In Kilkenny, carbon values climbed when maize was introduced.  Nitrogen values, which were high due to starvation decrease to a normal level.  Unfortunately the inmates’ nitrogen values increases again prior to death.  The researchers also analysed the teeth of adults to see if they could find earlier famines in their childhood. 

Individual KK17, an adult who died between 30-35 years displayed a stress at the age of 6-7.  It is possible that this individual lived through other famines that occurred in 1800, 1816-18.  Likewise the varying carbon and nitrogen values in the bone of KK5 suggested that they might have survived a famine in 1827, when there are recorded imports of maize. 

Sumburgh Cist, Shetland
The Sumburgh cist was found during construction works at Sumburgh airport.  The cist was a comingled burial containing the fragmentary bones of about 20 individuals, with a radiocarbon date range of  3340-2660  BC.  Infection, childhood periods of stress, and nutritional deficiencies are suggested by the skeletal remains.  A remote location at 60⁰ north, Shetland has no native freshwater fish or fauna and the date for the burials overlaps with a nearby shell midden.  The individuals appear to have consumed both terrestrial and marine foods in an effort to subsist on scarce resources.  According to the dentine evidence, marine foods would appear to have been used as a short term strategy, perhaps in times of crop failure.  Many of the Sumburgh cist individuals exhibited increased marine protein consumption before death and somes survived periods of dietary stress  similar to the Kilkenny and some of the London individuals.  The data from the Kilkenny Union Workhouse in particular helped to put the results from the cist individuals in context and supported the osteological data.

By running multiple analyses, supported with historical and archaeological data, Janet and Julia were able to compare a Neolithic population to historical ones where they had more information – this allowed them to draw inferences as to stressful events in the lives of the Neolithic population.  The study also showed that in times of famine, the introduction of maize to the diet may have saved many people, but despite an initial lowering of nitrogen values and a stabilising of carbon, others would succumb to disease or other stresses.  Nitrogen values have also been confirmed as a strong marker for nutritional stress in children in this study. 

The Lukin St. and Kilkenny Union Workhouse populations offered a unique opportunity to study changes in diet in two cemeteries with known periods of use, and in the case of Lukin St., named individuals.  Oxygen and lead analyses also permitted the study of migration.  Both populations were later reburied, but by conducting such extensive analysis, Julia and Janet were able to bring their stories to the fore, as individuals drawn from the nameless millions who lived and died during the Great Hunger.

What followed the talk was one of the most engaging discussions in the Helen Roe lecture theater that I have witnessed.  Many of the audience had questions and comments, some of which related to the science of the project and were above the heads of others!  We were delighted also that Marian Acreman, who was appointed Centre Manager of MacDonagh Junction (site of the Kilkenny Union Workhouse), found out about the talk via Facebook and came to learn more and share her thoughts and local interest in the project.  There are not many shopping centres that have a dedicated section on Heritage as part of the websites.

The Discovery Programme hopes to initiate a lecture series in the autumn of this year and given the success of this talk, we hope that Janet and Julia will join us.  We would all certainly listen to it again!  To read more about their research and the Kilkenny Union Workhouse:

                Current Archaeology free access

Beaumont, J., Geber, J., Powers, N., Wilson, A.S., Lee-Thorp, Julia & Montgomery, J. 2013 Victims and survivors: stable isotopes used to identify migrants from the Great Irish Famine to 19th Century London. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 150, 87-98.

Montgomery, J., Beaumont, J., Jay, A., Keefe, A., Gledhill, A. R., Cook, G., Dockrill, S. J., & Melton, N. D. 2013 "Strategic and Sporadic Marine Consumption at the Onset of the Neolithic: Increasing Temporal Resolution inthe Isotope Evidence." Antiquity 87, no. 338, 1060-1072.

Beaumont J, & Montgomery J. 2013 'Using stable isotope analysis to identify Irish migrants in the Catholic Mission of St Mary and St Michael, Whitechapel' in Miles, A. & Bowsher, D 'He being dead yet speaketh' Excavations at three post-medieval burial grounds in Tower Hamlets, East London, 2004–08. London.

Beaumont J. 2009 'Irish Names in a London Cemetery: is it Possible to Identify Irish Immigration in 19th Century Lukin Street?' in Sykes, N. J., & Newton, C. (ed). Food and Drink in Archaeology 2: University of Nottingham Postgraduate Conference 2008 Totnes, Devon: Prospect Books. p 21-28.

Geber, J. 2011 'Osteoarchaeological and archaeological insights into the deaths and intramural mass burials at the Kilkenny Union Workhouse between 1847–51 during the Great Famine' Old Kilkenny Review 63, 64–75.

Geber, J. & Murphy, E. 2012 'Scurvy in the Great IrishFamine: Evidence of Vitamin C deficiency from a mid-19th century skeletal population' American Journal of Physical Anthropology 148, 512–24.

Geber, J. 2012 'Burying the Famine dead: Kilkenny Union Workhouse' in Crowley, J. & Smyth, W. J. (eds.) Atlas of the Great Irish Famine 1845-52, pp. 341–8. Cork.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Exploring the Archaeological Landscape of the Hamada Deserts of Western Sahara

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Exploring the Archaeological Landscape of the Hamada Deserts of Western Sahara

Western Sahara is situated south of Morocco and north and east of Mauritania, and has a narrow border in the east with Algeria. It covers approximately 126,000km2 and, with an estimated population of around 550,000 people, is one of the least densely populated places on earth. It has some of the richest fishing grounds on the west coast of Africa, and also it has extensive deposits of potash, which is used in the production of fertilizer. Mauritania was a Spanish colony from 1884 until 1976 when the Spaniards withdrew. This is contested territory with both Morocco and Mauritania laying claim to it. Spanish withdrawal led to Moroccans entering from the north, quickly followed by the Mauritanians from the south, both eager to carve up the country. The Frente Para La Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro, or POLISARIO as it is more commonly known, quickly emerged to try and defend the rights of the indigenous Sahrawi people. They fought an extensive and bloody guerrilla campaign against both armies, forcing Mauritania to withdraw in 1979 and to recognise the POLISARIO as the legitimate government of Western Sahara. Morocco continued undeterred until a ceasefire was eventually brokered in 1991, which saw Morocco controlling two thirds of the country, with the POLISARIO controlling the remaining area. The line of separation between the two forces is commonly known as The Berm, which is a 3m high bank of sand and stone.

Aerial picture of one of the many Royal Moroccan Army's defensive positions on the Berm

This impressive feat of engineering can trace its genesis to the Great Wall of China, the Hill Forts of Iron Age Europe, Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, the trench systems of WWI in France, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, the US Mexico wall, the Indo Bangladesh Wall, and the Israeli Palestinian Wall. It commences some 200kms inside Morocco and extends for over 2000kms in a southwest direction to the Mauritanian border. It has one of the longest minefields in the world deployed on the POLISARIO side. Interestingly, on the POLISARIO side of the berm, an artistic group named ARTIFARITI has been established to use art to bear witness to the conflict and to look at and depict this barrier in different ways in an attempt to focus people’s perception and understanding of the concept of barriers and separation. Equally interesting are the strong points dotted along the wall and visible on Google Earth, these bear a striking resemblance to the Iron Age hill forts such as Maiden Castle in Britain.

The United Nations established an unarmed military observer force called MINURSO in 1991 to monitor the ceasefire and oversee the proposed elections that were a part of the ceasefire agreement. To date both sides are in disagreement as to who should be allowed to vote in any such election. The author, who is an officer with the Irish Defence Forces, was deployed until recently as an UNMO (United Nations Military Observer) in the Moroccan controlled North West zone and was based near the town of Smara.

Probable tertiary flake from the Houza region that may date to the Middle Palaeolithic. 
The Region
Before concentrating on Western Sahara, it is worth noting a few points about the Sahara itself, which blankets much of the northern third of the African Continent, or some 5.6 millionkms2. The Sahara Desert extends eastward from the Atlantic Ocean some 4800kms to the Nile River and the Red Sea, and southward from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the Mediterranean shores more than 1500kms to the savannah called the sahel. More than sixteen times the size of France, the Sahara Desert blankets nearly all of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Niger; the southern half of Tunisia; and the northern parts of Mali, Chad and Sudan. Often associated with majestic sand dunes extending for kilometre after kilometre, this image of the Sahara is somewhat misleading as the typical sand dune terrain only covers approximately 15% of the entire Sahara. The climate is, of course, one of extremes, and temperatures can often exceed 52° C with the hottest air temperature ever recorded by meteorologists occurring in Libya in 1922. This was a staggering 58 °C. Night-time temperatures can drop significantly and the desert can be a bitterly cold place after dark. The prevailing winds, emanating from the northeast, drain practically all the moisture from the air as they head southwest, and they generate severe sand and dust storms that distribute sand over vast distances.

In this picture from the Ankesh region there are three struck pieces – the centre/base piece is a plain platformed secondary hinged flake The next piece is a possibly crushed platformed hinged tertiary flake and the upper one is a tertiary flake-blade with what looks like edge damage.

The area that I patrolled covers approximately 46000kms2 and is comprised of what is mainly rocky desert or Hamada. There are few of the large sand dunes associated with most people’s perception of the Sahara, and the terrain is marked by numerous ephemeral lakes and rivers, which occasionally emerge as a result of the infrequent rainfall. In the west the land is flat, stretching for miles and miles of relative nothingness, with only a few stark wind-scoured acacia trees to break the monotony. Towards the east the land is divided by numerous ridges, flat plateaus and a number of sunken valleys with evidence of up-thrusting and folding in the exposed rock layers. There is significant coverage of a soft siltstone that overlies a younger marly deposit and, from the fossilised plants and even imprints of bird’s feet visible, it is obvious that this layer was associated with a period of abundant water coverage. This rocky surface has now broken up due to weathering and this is often intermixed with abundant scatters of flint nodules. The terrain is tough to negotiate and a journey of 50kms can take many hours. The heat is incessant during the months of July to October and sand storms are a frequent reminder that this is not a region for the faint hearted.

Map of Western Sahara.
Today the region is arid with summer temperatures reaching into the high 50° C and occasionally reaching 62° C. This, however, was not always the case and the history of this region is one of significant changes to the physical environment, between arid phases when the region is virtually uninhabitable, and humid phases when the region undergoes a transformation into a savannah type environment with abundant rivers and lakes. Tens of thousands of years may separate these oscillations and during the lastglacial maximum c.21000 BP, the Sahara was much larger than it is today and the aridity associated with this glaciation was due to the reduced moisture available in the atmosphere, decreased solar heating of the land surface, and also changes in oceanic and atmospheric circulation. In general, aridity is associated with glacial periods and humidity with interglacials. There is evidence that a much cooler climate prevailed during the last glacial period and that this gave way to a more humid climate at approximately 10000 BP. This more moist climate may well have been triggered by the strengthening African monsoon that was penetrating into the Sahara and was also helped by rainfall generated by the mid latitude weather systems in the early Holocene until c.8000 BP. This period saw the monsoon belt drift north leading to the development of numerous rivers and lakes, but this milder climate gradually changed to a more arid one and by c.5000 BP aridity was taking a grip on the Sahara. It has been suggested that in the period from 10000 BP the area now known as Western Sahara, due to its relatively humid climate, may have acted as a refuge for floral, faunal and human populations during the Holocene (Brooks et al. 2005). The distinct cultural innovations in lithics and pottery has led some to believe that populations moving into the area during times of aridity in their own regions, lost contact with their former groups and developed individual characteristics in lithic production and domestic ware. More research is needed in this area before any conclusions can be drawn.

Bifacial lanceolate point (arrowhead) which would be pastoral/Neolithic in date (5-3KYA) found in Houza.

Arrowhead find spot in Houza (detail)
Arrowhead find spot in Houza

The Archaeology
Africa has the longest record of human occupation in the world and its landmass equates to more than one fifth of the habitable area of the globe. The continent plays a central role in our understanding of human evolution, the prehistory of our species, and the development of complex societies. Some of the earliest evidence of human occupation in the region is from the site of Ain Hanech in Algeria where Oldowan tools were found, dating to c.1.8 mya (Sahnouni et al. 2002). There is evidence from the broader Saharan region for Aterian occupation circa 90 to 60000 BP and may even be earlier in sites such as Ifri n’Ammar and Dar es Soltan 1 in Morocco, which are dated between 145 and 110 kya respectively (Scerri 2012). The evidence, however, is more scant in Western Sahara and this may well be due to the lack of archaeological investigation because of the recent conflict. Whether driven by drought further south or east, it does appear that this area of the Sahara was certainly reoccupied from approximately 10000 BP, and that these hunter-gatherers soon developed a more sedentary lifestyle as they optimised the abundant resources of elephants, cattle and giraffe. The Sahara may not have been a barrier to movement of peoples northward ‘Out of Africa’ in the early Holocene humid period, but because of the presence of linked lakes, rivers and waterways it may have acted as a green corridor that allowed animals and humans to migrate northwards (Drake 2010).

This arrowhead, found in the Houza region, is a small bladelet/flakelet core. It has opposed platforms for blades on one surface with a simple platform for flakelet removal running along one edge. Almost certainly Holocene – could be Neolithic 5-3Kyrs but might be a bit earlier – into the hunter-gatherer period (8-6 KYA)
Pastoralism emerged in the 7th and 6th millennia BP and lasted until the final desiccation of the Sahara at approximately 5000 BP, which saw the arrival of hyper arid conditions that continue to the present. Because of the conflict, Western Sahara was off limits to foreign archaeologists from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s and today, access to the Moroccan army-controlled area needs to be co-ordinated through the government in Rabat in Morocco, while access to the POLISARIO controlled side is through their headquarters in Algeria. Needless to say, the political situation does not appeal to many visitors. Research was conducted in the region during the period of Spanish colonisation but this is difficult to access. However, there has been recent work, mainly on the POLISARIO side, by Nick Brooks (Brooks et al. 2005). Brooks has worked in the field of Saharan archaeology and geoarchaeology since 1999 and has found that the development of complex societies in the middle Holocene was a response of the precursor societies to deteriorating environmental conditions including the start of the desiccation of the Sahara after c. 8000 BP (Brooks et al. 2006). He links the archaeological and paleoenvironmental evidence to demonstrate that the cultural history of the Sahara is intimately linked to a succession of humid and arid episodes with humid conditions fully established by c.10000 BP. This led to a re-occupation of the Sahara by hunter-gatherers from sub-Saharan Africa. This occupation was to reduce again with the onset of aridity after c.5000 BP.

The two primary features of the prehistoric occupation of this region are the extensive lithic evidence and numerous burial cairns scattered over the desert floor. These lithics appear to date mainly to the Holocene but some of the lithics may well be from the Pleistocene due to their rougher working and their similarity to lithics found elsewhere. The site of Erqueiz Lahmar in the eastern part of the country has produced Late Acheulean hand axes and Mousterian cores (Brooks et al. 2003). In relation to the burial cairns, they range from simple mounds to more complicated conical tumuli, stepped platforms, and cairns with a semi-circular forecourt. Dating of these structures is, of course, problematic without excavation, but the presence of worked stone adjacent to many of the tombs identified would suggest a mid to late Holocene date. Brooks has suggested a date of c.6000 BP for similar monuments near Tifarati on the eastern side of the berm (Brooks et al. 2006). De Lernia (2006) states that there are many later Islamic burial cairns dotted throughout the region but these tend to occur in groups, often with more modern individual burials attached. These are often of double-ended construction type seen across the Sahel and are almost certainly associated with travel routes. In many cases the cairn would have had an association with a known local or religious person who died while travelling.

The lithic evidence is abundant to say the least and I have very rarely stopped anywhere in the Hamada desert without noticing worked stone (Figures 2 to 7). Considering the bulk of my patrolling covered an area of 450km from north to south and 200km from east to west and, with the exception of one town, it is otherwise uninhabited apart from nomadic settlements, then the prehistoric habitation must have been significant. While it is hard to extrapolate population sizes from lithic scatters, (it is possible to produce over 10000 pieces in as short a period of time as a few days), and considering that these lithics could potentially cover some millennia, it could well be that small groups of 20 to 30 people with relatively high mobility travelled independently through the region and perhaps came together seasonally on the lakes in much larger groups (Dr. Tim Reynolds, pers. comm.).

This photo from the Houza region shows two arrowheads and .50 cal. Bullet (fired during the conflict)and found together lying on the desert floor providing a nice 6000 year collection of killing implements.   The first is probably a proximal tertiary flake-blade fragment (with edge damage or retouch), and then a tertiary flake with what looks like serrated edge on one side.
Flint and chert appear to be the more common lithic choices, and these are often found adjacent to some of the many ancient lakes and watercourses that crisscross the region. In common with other sites where I have discovered lithic scatters, there appears to be an orientation towards the use of high ground overlooking water sources; for example on the Golan Heights I discovered evidence of Yarmukian presence c.5000 BC, which consisted of flint and chert debitage and pottery at the edge of a plateau overlooking the Yarmuk River (Mc Donald 2007) and on the north west coast of Ireland, I discovered evidence of Neolithic activity in the form of lithic scatters and a polished stone axe on a bluff overlooking the estuary of the River Erne (Mc Donald 2009) Thus it seems that there is a direct relationship between tool working sites and the landscape in which those tools may be used. Perhaps it is just a matter of economy of effort, but it is easier to produce and sharpen tools adjacent to where you will use them again and again, rather than carrying them from a distant production site.

Also from the Houza region appears to be a plain platformed flake with what looks like inverse retouch on one edge. The opposite edge appears to have a retouched notch.
Burial Monuments
Dating of these monuments is difficult without excavation but they may cover the period c.5600 to 1200 BP with even earlier dates in the seventh millennium BP for burial cairns with just cattle remains interred (Savilli 2002). Nicoll (2004) cites the earliest evidence for cattle domestication in the eastern Sahara where at 7000 BP desiccation increased and advanced rapidly. Cattle herding played an important role in developing societies as it bridged the hunter-gatherer tradition with pastoralism, especially in times of scarce resources. The fact that cattle herding provided a ‘walking larder’ where milk and blood could readily help sustain communities that found their traditional foraging resources diminished due to the onset of aridity, helps to explain the new importance of cattle and perhaps why it was cattle that were initially buried in funerary monuments rather than humans.

Burial Monument in the Smara region with an extending arc facing the camera and the cairn sloping to the rear.

Similar cairn in the Houza region showing the front with flat sided orthostats and a slope to the rear of the cairn.
In fact it appears that cattle burials appear c.7000 BP and according to Di Lernia (2006) the reason for this is a direct response to the arrival of increased aridity at that time. He attributes a number of technical innovations which occurred in the Holocene Sahara to be a response to aridity in direct comparison to Wendorf and Schild (2003) who claim the exact opposite: that it was in periods of increased moisture that technical and economic innovations developed. In support of this, they believe that the initial spread of cattle into the Egyptian Sahara c.9000 BP and the subsequent movement into the Central Sahara c.7000 BP occurred during moist periods when facilities for water and grazing are available. De Lernia (2006), however, believes that megalithic architecture (cattle burials) spread throughout the Sahara in relation to mid Holocene arid periods and this aridity had a twofold effect: it created a ‘push’ effect in increasing migration across the Sahara, and it provided a stimulus to offer sacrifices to the gods for better climatic conditions. The effect of increasing aridity may have led a community to engage with their gods by erecting monumental funerary structures, perhaps slaughtering cattle and symbolically burying them, in an attempt to ‘appease’ these gods. It no doubt increased the sense of belonging to a specific tribe and indeed the very act of constructing a tomb would serve not alone as a monument for the dead but as a territorial marker for the living and also lay claim to the area for the tribe in what must have been a time of increased demands for scarce resources. What prompted the change from cattle to human burial from c.5600 BP is not clear but may have been prompted by a change in the social stratification within the tribe and the emergence of a nobility in society that is reflected in the change from the burial of the remains of multiple cattle to the internment of often a single human.

A ‘Bazina’ type monument in the Amgala region with traces of paving facing the camera.

It would be useful to develop a connection between archaeologists and the military in order to best detect and preserve sites that either have been off limits to civilians as military training areas or, due to recent or ongoing conflicts, they have not received the attention of archaeologists. There is much that the military can offer to archaeologists, provided of course that military personnel travelling overseas get properly briefed on what they may expect to see while deployed.

Unfortunately, there have been some cases of cultural vandalism by members of the military serving overseas. Ironically, in Western Sahara there have been several instances of military officers deployed in the area, spraying graffiti on and near sites with significant rock art that dates to approximately 2500 BC. In particular, the sites at Slugilla Lawash, Rekeiz Lemgasem and Lajuad (Cueva del Diablo) [here] have blue graffiti sprayed near and in some instances on rock art (Soler et al. 2008). The United Nations has attempted since to inculcate an appreciation of the heritage of a particular country to newly arrived military personnel.

Complex site in the Houza region showing an earlier burial cairn with a modern navigation marker placed on top of it by the Royal Moroccan Army.  In the foreground, the adjacent graves are typical post-medieval Islamic graves probably dated to the 18th or 19th century. They are of a typical double-ended construction type seen across the Sahel and are almost certainly associated with a travel route. In many cases the associated cairn would have had an association with a known local or religious person who died while travelling and is earlier in date but not hugely so.
Most armies now recognise the need to educate their troops in the value of cultural heritage and groups, such as the International Military Cultural Resources Working Group (IMCURWG) and Cultural Heritage by Archaeological Institute of America Military Panel (CHAMP), deliver cultural resources programmes to improve awareness to deploying military personnel regarding the culture and history in host countries and war zones. Both of these groups were also active in advising both the US and NATO in relation to the safe guarding of antiquities and archaeological sites in Libya and Egypt during the recent Arab Spring, unfortunately this has not prevented significant looting of vulnerable sites.

Stone working site in a Military Training area near Smara, overlooking an earlier lake shore.
There is, of course, a distinction between increased interaction between a more knowledgeable (from a heritage and archaeological perspective) military and the archaeological community and the idea of embedding archaeologists with a specific unit being deployed to a major conflict in an area with significant archaeological remains e.g., Iraq. In a recent article, Cuneo (2010) argues that an embedded expert’s relationship with the military would hinder interaction with local experts, could potentially arouse suspicion, and make the expert become politically affiliated with the homeland of the armed forces with which they are associated.

Finally, to further demonstrate the importance of positive interaction between the military and the archaeological community, UNESCO recently asked the Malian and French forces to protect that country’s ancient cultural heritage sites during the offensive against the Tuareg in the north of the country. It is beginning to emerge that both sides in the Syrian conflict have resorted to looting some of that country’s rich archaeological past and, without a significant neutral military presence on the ground, it is likely that much will be lost. Unfortunately the conditions are not secure enough to gain a proper archaeological perspective of what has been lost, stolen or destroyed. However we must remember it is not just in Mali that ancient sites have been desecrated. In 2001 the Bamiyan Buddhist statues were dynamited by the Taliban despite appeals from fellow Muslims. In 2012, Sufi shrines in North Africa were attacked by militant Islamists in addition to the remnants of the regions pre-Islamic past. In Morocco 8000 year old carvings in the High Atlas Mountains, which depict the Sun as a symbol of pre-Islamic divinity, were destroyed by radical Islamists. But such destruction is not just carried out by Islamic extremists. The Hindus at Ayodhya destroyed centuries old mosques, the Balkans have seen all sides engage in wanton cultural destruction. From the Crusades to the conquest of the Americas, Christian extremists have hacked down and destroyed artefacts and statues of religious rivals and pagans alike. In the 17th century the Puritans destroyed statues and icons in Catholic churches and monasteries. So it appears that the recent events in Mali demonstrate that the wars of today are not just fought with weapons. It behoves all of us with an interest in the past how best to understand and preserve it, to ensure that such acts of cultural desecration become a thing of the past, and we can only accomplish this through explanation and education.

I am grateful for the help and support of Dr. Colin Breen (University of Ulster) who provided insight into the archaeology of the region and to Islamic burials in particular. He also gave useful comments on the earlier drafts of this article. Dating of the lithics has been limited to correspondence with Dr. Tim Reynolds, Birkbeck College, University of London, and I am grateful to him for his insight and description of the various lithics.

About the author
Kevin McDonald is a serving Commandant in the Irish Defence Forces. He completed a degree in archaeology at NUIG in 1999. As part of that work, he completed archaeological surveys of Killanena in east Clare and on the crannogs of Loughrea Lake, Co. Galway. He has also developed an interest in exploring the archaeology of military lands, and has written about the lost megalithic tombs of Finner Camp, Co. Donegal, and has discovered a number of previously unrecorded sites at Oranmore, Co. Galway, including a ring barrow and a medieval Moated Site. On overseas postings he has found a late Palaeolithic site on the Israeli occupied Golan Heights with flints and pottery (probably from the Yarmukian culture). He has discovered a previously unrecorded megalithic tombs in both Syria and Chad.

Versions of this paper have appeared in Archaeology Ireland 27(3) 2013 and Nyame Akuma Bulletin of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists Vol 80 2013.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stratified Desks | Stratified Minds | An archaeological Survey | 100th blog post

Facebook, eh?

Don’t ya just love it?

Endless streams of Lolcats … ‘I’m doing this mildly amusing thing for charity’ events … ‘which 18th century Pope are you?’ quizzes (I got ‘Servant of God Benedict XIII’). I can't really complain - I’m as guilty as anyone of contributing to this constant sensory bombardment. My particular humour niche appears to be the Star Wars pun – especially if judged by what people post to my Facebook wall saying ‘you’ll like this!’ (answer: yes, yes I do!). I hope that I post enough links to solidly interesting, engaging, and though provoking material too to provide temper and not alienate the entirety of my online friends and family.

Why do I mention this? Well … a little while ago I was trawling through Facebook … reading an article here, looking at a funny video there … the usual stuff! Along the way there was a link to ‘Rare Historical Photos’ on The Slightly Warped Website. I’ve seen so many of these over the last few years, I almost didn’t click on the link to have a look. Seriously – there are only so many times you can gawp in wonder at the set of circumstances that brought Alice Cooper together with Colonel Saunders, the Eiffel Tower under construction, or even Bill Gates’ mug shot from 1977. I had no reason to expect that this offering from Slightly Warped would be anything different. In fairness, it wasn’t all that different … I’d seen the majority of them before – some inspire awe and wonder every time I see them, some … less so.

In amongst all these little wonders there was an ostensibly ordinary photograph. A chair at a desk. Some shelves and a blackboard behind. A few journals are neatly stacked, but a chaotic spread of books and papers appeared to be the dominant theme. A smoker’s pipe lay as a bookmark on an open page. The swivel chair at an angle, as though the occupant has just stepped out, but will be back in a moment. I had never seen this one before. It caught my attention precisely because it seemed so ordinary – so out of place in the company of some rather breath-taking and inspiring images. In many respects, it is every bit as ordinary as it looks. The notable features are that the desk belonged to Albert Einstein and that the photograph was taken on the 18th of April 1955 – the day he died. When placed within these contexts, the simple snapshot image takes on a much greater significance. As a record of the personal writing and thinking space of the late, great physicist it has a very human resonance – all the more so at the thought that he has died and that this place can never be used in this way again by this person. Reconnecting this great mind of the 20th century with his physical surroundings serves to personalise the experience. No one will understand his works with any greater clarity for having seen this image, but many will – rightly or wrongly – feel that they know him better for having seen where he sat. This was the place where he worked – it was shaped by his physical and intellectual needs, desires, and circumstances. It is as much an extension of his mind and imagination as his work in physics. While I’d not previously encountered the photograph, I was instantly reminded of the well-known Einstein quote: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?’

Albert Einstein | Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey | More Info
Let's get a couple of things straight: I’m no Einstein, and I certainly have no intention of shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon. Nonetheless, this image gave me an idea. What do our desks say about us? As archaeologists, much of our time is spent writing for wider consumption – excavation reports, scholarly articles, books, magazine pieces, emails, lectures … even the occasional blog post. In these ways we show part of ourselves to the wider world. I think it’s time we showed slightly more!

To celebrate the 100th post on this blog I wanted to do something a little unusual and, hopefully, a little special. To this end I have asked a group of archaeologists along with an assortment of affiliated heritage professionals and enthusiasts, from various backgrounds and specialisms, to take a simple snapshot of their desks as they are right now – no clean-ups, no tidying (and conversely – no deliberate messing it up to look more interesting). I don’t think for a second that anyone looking at these images will come away with a greater understanding of our research, or the academic minutia that excite us, propel us and compel us. I do, however, think that it may be an interesting piece of outreach to say to the wider world: ‘This is what we’re like. These are the spaces and places that we have created. They are where we work, where we think, where we write’. Mostly, I just thought it’s be fun!

My requirements were simple. Without changing anything about your desk, just go take a picture right now … it can be arty, it can be a snapshot … anything so long as it’s in focus and you’re pointing in the right direction. Email the same to me with your name, your location, and a link to a bit about you.

I was remarkably heartened by the speed and willingness of the responses. Starting with my own, I give you my survey of archaeological desks (click on any image to make larger):

Robert M Chapple | Belfast | More Info
Iestyn Jones | Cardiff | More Info
Marion Dowd | Dromahair | More Info
Monty Dobson | St Louis, Missouri | More Info

"I am editing a series about archaeology so my desk is all monitors and electronics at present"
David Connolly |  Luggate Burn, East Lothian | More Info 

Maggie Struckmeier | Whittingehame, East Lothian | More Info
Doug Rocks-Macqueen | Edinburgh | More Info
Conor McHale | Dublin

"Chaos attached. I do tidy (occasionally) and often curse myself for being so unkempt."
Philip I Powell (Megalithic Monuments of Ireland) | Athy, Co. Kildare, Ireland | More Info

"If its messy desks your looking for, well I've got one big, hell of a mess. But, funnily enough, I seem to know where everything is."
Stephen W Muller | Adelaide | More Info
Adam Stanford MIFA | Harrowfields, Eckington, WR10 3BA | More Info [and here | and here]
"Taken yesterday before I read your email...."

Ed Lyne | Museum of Copenhagen | More Info

"And yes, its a mess!!"
Aoife Daly | Copenhagen | More Info

John Tierney | Kinsale | More Info [and here | and here]

"The archaeology we do today is community-led and strongly digital ( and The large screen is for the desktop computer and the laptop is used in the field/site office. There are two gps cameras on the desk with the most recent field surveys being copied to the server and archiving folders. A standard Nokia phone cos my smartphone charger is kaput and the Nokia is doing great. The Brother label printer (back left) is key for proper labelling of analogue records. The black notebook is a Moleskine and over 6 years old – still in use for passwords and contact details (great when digital contact lists are not accessible). Back right-hand corner has plastic storage for 'funny' pliers and spare keys. Also has stack of books and maps used for current projects. The folded sheet of paper is notes from close of business yesterday reminding me what to continue with today. Car keys are in the jumble reflecting the fact that we travel a lot on a weekly basis from our West Waterford offices."
Paul Everill | Winchester | More Info
Graham Hull | Co. Clare | More Info

David Beard | Aschaffenberg, Germany | More Info

Patricia Furphy | Manchester | More Info

"This is my desk at 9.15am, more layers are deposited throughout the day, then scrapped back at dinner time.
Harris matrix will be complete when PhD ends!"
Niall Gregory | Cashel, Co. Tipperary

"Looking forward to seeing the results - perhaps you Ghant Chart the results or create a typological sequence through geographic location, sex, urban-rural locations, religion, race, levels of clutter, etc!"
Philippa E Barry  |  Discovery Programme, Dublin | More Info

"It looks like I'm having an identity crisis!"

Michelle Comber | NUI, Galway | More Info

"you caught me as I'm about to start cataloguing some Caherconnell artefacts"

James Bonsall | Claremorris | More Info

"Had this been taken a month ago there would have been 50% more paper strewn around"

Eileen Reilly | Dublin | More Info

"Taken as it is right now - nothing moved or tidied!"

Laura Angélica Ortíz Tenorio | Mexico City | More Info

Rodrigo A. Islas | México, D.F. | More Info

Rodrigo A. Islas | México, D.F. | Other desk

Tiziana Talocci | Rome | More Info

"this is my desk..."
Isabel Bennett | near Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry | More Info

"The one at work is not much better, but is of the museum curator me, rather than the archaeologist, so this is the better one."

Colm Moloney | Edinburgh | More Info

"Here is my desk in Edinburgh where I work most of the time now. It’s a disaster!"
Sue Carter | Perth, Australia | More Info

"I have just rearranged my office space so it is a bit tidier than usual, but the research folders in the background will give you some hint as to the amount of work I am doing on Fortified England, and that is not all the folders, I have more in the other room ;/"

Maura Barrett | Carrick on Suir, Co Tipperary | More Info

David Hunter | Melbourne, Australia | More Info
Duncan Berryman | Belfast | More Info

Here's a photo of my desk, I definitely didn't tidy it for you.

Lorraine Evans | Highlands/World Domination Mother-ship | More Info  [and here]

"just rolled out of bed, grabbed the camera and here you are. One shot of my 'work station' as is. Couldn't get any closer with the camera as my bed is a foot away from my desk!!"

Margaretha Marie-Lou McFarland Vlahos | Brisbane, Australia | More Info

"Here's a before and after of my desk at Uni. I'm usually a very organized person. But in this case it's more organized chaos"

Margaretha Marie-Lou McFarland Vlahos | Brisbane, Australia | Other desk

Nigel J. Hetherington | Cairo, Egypt | More Info
Aurélien Burlot | Youghal, Co. Cork | More Info

"It's messy tho, but that's the rule."

Dr Jonny Geber | Post-doctoral research fellow, Department of Archaeology, University College Cork | More Info

"I’m attaching a photo of my desk – where all the magic happens! You can tell that I am Swedish just by counting the number of take-away coffee mugs!"

Ivor Kenny | Wicklow | More Info

"Amateur archaeological explorer/wishful thinker and renowned for ten unsuccessful years searching for evidence of Bronze Age mining in Leinster, being mystified by stonecutters’ marks and being convinced that we know next to nothing about prehistoric life in the Irish uplands."
Neil Jackman | North Kildare | More Info

"My desk is currently a right state, with books piled up in a sort of stratigraphy reflecting the sequence of work over the last few days. To be honest it drives me mad and I regularly clear it all up, but after two days it's back to mess again. I'm currently writing an Audioguide for Swords and looking into the monastic site there, I suppose one of the things I like best about creating audioguides and helping to promote heritage sites, is that you get to see so much of the country and learn about lots of different periods and aspects of Irish archaeology and history. I really enjoy the variety."

Stuart Rathbone | Achill Island | More Info

"Terribly dull and boring though. You should see me when I'm working at home and it looks like a bomb hit a library!"

Terry O'Hagan | Dublin | More Info
Terence Meaden | Oxford | More Info
Brian Ó Donnchad​ha | Portland, Oregon | More Info

Brian Ó Donnchadha, Sagittarius. My turn-ons include inherited wealth, ownership of a brewery and lose morals. And my dream in life is to cure world hunger through interpretive dance.
This is my work desk at the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal entity HQ’ed in Portland, Oregon in the US. I’m in the middle of some tribal consultation for a couple of big projects, hence my desk is currently hidden under 2 ft. of field reports for dissemination to all our consulting parties (mostly Native American tribes).
Overhead desk includes my reference library as well as compulsory Irish stickered hard-hat, a collection of lithics picked up along the way, a sage medicine bundle from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a slíothar imprinted with the Galway crest that I can throw at anyone who needs a sudden jolt to the head.
Adam Slater | Blackfriars, Leicester | More Info

"This is my desk away from office at Blackfriars in Leicester"

Atsushi Noguchi |  Tokyo, Japan

"Currently I'm occupying 3 desks. The first one has already lost its original function..."
Atsushi Noguchi |  Tokyo, Japan

"The second one is for editorial works but almost kept by me..."
Atsushi Noguchi |  Tokyo, Japan

"The last one is set up just yesterday. It should be kept clear for operating 3D scanner, but I'm confident that it will be messy soon later."

David Mennear | North East England | More Info

"Always a copious amount of books by the bedside, although I hadn't realised how battered the laptop looks!"

Markus Milligan | London | More Info

Stephen Mandal | Dublin | More Info

"I didn't cheat!"
Bairbre Mullee | Dublin | More Info

"its looking fairly tidy today…"
Judith Carroll | Dublin | More Info
JG O'Donoghue | Cork | More Info

JG O’Donoghue  is an emerging illustrator and artist from Cork, Ireland, who creates archaeological reconstruction illustration and heritage art. He finished his masters in Illustration, at Hertfordshire university in 2010, previous to that his degree was in Digital Design. Since then he has done a variety of illustration commissions, mostly archaeological but occasionally story based, and his clients include the NRA(National Roads Authority) and Fortified England. His work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, exhibitions, seminars and various other media. His blog post about his studio space: here.

Katrien Janin | University of Leicester | More Info

"as you will see in my case my desk is not large enough and my research tend to spread out over my flat. This is a normal occurrence when finishing a report."
Seosaimhín Bradley | University of Central Lancashire | More Info

"not as interesting as Einstein's, although he didn't have a knitted Star Carr frontlet"
Michael Gleeson | Leitrim | Mature (45) student at IT Sligo studying Applied Archaeology

"Decided on this profession post redundancy when my wonderful wife sat me down and asked me "What would you like to do when you grow up?""
Edward Bourke, National Monuments Service | Dublin | More Info

"I spend one hour every morning testing this latest database. The idea is that we will get interns in to read and set kewords for each file and to tie this into the SMR database so that each file which is located to a monument will be searchable on that basis. Eventually leading to a situation that if there is a file on a monument, the basic details will be available online through our system the hope is that such a system could be up and running in about 2-3 years. The latest plan of many, but we live in hope.
The file being added is Wexford, Templeshannon (Windmill on Vinegar Hill) - Guardianship - NM No. 392" which is tied in to SMR WX0220-032----"
Caterina Pisu | Viterbo, Italy | More Info
Spencer Gavin Smith | Nannerch, North-East Wales | More Info

Let me talk you round it.

Chair: Bought by my great-grandmother from a bodger who called at her door sometime before 1911. It has the letters JW carved on the underside of the seat.

Spotted Box: Paper archive of the two excavations I directed for a TV series in 2003 and 2004.

Picture above Desk: 'Goldfinch' Artist Unknown

Lamp: As close as I could get to an Anglepoise without breaking the bank.

Items on desk from left to right: Glass Paperweight / Lancia Stratos model car / Pen in the shape of a Penguin / 'Spencer' train from Thomas the Tank Engine series / Alfa Romeo Giuila Sprint Gta model car / Portable Hard Drive / Wireless Mouse (weirdly I use one at my desk) / USB Multiport / Mug coaster in the shape of a tropical fish / Unfinished thumbnail scraper found in Lincolnshire / 'Spitfire' postage stamp.
Thomas Kador | University of Bristol, England | More Info [and here]
Brian Kerr | Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth

"It's got books, papers, files, plants, some art, and post-it notes. Quite a nice room, really, in the officers' houses of 1862-3"
Gillian Boazman | Rosscarbery, West Cork | More Info

'I was finishing an article at the time but really it's seldom much different'
Tomás Pádraig Ó Niallagáin | Co. LaoisMore Info

'while I run TheStandingStone I actually specialise in ancient literature and did my doctorate on New Testament texts'
Robert Hensey | Glencar, Co. Sligo | More Info

'One thing that occurred to me while doing this was that the computer has now truly usurped the desk - how much of Einstein's paper mountain from his famous desk picture would now be on his computer desktop if photographed today? That was one reason I focused more on my computer screens rather than the desk proper. The screen image on the left is the second most famous waterfall in Glencar. It is known as ” Sruth in aghaidh an aird ” which translates as ” Stream against the slope ” as it appears to blow upwards when the wind blows hard from the south-west. The one on the right is of Clegnagh passage tomb Co. Antrim'
Finally ... for all of you who have persevered and made your way to the end ... or even just those of you who just scrolled to the end to see if there was anything here! I give you a bonus image ... a broad view of my desk within its office landscape setting.

If you’ve scrolled this far, you’ll have seen (if my math is correct) 64 desks from 60 archaeologists. Two have provided photos of their two desks, and one has three desks in increasing levels of chaos. When I started this process, I had wondered if there would be some easy commonalities that could be drawn from these images. I had presumed that we’d be a pretty messy, disorganised-looking lot but with order beneath the apparent pandemonium … which is how I like to imagine my desk appears. True, some of my correspondents lived up to that stereotype … but many didn’t. Almost everyone had a computer of some kind … quite a few even had two screens … but not all. A select few have shown an admirable attraction to decorating their desks with skulls of various types and other archaeology-related paraphernalia. Some of these places appear (to me) quite Spartan, while others are sumptuous, rich, and inviting. I was interested to note that there is only one obvious smoker in this number, with cigarettes clearly on the desk. Years ago I would have been the same – I had a number of ashtrays on my desk and rarely ever sat to write without first lighting up. While I was on the verge of lamenting my inability to find some thread that drew us all together, I began to think back on how we as a group are regularly portrayed in the media. All those stories that start ‘Archaeologists have found a …’ or ‘Archaeologists now believe that …’ where we appear to be a vast homogenous lump. Looking at these desks reminds me that we may be united in our professional and personal interests in all things ‘heritage’, but we remain a diverse bunch of individuals, with different specialisms, research agendas, and all that goes with that. From a personal point of view, I know the contributors at different levels – some are long-term friends and colleagues that I’ve worked with and drank with; some I know only professionally – we’ve rarely, if ever, met in person, but I know and respect their published works; some are known to me only through social media of one form or another – there’s even one or two that were totally unknown to me, but heard about my project through a third party and felt like joining in.

However they have come to be here, I thank them all for being willing to engage with this little project. I would encourage anyone reading this post to go sample some of our collective diversity by clicking on some of the ‘More Info’ links that accompany many of the images. You’ll see how we represent a huge spread of approaches, thinking, geography, and time periods. In that same spirit of thanks, I want to express my huge appreciation to all readers of this blog. If no one had been interested to read what I put up here, this endeavour would have quickly faded. But the readers came and so have guest bloggers – and I thank you all! Without developing an audience this little blog would never have survived, and would certainly never have come to celebrate its 100th post. Long may we continue together!

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all!

Robert M Chapple

Late Additions to the survey - please feel free to send me your pics!

Spencer Carter | London | More Info

I forgot to send these. Can I be grandfathered? They're not contrived.
They are of a moment. Lithicists-cum-Editors move slowly and systematically
Spencer Carter | London | Second Desk
Telizhenko Sergey | Kiev | More Info

Before annexion of Crimea I worked at Crimean branch of Institute of 
Archaeology National Ukrainian Academy of Science (department of
 prehistory archaeology). From April 1-st I working in Kyiv in Institute 
of Archaeology in department of Crimean archaeology. Here you 
can see my workplace when I came back from excavations of 
Late Neolithic site Novoselivka-VI. Ceramics are everywhere.
Tom Gardner | Edinburgh | More Info

I'm a 4th year undergrad in archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.
On [the desk] are some papers on animal coprolites, and plans from the Bradford
Kaims site, which I supervise for the Bamburgh Research Project. Other than
that its a relatively empty desk, hopefully not evidence of an empty mind.
Candace Weddle | Greenville, SC | More Info

Mine is fairly organized, which is undoubtedly an indication of some sort of mental 
illness.  I like to say that I have  CDO - It's like OCD, but in alphabetical order. 
Genavie Thomas | Portland, Oregon
The wine bottle was from last nights binge reporting, and the coffee is this mornings cup.
I just got a new tool, note the auger on the guest bed.
Hanno Conring | Norden, Lower Saxony, Germany
Peter McCrone | near Poulton-le-Fylde

Current Count: 
People: 67
Desks 72

A notice of this post has appeared on the superb These Bones of Mine blog (here). It's a lovely tribute to this piece, but quite a bit more eloquent and better written than mine. Another one is to be found on the wonderful The Lorraine Evans Blog (here)

Bob Muckle at Capilano U in Vancouver (definitely worth a follow on Twitter - here) has, in a parallel endeavour, shared his own desk, crammed with fantastic bits and pieces: here.

The most wonderful and interesting Ivor Kenny has sent me this very engaging MindNode map of the desks in the survey (up to May 20th 2014).

Inspired by this post, the Rantin' and Rovin' blog has posted a lovely piece about how they don't have a desk, but move from Starbucks to Starbucks with a laptop ... a lovely, lovely read that I can't recommend highly enough! See it: here