With a passion for geology and space exploration, I, like many others these days keep a eye out on everything related to the Phoenix lander. These are exciting days. Got nothing to say that other bloggers havent already said. Except one question perhaps - can smaller rocks become smoothly rounded like the those seen on this link without water? Can a wind (and temperature, and chemical…) based erosion accomplish that?
I’ve heard this type of complaint a million times before from a million archaeologists when I studied archaeology back in the days.
I think that it is a prime example of professional archaeologists not realizing the great importance of popular culture on the very survival of the field and that archaeology just wouldn’t receive the same funds without fiction portraying history as "an adventure". They bitch and they moan about how inaccurate archaeology is portrayed in the movies about Indiana Jones. "Archaeology reduced to a treasure hunt".
It isn’t how it is in reality you say? No shit Sherlock. Show me ONE academical profession not portrayed “wrong” in movies and television. One.
Come on, what SINGLE phenomena do they think is the very reason that MILLIONS of young people across the world got the firsts seeds of interest in archaeology?
Oh yes, Indy. Just like “ER” makes new students of medicine. Just like “twister” probably made new students of meteorology. And so on. All of them popular, without being correct representations of how the professions actually work in reality.
So shut the F up and start worship the very reason you probably have a career in archaeology today. If not the personal reason for you smart ass – at least most likely a reason for someone out there writing some part of your paycheck.
Is fiction bad for reality? Not in this case. The very opposite.
I’m certainly no expert in English, and the following text probably breaks a dozen or more rules of the English language, but I do know something about my own Swedish language that many of my Swedish geology professors obviously don’t.
I’ve noticed something about people within the natural sciences that I didn’t know before. Something that makes them a little bit less intellectually impressive than what I perhaps gave them credit of before going for geology myself.
The professors and scientists are, in general, quite nonproficient with (or is that "on" or "of" ) the rules of Swedish grammar.
I mean, it’s one thing not being a master of foreign languages, another not knowing the basic rules of one’s own language as an professor. One should think that all those years of studies and scholarly work in combination with the famous higher IQ of natural scientists (compared to scientists of the social and humanities who in general don’t make mistakes with simple grammar) should count for something. But sadly, it doesn’t
One reoccurring error, that I think not one of the professors have failed to breake, is the Swedish grammatical rule of “särskrivning” (the rule against the separation of words).
In Swedish we can combine words to make a new word. The most classical example of them all is the Swedish word for nurse: “sjuksköterska”. The word “sjuksköterska” is a combination of two words: “sjuk” (sick) and “sköterska” (nurse). I.e. a “sjuksköterska” is “a nurse of the sick”.
The problem is it means something completely different when you separate the two words in Swedish. A “sjuk sköterska” means “a sick nurse” while a “sjuksköterska” means “a nurse of the sick”. There are several more fun examples like “rökfritt” (no smoking) ->”rök fritt” (smoke freely). I think you get the picture and that it could create lots of confusion if used wrong in some contexts. It of course doesn’t always lead to great misunderstandings like the ones I’ve just mentioned, but it always looks bad.
The reason that people have a problem of not knowing when two words should be written together or separated is the increased use of English in the Swedish society (since you in general do not write words together in the same extent). Especially in the natural sciences the use of English has started to dominate completely in the last 10 years. Many people think that all science should be written in English, and they probably got a point since that increases the size of the potential group of readers internationally. But must this come with a decreased knowledge of the own language as a result? (Don’t get me wrong, I really like the English language, but I don’t want to replace the Swedish language with it.)
The rule of “särskrivning” in the Swedish language is taught to kids from a young age, so they (the professors with all their scholarly record) really should know this without having to think twice even. It’s not a difficult rule for anyone brought up with it. Everyone can make a mistake, but when you see the error repeated over and over again in different contexts of the officially written material of the professors, which they should have given some time to write probably and adjust, you know that there is something wrong in general.
As I said, this is something I never saw with my professors of archaeology and history. In a competition of IQs, they would probably lose against my geology professors, but in a competition of writing texts without simple childish grammatical errors in Swedish (and in English) they would easily win.
And I’m sorry for being so stuck up with this, but I have some big issues with taking people seriously if they cannot even use their own language properly. It affects my view on their general competence. Can I really take someone seriously as an expert if they cannot handle their own language? No I personaly cannot. I guess that eight years of studies within the humanities, where teachers don’t make these errors makes me spoiled perhaps. It’s basically the combination of "professor and expert" and not knowing preschool grammar that I cannot accept.
I have several Belemnites in my collection. They are quite common here in the south of Sweden and most of them date from the Cretaceous deposits (few Jurassic deposits here).
Nordic folklore and mythology refered to the Belemnites as “Vätteljus” – Candles of Wights. Wights are some sort of small mythological people or spirits that people on the countryside used to fear back in the 19th century and before basically. People thought that these “candles” where left behind after the wights have danced in a certain place. People also thought that these candles could protect them from curses and spells from the wights themselves. The vätte is related to the pagan "tomte" and the "nisse" (two creatures thats the model for the modern illustration of Santa Claus "army" of helpers)
I have two questions. Are belemnites common elsewhere in the world, and is the small one on the photo below really a belemnite despite its different color and shape? An adolescent specimen perhaps?
Picture below: A real life Vätte (also known as "Tomte" or "Nisse".)
I’m a little bit academically annoyed actually. Annoyed with the field of Palynology.
As a fresh student of geology, but a very seasoned student of archaeology I’ve already noticed several topics where the two fields have somewhat different opinions on the same matter. One of those topics is the Neolithic process (the introduction of a farming society which finally came to the nordic cultures with the Funnelbeaker culture around 4000-4500 BC). As a former archaeologist I could never have expected that there actually were scientists in a different field also looking at the same process. Or actually, of course I knew that geologists worked with facts that was used among archaeologists, but I always thought that they simply provided the archaeologists with facts, not that they in turn produced their own theories about the Neolithic process. I now know from speaking with some of my teachers that I was wrong.
There are several geologists at my University that study the palynology of the Holocene period. And it’s not always that their final theories match the final theories of the archaeologists. For instance, the archaeological theory about Sweden’s first farmers point out that the use of grain predates the actual growth of it in Sweden. Meaning simply that you cannot use only palynology data (pollen) about the introduction of grains to get the full image of when we started to use farming produce. We have pottery (or rather marks and traces of grain in the pottery) that shows the use of grains several hundred of years before we can see pollen from actual growth of grains in Sweden.
It bothers me some that geologists seem to think that the pollen data being based in natural science is a better proof of the introduction of farming than pottery marks or other archaeological finds. Meaning that they consider themselves of being in better understanding of the Neolithical process than the archaeologists (!)
First I would say that both of these things (pollen and pottery) are just as good proof, but that they show different aspects of the Neolithic process. Secondly I must point out that palynology facts are good instruments for archaeologists to use, and they always use these facts in their theories as far as I know. There is definitly more consideration for palynology among archaeologists than there is consideration for grain marks in pottery among geologists. And I must say, the Neolithic process should be considered a field where the archaeologists should know more and have the last saying when it comes to the bigger theories. Professional archaeologists that study the Neolithical process know more in general about the Neolithic process than what geologists do, it is that simple.
The archaeologists look at so many more aspects of it all than a paleobotanist does - and they use the palynology in their theories. There is no reason for the paleobotanist to invade the domains of archaeology like I’ve noticed that they unfortunately do. The academical conflict is one sided since its only the geologists that doesn’t accept the archaeological facts and not the other way around.
Today’s excursion took us to see several types of glacial soil deposits like eskers, sandurs tills, talus, tufa and moraines. I must say that the study of glacial soil formations is much more complicated than I’ve imagined. There are just so many types of formations that I’ve never heard of before studying geology. Not to mention all the types of soils and sediments and the terminology about the different particle sizes and how they behave in terms of erosion and cohesion. I took some pictures of course, however "soil" make poor lousy photo material so I mostly took shots of the landscape today - so no cool macros of minerals today.
Pictures below shows an esker (swe. "rullstensås") covered in Beech forest streching for about half a mile and 40 meters high near the small village of Torna Hällestad. It really knocked the wind out of me when climbing up to the summit since it was such a steep climb. Yes, my physical condition could obviously be much better. Its not like its a mountain…
Picture below shows the stratigraphy of a sandur-deposit. Rounded material often transported with the ice and melting water for hundreds of miles across the landscapes.
Picture below shows a talus (frost eroded rocks - very uncommon here in the south of Sweden)
The pictures below are from the nice natural reserve in Benestad where we looked at some small deposits of Tufa (Swe "Kalktuff").
May I suggest that those interested in my blog add it to a newsreader like for instance Google Reader since I cannot promise to write regularly in this blog. I might write a lot some periods and then nothing at all for long periods.
At the Swedish universities, the departments of geology complains about the trouble of recruiting students. The need and the supply don’t match and you can read about it in the papers some times. And it was also one of the first things our geology teacher spoke about.
The reason is said to be that in general, most teachers at a pre-academical level don’t know enough about geology to boost sufficient interests in the kids. Most teachers in natural sciences have knowledge in math, chemistry and physics only. Meaning that the chapters on geology (if they even exist in the books – since many books are written by teachers) are only briefly explained for most students. My experiences of geology from school are very limited. Mostly I learned a lot of things that I now know were false because of poorly educated science teachers. They knew their physics and maths, but they knew very little about the processes of how the lime stone floor of the school hallways where formed (and yes, they called the lime stone floors "marble floors" or "granite floors" of course if they ever mentioned them at all).
I know that there are of course alternative explanations to this. For instance, the wages of geologists in Sweden are quite limited to those that engineers make. So people looking for an education in the natural sciences are drawn to other fields than geology for economical reasons also.
Is there a similar recruitment problem in your parts of the world connected with poor understanding of geology among teachers in highschool?
Today I was on an excursion around Skåne looking at different bogs and marshes. We drilled soil samples and learned to see the difference between different types of soil, clay, mud and peat. We learned to how to spot the level of humification, acidity and some about the more important fossils of the different stratas. We took samples dating all the way back to just after the last iceage. Around 8000 BC. Here’s a sample of pictures from today.
Picture below. 8000 year old sample of Birch tree.
Picture below. And then we looked at a fascility that extracted/mined peat.
Got a new camera. Nothing fancy, a "Canon digital Ixus 950 is". But it had a nice macro-function so i took som new photos just for fun.
Picture below is a garnet crystal inside of a amfibolitic rock. Hornblende to be precise. Picked it up on an excursion.
Picture below is of a olivine crystal (or a couple of them of course) inside a basalt rock from a small dead "vulcano" in the middle of Scania. Age about 145 Ma. Picked it up on an excursion.
Picture below is of an ordinary sandstone heavily oxidized with iron found in an Jurassic-Trias-deposit of sand. Its composed of several layers of differently oxidized and dense sediments. Looks more strange than it is.
The picture below is not totaly geological but still quite nice. A piece of iron slag from Uppåkra (Uppakra) Iron age settlement outside Lund (roughly 700 AD perhaps). Since I started my career with archaeology I also have some archaeological things in my possesions. Some of them I actually found myself on field training exercises like this slag and the piece of pottery below.
The picture below is of a piece of Iron age pottery from the same settlement/village.