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A Little History of Archaeology – Brian Fagan

What is archaeology? The word may bring to mind images of golden pharaohs and lost civilizations, or Neanderthal skulls and Ice Age cave art. Archaeology is all of these, but also far more: the only science to encompass the entire span of human history—more than three million years!

This Little History tells the riveting stories of some of the great archaeologists and their amazing discoveries around the globe: ancient Egyptian tombs, Mayan ruins, the first colonial settlements at Jamestown, mysterious Stonehenge, the incredibly preserved Pompeii, and many, many more. In forty brief, exciting chapters, the book recounts archaeology’s development from its eighteenth-century origins to its twenty-first-century technological advances, including remote sensing capabilities and satellite imagery techniques that have revolutionized the field. Shining light on the most intriguing events in the history of the field, this absolutely up-to-date book illuminates archaeology’s controversies, discoveries, heroes and scoundrels, global sites, and newest methods for curious readers of every age.

Part of the Little Histories series, A Little of History of Archaeology is a good overview of the discipline.  As befitting of the subject, Fagan slowly uncovers the beginnings of the pursuit from King Charles of Naples, at Herculaneum, up until the present day.  The enthusiastic introduction sets the book up nicely, throwing in some choice, lesser known facts to hook the reader and begin a globe-trotting journey through time.

We start the journey proper in Egypt, and travel all the way through to the present day, seeing the gradual honing of the archaeological craft, from haphazard digs chasing treasures – real or imagined – to the more careful, professional approach which has led us to a deep and ever-changing understanding of the past.

Throughout we meet some fascinating characters; adventurers, vicars, museum curators, army officers, and the like who all contribute in some way to the learning of an art and the teasing of knowledge, quite literally out of the ground, through their failures successes and frustrations.  The writing style is very light and everything is set out in a simple manner giving the reader an engrossing narrative that can be dipped in and out of at anytime without undue confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 24/05/2018 in Architecture, History, Science

 

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Music to Write By #2 – Runaway Train

Just when life get especially interesting ,typically the internet goes and stops working.  That explains my absence all week but hopefully I can get online more, thanks to the supportive nature of the family.  Some news I am very proud of is on the way, which I will explain more about when business is concluded but I will give an obscure clue to what it relates to.  The clue is ‘ergodic seabird’.  Good luck with that one!  Grabbing the internet where I can, I will endeavour to visit blogs as and when I can and keep posting in the meantime.  I have lots to write about.

As the last music post was so popular comments wise, and I need something quick to post, just so you all know that I am still around.  Today’s piece of music:

Not only is this a catchy tune with a serious message but also features missing children, some of whom (thanks to the video) have been found alive, others deceased or not at all yet.  Hearing this after many a long year was a pleasant (possibly the wrong word) surprise, as it brought up memories of wandering around Derbyshire, doing the Duke of Edinburgh award.  Really I was just in it for a walk with my friends and it really was good to climb the hills and have a laugh.  If I could remember the routes that we took in our four journeys together, I would love to walk them again one day.

 
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Posted by on 17/05/2018 in Music

 

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A Walk in the Park Day 3

Now this is a bridge!  Wandering across it had me in mind of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the difference being that instead of a man trying to pull my heart out of my chest, it was firmly in my mouth.  Especially in the middle, where despite there only being a gentle breeze it was pretty swaysome.

Before we could get there though, we had to begin our day.  By the time we got going, the heat was already unforgiving and was only offset slightly by the now, de rigueur beauty.  After gifting snacks to the local children and the usual group photo, we took to heading down hill at a sideways jog, as it was easier than walking believe it or not.  Forty minutes of this and my already jelly legs from day two were feeling the pain and wobbliness once again.

Heading down into the above valley to the bridge was tiring, and at this point I was looking forward to ascending because I can ‘do’ climbing. The bridge itself, although not too high was another one of those wired together, trip hazards, though it does give the traveller a sense of adventure.  The openness of the mountain beyond was a good reason to slap on more sun cream and led me to ask the question, if the packaging says only apply four times a day, can I overdose on it?

Ryan Tejado

I was walking normally again by this point, which was handy as there were some demanding, long and steep sections of climbing (both track and path) that snaked around corners and took a good five minutes or more to climb.  A brief stop by a pool to let some kind fish eat the dead skin off our feet was reviving.  There followed a discussion about how much this service would cost in various countries, as we hoped nobody would call us to march again. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

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Mountains of the Mind – Robert Macfarlane

Why do so many feel compelled to risk their lives climbing mountains? During the climbing season, one person a day dies in the Alps, and more people die climbing in this season in Scotland than they do on the roads. Mountains of the Mind is a fascinating investigation into our emotional and imaginative responses to mountains and how these have changed over the last few centuries. It is rich with literary and historical references and punctuated by beautifully written descriptions of the author’s own climbing experiences. There are chapters on glaciers, geology, the pursuit of fear, the desire to explore the unknown and the desire to get to the summit, and the book ends with a gripping account of Mallory’s attempt on Everest. Mountains of the Mind is a brilliant synthesis of climbing memoir and cultural history.

This book is much more than a simple history of mountaineering, it’s a venture into the psychological history of Westerners (mainly the British) and how mountains ( European for the most part, with a dash of Himalayas) have imprinted themselves on our consciousness, changed our attitudes, and inspired great feats.

…and it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.

The book starts off with the author describing how, in childhood, he discovered climbing through reading books. This beginning is written in such a wonderfully literary way and engages straight away and which carries on throughout this engrossing chronicle.  MacFarlane’s enthusiasm is infectious from the off, each page is crammed full of interesting facts and anecdotes. It’s a true love letter to the mountains but also a warning over the obsessions that come with it.

Like so many writers including Mark Twain, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Bryon, Dr Johnson, Keats, Ruskin, Coleridge, and Tennyson; whose lyrical observations have inspired millions, the reader’s imagination is inflamed by the talk of crevasses with snow that fell several centuries ago, perfectly preserved bodies, ice caverns, strange creatures and so on.  It’s easy to visualise the look, age, and height of these natural edifi, and feel the author’s deep love and sober respect for the mountains, through his words. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 24/04/2018 in History, Travel

 

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A Walk in the Park Day 2

Day two started with a nosebleed, not for me but everyone else, which is what Filipinos joke about when they speak too much English, reminding me to up my game with the language learning.  Staggering out of the tent into the pleasantly cool morning air, it was hard to reconcile it with last night’s fog.  This morning was composed of a beautiful blue sky and as ever, accompanied by lovely views.  We were all glad it hadn’t stay foggy until we left.  Before leaving we met the Barangay Captain who came to see that all was well with us.  This position as well as I understand it, is pretty much the leader of the area in charge of getting things done and liaising with local government.  The Barangay is the smallest administrative area so I suppose village leader would be an accurate, if inelegant way of putting it.

Thanks as ever to each of the photographers who contributed. Ryan Tejado

Gazing at the landscape it is hard not to be overawed by the raw power of the earth, geologically in evidence all around. It is terrifying to contemplate the raw forces that could carve out such gashes in the Earth, the power of glaciers, volcanoes and other such forces really are harrowing in the contemplation.

And so to the travel, the morning was lovely, hot, a few too many mosquitoes but there was a gorgeous pool to sit in after a pleasant, unhurried walk.  The refreshingly cool water collecting in a natural bath tube encouraged us to all to strip down and cleanse ourselves.  After such an unexpected surprise, we refilled at the last water source for a while and made our way to yet another bridge this one a lot higher but thanks to photo opportunities, everyone went across one at a time.

Amir Deomel Rogayan

It was then that the struggle s started. It was up, up, and more up from the rice terraces, coming to a gradient that just went up and on for such a time. After many stops on the slope, we made it to a school where we had lunch in the grounds.  It seems children run up and down these incline to the school every day, we on the other hand, dropped down and imbibe as much water as possible. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

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Taking Flight

By the time you read this I will already be in Bali for the week. I will be checking in when I can so bear with me if I don’t get around to your blogs for a while or indeed any comments you are kind enough to leave on my upcoming posts which should be scheduled at decent intervals.  I will bring photos and stories back and hopefully, the odd book too.

 
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Posted by on 19/04/2018 in Blogging, Travel

 

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Interview with Author Nicholas Conley Part 2

Part one of the interview can be found here as well as links to Nic’s blog.  A big thank you is also due for the time he took to answer my questions.

Can you explain a bit about your approach to novel-writing?

It’s a bit mysterious, even to me. I’d say that it begins with an idea… a scene, a character, a philosophical concept I want to explore, a weird scientific theory, et cetera. From this idea, I take notes. As time goes on, I continue compiling notes, character ideas, concepts, and so on. In this “genesis” stage of the process, I’m basically putting together every idea that hits me, sometimes for years at a time: since I have so many different potential novels in my head, it’s not always clear where an idea will properly fit, so I make sure to document everything that occurs to me. At this point, every potential novel is like a riddle: how will it work? Can it work? As a result, some of the novels I’ve written have gone back to story ideas I had years and years ago. With Intraterrestrial, for example, I started having ideas for it when I was just a teenager.

Eventually, as these ideas come together, I get hit with what I think of as a “lightning bolt.” I’ll be driving, in the shower, in bed, or wherever, and this spark of light just suddenly breaks open my skull and says “THIS is the solution.” Suddenly, the novel will fully crystallize, and I’ll know that I have to write it. Going back to Intraterrestrial, the moment that the novel concept felt “ready” was when I took my past ideas and merged them with my healthcare experiences: the notion of the traumatic brain injury being at the heart of the novel brought Adam’s story to life.

So, once I hit this point, I then begin writing my first draft. This is the part where other people think I’m crazy, because I write my first drafts fast, really fast, making sure to put solid work in every single day. I generally finish these drafts in one or two months, at most.

…but then, even though I write the first draft extremely quickly, I take a long time on edits. After the draft is done, I’ll let it sit for a couple of months, and then I’ll come back to it, and spend a year or two slowly editing that draft into the book I really want it to be. Some novels take only a year of edits, others have taken far longer, at which point they understandably sort of transform into entirely different books. I always know when I’ve reached the “final” draft stage, at least for submitting it for publication: something clicks, something feels right.

You are a big traveller, heading out to Africa, Europe and Asia, how important is travel to you and how does it help influence your writing?

Travel is immensely important to me. I strongly believe that travel is a strong antidote for such contemporary maladies as prejudice, laziness, insecurity, and so on, because travel forces you to break out of your boundaries. It’s easy for someone who has been sitting in a homogenous setting for 10+ years to make judgements about people or settings that are “different.” But when you go out to another country, when you sit and share dinner with those supposedly “different” people, you can’t help but be struck by how much we’re all in this together, and we need to support one another in every way possible.

What’s important though, while traveling, is to not be comfortable. If you ask me, one shouldn’t try to stay in a place that reminds you of home: stay in the place that’s totally different, that’s outside your comfort zone, a place where you can learn. In everyday life, you get so swallowed up by your daily routine that you can start to define yourself by it: I.E., I’m Joe Smith, I wake up at this time, eat these things, see these people, wear this sort of clothing, et cetera. When you travel, when you go somewhere with a different language, culture, and way of life, it forces your consciousness to expand, makes you into a better person.

And of course, yes, this has a huge influence on my writing! Traveling helps me to look at the world from many different perspectives, which is important when it comes to writing fiction.

Of your books, which are you most proud of?

I’m going to be totally honest, and say Pale Highway. Don’t get me wrong, I love Intraterrestrial, but there’s something about Pale Highway that… well, it astonishes me that I was able to write that book. There’s so much packed in there. Pale Highway is the work I really define myself by, at this point in time. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 15/04/2018 in Interviews

 

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