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 Archaeology of excrements

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Archaeology of excrements   Thu 07 Apr 2016, 22:11

Today I read in the paper that they found perhaps the traject of the passing of Hannibal with his elephants through the Alps by the traces of the ancient dung of the animals of that army...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/05/has-hannibals-route-across-the-alps-been-uncovered-scientists-us/
Has Hannibal's route across the Alps been uncovered? Scientists use 2,000-year-old trail of dung to track legendary general




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The Col de la Traversette, a narrow pass between Grenoble in France and Turin in Italy Credit: Google


Also:
http://io9.gizmodo.com/5883873/paleofeces-inside-the-archaeology-of-poop
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/09/fossil-feces-tell-ancient-human-cultures-apart
http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/anthpubs/ucb/text/arfs014-001.pdf


Kind regards, Paul.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Fri 08 Apr 2016, 00:32

Sure they haven't just traced THIS route?

http://www.bobpatmore.com/history/70-hanibal-trek.html
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Fri 08 Apr 2016, 10:20

It can't have been Botham's crap, Gil. He's still full of it.

One of my proudest possessions is a coprolite which came from a cave system in County Clare. I had always assumed therefore it was bear or wolf. However when a friend had it analysed in UCD it turned out to be from a vole. Even the extinct narrow-headed vole never grew beyond about six inches (12cm in new money), which means the poor bugger did a poop almost equal in size to itself.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Fri 08 Apr 2016, 18:30

Gil,

"The dung, which can be directly dated to around 200BC through carbon isotope analysis (very close to the date on historical records - 218BC), was found at a mire or pond."

Kind regards, Paul.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 11:45

American packrats and their latrines are useful to archaeologists too.

Firstly packrats have the habit of collecting 'trophies', preferably shiney things like quartz pebbles, iridescent beetle carapaces, bits of metal etc ... very often replacing what they take with another similarly attractive, to them, item. So it's quite common to find they have stolen something like a steel screw or washer, and replaced it with money or a lost piece of jewellery. They have also been recorded as replacing their stolen trophy with a nuggets of gold, and once with old coins. The nuggets indicated the presence of gold-bearing rocks in the vicinity, and the large number of coins that were left were later found to come from a previously unknown Spanish settlement.

Packrats also habitually dispose of eaten seed husks in middens, which they also use as a latrine. These middens/latrines are typically close to their dens in caves or rocky crevices and so are often well protected from the elements, and the packrats' urine also acts as a preservative. The middens get used by generations of animals over many hundreds, or even thousands, of years ... and some have been carbon dated to the Pleistocene. So sampling these big old middens can be used to show the changing vegetation over long periods of time. And unlike pollen analysis the midden reflects the changing vegetation in a very specific area of at most a few hundred metres from where the midden itself is located.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 13:33

MM, you're our go-to geologist, is it true that marcasite as used in jewellery is formed from marine coprolites?
I've a couple of old marcasite brooches and I'd get a lot more pleasure from wearing them if I thought that they had been through the digestive system of an ichthyosaur.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 15:14

Marcasite jewellery is made from iron pyrite (iron di-sulphide, FeS2,  commonly known as fool's gold), and iron pyrite is often the mineral that replaces the original tissue in fossils ... including coprolites. I've got a cretaceous shark coprolite (at least I think it was from a shark - it has the distinctive spiral shape) and this is formed in iron pyrite. But the pyrite is just the mineral that filled the cavity in the rock where the poo had been when it was buried, so it's no more the actual remains of a beastie's meal than a mollusc shell fossilised in pyrite is actually the dead animal, although ultimately the iron would have come from millions of years worth of accumulated dead bacteria, plankton, animals, and yes all their excrement. 

But that said many of the pyrite nodules in Cretaceous chalk and Jurassic limestones are indeed probably coprolites from ocean-going fish, sharks and marine reptiles, but they're only really identifiable as fossil turds if they have retained a distictive shape or when sectioned are shown to contain the fossilised crushed bones or shells of the animal's last meal. By contrast in London clay (Eocene), that was deposited in a shallow tropical sea close to land, a lot of the pyrite nodules are clearly identifiable as fossilised seeds and lumps of drift wood that had been swept out to sea. Alternatively another major source of pyrite used to be from coal mines, in which case it would be the crystallised remains of an ancient carboniferous swamp.

Just to confuse things, true marcasite in a mineral sense is also FeS, so is chemically the same as pyrite but it has a different crystal structure (it's orthorhombic not cubic which makes true marcasite more brittle than pyrite), and again it commonly occurs as nodules in chalk and limestone. In a moist acidic environment both marcasite and iron pyrite will gradually transform to hydrous iron sulphate and so crumble away. Pyrite is much more resistant to this attack than mineral marcasite (hence, along with its brittleness, why true marcasite isn't used for jewellery), but it's still best to try and keep your brooches dry and away from salt, and don't try and clean them with anything acidic.

If your brooches are Victorian in age they might actually be made from cut and polished steel which looks very similar. Cut steel jewellery was popular in Britain in the mid 19th century - I think Queen Vicky popularised it after the death of dear Albert - but is now rather rare and expensive as it was only manufactured in any quantity for just a few decades.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sat 09 Apr 2016, 16:57; edited 1 time in total
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 16:56

I want a polished fossilised turd on a fine gold chain.

No, my brooches are probably from the 50's or so, and do look indeed like pyrites crystals, but silver coloured, set into silver and of no value other than sentimental.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 17:30

Here's a valuable coprolite.



It's the famous viking one from Jorvik, which in 1991 was valued for insurance purposes by a paleoscatologist (what a lovely job title), Andrew Jones, who at the time said, "This is the most exciting piece of excrement I've ever seen. In its own way, it's as valuable as the Crown Jewels".

But I can't find what monetary value he put on it.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sat 09 Apr 2016, 17:53; edited 1 time in total
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 17:41

£30,000 was the valuation by Lloyds at the time. Jones wasn't impressed - he reckoned it was worth more.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 09 Apr 2016, 23:13

Shell Middens and their associated campsites are also significant - because many were visited seasonally over long periods, dietary changes can be observed in the coproliths, giving some clues about short-term climate changes, AIUI.
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sun 10 Apr 2016, 18:22

Now the brown stuff has its own museum - The National Poo Museum in the Isle of Wight  Zoo.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-35957829

and for those who can't open BBC links

http://www.local10.com/news/poo-museum-opens-in-britain

Can I also take this opportunity to publicise my "Campaign for the Abolition of Poo", at least the use of the word by anyone over the age of 5? Why any adult would choose to use this ridiculous euphemism when there's so many perfectly good others is beyond me, these days it turns up in what purport to be serious scientific(ish) programmes. Let's hear it for 'jobbie' if faeces, excrement, manure, dung, droppings, spraint and good old shit are all considered too explicit,
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sun 10 Apr 2016, 19:03

How many extremely disappointed parents will there be, I wonder, after having dragged the kids all the way to the Isle of Wight to attend this tribute to the works of A.A. Milne and to bears of very little brain?

The new Poo-seum I hear is dedicated to animal excrement only. However it is to Castelbosco's Museo Della Merda that I would be inclined to drag sprogs if ever inclined to immerse them in faecal pedagogia. There the scope is much wider, and tackles the subject not just from a zoological perspective but also from a humane, humanistic, historic, artistic, and scientific angle.



Castelbosco - Museum of Shit
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sun 10 Apr 2016, 21:33

Well, there are many museums I wouldn't hesitate to describe as shit, so why not a few devoted to it?
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sun 10 Apr 2016, 22:42

@ferval wrote:
Can I also take this opportunity to publicise my "Campaign for the Abolition of Poo", at least the use of the word by anyone over the age of 5? Why any adult would choose to use this ridiculous euphemism when there's so many perfectly good others is beyond me, these days it turns up in what purport to be serious scientific(ish) programmes. Let's hear it for 'jobbie' if faeces, excrement, manure, dung, droppings, spraint and good old shit are all considered too explicit,

I'm with the "Save Poo" campaign. And I don't mean bears stuck in honey pots or misguided Chinese or St Kildan concepts of soil fertilisation. (Although in the last case it was the peat ash which probably did even more damage to the ground than did the predominantly avian-diet originated human manure.) No. In common speech poo and pee go together as words just as do piss and shit and just as do urine and faeces. To remove any option, however, would be to diminish the language.

There is also the added issue of the middle two words falling into the bracket of being 'Anglo-Saxon' four letter expletives. (Somehow piss manages to be both Saxon and Norman French just to add to the confusion.) 950 years after the Norman conquest of England we still have the reality of Norman heavy manners inhibiting common English speech. Ironically, therefore, we need as broad a vocabulary as possible to help breech this dualist linguistic impasse. Poo plays its small part in that purpose as too does 'poop' which seems to be used quite widely in North America.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Tue 12 Apr 2016, 18:16

Vizzer,

"Ironically, therefore, we need as broad a vocabulary as possible to help breech this dualist linguistic impasse. Poo plays its small part in that purpose as too does 'poop' which seems to be used quite widely in North America."

 Yes I remember some Englishmen boasting with their enormous quantity of words in comparison with other languages...One owud say it is quite normal as they have added the French language to the Anglo-Saxon one...
From many concepts of words they have two equivalents a Germanic one and a French one...

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:English-French_relations
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Germanic_and_Latinate_equivalents_in_English


Reading the texts on this forum I have some trouble to find the English words Wink ...perhaps because the honoured members use a more literate style... Wink ...?

And returning to the subject "poop" it is indeed an equivalent of the French "poupe", but now this word seems not to be in use anymore...
http://fr.synonymfinder.net/synonymes/p/poupe
And as an anecdote: in our urban Flemish slang the word "poepen" is the same as "mate"...

A last one about Germanic in English: I wondered if the English had a word related to the German/Dutch "spiegel"? I now found out that it comes from the Latin "speculum"...but after a quick research about the English word I found this:
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=spiegel

... Embarassed

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Tue 12 Apr 2016, 19:40

Well, the things you learn here.

Right now there's a food festival on in Glasgow and at its hub in the city centre is a spiegeltent. Innocent little me thought it was a pop-up restaurant, having read that link, Paul, I'm now not so sure.


Paradiso, hmmmm


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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Tue 12 Apr 2016, 21:28

Ferval,

now I am a bit confused with your word "spiegeltent". I have to confess that I never heard about it, although I see now that it is Dutch and even from Belgian origin.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiegeltent
"The original Spiegeltents were constructed in the Flemish Region of Belgium in the late 19th century as mobile dance halls. They were transported around the country and assembled for town fairs in areas that did not have a proper dance hall"


No, what I know are the "spiegelpaleis" on the kermesse with the labyrint and the deforming mirrors:


https://goo.gl/5MDnv4



I wonder what my Dutch born friend, Dirk Marinus has as memories about the two distinct entities? "spiegeltent" en "spiegelpaleis"?

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:34

@Meles meles wrote:
Here's a valuable coprolite.
It's the famous viking one from Jorvik, which in 1991 was valued for insurance purposes by a paleoscatologist (what a lovely job title), Andrew Jones, who at the time said, "This is the most exciting piece of excrement I've ever seen. In its own way, it's as valuable as the Crown Jewels".


Also contains evidence that who ever "dropped" it was riddled with intestinal parasites.
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:41

The Viking latrines in Wood Quay in Dublin also revealed remarkable consistency in the number of roundworm, whipworm and riverfluke larvae in the faeces, not just from different sites but over the life of the settlement, and this was paralleled in Jorvik. As one archaeologist at the time remarked when asked if this would have seriously reduced their life spans; "They were f***ing lucky if any of them outlived the animals they got them from".
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Thu 14 Apr 2016, 13:58

Guess who else had Roundworm;

Richard III roundworm
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Dirk Marinus
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Fri 15 Apr 2016, 21:38

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Ferval,

now I am a bit confused with your word "spiegeltent". I have to confess that I never heard about it, although I see now that it is Dutch and even from Belgian origin.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiegeltent
"The original Spiegeltents were constructed in the Flemish Region of Belgium in the late 19th century as mobile dance halls. They were transported around the country and assembled for town fairs in areas that did not have a proper dance hall"


No, what I know are the "spiegelpaleis" on the kermesse with the labyrint and the deforming mirrors:


https://goo.gl/5MDnv4



I wonder what my Dutch born friend, Dirk Marinus has as memories about the two distinct entities? "spiegeltent" en "spiegelpaleis"?

Kind regards from your friend Paul.

Paul,
Is it:
  Spiegel tent or Spiegel paleis or Spiegel zaal or are we talking about Lach spiegels?


My interpretation :


Spiegeltent was  usually a round or circular building with mirrors fitted all around introduced in the 17th or 18th centure and were used for dancing.
They became popular because couples could admire themselves by looking in the mirrors.



Spiegelzaal are rooms in buildings  in in which the mirrors are fitted in such a way that the light falling into the rooms are giving the impression that the rooms are bigger than what they actually are.
Examples are the spiegelzaals in Palace of Versailles, Royal Palace in Brussels, the Aranjuaz Castle in Spain.




And then of course the entertainment of theme parks and the fairs(in Dutch de Kermis) which are .........yes the Lachspiegels .

The Dutch term Lachspiegels can be translated into English as Laughter Mirrors. The are made in such a way that by looking into them the human body is reflected as being very thin or being very fat and had as a result that it caused people to smile/laugh 
Although they were popular in the past and one may still see the odd one her or there other attractions at fairs have overtaken the Lachspiegel and yes we can say " I can remember years ago.........
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Archaeology of excrements   Sat 16 Apr 2016, 20:23

Thank you very much for your instant answer Dirk.
And yes, I know about the word "spiegelzaal" too...
As for "spiegelpaleis" as a term for "lachspiegels" I suppose that's more Southern Dutch as you can see from my example in the video:
"Leuven Kermis 2011 spiegelpaleis met de collega's"

And I forgot, next week for a week to Volendam-Amsterdam before starting perhaps for the rest of my life with kindney dialysis (three times a week, 3 à 4 hours each)...you don't have a spare kidney for me...because for the rest I am in perfect health...

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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