Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No dinosaurs!

I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me what I do, and after I tell them I'm an archaeologist, he or she asks, "Found any dinosaurs lately?" What's shocking about this is how often the interlocutor is an educated person. I first remember this happening when I was an adolescent and my optometrist thought that archaeology was the study of dinosaurs. In the decades since then, I have learned that this experience was not an anomaly. Many people with graduate degrees do not understand that archaeology is about studying ancient cultures, and therefore is a social science, while paleontology is about studying extinct animals and plants, and is a branch of geology.  There's very little overlap between the two fields, although paleoanthropology (the study of our human ancestors, a sort of paleontology of the human lineage) and certain instances of zooarchaeology come to mind.

I don't know if paleontologists get asked, "Found any pyramids lately?" or, if they do, whether it annoys them.

Perhaps archaeologists are overly sensitive, but being taken for a paleontologist evidently annoys some of us. Here's the video that proves it:

Yes, there's a song about it on Youtube.

But what really takes the cake is that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of Science, doesn't seem to appreciate the difference. On their science news accumulator site, EurekAlert!, under the category "Archaeology" they brazenly include paleontology articles.

More great science journalism! For shame, AAAS.

Caving in Oaxaca, The Cheve system

An interesting article in the New Yorker on exploring one of the deepest caves on earth, in Oaxaca.

Tonight's Lunar Eclipse, a rare skywatching success

All of you--that is, both of you--who follow this blog should know that I haven't had a lot of success in observing celestial phenomena in the last couple of years. When I manage to wake up for the meteor shower (or whatever), it's usually too cloudy to see anything, or there is too much light pollution, or something. Well, the dry spell finally broke. I saw the lunar eclipse this morning.

Here is the edge of the moon reappearing. Poor photo, but I'm not set up for proper celestial photography.

When the eclipse began, I was tempted to start banging on pots or shooting at the sky to scare off the beast eating the moon, as they do in Yucatan. I didn't think my neighbors would appreciate it, though, so I restrained the impulse.

I still don't understand why I walked to the end of my driveway to see the eclipse better.

Beautiful, clear night, for once. The moon really did turn red, and you could tell because Mars was--brilliantly--right by her side for comparison.