The Hunt – Archaeological Machinima

I’ve posted about machinima and archaeology before, and posted a short effort that I made last Spring. This time we have a slightly longer effort that is part of the result of a class that Ruth and I were teaching called “Serious Games and Virtual Worlds for Archaeology and Imagining the Past.” The class ended up being very different than what we imagined it being, but we learned a lot and have been publishing the results in various venues.  The first is this cut of a couple of scenes we filmed last semester.

The scenes were scripted by the students, using what they had learned about Catalhoyuk from The Leopard’s Tale and a few other research articles.  They built and scripted some of the items, changed their avatars, and acted out the parts in Second Life.  It was an ambitious effort and difficult in all respects, but the students were up to the challenge.  Ruth “shot” the video and we both edited it together into this short film for the Computer Applications in Archaeology conference in April.  We hope to integrate it into a slightly longer film for the SAAs as well.

Frankly, I think it’s pretty hilarious and there are a lot of mistakes in it, but it’s in good fun and the students learned a lot while making it.  Oh, and Ruth is the green person.  She doesn’t like to change her skin color.


When I talk to people about recreating clothes and architecture in Second Life, I often use the example of shoes to illustrate a point.  I liked to draw when I was younger, but hands and feet were always a bit problematic for me.  This was often fixed by a illustrating a stray tuft of grass, or a strategically positioned object.  I got really expert at drawing people with their hands in their pockets.  But in Second Life, you can’t really do that.  You have to commit to an interpretation. I like this aspect of recreating in Second Life because you have to decide on your interpretation and back it up with as much as you can glean from the archaeological record.  I can also be a bit of a functionalist, so I think of things like people climbing ladders, hopping over gaps between houses, and sitting on scratchy woven mats when trying to imagine what people wore in the past.  So, are the people living in your archaeological imagination wearing shoes?

There are some nice examples of preserved shoes in various contexts–the pointy medieval shoes found in bogs and waterlogged sites in England, the nice woven reed shoes found in caves in the Southwest, and in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, people were often kind enough to depict shoes in their art and artifacts.  Erik Trinkaus studies early shoes based on bone structure, and Kris has a nice article about him and other archaeological shoes on

In her autobiography Dolly Parton (my admiration of her knows no bounds) tells a story about growing up in Tennessee–her mother would send all of the kids out to scour the yard after the last of the snow melted away to pick up all of the things that might have fallen and gotten lost during the wintertime.  They picked up all the sharp bits of metal and debris and only then were they allowed to take off their shoes and go barefoot for the summer.  Not exactly ethnographic analogy, but I always think of it when I see deposits of chipped obsidian that were swept off a surface and into a midden.

More to the point, shoes have been on my mind as we have had an incredible deluge here in the Bay Area, the likes of which we have not seen since my first year here in 2005/2006, and nobody seemed ready for it. All of the homeless folks around my neighborhood are walking around without shoes on.  I have become accustomed to seeing homeless people constantly, as one does in the Bay Area, but this rain has brought them into high relief once again.  Walking around the streets of downtown Oakland in the cold rain without shoes.

Time for class.

Monday Miscellany

Organizing my citations (and my thoughts!) for my dissertation has been consuming most of my time, but I wanted to give a brief Tumblr-like set of links to things that have come my way lately.

John has a great post about Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, aka the George C Davis site, which was the second field project that I worked on! I must have blogged about it back in my nascent blogging days–I will have been blogging archaeology for eight years this summer, though most of those early posts are lost to the ages.  I can’t say that I’m altogether displeased about this.

Finally, I wanted to wait to post this until all the grading was done, but I’m pretty proud of the students in the Archaeology and the Media class this past Fall.  A group of the students made this video, The Stolen Key, after I told them about the old key route streetcars that used to service the East Bay.

One of the other students in class was hired by Youtube right after graduation. Who says that we don’t teach useful skills?

Finally, Sara Perry (who has an excellent new post about the Visual Ethics of Archaeology over at her blog) pointed out that the IVSA cites an email I wrote to the mailing list last June about the ethics of digital documentation in their new code of Research Ethics and Guidelines…the funny thing is, nobody responded to my email on the mailing list! It’s a little odd to get a journal article response to a mailing list query.

Poll: Film Photography in Archaeology?

I’m trying to get a better handle on just how pervasive digital photography is in archaeology.  I know that this is going to be a horribly skewed sample, but I’d still like to hear from as many people as possible.

Please forward a link to this blog post or directly to the poll:

Thank you!

Archaeology on Etsy

For the uninitiated, Etsy is a website that hosts listings from people who sell their own creations.  I’ve bought a few things from various sellers, mostly for Christmas gifts.  I am not much of a craftsperson myself, beyond making mudbrick or taking classes in blowing glass–generally inspired by archaeological research (with a touch of pure dilettantery).  Etsy has grown in leaps and bounds, probably caused by the upswing in DIY/Maker attitudes and the economic reality of recent years.  Last September Regretsy popped up in response to some of the more horrific crimes against crafting, much to the collective delight and mortification of the internet in general, and my friends in particular. I still have hardly ever laughed as hard as I did when I first saw the Rasta Centurion macrame mask or the Handcrafted Placenta. Naturally, I wanted to check out some of the archaeology offerings.  It also helps that I am currently heavily medicated to fight off a raging flu.  Anyway, while I’m not even a tenth as funny as the lady over at Regretsy, I thought I might share a few of my favorites.  The images are linked to the Etsy sales pages if you are tempted by any of these fine offerings.

The Archaeology Trowel Necklace, Egyptology Edition

Here’s a helpful shot of it in action, along with a suggestive dog motif:

And for the archaeologists who have retired from the field, a way to recycle your trowel:

Unique Mosaic Candle Holder by ClowerCottage

Ever wonder what to do with all the uncatalogued pot sherds you (hopefully don’t) have hanging around your house?

"Blue Shard Blossom Stained Glass Flower"

Some archaeology “inspired” arts and crafts:

1 sheet of handmade paper with primitive caveman hand print - $2 each
Anubis, here to welcome you into the underworld...or the tub.

All that said, there is also some pretty kickass stuff on etsy.  Try whipping one of these babies out next time you are in the field:

Blacksmith Forged Hand Trowels

Hand forged out of railroad spikes! Now that’s tough. But if you’re looking for something a bit more delicate:

Hand Trowel Sterling Silver Charm

I’d like to think that I’m not nerdy enough to wear this…but I’d be sorely tempted, I have to admit. If you’re after something to wear for your bouts of experimental archaeology, you could do worse than this complete set:

Halstatt Period Jewelry Set

Caern Crafts has some serious skill and attention to detail. They also have some torques and brooches worth checking out.

Finally, there’s just something so adorable about a dollhouse sized amphora:

1 inch scale amphora

I’d love to see what other people can manage in the hallowed halls of Etsy.  Send me a link to anything good!

%d bloggers like this: