Tags: archaeology


My Goodreads review: The Scorpion's Tail

The Scorpion's Tail (Nora Kelly #2)The Scorpion's Tail by Douglas Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second entry in the Nora Kelly (& also Corrie Swanson, please!) offshoot series continues to deliver what their readers come for: fast-paced Southwestern adventure with archaeological detail & two very likable & competent female leads. Preston & Child know how to fine-tune a thriller to the last detail, tucking in all the loose ends. If some of the plot points are a little -- or more than a little -- over the top, experienced fans aren't much fussed. Solid quiet realism is not what these authors are known for.

That said, I still reached the end of this adventure (way too late at night) wondering whether to give it three or four stars out of five. I finally went with four, because I love New Mexico & anything to do with the archaeology there. However, the ending of this one wound up quite abruptly, & with (even) more than the usual amount of deus ex machina. Without committing spoiler, I was annoyed that Nora & Corrie weren't allowed to do more & figure out more for themselves. I didn't mind Pendergast's eventual appearance -- I'd have been disappointed if he hadn't shown up -- but he did more than I was expecting.

I'll definitely continue reading this series, so long as it retains its Southwestern focus. I'm just hoping to be less aware of the formula behind the craftsmanship next time.

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My Goodreads review: Old Bones

Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1)Old Bones by Douglas Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another solid, highly informative thriller from Preston & Child -- though with very limited Pendergast content, which was slightly disappointing even though I knew this in advance. However, watching two regular women characters from the series solve a pretty twisted mystery (plus another, somewhat less twisted, one involving lost gold) was still worth the time spent reading. Previous experience with the Pendergast series seems to be expected, but possibly not required.

Dr. Nora Kelly & Corrie Swanson are both strong characters in their own right, though this is primarily Nora's novel. Based on legends surrounding the Donner Party, it offers a sizable helping of archaeological procedure & atmosphere along with rapidly turning pages. Newly minted FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson, a former protegee of Pendergast's, gets less detailed treatment -- but no less respect as she solves her first major case.

Recommended for: Pendergast fans (who will probably get more out of it) & other thriller readers favoring strong intelligent female investigators.

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Abyss & Apex #66 is up, with a poem from me

I am very happy to announce that speculative fiction webzine Abyss & Apex #66 http://www.abyssapexzine.com/ is up,
with an extensive poetry TOC:

Introduction to Poetry Issue 66 by John C. Mannone
“The Song of Unknown Night” by Hongri Yuan
“To Watch the World Burn” by Jason Harris
“Rebellion” by Genevieve DeGuzman
“A City Built On Bones” by Ann Schwader
"Oatk Ash, and Crow" by Rebecca Buchanan
“The Honored” by WC Roberts
“Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain” by Gabriel Ertsgaard
“La Belle a la Bête” by Brittany Hause
“Tea Leaves” by Hilary Biehl
“Zojaj” by Sheikha A.

My villanelle "A City Built On Bones" http://www.abyssapexzine.com/2018/03/a-city-built-on-bones/
was inspired by the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City, plus a healthy helping of Atzec mythology.
Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: The King Must Die

The King Must Die (Theseus, #1)The King Must Die by Mary Renault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This lyrical retelling of the legend of Theseus manages to add a sense of realism (circa 1958 archaeological evidence) without sacrificing the essential magic of ancient Greece. The gods may or may not manifest themselves; but they are fully real to the characters, and they behave as such, often with far-reaching consequences.

Renault does not give the reader modern sensibilities in ancient clothing, but truly ancient ways of thinking -- which can be disturbing at times. Theseus’s perception of women is the most notable case of this, though Medea and the pre-Classic Goddess cults are also active in his world. For archaeology and ancient history enthusiasts, Renault includes an Author’s Note explaining her approach to Theseus’s story, a short but useful bibliography, and a solid version of the legend itself.

I took far too long getting through this book, because there is so much to savor – and the prose, though sparely elegant, is very rich. Renault does know how to keep the pages turning during a bull-dance or a battle, however! I’ve already got The Bull From the Sea (this book’s immediate sequel) loaded on my Kindle.

One side note: Hunger Games fans who haven’t read this book yet should treat themselves as soon as possible. Theseus and his Athenian companions were the original Tributes, and their adventures in Crete are some of the most entertaining in the novel.

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Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: The Riddle of the Labyrinth

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient CodeThe Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a highly readable introduction to one of archaeology's most notable mysteries, the "Minoan" script known as Linear B.

Journalist Margalit Fox -- who is also a linguist -- organizes her narrative into three biographical sections. The first covers Victorian archaeologist Arthur Evans, who first discovered the script. The second (and possibly most fascinating) deals with Brooklyn College classicist Alice Kober, who did the lioness's share of sorting out the intricacies of Linear B before her untimely death in 1950. The last features English architect Michael Ventris, the gifted/obsessed amateur who finally deciphered the script in 1952. An epilogue to this final section explains what Linear B actually reveals about the civilization that used it.

Fox also provides a clear listing of the signs of Linear B (a few of which are still mysteries!), plus comprehensive references and notes. Her prose is clear and engaging, and she has a talent for storytelling sadly lacking in much nonfiction. I found a few of the more technical sections on sorting out the script tough going, but that may reflect my own lack of background.

Readers interested in ancient Greece, archaeology, code-breaking, or women's history might all find this book well worth their time.

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haiku updates: The Heron's Nest & A Hundred Gourds

If it's spring -- well, almost -- it must be raining haiku. 

Veteran online journal The Heron's Nest & newcomer A Hundred Gourds have new issues up this month, and I'm happy to report that I have work in both of them.  Find my single haiku in the Nest here.  Check here & here for my haiku in AHG

Both these journals offer opportunities for poetry fans to increase their knowledge of haiku & other short Asian verse forms.  The Nest is strictly haiku, but includes extensive commentary on one Editors' Choice poem per issue.  AHG features tanka, haiga, haibun, & renku in additon to haiku, & also includes articles.

Graphic novel enthusiasts might be particularly interested in a special feature this time around, The Graphic Haibun of Linda PapanicolaouIn addition to the archaeologically-themed piece "The Bone Flute," this section has links to several other graphic haibun by this innovative poet, as well as an interview with her.  Speculative poetry folks are likely to find this section intriguing as well -- I certainly did!

Priestesses in pots?

In honor of International Women's Day -- and my own fascination with archaeology involving women -- here's a link to Archaeology.org's online feature article about a "Dynasty of Priestesses" in Iron Age Crete.

This feature is less a single article than a fascinating collection of articles, interviews, videos, and links related to the necropolis of Orthi Petra at Eleutherna on the island of Crete.   The possible priestesses were found in pithos (large ceramic jar) burials. 

I could add something here about a well-urned rest, but discretion is the better part of blogging . . . 


more Tut-Tutting

Archaeology's latest e-update includes a link to a short but fascinating article from the Archaeology Institute of America's Online Editorial Director, Mark Rose.  He seems to have a few problems with the AMA press release, though he hopes that some of his questions will be resolved by the full article:

Tut:  Disease & DNA News

This article also includes a link to the full text of the magazine's March/April cover story on "Warrior Tut," plus a couple of related links.     Interesting info from good sources, here -- your key to a little one-stop Tut-Tutting.

the AMA checks in on Tut . . .

According to an article which will be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the 19 year old King Tutankhamun (Dynasty 18, around 1323 BC) died from a combination of injury & infection, though some of his underlying trouble was very likely genetic. 

The Associated Press has a detailed article:  A frail King Tut died from malaria, broken leg

Thanks to recent DNA testing, this article has quite a lot of chewy information -- and some speculation -- about Tut's parentage, as well.

I've been fascinated by Egyptology for years,  but much of the material here is new to me.  I'll be sure to post again as more of this (continuing) Amarna mystery is unraveled by science & peer-reviewed journals.