This book has 20 descriptions of research efforts around the world related to ground stone artifacts. As many of the contributors were eager to point out, ground stone artifacts receive much less attention than their more famous cousins, chipped stone artifacts. I was especially interested to learn how difficult it is to match artifacts to sources (quarries, etc.), even in regions with near-surface geology.
I did think there were 2 aspects of the book that could have used improvement.
I wish the editors had provided guidelines for the consistent use of historical time references. Within this 1 book, many terms were used, including some of those listed below.
AD – Anno Domini (Latin for “in the year of our Lord”)
BC – Before Christ
BCE – Before common era (BC without mentioning a religious figure)
BP – Before present
KA – Kilo annum, thousands of years (ago)
More seriously, some researchers used the Mohs scale to describe the hardness of rocks. The Mohs scale should only be used to describe the hardness of minerals. Multi-mineral rocks can be described in terms of density, porosity, or uniaxial compressive strength, as some researchers do in the book. Misusing the Mohs scale for rocks suggests a misunderstanding of what is being described and may ultimately lead to false conclusions.
Debitage may look like a word from the worlds of finance or fashion, but it actually comes from the world of archeology. Debitage refers to the waste products of making stone tools, everything from large flakes to dust. It is easy to understand why archeologists would be interested in studying the tools themselves, but there is lots of information to be gleaned from debitage also.
I recently read Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools (1994) by John C. Whittaker and was interested to learn that modern flintknappers use details gleaned from the tools and debitage to help them with the re-creation of ancient tools. Some pretty sophisticated techniques were developed to create ancient stone tools and subtle differences in technique can help archeologists draw conclusions about the people who made the tools and place them in context of human history.
I recently read Dead Zero: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel (2010) by Stephen Hunter and noticed a very odd spelling of a word (see bold below).
It seemed to me that the SIG was being used like King Arthur’s sword, but that weapon is known as “Excalibur”.
I didn’t know if “Excaliber” with the final “e” was a mistake, some sort of firearms-related trade name (as in Krispy Kreme for Crispy Cream), or uncharacteristic wordplay.
In the world of firearms, caliber is the internal diameter of the barrel or the external diameter of the projectile. The Bob Lee Swagger books are full of information related to firearms, but this doesn’t seem to be the case here.
If this is a misspelling, it would be interesting that it occurred in this book. Maybe it was the victim of some sort of universal spellchecker change. If anyone has information that “Excaliber” is correct, please let me know.
page 269, third paragraph from the bottom;
“There was a frozen moment. Bogier and Crackers, guns loose and fluid in their hands, faces sweaty and bug eyed with concentration, moved stealthily through the fleet of parked, shot-to-s**t cars, spurting ahead now and then to unzip a blind spot, while from the other side of the wall, with his SIG like the mighty Excaliber, Z too hunted but also covered them.”
I recently finished reading Bright Futures: A Lew Fonesca Mystery (2008) by Stuart M. Kaminsky. I enjoyed reading this book and everything else I’ve ever read by Kaminsky. Unfortunately, Kaminsky died in 2009, so he won’t be writing any more mysteries featuring Lew Fonesca or his more successful detectives (Toby Peters, Porfiry Rostnikov, or Abe Lieberman).
A sentence in the prologue of this book caught my attention. Kaminsky is writing about the inhabitants of Florida “twelve hundred centuries” ago. If we convert the words to numbers, we get 120,000 years (12 x 100 x 100 years per century). Is this what Kaminsky intended? The arrival of people in this part of the world is an interesting area of research, but right now conventional wisdom appears to be that the earliest humans showed up in Florida about 12,000 years ago. It would be easy enough to understand if an extra zero got inserted into the text or a comma or decimal point got misplaced, but the word version is hard to explain. It is hard to start out writing “years” or “decades” and end up writing “centuries”. I hope it was an editing error, but maybe Kaminsky had access to information that no one else had.
This isn’t important to the story set in modern Sarasota, but it is an interesting addition to the whole category of strange contributions to human history and the distribution of humans throughout the world.
Prologue, page 7, paragraph 3:
“People who inhabited Florida twelve hundred centuries ago were hunters and gatherers who lived on nuts, plants, small animals, and shellfish. There was a steady clean water supply, good stones on the ground for toolmaking, and more firewood than they needed. Complex cultures developed with temple mounds and villages. These villages traded with one another and developed cultivated agriculture.”
I just read the latest book (see title) by Bill Bryson. This book has lots of information about houses and domestic life in England and the United States and some of it is interesting.Â I use firewood to heat my house and something about the paragraph below struck me as odd. A little work with the calculator showed why.
Chapter IX, The Cellar, page 196, first paragraph;
Â Â "The colonists positively devoured wood. They used it to build houses, barns, wagons, boats, fences, furniture, and every possible sort of daily utensil from buckets to spoons. They burned it in copious amounts for warmth and for cooking. According to the historian of early American life Carl Bridenbaugh, the average colonial house required fifteen to twenty cords of firewood a year. That would be stack of wood 80 feet high, 80 feet wide, and 160 feet long, which seems improbably large. What is certainly true, is that wood was used up fast. Bridenbaugh mentions one village on Long Island where every stick of wood to every horizon was exhausted in just fourteen years, and there must have been many others like it."
Indeed, that is an improbably large pile of wood. A cord of wood is 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long (128 cubic feet). The dimensions of a pileÂ containing twenty cords of wood (2,560 cubic feet) could be obtained by multiplying one of those dimensions by 20. For example, the pileÂ could be 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 160 feet long. The improbably large pile described by Bryson has dimensions of 80 feet high (20 times 4 feet), 80 feet wide (20 times 4 feet) by 160 feet (20 times 8 feet) for a total of 1,024,000 cubic feet. Such a pile would contain not 20 cords, but 8,000 cords or 20 cords of firewood per year for 400 years.
For those new to Bill Bryson, I would suggest starting with A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian TrailÂ (1998) and putting this book to the end of the list.