I began my university studies in September 1993. The picture on the left is from July 1993, in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The right picture is from today in my apartment…
Next post myst be about my research!
My wife just looked for our old photo album from our wedding on Bali in 2005. I took the time to look around on internet and just realized that the wedding planner probably have been using several pictures of us for the past eight years. Here is a link to our “helicopter wedding.” We are on pictures 1, 3 and 4…
Next post must be related to my research!
Mayanists have already heard about the destruction of the major mound (mul) at the site of Nohmul in northern Belize. The pyramid has now become road fill. Ubnfortunately this is not uncommon in the Maya area. The San Juan Causeway at Ichmul has a large gap where the modern road to Chikindzonot passes. The ancient causeway has become part of the modern road.
Now the news about Nohmul has reach The Huffington Post as well and as always one encounters several facepalm comments. Here are two:
“The pyramids are shrines to gods, priests and religiously appointed leaders who are best forgotten for the horrors they caused. If history weren’t noticed or recorded, then there would be no precedents that make today’s massacres and genocides seem small by comparison. Historic precedents are a precursor to worse horror. As for future inventions based on today’s technology, well that’s not based on history, but on what is today. Therefore, bulldozing the Belize Nohmul Pyramid for something that’s needed today is okay.”
“It might be wise to bulldoze all the sites of human sacrifice on the earth – unless you still think there’s an outside chance that it saves us.”
I’ll bet these two people are Christians with no respect for other people’s cultural heritage. This has to do with poor knowledge about world history and basic sociological and psychological understanding. They apparently believe that these structures may be precursors to worse horror. Erasing them may save us. By their own logic we should therefore erase all churches, mosques, etc. I suggest that we transform the Vatican into road fill because that whole complex represent “priests and religiously appointed leaders who are best forgotten for the horrors they caused. If history weren’t noticed or recorded, then there would be no precedents that make today’s massacres and genocides seem small by comparison”.
While searching for sites to visit during a future vacation I stumbled on an informative website/blog on Indonesia called Indohoy. I am intrigued by a megalithic site known as Gunung Padang but the site is not mentioned in Lonely Planet. However, Indohoy has given me some directions to this and other sites in Western Java. Check out the website if you are planning to go to Indonesia.
I have a lengthy article (16,500 words) that I submitted to an anthology several years ago. I highly doubt that this anthology ever will emerge so I have decided to expand the article, reincorporate 4,500 words of “killed darlings” and add a greater empirical section of the text that will discuss various features from the Cochuah region. This will therefore result in a short book instead. I may also adapt the theoretical frame to better suit my current object-oriented perspective as the text mainly is based on DeLanda’s assemblage theory. So here is the tentative title and summary of this book:
Archaeology without culture: Assembling the Maya Lowlands
Archaeological cultures, such as the Maya culture, rely on tree-like or arborescent models where objects are ordered by essential, hierarchical, and transcendent principles. The overarching culture determines and signifies the identity and capacities of every single object. Other approaches that emphasize structuration between agent and society rely on similar arborescent models where emergence is reduced to the human agent acting in a seamless whole. Instead, an approach where the human agent becomes only one of several interacting components that form concrete assemblages of various scales is proposed. Deleuze’s ontology and DeLanda’s assemblage theory are used to outline a multi-scalar perspective that bridges the human and the non-human, heterogeneity and homogeneity, structure and agent. Objects are not defined by subordinate relations to humans or culture but by their capacities to exercise their properties in various assemblages in the Cochuah region of the Northern Maya Lowlands in Mexico.
The CRAS (Cochuah Regional Archaeological Survey) field report for 2012 is available online. I did not participate in the project last year and I have not read the report yet. However, now I can hopefully finish 8-9 articles before summer and send them away for peer-review. There are some pictures from the interior of some of “my” caves (pages 376-384). Take a look at the nice shrine/altar inside the Huay Max cave.
You may have heard the news about Takeshi Inomata’s excavations at Ceibal/Seibal that reveal that the site is older than La Venta and hence was not directly influenced by the Olmec. Neither is it evidence of a purely local development. The conclusion is that the development of the Maya culture was more complex than previously thought. Well, that is no surprise at all if you ask me. The surprise is that Maya archaeologists still use these culture models. The origins of the Maya culture or the Olmec culture is only a problem that has emerged from the Mesoamericanist/Americanist models of culture.
Mesoamerica as a concept, with cultural markers from the 16th century, was formed by Kirchoff. Although Mayanists nowadays see Kirchoff’s cultural markers as too coarse, they still use Mesoamerica as a concept since there are similarities in architecture, calendars, agriculture and religious beliefs throughout a larger geographical area. The temporal and spatial boundaries of Mesoamerica have often been seen as fluid but Mesoamerica is usually defined and delimited by the above mentioned Prehispanic characteristics. Within this greater cultural area are smaller cultural areas, such as Aztec, Olmec, Maya, etc. These are mainly defined by stylistic criteria, chronology, geographical placement, linguistics and ethnicity.
Culture is often seen as an organism, particularly so in culture-historical, functionalistic, and processual models. It is argued that just as the bodily organs work for the organism, social institutions mainly work to benefit the society/culture. Hence, a culture also has an origin (a birth from a “mother culture”). It can be healthy or sick and die (collapse in the Maya case). It may also have descendants, etc. In terms of the organismic metaphor, the orientation towards agency is not a major change from functional/processual archaeology or culture-history. DeLanda argues that even agency approaches rely on a seamless whole, a formless society in which the human subject is interwoven. This seamless whole ultimately relies on the organismic metaphor where society and culture are made up by relations of interiority, that is, by relations within a “cultural body.” If a part, for example a “Maya pyramid,” is removed from this whole (the “Maya culture”), it ceases to be a “Maya pyramid” because one of its properties is to be this specific part of the Maya culture. A “Maya pyramid” is therefore defined by the essentialist concept of “Maya culture,” not from the object and expressive components it consists of.
This cultural model is reductionist since the aim is to analyze the minimal components of a complex cultural system or network. One then add together the explanations for the components in order to explain the whole system or network. Such approaches disregard emergence and claim that the whole system is just an aggregate of components. It means that the Maya culture is the loose aggregation of Maya artifacts and architecture (“material culture”), assumed to have been the internal parts of a social or cultural body. Culture is more or less the same thing as the artifact, only greater in magnitude, but not in kind. The oddity here is that the artifact cannot be the same as culture since culture is in a higher hierarchical position. It is something existing beyond the single artifact. It is transcendent.
The archaeological culture is believed to have an origin, a time and place from where everything evolves and branches into segments following a genealogical evolutionary pattern, but the branches are still part of the same cultural entity assumed to exist beyond the objects. A culture can also be divided into segments, ranging from social organization to artifacts. These segments are described as relations of interiority since they exist within an organic cultural body.
The archaeological culture is the result of typological essentialism which begins with finished products (artifacts or iconographic representations) and find, through logical analysis, enduring properties that supposedly characterize these products. Then these properties are transformed into an essence by the researchers’ reification of their own general categories which occurs every time a new piece of iconography or artifact is inserted into the predefined “cultural” body. The types are ideal and variations are just differences of degree to this ideal. Types are therefore static parts of a predetermined whole rather than forming the whole. A Maya artifact is classified as such due to its resemblance to other Maya artifacts, but it does not in itself contribute to the whole it becomes part of. Problems do therefore occur if we try to explain something that is beyond the assumed “Maya” cultural pattern, which does not fit the general picture. Therefore, the culture concept hides the variation we always encounter.
The common view of cultural evolution is based on an orthogenetic evolution which consists of sequences of ideal forms in which one form emerges from another form, through certain predefined stages. The process is irreversible and it is not repetitive. It is believed to create diversity by adaptation and also to be progressive, aiming towards higher forms. This cultural evolution is often also ontogenetic, meaning that it is similar to ontogeny (the individual embryonic development). It is the same organismic culture that evolves into different forms but never changes in kind, only in degrees.
Compare the “fate” of the “Olmec culture” with that of the “Maya culture” in a typical Mesoamericanist narrative. Let us go back to 800 BC. At this time there was a Middle Formative (1000-300 BC) Maya culture present at the site of Ceibal. There was another Middle Formative Olmec culture at La Venta in the Mexican state of Tabasco. At around 400 BC it appears as if the Olmec culture was on the decline and it eventually disappeared although its influence can be seen in various Olmecoid patterns in other cultures. The Maya culture continued to exist and not even the “Maya collapse” AD 750-1100 and the Spanish conquest in the 16th century destroyed this culture. Thus, in the present there still is a Maya culture thriving throughout the Maya area but the Olmecs are long since gone. We therefore have a contemporary Maya revitalization movement but not an Olmec equivalent. But the “Maya culture” is largely a Colonial and modern categorization, formed in the meeting with the Spaniards. How far back in time can this categorization be projected? One can wonder how much a lowland Maya male farmer at Ceibal, 2800 years ago, would have had in common with Nobel peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, a Kiché woman and a former presidential candidate in Guatemala? Very little is my guess and although no Mayanist would claim that there is this resemblance, the Mesoamericanist culture concept actually follows this logic. The Maya farmer at Ceibal would obviously have had more in common with a contemporary Olmec farmer at La Venta, but they would still be seen as part of different cultures in the Mesoamericanist culture models.
This is the main problem I have with Mesoamerican archaeology. It takes its own cultural models for being actual realities “out there”. These models are only ways to create an “order” of what actually is a mess. Hence, these models create problems, such as which culture influenced the other first. These problems are only the result of the premises set up by the culture model in the first place.
I just deactivated my facebook account in case you have been one of my contacts. The reason is simple. I ended up spending more time there than I definitely needed. A couple of months ago I began by “defriending” half of my contacts (friends of friends and so on). That did not reduce the time spent on facebook to any significant degree. Hence, the only solution was to deactivate it. It has not been completely deleted so I may activate it in the future.
Update: This sucks. I have connected my spotify account to facebook and I had to activate facebook to be able to listen. Any ideas of how to change the account setting in spotify (I have looked around and found no solution)…
For those of you in the neighborhood of Göteborg I will just remind you of two speeches. The first takes place today at Skogen (60-70 minutes in English). One week from today I will give a speech at Nordstan (15 minutes in Swedish).
If you are a fan of 2012-related ideas you are probably also skeptical to “dogmatic” science that criticizes your favored ideas and prophets that “thinks outside the box”. Not only is this a common belief among people not involved in any scientific enterprise what-so-ever, but it is also common among scientists who have stepped outside the realms of what can be supported by established evidence (such as Calleman). It is easy to say that someone is dogmatic when they demand evidence. What these people usually do not realize is that they are just as dogmatic. Here is an example of how you can turn their own accusation of dogmatism against themselves.
In my previous posts on Meillassoux I mentioned that he said that creationism, fanaticism, etc. (and New Age in my view) is a (waste) product of Western critical reason. Kant’s correlationism erased dogmatism in Western philosophy and this has led to the incapability of distinguishing rationalism from the “fanaticism” one can see in various comments of the recent TEDx-gate (conspiracy, censoring, etc.). What exactly do these “pseudoscientists” (Sheldrake and Hancock in TEDx-gate and Calleman and Jenkins in the 2012-circus) have in common with “real” science? It is the doctrine of necessary entities. This is a true dogma in classical metaphysics, rationalism, and New Age. It is the need of a necessary entity that exists beyond time and space from where everything else can be derived. There is always a reason behind what exists; natural laws, God or consciousness. Sheldrake, Hancock, Calleman and Jenkins are not at all thinking outside the dogmatic box. They have just moved to another dogmatic box.
The pseudoscientists and the scientists are making the same mistake here if we are to believe Meillassoux. If you really want to think outside the box, you must really rethink the idea of necessity but that would mean that necessary entities like consciousness or God disappear altogether. Meillassoux wants to uncover an absolute necessity that does not reinstall an absolute necessary entity. He wishes to develop an absolute knowledge where the things-in-themselves exist without reason and that they also can change at any time for no reason at all. In his metaphysics of absolute contingency anything can happen without reason and without warning.
Not many are willing to follow Meillassoux in this regard (neither am I). This means that we will have to be a bit dogmatic for our own ideas to work. As the theist Kurt Gödel might have said (through the interpretation of Timothy Morton): in order for a logical system to be true it must contain at least one sentence that cannot be proven. This means that all theoretical systems are flawed in order to be true. We must therefore be dogmatic about that particular flaw…
This afternoon my son and I went to see the new dinosaur exhibition at Universeum in Göteborg. Universeum is roughly 300 m away from my office. Some of the theropods had feathers this time. Before we entered the building there was a dromaeosaurid dinosaur (genus and species unknown to me) strolling around making some dogs a bit anxious.
The Brachiosaurus in front of the entrance has been there since last year’s exhibition. Judging from the white stained neck, back and tail it seems to be a popular spot for contemporary avian dinosaurs. The ferris wheel is part of Liseberg, Sweden’s most popular tourist destination.
The first dinosaur we encountered on the “balcony” was Styracosaurus, one of the more spectacular ceratopsians. The larger one was surrounded by two small ones.
On the other side of Styracosaurus one could spot two feathered Sinosauropteryx fighting over a giant dragon fly (it looked like Meganeura, an animal that existed 180 million years before Sinosauropteryx…).
Right next to the two Sinosauropteryx there was a large Tyrannosaurus with juveniles.
Close to the tyrannosaur, and standing at the edge of the balcony, was the main attraction: Spinosaurus.
At this point one turned around and encircled the Tyrannosaurus which was located in the center of the exhibition. At the far end there was a tiny Microraptor (no picture) but also my favorite feathered dinosaur: Therizinosaurus. Unfortunately it was located in a darker area.
Continuing back to the entrance of the exhibition one could see a Parasaurolophus surrounded by three feathered Deinonychus.
Finally, at the end we could see a Stegosaurus swinging its spiky tail.