Saturday, July 29, 2006

Forgotten Jamestown well holds centuries-old artifacts

Forgotten Jamestown well holds centuries-old artifacts. Here is a fun history/archaeology story out of Virginia. I found it at CNN.com.

The article notes: Sometime around 1610, archaeologists figure a thirsty colonist put his brass pistol on the side of a well as he pulled up some water and accidentally knocked the weapon in. It is conjecture, but it is one explanation for a cache of rare finds they fished up Tuesday from the bottom of a 400-year-old well at an overlooked corner of Historic Jamestowne, a national park. The items included the Scottish pistol, a man's leather shoe and a small lead plaque reading "James Towne" -- the equivalent of a colonial luggage tag.

I find it fascinating that accidents like dropping items down wells (or commodes) can yield such rich historical finds! I wonder if anything I accidently lose will be preserved and tell future historians about life in the 21st century?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Civilization IV: Warlords

As I have previously noted on this blog, I am a big fan of the Civilization computer game. I have been playing it avidly since the original version was released in the early 90s. Am I the only history buff or historian who is in to this game? I am sure I am not alone.

The game is complicated with many ways to win or lose. You pick from a variety of cultures and leaders and from 4000 B.C. on attempt to build a civilization that will dominate the world. The new version of Civilization (Civilization IV: Warlords) adds new civilizations including Carthage, Celts, Korea, Ottomans, Vikings, and Zulus as well as access to new leaders such as Augustus Caesar, Shaka, Winston Churchill, and Ramesses II. The addition of the warlord unit also makes war a bit more interesting for those who like the slash and conquer game. (I normally play the diplomacy game.)

This version also comes loaded with a variety of scenarios. My favorite is the barbarian version. You can choose to play the barbarians. The only goal is to eliminate all vestiges of civilization from the world! If you can wipe out all cultures and perpetuate a permanent dark ages, you win! I have not been successful yet and my last attempt had my barbarian horde eliminated by the Zulus. (Those Impi units are more powerful than there stats would indicate...)

If you have a computer and like games, give this a try. Maybe you can change history...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Uncovering the Mask of Macedonia

Uncovering the Mask of Macedonia. This is a fantastic article on the history of Macedonia at Yahoo. It is in five parts and written by Richard Bangs.

A teaser on the Yahoo homepage asks, "Is this man a time traveler? A Macedonian archaeologist says three magic watches take him through the ages." Of course, this made me think this story was about a European con man or psycho case but it is just clever (and deceptive) advertising.

Instead, it deals with Pasko Kuzman. The article notes, "He has been excavating 3,000-year-old submerged sites in Lake Ohrid, and the first fortress of King Philip II, Alexander's father, on its shores. Though his academic credentials are impressive, my first response is that he's a carbon dated copy of Anthony Hopkins as the lost anthropologist in the film Instinct...Pasko's signature tools include three weighty watches he wears on his left wrist, what he calls his time machines."

The index page of the article deals with Dateline: Lake Ohrid, 360 BC.

Other parts are on:

Mysteries of the Rocks and Stars, Dateline: Kokino, 1815 BC

Hidden Riches and Spiritual Treasures, DATELINE: MEDIEVAL MACEDONIA

Healing Secrets of the Old World, Katlanovo Spa, yesterday

The Passion for Greatness Lives On, Today's Macedonia

Monday, July 24, 2006

Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past

Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past. This article is from the Journal of American History, Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46. It was written by Roy Rosenzweig.

Obviously, this article deals with the coverage of history on Wikipedia. This resource may not be the creation of professional historians but it is the most read history resource in the world. The author writes that Wikipedia surpasses other popular encyclopedias in breadth but is inferior in both depth and breadth to professional reference sources such as American National Biography. Rosenzweig argues for opening up these kinds of professional history sources so that the general searcher can find them.

This is an excellent and thought provoking article. I believe that it will cause many to rethink how the work of professional historians is spread to researchers.

From the site:

History is a deeply individualistic craft. The singly authored work is the standard for the profession; only about 6 percent of the more than 32,000 scholarly works indexed since 2000 in this journal’s comprehensive bibliographic guide, “Recent Scholarship,” have more than one author. Works with several authors—common in the sciences—are even harder to find. Fewer than 500 (less than 2 percent) have three or more authors.1

Historical scholarship is also characterized by possessive individualism. Good professional practice (and avoiding charges of plagiarism) requires us to attribute ideas and words to specific historians—we are taught to speak of “Richard Hofstadter’s status anxiety interpretation of Progressivism.”2 And if we use more than a limited number of words from Hofstadter, we need to send a check to his estate. To mingle Hofstadter’s prose with your own and publish it would violate both copyright and professional norms.

A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture. Yet, quite remarkably, that describes the online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, which contains 3 million articles (1 million of them in English). History is probably the category encompassing the largest number of articles. Wikipedia is entirely free. And that freedom includes not just the ability of anyone to read it (a freedom denied by the scholarly journals in, say, jstor, which requires an expensive institutional subscription) but also—more remarkably—their freedom to use it. You can take Wikipedia’s entry on Franklin D. Roosevelt and put it on your own Web site, you can hand out copies to your students, and you can publish it in a book—all with only one restriction: You may not impose any more restrictions on subsequent readers and users than have been imposed on you. And it has no authors in any conventional sense. Tens of thousands of people—who have not gotten even the glory of affixing their names to it—have written it collaboratively. The Roosevelt entry, for example, emerged over four years as five hundred authors made about one thousand edits. This extraordinary freedom and cooperation make Wikipedia the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural, rather than software, production.3