Friday, March 09, 2007

The Giza Archives Project

The Giza Archives Project. This is a nice site documenting excavations on the Giza plateau sponsored by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1905 to 1942. It includes diaries, photographs, maps, plans, and sketches.

This includes:

- About 22,000 black-and-white excavation photographs taken between 1902 and 1942.

- About 3,106 expedition diary pages.

- About 2,408 object register book pages (containing 19,544 individual object records).

- About 10,000 maps and plans, ranging from entire Giza cemeteries to individual burial shafts.

- About 200 books and articles on Giza (a digital Library of PDF files).

- Experiments in Interactive Web technologies, such as zoomable satellite photos and 360-degree panoramic views of the site using Quicktime Virtual Reality (QTVR) and other technologies.

From the site:

The Old Kingdom Giza Necropolis (dating from about 2500 BCE) is the site of thousands of tombs, temples, and ancient artifacts. With this Web site the Giza Archives Project staff seeks to provide a comprehensive online resource for scholarly research on Giza.

The single longest-running Giza excavation took place between 1902 and 1947, undertaken jointly by Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Directed by George A. Reisner, the "Harvard–MFA Expedition" unearthed thousands of Giza artifacts, and amassed the largest archaeological documentary archive of any Giza expedition. This archive is housed primarily in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and, to a lesser extent, at Harvard University.

With the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the MFA has made major strides since 2000 toward preserving and making this Giza archive available online. With the possible future addition of excavation archives from other expeditions (1903-present) and institutions, the Giza Archives Project Web site aims to become the world's central repository for the archaeological history of the site.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A History Of Absinthe And Its Tools

I found this short history article at As the site allows for the reproduction of articles by blogs and other websites, I am going to go ahead and reprint it here. The author of the article is Charles Hamel.


The extensive works and studies involving the mysterious drink absinthe does little to contain the rumors and bad press that surrounds the green fairy and the essence of thujone that it contained.

In 1860 Henri Balesta was a rising star in the world of journalism and playwrites. Balesta's book Absinthe et Absintheurs, was published that same year. He was a student of social culture and traced the lives of heavy absinthe users. The book started by focusing on the effects of absinthe abuse in addicts and the community. Later on his writings would be a small factor in the ban of Absinthe.

In 1905 a series of horrible murders ,where a man Jean Lanfray a farm laborer began drinking at dawn having several liters of wine, shots of brandy and 2 glasses of absinthe. Upon returning home he got into an argument with his wife and shot her in the head, he also killed both of his daughters, and then turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger. News of the murders spread quickly and was the straw that broke the camels back and resulted in absinthe being made illegal. By 1915 the emerald drink was banned in most Western countries and the United States.

Tools of Absinthe

The basic tools that are required to prepare a proper glass of absinthe are a glass, a special slotted spoon, a sugar cube, chilled water and of course absinthe. Of course none of the tools are required to drink absinthe, but it was the ritual of preparation that helped to instigate the type of visual hypnosis and richness to the preparation ceremony.

The special absinthe spoons and glasses of the 1800's are works of art in themselves. The complexity of the detail of a Coquille St. Jacques spoon or the mysterious gaze of a Jean Beraud painting do not represent a binge into a bottle of alcohol. A surge of artistic works that were produced during the Belle Epoque era was often blamed on the inspiration obtained by drinking absinthe.

Absinthe Spoons

Absinthe spoons contained slots or holes in them, by which the water dripped through the sugar cube into the glass of absinthe. Many of the ornate designs consisted of spoons of many different shapes. Many common shapes that were used included pipes, arrows, stars, clovers, clubs, crosses, circles, diamonds and flowers. Absinthe spoons range anywhere from $20 to $3000 dollars, ending on the style and condition and rarity of the antique. The most sought after absinthe spoon is the Toulouse-Lautrec, Le Eiffel, which is modeled after the Eiffel Tower. Absinthe spoons were often silver plated, and the better made spoons were molded instead of stamped.


The popularity of absinthe lasted for half a century and the banning happened the same year as the start of the art deco era of the 1920's and 30's. The absinthe glass styles evolved during the height of the absinthe craze, and consisted of two categories, the first being absinthe glasses that were used for absinthe and other drinks and the second category of the ones that were used extensively for absinthe. The swirl, Egg, Chopes Yvonne, Mazagran, Lyonnaise and East styles fell into the first group. The glasses that were used exclusively for absinthe were about six to seven inches tall. The glasses were voluminous and very sturdy to withstand the frequent abuse experienced in the rowdy bistros.

Cordon, Reservoir and Pontarlier style glasses fell into the second category and were used only for absinthe. These glasses are the rarest of the bunch and of course the most expensive, and were 5-7 inches tall. The cordon glasses were the rare for having a glass ring around their base that marked the absinthe dose. But the rarest of them all were the Pontarlier glasses which had a reservoir totally separate from the rest of the glass.

The special Absinthe fountains were very elegant and a focal point of the absinthe service set. Fountains were ornate made of metal and glass with 2-6 small spigots. The upper glass portion was filled with ice and water, while the preparers placed their glass with the sugar cube under the spigot and slowly dripped water into their glasses. Absinthe fountains can still be found and usually run between $1,500 to $8,000 dollars. The Absinthe Terminus Bienfaisante fountain that has a rooster sitting on top of the lid is the most famous.

For a item to be so controversial and steeped in mystery Absinthe sure has a strong famous presence in World History, and now that the popularity of the drink is growing, much more is left to be said for this subject.

Charles Hamel is an online marketer and entrepreneur who specializes in writing and web design. His new website about Absinthe Alcohol and it's history can be found at

Article Source:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fake Professor at Wikipedia

Wikipedia is under attack yet again by the mainstream media. This time, it is because a now former high ranking administrator (Ryan Jordan known as Essjay at Wikipedia) there has been found to have fabricated his credentials by claiming to be an academic with multiple degrees he did not have.

Wikipedia already has an article on the controversy of course. It notes:

The Essjay controversy arose after The New Yorker magazine disclosed that a prominent English Wikipedia editor and administrator known by the name "Essjay", who was also briefly employed at Wikia, had lied about his age, background, and academic credentials, including claiming to have a doctoral degree. At the recommendation of the Wikimedia Foundation, Stacy Schiff interviewed Essjay as a source for a July 2006 New Yorker article which described Essjay as having notable academic credentials, which he confirmed at the time.[1] In February 2007 an editor's note was added to the original article, explaining that Essjay now said these credentials were non-existent and were part of an online persona he had created in part to avoid cyberstalking.[2] Essjay had described himself on his user profile as "a tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern United States."[3] According to the note, he now said he was Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old community college dropout from Kentucky and that he had relied on sources such as Catholicism for Dummies when editing articles.

While shocking, this kind of deception is not new and is not limited to Wikipedia. Does anyone remember Jayson Blair? He both plagiarized and fabricated articles at the New York Times for several years. I do not think Blair has proven that the New York Times is a bad resource though despite his fraud.

And let's not forget about Stephen Glass at the New Republic. 27 of 41 stories written by Glass for the magazine contained fabricated material. He wrote such fake gems as a 15 year old at national hacker convention and a Church of George Herbert Walker Bush, Jesus Christ. I still like the New Republic as a resource despite the Glass incident.

People fabricating degrees is not new either. The Chronicle of Higher Education frequently exposes people in higher education with diploma mill degrees. For example, history adjunct Fred Ruhlman at the University of Tennessee was reported at Cliopatria, "(His) "doctorate" is from "the American University of London", a notorious diploma mill and his book, Captain Henry Wirz and Andersonville Prison, was withdrawn from publication by the University of Tennessee Press because of its plagiarism from William Marvel's Andersonville: The Last Depot." While embarrassing for the University of Tennessee, it hardly means UT degrees are now worthless.

I can find those fake Blair articles in my library right now in the microfilm versions of the New York Times. Those fake Glass articles from the New Republic are still in the bound periodical section of the library too. However, every edit Essjay has made is being examined and altered if it is found to be problematic. Unlike the mainstream press who have their mistakes archived forever in libraries, Wikipedia can be fixed when the fraud is discovered.

What is the lesson here? We need to teach our students how to critically evaluate any information they find. This includes stuff in print and online. Further, we should never be allowing our students to use encyclopedias (be it Wikipedia or the Encyclopædia Britannica) as a main source for a paper. Encyclopedias exist to give background information to get the research started. They should rarely be cited.

As Wikipedia has thousands of editors from around the world, it is not surprising that bad Wikipedians can be found just like bad academics with fabricated credentials in higher education can be found and bad writers with fake stories can be found in the mainstream media. The Essjay fake professor incident can be cited as a successful example of how the Wikipedia community was able to detect and fix the problem. However, this is such a good story, I guess I am not surprised that so many news sources are taking the whole incident out of context. In the meantime, I have no doubt that Wikipedia will continue on strong and that my students will continue to keep using Wikipedia . And I will have to keep educating them about the appropriateness of using encyclopedias as their main sources...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

History of Mauritius

History of Mauritius. This is a brief history of the island nation of Mauritius which lies east of the African continent. It is a good bet most Americans have never heard of the place.

The Encyclop√¶dia Britannica notes, "Officially Republic Of Mauritius, island country, the central independent island state of the Mascarene group, lying about 500 miles (800 km) east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It is situated at latitude 20°18¢ S and longitude 57°36¢ E and extends 38 miles (61 km) from north to south and 29 miles (47 km) from east to west. Its outlying territories are Rodrigues Island, lying 344 miles (553 km) eastward, the Cargados Carajos Shoals, 250 miles (402 km) northeastward, and the Agalega Islands, 580 miles (933 km) northward from the main island. The capital is Port Louis."

From the site:

While Arab and Malay sailors knew of Mauritius as early as the 10th century AD and Portuguese sailors first visited in the 16th century, the island was not colonized until 1638 by the Dutch. Mauritius was populated over the next few centuries by waves of traders, planters and their slaves, indentured laborers, merchants, and artisans. The island was named in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau by the Dutch, who abandoned the colony in 1710.

The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Ile de France. It became a prosperous colony under the French East India Company. The French Government took control in 1767, and the island served as a naval and privateer base during the Napoleonic wars. In 1810, Mauritius was captured by the British, whose possession of the island was confirmed 4 years later by the Treaty of Paris. French institutions, including the Napoleonic code of law, were maintained. The French language is still used more widely than English.

Mauritian Creoles trace their origins to the plantation owners and slaves who were brought to work the sugar fields. Indo-Mauritians are descended from Indian immigrants who arrived in the 19th century to work as indentured laborers after slavery was abolished in 1835. Included in the Indo-Mauritian community are Muslims (about 15% of the population) from the Indian subcontinent.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fun Geography Games

Thanks to Byzantium's Shores for leading me towards two fun geography games. Both are simple. Type in as many American states or UN member nations as you can in ten minutes. Spelling counts! The American states game is here and the UN nation one is here.

I fear many of my students would not do to well with either. Geography seems to be lost on many of them. I once had a girl in class who was convinced that Canada was in Europe. (Well, she did reason it out. She had got on a plane, flown over water, and when she landed everyone was speaking French...)

When I was in Alaska last year, I overheard a tourist ask a cashier, "Do you accept American money in Alaska?" I often hear sports announcers covering an event in Hawaii who refer to their US mainland studios as being "back in the states." If you are in Hawaii, you are in the states. I do not think the sports announcers or the misguided tourist were making statements in favor of the Alaskan or Hawaiian separatist communities. They were all just being geographically illiterate.

I hope everyone does well on the two quizzes I linked to above. I would imagine most people who take the time to read a history blog have a high degree of geography knowledge.