After writing my earlier post on ancient pottery, I found a link to a Bostonia (Boston University Alumni) article about
fragments of pottery that are believed to be 20,000 years old. Previously, it
was thought that pottery developed about 10,000 years ago, when humans switched
from hunting/gathering to farming. Paul Goldberg, a professor of archaeology at
BU; Trina Arpin, a research associate; and David Cohen, an adjunct assistant
professor of archaeology discovered pottery shards in the Xianrendong cave in
southern China in a sediment layer 20,000 years old. To corroborate the date, the
researchers tested whether the soil layers had been disturbed thus potentially
shifting the pottery shards. They found no insect droppings which indicate disrupted
researching my WIP, I wondered how archaeologists determine the age of pottery
fragments. 14C dating is useful for organic substances (bones,
teeth, parchment, fabric, pollen, or other remnants of carbon-based life forms).
The clays used in ceramics are made from inorganic silica compounds that don’t
contain much carbon. Pottery fragments can be dated by:
dating of burned food residues (link) In the days
before dishwashers, steel wool and foaming detergents, food stuck to the
dating of lipids that were absorbed by unglazed pottery (link) It’s always
been hard to scrub grease off dirty dishes. This method was used to demonstrate
that dairy farming has existed in Britain for 6000 years.
Determining the water of re-hydroxylation (link, link) After bricks
or pottery are removed from a kiln and exposed to the atmosphere, the clay
begins to chemically combine with water at a time-dependent rate. This water
can be removed with heat. The change in mass (before and after heating) is used
to determine when the ceramic was first fired. This method appears to be
accurate except for bricks from buildings bombed during WWWII where high
temperatures reset the hydroxylation clock.
The age of 14C-dated
objects is expressed in years BP (Before Present) (link) with January 1, 1950 as the
origin because radiocarbon dating expanded in use in the 1950s. BP is sometimes
interpreted as Before Physics since nuclear testing during the 1950s spiked the
atmosphere with radioisotopes of carbon and increased the amount of 14C
Some of my writing friends are
seduced into creating worlds, establishing characters’ backstories, making
maps, collecting pictures and doing internet research. The actual writing of novel
is postponed or even ignored. My approach has been: 1) do research, 2) make an
outline, 3) hammer out the first draft, 4) start revising. While I’ve used this
approach to finish several manuscripts, none of them was deemed to be something
that anyone would want to read.
My current project started the same
way, then got stuck in plot logjam, exacerbated by being told by one of the
industry’s foremost editors that not one aspect of a previous manuscript worked
– in any way. This summer, I’ve accomplished little. I’m not writing, although
I occasionally write about writing. Some days, this is nothing more than a list
of the manuscript’s problems. On better days, I add a few solutions. I’ve done
enough research to know there is much more to discover. I’ve made mini-graphic
novels for difficult scenes. I’ve written countless pages titled, “What If?” in
which I brainstorm alternatives.
I can’t tell if this approach is
going to work, but right now, it’s the best I can do.
I drive to Detroit metro airport to drop off Jeremy. He’s going to two workshops
at the Berklee College of Music. My fingers are crossed that they’ll let him
take his guitar on the plane, he’ll manage in a big city, and his
music will get helpful feedback.
thinking about the relationship between the main character in a novel and the
problem that she solves. In some books, the protagonist solves a problem of his
own creation. In others, the main character is tied to the problem by a magical
In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo must carry the ring to Mordor because he cannot bear to
give it away. The ring’s power over Frodo seals the magical contract.
is compelled to destroy Lord Voldemort. The Prophesy said, “Neither can live
while the other survives,” but the true magical contract involves the
horcruxes. Harry harbors a fragment of Voldemort’s soul, and he must get rid of
it before he can rid the world of Voldemort.
the contract is inherited. In Holes, Stanley’s magical contract was arranged by
his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather” who reneged on
a promise and started generations of bad luck. When Stanley carries Zero up the
mountain, he fulfills the promise and lifts the curse.
In The IliadandThe Odyssey, the magical contract is the marriage contract. Helen abandons
her husband and thus launches a thousand ships. Odysseus is determined to
return to his wife, in spite of the obstacles the gods place in his way. When
he returns to Greece, only he can draw the bow and free Penelope from the
notation software costs several hundred dollars, and is reportedly somewhat
user-unfriendly. Perhaps in response to
consumer demand, Sibelius offers a lower priced, simpler version called
Sibelius First. Last week, Jeremy and I bought this program so he could
transform his chicken scratches on staff/tabular paper into lovely printed
music. On the way home from the electronics store, we listened to the Beatles’ One album, and Jeremy told me that none of the Beatles read music. That surprised
me. I learned to read music when I was in the third grade (because my parents
were affluent enough to send me to music lessons). I learned to read English
the year before I started Kindergarten, and in the span of my life, that
four-year head start seems insignificant. Reading music feels like something
I’ve always done.
created music that started a revolution without ever scratching those notes
onto staff/tabular paper. They conquered the world on talent alone.