Andrea Vianello

Archaeologist

The western world at a turning point. Collapse of a civilization or transition? 

I share here some thoughts on the current developments in western nations, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and European elections. I think that there is a parallel to be made between what is happening and the Thirties, not just for the resurgence of some extreme ideas (neo-Nazis, alt-right, etc.) connected to that period, but for the disastrous social consequences that economic downturns have caused, Great Depression then, Great Recession more recently. In my opinion, dissatisfaction stems from there. The European Union (EU) and the “establishment” are scapegoats. Mind you, they are far from being perfect and need considerable work to improve, but honestly I can’t say we are in this situation because of them. Governments have served us well in the past, and haven’t done anything lately that was more stupid or out of touch than usual. The EU also cannot be blamed. It is far too static and inflexible for our needs, and will need to go soon in its present form, but is not the cause ... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 12 December 2016 06:49:26 Categories: thoughts

Medieval cities built for a globalized world 

European cities draw fascination and interest from across the world because of their histories and art. They are substantially different in layout from modern cities, for example American cities, not least because they appear more compact with a high-density population surrounding their centres. The birth of the existing European cities can be traced back to the Middle Ages, often adapting pre-existing layouts. American researchers have now tried to answer a simple question: what do the core layout of European cities tell us about the socioeconomic structure of the populations that built them? Or in other words, were the medieval cities a space for all population and acted as interconnected international hubs? Were they built with social hierarchy in mind (e.g. a castle/palace for the leaders, an inner wall section for the wealthier and rural outskirts for the poor)? Social hierarchy was defining society in all its aspects, with courts, guilds, municipal organizations and the church... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 28 November 2016 18:47:03 Categories: archaeology

Bison discovered in cave art 

Cave art is perhaps the apex of humanity. Nothing in the animal world or in the early prehistoric world of hominins and hominids compares to it. It is one manifestation of humanity that is truly ours, of our own species, shared with nobody else. We can be told that lithics is monkey’s business, and we might wonder at the species that separate us from the animal world, but when it comes to cave art, we are in safe human ground. Cave art represents the world as people perceived it. But most importantly, it recorded this perspective without any of the symbolism found in other forms of art. Even a simple Venus figurine, or more complex figures such as the Lion-Man from Hohle Fels, is intrinsically symbolic and open to interpretation. Venus of Hohle Fels, Germany. Credit: University of Tübingen. The subject of cave art is more recognisable, and cave art has been even compared to comics and animation (by Marc Azéma) for its detailed representation of animals, including bisons and... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 21 October 2016 21:04:31 Categories: archaeology

Monkeys make stone tools 

Capuchin monkeys produce unintentional stone flakes. Credit: Nature video A recent paper published by Nature has revealed that capuchin monkeys in Brazil can produce unintentionally lithic tools (flakes) similar to those attributed to early hominins. Some of the earliest stone tools have been dated about 3.4 million years ago and since then stone tools have been a staple for prehistorians. This is not the first time that monkeys and other animals have been spotted using tools, or even producing tools to achieve a simple and immediate objective. Using a stone to crack a nut, or a stick to reach some food are known behaviours. These monkeys however have been filmed smashing stones together and licking the result, probably a way to access some required minerals and salts, in a behaviour well known for elephants. Elephants digging minerals. Credit: Richard Ruggiero/USFWS What surprises of the monkey’s behaviour is that the end result, which they appear to discard as... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 21 October 2016 19:58:00 Categories: archaeology

Modern humans vs. the other hominins 

The discovery of possible human teeth in Flores, in the same cave where Homo floriensis lived, has opened up a debate on the colonization of our planet by anatomically modern humans. In many ways, humans are not dissimilar by other natural species, and except for the use of complex languages, the ability to create tools, and human creativity (the ability to think and imagine the abstract or what is not yet material, the human mind), it is hard to separate humans from animals from a scientific point. Increasingly, intelligence and consciousness are recognized in animals, last perhaps the dolphins, who have some form of language (The study of acoustic signals and the supposed spoken language of the dolphins) and even larger brains than humans. So it is becoming difficult to define humans, and all characteristics that are unique can be reduced to abilities in abstract and symbolic thinking. Studying hominins, the ancestors of modern humans, can offer some clues about traits that are... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 02 October 2016 03:11:00 Categories: thoughts

Recent presentations 

You can see online or download two of my recent (2016) presentations:

Island Obsidian Distribution and Socioeconomic Patterns in Prehistoric Sicily and the South-Central Mediterranean (2016) (SAA 2016)

and

Rivers in Prehistory: Human-Environment Interactions in the Making (WARP30)

The second presentations in particular will be of general interest as it is part of my recent work on rivers, and the first work after my book Rivers in Prehistory.

Posted by Andrea Vianello 01 October 2016 20:32:38 Categories: archaeology

Website updated 

I have updated the underlying website, and please let me know of anything broken. Some older pages will have broken links, but that is the nature of the Internet. I started writing this website in 1998, so in nearly 20 years I have acquired some first hand knowledge of the Web even if I am not an IT specialist. Just a geek at heart. I remember my first efforts to write HTML code compatible with version 3.2, then 4, and all the troubles in making it compatible with different browsers. Then XHTML came as an attempt to merge HTML and XML into a standard, but it failed to be adopted. Currently, HTML5 is hardly a fixed standard, and support is very varied among browsers. Adobe Flash was the first attempt to make the Web interactive and multimedia, but I never liked it, and it is leaving us, not a moment too soon. Content Management Systems (CMS) have made programs to produce web pages obsolete, and made possible to publish online to the masses. So what changed this round? I changed web... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 29 September 2016 20:06:33 Categories: thoughts

Obsidian conference online (in Italian) 

Scambi dell’ossidiana liparota tra Neolitico ed età del Bronzo

The conference held in Italy, at Lamezia Terme, Calabria, on 25 May 2016, is now available in its entirety on this website. Please note that the conference is in Italian only.

Posted by Andrea Vianello 28 July 2016 13:25:00 Categories: archaeology events

Review online 

'Rivers in prehistory' reviewed
Colin Martin has reviewed Rivers in Prehistory in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Vol 45 Issue 1, with positive comments and appreciation for the work done. The volume, which was started from selected papers presented at 2 conferences (3 sessions), has also some commissioned papers. For the volume, I deliberately tried to avoid presenting a single conclusion or push a particular view or interpretation. It became clear soon enough that rivers mean different things to different people, but they have been undoubtedly important to many for a very long time. Two the key messages: first, never underestimate the role of a river in the landscape, and second never believe that one particular perspective can explain it. Rivers are never the same, and never perceived as the same. They are a dynamic entity that is constantly mediated by human societies, communities, households, and individuals. The introductory essays and case studies make clear that this dynamism results in ... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 24 February 2016 19:46:00 Categories: archaeology

Barcelona presentation now online 

The collaborative presentation read at the 10th International Symposium on Knappable Materials in Barcelona on Wednesday, 9th September 2015 is now available online. The presentation is entitled “Exchange networks from Close-up: The case of Lipari obsidian. Officially presented by Andrea Vianello, Robert Tykot and Kyle Freund, it contains many of my ideas on the topic. Slides (and previous results) were contributed by the other two authors. Here is the abstract: The island of Lipari was a primary source of obsidian in the Neolithic Mediterranean. The particular location of the Aeolian Islands, of which Lipari is one, has been conducive for the formation of long-distance exchange networks. Indeed, most islands were probably settled on a temporary basis and visited primarily to acquire artefacts for exchange. A systematic program of research conducted now in the past few years has attempted to trace the dispersal of obsidian materials from Lipari and Pantelleria... Read the rest of this entry »
 
Posted by Andrea Vianello 20 October 2015 19:49:00 Categories: archaeology
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