Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication
is a free book (PDF) from NASA. The premise is that communication with alien lifeforms will have some (cautious) analogues to interpreting past cultures, and to the work that anthropologists and linguists do cross-culturally. Among the 16 chapters are: Beyond Linear B - The Metasemiotic Challenge of Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence; Learning To Read - Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives; and, Mirrors of Our Assumptions: Lessons from an Arthritic Neanderthal.
posted by Rumple
on May 23, 2014 -
In 2008 a letter was excavated during an archaeological dig
of a Peruvian colonial town abandoned for unknown reasons around the turn of the 18th Century. On the back of that letter were recorded several numbers and their names in a dead tongue, lost in the upheaval following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Even though this may be the only remnant of an entire language, there is quite a bit that linguists can glean from these fragments. For a brief overview of the findings of research by a joint American-Peruvian research group, read here
. And here is the full journal article
, which places these numbers in their historical and linguistic context.
posted by Kattullus
on Sep 25, 2011 -
The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies
is your one-stop shop for pre-Columbian Central America awesomeness. There are so, so many wondrous things on that site, I don't quite know where to begin. I suppose John Pohl's scholarly introduction
is a natural place to start. But maybe you just don't have time to read anything and just want to dive into pretty, pretty pictures. Perhaps the most user-friendly databases are Justin Kerr's photographs Maya Vases
) and Pre-Columbian Portfolio
). From there you can delve into the collection of Linda Schele's photographs
) and drawings
). There are more image databases but let me direct you to the collection of old Maya, Aztec and Mixtec books
which are simply stunning (e.g. 1
, 4 [last link pdf]
). You can read more about Mayan
codices and download high resolution versions of the entire books. There are also Maya dictionaries
, glyph guides
, linguistic maps
and a who's who
. There is also classic Mayan
poetry in translation. I'm telling you, that's not even half of what this amazing site has to offer.
posted by Kattullus
on Nov 29, 2008 -
The Polynesians were, undoubtedly, the greatest navigators of the ancient world. Using outrigger canoes, they were able to colonize lands spread as far apart as Madagascar and Easter Island and as far south as New Zealand. But where did they originally come from? Jared Diamond
demonstrates how, by using linguistic and archaeological evidence, it's possible to reconstruct their journey from China and Taiwan to the Philippines, from there on to Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea and out to the Pacific one way and Madagascar in the other. As an exercise, try comparing the numbers 1 to 10 in all Polynesian and Indonesian languages
, to see how the language gradually changed as they hopped from island to island.
posted by lagado
on Nov 23, 2000 -
The Mummies of the Tarim Basin
were discovered fifteen years ago by Chinese archaeologists working in the salty deserts of far western China. These bodies date from between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago and have been preserved so well in the extremely dry salty conditions that some of them look like they're still alive. Even more remarkable is that their clothing is still intact including tapestries and tartans. Finally these people were six feet tall, had long noses and fair hair and there is strong evidence that they spoke a language whose closest relatives are Celtic and Latin.
posted by lagado
on Aug 7, 2000 -