Thursday, March 6, 2014

Keeping My Sunny Side Up: Computer program rebuilds treasure from broken pot...

Keeping My Sunny Side Up: Computer program rebuilds treasure from broken pot...: I grew up searching for treasure - small, colorful rocks, pieces of driftwood, beach glass, agates - any interesting piece of flotsam that c...

Computer program rebuilds treasure from broken pottery

I grew up searching for treasure - small, colorful rocks, pieces of driftwood, beach glass, agates - any interesting piece of flotsam that caught me eye. To me, the pieces represented possibility - what could be done with this? I painted little pet people, wire wrapped the beach glass, created one-of-a-kind artwork on the driftwood, and gathered more agates in my garage than is reasonable for one woman.

When I was gifted a suitcase full of southwest pottery shards at a local garage sale (the find of a lifetime!), my interest expanded to the pieces of pottery that lie buried all around the world, remnants of bygone civilizations. These stone-like pieces of formed earth hold secrets. As a potter, I feel a thrill of connection when I hold a pottery shard in my hand, a piece that was made by an indigenous potter 500-600 years ago. Things haven't changed that much in the pottery world; I recognize the techniques, and appreciate the craftsmanship.

Archaeology computer tech
Avshalom Karasik developed the program. Photo by Emil Salman

Pottery shards (or sherds, if you prefer) are the most common piece of archaeological evidence found at most dig sites. So when I ran across an article about a group that was using technology to try to recreate three-dimensional digital images of pottery from shards in Israel, I found it exceptionally interesting. The computer scans the existing shard, and then figures out the direction it lay within the pot. From there, it compares possible pots by known artists of the time period, eventually coming up with a likely configuration for the pottery.

The human touch is still necessary for identification. For instance, the computer can't necessarily place the piece within the correct time period - for that, an archaeologist is required. But the technology may hold clues to the past, and help historians and archaeologists understand more about life. I will continue to be fascinated by the the process of turning raw earth into functional, hard ceramic - and every time I spin my kick wheel, I will think of all the millions of potters who have come before me.

To see my (decidedly NOT ancient) pottery, check out my Etsy site, Big Sky Artworks.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Keeping My Sunny Side Up: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History...

Keeping My Sunny Side Up: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History...:

Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History...

One day, long ago, I was bemoaning the fact that there were so few women in history books. The person with whom I was speaking – who surely should have known better – told me that, up until very recently, women just didn’t DO anything. They were wives and mothers and had no hand in history.

This person is now embarrassed to have once spouted such ignorance. But it is still easy to look at history and see little but wealthy white men. Today I want to refocus that lens, and take a look at some remarkable women who made their own place in history. I tried to look at women who accomplished great things, but who may not have been mentioned in history class. There are many, many more – for links to women in history.       
  •  MARIANNE NORTH was an amateur botanist and painter in Victorian England who just loved to paint flowers.  But instead of being content to pore over books and learn vicariously, in 1860 North packed her bags and traveled – first to America, then South America, and on to Japan, India and Australia. Everywhere she went, she painted amazing pictures of beautiful flowers. Since photography was still a very new art, North’s paintings gave European scientists their first close-up look at many plants from continents around the world. 
  • Belva Ann Lockwood
    ·         BELVA ANN LOCKWOOD was the first American woman to run for president of the United States. She ran twice – in 1884, and 1888. She was a lawyer and an advocate for women’s rights, and in 1872 helped pass a law guaranteeing equal pay for equal work for women within the federal government. She also authored amendments giving women the right to vote in three states – Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.
  • HARRIET QUIMBY, born 1875 in Michigan, was a Renaissance woman. She was one of the first female screen writers in the budding American film industry, working for famous director DW Griffith. She got her pilot’s license in 1911, and became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
  • ELIZABETH COCHRANE (Nellie Bly) became famous for circumnavigating the globe in just 72 days – but she also was instrumental in laying the foundation for investigative journalism in the United States.  In 1887, she had herself committed to a mental institution (called insane asylums at the time). While there, she chronicled the horrific living conditions and treatment that mental patients received at the hands of “doctors.” Her articles resulted in an investigation of the hospital. The name “Nellie Bly” is still synonymous with excellence in investigative reporting by women.
  •  HYPATIA was an Egyptian mathematician, philosopher and astronomer, and is the earliest known female mathematician, as few works have survived from that era. She was born in the year 355 and died in 415 in Alexandria. While she lived, she was the leading mathematician and astronomer of her time, and attracted quite a following with her series of lectures on both math and philosophy.