The Landscape A.J. Downing Designed at Springside, New York

Springside is a nineteenth-century park and estate built by Matthew Vassar in Poughkeepsie, New York that is now maintained by a non-profit organization and is open to the public.

Vassar, who made his fortune in brewing beer before founding the women’s college that bears his name, bought 43 acres of land on the south side of Poughkeepsie in 1850 and hired famed landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing and his architect partner, Calvert Vaux, to design a summer estate for him.

Although Downing died in 1852 in a fire on a Hudson River steamship, Vaux and Vassar continued to work on Springside. Vassar moved into the cottage built on the site; a larger villa was planned, but never constructed, as Vassar preferred the smaller cottage. Vassar lived at Springside fulltime beginning in 1867.

After his death, the property passed on to a series of owners, and was subdivided and merged with other properties, but most of the buildings and the constructed landscape survived mostly intact. In the twentieth century, Springside faced a series of threats from development. In 1969, Springside was listed as a National Historic Landmark, but within weeks, the barn and carriage house were burned down by arsonists. In 1970, the property was sold to a developer. In 1976, the cottage was in danger of destruction. The façade of the cottage was removed to the New York State Museum, and the rest of the cottage was destroyed. In the 1980s, under threat of a lawsuit from preservationists, an agreement was reached to preserve about half of the estate and allow the construction of condominiums on the other half.

Springside is now maintained by a nonprofit organization, Springside Landscape Restoration. Now, most of the pathways have been cleared and they curve among the rocky knolls. The original Beautiful and Picturesque landscape now tends more towards the picturesque, with tangled, unkempt plants held partially in check along the pathways.

 

 

The Name of the Sword

Compilation of Celtic swords from La Tène archeological site. The picture was obtained by the Author crossmatching different images from the book NAVARRO, José María : de (1972), The finds from the site of La Tène : Vol. 1: Scabbards and the swords found in them, Oxford University Press (ed. British Academy), ISBN 978-01-9725-909-2. Kirk Lee Spencer, Derivative work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Glamdring, Andúril, Sting. Some weapons have names. Beowulf used the sword Hrunting, King Arthur had Excalibur, and of course the hammer of Thor is Mjölnir. In The Spirit of the Sword and Spear (Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23(1):55-67), Mark Pearce references the named weapons of myth and history to argue that swords and spears can have individual identities, and thus, potentially, biographies. As he says, “I do not mean to argue that prehistoric weapons were regarded as equivalent to humans, but rather that they had some sort of spiritual persona…with its own specific agency, believed to have its own intention and volition. This might have been perceived as some sort of in-dwelling spirit.” (p. 55)

From these named weapons, he attempts to look farther back in time to ascertain whether swords and other weapons from the Iron Age of Europe also were assigned identities. There are, in fact, at least two Iron Age swords with names stamped onto their blades, although the names could belong to the sword, the owner, or the blacksmith.

More common are swords and spears that have faces (or geometric designs that could be interpreted as faces), which, Pearce argues, may also indicate that they were given an identity. He is aware that “It is dangerous to use analogies from myth to reconstruct prehistoric reality” (p. 64) and “it is certainly true that human beings have a tendency to interpret unstructured visual stimuli in meaningful ways”  and “It might be easy to over-interpret stimuli that may seem to depict faces.” (p. 62)

Against these statements, he can muster only a weak defense: “But when looking at the spearheads and swords illustrated in this article, the faces are very striking… It is clearly impossible to demonstrate conclusively that faces are meant, but it does seem evident.” (p. 62)

It does not help that “in some cases the decoration tends towards the abstract and can be recognized as indicating a face only by reference to, and comparison with, the more figurative examples.” (p. 62)

Yet his main idea is intriguing. Perhaps a less descriptive and more analytical approach would produce stronger results.

The article is open access and available to download at the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

originally posted on Adequacy (2013)

Reference:

Pearce, Mark
2013  The Spirit of the Sword and Spear. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23(1):55–67.

How Inuit Gather Mussels. In the Winter. Under the Ice.

…in the coldest months, when the ice is thickest, some venture beneath the ice to gather mussels. Every two weeks the pull of the moon combines with the geography of this region to create unusually large tides. The water falls as much as 55 feet in some places, emptying the bay under the ice along the shore for an hour or more. That’s when some Inuit climb aboard their snowmobiles and head out onto the bay.

Craig S. Smith writes in the New York Times about how people in Northern Quebec venture under the ice to gather mussels. Photos by Aaron Vincent Elkaim.

Below Luminous Ice, a Bounty of Mussels

The Late Archaic Site by the Parking Garage: More on Coralville, Iowa

Hotel and plantings near the Edgewater Park Site, Iowa.

The redevelopment of that Coralville, Iowa wetland park/restaurant/hotel complex uncovered a prehistoric archaeological site officially known as the Edgewater Park Site (13JH1132). The initial survey by archaeologists prior to construction discovered that artifacts were present about one meter below the ground surface. Therefore, the upper meter of soil was removed over a 10 x 10 meter area (near the current parking garage) to expose the artifact-bearing layers.

Edgewater Park
Excavation at the Edgewater Park Site, Iowa. Source: The Office of the State Archaeologist, Iowa.

The dig recovered about 15,000 artifacts. Most of these are stone flakes, but there are also 17 projectile points. Ten of these are Table Rock points, a side-notched biface similar to the widespread Late Archaic Durst, Dustin, and Lamoka points found elsewhere. The only other diagnostic point is a Stone Square Stemmed point that also dates to the Late Archaic.

Concentrations of fire-cracked rock likely are the remains of several hearths, and the distribution of the stone debitage (primarily Maynes Creek chert, which is found naturally about 100km away from the site) may reveal areas where individuals were creating stone tools between 3,500 and 3,900 years ago. Three types of plants found at the site, barnyard grass, little barley, and knotweed, could possibly have been cultivated there. Archaeologists think that the Edgewater Park site was a warm-weather camp temporarily used by hunter-gatherers who may have also been beginning to use domesticated plants.

The Office of the State Archaeologist of Iowa has more information on the Edgewater Park Site, and photos of the excavation can be seen on Flickr.

Reference:

William E. Whittaker, Michael T. Dunne, Joe Alan Artz, Sarah E. Horgen and Mark L. Anderson

2007       Edgewater Park: A Late Archaic Campsite along the Iowa River. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 32 (1):5-45.

 

New Jersey Beaver Dinner

The Fraternal Order of Eagles in Salem, New Jersey, are having their first ever  Wild Beaver Dinner. The beavers are trapped in South Jersey, butchered, soaked in salt water, and slow-cooked for six hours. Beaver has been served by the FOE with other species as part of their wild game dinners in the past, but at this dinner, beavers get the spotlight to themselves.

Wild Beaver, It’s What’s for Dinner at NJ.com (warning: contains photos of dead beavers)

Land Rover with a Landing Pad

Project Hero is a Land Rover Discovery with a Landing Pad on the roof for your drone. The drone can land on the roof while the Land Rover is in motion; a powered cover keeps it from getting blown off the roof.  Use it to find out why you’re stuck in traffic on the highway, or, as originally intended, to assist Red Cross emergency response teams. Details at Land Rover.

Land Rover Hero comms