December 11

The Vikings: Who Were They? (3/3)

Between Fantasy and Reality

Besides the image of the Vikings being used by the Nazis in their propaganda, there are several differences between some of the features commonly believed to belong to the Viking culture and what the concrete archaeological evidence suggests.
There is absolutely no proof, for example, that they had the habit of wearing helmets with horns.

There is little evidence about boats having dragonheads, while there are more findings when it comes to dragonhead dress pins.

Runic incision found in Sweden, picture by Gunnar Creutz.
Source: Wikimedia.

The runes, in the popular culture, are nowadays believed by many to be something of Celtic origins, but the Futhark is actually a product of the Viking culture; the mistake is anyway understandable, due to the consistent interactions between the Vikings and the Celts.

The Viking funerals might turn out to be a very truculent event, something very different from the poetic image of a boat burning while slowly moving towards the horizon.
Looking at the Viking burial sites found till now, one of the evident aspects is the fact that – even though there are common elements – there are not two identical burials. There are differences in the positions of the bodies, in the grave goods and in the animals involved.
Back in 1981, in Denmark, the remains of a man and a woman were found; the body of the woman had been crushed in two points by two big boulders.
The osteological evidence makes it clear that the man died very likely by hanging, while it is not known what was the cause of death for the woman.

The man was found with a knife on his chest; the woman had a knife as well. Pieces of sheep crania were spread in the aria between the two bodies. 

Also, an iron spearhead was found, placed close to the right leg of the woman, pointing towards her feet, which is quite unusual; normally, in the Viking burials where spears are found, they are pointing upwards. This might – or might not – mean that in this case the spear was not seen as a proper weapon, but rather as ritual element. 

In other burials, some parts of the deceased had been substituted by animal parts.
We must anyway not take for granted that these were ways to mock or to “punish” the deceased. Due to a lack of written sources, it is still impossible to know for sure which meanings were attributed to these kind of burials, how these actions were seen by the people who attended the funerals and if – for example – the aim some of these rituals might have been to make sure that the dead could not come back. Applying a contemporary moral code or sense of aesthetics to rituals of another era might be extremely misleading, and lead to very poor interpretations.

The Viking Ship Museum, Oslo.
Picture by Larry Lamsa.
Source: Flickr.

It is possible that some parts of the bodies were covered (or even crushed) due to the belief that some evil spirits might otherwise use the deceased to harm the living. The saga accounts and Ibn Fadlān’s narration about a Rus’ funeral, make clear that the Norse were afraid that different spirits might get into human bodies through the orifices, and especially the respiratory passages. This might explain the reason why

Freyja and the Necklace, by James Doyle Penrose (about 1913).
Source: Wikipedia.

the neck of the man was broken and the chest of the woman was crushed, making sure that nothing could come or go through their lungs.
Rather than a way to humiliate the deceased, these procedures might have been a way to protect both the dead and the living. Even though these descriptions are far away from the romantic image of the boat burning, it might therefore be fair to resist the temptation of seeing in this kind of burials some sort of cruelty,  which might have been far from what the people of that time meant.
There is a lot that cannot be known for sure, since unfortunately some aspects of the funeral and of the burial did not leave archeological evidence behind. For example, it is rare to find Viking burials where the fabrics are still quite intact, while fabrics and clothes might maybe tell more about the deceased than the metal objects found do.
Another thing it is not possible to know about, but might have said a lot, would have been the way the beards and the hair of the deceased were treated.

Conclusion

In this article I wrote shortly about some of the aspects known  about the Viking life and identity. I wrote about the possible origins of their name, along with its possible original meanings, mentioning some incisions found in Sweden that might help understanding these aspects.
I wrote about how – using a pseudoscientific approach – the Nazi propaganda in Germany and Norway tried to re-write the history of the Vikings, especially when it came to their origins, failing to search for the truth, preferring instead desperate attempts to find confirmations of the story the nationalist extremists wanted to tell, starting already in the end of the nineteenth century.
I also pointed at how the portrait of the Vikings has been changing through the time, as a mirror of the society portraying them, talking briefly about the limits imposed to the research by the lack of gender and ethnic plurality among the researchers till recent times.
I shortly debunked some ideas about the Vikings which are still common in the popular culture, but not supported by the archaeological evidence, nor by the few written sources. Doing this, I tried to make clear how both the image of the Vikings as cruel, bloodthirsty warriors and  – on the other hand – the image of them as a utopian, peaceful and egalitarian community, are partial and potentially misleading.

Sources

  • The History of Finland (Jason Lavery, 2006)
  • Viking warrior women? Reassessing Birka chamber grave Bj.581 (Neil Price, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, Torun Zachrisson, Anna Kjellström, Jan Storå, Maja Krzewińska, Torsten Günther, Verónica Sobrado, Mattias Jakobsson & Anders Götherström, 2019)
  • Buried with Honour and Stoned to Death? The Ambivalence of Viking Age Magic
    in the Light of Archaeology (Leszek Gardeła, 2009)
  • Slavery in the Viking Age (Stefan Brink, 2008)
  • Law and Society, Polities and legal customs in Viking Scandinavia (Stefan Brink, 2008)
  • Who Were the Vikings? (Stefan Brink, 2008)
  • “Arierdämmerung”: race and archaeology in Nazi Germany (Bettina Arnold, 2006)
  • “The gleaming mane of the serpent”: the Birka dragonhead from Black Earth Harbour
    (Sven Kalmring & Lena Holmquist, 2018)
  • What This Awl Means: Towards a Feminist Archaeology (Janet D. Spector, 1993)
  • Of Vikings and Nazis: Norwegian contributions to the rise and the fall of the idea of a Superior Aryan Race (from Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Adam Hochman, 2015)
November 28

The Vikings: Who Were They? (2/3)

History as a Mirror

There are mainly two different pictures of the Vikings in the common imagination: one of them as an egalitarian and pacific society, the other one of them as violent warriors, with truculent rites and habits.
None of the two pictures is entirely realistic, neither entirely false.
In the book The History of Finland, the American historian  Jason Lavery wrote that, unlike what is commonly believed, History does not have the tendency to repeat itself, however the past is constantly rewritten.

Sometimes, the topics people focus the most on, can tell more about the people themselves, and about the time they are living in, rather than the topic talked about.

The Vikings belong to the past, they have already played their role in the history of the world, and what happened cannot be modified, therefore the changes in the way they are commonly seen are consequences of the discoveries made and  points of view born only later.
The warrior buried in the island town of Birka, in Sweden, found back in 1878, always was a woman, but tests were not made to find out about it until 2017. The fact that the individual had been buried with weapons was enough for the archaeologists to assume that the deceased were man, despite the fact that stories of warrior women (such as the human Shield Maidens and the supernatural Valkyries) have survived till us and are still very well known.


Obviously, being buried with weapons is not enough for being a warrior, and weapons might have a merely symbolic meaning, but – interestingly enough –this objection was never heard about this specific burial until the deceased turned out to be a woman.
It becomes fairly obvious, considering events like this, how much the context historians, archeologists and anthropologists were born in can influence the popular conception of History, even just through questions never asked.
Until very recent times, the story has been told almost exclusively by white middle class men; the fact that almost no researchers were female – or part of ethnic minorities – has therefore had a very limiting effect on the approach to the data, influencing the formation of common ideas about the past.
The popular conception of History greatly affects the popular conception of the present; it is in fact no coincidence that the Third Reich invested huge amounts of money in pseudoarcheology, trying desperately to find “proofs” of the existence of the Aryan race and of its supposed superiority.
Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the line between Anthropology and Archeology was way less clear than it is nowadays. It was very common in the academic world to publish in more than one sector at the time, and it was even more common when it came to searching for the origins of the German people. Anyway it did not take to be against the Nazi regime, to understand how the misuse of research and the tendencious approaches to it were actually hiding the truth, rather than revealing it, standing in the way of proper discoveries.


Already back in 1881 Rudolf Virchow had guided an expedition to the Caucasus, with the aim of finding out about the origins of the Germans, based both on the anthropomorphic and on the archaeological evidence. When he returned from the expedition, he claimed that it was simply impossible to be entirely sure about which tribe could have been the ancestor of the Germans.  He also criticized the will of nationalists to make the Germans look as naturally superior, considering this attempt just as illogical as the claim of the Jews, declaring themselves to be the People chosen by God.
The Germans were anyway not alone in building an idealized image of their ancestors, the Vikings: Kyninstad, from Norway, was a great supporter of the “scientific” racism, claiming that the whole southern part of Scandinavia had been the cradle of the German superior race, born to be free, unlike the other inferior races, whose lives were meant for slavery.
Still back in 1994, in Germany, a Neo-Nazi association was banned; its name was Viking Jugend (German for “Viking Youth”).
 In this environment the image of Vikings as fighters was obviously emphasized, despite the fact that actually the Vikings were also merchants and did not make their living just out of fighting.
On the other hand, around the sixties – far away from the authoritarian propaganda – the image of the Vikings as an equal society was rather popular, while the archeological evidence tends to  describe a very hierarchical social scheme. Nowadays we know that slavery was a reality in the Viking society, even though it might have been not as rigid as it was, for example, in Ancient Rome.

In the Viking era it was apparently quite common for free people to decide to become slaves due to a lack of resources to keep their social status with all the responsibilities it brought.

(To be continued…)

November 26

The Vikings: Who Were They? (1/3)

Picture by Joe Mabel

Introduction

In the human society, the idea of civilization has a lot to do with the

concept of identity.
Who were the Vikings? Why does it still appear to be important to get to know more about them? What are some of the biggest differences between their image in the popular culture and the one suggested by the archaeological evidence?

In this article I do obviously not aim to give an explanation about the Viking identity as a whole, not only but even due to the fact that no group identity and culture is something that can be described in detail in just a few pages. I will rather write about the differences between what we know – or is at least the most logic to suppose – and the image of the Vikings in the common imaginary world, about the reasons why the group of people we nowadays call Vikings still seems to be so crucial regardless how distant in time, and how the reinvention of their culture, along with some prejudices, has stood in the way of understanding the reality, conditioning the interpretation of the data, starting from the very questions asked. I will analyze briefly what we know about them, based on the archaeological evidence found till the present moment, how the Vikings have been portrayed in different moments of History, as a mirror of the society portraying them, how their image has been used by the nazi propaganda – thanks to pseudoscience – in order to promote the idea of a superior race, the stigma this still brings upon the idea of Vikings in the contemporary world, and what is otherwise their role in nowadays popular culture.

To be or not to be… a Viking?

The origin of the word “Viking” is still unclear and therefore discussed.
Some of the possible terms it might derive from, have anyway much to do with  being a foreigner, coming from somewhere else or travelling. Some examples are: víkingr (usually translated from Old Scandinavian as “sea warrior”), víking (“military  expedition”, usually over the sea, in Old Scandinavian) and varjag (which, in the East, was a term to talk about the people coming from Sweden). In Väster-götland (Sweden), an inscription was found; there is written that a man called Toli was killed in the west while in viking (“varþ dauþr a vestrvegum i vikingu”). Another inscription found in Skåne (once again, Sweden) says that several men became famous due to the expeditions they took part to (“Þer drængiar waru w[iþa] [un]esir i wikingu”). 

The etymology of the term, its original meaning, is the topic which still raises more discussions.
One of the hypothesis is that the therm “viking” might come from Viken, the name of a huge bay close to Oslo; in this case “viking” would indicate “those who come from Viken”.
Another possibility is the fact that the word might come from vik (meaning “bay”), therefore portraying the Vikings as the people living around bays.
Another interpretation is that the word “viking” might partly be composed of wic, the Germanisation of vicus (“harbour” or “place of

trade”, in Latin). This interpretation has been largely favored in times when the image of the Vikings as warriors was not so liked or welcome, since it supports the idea of them being pacific merchants, rather than cruel warriors.
One more hypothesis is that “Vikingcould be related to vika (“a distance at sea”), hence a week (a period or section), indicating therefore a distance that one could row in the time between two pauses.
Another possibility is that the word “Viking” could be connected to víkja (to move, to walk or to travel), portraying the Vikings simply as people who have left home and travelled.
At the moment there is still no way to know for sure about the meaning this word originally had, but it seems fairly logic to suppose that a víkingr (“sea warrior”) who was out in víking (“military expedition over the sea”) was probably not just a peaceful merchant, and that the meaning is somehow also connected to being a warrior.

Luckily, there are anyway also things about which more precise information is available.

The vikings came from Scandinavia; the beginning of the Viking era is usually set at the year 793, with the attack at the monastery of Lindisfarne, while the end of it is set at the year 1066, when king Harold defeated king Haraldr Harðráði; it is anyway always good to remember that the division of History in periods and eras is just an academic construction, something created to make it possible to analyze, remember and study deeply different events and phenomena happened along the path of the human race. The Vikings did obviously not know that they were living the Viking era, and they did not think of themselves as Vikings, just as much as the inhabitants of Athens, Sparta and all the other poleis did not think of themselves as Greeks, and could not know that they would have looked so similar and so close from the point of view of people who would have been born only thousands of years later.
According to the same logic, all the people we nowadays identify as Vikings did not suddenly disappear in 1066, since the reality is made rather of shades than of strict schemes and straight lines.

(To be continued…)

August 22

Il Nostro Cancro ai Polmoni – Our Lung Cancer

(English version below)

Fotografia di Matt Zimmerman .

Nella tragedia, sono perlomeno felice di vedere che molti miei contatti siano genuinamente preoccupati dei terribili incendi in Siberia e in Amazzonia. Abbiamo ha un cancro aggressivo ai polmoni, amici miei. Però, ci sono due “però”:

1 – Ci piace pensare che i media, le case discografiche, le case editrici e via dicendo vogliano istupidirci. Potrebbe essere vero, però quel che vogliono maggiormente è fare soldi, ergo: semplicemente non credono che alla gente interessino abbastanza gli incendi, o che questi siano titoli adatti a vendere. Forse, e dico forse, sarebbe il caso di rivolgere noi per primi l’attenzione anche a tematiche che non riguardino questo o l’altro stronzo in politica.

2 – Bello indignarsi, però bisogna fare qualcosa. Sì, dovrebbe pensarci la politica, ma se vedo un bambino che sta affogando e il bagnino se ne frega, provo a chiedergli aiuto ma lui a stento alza gli occhi dal cellulare per darmi dell’esagerata, prima faccio quello che posso per salvare il bambino; il culo al bagnino lo faccio più tardi.
Cosa possiamo fare?

Possiamo utilizzare http://ecosia.org .
Un semplice motore di ricerca, come Google o Yahoo, ma utilizza i profitti per piantare alberi.

Possiamo donare ad Amazon Watch. 
https://amazonwatch.org/donate
Lo so, non sono ricca nemmeno io, ma siamo onesti: se abbiamo un tetto sopra la testa, cibo in tavola e una connessione a internet, probabilmente abbiamo anche un euro o due da donare per una causa di letteralmente vitale importanza. Ci sono cifre suggerite, ma si può anche decidere da sé. Sul serio: doniamo anche solo un euro, ma facciamolo davvero. Non è beneficenza, né carità: si tratta di curare il nostro cancro ai polmoni.

English

Picture by Matt Zimmerman.

Despite the tragedy, I must say that I’m very glad to see that some of my contacts are genuinely concerned about the terrible fires in Siberia and in the Amazon Rainforest. We are affected by an extremely aggressive lung cancer, friends of mine. But, I’m gonna say “but” twice:

1- We like to think that the social media, the record labels and the publishing houses want to make us dumb. That might be true, but what they want the most is to make money, therefore: they simply don’t believe that people are interested enough, or that those would be good titles in order to sell. Maybe, just maybe, we should start paying attention also to other topics than asshole politicians.

2- Yes, it’s good to be angry, but we need to do something. Yes, politics should do something about it, but if I saw a child drowning, the lifeguard didn’t care, I tried to get him to help the child, but he barely raised his eyes from the phone saying that I shouldn’t overreact, I’d first do whatever I could to save the child, and only later I’d take care of kicking the lifeguard’s ass.

So, what can we do?

We can start using http://ecosia.org .
It’s a research engine, just like Google or Yahoo, but they use their profits to plant trees.

We can donate to Amazon Watch: https://amazonwatch.org/donate .
Yes, I know, I’m not rich as well, but let’s be honest: if we have a home, food on the table and an internet connection, we are very likely in the position to donate one or two euros for what is literally a matter of life and death. They suggest some numbers, but it’s possible to just decide how much to give. Seriously: let’s donate even just a single euro, but let’s do it for real. It’s not charity: it’s about curing our own lung cancer.

June 25

Tutto ciò che Michael è stato – What Michael was to me



Picture by Daniele Dalledonne

(English version below)
Questo è un tasto che in pubblico tendo a toccare raramente, semplicemente perché penso che in pochi possano capire. Il nostro mondo quotidiano è troppo suddiviso fra i “qualcuno” e i “nessuno”, fra famosi e non, troppo gretto e schiavo della praticità perché si possa comprendere l’amore per una persona mai incontrata, se non archiviandolo sotto il nome di fanatismo.
Per me, Michael non è stato solo il poster appeso in camera, tantomeno è stato esclusivamente fonte di ispirazione artistica. Michael mi ha insegnato che la guerra è una truffa su scala globale, mi ha insegnato – purtroppo arrivando a rimetterci la pelle – come i giornali mettano in luce solo i dettagli utili alla vendita, servendo il dio denaro e fregandosene della verità. Mi ha insegnato che se sei “strano” agli occhi della massa sei già colpevole, e che non importa quanto il tuo sguardo sia onesto, i più si fermeranno a domandarsi quanti interventi di chirurgia plastica tu abbia subito. Mi ha insegnato che, nonostante la generosità possa avere un prezzo altissimo, è giusto e doveroso fare ciò che si può per guarire il mondo. Attraverso la sua solitudine, mi ha insegnato che l’isteria di chi dice di amarti può diventare la più scomoda delle gabbie. Mi ha insegnato che si può essere feriti senza smettere di contenere, nel proprio sorriso, tutta la luce del mondo.
Lui era il contrario del filo dell’aquilone: il mondo cercava di trascinarmi a terra, fra bullismo, cattiveria, superficialità e ignoranza, ma lui mi faceva volare alto.
Il diario dei miei quattordici anni era una serie di lettere d’amore rivolte a lui, scritte con una penna argentata.
A chi ancora in qualche modo riesca a nutrire dubbi sul suo conto, consiglio semplicemente di ascoltare i racconti dei suoi figli e dei suoi nipoti. Certo, non soddisfano la voglia di inquisizione, ma sono un toccasana per quella di verità.

(English)

This is a topic I tend to talk very little about in public, simply because I believe that only a very few people can actually understand. Our daily life is too strongly divided between the “somebodies” and the “nobodies”, between famous and common people, too crass and slave to convenience in order to understand love towards someone never met, if not by labelling it as fanaticism.
To me, Michael was not only the poster hangin on a wall, neither just a source of artistic inspiration. Michael taught me that war is fraud on a global scale, and he also taught me – paying with his life – that newspapers only focus on the details that will make them sell, serving the almighty dollar and not caring at all about the truth. He taught me that, if you’re “weird”, in the eyes of the mass you’re already guilty, and that regardless how honest your eyes might be, most people will just wonder how many times did you have plastic surgery. He taught me that, regardless how high the price of generosity might be, it’s right and it’s our duty to do everything possible in order to heal the world. Through his solitude, he taught me that the hysteria of those who say that they love you can become the most uncomfortable cage. He taught me that you might be hurt, but that doesn’t mean that your smile will stop being the reflection of all the light in the world.
He was just the opposite of a kite string: the world tried to bring me down, with bullies, meanness, shallowness and ignorance, but he made me fly.
When I was fourteen years old, my diary was a series of love letters for him, written with silver ink.
And for those who still have doubts about him: I highly suggest listening to what his children and his nephews have to say. It won’t soothe the thirst for inquisition, but it will definitely soothe the one for truth.

June 10

Indiana Croft II

(English version below)

Fra i buon propositi per questo scavo c’era quello di scrivere un post al giorno.
Certo, come no?
Non avevo idea di quanto uno scavo archeologico possa assorbire completamente persino una semplice studentessa come me!
Si scava, si scava, si scava, si setaccia e si setaccia ancora, si trova, si imbusta con le dovute informazioni, si ricomincia da capo. Si torna alla base lerci e la doccia non basta; terra nel naso, sotto le unghie, nelle orecchie, probabilmente anche nell’anima, ma una crema esfoliante per l’anima ancora nessuno l’ha inventata. Una volta più o meno ripuliti, ci si ritrova a parlare ancora di un’archeologia. La versione nobile e culturale della febbre dell’oro.
La scorsa settimana, qui a Pirkkala, è volata via fra centinaia di frammenti di ossa animali ritrovati. Nella foto, tengo in mano una perlina di vetro dipinta, da me dissotterrata, risalente probabilmente alla tarda età del ferro.

Un paio di giorni dopo io ed una mia collega abbiamo trovato un cucchiaio d’avorio, lei la “testa”, io il manico.
Pian piano cominciamo a scoprire grosse pietre e legno; si tratta forse di un qualche tipo di struttura?

(English)

Among my good intentions for this excavation, I was hoping to write a post a day.
Yeah, sure!
I had absolutely no idea that an excavation could keep so incredibly busy even a simple student such as myself!
You dig, dig and dig more, you sift and sift again, put everything in bags with the needed information, then start it all over again.
You return to the base covered in dirt and a shower is not enough; earth in your nose, ears and probably even in your soul, but so far no scrub creams have been invented for our spirits. After getting more or less clean, you keep on talking about archeology. A noble and cultured version of the gold rush.
Last week, here in Pirkkala, a week flew among hundreds of fragment of bones found. In the picture I’m holding a painted glass bead I dug out, probably from the late Iron Age.

A couple of days later, one of my mates and me found a spoon made out of bones, she found the “head”, while I found the handle.
We’re slowly starting to uncover big stones and wood; is it some sort of structure?

June 3

Indiana Croft – I

(English version below)

Pirkkala, Finlandia.

Come qualcuno di voi già sa, lo scorso settembre mi sono finalmente data all’archeologia: quella magnifica scienza al crocevia delle scienze (e delle correnti del sapere).
Geologia, medicina, biologia, botanica, zoologia, storia, numismatica, lingue, tecnologia: tutto ne fa parte e tutto la sostiene. L’archeologia tocca ogni aspetto della vita umana, ma non solo: non ha bisogno di civiltà, né di vita, bastano i minerali, le stratificazioni del terreno.
La passione mi ha travolta al punto che ho concluso il primo anno di studi in sei mesi, pur portando avanti i miei progetti artistici (e svolgendo a tempo pieno un lavoro molto meno interessante per pagare le bollette).
Dopo tanta – interessantissima – teoria, finalmente oggi ho vissuto il mio primo giorno di scavi.
Non mi sono trasformata in Angelina Jolie, mio malgrado.
Procediamo però con ordine.
Io sono particolare. Per citare i Baustelle: “Vivo così, fra il sociale e il vuoto”; che nel mio caso significa: salgo sul palco con minigonne e scollature vertiginose; alle feste ballo sui tavoli da sobria; però non mi parlate di stanze in comune, o peggio che mai docce comuni. Per me la solitudine è sacra. Né alle medie, né al liceo ho mai voluto partecipare a gite che durassero più di un giorno, perché la sera ho bisogno di tornare al mio silenzioso nido. Considerando ciò, l’idea di dover passare due settimane – escludendo solo i weekend – dividendo la stanza con molte altre ragazze praticamente sconosciute, e di dovermi fare la doccia nella palestra di una scuola, mi pareva in tutta onestà un incubo. Inoltre ero preparata a non essere compresa, dal momento che i Finlandesi hanno la cultura della sauna e dunque un rapporto molto diverso con la nudità rispetto a quello di molti Italiani.
In realtà non solo ho trovato un gruppo fantastico (amichevole e pronto ad aiutare, ciononostante discreto), ma anche disposto ad adattarsi; anzi, le ragazze hanno pensato che fosse una buona idea fare a turno, in modo da poter avere ognuna i propri spazi e almeno un momento per sé in tutta la giornata. I miei timori sociali solo svaniti difronte alla semplicità dei fatti.
Qui a Pirkkala (nei pressi di Tampere) comunque, le sorprese non mancano.
Prima di tutto – ce lo avevano anticipato, ma viverlo è un’altra cosa – l’archeologia è un lavoro molto fisico. Dimenticate i pennelli, o meglio, riservateli per molto dopo, perché l’archeologo comincia, più che dal paleolitico, dalla pala! Le secchiate di terra, prese da zone designate con precisione al metro, vengono poi passate al setaccio.
Oggi, durante la prima giornata, analizzando lo strato più superficiale del terreno, oltre ai consueti frammenti di vetro – difficili o spesso impossibili da datare immediatamente ad occhio – abbiamo trovato dei denti; come il professor Wesa ci ha spiegato, in questa zona non è affatto raro che ne vengano rinvenuti di umani. Come in quasi ogni scavo abbiamo poi trovato molti frammenti di ossa animali, più alcuni pezzi di ceramica. Tutto viene imbustato riportando il luogo del ritrovamento; la precisione dei dati dipende dalla rilevanza del reperto.
Un’intera giornata passata a scavare e setacciare certamente stanca, ma lascia addosso un’incredibile soddisfazione, soprattutto quando si ha la fortuna di finire in un gruppo come questo!
Nella foto: Maria, Jenni, io e dietro di noi il professor Wesa, che fa del photobombing nello stile più classico.


English

As some of you already know, last year, in September, I finally started studying archaeology: that amazing science at the crossroad between sciences and different fields of knowledge. Geology, medicine, biology, botanics, zoology, history, numismatics, languages, technology: everything is part of it, and everything supports it.
Archaeology reaches every aspect of human life, but not only: it doesn’t require civilization, neither life, minerals and stratifications are enough.
I got so much into it, that I completed one year of studies in six months, even though meanwhile I kept on taking care of my artistic projects (and I was working full time, doing a way less interesting job, just in order to pay the bills).
After plenty of (very interesting) theory, today I finally lived my first day ever at an excavation site.
Unfortunately I did not turn into Angelina Jolie. Too bad.
But let’s start from the beginning.
I am a peculiar person. Quoting Baustelle: “I live this way, between and emptiness”; meaning, in my case: I get on stage wearing super revealing outfits; at parties, I can dance on tables being perfectly sober; but don’t even try talking to me about sharing rooms or showers. Solitude is sacred to me.
During junior high and high school, I never wanted to take part to any school trip that would have lasted over a day, because in the evening I need to go back to my quiet nest. Considering all this, the idea of spending two weeks – with the weekends as only exception – sharing the room with many other girls, having met them only a few times before, together with the idea of having shower in the gym of a school, honestly looked like a nightmare. Nevertheless, I was ready to be not understood, since sauna is an important part of the Finnish culture, and therefore most Finns have a different view of nudity compared to most Italians.
Actually, not only I happened to meet an amazing team (friendly and ready to help, but still discreet), but they are even very flexible; the girls thought that taking shifts would be a good idea for everyone, so that each of us could have space, and at least a moment on her own during the whole day. My social fears disappeared in front of how easy the reality is.
Here in Pirkkala (very close to Tampere) we don’t anyway get bored.
First of all – we had already been told so, but living it is a totally different story – archaeology is a very physical work. Forget about brushes, or at least leave them aside for much later, because archaeology starts with a shovel!
Buckets full of earth, taken by marked places in the site, get sifted.
Today, the first day at the excavation, we analyzed the most superficial layer and, besides the usual glass fragments – hard or often impossible to date immediately, just by looking at them – we found some teeth; like our teacher Wesa told us, in this site it’s not rare to find human teeth. Like in almost any excavation, we found fragments from animal bones and from ceramics. Every finding is put in a bag, writing down the place were it was found; the most relevant is the finding, the most exact the information needs to be.
A whole day spent digging and sifting is certainly tiring, but it leaves with an unbelievable feeling of fulfillment, especially if you’re lucky enough to end up in a group like this!
In the picture: Maria, Jenni, me and behind us our teacher Wesa, photobombing in the most classic style!

May 19

Vegani che Muoiono di Fame (Ma anche No) – Vegans Starving (Or Maybe Not)

(English version below)
Le mie prime due settimane da vegana sono volate con inaspettata facilità, fra voglia di sperimentare e miti sfatati.
Una delle leggende urbane più diffuse è quella secondo cui i vegani debbano necessariamente mangiare “cibi esotici” quali mango, soia e tofu, cose che gradivo anche quando ancora ero onnivora, ma di cui non sento particolarmente la necessità di abusare.
Di fatto, spesso e volentieri, si mangia vegano senza neppure accorgersene.
Vi vedo storcere il naso.
Ma come? Non avete mai mangiato pasta al pomodoro? Una pizza rossa? Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino? Pasta e fagioli (resa tanto famosa da Dean Martin)? Riso e lenticchie?

Semplicemente i vegani e la dieta vegana non sono necessariamente tanto strani quanto i meme di internet li vorrebbero.
Cambiare modo di mangiare porta poi a voler sperimentare; cosa particolarmente carina per me che invece col cibo ho sempre avuto la tendenza ad essere abitudinaria. Gli esperimenti non devono essere per forza complessi. Ad esempio l’altro giorno ho saltato in padella peperoni e melanzane con del basilico fresco per condire i fusilli. Sto scoprendo attraverso queste piccole cose che, forse, essere troppo abitudinaria, non fa più per me.

Speravo che diventare vegana potesse aiutarmi a darmi una calmata con la mia unica vera dipendenza fatta eccezione per musica e libri: i dolci. Purtroppo o per fortuna le cose non stanno affatto così. L’Espresso House offre frappini con crema di latte d’avena e la cioccolata vegana è di una bontà vergognosa; spesso la faccio a pezzettini e la gusto con della frutta secca, annaffiata da latte d’avena, di cocco o di mandorla. Niente male per una mangia-erba, eh?

English

My first two weeks as a vegan went by quickly and surprisingly easily, between some experiments and some myths proved to be wrong.
One of the most common urban legends says that vegans must eat “exotic food” such as mango, tofu or soy, but even though I’ve always liked them, I don’t particularly feel the need to abuse these ingredients.
As a matter of fact, quite often we eat vegan without even realising it.
I see you’re not convinced.
What? Have you never had pasta with tomato sauce? Or a pizza rossa?
Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino? Pasta with beans (the famous “pasta e fasul” mentioned by Dean Martin)? Rice with lentils?

Simply the vegans and the vegan diet might happen to be not as weird as the memes portray them.
Changing your diet can bring along the will to experiment, which is particularly nice in my case, since I’ve always had a tendency to eat the same kinds of food over and over. The experiments don’t need to be too complicated. For example, just the other day I put some pepper and eggplant in a frying pan, with a bit of fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil, so that I could later add them to my fusilli. I’m finding out, through these little things, that maybe going on over and over with the same habits is no longer the thing for me.

I hoped that becoming vegan might have helped to set me free from my only addiction other than music and books: sweets. Luckily or unfortunately it wasn’t so. Espresso House offers a frappino topped by oat cream and vegan chocolate is shamefully great; I quite often cut it into pieces and have it with dried fruit and oat, almond or coconut milk.
Not bad for a grass-eater, uh?

May 7

Avventura Vegana – A Vegan Adventure

(English version below)


Circa otto anni fa, il treno fischiò per la prima volta.
Mio padre aveva subito un intervento chirurgico da niente, che però lo costrinse a letto per qualche giorno, ed io volai in Sardegna per dargli una mano.
Un giorno mi chiese di preparargli del brodo di pollo, e per la prima volta in vita mia presi in mano un pollo intero, crudo. In quel momento fui colta dall’assoluta consapevolezza del fatto che quella bestiola, qualche giorno prima, zampettava allegramente da qualche parte, beccando mangime, e che adesso invece era lì, spellato, in una vaschetta di plastica, per finire sulla nostra tavola. Dovetti finalmente guardare in faccia la realtà: se le persone intorno a me non avessero considerato normale il fatto di mangiare carne, potendo scegliere un’infinità di alternative, non mi sarebbe mai venuto in mente di uccidere un animale per mangiarlo. Certo, sarei stata disposta a farlo per sopravvivenza, ma non per golosità.
In fin dei conti crescere è anche questo: rendersi conto della propria identità e dei propri valori al di là di ciò che chi ci sta intorno consideri normale.
Avrei voluto fare le cose in maniera graduale, ma la mia coscienza non me lo permise; nel giro di pochi giorni, a fatica, consumai quel che c’era in casa, poi smisi per sempre di mangiare carne e pesce.
Qualche giorno fa, il treno ha fischiato di nuovo.
Chiacchierando, Elisa (un’amica vegana), mi ha raccontato di con quale frequenza i vitelli e le mucche da latte vengano mandati al macello, e di come i pulcini maschi vengano ammazzati in massa. Anni fa avevo letto qualcosa riguardo ai pulcini tritati vivi, ma sembrava un racconto dell’orrore, avevo quasi preso per scontato che accadesse solo in alcuni allevamenti, invece è la regola. Non so perché fino a questo punto io sia stata tanto ingenua o superficiale, anche molti onnivori detestano i metodi degli allevamenti intensivi; sta di fatto che il treno ha fischiato, e ancora una volta razionalmente avrei optato per un cambiamento graduale, ma la mia coscienza non ne ha voluto sapere. Nel giro di un paio di giorni ho consumato il formaggio rimasto in frigo, dopo di che ho eliminato tutti gli alimenti di origine animale dalla mia dieta.
È fatta! Appartengo ufficialmente ad una delle categorie più odiate del web: sono vegana.
Non contenta, ho deciso di usare il mio blog per condividere l’inizio di questa avventura con tutti i curiosi, di parlare dei modi e dei motivi, senza alcun complesso di superiorità, con la consapevolezza che probabilmente nel mio armadietto dei medicinali ci sia qualcosa di testato sugli animali e che la frutta comprata potrebbe essere stata raccolta da un lavoratore sottopagato. Non ho mai ambito alla santità, ma penso sia lecito cercare di fare il minor danno possibile, o addirittura cercare di lasciare il mondo un po’ meno peggio di come l’abbiamo trovato al nostro arrivo.
Troppo?
Che importa? Tanto sono femminista e vegana; verrò accusata di essere una rompipalle a prescindere.

English

About eight years ago, the train whistled for the first time.
My father had to go through surgery. Nothing bad, but still he was forced to bed for a few days, therefore I flew to Sardinia in order to help him.
One day he asked me to cook chicken soup for him and, for the first time in my life, I held in my hands the entire body of an uncooked chicken. In that moment, suddenly, I became aware of the fact that – just a few days earlier – that chicken was somewhere, jumping around, eating its food, while now it was there, dead and skinned, and it had to end up wrapped in plastic, so that it could finally be on our table. I finally had to face the reality: if people around me didn’t consider normal to eat meat, having so many options, I would have never thought of killing an animal in order to eat it. Of course, I would have done it in order to survive, but definitely not out of greed.
At the end of the day growing up means even this: to understand who we are and which our values are, beyond what people around us consider normal.
I would have liked to proceed step by step, but my conscience did not allow me to. In a few days, struggling, I ate what was left, then I gave up meat and fish forever.
A few days ago, the train whistled once again.
While chatting, my (vegan) friend Elisa, told me about how often calves and milk cows are sent to the slaughterhouse, and about how tons of male chicks get killed. I read, years ago, about chicks being chopped up alive, but it sounded like a horror story, therefore I almost took for granted that only a few farms would do something like that, while that is – as a matter of fact – the rule. I don’t know why I was so naive, or superficial; even many omnivores are against intensive farming. The thing is that the train whistled, and once again I would have liked to change gradually, but my conscience didn’t want to hear anything about that. Within a couple of days I ate the cheese left in the fridge, and after that I banned all the products of animal origin from my diet.
Here we go! Now I officially belong to one of the most hated categories on the web: I’m vegan.
But that’s not enough: I decided to use my blog to share my adventure with all those who are curious, talking about my ways and my reasons, without any superiority complex, knowing that very likely in my medicine cabinet there’s something tested on animals, and that some of the fruit I buy might have been picked up by an underpaid worker. Being a saint was never my aim; I just think that we are all allowed to try to do as little damage as possible, or who knows, maybe even trying to leave this world in slightly better conditions than when we came.
Is that too much?
Who cares? I’m a feminist and a vegan, people would accuse me of being over the top in any case.

June 12

L’Aquarius e il Benaltrismo

 

Quando si tratta del Movimento 5 Stelle c’è sempre bisogno di fare controlli incrociati, perché è evidente quanto i media abbiano sempre cercato di affossarlo.
Basti pensare al Sindaco Raggi, a cui è stata addossata la colpa della pessima qualità di strade costruite ancor prima della nascita del Movimento, o a Spelacchio, di cui si è parlato più che dei misfatti di Alemanno.
Indegno ma comprensibile: quante testate giornalistiche sono favorevoli alla fine dei finanziamenti da parte dei partiti? Il conflitto d’interesse, a quanto pare, non riguarda solo la classe politica.
Ogni accanimento però, nel tempo, si rivela una lama a doppio taglio: se da un lato i detrattori del Movimento Cinque Stelle basano spesso le loro critiche su notizie false o distorte, dall’altro taluni sostenitori  sono pronti a giurare che i giudizi negativi nei suoi confronti siano sempre  fondati su malafede o disinformazione.
L’ultimo episodio a rendere palese questo fenomeno è stato quello della nave Aquarius: da un lato chi dipinge Salvini e Di Maio come i nuovi Hitler e Himmler, dall’altro chi si sente al sicuro perché, grazie ad una ricerca su Google in più, ha scoperto che in realtà dei medici son stati mandati a bordo della nave per verificare che non vi fossero emergenze.
Se qualcuno non la pensa allo stesso modo, pare che sia sufficiente ricordare quanto i recenti governi “di sinistra” abbiano fatto schifo; il solito giochetto del nascondere la propria inadeguatezza puntando il dito contro gli altri. Il trionfo del banaltrismo.

Breaking News: il fatto che la sinistra italiana abbia permesso il business dell’immigrazione, non rende giusto chiudere i porti. Insomma: il fatto che la sinistra abbia fatto schifo, non autorizza l’attuale governo a fare altrettanto, con la scusa di dover rimediare a quanto accaduto prima.
Il business dell’immigrazione si combatte con le leggi, con gli accordi, facendosi valere con il Parlamento Europeo, colpendo duramente le cooperative che sfruttano i fondi europei ed italiani per arricchirsi invece che per far fronte all’emergenza, non facendo i ragazzini, alzando le braccia e costringendo un altra Nazione ad aprire le frontiere.
Nessuno mette in dubbio che l’Italia non debba essere lasciata da sola, ma il fine non giustifica i mezzi. Sono stati mandati dei medici a controllare la situazione? Mi pare meno del minimo.
Il fatto che il Governo non si sia dimostrato nazista non significa che si sia comportato in maniera adeguata o giusta.
La scelta non può e non deve essere fra una sinistra che tace sul business dell’immigrazione e una Lega che ne parla solo per guadagnare consensi, per trovare scuse civili alla propria comprovata xenofobia.
Speravo che il Movimento Cinque Stelle potesse stare dalla parte del giusto, che per una volta a pagare il prezzo potessero essere i disonesti e non i rifugiati, ma mi sbagliavo. Il Movimento 5 Stelle è ostaggio della Lega; ostaggio che comincia a soffrire della sindrome di Stoccolma, considerato il numero di ex antisalviniani che, improvvisamente, alla nascita di questo governo, ha cominciato a fare il tifo per le stesse iniziative che disapprovava fino ad una settimana prima.
Non è per colpa della macchina del fango che il Movimento 5 Stelle non avrà mai più il mio voto, ma delle dichiarazioni di Di Maio, che dalla propria pagina Facebook ufficiale difende il gesto disgustoso di rifiutare una nave carica di persone bisognose, e anzi, lo indica come sintomo di un cambiamento positivo.
Non ho dubbi sul fatto che il Movimento 5 Stelle porterà avanti molte iniziative lodevoli che verranno seppellite dal silenzio assoluto dei media, ma non mi basta, perché è evidente che non mi rappresenti, e forse, se fossi rimasta un po’ più attaccata all’ideologia che tanto demonizza, me ne sarei accorta prima.

Nella foto: rifugiati siriani e iracheni scendono da una nave che dalla Turchia li ha portati alla Grecia. Fonte: Wikipedia.