I would like to re-blog this interesting post about the many posthumous portraits of that most celebrated survivor of penetrating cranial trauma: Phineas Gage. But it’s rather ‘mature’ in its content of graphic simulated trauma, and while I have a strong stomach for this sort of thing, thanks to my particular academic interests, I can’t assume the same of my readers. So, for the brave, follow the link above.
For the very brave, try and find J. L. Stone, M. H. S. Rifal, and R. A. Moody, ‘An Unusual Case of Penetrating Head Injury with Excellent Recovery’, Surgical Neurology, 15 (1980), pp. 369–71 for an almost identical modern analogue (but with one significant difference which I will not spoil for the intrepid readers with access to medical journal databases).
I have run into a rare form of writer’s block that isn’t usually covered in the literature. Apparently, I really don’t like writing about topics that, well, wind me up. Foolishly I wrote a conference paper last year on just such a red-button topic which I also submitted to a call-for-papers in an edited collection. That proposal was accepted and my personal deadline for submitting the draft is now so close that I am guaranteed to miss it (the editorial deadline is actually in late May, but I want it done, and out my door by early April).
My flailing and floundering is entirely down to my easily provoked tempter which makes it hard to write coherent and balanced prose. It is too easy to turn a nice argument into a laundry list of errors that will bore, or offend, most readers. I’m not entirely sure how to get out of this little pit that my bile has burned into the landscape but I must, and while I’m on the way, write another 5000 words while I’m at it.
What pushed me to this conclusion (that it’s my frustration with the ‘errors’ which prompted the paper in the first place) was this collection of pages put up by the University of Leicester that describe (in achingly sparse detail) the sharp-force trauma found on their Greyfriars skeleton.
Oh, and whatever you do, do not read the comments.
Research can, on occasion, present the scholar with a difficult choice between sources of evidence. The written and material records do not always agree and one is left with an uncomfortable choice between arbitrary preference or awkward uncertainty. Actually, this problem may be more common than people like to admit and so it’s great fun to find close analogues between the records and the archaeology. My self-directed Latin study has reminded me of one such match.
The History Blog, run off the BlogSpot servers, is a good source of current archaeological news and some amusing writing. I rarely cross-post things, but this excerpt is worth the effort.
The original plan for the Leicester parking lot dig that was so astonishingly successful was to excavate two trenches over the course of two weeks which would be filled in and reverted to a parking lot at the end. That was based on everyone’s modest expectations of what they might find. Then the deities of archaeological good fortune laid giant sloppy kisses all over them so they were able to locate the Greyfriars church and abbey and, most importantly, human remains of a male with scoliosis, sharp force trauma to the skull and an arrowhead embedded in his back.