I am really regretting this decision.
One of my coworkers had a 2-hour meeting on Tuesday in Kivalina. To get there in time she had to fly to Kotzebue, the main hub of the area, on Monday afternoon. She made it to Kotzebue, but now being above the Arctic Circle with crazy winds and icy runways she hasn’t been able to leave. So right now she’s holed-up in a hotel in Kotzebue for all of today (Wednesday) and will tomorrow (Thursday) hopefully be able to make the flight to Kivalina for the delayed meeting. After attending the 2-hour meeting she will then have to overnight in Kivalina (on the floor at the school - no hotels) before catching the next available flight back to Kotzebue at Friday around noon. Then maybe she’ll get to come back to Anchorage after spending the entire work week just trying to get to a 2-hour meeting.
So goes it in Alaska.
My Koliganek friend is coming to town. The women’s volleyball team at the high school in his home town are going to State. This means they will be playing in Anchorage. Where I will enjoy seeing him, and I offered to give him a place to stay, I was hoping he would just be here through the weekend.
Turns out he’ll be here an entire week. I was hoping to work on my thesis as my deadline is looming pretty near. I hope I won’t have to entertain him the entire time. My place is walking distance to downtown and I’m pretty sure his village is dry (no booze allowed), so he’ll likely enjoy all the bars. I’m not going to try to keep up with him as I’m sure this will possibly turn into a bender. Ugh, thesis.
Story in Stone: Illustrated by Valerie Waldorf
The Egyptian London Medical papyrus, Late 18th Dynasty, around 1325 BC.
This papyrus is a palimpsest written over an early work dating close to the reign of Tutankhamun, and is in poor condition. Within the nineteen pages there are sixty-one paragraphs, of which only twenty-five are medical (including a small section on gynaecology), with the rest being magical.
The British Museum give the following description:
A mixture of medical recipes and spells
Ancient Egyptian medicine was a mixture of the practical and the magical. Medical practitioners were often magicians. A few ‘medical’ papyri, such as the Edwin Smith papyrus, deal with the observation and treatment of ailments from a very analytical point of view. However, the majority are more like this example: probably used as a reference text by a physician/magician.
The text of The London Medical papyrus is a combination of recipes and magical spells for various ailments. It is particularly interesting because spells are used together with the cures. Some of the texts outline what should be recited when a particular cure is being applied, while others are for driving away evil spirits, which might affect the patient or the magician. The main concerns of the papyrus are skin complaints, eye complaints, bleeding (mostly incantations against miscarriage) and burns.
Courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Scans via the Wiki Commons, originally from Walter Wreszinski’s 1912 publication The medicine of the ancient Egyptians II The London Medical Papyrus (BM 10059) and the Papyrus Hearst.
Today is the fourth anniversary of my story. My story begins in 2009, however, this is actually the beginning of the end of the story. Back in 2000, an ivory bear from the Castle Hill collection from Sitka was stolen. There was a prime suspect in the theft, but there wasn’t any way to tie the person to the crime. So following the crime, Dave, the then Alaska State Archaeologist, did what he could by making small fliers with the photo of the bear and went around to downtown shops asking if anyone had offers to purchase the bear. He got no positive responses.
Now fast forward to my story in 2009. I was working as an intern for the State of Alaska Office of History and Archaeology. My friend and former coworker, Randy, and I go to meet another friend at Snow City Cafe to discuss the possibility of teaching flint knapping at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. On the walk back from the cafe to our office, Randy wanted to pick up a Christmas present for his grandmother so we stopped into the Alaska Ivory Exchange.
While Randy was preoccupying the woman behind the counter, I went around taking shots of cool things like a whale harpoon modified into a knife handle, and some badass scrimshaw on a walrus tusk still articulated to its skull. Then I saw a display case in the corner with a bunch of artifacts. I took a couple of shots while Randy made his purchase, and we were on our way back to work.
That was December 11, 2009. On March 1, 2010, I get around to posting the photos I took from the shop on Flickr. Google Buzz had just recently hit the scene and people were starting to feel it out. My settings were such that my Flickr photos would also post to Buzz. The next morning at work I go to Buzz and see this comment from a friend and fellow archaeologist Margan, who worked in my office at the time of the theft: “holy crap, dude! where did you take these pics? the ivory bear looks like one of the ones stolen from the OHA lab!”
So I opened this photo in it’s original size on my computer screen and waited for my coworker Dan (also Margan’s husband) to walk by. He also worked at the site and was around for the theft. “Oh my God, that’s the Castle Hill bear! Where is that? You have to show Dave this.”
So we showed Dave and he went into action. He scoured his files and desk for photos of the bear. The unfortunate thing about the Dave’s photos though is that they are all of one side of the bear, the side with its leg missing (bottom photo). Checking the photo I took, the bear is now laying so the other side with two legs is showing. If we could just get the chance to see the other side of the bear, we’d be able to identify this as “our” bear.
So Randy called the shop. The woman behind the counter told him they would open the following morning at 10am. Dave got everything together and around noon he and I walked down there but the shop was still closed. (How anticlimactic!)
Eventually Dave was able to contact the store owner who said that a St. Lawrence Islander sold him the ivory bear for $400. This guy was good. It takes $500 for the crime to go beyond a misdemeanor. St. Lawrence Island also happens to be where the majority of Alaskan artifacts are legally sold as they all come from private lands. Dave eventually got the shop owner to give back the bear after showing him the photos and citing regulations. The owner requested his $400 back, but the State is not legally obliged to do such things.
So after almost 10 years of being missing, the ivory bear is back where it belongs, and the internet once again proves to truly be the most magical thing ever on the planet.
(tl;dr - I relocated a unique artifact that had been stolen 10 years prior through the use of photography and the amazing internet.)
Carved & painted bone in a market in Belize. I picked up a couple & have my fingers crossed I can get them through customs.
No Civilian Photography: Fort Richardson, Alaska (1941-1945)
Two men standing beside World War II sign forbidding civilian photography. Text of sign: “He likes your snapshots. Civilian cameras, binoculars, & firearms forbidden on this reservation. Think before you snap.”
Blackbeard’s Head: Exchange & Provost, Charleston, South Carolina