Arm chair retirement

Continuing with Valerie Hansen’s book, The Silk Road. Made great progress this morning reading about the blond and red-haired, fair-skinned mummies discovered in Western China where it is hot and dry (modern China used the area for testing nuclear weapons).

The West made incursions into this part of the East long ago. The Greek, Alexander the Great, conquered some of the people before he went into India. Archeologists found a type of Iranian (proto Indo-European) script. Although the migrants from the West who settled here brought their own language, alphabet and writing, the paper they eventually used for legal and mercantile exchanges came from China.

The inhabitants used a variety of materials for early writing including bits of wood that look like popsicle sticks. Greek and Roman coins are also part of the cache, some coins may have spilled from a pack animal, others used for trade by soldiers or merchants.


In the 1980s, I studied archeology and anthropology at Catholic University, but switched out of the program to go into Sociology at the University of Maryland, because CU focused on the Indians in Mexico and I have no interest in the archeology of North American Indians.

I went on several archeological digs of Indian sites here in Virginia as an undergraduate, and realized that it was far better to read about the work of archeologists and let others do the dirty work. I was delighted when I discovered that historians were using archeological techniques which were once reserved for those doing prehistoric digs. I enrolled in the History program at GMU because my friend Martha was a graduate in their history program. After she left college, The state hired her to excavate Belvoir, the plantation where the Army base is located today. For a while, I thought I might do something similar, but instead I became an armchair archeologist.


I never liked dirty work, although digging in the garden was  fun for a long time. Now John the gardener does most of the digging. Today, he is transplanting a Hydrangea I had in a large clay pot into the garden, and moving a small Peony we discovered this morning.

The yards of many of my elderly female neighbors have been spruced up this month, some by John and others by a team of guys hired by the county.  They have been cleaning up the invasive vines, pokeweed, and other noxious plants that had overtaken the yards of some of the older residents. 


Meanwhile, for those of us who become easily confused, here is  a laugh from one of my senior pals:



15 thoughts on “Arm chair retirement

  1. I’m beginning to chafe at Armchair retirement here. Maybe that means I’m getting well. My brain is still not processing the gory mysteries tho. Perhaps I just need to stick to armchair archaeology.


  2. My step-daughter is a real life archaeologist. But when the bottom fell out of that market she had to go into museum curating. Then that was shrunk and the poor woman now works in a council office. But she still writes articles and books on history and archaeology. Why is it that the professions which give insight into the life of humans never get funding?


  3. Hi Diane, you know I always wanted to be an archaeologist when I was young, and these type of programs still interesting me. I haven’t come across any mummified remains on our travels out in the southwest yet, but went into the Welcome Center as we crossed into Wyoming today, and oh my goodness, they had the most magnificent skeletal remains of a Mammoth in there, completely put together. It was very impressive and I took lots of photos. We won’t be going to Salt Lake City on this trip.

    Your cartoon had me actually laughing out loud. Thank you for the chuckle.


    • Yes, I enjoyed reading all those books about European explorers (mostly males). Now I realize what damage they did in some instances. In other cases they preserved things that might have been lost. The TRex skeleton in Montana is coming to the Smithsonian this fall.


  4. There’s been quite a bit of digging here in Hawaii to see if there are ancient Hawaiian burials along the new mass transit route. How tiresome. Makes me wonder if modern day cemeteries will be covered with concrete 200 years from now to make way for more housing.


    • Unfortunately, the soil and climate of Hawaii don’t lend themselves to preservation of forensic specimens. I hope our graves will not be covered by concrete. How awful. On the other hand, Richard III was buried in a car parking lot.


  5. I would love to go the digging if it were in a cool, shady, air conditioned place. How intriguing to know Westerners had made so many incursions into the East.


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