Honor Frost: Pioneer of Marine Archaeology



Honor Frost in action, complete with (modern) stone anchor! Permission to use this image was kindly provided by the Honor Frost Foundation (All Rights Reserved) — they are trying to find out who took the photo (and when/where). Could it be ‘A. Farrar’ who took a number of photos of HF? Can you help? If so, do get in touch with them here. 

If there were a trowelblazer most likely to have a secret superhero alter ego, it would be Honor Frost (1917-2010). Orphaned young, she became the ward of the wealthy solicitor and art collector Mr Wilfred Evill. By day, her pursuits were lady-like: art school, ballet set design, a job at the Tate… but by night, Honor Frost was the kind of woman who happily climbed into a WW2 diving suit and descended into the watery depths of a 17th Century well. In a friend’s back garden in Wimbledon. At a party. As one does. If one is a secret superhero about to come into their powers, that is….*

This was Frost’s first experience of diving, and it changed the course of her life. “Time spent out of the water,” she would later write**, “was time wasted.” She joined the first ever scubadiving club, the Club Alpin Sous-Marin in Cannes, in the late 1940s. And so it was that she explored her first ancient shipwreck with Frederic Dumas, becoming a true pioneer of both scuba diving and underwater archaeology.

But Honor Frost was more than just a pioneering underwater adventurer. She was the person who brought proper archaeological rigour to underwater archaeology at the field’s inception. She did her time in the trenches on dry land, working with Kathleen Kenyon on the last field season at Jericho, and this made her realise the need for careful site (and find) records, and especially detailed site plans.

She put this into practice at the excavation of a Bronze Age Phoenician Ship off Cape Gelidonya, Turkey. Frost, Turkish diver Mustafa Kapkin and US photo-journalist Peter Throckmorton discovered the wreck in 1959, but it was Frost who recognised that the wreck was Phoenician, not Mycenean. This was the first evidence that the Phoenicians took to the seas to trade prior to the Iron Age.

Honor Frost convinced Joan du Plat Taylor to come on board (sorry!) as co-director of the Gelidonya excavation, while Throckmorton brought in George Bass, a young graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. What Bass lacked in experience, he made up for in funding — and thus the Gelidonya wreck became his PhD thesis topic, and he the primary site director. The Gelidonya wreck was the first underwater excavation to be carried out with a proper, scientific approach – and while many reports ommit the key contributions of Honor Frost to the birth of this field, her role here was vital.

Frost would go on to excavate beneath much of the Mediterranean Sea: the lighthouse (or ‘Pharos’) of Alexandria; a Punic warship sunk by the Romans of the coast of Sicily in 241BC; a Roman cargo ship from 300AD, sunk after hitting a reef off Malta, to name just a few. But her core research specialism was the archaeology and typology of stone anchors: these anchors left behind on the sea-bed are the ghosts of voyages past, allowing ancient war- and trade- routes to be plotted. They might not be as glamorous as a shipwrek, but they are a darn-sight more common! She sadly died (at the age of 92, mind!) before completing her final field season at Sidon, Lebanon — and before going to India to see what she believed to be the largest stone anchor ever made.

Honor Frost inherited Mr Evill’s substantial art collection and estate. On her death, this was used to endow the Honor Frost Foundation, an organisation which funds underwater archaeology in the Mediterranean to this day. Go apply for funding & become the next Honor Frost!

* HF probably wasn’t a secret superhero, obviously. But, well, you know… 

** I think this quote is from HF’s Under the Mediterranean, but not sure as I couldn’t get hold of a copy. 


Read more about Honor Frost’s life and work here and here

This article on Joan de Plat Taylor by Nicolle Hirschfield offers some insight into the politics of the Gelidonya excavation.

And this [pdf] is Honor Frost writing about stone anchors in 1996. Worth a read if, like I was, you are a stranger to their many delights! 

Finally, take a look at Gabe Moscheska’s #troweltoon – a far more fabulous version of this story!

Written by Tori (@toriherridge), based on the links referenced above.

Posted by Suzie (@suzie_birch).


24-year-old photographer Asher Svidensky recently traveled to west Mongolia with the intention of documenting the lives of traditional Kazakh eagle hunters, people who tame eagles for the purpose of hunting smaller animals.

With the traditions typically laying in the hands of the boys and the men, the biggest surprise throughout the journey was Svidensky’s discovery of a young eagle huntress, 13-year-old Ashol Pan, the daughter of an experienced eagle hunter. These stunning photographs symbolize the potential future of the eagle hunting tradition as it expands beyond a male-only practice.

Anchoring After Adventure: Honor Frost, Underwater Archaeologist



#TrowelToons are now brought to you in technicolour, thanks to the ongoing creative genius of @GabeMoshenska!

See more on Honor Frost here.

Coming Detractions


I felt a little out-of-sorts when I walked out of Captain America this weekend, but don’t read that as any judgement on the film. My mood - and I’m not sure how to describe it except to say it contained grains of irritation, amusement, and dismay - was entirely the result of the coming attractions.

Our local theater inflicted ten previews on us in all, for a sustained assault that lasted well over twenty minutes. We had almost a half an hour of things detonating, buildings collapsing in avalanches of pulverized rock and broken glass, F-16s spinning out-of-control like badminton shuttlecocks, and soundtracks doing that BWAAAA-BWAAA thing that every preview has had to do since Inception. By the time it was done I had this voice in my head saying something like ohgodfuck stop too much no more I’ll be good I’ll take the pills I’ll do whatever you ask just let me up I’ve had enough.

The thing which really struck me is that every preview had everything everyone everywhere could ever want in their summer movie experience except for any sign of human beings. A truck disintegrated into twelve hundred components and put itself back together. A raccoon wielding a mini-gun laid waste to other CGI critters. A few cities were destroyed by dinosaurs or robots or, in one case, a robot dinosaur (YES). But where were all the fucking human beings?

It’s clear to me that I’m suffering from event fatigue. I am worn out on bigness: on loud movies that come in trilogies of trilogies, each 3 hours long (4 on the director’s cut DVD). But most of all, I just miss when films used to have room in them for people - when a story was something that happened to a character. You know. I’m old, I get nostalgia for the good old days of brainy little character pieces like DIE HARD and MINORITY REPORT.

No doubt some of these films will have wonderful characters in them. You know the saying: don’t judge a book by its extended red-band trailer featuring a tidal wave wiping out Los Angeles. I understand that when you only have two-and-a-half minutes to sell a film, you can’t waste precious seconds on shit no one cares about, like people with faces expressing emotions. No matter how the trailers make it look, I’m sure many of the upcoming summer films will feature bits and pieces of human drama. There has to be a moment somewhere for the ticket-buyers to go out and spend money on popcorn.

There was one instant - just one - when I perked up, during the half hour or so I was being clobbered senseless by the shit parade of summer previews. All of a sudden, in the middle of the Godzilla trailer, I heard Bryan Cranston’s voice, cracking with grief, strain, and frustration. I had gooseflesh all over. A whole 3-D CGI city block of skyscrapers can come screaming down in a billion lovingly rendered shreds of debris and it can’t even begin to compete with so much exposed humanity.

Idea: the singular power of the human voice is maybe the last thing they can’t model on a computer, autotune with software, or calculate with the help of a focus group. It is also one of the few things left that can cut through the clutter, that can electrify a viewer, and that has more power than a whole half hour of BWAAA BWAAA.

Oh, and what’d I think of Captain America? I liked the human parts. None of them were in the trailer, so they came as a complete surprise.

¡Mar of Tales et histoires… cumple 2 años hoy!
Two years of tumblring!!

¡Mar of Tales et histoires… cumple 2 años hoy!

Two years of tumblring!!

Margaret Murray: Mummies and Magic! #TrowelToon



Your #TrowelToon of the deeply fascinating (and only slightly vengeful) Margaret Murray is of course brought to you by the one, the only Gabe Moshenska. Revel! 


My book of cartoons ‘You’re All Just Jealous of my Jetpack’ is available now:US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1770461043UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1770461043Other stockists and info at www.tomgauld.com


My book of cartoons ‘You’re All Just Jealous of my Jetpack’ is available now:
US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1770461043
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1770461043
Other stockists and info at www.tomgauld.com

Stan Lee promots Free Comic Book day!!

Mary Leakey : Fantastic Footsteps to Fill


Mary Douglas Leakey (nee Nicol, b. 1913 - d. 1996 ) is a legend in paleoanthropology, and rightfully so. Paleoanthropologists concern themselves with nothing less than the origins of our human species by researching our non-human ancestors (and then arguing about them. Endlessly.) As with so many other #trowelblazers, Mary Leakey came to her eventual prominence through a roundabout path, involving family, mentors, and a keen sense of adventure. The daughter of a painter who took his family all over the world, Mary was exposed to archaeological sites at a young age, and by 17 had wrangled herself a position as an illustrator on an English dig. This talent was to shape her future, because it was on the recommendation of none other than Gertrude Caton-Thompson, whose book ‘The Desert Fayoum’ she had just illustrated, that Louis Leakey, excavator of Olduvai Gorge, took her onboard - first as an illustrator and later as his wife. Virginia Morell, in her biography of the Leakey family, reckons that the young Mary probably impressed Leakey with more than her illustrations - aside from language skills (French), and her interest in archaeology, she could also fly a glider plane!

Once at Olduvai, Mary Leakey certainly did her part in making major discoveries about human evolution. She found and reconstructed a very early primate ancestor,  Proconsul africanus in the 1950s, she discovered and reconstructed the skull of a new hominin species: Australopithecus bosei  whichher husband Louis named (though he called it Zinjanthropus bosei; it was later reclassified). In the 1960’s she and son Johnny discovered the type specimen of Homo habilis. Wherever Mary went, major finds were sure to follow - it probably helped that she worked tirelessly, eventually making Olduvai one of the most famous dig sites in the world. After Louis’ death, she  took over excavation at the site, and proceeded to make one of her most incredible discoveries not too far from Olduvai: the roughly 3 million year old footprints left behind in the mud at Laetoli by one of our early ancestors, Australopithicus afarensis ( the species that gave us ‘Lucy’).

Mary Leakey’s contributions to our knowledge of the human story are continued to this day by her family and the Leakey Foundation

For more on Mary and her life, see her biography on the Leakey Foundation website or Virginia Morell’s book Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind’s Beginnings

written by @brennawalks

Maria Rita Palombo: Small elephants, Big Ideas



Professor Palombo during the excavation of an incomplete specimen of Mammuthus trogontherii found along the Via Flaminia (1970, Rome, Italy). Image courtesy of Maria Rita Palombo. All rights reserved.

Many palaeo-people know the work of Maria Rita Palombo, who has explored the evolution of Plio-Pleistocene Eurasian mammals since the early 1970s. Her research covers almost every aspect of mammalian palaeobiology, from taxonomy to biochronology and palaeoecology. But two things have been most represented in her vast publication record: fossil elephants and island fauna.

Like Dorothea Bate before her, Palombo has explored and excavated on many Mediterranean islands. Due to her singular contribution to the knowledge of the endemic mammals of these islands (especially dwarf elephants, dwarf deer and bovids), a newly discovered species of the Balearic ‘mouse goat’ Myotragus palomboi was recently named in her honour.

Maria Rita Palombo’s research has been strongly based on field work and multidisciplinary cooperation (she coordinated, among the others, a successful geo-palaeontological expedition in Erlien Basin, Chinese Inner Mongolia in 1999-2000 …a true trowelblazer!).

At present, she divides her time between teaching (she is Professor of Palaeontology and Palaeoecology and Director of the Museum of Palaeontology at Sapienza Università di Roma) and conducting her research activity with undiminished passion and energy.

Written by Roberto Rozzi (@rozzi_roberto)

Edited by Tori — and huge congrats to Roberto, who recently defended his PhD on the body size evolution in insular bovids!

Some lit, comics and other cool stuff. Literatura, comics y relacionados. Literature et des autres choses géniaux.

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