Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Archaeology, Politics and the Media - Duke University

The Center for Jewish Studies at Duke University has its own podcast on iTunesU that I started listening to. The audio that sits in the feed reflects the sessions of a conference that was held at the center on the subject of Archaeology, Politics and the Media. (feed)

The relationship between archaeology and politics and the media should not be so strong, neither so problematic I thought. However, we have just had a media hype around an alleged find of Noah's Ark and this shows both. A hype that is widely mentioned on the conference is the James Ossuary and here the same problem arises: an archaeological find is captured by the media, before serious science has had a chance to draw conclusions. The idea is just too sexy to ignore, this find is alleged to be Jesus's tomb (or alternately the actual Ark built by Noah). And as the conference shows, here are not just the media guilty, also the archaeologists involved are giving in to the temptation to make a sensational appearance and get their name connected to a fantastic find.

Alternately, careful archaeologists, who evade the temptation, who are invited to comment in the media, no always succeed in defusing the hypes. Hence, the conference explores how serious science should deal with the media and once the media is talked, it is clear that there is also politics on the scene. Both the Ark and the Ossuary show this: the meaning of these finds get the importance of a verification of a religious claim. It has people passionately involved in making these finds true and their meaning engraved in stone.

Deep wreck diving - Omega Tau Podcast

The bi-lingual science and technology podcast Omega Tau made by Markus Völter and Nora Ludewig consists of excellent interviews with guests about their field of specialty. Depending on the guest's language, the podcast is done in either English or German. It is possible to subscribe to the entire podcast: Omega Tau podcast feed, but also to connect to feeds in either of the languages: Omega Tau in English and Omega Tau in German.

The latest show was in English and consisted of an interview with John Chatterton on deep wreck diving. Chatterton is a professional diver who has made a name with diving to shipwrecks at great depth. Markus Völter interviews him and discusses the intricacies of this trade. The result is an absolutely riveting expose about the extremely risky affair of diving really deep waters and entering the remains of vessels that have been lying there for ages. It is not only a talk of the technologies involved, the stringent safety measures, but also the mental resilience that is required.

Most of the conversation is about deep wreck diving in general, but there is ample mention of one of Chatterton's major achievements: the discovery in 1991 of the U-869 which was a German U-boat that went down before the coast of New Jersey in WW2. Chatterton wrote a book about this (Shadow Divers) which Markus read and made him invite Chatterton to the show. Well, he did not actually read it, but listened to it as an audio-book and on the show he reveals how you can acquire the audio-book, which he very much recommends - needless to say.

More Omega Tau:
Omega Tau - bilingual science podcast.