• Understanding Data Archiving

    Once we started making things, some of them were destined to last forever.

    There are museums overflowing with arrowheads, stone axes and shards of pottery. A decent archaeologist can deduce many things about the life of the common man/woman from their belongings especially since most were handmade by the user or a local craftsperson.

    A pot can reveal much about its purpose from its material, its construction and shape and the type and colour of any glaze. I doubt that future archaeologists (FA) will learn much from your Noritake or Royal Doulton tea set which was imported from Japan or England. Can you think of anything that you have made or procured locally which will still be here in a thousand years? Me neither.

    We also leave things behind unintentionally. Our campfires become middens full of stuff that CSI gals could identify immediately. Our rubbish dumps similarly yield great evidence which is why being a PI is not such an attractive job. Ancient stonemasons left quarry sites. Cave dwellers left bones from their meals. Today we fill the oceans with plastic bags and the earth with plastic packaging. Perhaps we will be known as “Plastic age man.”

    Some pieces have special cultural or religious significance. There are many churches around the world with pieces from the cross, so many in fact, that there are debates as to how much wood would be collected if all the pieces were reassembled. I am sure there are some fraudulent pieces and so begins our attempt to rewrite history but more of that later. Did I mention the nails from this cross?



    When we think of the oldest human remains we usually visualise mummies from Egypt from as many as 5,000 years ago but there are South American examples several millennia older still. Modern doctors and radiologists have been able to examine these ‘archives’ and discover diseases, dental conditions, diets and general wear and tear from different occupations. Unintentionally mummified humans have turned up in peat bogs, glaciers and other places where there is no oxygen.

    Apart from these complete bodies there are plenty of skeletons in tombs and catacombs and generally scattered about. Some have revealed how certain weapons of war were used and I particularly like the recent analysis of shoulder and elbow deformations showing on the skeletons of young longbow archers from the Middle Ages. Again there are sacred pieces. Check out the finger of St Thomas, supposedly the one he stuck in Jesus’ wounds to eradicate his doubts. http://tinyurl.com/bxn9pym

    There are so many fingers and toenails of saints that there must have been plenty of them and some might have been closely related to Kali (Hindi goddess with 24 arms).

    Recently the body of King Richard III was discovered beneath a carpark in England. He was left there, presumably before it was a carpark, sometime about 600 years ago after losing in the Wars of the Roses. Analysis of his bones has revealed his curvature of the spine as immortalized by Lawrence Olivier’s portrayal in the Shakespeare play but he was not short and was quite strong. It also showed his many wounds both from the Battle of Bosworth Field and the many blows his body received after death while being dragged through town to show his followers. (A bit like the Blackhawks pilots in Somalia)

    Note that we still have not mentioned data archiving but we’ll get there.

    Mike Sparkes is author of the blog Obscure Aussie and an IT storage expert based in Brisbane, Australia.

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