Do you like Greece? Do you like old things?

If you’re reading this here, chances are you mostly know me for writing about Pokémon, but you might also be aware that I’m a classicist – someone who studies the history, culture and languages of ancient Greece and Rome. And you’ve probably guessed by now that I like writing.

so, uh… I have a book? That you can buy, like, on paper and everything.

The backstory to this is, in 2017-2018 I spent a year in Greece studying archaeology at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and we visited some archaeological sites. And I foolishly decided to write a short poem about each one – something to preserve the facets of the experience that photography alone falls short of capturing. And it turns out there are a significant number of archaeological sites in Greece (who knew, right?), so in the end I wrote about 300 of them – about places, and history, and memory, and conflict, and travel, and friends, and discovery, and wonder, and all kinds of other amazing things I learned.

So if YOU like Greece, or old things, or travel, and if YOU are trapped in a bubble because the world is ending and miss being able to go to amazing far-off places, this might be the book for you! Come to Greece with me, and let me show you something new.

It’s called “Travellers in an Antique Land,” and you can buy it print-to-order from at, or as an e-book for Kindle Fire or any Apple device at

(Also if you’re one of the, like, 6 people who watches me and Jim the Editor streaming on his YouTube channel on Fridays/Saturdays, yes, this is the thing he’s been nagging me to tell everyone about for weeks)

G.T. Waters asks:

Do you by any chance know who were the first people to make use of lighthouses and the symbolism of lighthouses in antiquity?

Genuinely no idea.  I would guess that the concept of a lighthouse – a tall coastal structure (or even just a signal fire on a hilltop) that provides light for ships to navigate by – probably starts not long after the earliest permanent maritime harbours, which means it almost certainly goes back well into the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC, give or take), and maybe even the Neolithic.  As for where, I’d say Syria or Israel-Palestine is a good bet, but the Persian Gulf would also make sense.  Maybe even southeast Asia, but I don’t know anything about the archaeology of that region.

jeffthelinguist asks:

So, as an archaeologist, can you answer the age old question of how much time needs to pass before grave robbing becomes archaeology? What’s the appropriate time period for looting the dead to become acceptable?

I’m assuming you’ve seen the screenshot of an archaeologist commenting, in answer to this question, that this is actually a super awkward and uncomfortable question?  I’m fortunate enough to work in an area where it doesn’t really come up much – we’re all pretty sure that two thousand years is comfortably in the safe zone.  Even then, though… it would be a mistake to think that archaeology can be a pure science, that our study of the past can remain detached from the present. It’s all grave robbing, in a way. The only difference is in how pure your motives are… which is a matter of perspective.

Continue reading “jeffthelinguist asks:”

State of the Blog – July

I made it! I’m back in the US, I didn’t die; I’ve written up some documentation of that body of ancient glass fragments I mentioned when I left, and I’ve brought back several samples for chemical analysis, which is exciting. I also learned how to make hummus. These things are clearly of similar degrees of importance.

The Magearna review is a little bit later than I wanted it to be, but it’s finished and will go up tomorrow. That leaves three more Pokémon for generation VII – Marshadow, Zeraora and Meltan, probably in that order. If all goes according to plan, all three will be done by the first week of September. That leaves, in principle, just over two months before the release of Sword and Shield, and probably another couple of weeks before I’m ready to start reviewing Pokémon. During that time, I’ll be writing articles on the story, major characters and worldbuilding of Sun and Moon, and I am also going to try for some quick takes on the Alolan forms of each of the Pokémon that have them. When that time comes, my extremely attractive and intelligent supporters on Patreon (currently: Bradley, James Crooks, hugh_donnetono, Esserise and Hamish Fyfe) will be able to vote on the order in which I take on all the topics I want to get to. If you yourself are extremely attractive and intelligent (as of course all my readers are), and that idea has some appeal to you, or you just feel like tipping me a dollar here and there to help me buy the black artefacts spell components souls bagels with cream cheese that sustain my existence, check that out using the link at the top of the page.

Jim the Editor and I are also working on a new Thing, a series(?) of retrospectives on my old writing, in the form of “interviews” between the two of us, beginning with a look at my reviews of the Unova Pokémon. I have mixed feelings about a lot of my older stuff, and I guess anything more than 5-6 years old I don’t 100% stand by these days, but it’s a shame to not do something with it, and I like the idea of re-examining all of it in light of everything I’ve learned since then and how my approach to writing for this blog. The first of these will probably go up on or around August 10. Later on, maybe around the beginning of September, I have in mind to start another Thing, something a bit more on the silly side than most of my work, and something that I hope will be able to involve readers in choosing its direction. More details to follow…

Reviewing the glass from the Eretz-Israel museum

On Thursday I went to the Eretz-Israel museum in Tel Aviv, and because I am a huge glass nerd (and, y’know, I’m doing tourist things as well but I am technically in this country to study ancient glass) I spent basically the entire time in their glass gallery ogling pretty Phoenician core-formed alabastra and Roman mould-blown bottles. So my reduced posting schedule this month doesn’t sting too much, here’s my definitive expert review of all the things there that most stuck out to me:

Continue reading “Reviewing the glass from the Eretz-Israel museum”

Anonymous asks:

What would you study if not Classics/archaeology?

Well, when I was a kid I wanted to be a palaeontologist.  I sort of wrote that off as unrealistic when I was in high school, but actually, now that I’m a real archaeologist and dig stuff up and do proper scholarly research, honestly I do think I probably could have pulled it off if I’d kept going with biology and geology.  Evolutionary history is a fascinating rabbit hole.  I’m not sure I’d have the patience for taxonomic debates, though.  I mean, people can literally spend years arguing about whether a single jawbone represents a new species or not.

Anonymous asks:

If you’re a Classical archeologist, how come you’re so knowledgable about evolutionary biology? And is Jim as smart as you are? Curious because I admire your wide-ranging intellect!

Flattery will get you everywhere, anonymous grey sphere.

So, for my undergrad I did what in New Zealand we call a conjoint degree.  You have a higher course load, and it takes four years (instead of three, which is the standard for a bachelor’s degree in New Zealand), but you come out of it with two degrees.  As a result, although I’m an archaeologist, I actually also hold a BSc in chemistry, which is fundamental to a lot of my work, because I’m interested in analytical techniques for investigating the chemical composition of artefacts and archaeological materials (for my PhD, I want to conduct analyses of that kind on samples of Roman window glass).  I also have a better-than-layman’s knowledge of biology and statistics, but they’re definitely not specialist subjects of mine.

Jim the Editor is about half as clever as he thinks he is, but that’s still enough to make him as smart as me. 😉 He probably has broader knowledge of a lot of subjects where I tend to dive down obscure rabbit holes… which helps in keeping me honest.