Neuroarchaeology and an Indonesian seafood experience

Dr. Shelby Putt
Dr. Shelby Putt-paleoanthropologist and seafood lover.

Are you kept up a night trying to tackle the problems of early hominid evolution? Like, what’s the significance of language to the production of stone tools? Or, what’s going on in a person’s brain while they are knapping away on some stones? Well, grab some popcorn and hold on to your seat and brace yourself for some hardcore knowledge! We had the privilege to chat with Dr. Shelby Putt from the Stone Age Institute in Indiana who is doing some really exceptional and intriguing research.

Shelby has been working hard on a study to understand what’s going on in the human brain during stone tool production. Using imaging technology of modern human brains her research focuses on the Oldowan and Acheulian stone tool industries to find some answers.   Through her hard work and passion,  Shelby has revealed a lot about our early ancestors and the stone tools they produced. I could write more but I’ll leave it to the expert to explain it so you need to download and listen to the podcast!

A different view, showing the model flintknapping while having her brain activity measured with NIRS (Dr. Shelby Putt in the background at the NIRS system)
Digitizing a participant’s head.
Acheulean network.

In the closing moments of the interview. The food portion of the program. Shelby admits she is a picky eater. I think this is code for, “I don’t cook.” Anyway, she does share with us her experience abroad. We’ve all been there. We’ve had food put in front of us that confronts our long-held food phobia or avoidance. I have a friend who gags at the sight of strawberries. That’s extreme.  Shelby’s isn’t so extreme. She just didn’t like seafood. This all changed when she did fieldwork in Indonesia. It’s a great story about being human, letting go, and trying something new! Enjoy!

Dr. Shelby Putt breaking down walls-BOOM!

An informative link that goes along with the interview.

A short clip of a training video that the study participants watched

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Rock art from the Black Desert in Jordan with stuffed peppers.

Nathalie Brusgaard
Rock art aficionado Nathalie Brusgaard!

Nathalie Brusgaard is a P.h.D. candidate from Leiden University. Nathalie speaks with us about her research with rock art from the Black Desert in Jordan. This is the first detailed study of the rock art left behind by nomadic groups that traveled this region of Jordan during the late first millennium BC/  early first millennium AD. We are really fortunate that Nathalie made time for us and we are grateful that she shared with us her groundbreaking work!

Black Desert
Rock art overlooking the Black Desert.

We chat with her about what it is like to work in the desert. Nathalie shares with us her experiences from seeing beautiful sunrises over the desert to living in an old miner’s station powered only by solar energy. These are charming stories about the unique life of an archaeologist that should not be missed!

Jebel Qurma
Sunrise over the Jebel Qurma region.

Finally, Nathalie shares with us a simple and delicious stuffed pepper recipe!

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Pioneer cemeteries from Upstate New York with lemon curd

Amanda Brainard
Cemetery historian & Victorian re-enactor Amanda Brainard

Self-starter and scholar Amanda Brainard has done what few of us do-she’s taken the initiative to follow her passion. No, her passion isn’t base jumping from a high mountain cliff in a wingsuit. It’s something deeper and more selfless. Amanda’s passion is to protect our cemeteries from neglect and decay.

Cemetery neglect and decay.
Amanda measuring a damaged headstone in Riga Road Cemetery. The measurements will be used to repair the stone and make a perfect replica if needed.


Join us as we talk to Amanda about her community-based project, the Northeastern Coalition for Cemetery Studies (here). Its goal is to preserve the cemeteries of our local communities for future generations. Amanda has an ongoing pilot project in Leon, New York with plans to expand the work of NCCS throughout the State and beyond.

Amanda uses a mirror, the sun, and physics to read an epitaph on a broken tombstone that has not been physically accessible due to brush overgrowth for at least 30 years. This photograph marks the first time the stone has been read in at least 3 decades. The stone will eventually be charted to scale so that it can be repaired and/or reproduced properly.

Although she doesn’t share any ghost stories with us (damn!) she did present to us a lemon curd recipe that sounds scary delicious!

Recipe: Lemon Curd

½ cup butter
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup real lemon juice (not from concentrate……concentrated lemon juice simply will not work for this recipe) or the juice of 3 lemons

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Do not let it brown! Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. You absolutely MUST do this next part to temper the eggs, otherwise they will scramble and you will have sweet lemon scrambled eggs. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the egg mixture, whisking briskly the whole time. Or, mix the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender and slowly drizzle in the melted butter while the blender is running. Pour the egg and butter mixture back into the saucepan and place back over medium heat. Whisk constantly. The mixture will first get thin, then it will start to get thick. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to bubble. Let it bubble, whisking constantly (seriously. Whisk constantly) for at least half a minute to let the eggs cook through. You’re basically making a lemon custard.
Serve the lemon curd warm over ice cream, chill it and pour into an ice cream maker and make lemon ice cream (really good!), use this as a pancake spread, use it on toast, use it as a base for lemon merengue pie……the possibilities are endless. If you choose to use this for a pie base, here is the recipe I use:

8 eggs
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped raw almonds mixed with 1 tablespoon each grated coconut and granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use spelt)
2/3 cup butter

Cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized pieces form. Add just enough water to form a stiff dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and roll out very thinly—less than ¼ of an inch thick. You may need to do this part in batches—half or quarter the dough and roll out each piece. Place dough into a greased pie pan and bake at 350 F until it is firm and dry—about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the oven. Cool completely in the refrigerator. Every step of this recipe must be followed by chilling everything.

If you require a gluten free crust, try this:
2-3 cups walnuts, almonds, and pecans
Local honey
Grind the nuts to a fine meal. Add just enough honey to bind the meal into a stiff dough. Press the dough into a greased pie pan (coconut oil works very well).

The filling:
Crack 5 eggs into a mixing bowl. Separate the yolks from the whites of the 3 remaining eggs. Add 3 egg yolks to the 5 whole eggs. Proceed to make lemon curd as normal. Pour curd into a prepared, completely cooked pie crust and chill.
While pie is chilling, whisk the whites of 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar until stiff peaks form. Chill. Seriously. Chill everything after every step for lemon meringue pie!
When pie ingredients are completely cold, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread meringue over the top of the pie. It will be a substantial layer. Sprinkle the top of the meringue with chopped almond mixture (optional). If nuts are out of the question, sprinkle the top of the meringue with granulated sugar.
Bake at 350 F until the meringue is golden brown about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the oven. This will happen quickly.

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Figurines from Syria with tortillas.

Monique Arntz
Motivational speaker and archaeologists, Monique Arntz!

Monique Arntz is a Ph.D. student at Cambridge University working with clay figurines from the Neolithic period. She began her research journey at the University of Leiden analyzing and writing about figurines from Tell Sabi Abyad in Syria. She since has expanded her research to include figurines from the famous site of Catal Huyuk in Turkey.

Site survey!

In this podcast, Monique discusses the background of her research, what she is looking for and the significance of her work. She drops some theory on us that makes you really think. Towards the end of our talk, Monique spontaneously turned into motivational speaker Tony Robbins.  Monique throws out some sage advice for all us when we are second guessing ourselves or feeling overwhelmed by life’s obstacles. Did I say obstacles? I meant challenges! See, now I have to listen to her again to get my head screwed on straight!

Team tortilla after a day’s work!

Finally, Monique shares with us a tortilla recipe she learned when working in the field in Jorden. It’s a good one!

The recipe:
Potato and onion tortillas.
For each tortilla take 6 eggs, 5 potatoes, and two onions.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.
Slice potatoes into thin slices and onions into small cubes.
Fry onions and potatoes until the potatoes are (nearly) cooked with plenty of pepper and salt.
Put the potatoes and onions back into egg mix and pour it into a frying pan. The most challenging part is to flip the tortilla. We used a large plate to put on top of the pan, flip it over and then slide it back into the frying pan to bake the other side.
You can also add other spices to your liking.
Simple but sooooo good!!
Team tortillas finished product!

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