Wee Ones and Picts, Oh My! - Episode 23

In episode 23 of the podcast we travel back in time to the coast of Scotland, where adventure archaeologists are discovering Pictish forts from the Iron Age. Then we explore childbirth in Egyptian Mythology because, wait for it... The Struggling Archaeologist is expecting a little shovelbum of her own!

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The Archaeology of Alcohol: The Ancient Ales Edition! - Episode 21

Welcome to Episode 21 of The Struggling Archaeologist's Guide to Getting Dirty "The Archaeology of Alcohol: Ancient Ales Edition!"

I suggest you sit back, pop open a cold one, get a little toasty, and enjoy this generally informative fun-times podcast.

So, our ancestors have been making alcoholic concoctions for thousands of years, and thanks to science and archaeology we now have the ability to reconstruct the recipes to some of these awesome drinks. I thought it would be interesting to find out about how alcohol has evolved from its early days to what we are familiar with today, so that’s what today’s podcast is about!

I had a lot of fun recording this episode because it also gave me an excuse to drink some delicious beer, so thanks Beer Gods! In the podcast you’ll learn about:

  • How Dogfish Head collaborated with biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, director of the archaeology project for cuisine, fermented beverages and health at the University of Pennsylvania museum, to create their line of ancient ales based on reconstructed recipes from archaeological discoveries around the world!
  • A background on the origins of drinking and producing alcohol, and how drinking helped civilizations develop around the world!
  • How some monks in the Middle Ages started changing the face of ale and created some of the first modern beers. Then, how Germany regulated the crap out of it!

Finally, on a non-alcohol related front, I decided to start a book club for people who enjoy books about history, like me! Our first read is a historical fiction novel called All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a WWII story about a young blind French girl and a German boy whose lives intersect in the midst of the devastation of war. Get your hands on the book and give it a read, then we’ll discuss it on the social medias and youtubes! For more books I’m thinking about reading for the club, check out my goodreads bookshelf called struggling arch book club. Feel free to send me suggestions too, I’d love to hear them!

So that’s it, enjoy the episode and enjoy some great beer while listening. Here are some links from this podcast that you may want to visit-

Dogfish Head Ancient Ales

Pat McGovern’s Website

History of Trappist Monks and Beer Here and Here

Beer and the History of Civilization 

The Archaeology of Alcohol Here and Here

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I See Dead People - Episode 5

Welcome to Episode 5 of The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty, “I See Dead People!”

And boy do I ever, well, at least while researching for this episode! I tried but I just couldn’t avoid more mention of mummies, but I think after our discussion of archaeological execution sites and bog bodies you won’t mind a boring old mummy or two!

The discovery of a pit full of 14th century German execution victims is why today is all about death, so I felt it necessary to delve into the world of bog bodies as well- since who doesn’t love those, am I right?! Don’t worry, in today’s shorty news I figured I should talk about something full of sunshine and rainbows to make up for the macabre first act of the podcast- so I briefly consider the merits of space archaeology…. yes, space archaeology.

Oh yeah, and if you were planning on doing a field school this summer you should get your booty on it asap! Check out,,,, and other similar such sites for field work opportunities around the world for this summer!

Peace of my Nerds!

McNiven OUT! 

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Little Baby Jesus - Episode 4

Welcome back for Episode 4 of The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty “Little Baby Jesus!”

This week there’s some crazy business going on with a newly translated apocryphal text that was definitely not written by St. Cyril or based on anything resembling reality- but is cute all the same because it alleges that Jesus had super powers (aside from raising the dead and healing lepers and all that) and was best buds with the man that everybody loves to hate- Pontius Pilate! But seriously, the study of texts written in the first millennium after Jesus’ death about his life and early Christianity is little known to the public (unless they made the final cut into the Bible canon). So every text gives us an opportunity to learn more about the evolution of Christian beliefs and practices during its first couple of centuries, when it was extremely varied across the Old World, Middle East, and Northern Africa. I may also throw some knowledge out there about the influence of some other apocryphal numbers such as the Syriac Infancy Gospel- in which Jesus’ diaper does his dirty work (literally) and his circumcision creates one heck of a relic. No offense if I sound less than respectful, believe me- some of this stuff gives amazing insight into humanity and spirituality in the 1st millennium- but some of these texts are just bizarre, so let’s just say there’s a reason they aren’t included in the Bible…

Today’s Shorty News consisted of a story where I marvel at the discovery of a new strain of human Y chromosomes which doesn’t seem to have shared a common ancestor with most of the rest of humanity for 338,000 years! WOW.

The rest of the show is about a project that I worked on a couple years back in Texas which has recently become part of a new book called The Toyah Phase of Central Texas: Late Prehistoric Economic and Social Processes, edited by Nancy A. Kenmotsu and Douglas Boyd. There’s some stuff about hunter-gatherers, my personal thoughts on this newly published research, and then I talk about snails for a while. Yup, Snails.

Enjoy! McNiven OUT! 



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Not More Mummies! - Episode 3

Welcome to Episode 3 of The Struggling Archaeologist’s Guide to Getting Dirty: Not More Mummies!

In this episode we get transported back to 15th century England to explore the exciting (and terrifying) world of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, kind of like the Montagues and Capulets without the teen love gone wrong. It’s a brutal world where if you’re not too careful you could end up looking like this….

Seriously, this is the newly discovered and identified skull of King Richard III, the infamous “Hunchback of York.” I’m proud to say that my kinda sorta alma mater, the University of Leicester, led excavations that uncovered the Medieval Greyfriars friary along with the internment of the King earlier this year. I am taking total credit, of course, because they really couldn’t have done it without me… joking aside, I’m really excited for all of the Richard talk that has been going on and so I couldn’t resist boring you with a short history of the Medieval monarchy and an analysis of Richard’s remains. And yes, I did resist the urge to sing something from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, thank you. If you were paying attention then you might have heard me mention something about a ginormous hole in his head and a really bad case of the “scolies” (that’s hood talk for scoliosis), and I promised pictures- so here you go!

Photos Courtesy of the University of Leicester

Anyway, enjoy the episode folks, and leave your comments below or email them to!

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