Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

Welcome to Scholarly Roadkill

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mitch’s blog, Scholarly Roadkill, is part of a consulting business, Scholarly Roadside Service, detailed on this website.The blog will cover topics I'm interested in, not only scholarly publishing, but archaeology, dance, the university, writing, scholarly life, and the absurdity of the 21st century universe.  We have no facility to sign up followers, but if you click Like on our Facebook page, you’ll get announcements of new posts. Guest blogs welcomed, just let me know what you want to write about. 

Who is Alice?

Friday, June 28, 2024

The question of the day was supposed to be archaeological, not literary. Who built Stonehenge, not who is Alice?

A Stonehenge exhibit at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria seemed a good excuse for a day trip on one of our last few days on Vancouver Island before returning to the Bay Area. The exhibit had been organized by some archaeologists in London, a couple of whom I had published in a previous life, who had been excavating at Stonehenge in the past few years. So we took the two hour drive through Ladysmith, Duncan, and over the…

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The Tamga Revolution

Sunday, March 24, 2024

I’ve been immersed in the next volume of my archaeological project on Sistan, Afghanistan. Several years ago, I built a folder called “Tamga” to file all the related notes and photos. I finally got to that folder this month. And discovered something potentially revolutionary.

Tamga are identifying marks carved or painted on objects. Pottery often has these marks. Other objects can have these as well—metal vessels, coins, even symbols on buildings or associated with rock carvings. The term tamga comes from Turkish because the phenomenon has been extensively studied related to Central Asian Turkish nomadic peoples,…

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Sunday, January 28, 2024


That’s the sign affixed to the door of my home office. Stark bold caps in black on a washed white background. The sign was a present from Cyndi, former colleague, who helped me shut down Left Coast Press 8 years ago, then stayed with my various archaeological projects as editor, proofreader, scanner, and organizer. We tackled a Baluch ethnography, a history volume on Kandahar, and the big archaeology book in sequence. Cyndi has a Ph.D. in something called childhood studies and accomplished these things for me in addition to her many other diverse activities…

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Snow Fall

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Everything was beautiful, until it wasn’t. The back trail to Lake Enos snakes downhill through the firs and around the lake. It’s a bit steep in a few places, but never difficult. The lake is framed by rows of trees, with thick logs floating in the center. Raptors float overhead. Vines, now covered with filigrees of snow on each leaf, dot each side of the trail.  A couple of low spots had filled with water, now slick ice, but I carefully dodged those. The snow was almost gone after a week of freezing but dry weather. Made it down three…

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The Pop Tart Screen Play

Friday, December 29, 2023

This line of thought started with the morning sports show talking about the Pop Tarts Bowl, held yesterday in (appropriately) Orlando, Florida. The payout to the two teams was somewhat north of $6 million. Congrats, Kansas State! The morning show had massive linemen popping tarts into their mouths. I assume the same was true under the bowl’s previous name, the Cheez-It Bowl.

Back in the day, your only sponsors were various flowers, fruits, or sugar, without C&H moniker attached to the name. OK, I do understand how these sponsorships help colleges: half of $6 million can fund a lot of…

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Country Roads

Monday, November 06, 2023

There was a football game on TV Sunday morning at dawn Pacific time. Not content with filling up the normal US sports watching hours, the NFL has added games played in Frankfurt (and London earlier this fall) to give the dedicated watcher a full 18 hours of weekend gridiron. What grabbed me, though, was not hordes the fans dressed in the colors of the two teams (Kansas City and Miami), but the break between quarters when the loudspeaker system blared out John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. Everyone was standing. Everyone was singing. Everyone knew the lyrics…in English. Everyone, from…

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Why Publishers Should Not Write Memoirs

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

I haven’t read the book, nor have I seen the movie. There won’t be one. I don’t even know the guy. I’ll be the first to admit to being wildly unfair. But, for the few people who’ve wondered why I don’t write my memoirs, I have a solid answer.

Publishers are boring.

Not as people, many of them are fascinating characters with wide interests. One publisher friend became a novelist. Another doubles as a salsa teacher. They’re always well read, interested in and able to intelligently discuss almost any topic. Most of them write well: they’ve seen more badly written…

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Finding Dirham

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

dirham: a 15th century Mongol low value coin weighing about 1.5 grams

It wasn’t a single dirham we were hoping to find, but almost 400 of them, along with a few chalkois, drachms, and even some fals(es), the ironically-named coinage of 9th century Iran, made from silver, copper, and lead. And we were looking for them in the vastness of the Smithsonian in Washington.

When I began my work in 2016 documenting the archaeological finds from Sistan in southwest Afghanistan, a project that I had been a part of as a puppy in the 1970s, the first big step was…

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The Book That Took 50 Years to Publish

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Bill outlined his vision for our book almost half a century ago as we sat at the foldup dinner table in a domed room of the compound of Hajji Nafaz Khan, ruler of the village Khwaja ‘Ali Sehyaka and our gracious host.  Pigeons filled the crevices of the crumbling mudbrick building by night; bats occupied those same spots during the day. The shift changed at dusk with a cacophony of squeaks and caws amid hundreds of flapping wings. The desert nights had us tightly bundled up. Jackets would be shed the following morning as we trudged a few yards up…

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