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HARN 2016 Programme

October 4, 2016

Here’s the programme for HARN 2016.  Scroll down for the map (thanks Ulf!)!

If you’re in Rome, we’d love to see you!  We have a full programme of amazing papers and people.harn2016-poster1


Book Review: Antiquity Imagined by Robin Derricourt

October 20, 2016

Review: Robin Derricourt, Antiquity Imagined: The Remarkable Legacy of Egypt and the Ancient Near East (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015).


The Ancient Near East has long commanded people’s attention and dominated our imaginations.  It has produced countless books, articles, magazines, films, and fiction stories based on both fact and fancy.  The theories based on nothing but spurious evidence abound: who built the pyramids? Why? Who were the ancient Egyptians?  Where did the 10 missing tribes of Israel really go?  Even the History Channel in the US has shows that deal with some of these questions and validate some of these theories.

In Antiquity Imagined, Robin Derricourt deals with many of these ideas, theories, works of fact and fiction, and more to bring the reader a thoroughly-researched, exciting and entertaining read.

This book is for the scholar looking for confirmation of misremembered theories they won’t find anywhere else as well as those looking to understand more about Egyptomania; it is also for the interested general reader who wants to know a fuller story of how Egypt and the Near East have affected the way that the West views the area.  Much of the book focuses on Egypt and the questionable ideas and conspiracy theories about the ancient culture that once thrived there; the rest of the book talks about the peoples who have lived in Palestine and Syria.  Derricourt did an impressive amount of work digging through the appropriate primary sources; he definitely included the pertinent secondary sources, too.  This book is well researched and well written.

Throughout each chapter, given descriptive and clear titles, he outlines the specific ideas he is analyzing and then traces in detail the history of those ideas.  Many times he also details the arguments against the ideas he is presenting.  The two chapters specifically talking about race are based firmly in the literature: Chapter 5, “The blight of ‘race’,” discusses Western ideas of race and how those practices gave way to ideas in the West about Egypt’s ancestors; Chapter 6: “Race Reversed: the Afrocentric Challenge,” traces the history of the “black Egypt” movement and the effect it has had on the study of Egypt.


I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.

My favorite chapter, by far, is “Mummies and their changing reputation.”  This will likely not be a surprise to anyone who has ever paid a little attention to me.  The race chapters were complex and inter-woven narratives; the mummy chapter is as well, but in a different way.  Derricourt details historical mummification, then dives into how mummies were viewed by the West: alternatively as medicine, sources of magical powers, horrifying beings that can bring death and doom, and, of course, fodder for fiction.  Amazingly, he does all of this without really poking fun at any of the viewpoints.  I don’t remember once reading the word pyramidiot which, let’s be honest, could be used rampantly here.

One thing I noticed that I wanted as part of the book is some sort of notation system.  There are a lot of ideas that Derricourt mentioned as part of a history or analysis of an idea, but doesn’t go into detail.  That is to be expected in a work where the author accomplishes so much, anyway.  But times where I thought “Oh, I wonder where I could read more about that!” I wanted a note, and then a source or “further reading” notice.  Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t miss the References section or the Sources and Further Readings section.  As a scholar, I am simply missing the endnotation in the text.  It works very well for the interested general reader.

A final note for Derricourt’s book, which you really should read if you’re interested at all in the ancient Near East: this book is not for reading on a crowded plane, train, or other crowded place.  Seriously.  The chapter titles alone will make people think that you may believe some of these ideas: “Mystical Roles for Ancient Egypt,” “Pyramidologies and Pyramid Mysteries,” and “Lost Tribes” are just a few examples.  I read part of it on a plane and tried to hide it!  Maybe that’s my pride.



trigger warnings or content warnings and archaeologies of modern conflict

October 17, 2016

Sometimes I just despair about the quality of British journalism

conflict antiquities

Someone at the Daily Mail appears to have been searching for material with content warnings and incidentally found the syllabus for a colleague’s course on Archaeologies of Modern Conflict at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Even though it required implicitly humiliating military veterans and abuse victims, whom the paper would normally claim to valorise, the article decried Gabe Moshenska’s trigger warnings and delivered a payload quote from the so-called Campaign for Real Education about “health and safety going mad again” in an “overprotective nanny state”.

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Second-hand News, or Amy & Jason and Geoffrey & Angela… and Osbert.

October 13, 2016


Another wonderful guest post from Martyn Barber:

I don’t know about anyone else, but I seem to spend a lot of time tracking down out-of-print books, which often means exploring the vague possibility that a book containing something essential might once have been published somehow by someone somewhere at some time. Did anyone who learned the subtle arts of bomb-dropping at Stonehenge Aerodrome write an account of their time there? Is there a report of any of the séances attended in the early 1870s by Colonel Lane Fox? Who among those who saw out the First World War as a PoW at Holzminden alongside OGS Crawford wrote memoirs covering their time in the camp?

An essential part of the search for out-of-print books is the art of browsing in second-hand bookshops. Obviously, this tends to be a less focused form of searching – the perceived need for a particular book provides the excuse to examine the entire stock (with some exceptions – romantic fiction, for example, or books about the Romans). Typically, the result is the purchase of a tome or two not strictly relevant to current research interests, but you just never know what may be lurking concealed within the covers, or when it may turn out to be useful. That’s how I justify it, anyway.

A constant disappointment for me is that none of the second-hand books that I’ve bought, sometimes spending several pounds on them, has previously been owned by anyone of note. Usually I’m lucky if I can read their signature, let alone track them down. Obviously there may be people reading this who will be excited to hear that my copy of James Neil’s Pictured Palestine (the 3rd edition of 1903, of course) bears the signature of Marcus Adams (which may well explain the £2 asking price), but whenever I’ve mentioned it (which isn’t often), the response has always been the same.

A few years ago, while visiting the annual RAF Air Tattoo at Fairford (the children’s idea, not mine), I found a second-hand book stall. In the bargain box was a copy of PE Butcher’s 1971 memoir Skill and Devotion (Butcher had trained during WW1 at Stonehenge Aerodrome), and a privately-published paperback called A Sound in the Sky: The Reminiscences of Geoffrey Alington. Who? Exactly – the man who flew OGS Crawford around in the late 1930s, mainly in his De Havilland Puss Moth known as Angela. There is a famous photograph of Crawford with Angela, luggage and a few bottles of wine piled up in front of them, Angela’s registration letters G-AAZV clearly visible – the photograph was used as the cover image of Kitty Hauser’s 2008 biography of Crawford, Bloody Old Britain. It contrasts nicely with the often-used image of Crawford with his bicycle, its baskets overflowing with Ordnance Survey maps.


The cover of Alington’s reminiscences, written c1983 but not published until 1994, seven years after he died. The photographs shows him circa 1939, in front of a Sparrowhawk which he named ‘Angela III’.

Alington and Crawford first met on Cyprus in August 1937. Alington ran a company called ‘Air Touring’, based at Gatwick and offering small light aircraft for private charter, with a friend called Edward ‘Bunny’ Spratt. Spratt asked Alington if he would take Crawford as a passenger on his return flight from Cyprus to England. Alington’s previous passenger had been Unity Mitford – an acquaintance had asked him to spend a couple of weeks flying her around Europe, wherever she wanted to go, in an attempt to curry favour with Adolf Hitler, having previously been frustrated in his business aims by the self-styled King of Lundy (it all seems quite plausible until you try and summarise it). Alington seems never to have known who she was – Unity was introduced to him only as ‘Bobo’.

Unusually for Crawford, he seems to have got on well with Alington, providing us as a result with a rare insight into Crawford’s domestic circumstances – “Ogs…very kindly put me up for the night in his wee cottage, which was littered with pieces of ancient pottery, flint arrow heads, flints, coins, and the whole house was quite obviously stored with his archaeological finds on the deep litter system. How he ever found a wanted piece remains a total mystery. That evening, after dinner, sitting round his fire in his small sitting room, talking with Ogs, the great expert, about ancient Egypt, while the flames of the fire flickered on the grinning skulls on his tables, was quite an eerie experience”.


The aforementioned cover of Kitty Hauser’s biography of Crawford, available from all good real and virtual bookshops.

Soon after, with business booming, Spratt and Alington decided it was time to expand their (small) fleet of aircraft: “As there were more and more people wanting to hire aircraft to fly themselves in I invested in another aircraft, a Puss Moth, G-AAZV. She had, painted on her nose cowling, the name Angela, and this truly described the aeroplane. She really was an angel, for she had a wonderfully smooth engine, a De Havilland Gipsy III of 120 h.p. and was fitted with a metal propeller. She was quiet and comfortable, cruising at 105 m.p.h. and having a range of over 600 miles”.

Alington and Crawford’s principal adventures with Angela were a lengthy flight around southern and central Europe in the late summer of 1938, mainly to record sites for Crawford’s planned map of the Roman Empire, and another around Scotland the following summer, an account of which was published in Antiquity (vol 13, no 51, Sept 1939, 280-292). Both Crawford and Alington wrote lengthy accounts of these flights for their autobiographies, offering an excellent opportunity to compare their differing recollections of events as written in 1955 and 1983 respectively[i]. But not right now.

After the tour of Scotland was over, Angela was due for renewal of her Certificate of Airworthiness. Rather than spend a month or so short of an aircraft, Alington sold her to a friend, John Coxon, who was also based at Gatwick. Like most private aircraft, Angela subsequently found herself requisitioned for war service – she joined the WAAF in April 1940. She is reported to have been scrapped at Kemble, Gloucestershire in April 1944.

Until reading Alington’s reminiscences, it hadn’t occurred to me that planes, like books, might be pre-owned, and that those previous owners might themselves be interesting characters. Alington recalled that “It was not until a long time after I had sold [Angela] that I found she had been given to Amy Johnson as a present after her England to Australia solo flight, and that she had flown to Japan in her”. It’s entirely possible that Crawford never knew, which would be a shame – for a start, he’d probably have been amused to know that Angela had been to Moscow in 1932 just a couple of months after his own journey there.

Amy Johnson’s most famous flight, from London to Port Darwin, Australia, had occurred in 1931, leaving Croydon in her De Havilland Gipsy Moth Jason[ii] on 5th May and arriving in Australia 19 days later. On her return she was gifted a brand new Puss Moth by De Havilland – there’s nothing like launching a new product by making a high-profile gift of one to someone currently all over the newspapers[iii]. The Puss Moth was designed specifically for the growing interest in private flying, offering an enclosed cabin with seating for 3, including the pilot, as well as a single wing placed above rather than below the fuselage, providing better visibility all round and, of course, of the ground below. Amy duly christened her new Puss Moth Jason II, their best known flight together occurring the following July when they set out with co-pilot Jack Humphreys en route to Tokyo via Moscow, completing the journey in about 9 days, or 79 hours of actual flying time. This record-breaking flight received very little coverage at the time, but a clip of their arrival in Japan can be seen here, with Jason II appearing around the 5.56 mark, followed by Amy’s greeting from the remarkably whiskered General Nagaoka, President of Japan’s Imperial Aviation Society[iv].


Amy Johnson and Jack Humphreys relaxing after their arrival in Tokyo (source: Wikimedia Commons).

How Jason II became Angela isn’t entirely clear. According to the Golden Years of Aviation website, he was bought by Leicestershire Aero Club (the sale is also briefly noted in Flight magazine’s 20th May 1934 issue) before being sold to a WT Young, based at Brooklands in Surrey. Alington appears to have acquired her from Young. So – either the Leicestershire Aero Club or WT Young were responsible for the change of name and gender. It seems odd that either of them would want to play down the connection with Amy Johnson, but then we don’t know who Angela was.


Angela Jason II, as available from all good online retailers.

Because of the Amy Johnson connection, Puss Moth G-AAZV hasn’t entirely disappeared from view. Unusually for a historical piece of archaeological equipment, it is possible to buy a collector’s edition 1:72 scale model, although obviously it is being sold solely on the basis of that Amy Johnson connection – there is no mention of OGS Crawford or Roman Scotland anywhere within the manufacturer’s publicity material (or indeed the Leicestershire Aero Club). And you’ll need a very steady hand to paint out the name Jason II and replace it with Angela.

[i] Curiously, neither Crawford nor Alington mentioned the presence in Angela’s cabin of the young J K St Joseph for two days of the Scottish trip.

[ii] I used to assume there was some connection between the name of Amy’s plane and the adventurous character from Greek mythology. I know better now. The name is a reference to the family fish business in Hull. In her very-much-of-its-time biography Amy Johnson, Constance Babington Smith quoted Johnson as saying “Jason isn’t half getting talked of already, but I don’t think anyone connects it with kippers”. And yes, that is the same Constance Babington Smith who served as an air-photo interpreter in World War II along with Glyn Daniel and others, and who wrote Evidence in Camera.

[iii] The Prince of Wales was another fairly high profile individual whose early acquisition of a Puss Moth made the news. De Haviland were also far from being the only organisation to try and capitalise on Amy Johnson’s celebrity status. For instance, in the July 14th 1931 issue of The Times, in what would these days be called an ‘advertorial’ (or worse) produced by Selfridges and entitled “Only achievement can create reputation”, it was claimed that “Miss Amy Johnson’s flight to Australia did more than a million pamphlets to widen women’s sphere”. With hindsight, another example – “The Italian emigrant is more highly esteemed because of the achievements of Mussolini” – might seem ill-advised.

[iv] According to Constance Babington Smith, the General’s whiskers “were claimed to be the longest and whitest in the world”.

Call for Papers

October 11, 2016

As a spin-off from, but not restricted to, the Tea with the Sphinx Conference, Ellie and Nichola have sent this cfp

Ancient Egypt in the Modern Imagination


Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 sparked what has come to be known as ‘Egyptomania’, an intense fascination for ancient Egypt that permeated the cultural imagination in the late eighteenth century and beyond. Since this moment, across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, subsequent ‘waves’ of interest in ancient Egypt have seen the history and iconography of this civilisation drawn upon for all varieties of purposes.

The editors seek essays addressing engagements with the culture of ancient Egypt from the late eighteenth century to the present day. From Parisian graveyards decorated with winged solar discs, to tales of mummies’ curses appearing in periodicals and newspapers; glitzy strip-teases of the fin de siècle, to Hollywood blockbusters of the twentieth century; this project aims to unite essays on a variety of aspects of ancient Egypt in the cultural imagination in order to explore and investigate the driving forces behind the fascination that these myriad forms embody.

Potential topics include but are not limited to the following:

·         Factual or fictional literature

·         Travel writing and illustration

·         Memoir

·         Journalism

·         Art

·         Photography

·         Architecture and landscapes

·         Theatre

·         Material culture

·         Popular culture, film, TV, music, fashion

·         Representations of Egyptology

·         Gender

·         Race

·         Religion, spiritualism and occultism

·         Orientalism

Abstracts should be 500 words in length, should emphasise content, argument, sources, and how the existing literature is being built upon, and should be accompanied by four or five keywords. These, along with a short biographical note, should be sent by 16 January 2017 to Completed essays will be expected by 1 May 2017.


October 10, 2016


New publication!

October 7, 2016

HARN member Chris Evans just let us know that the Roman 
Mucking volume in the Historiography and Fieldwork series was launched on 

At just £30 from Oxbow it’s a brilliant value!
Congratulations to Chris, Sam and the others!


The cover


The Authors

Tea (and cake) with the Sphinx

October 6, 2016

You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? Not so. It’s just been stupid busy around here, cats, chickens and children with a side order of guinea pigs, lectures and other stuff I now can’t remember and that probably wouldn’t alliterate nicely anyway.

So, after the keynote speech by Chris Naunton, we had DEATH! The first paper was by Chris Elliott  and entitled The New Zealander on the Bridge: Cleopatra’s Needle as Memento Mori for Victorian London.


Copywrite Angela Stienne

Now, I had never heard of the New Zealander on the bridge cliche, how I’m not entirely certain given its ubiquity in nineteenth-century journalism, but Chris gave a fascinating talk about Cleopatra’s needle, the idea of empire, London as the embodiment of the British Empire and the uneasy relationship Victorians had with the city itself and the fear that the British Empire would go the way of all other empires – see momento mori – it all fits together nicely, that Chris Elliot knows how to write a paper, I can tell you! He also – and this is where I demonstrate that once an archaeologist always an archaeologist – mentioned some of the things that were put in the cache underneath the foundation stone, including a bronze model of the obelisk itself, why? Why would you put in a model of the thing you were erecting? I got completely side tracked by this and spent far more time than is possibly healthy thinking about depositions and what the Victorians were trying to say with a portrait of Queen Victoria and a box of hairpins.

Thankfully I was rescued from this by Nichola Tonks talking about  Egyptomania and the Material Culture of British Burials; or, How Hamilton Lost His Feet.


Copywrite Angela Stienne

While Nichola told us many sensible things about the middle classes, garden cemeteries and the increasing popularity of Alexander MacDonald‘s polished granite, it was Alexander Hamilton‘s mummification by Thomas Pettigrew that has stuck in my head. The 10th Duke of Hamilton bought a sarcophagus in Paris to sell to the British Museum, as you do, the BM decided they didn’t want it, so Hamilton kept it and decided to be buried in it, again, as you do. Unfortunately the sarcophagus belonged to a woman and Hamilton was too big to fit, he worried about this on his death bed, but Pettigrew solved the problem by chopping off Hamilton’s feet – post mortem I hasten to add – and tucking them into the sarcophagus under Hamilton’s arms. No, really. You can read about it here.

Nichola was followed by Ellie Dobson, her paper, The Sphinx at the Séance: Literature, Spiritualism and Psycho-Archaeology was just as fascinating. Nineteenth-century spiritualism, seances with Egyptian motifs producing mummy cloths, writing, portraits and hand prints, Madame D’Esperance, archaeologists verifying the Egyptian-ness of it all, despite the very obvious westernisation of these supposedly Eastern manifestations.


Copywrite Nickianne Moody

Meanwhile society ladies were dressing up as, corsetted, Cleopatras, tourists were having their photos taken and superimposed onto sarcophogi and sphinxes and Bram Stoker (amongst others) was writing Egyptian themed literature. It was, as Ellie stressed, a safe way of accessing the occult otherness of Egypt, a safe way  of appropriating the East. All of this appropriation, including the many excavations taking place, was accepted as cultural entitlement and by framing the West as inheritors of Egypt’s past – conveniently assuaging any residual guilt.

After lunch – onion bahji sandwich anyone? I confess I wussed out of eating those, but I did stand next to people who ate them, adventurous eating by proximity – the theme moved on to travel., with Louise Ellis-Barrett getting Up Close and Personal: Sir John Gardner Wilkinson Pictures Egypt. Louise’s starting point was a critique of Jason Thompson‘s biography of Wilkinson, there was, she argued, so much more to be said about such an interesting and complex character.


Copywrite Angela Stienne

Using his sketchbooks, notebooks and diaries, Louise is beginning to put together a very different and multi-dimensional view of such an important figure in the history of Egyptology. She was followed by Charlotte Booth talking about Alice Leider. Alice was the wife of a German protestant missionary and together they took a trip down the Nile in 1850/1 visiting many of the famous sites. Charlotte has been following in Alice’s footsteps trying to link the squeezes Alice made (or had made for her) to the inscriptions.


Copywrite Nickianne Moody

Such research is partly a way of identifying what has now been lost – in many instances the nineteenth-century squeezes are all that is left – but it’s also an insight into traveller’s lives, an indication of what they thought was interesting or important to record. In Alice’s case this is a wonderfully random selection of inscriptions, and included any contemporary and near contemporary famous names she came across – all presented with Charlotte’s commentary of her visits to the sites adding an extra layer of narrative and history to those of us who like to stroke our chins and say ‘hmmmm’ in an intelectualist stylee.

I’m trying to compress what I’m saying because I’m aware I’m in danger of going on as long as the conference itself, I’m not succeeding – you can see why I struggled with twitter, although I am now the Queen of Tweets, oh yes! Anyway, minimalism* that’s what I’m striving for here, so the Comics session – 2 excellent papers by Daniel Potter and Nickianne Moody. Dan was talking about “Doctor Fate and the Blood of the Pharaohs”: The Reception of Ancient Egypt in Comics. I’d never heard of Doctor Fate or his Egyptian power sources, I am rubbish at comics, but this didn’t matter a jot!


Copywrite Nickianne Moody

The combination of Dan’s enthusiasm, his graphics – not just comic book superheroes but also the discovery that there’s a division of the ages of comics from gold to bronze to modern – and the level of knowledge displayed by modern comic writers and illustrators made this one of the most enjoyable presentations I’ve ever heard/seen. More people should be doing this sort of stuff**. Nickianne is not going to get the write-up she deserves, I was paying attention, I was really interested, how could I not be in a talk about Girls’ Comics, Egyptian Priestesses and Feminine Power?


Copywrite Kelee Siat

And I have notes about the use of the past in the popular literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries, particularly mummies as themes and tropes of complexity, moral ambiguity and women’s power. The comics Spellbound and Misty both drew on this tradition and I swear I was paying attention to the use of Egypt to create active rather than passive heroines but imagine the effect of seeing something you once burned to possess


So, yes, sorry Nickianne, if it hadn’t been for the Supercats Secret Diary I’d have a much better summary of your paper – and I wouldn’t have remembered a long forgotten grievance!

We ended the day with Egypt in the British Isles aka 2 really entertaining papers by Emmet Jackson and Martyn Barber. Emmet was talking about Guinness with the Sphinx: The Reception of Ancient Egypt in Ireland and how in Ireland Egyptomania was very much an Anglo-Irish phenomena: from travellers such as Lady Harriet Kavanagh and Sir William Wilde  to the Wellington Monument in Dublin, to the obelisks and faux pyramids found throughout Ireland – all Anglo-Irish. From these eminent folk Emmet moved on to the Freemasons Lodge on Molesworth Street in Dublin (the second largest Freemasons lodge ever!) which has an Egyptian room – of course, given the Freemasons’ Eastern links, but this is an Egyptian room of superb garishness and it has a secret trapdoor.


Emmet Jackson – University of Exeter. Photo copywrite Tea with the Sphinx

I think there was more to this than ‘Look at the decor! Look! A secret trapdoor! I went down there!’ but again I missed it. But, come on! Look at that decor. And a secret trapdoor. You’d have got sidetracked too. Anyway, once I’d got over that, Emmet had moved on to Irish origin myths linking to Egypt and their use in creating a national identity – Dr Hastler (James Whittley Boswell), Yeats and the other Celtic Twilight writers all either directly traced Irish history back to the Egyptians, or they linked Irish Celticism to the Orient with both spheres constructed as other, magical and colonised. Joyce disparaged the Celtic revival writers but he too used Egyptian motifs in his work proving the longevity of this theme.

And finally, Martyn and his ‘what’s in the box?’ paper “Let Sleeping Scarabs Alone”: When Egypt Came to Stonehenge. There’s more Egyptian stuff in Wiltshire than you’d think y’know, particularly the bits Alexander Keiller was involved with (I blame his interests in witchcraft and pornography, I may have just made us liable to being sued) not only did he replace the missing stones at Avebury with obelisks, he also designed a museum for Stonehenge that was shaped like a mastaba. However, Martyn was actually talking about 2 scarabs


Copywrite Kelee Siat

found in Wiltshire in 1928 (or 1930, confusingly I wrote down 2 dates), hyperdiffusionism both academic – Grafton Elliot Smith and W. J. Perry – and the more populist – H.J. Massingham and Rendel Harris who saw Egyptians everywhere he looked, particularly in placenames, and published prolifically on the subject. Back to the scarabs, were they real or fake? And, if real, what were they doing in Wiltshire? Various opinions were offered, the original Stonehenge scarab went missing, Crawford, Engleheart and a rather mysterious individual called Paul Collignon all had theories (you can read Engleheart’s report here) and to further complicate matters A.D. Passmore (presumably after he went bonkers – if we’re going to be sued might as well be sued en masse, eh?) wrote a letter claiming he had owned the scarabs and used them as paperweights but, tantalisingly, the rest of his letter has been lost. Unsurprisingly, in the face of this confusion Maud Cunnington, the keeper of Devizes Museum, decided not to catalogue them and ‘let sleeping scarabs lie’.

This is, I know, a monstrous post and I haven’t done justice to any of the speakers not just the ones who waved shiny things at me, nor have I finished my report. I will continue, but maybe not for a few days – I’ll give you all time to recover.


*I have a cunning plan.

.**I have another plan, a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel, it  involves watching Scooby Doo to research how archaeology is shown in Hanna Barbera cartoons. Now that is cunning.