Archaeology isn’t always about getting dirty

By: Genevieve Everett

The other day I was looking for inspiration for this weeks blog post, so I went to one of my favorite websites, the Munsell Color Blog (http://munsell.com/color-blog/page/2/), which is dedicated to all the ways in which the Munsell Color Chart/Book is applied in the world of  art and science. There are many posts about archaeology, which led me to one particular post, “‘Soiled’–Punk Rock, Archaeology, and the Munsell Color Book–A Love Song” by archaeologist Andrew Reinhard. Reinhard’s post is all about taking the things that he loves, punk music and archaeology, and combining the two. In 2012, he and a colleague organized an archaeology ‘unconference’ at a bar in North Dakota, and had punk bands play sets in between talks. The best part is that Reinhard wrote an entire album dedicated to archaeology with at least one song, “Soiled” that is all about Munselling (sadly the songs were removed). Reinhard and his colleagues even wrote a book called, “Punk Archaeology”, which addresses how punk influences how they approach archaeological research.

I fell down the rabbit hole even further, down into Reinhard’s other project, Archeogaming (https://archaeogaming.com/), “Archaeogaming is a blog dedicated to the discussion of the archaeology both of and in video games (console, computer, mobile, etc.). If a game uses archaeology in some way (such as the Archaeology skill in World of Warcraft), we’ll discuss it here. If the design and function of pottery, textiles, and architecture vary between iterations of a game (e.g., Elder Scrolls), we’ll discuss it here. If a game contains an archaeologist character class or NPC (non-player character), we’ll discuss it here. We’ll review games containing (or about) archaeology, too. The blog will also explore new methods for conducting real archaeology in gaming environments, as well as the theory underpinning studying material culture of the immaterial.” Okay, this is some third tier nerdy stuff, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I think this concept is really interesting, and reflects changing dynamics in archaeology, which lead me to another ‘outside of the box’ archaeological study by Anna Marie Prentiss…

Anna Marie Prentiss is well known for her work in British Columbia at the Keatley Creek and Bridge River sites examining wealth-based inequality in housepits. The article that I found had little to do with the prehistory of British Columbia, instead, the article is called, “Get Rad! The Evolution of Skateboard Decks”(https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12052-011-0347-0). Prentiss et al. studied how skateboard decks have changed over time, and stated, “Tracking the evolution of the skateboard deck demonstrates that evolution is more than a simple model of innovation and selection”. Skateboards are a form of material culture, so why not study them?

Ultimately what I have taken away from this journey is that the study of archaeology is not a ‘one size fits all’ field of study. Just because you’re a well known archaeologist that concentrates on the evolution of hunter-gatherer societies in British Columbia does not mean you are bound to that specific aspect of archaeological research forever. It’s not always about digging in the dirt or applying traditional theoretical perspectives to interpret the past. Whether or not you buy Reinhard’s punk archaeologist (anti) manifesto, it is still one of many ways in which we as archaeologists approach material culture in the twenty-first century.

IUP Department of Anthropology

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