A Stroll in a Cemetery

Cemeteries are not just these spooky, misty places where monsters and ghosts hang out.  They are also a pumpkin full of information that archaeologists can explore.  One of the first things that people tend to think of when discussing archaeology and graves is grave robbing. In the past (Indiana Jones) archaeologists would have been considered grave robbers.  Many were sent to collect rare and priceless artifacts by museums, many of which were either located in graves (grave goods) or in other sacred sites.  Graves tend to have the precious metals (Agamemnon’s gold death mask) and intact artifacts that were deliberately placed with the deceased.  Nowadays, archaeologists try their best to leave graves undisturbed if they can.  Sometimes this is not an option, especially when graveyards are in the path of infrastructure projects.  During those cases, archaeologists work with the community and descendants of the deceased to relocate the graves with all the respect that they deserve.

Another aspect of graveyard archaeology people tend to think of is that archaeologists uncover unmarked graves from war, Native American and other past and ancient civilizations, very old unrecorded Christian cemeteries, and pyramids.

Deetz’s examination of Puritan Gravestone engravings and their frequency over time

While true in many cases the marked more modern-day cemeteries in church yards can offer a lot of information to archaeologists.  Much of this information is gathered by means other than excavation.  Excavating and analyzing human remains is a very controversial subject that brings into spiritual and moral issues.  While human remains can provide plenty of information, there is also plenty lying on the surface in the tombstones, cemetery layout, and church records.

A famous study conducted by James Deetz in 1977 examined the different engravings on headstones in New England Puritan cemetery and discovered a gradual change in cultural identity and ideology.  The markings shifted from the Death’s-head to cherub and finally a willow and urn design.  Each one represents a softening of the rather harsh death’s-head engraving.  Deetz also discovered that the inscriptions changed from a rather individualistic phrase to the now common “In Memory of…”.  Other archaeologists examined similarly aged cemeteries in New York to see if the trend was more local or denominational rather than regional.  They discovered that this trend of softening and commonality was true for other cemeteries.  Deetz and the other archaeologists were able to track iconography and cultural changes without putting a single shovel into the ground.

GPR Survey of a cemetery. The horizontal (usually white colored) lines are potential graves

Just because something is buried in a graveyard does not mean it is outside the reach of archaeologists.  Geophysical techniques such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR) make it possible to see changes under the ground without disturbing it or the spirits who rest there.  GPR sends radar waves into the ground and measures the time it takes for the wave to bounce off an object and return to the sensor.  Different objects, such as a coffin, and soil compositions, like a grave shaft, will bounce signals back at different times creating an anomaly in the GPR recording.  While GPR and other geophysical methods cannot specifically tell an archaeologist what an anomaly is, they can provide information of what possibly lies below the ground.  Graves then to be 2-meter-long rectangles that line up side by side with one another.  If such an anomaly pops up during a graveyard survey, it is likely a grave, especially when it is associated with a visible tombstone.  These types of surveys are great to locating possibly unmarked graves, determining the extent of an unmarked cemetery, and seeing if the current locations of tombstones line up with likely graves.

Using these non-invasive methods of cemetery analysis lessens controversial nature of the investigation.  Descendants and caretakers might be more willing to allow research that will not disturb the souls at rest.  These investigations also prevent the researchers from being haunted by the spirits that roam the grounds.

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Spirit Cave Mummy

It is now October, and Halloween is quickly approaching.  This means tricks, treats, and a lot of scary monsters.  One such monster is the infamous mummy! While mummies are usually associated with the cloth wrapped ones in the pyramids of Egypt, mummies can be found all over the world.  The United States has its own share of mummies including the Spirit Cave Mummy found in the 1940s in Nevada.  What distinguishes the Spirit Cave Mummy from those of Egypt is that it is a natural mummy, meaning that humans did not dehydrate and preserve this person as they do in Egypt.  In fact, radiocarbon dates determined that the Spirit Cave Mummy is 10,600 years old making it the oldest naturally created mummy.  While his age is extremely interesting for archaeology, it is actually his DNA and the issues surrounding his repatriation to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe that are most informative.

Spirit Cave has long been claimed as ancestral land by the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe of Nevada.  The discovery of a set of mummified remains in this cave would further their claim on the land.  The mummy, discovered by Georgia and Sydney Wheeler in 1940, was determined a 40-year-old male who

Drawing of the Spirit Cave Mummy as he was discovered.

was wrapped in a rabbit-skin blanket and reed mats.  He was also wearing moccasins and associated with three other individual remains all of which were either cremated or partial.  Originally the Wheelers dated the remains to be 1,500-2,000 years ago, however, carbon dating revealed that they dated back to 10,600 years ago. Of course, the tribe wanted both the remains and associated artifacts to be returned for reburial.  According to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the tribe should have been given the remains back. However, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided against this action in 2000.  In 2006, the tribe sued the government but all that led to was the US District Court ordering BLM to reconsider their decision.

The mummy was stored in the Nevada

DNA sequencing project conducted on various controversial remains throughout North America

museum and only available for limited research to determine ancestry.  Anthropologists Douglas Owsley and Richard Jantz examined the remains and only determined that the mummy’s skull was a different shape than current First Nations people’s.  The BML, with reluctant agreement from the Tribe, decided to allow DNA analysis to be conducted.  In 2015, evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev from the Natural History Museum of Denmark conducted the analysis and discovered that the mummy was more closely related to modern North and South American indigenous groups than another other modern population.  The remains were repatriated to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone in 2016 and given a private burial in 2018.

Evolutionary geneticist Eske Willersley talking to two members of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

While valuable information about the movement of early humans in the Americas was gained through the DNA analysis of the Spirit Cave Mummy, it brings up an important issue surrounding the implementation of NAGPRA.  NAGPRA states that human remains should be returned to tribes who have a geographical association with the burial.  Even more DNA, the tribe had claim to the remains and the remains should have been returned when the tribe requested the action.  However, the problem with repatriating remains as old as the mummy is that it is difficult to prove that they are in fact First Nation.  We know so little about the early inhabitants of the continent that it is possible some remains discovered are entirely unrelated to the modern First Nations.  This problem was easily remedied through DNA analysis and the technique is likely to be employed on other controversial remains.  But the next question is does DNA relation to modern people actually matter in such a context?  The Spirit Cave Mummy’s DNA showed that he was actually more closely related to peoples from South America.  While some might say it does if the person is actually a relative, others may believe that everyone who inhabited the land before them is their ancestor.  This question is better left to the tribes.

Sources: https://www.history.com/news/oldest-mummy-discovery-spirit-cave-shoshone; https://www.nature.com/news/north-america-s-oldest-mummy-returned-to-us-tribe-after-genome-sequencing-1.21108; https://www.biotechniques.com/news/resolving-lawsuits-and-revealing-humanitys-genomic-history/

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REAL Destruction

Location of the border wall along the south border of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

Border wall location: Source NY Times

Many readers are likely aware of the construction of a border wall taking place along the boundary of the Organ Pipe National Monument.  While construction and infrastructure expansion are an inevitable part of society and has the potential to impact archaeological sites, this construction project has completely negated all cultural and environmental resources legislation and is currently destroying culturally sacred sites to the local Native American Tribes.  Normally, such projects go through a survey process laid out in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to identify and mitigate damage to potentially important archaeological sites.  However, the REAL ID Act of 2005 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive all local, state, and federal laws that would impacts construction along the border, negating all the efforts of past government officials to protect not only cultural resources and descendant communities, but also the environment and protected federal lands.

Numerous groups such as SAA

The Border wall going through Monument Hill Arizona. Source: Tuscon.com

and the Sierra Club have condemned the act and the actions following its approval.  SAA detailed their grievances in a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf demanding that all construction efforts cease until proper compliance regulations are completed (Link to letter here).  The construction has thus far destroyed many archaeological sites, sacred Native American burial grounds, and is currently threatening an oasis site which is not only sacred to the Tohono O’odham people but also of natural importance.  The project is using explosives to level Monument Hill, a burial location for Apache warriors.  Not only did the REAL ID Act of 2005 threaten irreplaceable resources, but it also threatens the checks and balances foundation of our government, give the Secretary of Homeland Security power over any law.

Image of Monument Hill showing a dust cloud from an explosion

Explosives being used on Monument Hill likely destroying burials. Source: azcentral.com

It is not only national and international organizations that have condemned these actions, but also news media outlets such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, and Smithsonian Magazine have also reported on the construction of this 30-foot high wall.  The lack of respect toward remains and burial grounds is not only morally abhorrent but completely goes against the principles of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, one of the many acts subverted Homeland Security.  All the laws in place that have been waives for this wall exist for a very good reason.  They are meant to protect human rights, culture, the environment, and endangered species while also allowing for infrastructure expansion.  These laws work in harmony with construction projects not against them.  Amazing things can happen if those at the top simply understand why these so-called blocks on progress exist, how they work, and their actual impact on construction projects.  They do not stop construction or prevent the destruction of all sites.  What they do is mitigate damage in creative and efficient ways.  This might mean a full-scale excavation of the impacted area, or a rerouting of a road, or it could be simply recording what is found and proceeding with the project as planned.  Archaeologists and environmentalists are here to help infrastructure not prevent it.

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PHAST 2020

Written by Miriah Amend

From the backwoods of Meadville, to the capital of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Highway Archaeological Survey Team (PHAST) traveled around the state to conduct Phase I survey for several PennDOT projects this summer. The PHAST program provided archaeological field experience for four students from the IUP Department of Anthropology as well as GIS experience for a student from the Department of Geography and Regional Planning. The 2020 PHAST Crew completed 13 projects this summer, at most projects this consisted of digging shovel test pits, or STP’s, each one ranging from a few centimeters to a meter deep in the ground. We worked in a lot of different environments, forests, open fields, even a steep slope. What all these places had in common was being right next to a road or bridge that is planned to be improved or replaced by PennDOT.

 

Adapting to changes brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the PHAST team did things a little differently this summer. Masking up and distancing during field work and van rides were new challenges, but this summer had familiar field challenges as well- many projects were surrounded by poison ivy or stinging nettles! With all of our projects being off busy roads, we always had to be careful when working, especially when crossing roads or bridges. Weather-wise, the crew was lucky, we only missed one day of field work due to thunderstorms! We spent this rainy-day cleaning artifacts and working on writing and making figures and maps for our reports. At the end of the day, archaeology could still be done, rain or shine!

Working alongside Dr. William Chadwick, the PHAST crew also assisted in a cemetery relocation project just outside of Indiana this summer. The crew took turns using ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology in order to locate potentially unmarked burials. Getting experience running the GPR was a great way to get our feet wet in the exciting world of geophysics, and the preliminary analysis of the data suggests that there we did in fact pass over a few unmarked graves.

Another project the team tackled was between Titusville and Meadville, up in the northwestern part of the state. There, our crew pulled out a variety of historic artifacts such as early 1900’s bottles, ceramic pieces, and various metal scraps, including an old metal shoehorn. This project area was near the foundation of known historic mill, so we weren’t too surprised to find historic material in this area, although I don’t think any of us expected it in this quantity!

 

Wrapping up the summer, the PHAST crew found even more artifacts- early historic pottery, glass, and even faunal remains! These were recovered during our last project, a bridge replacement near Murraysville. With these findings, additional STPs were required and this project turned from taking one day, to several. Who would have expected historic artifacts to be underneath a dense layer of rock just under the surface? It just goes to show the importance of Phase I survey, you never know what may be just below ground until you look!

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Go Forth and Record

Recording sites is an extremely

Front page of the PASS Form

important part of archaeology.  While simply recording a site is much less glamorous and excited than actually getting to research and excavate a site, it does not mean it is any less important.  Arguably, the recording without excavation is more important than the actual excavation.  The State Historic Preservation Office manages the survey documentation and is in the process of creating a new online database called PAShare.  This will eventually replace CRGIS.  Both these databases house all the information about recorded sites.  These sites can include large archaeological investigations to small isolated point finds.  Regardless of their scale, they are all equally important.  Information about possible sites can help to improve CRM investigations, identify locations for research and field schools, and improve predictive models.

Anyone can record a site.  All the forms needed for any type of survey, record, or other investigation can be found on the PHMC’s website at https://www.phmc.pa.gov/Preservation/About/Pages/Forms-Guidance.aspx.  The form specifically for site recording is the Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey (PASS) form.  Most of the information in the form is regarding features, artifacts, and time periods present at the site.  It can be used for historic sites, precontact sites, and multi-component sites.  It also asks for information about the site’s location including slope, elevation, bedrock type, water locations and topographic setting.  The environmental information allows for a better categorization of site types and locations.

CRGIS search page

Not all the information provided in this form is given out to the general public.  Contact information for the recorder and property owner is kept confidential.  The exact Lat/Long location of the site is also confidential.  One of the ethical responsibilities of SHPO and any archaeologist is to protect archaeological sites from looting.  Providing exact locations to the general public could lead to looting or inexperienced, unauthorized excavations that harm the site’s integrity.  Location information can be accessed by authorized personnel who are given permission by the SHPO.  Contact information is left completely confidential so there is no worry about some annoying archaeologist contacting you and begging you to dig holes on your property.

For the property owner, there is no obligation or responsibility if a site has been recorded on your property.  The SHPO and government will not limit your access or take away or property.  It is only a recording of archaeological sites and will not impact a property owner’s use of the land.  The recording only comes into play if a Section 106 and CRM survey is needed.  In those cases, the record helps to guide survey analysis and project locations.  The more sites that are recorded the more information can be provided for CRM work without having to go straight into the field.  The only problem is that most of these sites are recorded as a result of CRM work and are only representative of areas that have been impacted by construction.  The survey map is less of a map of sites and more a representation of urban expansion and construction.  Some SPA groups such as the Westmoreland Archaeological Society have started to locate more sites and other groups such as the Carnegie Museum have been going through collections and old excavation reports to record new sites.  As stated, anyone, not just professionals, archaeologists, or institutions, is able to record a site, so go forth and record.

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Remembering Today

Today marks the 19th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history: the attach on The World Trade Center known only by its date, 9/11.  While many years ago now have past, it still feels like yesterday to many people and indeed is only yesterday when speaking archaeologically.  However, archaeologist played an important role shortly after the event and still work at the site and in aspects relating to the event.

Forensic anthropologists, some of whom come from archaeological backgrounds and many who have had archaeological training, worked tirelessly from the day of the attach through July 2004 to recover and identify 19,970 human remains.  This recovery operation acted similarly to archaeological excavations; sifting through piles of debris and identifying every bone or charred piece of metal.  After the collection, the remains were identified using DNA analysis and returned to their families.

Ten years after the catastrophe, an 8-acre, outdoor tree-covered 9/11 Memorial Plaza was created on Ground Zero.  This plaza contains two pools

Aerial image of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.

surrounded by the name of the 2,977 victims of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93.  A year later the 9/11 Memorial Museum was opened.  This museum treats Ground Zero as it would an archaeological site, using artifacts from the disaster, location, and personal stories to transport visitors to the event.  Artifacts (rubble) from the Towers were repatriated back to the site and placed in public areas for people to walk through.  These include large pieces of steel, an elevator motor, fire engine from a company that lost 11 members, and a broadcast antenna from the North Tower.  These large artifacts and the in situ structural columns create an atmosphere similar to the ruins of other archaeological sites were visitors ask the question “what happened here”.  The museum structure itself is called Reflecting Absence and is located below the ground, drawing attention not only to its absence but the absence of the Towers themselves.  Exhibits use photographs, footage, and personal testimonies to create a soundscape allowing witnesses to narrate the exhibits rather than signs.  This is a feature that is not possible at many archaeological sites whose events took place hundreds or thousands of years ago.

 

The exposed hull of the 18th century ship. Source: Archaeology Magazine

Archaeology had one final interaction with Ground Zero.  In 2010 during the construction of a Vehicle Security Center, archaeologists monitoring the project discovered a portion of an 18th century trade ship in exceptional condition. The 32-foot-long portion of this 70-foot-long brigantine vessel likely brought livestock, wood, and food to the Caribbean and brought back sugar and other goods.  The vessel was likely brought to shore for repairs but when this section was deemed unsalvageable it was discarded.  During this time, the shoreline was expanded.  The clay-rich fill soil used to expand the shoreline covered the vessel creating an anaerobic environment perfect for preservation.   It is rare to find these vessels in such incredible condition.  The archaeologists decided the best course of action was to carefully excavate, dismantle, and preserve the ship for research.  However, because of the need to continue construction, the team had only 5 days to complete this task.

9/11 was a horrific event that sparks a huge chain of conflicts that are still going on today.  Every single person, profession, and heart was impacted by this event.  There are those heroic first responders who rushed to the scene risking and even giving up their lives to save others, the courageous passengers of Flight 93 and other regular people who acted to help others, and all those people to helped in the aftermath of the tragedy.  This even extended to archaeologists who aided in recovery and were allowed to preserve the memory of the event for all time.  Thank you so those who helped others during this time and who still help others today.

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Source: Kerrigan, Ian   2011 Exhibiting 9/11: Interpreting Archaeology and Memory at the World Trade Center Site. Exhibitionist, Fall: 20-24.

Decolonization of Archaeology

Collaborating in Archaeological Practice by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphohn and T.J. Ferguson

There is a commonly known phrase that states that history is written by the victors.  In the case of archaeology, history is written by the research which in many cases is someone outside of the culture being researched.  Many times, especially in European archaeological investigations, archaeologists are studying ancient civilizations that are no longer in existence.  However, in the United States (and across the Americas) archaeologists investigate the cultures and ancestors of living descendant communities.  Early American archaeologists were Western antiquarians who collected artifacts and researched monuments and graves in order to discover the history of their newly claimed lands.  The public wanted their new home to have a similar historical depth to it as their former European homes.  This research often involved excavating of graves and looting the grave good and human remains.  Thomas Jefferson, the father of American Archaeology, investigated the mounds near his home to discover who actually constructed them.  While this investigation did conclude that ancestors of the present Native Americans were the builders, he completely ignored the importance of the mounds to the current population.  He claims to have seen tribes gathered around the mounds but then continues to excavate what appears to be child graves without any concern for the tribe’s feelings.

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

That lack of interest in descendant communities’ cultures, feelings, ideals, and practices relating to the archaeological sites continued until the 1960s when indigenous communities began to protest sites and archaeology.  Because of these efforts, there are now laws that require consultation with Native American tribes throughout the archaeological process and enforce respect for their beliefs especially in regard to burials.  Unfortunately, these laws only go so far, and the histories of these descendant communities are still interpreted from a Western point of view.  While some people may argue that modern archaeologists attempt to interpret their finds without that Western bias, this is just not possible.  Interpretations are directly influenced but experience, culture, and ideals in which the individual lives.  With that in mind, those most qualified to interpret history is those whose history is being interpreted, meaning that indigenous people should be interpreting indigenous archaeology.  However, because archaeology is dominated by the European ethic groups who colonized the Americas, it is not possible for only those of the same background as the research subjects to interpret their material culture.  This idea also perpetuated the idea that only certain people can study certain subjects.

Access Link: https://montpelier-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/Interpreting%20Slavery%2010-30-18.pdf

The best way to combat the colonization of archaeology, is not to simply consult with indigenous populations but to directly involve them in the research.  Indigenous populations (and other descendant communities) should ask and influence research questions, guide the excavations, determine what can and cannot be excavated, and play large roles in the dissemination of information.  Participatory research also prevents the descendants from being and feeling like purely test subjects rather than active players in their own history.  They have the opportunity to answer their own questions, not just accept the answers to other people’s questions.  In the end the people who are the least bias toward history are those who are descendant from that history.  While this post has a focus on indigenous communities, participatory archaeology can be done or all descendant communities throughout the Americas and the world.

This is a tall order that will take a lot of effort to accomplish.  Not every individual in a descendant community will be active or responsive to archaeology regardless of their inclusion.  By also involving them in the public aspect, more individuals, both descendant and non-, may gain a new perspective and appreciation for the history in their own backyard.

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Sources:

Atalay, Sonya

2006    Indigenous Archaeology as Decolonizing Practice. American Indian Quarterly Special Issue Decolonizing Archaeology 30(3/4): 280-310

SAA Archaeological Record May 2010 Volume 10 Number 3 

Life in a Mask

IUP has officially started again so it’s time Trowels and Tribulations got back into action.  One of IUP’s new policies regarding COVID-19 is that all students must wear masks.  Masks are a culturally significant item that is present in many different countries and used in a variety of rituals from burials to rites of passage and religious practices.

One of the most famous masks was discovered my Heinrich Schliemann in his 1876 excavation of Mycenae in Greece.  During his excavations, Schliemann’s team discovered a large grave circle, now called Grave Circle A, in which a number of burials were discovered.  Five of these burials contained gold burials masks.  Schliemann concluded that one of these burials and masks belonged to the legendary Greek hero and king Agamemnon. While never actually authenticated by Schliemann as Agamemnon, this particular mask was the most spectacular and thus associated with the hero king. Unfortunately for the often overly fanciful Schliemann the burials were later dated to 300 years after the Trojan War in which Agamemnon fought and thus were not likely to be associated with him.  The most interesting point about this mask is that it is so perfectly preserved and distinctive that some scholars believe it to be a hoax, which Schliemann is known for doing.  Along with the mask looking completely different from the others, Schliemann himself acted in a suspicious manner around the time of his discovery.  He had left the site for two days just before it was discovered and then closed the site directly after its discovery.  While not suspicious in itself, he was known to purchasing and commissioning replicas of objects, such as the bust of Cleopatra found in Alexandria, and planting them in his sites.  Despite these doubts of authenticity, other gold masks have been recovered from the grave circle and appear to be authentic. (For more click here and here)

 

Three Mycenaean masks all of gold.  The middle is the Mask of Agamemnon.  It has much more distinctive features, extended ears, larger eyes, smaller forehead, and a well groomed beard and mustache that is not present on the other two.

Three Mycenaean masks all of gold. The middle is the Mask of Agamemnon. It has much more distinctive features, extended ears, larger eyes, smaller forehead, and a well groomed beard and mustache that is not present on the other two.

Red, white, and blue eagle head mask that opened in the center of the beak to reveal a human-like face of the same color pattern

Transformation mask that when opened reveals another face

I little closer to home, masks are used my name Native American traditions (modern and past) in rituals and ceremonies. One very interesting mask type is called transformation masks and are commonly worn by tribes along the Northwest Coast of North America. Transformation masks are made from wood and decorated to look like animals, ancestors, or mythical beings.  The wearer can manipulate the masks using strings so at specific moments in the ceremony, the performer will transform into another creature or ancestor by opening up the mask.  They are most well known for being used during Knakwaka’wakw potlatch ceremonies during which the masks can convey status and genealogy. Many other tribes throughout North America use masks in their ceremonies. However, because of the materials they are made from, wood, leather, and other degradable materials, they are not often recovered in archaeological contexts.  Some tribes such as the Cherokee nearly lost the mask making traditions when they were forcible removed from traditional lasts.  Fortunately, Native American artists are working to restore these lost traditions. (To learn more click here)

12 image of various stone masks with hollow eyes and no hair.  Each has different facial features and expressions. Most have teeth carved into the mouth

Ancient Neolithic stone masks

The oldest masks in the world were discovered in 1983 in Nahal Hemar cave along the Dead Sea.  The masks date to around 9,000 years and were also discovered with the oldest known glue along with baskets and beads. Some masks still show pigment meaning that they were likely painted.  These stone masks weigh between one and two kilograms (about a 2-4 pounds) are each unique to one another and possible represent particular people. The actual use of these masks in unknown but Dr. Debby Hershman of the Israel Museum theorizes that they were likely worn by tribal leaders or shamans during burial and other death rituals.  Since the masks have holes for the eyes, mouth, a dent for a nose, and small holes on either side of the face, it is likely they were worn by a person. (View sources here and here)

Masks have been an important part of history and are still important today for more than just ceremonial practices.  These masks were used to symbolize ancestors or spirits.  They were not worn everyday and help great powers over those who did wear and likely those who made them.  Our masks do not share the same transformative powers, but they are important.  Keep on wearing your masks and make a story out it.

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Extra! Extra! Archaeology in the News!

Archaeology has a strong presence in the news.  It is rare that I don’t find some new discovery or article about relating to archaeology while scrolling through my Facebook news boards.  Recently, some very interesting research has been released to the public.

The Crew of the Mary Rose

The Mary Rose is a ship build for Henry VIII King of

Image of the Mary Rose

Tudor England. It sank in 1545 while fighting the French and lost its crew of 400-600 sailors.  Recent studies on the ancestry of the crew have discovered some very interesting things.  Based on the 10 discovered skeletons, most of the crew were from the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.  On member in particular, dubbed Henry, was found to be from Morocco or Algeria based on his skeletal features.  Isotope analysis of his teeth indicated, however, that he was raised in Portsmouth. To read more about Henry and the Mary Rose so to BBC’s article here.

Archaeology is the….dog’s poop….

Dog poop

Recent research conducted on paleofeces discovered that many of the samples thought to be human were actually dog.  Christina Warriner and her graduate student collected DNA samples from both human and dog poop and a variety of other elements that could end up in poop and created a program called coprolID which has the ability to differentiate between the samples.  The increased amount of dog poop in the record may not shed too much light only human patterns but it has the potential to increase our knowledge of dog domestication.  To read more check out the article in Science Magazine here.

A Feast of Sharks and Dolphins

Crab claws broken and eaten by Neanderthals

For a long time fishing has bee n seen as a hallmark of modern humans.  The earliest site of mass seafood consumption dates to 160,000 in southern Africa.  New evidence indicates that Neanderthals in Figuera Brava in Portugal also consumed large amounts of seafood including sharks, dolphins, eels, shellfish, fish and a variety of other species some 106,000-86,000 years ago.  Evidence shows that seafood consisted of 50% of these Neanderthals’ diets, a percentage similar to modern humans of the time.  To read more see BBC’s article here.

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Site Tour: Mouns Jones House, Douglasville, PA

I wanted to try to do a video tour of a site I work at with SPA.  This is the Mouns Jones site which is a 1716 Swedish house within Morlatton Village along the Schuylkill River.  Much of the area around the front of the house (facing the river) has been excavated along with a large cold cellar.  We are expanding our site to a location along the river about a quarter-mile from the house to investigate the possibility of trading post with the Native Americans in the area.  Enjoy the tour.

Video: