February Colloquium Featuring Archaeologist Ryan Clark

This past Thursday, we held our first Graduate Colloquium of the semester! Ryan Clark, MA, RPA, and IUP Alum, came to speak with us about what it is like working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as an Archaeologist in the New York District. Ryan also has 10 years of experience in the private sector, and during his time with USACE he has worked on projects ranging from Coastal Storm Risk Management, Navigation, Flood Risk Management, Ecosystem Restoration Programs, Military Support, and Regulatory Actions.

He broke his presentation into three sections. The first section gave a brief overview of the history of the USACE as well as parts of their civil works programs, which focuses on flood risk management, navigation, and ecosystem restoration. He discussed the USACE’s attention to emergency response and other missions with specific parameters. He noted that archaeologists usually find themselves working in the civil works or regulatory side focused on permit review, as well. He then discussed examples of the ranges of projects you might find yourselves working on while with the federal government, such as hurricane damage assessments, seawall designs, wetland habitat restorations, and fish passage barriers, to name a few. He emphasized that archeologists in this field learn about different areas of expertise as they interact with other experts from other fields. For example, if you find yourself working on a bird habitat project, you might learn about the different seasons they are around, which might change the way you approach sites with the same bird habitats in future projects.

His second section walked us through Section 106, NEPA, and how federal agencies like the USACE work within them when designing and planning projects. His flowchart simplified the processes. He went over the congressionally mandated 3 year, 3 million dollar, 3 stages of study limits for projects. He also gave an example of such a project, a harbor deepening project. He walked through the steps and phases of the study to emphasize what it is like working with different departments and teams to figure out where the greatest impact will be to cultural, historical, and environmental components of the area to be affected. Ryan noted that a big part of his job is coordination, as well as creating agreements and contracts to prepare for the effects of projects.

The third section focused on federal jobs and the application process, mainly on how to navigate USAJOBS. He began by stating that first you need to look for jobs using keyword searches with archaeology and anthropology or use the job family code 0193 Archaeology. Recently graduated graduate students will most likely be applying for jobs under the public only or student section, unless you have over a year of more of experience working for the federal government, which you will then be eligible to apply for other jobs with that requirement. Ryan noted that it is good practice to take note of the salary or pay scale for the job you are applying for, to make sure you are qualified for that level. Depending on your experiences, either federal or non-federal, while applying you need to match what you have done to its’ federal equivalency to make sure you are eligible for the pay scale level you are applying for. He also said to take note of relocation expenses to see if you are able to get them even though it is usually hard to do so, and also whether the job is temporary or permanent.

He then stated that reviewing the duties of the job is important. For one it is good to know what the job will require, but it also aids with creating a resume. A big thing he noted was that it is better to build a resume within USAJOBS rather than attaching one. By drawing out keywords from the duties section, you can craft a resume that will be more likely to be selected based on the keywords it contains from the language of the duties listed. It is important to translate things you have done into the scope of the job and if those hiring have questions about the extent or caliber of what you have done, they can ask for further clarification during an interview. It is also encouraged to have several resumes or cover letters that are tailored for different jobs. Ryan continued on his tips and tricks for USAJOBS, stating that if you want a higher-level job you should start lower. For example, if you want a GS-11 but don’t have the qualifications, you should look at the requirements for a GS-09 and apply for that job, and eventually work your way up into the job you want. He also noted that you should try to list yourself as closely as possible to expert on the questions they ask on the site, answering honestly by making sure you are actually qualified, but also making sure you are an expert so that you have a better chance of being selected.

To summarize; build your resume in USAJOBS using keywords from the position you want, have multiple resumes by type of job, don’t sweat the CV, translate prior work into relevant experience for the job you want, and check the requirements for the application.

Overall, Ryan emphasized that his job was not always what we would consider in the scope of archaeology. He does a lot of contract management, such as hiring people, and not as much fieldwork. However, while working on million-dollar projects and contracts he has gotten to work with a lot of cool things, such as a schooner, although he has no background in maritime archaeology. He likes the teamwork environment, and that he actually gets to use his job in the civil works sector to help people, giving a contemporary relevance to archaeological work.

We thank Ryan Clark for presenting for us, giving us insight into what it is like working for the federal government as an archaeologist, and helping us learn more about applying for these types of jobs!

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The Status of Afghanistan’s National Museum and Cultural Treasures

People visiting the National Museum of Afghanistan, Dec, 21, 2021. (AFP)

While discussing property law theory in one of our classes, Law and Ethics, I remembered the crisis Afghanistan was and is still facing and began to wonder about the state of their antiquities, cultural resources, and museums, under the Taliban’s rule. Little did I know that this had been a subject discussed heavily in the media only a few months ago, so I decided to dig into some past and current events to reveal the status and state of Afghanistan’s cultural history.

After years of conflict and negotiations, in February 2020 the U.S. government and the Taliban signed a peace agreement, which included a timeline by which U.S. troops would withdrawal from Afghanistan. While the U.S. pledged full withdrawal withing 14 months, the Taliban pledged “to prevent territory under its control from being used by terrorist groups and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government.” Unfortunately, with no official cease-fire in place, the Taliban eventually resumed attacks on Afghan civilians, their government, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Despite U.S. air strikes and raids against the Taliban, the Taliban’s violence and suicide attacks allowed them to make territorial gains throughout 2020 and 2021. In April 2021, President Joe Biden announced the removal of U.S. military forces by September 2021 from Afghanistan. The Taliban increased their attacks on urban areas and border crossings, and by mid-August, they had captured all provincial capitals, causing the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee, along with thousands of citizens.

One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan before it was destroyed by Taliban. (Associated Press)

Afghanistan is no stranger to devastation and violence, especially when it comes to their cultural resources. During the Soviet occupation in the 1980s many of their archaeological sites were illegally excavated and looted. 12th century items from the palace of Mas’ud III were looted and sold on the black market in the 1990s during the Afghanistan civil war. In 1992, after the end of communist rule, an estimated 70% of the 100,000 pieces in the National Museum in Kabul’s collection, were looted or damaged. From 1994-2001, the “Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism,” some dating to the 2nd century A.D., were stolen and sold to collections around the world. The Taliban destroyed many libraries and museums, persecuted academics, and outlawed art from 1996-2001. Despite the Taliban Minister of Culture claiming in 1999 that Afghanistan’s Buddhist heritage would be protected under his rule, in 2001 the Taliban proceeded to blast with dynamite and artillery the well-known Buddhas of Bamiyan cliff statues, which dated to the 6th century.

The destruction of one of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. (Getty Images)

Today, with Afghanistan once again controlled by the Taliban, and repeated claims that Afghanistan heritage will be safe, the international community is still skeptical. Although there have been statements claiming they have forbidden the selling of antiquities on the black market, instructed fighters to protect and safeguard historical sites, and vowed to stop the looting of archaeological digs, many think the Taliban could easily hold Afghanistan’s cultural heritage hostage in the future. As academics, archaeologists, and curators flee the nation, preservation projects are put on hold, and looting increases, many also question if the artifacts and cultural objects will fall prey to neglect.

Since the destructions in the 1990s and into the 2000s, documentation of Afghan cultural heritage has improved with the creation of museum collection catalogues, archaeological site maps, 3-D models of heritage building, and much more, but the threat of destroying the collections, sites, buildings, and artifacts themselves remains. Although a contingency plan to remove 50,000 of the treasures and move them to safter locations had been created in case of an emergency, the Taliban’s quick takeover prevented this plan from happening.

The National Museum of Afghanistan.

After being seized by the Taliban in August 2021, the National Museum of Afghanistan reopened late November of the same year, under the protection of Islamic Emirate soldiers. As expected, visitor numbers have dropped, but some hope the reopening is a sign that their Afghan heritage might remain protected and see it as a chance for residents of Kabul, travelers, and younger generations a chance to learn about the history and culture held in the more than 80,000 artifacts contained in the museum. The Taliban have also allowed Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, the director of the museum, the remain in his position. However, some see the reopening as a political move, as music in public areas has still been banded, limitations on radio and television have been put in place, street murals have been painted over, and in Bamiyan just last year the Taliban blew up a statue of the Shitte militia leader Abdul Ali Mazari, whom they killed in 1995. The fundamentalist Taliban are known for their ideological rejection of art that is not considered Islamic or art that portrays living beings. The museum itself contains artifacts, such as their pottery collection, decorated with images of animals and humans, but apparently no changes have been made to restrict what is being displayed. While some also assume the Taliban is trying to project a more “moderate” image, others see reopening as a way to get sanctions lifted and international aid unsuspended.

A museum employee in front of a destroyed statue in the basement of the Kabul Museum in 2001. (AP Photo/Marco Di La Lauro.

The National Museum of Afghanistan is currently open only three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with staff being unpaid and visitors only allowed admission with a permission letter from the Islamic Emirate. The Taliban is also in control of the Mes Aynak, an ancient Buddhist monastery, including the 10,000 artifacts excavated from the site. They control the new museum in the Herat citadel, smaller museums and collections in Kandahar, Ghazni, and Balkh, as well as The Afghanistan National Institute of Music.

Afghanistan is first and foremost facing a humanitarian crisis, as people flee and many who remain sink into poverty. Many cultural heritage staff in Afghanistan and others who have fled, claim to have received threats from the Taliban, as well. When it comes to the safety of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan for now, many can only watch and wait.

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Further Reading:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/taliban-destroyed-afghanistan-ancient-treasures-will-history-repeat-itself
https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/war-afghanistan#:~:text=After%20the%20Taliban%20government%20refused,across%20the%20border%20to%20Pakistan.
https://theconversation.com/the-talibans-rule-threatens-whats-left-of-afghanistans-dazzlingly-diverse-cultural-history-167780
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/17/arts/design/afghanistan-national-museum-reopens.html
https://www.dailysabah.com/arts/afghan-national-museum-reopens-for-visitors-amid-taliban-aid-pleas/news
https://news.artnet.com/art-world/the-national-museum-of-afghanistan-reopens-2044902
https://www.rescue.org/article/crisis-afghanistan-unprecedented-hunger-after-conflict
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/arts/taliban-afghan-cultural-heritage.html#:~:text=the%20main%20story-,Taliban%20Vows%20to%20Protect%20Afghan%20Cultural%20Heritage%2C%20but%20Fears%20Persist,the%20destruction%20of%20prior%20years.

In Celebration of Black History Month

February is dedicated as Black History Month, as seeing as it is soon approaching, let’s learn about some African Americans who have solidified themselves into the history of archaeology.

John Wesley Gilbert, 1888

Many have heard of John Wesley Gilbert, considered to be the first African American archaeologist. Born free in 1863, this man went on to become a graduate from Paine College who also went on to be the first African American to receive their master’s degree from Brown University; his master’s was in Archaeology. Along with being a professor, Dr. Gilbert was also a minister and missionary. He did fieldwork at the Greek city of Eretria, helping to discover it and create the first map of the area, established a church and school in the village of Wembo-Nyama in the Belgian Congo, and taught subjects such as Greek, Latin, English, French, German, Hebrew, and New Testament literature as an educator. He passed away in 1923, but his achievements continue to inspire all archaeologists.

Dr. Theresa Singlton, Syracuse University

Another notable figure in African American archaeology is Dr. Theresa Singleton, the first African American women to receive a Ph.D. in historical archaeology and African American history from the University of Florida in 1980. She is also the first and only African American to be awarded the Society of Historical Archaeology’s J.C. Harrington Award to this date. Dr. Singleton’s areas of interest are historical archaeology, African Diasporas, Museums, North America, and the Caribbean. She focuses on comparative studies of slave societies in the Americas and the Caribbean, concentrating on culture and plantation life under slavery. She is currently an author and associate professor at Syracuse University teaching anthropology and historical archaeology.

A great resource centered on supporting archaeologists of African descent is The Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA).

https://www.societyofblackarchaeologists.com/

Based in Washington D.C., but consisting of members from throughout the world, this group was founded in 2011. They seek to “increase the number of professionally trained archaeologists of African descent through the promotion of social responsibility, academic excellence, and the creation of spaces that foster the SBA’s goals and activities.” Their website includes resources such as online maps and databases, interviews from their Oral History Project, and links to other related websites. This non-profit organization has hosted online presentations as well, that can still be watched through the link below:

https://www.societyofblackarchaeologists.com/events

Check out the achievements of the current board members, President Justin Dunnavant, Ph.D., President-Elect Ayana Omilade Flewellen, Ph.D., member Alexandra Jones, Ph.D., member Cheryl LaRoche, Ph.D., and member Jay V. Haigler here:

https://www.societyofblackarchaeologists.com/about

As February, and therefore Black History Month, is not too far away, consider checking out this organization, their talks, or the other related websites they have listed!

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Further Reading:
https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/people-african-american-history/john-wesley-gilbert-1863-1923/#:~:text=John%20Wesley%20Gilbert%20was%20and,master’s%20degree%20from%20Brown%20University.
https://blerds.atlantablackstar.com/2015/07/09/6-black-archaeologists-anthropologists-know/6/
https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/anthro/Singleton,_Theresa/

Archaeology of Glaciers and Ice

2022 has arrived and so have students here at Indian University of Pennsylvania as a new spring semester begins! We were welcomed back for the first day of classes with around a foot of snow this Monday the seventeenth. While we may be hoping for these icy, cold mounds of snow to melt away, there are other fields of ice around the world that we wish were not melting as fast as they are. Glaciers in many parts of the world are melting as global temperatures rise. Glaciers and ice patches, while revealing many preserved artifacts as they melt, also produce a host of other challenges when it comes to finding and retrieving these artifacts.

Mouth of the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska.

The constant movement of ice within glaciers tends to crush and damage artifacts and bodies, before dumping them at the mouth of the ice flow. Some researchers say that glaciers rarely preserve objects for more than 500 years. Areas such as non-moving fields of ice attached to glaciers, and even more likely, ice patches (isolated non-moving or very slow-moving accumulations of ice) are turned to as potentially better sources to explore for preserved artifacts.

Ice patches at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Ice patches reveal more intact artifacts; however, with accessibility also comes exposure to the elements. Ice patches are susceptible to rising temperatures, summer wind and temperatures, winter wind direction and strength, and precipitation. Ice patches change quickly in response to the climate, thus allowing meltwater and wind to cause artifacts to become encapsulated in old ice or displaced from where they were originally lost. With climate change more artifacts are being exposed and objects made from soft organic materials, like hides or textiles, have at most, a year before they are lost to history forever.

Ice mummy of the six-to-eight-month old wooly mammoth baby named Dima in situ near Kirgiljach River in northeast Siberia. Dated to 37,000 B.C.

Glacier archaeologists, doing more hiking than digging, have uncovered a range of incredible historical treasures from ice mummies to Viking trade routes, extinct animal species, thousands of year-old organic artifacts like arrows, throwing spears, skis, and so much more. Researchers around the world are striving to make efforts toward saving artifacts emerging from the ice, including the U.S. National Park Service with their Glacier National Park Ice Patch project, and the well-known Glacier Archaeology Program in Innlandet, Norway, which has recovered over 3,000 artifacts, the oldest finds dating to 6,000 years old. Ground-penetrating radar and ice coring have been used to collect artifact and sediment samples, while predictive models for melting glaciers and ice patches could be good sources suggesting where archaeologists should focus future efforts.

Along with melting glaciers and ice patches, oceanfront erosion and receding coastlines are also prevalent in some parts of the world, causing sites to be washed away while others rot in the ground. As many archaeologists understand, the loss of any part of any culture’s history is not only devastating to them, but to the history and heritage of humanity. Losing the artifacts and bodies kept preserved for so many years in ice is losing knowledge that could contribute to broader understandings of humanity.

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Further Reading
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/science/climate-change-archaeology.html
https://secretsoftheice.com/climate/glaciers/
https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2020/05/27/melting-ice-ancient-trade-route/
https://www.nps.gov/articles/ice-patch-archeology-brief.htm
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/503309/8-amazing-things-uncovered-melting-glaciers-and-ice
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/glacier-archaeology-norway-oppland-mountains-climate-change-melting-ice-spd
Photos from Wikimedia commons

Gobble, Gobble! It’s Time for Turkey!

Let’s dig into some history about the famous gobbling bird, the holiday we love to eat it on, and the archaeology of the area the tradition originated from!

The modern domestic turkeys we see today are descended from ones domesticated by Mayans in Mexico around 2,000 years ago. Evidence for Turkey domestication has also been dated to around 2,000 years ago in the American Southwest, Four Corners region, by the Ancestral Puebloans. Sites like Basketmaker III sites have included evidence such as

Designs incorporating turkeys from black-on-white bowls made during the Classic Mimbres phase in southwestern New Mexico, as drawn in essays by Jesse Walter Fewkes, published by the Smithsonian in 1923 and 1924.

droppings, eggshells, and feathers. Turkeys were kept for food but also most likely valued for their feathers, used for ritual objects and even textiles. It has also been argued that turkeys were used in ritual sacrifices.

The earliest evidence of the Mexican turkey in the ancient Mayan world is from turkey bones discovered by archaeologists at the site of EL Mirador in Guatemala, dating to 300 B.C. to 100 A.D. Along with archaeological, zooarchaeological, and ancient DNA, researchers were able to determine that the non-local turkeys indicate a Preclassic exchange of animals between northern Mesoamerica and the Maya cultural region. The evidence represents the earliest Mesoamerican domestication and rearing of turkeys and provides information on long-distance trade connections.

Turkey eggshells and bones from an offering 1,500 years ago in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Smithsonianmag.com)

The original Thanksgiving dinner or Harvest Feast that lasted for three days at the Plymouth Colony in 1621 was most certainly smaller and less varied than what we gorge on today. An English leader who was present at the meal, Edward Winslow, wrote in a letter to a friend, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors…many of the Indians coming amongst us…for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer.” Turkeys were mentioned by William Bradford of Plymouth while describing the 1621 autumn, “And besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild Turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison,” increasing the chance that turkeys were present at the meal.

Plymonth Rock. (plymoutharch.com)

Today, archaeologists and graduate students with the University of Massachusetts-Boston excavate undeveloped lots on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, near the National Historic Landmarks site which includes the Pilgrims first cemetery which was a Wampanoag Village thousands of years before. With plans for a permanent memorial titled Remembrance Park, opportunities for excavations are becoming more limited. The Park will focus on The Great Dying of 1616-1619 when diseases from Europeans plagued the Wampanoag and killed around 50,000, the first and harsh winter the Pilgrims experience in 1620-162, and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

The construction of the park is scheduled for 2023 unless archaeologists make extraordinary finds. Linda Coombs, a Wampanoag tribal leader and activist states, “The Park is intended to acknowledge and preserve what we’ve all lived through in 2020. It’s an opportunity to bring the past and present together in ways we never could have foreseen.”

So please enjoy your turkey this Thanksgiving, but do not forget the history behind the holiday!

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Further Reading:

https://www.archaeologysouthwest.org/2011/11/23/talking-turkey-unexpected-encounters-with-new-world-domesticates/
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/researchers-dig-into-juicy-history-taming-turkey-180961192/
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-was-on-the-menu-at-the-first-thanksgiving-511554/
https://www.plymoutharch.com/
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0042630v
https://www.umb.edu/news/detail/at_the_site_of_the_first_thanksgiving
https://www.plymoutharch.com/history-of-thanksgiving/
https://www.wcvb.com/article/archaeologists-dig-hilltop-over-plymouth-rock-one-last-time/36683212

Happy Halloween, Be On the Lookout for Witches!

In the spirit of Halloween, let’s learn more about one of the holidays most popular figures, the witch! What does the history of this crooked nosed, cauldron brewing, broomstick flying, black pointed hat character look like? What does witchcraft look like in historical and modern contexts?

The Book of Samuel 1 from the Bible, written between 931 B.C. and 721 B.C., contains one of the earliest mentions of a witch. To help defeat the Philistine army, the Witch of Endor is used by a King to summon the spirit of the prophet Samuel from the dead. The witch is able to do so, but the now alive Samuel prophesies the Kings death, as well as his sons, which comes to pass the very next day. Other bible verses from the Old Testament condemn witches and warn people not to take part in witchcraft or other related activities.

In the 11th century, the belief in witches and their abilities to fly was approached with skepticism rather than taken as fact. Bishop Burchard of Worms stated that, “Some wicked women, turning back to Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe [that] in the night hours they ride on certain animals with the pagan goddess Diana and a countless multitude of women, and they cross a great span of the world in the stillness of the dead of night.” While women were seen as more susceptible to demons during this time, men too were convicted of witchcraft.

By the mid-1400s, in places like Europe, skepticism turned to facts, and fear took ahold as people looked for witches among themselves. The book “Malleus Maleficarum” or “The Hammer of Witches,” written in 1486 by two German Dominicans, most likely aided and spurred on the hunt for witches. The book enabled one to identify witches and pointed to women as more likely to be one. One passage reads, “Just as through the first defect in their [women’s] intelligence they are more prone to abjure the faith; so through their second defect of inordinate passions…they inflict various vengeances through witchcraft. Wherefore it is no wonder that so great a number of witches exist in this sex.” By the 16th century thousands, mostly women, were accused and killed on the basis of witchcraft throughout Europe.

In the New World, witch hysteria also took root more into the 17th century, with the execution of Alse Young, the first person in America the be executed for witchcraft in 1647 in Windsor, Connecticut. Prior to the infamous Salem Witch Trials in 1692, in 1655 Lower Norfolk County in the state of Virginia actually passed a law that made it a crime to falsely accuse someone of witchcraft. While Virginia still had several witch trials from 1626 to 1730, no one was executed.

Proctor’s Ledge.

In contrast, the accused in Salem, Massachusetts numbered over 150. Nineteen people were hanged, both men and women, starting with Bridget Bishop on June 10th. Seven more died in jail, and a man named Giles Corey was pressed to death by stones during the trials, as well. As a quick note for archaeology: although Proctor’s Ledge was theorized to have been the location where the hangings took place in Salem according to historian Sidney Perley in 1921, in 2016, a team of researchers concluded this fact using GIS and an overlooked piece of testimony.

While external factors are believed to have played a larger role in Salem (fungus’ causing delusions and fits) thus intensifying witch mania in this town, not all of the new world was out on a witch hunt during the 17th and 18th century. The hysterics over witches declined as time passed and laws were put into place to protect people from being wrongly accused.

Poster from the Netflix series Chilling Adventrues of Sabrina released in 2018.

Today witchcraft is often practiced by Wiccans, and witches are portrayed in pop culture in movies and TV shows. From the cult-classic Hocus Pocus, to the terrifying The Witches, the beloved sitcom Bewitched, and the recently, re-imagined Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, witches are portrayed with a variety of personalities and agendas. While witch hunts are over, our fascination with this figure is not.

Hope you all have a spooky Halloween!

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Further Reading:
https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/history-of-witches
https://www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/salem-witch-trials
https://theconversation.com/the-evolution-of-the-medieval-witch-and-why-shes-usually-a-woman-104861
https://www.archaeology.org/issues/241-features/top10/5120-salem-witch-trials-gallows

A Trip to Meadowcroft

The second colloquium for our Applied Archaeology graduate students was held on October 16th with a trip to the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village for their Archaeology Day event.

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter is marketed as one of the oldest sites of human habitation in North America. The large overhang of sandstone was undercut by the Cross Creek waters over tens of thousands of years ago, creating the rockshelter used by people starting as early as 19,000 years ago. After farmer Albert Miller discovered what looked like a prehistoric tool in 1955 on his property, he connected with Dr. James Adovasio from the University of Pittsburgh nearly twenty years later in 1973. Dr. Adovasio led a field school excavation of the site over the following six years. Excavations and tedious work recovered around 20,000 artifacts, almost a million animal remains, and over 1.4 million plant remains.

In 2005 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Today, people across the U.S. and the world can visit the site in its modern enclosure. The enclosure was built in 2008 to protect the site and create an ideal viewing spot for visitors, highlighting stratigraphy layers and where major artifacts were found.

Along with touring the Rockshelter, students explored the Historic Village, the Prehistoric Indian Village, the Frontier Trading Post, exhibits, and met with several interpreters and craftspeople along the way.

At the 16th century Monongahela Indian Village, students had the chance to see the recreated dome-shaped dwellings, meet with someone who has been doing flint napping for over 30 years, and even got to try atlatl throwing! The atlatl was a prehistoric spear throwing device used by American Indians for hunting.

At the 18th century frontier trading post, students observed a typical early European trading shelter used in Western Pennsylvania. Students met with an informative interpreter who let them try their hand at tomahawk throwing!

Students crossed the Pine Bank Covered Bridge to check out the 19th century historic village filled with rural architecture and artifacts the Miller family put together. An interpreter dressed as a schoolmaster described the typical day-to-day life for a student in the 1800s, and how he would have taught lessons in the one-room schoolhouse visitors were seated in. Students also has a chance to observe a log house, log church, and a blacksmith shop.

Students visited the Miller Museum, complete with a Carriage Museum, Farm Implement Museum, Barn Exhibit, and Harness Racing Exhibit. Before leaving students also checked out prehistoric textile spinning and weaving demonstrations.

The day was filled with learning, and if you ever get the chance, you should definitely take the time to experience the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

Check out the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village Website to look for upcoming events: https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/meadowcroft/

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Archaeology and Climate Change

Hurricane Ida raged from August 26th– September 3rd, creating havoc and devastation throughout the United States. Ida hit Louisiana first, but continued Northeast, causing flooding, and taking the lives of over sixty people across the country. Even here is Indiana, Pennsylvania, we experienced Ida’s continued wrath with several inches of rain.

Many scientists attribute the increase of storms such as Ida to climate change. With the burning of fossil fuels mainly from transportation (which includes not only vehicles, but also ships, planes, and trains), electricity production, and industry, we see the atmosphere and oceans warming up. This leads to more moisture in the atmosphere and more frequency in storms across the states, as water vapors are more easily able to be evaporated into the atmosphere from the oceans.

Tracks and intensities of all storms reaching Category 4 or 5 intensity (>59 m/sec) in the GFDL hurricane model downscaling experiments. Results are shown for the control climate (upper left); CMIP3/A1B 18-model ensemble late 21st century (lower left); and CMIP5/RCP4.5 18-model ensemble early (upper right) or late (lower right) 21st century. All results shown are based on model version GFDL. Track colors indicate the intensity category during the storm’s lifetime.

The question remains, how does climate change affect archaeology?

Archaeologists face changing coastlines, the warming of the artic and alpine regions, and severe storms like Ida. With sea levels rising, floods increasing, and coasts eroding, archeologists are at risk of losing sites along bodies of water. Melting ice caps and glaciers are releasing sites, artifacts, and even human remains from their frozen and preserving tombs. Escalations in dangerous weather events can affect sites through harsh rainfall, landslides, and even intense winds. For example, although stone is quite durable, more exposure to the elements like water will amplify deterioration from dissolving salts.

What is being done and what can we do?

Sites can be surveyed, excavated, backfilled, sheltered, but the sad reality is that not everything is going to be protected, preserved, or saved. However, recently a new approach to this issue is being addressed by a team of researchers led by anthropologist Ariane Burke from the University of Montreal, to pursue the archaeology of climate change. This group uses archaeological and climate records to determine how our ancestors faced and surpassed environmental challenges. Archaeology can bring a new understanding to how humans in the past adapted to changing climates and use that knowledge to inform smaller regions of strategies to address these global environmental changes.

For example, a solution put forth has been to study indigenous groups farming methods as a shift from industrial farming, and their traditional fire management strategies to help decrease wildfire threats. Many surmise that in places like Mesopotamia, sea levels may also have risen, leading to developments towards irrigation and cities. Perhaps there are new ideas not yet explored, or innovations not yet discovered that could provide protections against climate change. Researchers believe solutions might also lie in climate models, which are experimented with using data from the past for solutions to future scenarios.

Whatever your views on climate change, archaeologists need to be aware of the effect storms and severe weather can have on archaeological sites. Using cultural diversity as a means to find new solutions is a great start. Archaeologists can use the past to help people face climate change today in new and innovative ways.

For Further Reading:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/09/03/hurricane-ida-numbers-surge-wind-pressure-damage/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/08/29/how-climate-change-helped-make-hurricane-ida-one-louisianas-worst/
https://www.indianagazette.com/news/police_emergency_and_courts/idas-effects-arrive-in-indiana-county/article_b649d9d9-f3ea-5533-b61e-fd9158f453b7.html
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-hurricane-ida-got-so-big-so-fast/https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/
https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions
https://patch.com/california/san-francisco/how-climate-change-affects-archaeology
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2021/07/23/how-archaeology-could-help-deal-with-a-new-old-enemy-climate-change/?sh=20935410686f
https://www.pnas.org/content/118/30/e2108537118

 

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Rachael Smith Thesis: Using XRF to Resolve Commingling of Human Remains

My workspace while conducting XRF analysis

My thesis uses x-ray fluorescence and trace element analysis to determine if it is possible to resolve commingling using the elemental composition of human bones.  X-ray fluorescence is a type of non-destructive element identification method that bombards a sample, in this case bone, with high energy x-rays which excite atoms causing them to release energy which is specific to each element.  The XRF device measures which elements are detected and at what concentrations in parts per million.  Commingling occurs when multiple skeletonized individuals are mixed together in a single assemblage.  There are a variety of events that can cause human remains to become commingled.  These can include single events such as disasters and mass graves, or over multiple events like a reused burial area.  When archaeologists come across these commingled assemblages it can be difficult to get any useful information from it.  It is important to attempt to resolve the commingling and identify individuals because more specific research questions can be answered, and it might be possible to return such individuals to their loved ones.

This project focuses on the possibility of using the non-destructive

The XRF at work analyzing a vertebra

XRF to resolves commingling which can then lead to identification of individuals.  The remains are from the Arch Street Project which houses the burials that were excavated from the First Baptist Church Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA.  To do this, I have three main research questions: is there elemental variation within a bone, is there variation within an individual, and is there variation between individuals.  For the within bone variation, I sampled six bones (cranium, humerus, tibia, femur, sacrum, and os coxa) at different locations.  I then used RStudio analyses to compare the values for each sample locations for each bone.  For the within individual variation, I tested these six bones plus three vertebrae, clavicle, and a rib.  The last analysis I conducted compared all these bones between the individuals.  For all analyses, I used RStudio which has been an interesting adventure into statistics.  The statistics I used included nonparametric statistics, two-way ANOVA, and a multivariate ANOVA known as a MANOVA.  The last and overarching analysis I will conduct is a mock commingling which will be used to either prove or disprove my hypothesis that XRF can be used to resolve commingling.

The results that appear when the XRF finishes it analysis. The peaks indicate elements and concentrations

The theory behind this project is that overtime elements such as zinc, iron, and even lead replace the calcium in the hydroxyapatite that makes up the bone.  The individual’s metabolism, physiological health, and exposures to chemicals during life can determine the concentrations of each element within the bone.  Because each person has different physiologies and different life experiences, I believe the element concentrations within their bones will also be different.  The main question is are they different enough to separate individuals.  Another problem is that bones vary in density and thus element concentrations based on the location on the bone and the type of bone being sampled.  Trabecular bone is porous and less dense than cortical bone which makes up the shaft of long bones.  The trabecular bone might have different elemental concentrations but is also much more susceptible to diagenesis or the changes that occur post-burial.  Diagenesis can change the elemental concentrations within bone.  One particularly common diagenetic contamination is lead which can be introduced into the bone through soil and ground water.  There are a lot of factors that can impact the elements within bone.  My hope is that this research will be able to identify useful methods for distinguishing individuals in a commingled assemblage and allow the reassociation and identification of those individuals.

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Commonplace and Miraculous

President Joe Biden taking the Oath

While a few aspects of the US Presidential inauguration are set in stone, such as the Oath of Office and the date, many other aspects are left up to the president-to-be.  The decisions of those presidents and the culture, ideals, and innovations of the time and made each inauguration special in its own way.  Today’s inauguration is anything but an exception.  Not only is president-elect Biden being swore in during a global pandemic, first with a female and minority

Presentation of the flags

vice-president, first First Lady with a doctoral degree, the first masquerade themed inauguration, and the first to have the ceremony and capitol guarded by thousands of military and law enforcement personnel as protection from domestic threats.  President Trump is not the first president to decline attending the inauguration of a successor.  In 1801, President John Adams was the first to refuse to attend the swearing in of President Thomas Jefferson.  He was followed by John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson.  Actually, the first time both the incoming and outgoing presidents arrived at the ceremony together was in 1837 when Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren rode in the same carriage.

The election itself was filled with challenges, but again, this is not the only one.  One of the most dirty and combative elections was the 1828 race between John Quincy Adams (who lost and did not attend the inauguration) and Andrew Jackson.  Jackson’s marriage to Rachel Donelson Jackson was brought into legal and moral question by Adams.

Lady Gaga preforming The National Anthem

After Jackson’s inauguration is when things got really out of hand.  Things began as normal on March 4, 1829, when newly inaugurated Andrew Jackson hosted an open house at the White House, a tradition started by Thomas Jefferson.  Soon the White House was crammed with over 20,000 party animals basically turning the event into one huge raging house party you might see on a college campus, even down to the washtubs full of juice and whiskey on the front lawn.  With social distancing requirement, that is not likely to happen this year.

Vice President Kamala Harris taking the Oath

While I write this post, I am watching the inauguration on live stream.  Bill Clinton’s inauguration was the first one to be live streams.  This one looks quite different from other’s I have watched.  The lack of spectators is quite shocking.  This is an extremely historic event regardless of the year, state of the nation, and president and without the thousands of people spectating, it feels someone lack luster.  What was not lack luster in the slightest was Lady Gaga’s performance of The National Anthem, J Lo’s performance of America the Beautiful, and Garth Brooke’s performance of Amazing Grace.  And the Pledge of Allegiance recited by Fire Captain Andrea Hall who not only led the pledge but also signed it.  The poem “The Hill We Climb” was written and presented by Amanda Gorman the youngest inaugural poet.  This poem was intense and inspirational, and just simply amazing.  Along with the many firsts of today our first minority and female Vice President was given the oath by Sonia Sotomayor the first Latina justice in the Supreme Court.  The entire ceremony went off as planned, peacefully, happily, and with a little bit of snow magic. “Democracy has prevailed” (President Biden Inauguration Speech)

The past year has seen an unprecedented amount of upheaval, tragedy, and all-around crazy events.  2021 did not start off, as many had hoped, with a chance for a new start.  Hopefully, the new leadership in the country will help to initiate a new and better 2021.  I hope to see the unity President Biden called for in his speech.  This inauguration both lives within the words of Ronald Reagan and expands upon them.  The 59th Presidential Inauguration was indeed “commonplace and miraculous”.

 

*Photos taken as screenshots by me while watching the inauguration on the Biden Inauguration Committee Youtube Channel*

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