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

Green Cabin Quarry Rhyolite Flakes: By Dr. Lara Homsey-Messer

Several undergraduate and graduate students are working in the IUP Archaeology lab processing thousands to rhyolite flakes excavated from the Green Cabin quarry site, located in Adams County, PA, on the hillslopes of South Mountain, just east of the Carbaugh Run Natural Area. Green Cabin is one of hundreds of quarry loci where rhyolite for making stone tools was quarried prehistorically in the South Mountain region.

The Precambrian-aged rhyolite in South Mountain originated as lava over 500 million years ago. About 250 million years ago, this lava was altered by heat and pressure associated with mountain building resulting from the collision of North America and Africa. This process resulted in a strong, fine-grained, and intergranular texture conducive to knapping into stone tools. Rhyolite varies widely in color and texture, sometimes even within one quarry location. During the Archaic and Woodland cultural periods, Native Americans quarried for high-quality material in pits measuring approximately 6-8 feet in depth and 20 feet in diameter. Today, the quarry pits appear as subtle depressions that have been backfilled prehistorically by the excavation of adjacent pits, as well as historically by erosion and vegetative debris.

What has long puzzled archaeologists is why prehistoric people went to so much work to dig pits down to bedrock when it could have been more easily collected from the surface. The other question of interest is why they quarried in some locations and not others where rhyolite outcrops. In order to help answer these questions, and with a permit from the PA SHPO and DCNR, Paul Marr of Shippensburg University began excavating the Green Cabin site in 2020. Thousands of flakes and debitage were recovered from 3 pits approximately a meter deep each.

Students are conducting a lithic and geologic analysis of the material. This includes measuring the size of the flakes, determining the type of flake, as well as describing the geology in terms of color, texture, volcanic structures and phenocrysts (i.e., large crystals of quartz and potassium feldspar embedded in the fine-grained groundmass).

Usually, quarry lithics exhibit evidence for early-stage reduction:  large flakes with a lot of weathering rind on them—this cortex must be removed in order to evaluate the suitability of the stone for knapping, and to reduce the initial size of cobbles for transport elsewhere for further reduction. But at Green Cabin, we were surprised to find a large proportion of small, later stage reduction flakes, suggestion that more reduction was happening at this quarry then one would expect.

The answer may lie partly in the unique geologic setting of Green Cabin itself. Marr notes several anomalous features: the site sits on a mid-slope bench rather than a ridgetop like most of the quarries; there are no outcrops of similar rhyolite within several hundred meter; and it is covered by a thick layer of colluvium, such that bedrock is very deep here—the prehistoric miners were not digging to bedrock in this location.  Marr argues that this flow of material plucked fractured bedrock from upslope and moved it downhill, making quality rhyolite available near the surface.

Work is ongoing and is expected to continue into the spring semester. We also anticipate comparing the material from Green Cabin to material excavated at ridgetop quarry sites in the region. As we increase our sample size and see a wider array of material from other sites, we hope to be able to answer some of the questions related to selection criteria, quarry location, and why the quarried material was reduced further here than at other quarry locations.

For more information visit: https://www.iup.edu/anthropology/research/antiquity-of-the-south-mountain-landscape.htmlv

Why Do the Leaves Change Color in Fall?

When the days shorten and temperatures fall, the season of autumn begins, most noticeably with the changing color and falling of leaves. As plants stop making what gives them their green color, chlorophyll, due to the colder and darker weather, they instead break it down into smaller molecules, changing the leaves from green into shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple with the carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments accumulating in the leaves in the absences of the chlorophyll. If plants can break down and move the chlorophyll out of the leaves before the leaves fall, they save energy by reabsorbing the molecules that make up chlorophyll so when it is sunnier again, they do not have to start from the beginning to make chlorophyll, as it takes a lot of energy to do so.

While some like to believe that old Jack Frost has a hand in changing leaf colors, long before this legend and modern science, Native American tribes had other explanations for the beautiful fall leaf colors we experience every year. Enjoy reading summaries of some of these ancient Native American legends about why the leaves change color or why they fall (see links below for the full stories!):

The Algonquin believed that there was once a great bear threatening the people of the tribe, by eating their food, destroying their homes, and mauling their women and children. Warriors from several tribes had to come together to hunt it, chasing the bear for months over mountains and seas. One arrow finally pierced the bear but did not kill it. The pain caused the bear to rear up to the heavens where it is still chased by the warriors to this day around the earth. In autumn, the bear rises above the horizon, dripping its blood onto the trees below, causing them to change color.

A similar Haudenosaunee legend also includes a great bear that was stealing the animals the villagers relied on as food. As hunger increased, many parties of warriors went out to kill the bear but failed. Three brothers for three nights had the same recurring dream that they would track and kill the bear. After setting off, they tracked the bears to the end of the earth, following it into the heavens as it leaped from the earth into the sky. The three brothers are still chasing it to this day, and as the bear slows down in the fall to prepare for its winter sleep, the brothers are able to get close enough to injure the bear with arrows, causing the blood to drip down and paint the leaves of fall. Both legends state that the bear reappears in the sky as the Big Dipper, with the warriors still chasing him (they are the handle).

Other similar myths say that celestial hunters do capture the bear each fall, changing the leaves to red from the bears blood, but also as the hunters cook the bear, the fat that spatters out of the great kettle in the sky color the leaves yellow or turn the grass white!

A Lakota legend states that as the winter weather approached, the “grass and flower folk were in sad condition, for they had no protection from the sharp cold.” Then, “he who looks after the things of His creation came to their aid,” by telling the leaves of the trees to fall to the ground to create a warm blanket to protect the roots of the grass and flowers. To repay the trees, he let them have “one last bright array of beauty.” Therefore, every Indian summer, the leaves fall after their display of “farewell colors” to follow their “appointed task-covering the Earth with a thick rug of warmth against the chill of winter.”

A Wyandot (Huron) legend also involves a bear, along with a deer. The selfish Bear who “often made trouble among the Animals of the Great Council” sought out the Deer who had walked over the Rainbow Bridge into the sky land. The Bear said to the Deer, “This sky land is the home of the Little Turtle. Why did you come into this land? Why did you not come to meet us in the Great Council? Why did you not wait until all the Animals could come to live here?” The Deer became angry, believing that only the Wolf could ask these questions. The Deer tried to kill the Bear with his horns, tearing into him, as they fought. The noise from the battle urged the Wolf into the sky to stop the fighting, and both animals fled. The blood of the Bear fell from the Deer’s horns onto the leaves below, changing them to red, yellow, brown, scarlet, and crimson. Each year the leaves take on the multitude of colors, and the Wyandots say “the blood of the Bear has again been thrown down from the sky upon the trees of the Great Island.”

While these are probably only a few of the myths and variations of past reasonings behind the changing of the leaves, they are beautiful stories and a lasting part of Native American history and legends. I hope you enjoyed these small summaries and pause to appreciate the gorgeous, colorful leaves this fall!

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Further Reading:
https://www.britannica.com/story/why-do-leaves-change-colors-in-the-fall
https://askabiologist.asu.edu/questions/why-do-leaves-change-color
https://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/WhyTheLeavesFall-Lakota.html
https://www.farmersalmanac.com/weather-ology-why-the-leaves-change-color-14375
https://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/WhyTheLeavesHaveManyColorsInAutumn-Wyandot.html
http://www.native-languages.org/cayugastory.htm
https://www.oneidaindiannation.com/autumn-color/
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5277961.pdf
https://iltvignocchi.com/the-mysteries-of-fall-color/

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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Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples’ Day vs. Italian Heritage Day

With President Biden officially recognizing October 11th as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we question what may happen to Columbus Day, typically celebrated on the second Monday of October. Several states have been celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day for years in protest of Columbus Day, saying the Christopher Columbus “brought genocide and colonization to communities that had been in the United States for thousands of years.” Columbus Day has been celebrated as a federal holiday since 1968, and as a national holiday from 1934, from the belief “that the nation would be honoring the courage and determination which enabled generation of immigrants from many nations to find freedom and opportunity in America.”

At a United Nations conference in 1977 idea of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed by a delegation of Native nations. In 1990, South Dakota became the first state to observe Native American Day. Columbus Day is a federally recognized holiday, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not, however there is proposed bill from Congress in the works. Although, U.S. cities and states can choose to observe or not to observe federal holidays.

A sunrise ceremony in observation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Randall’s Island in New York City.

Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day for many years, and favor a complete transformation of the holiday, rather than a separate celebration for both. Many wonder whether this acknowledgement from the President is actually doing enough for the Indigenous, while other see it is a promising beginning. Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation stated, “transforming Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day will encourage young Navajos to have pride in the place and people they come from and the beauty they hold within.” While the proclamation does not address issues Indigenous people face with land, water, or female disappearances, some believe that it will help bring awareness to these problems.

Many Italians support Columbus Day and others have called for an Italian Heritage Day, to still allows them to celebrate their heritage. After an 1891 lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans, many Columbus statues were erected. The president of the National Italian American Foundation stated, “Columbus represented their assimilation into the American fabric and into the American dream.” He believes that Indigenous Peoples’ Day should not “come at the expense of a day that is significant for millions of Italian-Americans” and that the Indigenous are still worthy of their own holiday to “celebrate their contributions to America.”

Some have taken to calling this day of the year both Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Italian Heritage Day. Festivities across the U.S. today still include celebrations for all three titles.

What do you think?

Do you think Columbus Day should be forgotten, despite its intention towards “commemorating the country’s spirit of exploration and honoring Italian-Americans?” Should all three titles be used and celebrated on the same day? Will Indigenous Peoples’ Day increase advocacy toward Indigenous efforts?

 

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Further Reading:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/11/us/indigenous-peoples-day.html
https://www.wsj.com/articles/columbus-day-indigenious-peoples-day-what-to-know-11633787027#:~:text=When%20Congress%20officially%20made%20Columbus,to%20the%20Congressional%20Research%20Service.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/10/08/a-proclamation-indigenous-peoples-day-2021/
https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/11/us/indigenous-peoples-day-2021-states-trnd/index.html
https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/informational/columbus-day-myths

 

3D Archaeology: Tech, Techniques, and Applications for Artec3D Scanners

On October 5th, the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council held their first in a series of four programs in honor of 2021 Virtual Archaeology Month. This session was titled 3D Archaeology: Tech, Techniques, and Applications for Artec3D Scanners, and was led by Lisa Saladino Haney, Ph.D., assistant curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Josh Cannon Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College.

The Artec Space Spider.

Haney started by describing the types of 3D scanners that she is using and that could be applied to future field archaeology projects. These Artec3D scanners are the Space Spider and Eva. The Space Spider is a handheld, portable scanner that uses blue light technology that works best when scanning smaller objects or finer textures or details. It also works well with complex geometry, sharp edges, and incised ceramics. It has internal temperature stabilization, meaning it works well in the winter and summer. The Eva works better with larger objects and is also portable. It uses structured light scanning technology to capture its images. Because of its larger field of vision, it can capture more in less time. Combining both scanners allow for the collection of even more details. The presenters stated that these scanners work much better with shiny surfaces than photogrammetry. Overall, the scanners capture reflective surfaces, have a higher level of accuracy, and work faster in post-processing than photogrammetry.

The Artec Eva.

Dr. Haney and Dr. Cannon are working with University of Pittsburg honor students in a museum internship program to instruct them on how to use this technology, and once trained can hopefully send them to other sections of the Carnegie Museum where needed. Projects the scanners are being used for right now include an exhibition titled From Egypt to Pittsburgh, in which the team are scanning small fragments from a 1922 excavation from an Egyptian city called Amarna, in the hopes that the pulverized royal statuary pieces can be reconstructed and used for future research. Another project, Egypt on the Nile, plans on scanning a model of a Dahshur funerary boat to create both a virtual and physical model. They also plan to use the scanners to scan broken pot pieces to then create magnetic replicas that can be used to “put the pot back together” in a sort of puzzle, increasing accessibility and the chance to interact with ‘artifacts’ for the public.

The 3D models created from the scanners are extremely accurate, with precise and detailed measurements. This allows the data from the models to be of high quality scientifically, making them great for sharing to researchers around the world, especially in times of covid where travel and use of collections is limited. The models also aid with conservation efforts, allowing pieces to be brought out, scanned, and then put safely away, with the data being used for study and public engagement. Aligning pottery sherds with the Artec3D software that are difficult to glue together, was also illustrated as a positive example of the scanners’ possibilities.

The application for scanners to be used in the field during an archaeological excavation is promising. The scanners could be used to record small finds quickly and could also be used to scan things in situ. The models produced are more detailed, more accurate, and can be done faster than hand drawings. For archeological field surveys, battery packs can be attached to belts to make the light scanners portable and give archaeologists the ability to scan in real time. However, a laptop is needed to be attached as well, to upload the scanned data. The scanner captures images instantly, the Eva can do a square meter at a time. Josh Cannon predicted that it could scan a hearth in about ten minutes. While the scanners can handle temperature changes, it might not fare well with elements like sand or dust, but if taken care of can last a long time.

The files of data from the scans are large, and therefore external storage sources are required to remove data from laptops. If files are kept on laptops, processing times will be slowed as the hard drive fills up. The presentation ended with the viewing of a scan of a wolverine skull. It took eight different scans over an hour to create the entire skull. Even the smallest details were visible, and it took up over 1 GB of data.

The presentation was incredibly interesting, and hopefully this technology will be used to aid archaeological excavations in the future. Please consider registering for the other three programs being held throughout the month of October!

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https://sourcegraphics.com/3d/scanners/artec/eva/

https://www.javelin-tech.com/3d/3d-scanners/artec-space-spider/

 

Ann Axtell Morris & Canyon del Muerto

Ann Axtell Morris.

Is anyone else patiently waiting for the movie Canyon del Muerto, which is currently in production right now? Well, I certainly am!  This film I am referring to is expected to be released sometime near the end of this year, and seeks to retell the story of Ann Axtell Morris, one of the first female archaeologists in America. She worked in the 1920s and 30s in the American Southwest and Mesoamerica and was married to Earl Morris, another archaeologist, who some say was the inspiration for Indiana Jones!

Morris sketching at Chichén Itzá.

Ann was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1900, graduated from Smith College, went to the American School of Prehistoric Archaeology in France, and married Earl Morris in 1923. Along with being a prominent archaeologist, she is known for her artistic abilities with painting and for being an author of two books titled, “Digging the Yucatan” and “Digging in the Southwest.” She excavated throughout the American Southwest, Mexico, as well as Chichén Itzá, Yucatan. Some places where she excavated are now national parks, such as Mesa Verde National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and the Aztec Ruins National Monument. As a female archaeologist Ann faced many obstacles, such as the fact that although her books were published, they were marketed to older children by publishers that did not accept the idea that a women could create literature about archaeology for adults. She was seen as “radical” for wearing men’s clothing, using a trowel, and sleeping in camps full of men in remote locations.

The Morrises investigated several sites throughout the Navajo Nation.

Despite setbacks due to prejudices, this revolver carrying women continued to trailblaze a successful career. After arriving in Chichen Itza, archaeologist Sylvanus Morley (another inspiration for Indiana Jones), assumed she would play the role of a babysitter or hostess at the site, however she convinced him to let her excavate a small, overlooked temple from which she copied many of the wall art which were included in a book she co-authored titled “Temple of the Warriors at Chichén Itzá, Yucatan.” She fostered the idea that the Anasazi were not nomadic hunter-gatherers, but rather had cities and civilizations, from her work in the Four Corners region. She helped excavate Massacre Cave in Canyon del Muerto, uncovering the remains of those slaughtered by Spanish soldiers almost 120 years ago, and Mummy Cave which houses a three-story tower built by the Anasazi and of course mummies of many ages and genders, wearing shell and bead jewelry. Mummy Cave was also where Ann spent her honeymoon with Earl, brushing off mummies and shooing away mice.

Many do not note her accomplishments, remembering only that at beginning in the 1930s she became a recluse. The cause is still unknown, but after having two daughters and settling down in Boulder, Colorado, she remained in her room most of the time. Many seem to now agree that a combination of alcoholism, diabetes, arthritis, and depression are to blame for this “life of the party” woman’s self-removal from society. She passed away at the age of 45 in “self-imposed solitude,” the cause still unknown. The movie will portray explanations for Ann’s death; her families understanding of her having “weak bones and the arthritis of the Axtells,” and the idea that her death was caused after disrupting the dead, based on Navajo death taboo beliefs.

British actress Abigail Lawrie.

Morris stated in one of her books that archaeology is “a rescue expedition sent into the far places of the earth to recover the scattered pages of man’s autobiography.” The movie based on her work in the 1920s will hopefully act as an autobiography of her work and life. As some of the first archaeologists to hire Navajo people to work in their digs (Ann even spoke a little Navajo), the film crew is taking a page out of Ann and Earl Morris’s book by heavily involving the Navajo nation in their moviemaking. The crew has even been allowed by the Navajo nation to film at Canyon del Muerto, something never allowed to film crews before! The film is directed by Coerte Voorhees, and British actress Abigail Lawrie will play Ann Morris while Tom Felton from Harry Potter will play Earl Morris. The movie will also include veteran actors like Val Kilmer, Q’orianka Kilcher, Ewen Bremner, and Wes Studi, along with Johnathan Nez who is the president of the Navajo Nation and will be portraying a time-traveling incarnation of an Anasazi. Be on the lookout, it is sure to satisfy anyone interested in archaeology!

Ann Axtel Morris was an incredible female archaeologist during a time when her gender impeded the extent of her career. However, through her own efforts and “in telling her own story, she wrote herself into the history of American archaeology.”

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/land-ancient-ones-ann-axtell-morris-cinematic-treatment-180978344/

https://www.nps.gov/people/ann-axtell-morris.htm

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September Colloquium: What We Did This Summer/Recently

This Wednesday, the 22nd, six of our Applied Archaeology graduate students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania presented at our monthly colloquium on What We Did This Summer/Recently. We heard from some amazingly talented students, eager to share their adventures and discoveries!

First year graduate student Emma Frauendienst.

First year graduate student Emma Frauendienst.

After a great introduction from Dr. Lara Homsey-Messer, Emma Frauendienst started us off with her presentation about her summer fieldwork at the Poverty Point World Heritage Site. Poverty Point, one of the largest Archaic Period sites in North America, is located in Louisiana. Her work, titled Downhole Geophysical Investigations of the West Plaza Rise at the Poverty Point World Heritage Site, began after receiving a grant, and facing both covid and flooding setbacks. Her team extracted 21 new soil cores, focusing on the West Plaza Rise to determine if it was a natural or constructed feature. After analysis of the cores and magnetic susceptibility data showing heavy cultural fill, it was determined that the West Plaza Rise was culturally constructed!

First year graduate students Mikala Hardie and Richard Farley.

Mikala Hardie and Richard Farley then discussed their experiences as Graduate Assistants during IUP’s Newport Field School. Newport, a small shipping town located along the Conemaugh River, was occupied from around 1790 into the early 19th century. The excavation began with shovel test pits, ground penetrating radar, and several test units, before excavation units were opened. The woods crew, led by Mikala, worked to find the walls of the general store, while also uncovering artifacts such as, porcelain, faunal remains, mochaware, and a builder’s trench, to name a few. The field crew, supervised by Richard, focused on finding the blacksmith shop and hotel, along the way uncovering post holes, slag, redware, pearlware, creamware, and transfer printed earthenware, among other things. The field school utilized photogrammetry, magnetometry, GPS, and a total station to also collect valuable information about the site. If anyone wants to know more about what it’s like as a graduate assistant at a field school, just ask Mikala and Richard, who also filled out forms and logs, took lots of pictures, and organized and supervised those working at the site!

Second year graduate student Ashely Nagle and first year graduate student Sonja Rossi-Williams.

Ashley Nagle and Sonja Rossi-Williams presented next about their time spent as Graduate Assistants in Lower Saxony, Germany at IUP’s Forensic Field School! From July to mid-August, they worked at a World War 2 B-24 aircraft crash site! They used GPR to first define the sides of their 2X2, and then used shovels more than trowels to remove the soil in their units. The team learned about archaeological methods and practices used in Germany and took several excursions across Germany, including to Hannover, Berlin, and Munich, making this an incredible cultural experience as well as archaeological. They did not find what they were looking for, an unaccounted-for soldier, but they did make progress on the site itself. The team were even featured in a German newspaper! In the future, the site will most likely undergo more excavations, hopefully by IUP students!

First year graduate student Luke Nicosia.

Luke Nicosia was the final presenter, recounting his internship in July and August this summer with the Landmark Society of Western New York, a historic preservation agency.  Founded in 1937, it is one of the oldest such societies in the US and seeks to advise property and homeowners on historic preservation planning and awareness, raise funding, and protect local historic sites. Luke conducted fee-for-service survey work and worked on their library projects. He edited site narratives and report drafts, finished reconnaissance on a survey on village properties, did covenant review, and worked in the library scanning and inventorying. He finished a massive slides project after scanning and digitizing over 80,000 slides over the course of many years (this is not his first time interning with the Landmark Society)! He also mentioned that there are many ways one can get involved in the field of historical preservation, many that align with the field of archaeology!

Thank you to all the presenters and everyone who attended our first colloquium of What We Did This Summer/Recently!

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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