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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African American History Month Spotlight, Dr. Alexandra Jones: By Mikala Hardie

In celebration of African American history month, IUP’s Instagram has been featuring one African American archaeologist a week, so we decided to include them on the blog as well! This week’s archaeologist is Dr. Alexandra Jones, a historical archaeologist who specializes in the African Diaspora. Jones first studied at Howard University earning a dual B.A. in History and Anthropology. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she went on to receive an M.A. in History and Anthropology at Howard and U.C. Berkley respectively. She then received her doctorate from U.C. Berkley in 2010 for her research at Gibson Grove, an African American church in Cabin John, Maryland.

Most of her work involves the community and focuses on public outreach in archaeology. Around the time when she was developing her dissertation, she realized that not a lot of people in her home community knew about archaeology or the heritage that was right below their feet. This is why she decided to start her non-profit “Archaeology in the Community” which organizes educational events for kids K-12, events for the community, and professional development for aspiring archaeologists all with the aim to educate the public of their archaeological heritage. She also created customizable programs for schools to incorporate into their curriculum in order to expand the understanding of archaeology. Archaeology in the community’s most recent project is an informational app for children that is free and available to download on apple and android.

You may have also seen Dr. Jones teaching field schools on PBS’s “Time Team America” a show that aims to give viewers an “over the shoulder” look into what archaeologists do. These field schools took place at a plethora of sites in Maryland, Oklahoma, and Colorado and involved students at the junior high and high school level. Jones taught them how to properly conduct an archaeological project including how to survey, keep records, and conserve the artifacts that they found. Additionally, at the Josiah Henson site, Dr. Jones taught her students about the importance of working with the decendent communities to gain a greater understanding of the people who inhabited the area.

Her current project is called the Hollowed Ground Project and is at Goucher College, where she is currently employed. Since the college is situated on an old plantation site, this project researches the slavery and racism that took place there in attempts to honor the enslaved people who came before. The project also helps contribute to the larger body of research that examines how the historical enslavement of African Americans contributes to the institutional racism and predjudice that occurs today.

Dr. Alexandra Jones is still active in the Archaeological community and is a part of the Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA) and the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) to name a few. She recently received the SHA’s John L.Cotter award for her work in public archaeology and engaging the community.

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I DIG U Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and we are here to gear you up with some archaeological and historical related material to prepare you for this candy-giving, love-spreading holiday! As many know, the origin of Valentine’s Day is rooted both in the Catholic Saint from whom it is named after as well as secular customs. The exact details of how the martyrdom of St. Valentine led to the holiday we celebrate today are not well-known, but the tales are similar. Three different St. Valentines actually share February 14th as their feast day, with the first being a priest and physician in Rome during the third century who is said to have been condemned to death by Emperor Claudius II after either aiding martyrs or by performing marriages after the emperor had outlawed them due to the belief that unmarried men made better soldiers. Another story states that he was a Bishop, Saint Valentine of Terni, who was ordered by Emperor Claudius II to be arrested, beaten, and beheaded as well. The third St. Valentine is said to have served in and become a martyr in Africa, but not much else is known about this saint.

Some legends continue that either the St. Valentine of Rome or the St. Valentine of Terni, while in jail before their executions, signed a letter to the jailer’s daughter whom they had befriended with “From your Valentine,” thus leading to the commonly used expression today. St. Valentine is said to have been buried on the Flaminian way, with Pope Julius I (AD 333-356) building a basilica at the site, preserving his tomb. Archaeological excavations during the 1500s and 1800s at the basilica found evidence of the tomb of St. Valentine, most likely the St. Valentine of Rome, and relics were transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes in the 13th century, where they remain today. Although each story is slightly different, the underlying themes of the legends are similar.

Around the world, people celebrate St. Valentine in a variety of ways. Of course, we know that Americans typically send cards or letters, chocolate, and flowers to their sweethearts, friends, and family on February 14th. In Denmark, on the same day, friends and sweethearts exchange white flowers called snowdrops and “joking letters” or gaekkebrev, a funny poem or rhyme written on a paper with cut decorations and lacking a signature, with only a number of dots corresponding to the number of letters in the anonymous sender’s name. If you can guess the sender, you will later receive an Easter egg on Easter Sunday, but if you do not, you owe the sender one. In South Korea February 14th was originally a day for women to give chocolate to men as a sign of affection, but marketing has changed it more into a couple’s day. However, on March 14th, also called White Day, men then give women primarily white gifts to answer the Valentine’s Day gifts. And finally, on Black Day, April 14th, singles who did not receive a gift on either of the prior days, eat jjajangmyeon, or Black Noodles. Brazil’s Valentine’s Day is known as Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” “Day of the Enamored,” or “Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day,” and it is actually celebrated on June 12th. They celebrate on that day due to its’ proximity to St. Anthony’s Day on June 13th, a Saint in Brazil believed to bless young couples with a prosperous marriage. They too, like Americans exchange gifts, flowers, and chocolates, as well as have grand dinners.

The Lovers of Valdaro

The skeleton’s of the embracing couple from the Northern Wei period (International Journal of Osteoarchaeology).

Here are some romantic archaeological discoveries that are sure to make you believe in true love this upcoming Valentine’s Day.  The “Lovers of Valdaro,” the Neolithic, entangled, male and female corpses from 6,000 years ago found in Mantua, Italy in 2007, are well-known figures representing “eternal love”, despite evidence that they were positioned in this way after death because they were buried in a necropolis. In 2021 in the city of Datong, Shanxi Province, China, the remains of a man and women wrapped in an embrace were discovered while excavating more than 600 tombs at a cemetery uncovered during construction work. They lived during the Northern Wei period (386 to 534 A.D.), another example of “embracing each other for eternal love during the afterlife.” Similar intimate burials include the skeletons dating to 5,800 years ago found at Alepotrypa, a cave in Laconia, Greece, the double burials of the Bronze Age Vysotskaya culture in the Ukraine, the two 14th century skeletons holding hands at a site in Leicestershire, England, dozens of Bronze Age couple burials belonging to the Andronovo culture found in Siberia, and many more.

The love letter found on the chest of 16th century mummy of Eung-tae (Andong National University).

Other romantic discoveries must include love letters. Archaeologists in South Korea found several in a tomb by the mummified body of a 16th century male named Eung-tae, a member of Korea’s ancient Goseong Yi clan. His pregnant wife wrote them around 1568 A.D., expressing her grief and hope of seeing him in her dreams. A 4,000-year-old Sumerian clay tablet called Istanbul #2461 or “The Love Song for Shu-Sin,” holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest surviving love poem. It is currently held at the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient in Turkey. Dating to around 2025 B.C., it contains a ballad written by the priestess bride professing her love the king Shu-Sin. It is also postulated that this ballad is part of a sacred rite or ‘sacred marriage’ that takes place each year, for a ceremonial and symbolic marriage to the goddess Inanna (the goddess of fertility and sexual love) through one of her priestesses, to make both soil and women fertile.

As the sign says, the world’s oldest love poem.

There are many more symbols of love found amongst archaeological sites, carved into monuments and stone, evident in ancient rings, described and depicted on fading papers, all remnants of the universally shared emotion. As Valentine’s Day approaches, and you receive candy hearts and vibrant red roses, perhaps ponder how archaeologists hundreds or thousands of years from now will interpret the professions of love that you left behind! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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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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