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!

Hello Everyone! A Mini Introduction

Happy Labor Day! I hope everyone, especially the archaeologists out there, are getting plenty of rest today! My name is Bridget Roddy, and I am the new Public Archaeology Graduate Assistant. I am starting my first year in the graduate program for Applied Archaeology here at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I completed my undergrad degree in 2020 from Ohio Wesleyan University, double majoring in Sociology/Anthropology and Psychology and minoring in International Studies. During my time there I received a grant to travel to Romania for a month for an archaeological excavation at the Roman fort of Halmyris. This strengthened my interest in archaeology, leading me here to IUP’s Master’s Program. I participated in the Newport Field School this summer, as well. My other interests and hobbies include, running, art, reading, photography, and traveling. I am excited to get started and if anyone has any questions or concerns about the blog, or if you are interested in submitting something to this page, please feel free to reach out to me through my email bzxcc@iup.edu!

PAC and SPA and You

Image from the Carnegie Blog featuring students and faculty from IUP learning about SPA’s the current rock shelter excavations. (I am in the blue).

IUP faculty and students are actively involved in both the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council (PAC) and the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology (SPA).  This week two members of SPA chapters in the region (Amanda Valko from Allegheny Chapter 1 and Jim Barno of the Westmoreland Archaeological Society Chapter 23) wrote a blog post for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History detailing the reasons for joining these groups and how to get into contact with these two local chapters.  PAC is made up of archaeological professions, students, and highly experienced advocational archaeologists.  This group “works to advise policy and legislative interests”.  SPA is an organization for anyone interested in archaeology and consists of various chapters throughout the state.  Their focus in on “promoting the study of archaeological resources in PA, discouraging irresponsible exploration, connecting avocational and professionals, and promoting the conservation of sites, artifacts, and information”. Both organizations do very good work and are great to expanding one’s information and interest in local Pennsylvania archaeology.  The link to the full blog is below.

Pennsylvania Archaeology and You – Carnegie Museum of Natural History (carnegiemnh.org)

SPA Chapters: Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology

PAC: Pennsylvania Archaeological Council (pennarchcouncil.org)

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REAL Destruction

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

Border wall location: Source NY Times

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

Numerous groups such as SAA

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

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

Image of Monument Hill showing a dust cloud from an explosion

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

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

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Remembering Today

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

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

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

Aerial image of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.

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

 

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

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

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

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

Decolonization of Archaeology

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

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

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

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

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

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

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

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Sources:

Atalay, Sonya

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

SAA Archaeological Record May 2010 Volume 10 Number 3 

#IAD2019

The third Saturday in October is International Archaeology Day.  Groups all across the world participate in the celebration of archaeology and its contributions to those communities.  Here in the US both national organization like the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and small organization such as the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, and the IUP Anthropology Department host event in honor if this holiday.  This year, IAD falls on Saturday, October 19th.

Archaeology Day was first celebrated in 2011.  This firs IAD had 115 programs including 38 US states who celebrated National Archaeology Day.  Since then the program has grown immensely. In 2017 there were over 900 events and 600 participating organization.  Of those the United States hosted 500 events.  Also in 2011, the US Congress passed that the entire month of October is to celebrate archaeology and specifically October 22, 2011 will be National Archaeology Day.

“Mr. CAPUNANO [Hon. Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts]. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the designation of October 22, 2011 as National Archaeology Day. Throughout the month of October, but particularly on the 22nd, archaeological societies across the country will celebrate the thousands of years of history that have been unlocked through artifacts and discoveries” (Source: AIA website, For full text click here).

IUP is hosting out annual Archaeology Day Open House on October 19th from 12:00-3:00 in honor of International Archaeology Day.  There are many activities for the whole family.  We have a Kidz room with pottery puzzles, cave painting, and wampum beading.  Students from IUP’s Anthropology Department will also be teaching the public about human evolution, animal bones, and how to be a good archaeological citizen.  Representatives from the Westmoreland chapter of SPA will be discussing their excavations and identifying artifacts.  If you have an artifact at home you want to know more about bring it and see if you can stump our experts. Outside we will have a mock excavation, atlatl demonstrations, and flint knapping demonstrations (although she will be using chert).

The event is free, open to everyone who wants to learn about archaeology, and Insomnia Cookies has donated cookies for visitors.  Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

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Oh Indy

All archaeologists agree that Indiana Jones, while a dreamy professor, is a terrible archaeologist and is more akin to grave robbers than archaeologists.  Although a majority of the actions in these films are fictional, they are based on real world facts.  In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is chased by the Chachapoyan Tribe.  This was a real-life tribe who lived in Peru just prior to the Spanish invasion.  They were conquered by the Inca in 1450.  The temple Indiana Jones robbed was similar to the actual Chachapoyan temple of Kuelap.  Like the fictional temple, Kuelap has a long narrow entrance way that was probably designed as a defensive measure.  The biggest discrepancy is that Kuelap does not have a large rolling boulder that chases looter down the narrow hallway.

Now let’s talk a little about Nazis.  I think it was one of archaeology’s proudest fake moments when Indy punched the Nazi.  This iconic image has become a running meme for archaeologists and very few of us desire to argue against that image.  So real world: Hitler did steal and hide many historically significant artifacts.  There mostly consisted of highly valuable statues, paintings, and books that he stole from Jewish families and businesses and hid in caves across Europe.  The actions of the Monuments Men returned some of these priceless treasures to the public.  While many of the treasures Hitler’s men hunter were real-life works of art, they did pursue mythical artifacts such as the Spear of Destiny, The Holy Grail, and The Ark of the Covenant. The Raiders film could depict what might have happened if the                                                                                    Nazis did find the Ark.

Regardless of all his faults, the Indiana Jones franchise inspired many archaeologists.  Statistics show an increase in archaeology students after the premiere of the first movie.  As well, many famous archaeologists admit to being inspired by Indy.  In 2015 the National Geographic Museum created an exhibit combining the thrills of Indiana Jones with actual artifacts and archaeological education material. Along with inspiring future archaeologists, George Lucas was inspired by real archaeologists including Hiram Bingham, Roy Chapman Andrews, and Sir Leonard Woolley.  Lucas based the films off of the feeling of discovery we all experience.  He did not include many of the necessary but admittedly boring paperwork, layer-by-layer excavation, and cataloging.

Even though these films portray archaeologists as gun toting, whip cracking, Nazi punching, action heroes, we must remember that we are even cooler than that because we take detailed field notes, photograph, map, and preserve the world’s past.

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