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!

Follow IUP Anthropology on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Further Reading:

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

Happy Halloween, Be On the Lookout for Witches!

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

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

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

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

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

Proctor’s Ledge.

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

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

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

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

Hope you all have a spooky Halloween!

Follow IUP Anthropology on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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/

Follow IUP Anthropology on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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

 

Follow IUP Anthropology on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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

My workspace while conducting XRF analysis

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

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

The XRF at work analyzing a vertebra

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

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

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

Follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Commonplace and Miraculous

President Joe Biden taking the Oath

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

Presentation of the flags

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

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

Lady Gaga preforming The National Anthem

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

Vice President Kamala Harris taking the Oath

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

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

 

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

Follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Let’s Go Ghost Hunting

Ghost stories are an extremely popular form of entertainment and even education.  Many historical sites give ghost tours and authors compile all the tales of specific areas to publish in one collection. This is especially true during the month of October and Halloween when we feel closer to the supernatural.  Archaeologists work with ruins, remains, and up close and personal with the ghosts of these stories.  Many of us have likely been asks if we have seen a ghost or what was the most haunted place we worked and have told our best creepy tale in response.  Ghost stories and archaeology can work hand in hand and often do.  April Beisaw in her 2016 paper Historical Archaeology as Ghost Hunting discusses the idea of our interactions with ‘ghosts of place’.  These are not your typical ghosts that pop out and say “BOO” but are the memories and phenomena attached to a particular place.  The excavations and research conducted by archaeologists are able to bring the ghosts of places to the present and inform the public about their existence.

Ghost hunting can also be used to teach history.

Ghost stories tell the same stories that archaeologists do.  Neither tales contain all the information and leave plenty of holes, specifically names, dates, and other specifics.  For example, we are excavating a set of ruins. We can tell that they were a house, likely during X time period, and were inhabited by this culture.  Likewise ghost stories have a house where a person died which was followed by a series of events when now led to the haunting.  Most of those stories are based in reality which archaeologists can help to find.  Archaeologists as storytellers and truth seekers bring memories and ghosts from the past into the present.  Along with the physical remains of things the ghosts left behind the ethnographies we rely on are also their own form of ghost stories.  While not always about ‘ghosts’ (memories of people) they are always about phenomenological ghosts like previous traditions and ways of life.  Memory is a form of ghost because it is the past which is in the present.

Using ghost hunting to educate the public is a great way to gain interest and make a lasting impression.  Such tours (mostly of historical sites) engage the public by used their interest in the paranormal.  But those tours also have a wealth of information about the sites.  The histories of the site are just as important to the tour and the visitors as the actual ghosts.  Without the backstory, the ghost doesn’t exist.  Archaeology can be difficult to communicate to the public and more often than not, people go straight to the paranormal and morbid questions.  So why not use that interest to our advantage.  The haunted Native American burial ground that people like to talk about can be explained by archaeologists and its importance can be better communicated through the cultural background and the who, why, how, and when.  The stories with the best reactions are always those that involve something creepy and unexplainable.  There will always be those things that cannot be explained, and ghost stories allow for those holes to remain.  In those cases, it is important that a person died in a specific room and less important to know their name or date of death.  The event can tell a story and can feel much more acceptable when told as a story instead of a fact. Just remember if you are going ghost hunting as for permission first.

Paranormal detecting instruments for your phone

Archaeologists ‘hunt’ ghosts of places and tell their stories.

For an interesting podcast about this topic check out here

Follow IUP Archaeology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Life in a Mask

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

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

 

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

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

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

Transformation mask that when opened reveals another face

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

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

Ancient Neolithic stone masks

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

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

Follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Extra! Extra! Archaeology in the News!

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

The Crew of the Mary Rose

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

Image of the Mary Rose

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

Archaeology is the….dog’s poop….

Dog poop

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

A Feast of Sharks and Dolphins

Crab claws broken and eaten by Neanderthals

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

Also follow IUP Anthropology on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Site Tour: Mouns Jones House, Douglasville, PA

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

Video: