Annual Editions : Archaeology 01/02

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  • Edition: 6th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2000-06-01
  • Publisher: MCG (Manual)

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This annually updated reader is a compilation of archaeology-related articles from sources such as Newsweek, Natural History, Archaeology and The Archaeologist at Work. Visit the student Web site, Dushkin Online (www.dushkin.com/online) which is designed to support Annual Editions titles.

Table of Contents

UNIT 1. About Archaeologists and Archaeology

1. The Quest for the Past, Brian M. Fagan, from Quest for the Past: Great Discoveries in Archeology, Waveland Press, 1994.

This excerpt from Brian Fagan's book provides an overview of the history of archaeology that traces archaeology's roots to antiquarians, grave robbers, and looters.

2. Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology: Communication and the Future of American Archaeology, Jeremy A. Sabloff, American Anthropologist, December 1998.

Jeremy Sabloff discusses the role that archaeology should play in public education and the need for archaeologists to communicate more effectively with relevant writing for the public. He further suggests the need to recognize nonacademic archaeologists and to focus on action archaeology or what is more usually termed public archaeology.

3. Archaeology's Perilous Pleasures, David Lowenthal, Archaeology, March/April 2000.

Archaeology is presented here as our obsession with heritage. David Lowenthal writes that human interest in things ancient often lends itself to the idea that primacy confers entitlement. Tangible remains lend to archaeology a sense of its immediacy and importance to the public. From this basis, however, conflicts arise between contemporary human groups over ownership of the past; thus archaeologists need to be aware of the sensitivity of their endeavors.

4. Science, Commerce, and Control: Patronage and the Development of Anthropological Archaeology in the Americas, James E. Snead, American Anthropologist, Volume 101, Number 2, 1999.

The desire to "professionalize" archaeology in the late nineteenth century led to a complex relationship between archaeology and the newfound financial backing of such research by patrons. The more self-interested goals of patrons and the more scholarly aspirations of archaeologists often came into conflict. James Snead presents a case study of these matters from southwestern archaeology in America at the turn of the century.

5. The Royal Tombs of Ur, C. L. Woolley, The Archaeologist at Work, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1959.

C. L. Wooley's classic article is presented as a case study in fieldwork during the prescientific period of archaeology. The excavation and study of mortuary rituals in a high civilization of the Near East sparks speculation on the symbolic and ideological meanings of royal burials.

6. All the King's Sons, Douglas Preston, The New Yorker, January 22, 1996.

A well-told narrative of modern archaeology, Douglas Preston's article is based on scientific archaeology. It is not, however, a typical scientific" or monograph" report. This tale of archaeology, with all the immediacy and punch of being in the field, is wish fulfillment for students or laypersons of archaeology because it is about a spectacular find--the biggest archaeological site in Egypt since King Tut's tomb.

7. A Tale of Two Obsessed Archeologists, Robert Kunzig, Discover, May 1999.

Something of everything, from salvage archaeology to new techniques, is presented in the discussion of the excavations and disputes over the famous Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk. The main debate, however, revolves around archaeological theory in which the much-discussed and somewhat foggy issues of processual archaeology and postmodernism are illustrated by two archaeologists who excavated the same site 30 years apart.

UNIT 2. Problem-Oriented Archaeology

8. Who Were the First Americans?, Sasha Nemecek, Scientific American, September 2000.

The traditional view that the peopling of the New World was accomplished by a uniform race" of big-game hunters following their prey across the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago is rejected in this article. Sasha Nemecek reports on several alternatives. From the many possibilities, strong arguments are made for pre-Clovis occuptions, suggesting the New World may have been populated by modern humans as far back as 20,000 years ago.

9. Who's On First?, Anna Curtenius Roosevelt, Natural History, July/August 2000.

This article rejects the traditional view that the peopling of the New World was accomplished by a single group of big game hunters. However, acrimonious public debates continue. Anna Roosevelt's book review is critical of too much oversimplification and suggests additional alternative scenarios. She is particularly skeptical of the evidence for a pre-Clovis occupation. The roles of NAGPRA and Kennewick Man are noted.

10. The Slow Birth of Agriculture, Heather Pringle, Science, November 20, 1998.

This article presents a discussion on the relationship between agriculture and social organization. Heather Pringle suggests that crop cultivation does not necessarily lead to sedentary settlements or village life, as anthropologists have assumed. A larger vision of hunter-gatherer life emerges that suggests that a more complicated process is necessary to cultivate food and to become sedentary settlers.

11. Solving the Mystery of the Nasca Lines, Anthony F. Aveni, Archaeology, May/June 2000.

The famous Nasca lines were probably not made for viewing from space, as more fanciful stories have it. More likely they were paths to walk on, socially meaningful lines to delineate the use of land and/or water, and possibly of religious or symbolic use. Most importantly, we need to recognize that this phenomenon needs to be viewed in the context of a cultural perspective we may never have.

12. Archaeologists Rediscover Cannibals, Ann Gibbons, Science, August 1, 1997.

From digs around the world, archaeologists have unearthed strong evidence of cannibalism. People may have eaten their own kind from the early days of human evolution to the present time.

13. New Women of the Ice Age, Heather Pringle, Discover, April 1998.

By combining research on the roles of women in hunting and gathering societies with recent archaeological evidence, Heather Pringle offers an emerging picture of women of Ice Age Europe as that of priestly leaders, clever inventors, and full-fledged hunters.

UNIT 3. Experimental Archaeology

14. Yes, Wonderful Things, William Rathje and Cullen Murphy, from Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage, HarperCollins, 1992.

One of the catchiest definitions of the word archaeologist" is that archaeologists are people who dig up other people's garbage. Modern garbology is useful in that timely historical reconstruction can be done by direct comparison of what people say they do and what their garbage indicates they in fact do.

15. Engineers of Easter Island, Jo Anne Van Tilburg and Ted Ralston, Archaeology, November/December 1999.

Recently archaeologists have utilized cement models of Easter Island moai, local trees, and computer simulations to field test methods of transporting these famed giant statues. Continuing experimentation has led these scientists to believe they have most likely duplicated the original method of transportation of the statues and to make estimates of the population, resources, and the degree of social cooperation that was needed.

16. Bushmen, John Yellen, Science 85, May 1985.

This article examines a revealing experiment in which anthropologist John Yellen excavates !Kung Bushmen campsites. Comparing the archaeological data with information from living informants and historical resources, Yellen discovers a kind of lyrical back to the future" experience. A whole way of life and values has disappeared, but the natives cannot permit themselves to confront these changes.

17. The Aleutian Kayak, George B. Dyson, Scientific American, April 2000.

What accounts for the speed and adaptability of the baidarka made by the native Aleutians? Did its structural elasticity reduce resistance? What about the exceptional strength and body build of the native Aleuts as evidenced by their bones? Was there some inner physics that eludes current attempts to duplicate this technology? George Dyson reports on an experiment in progress that attempts to recreate this apogee of kayak design.

UNIT 4. Techniques

18. High-Tech Digging", Chris Scarre, Archaeology, September/October 1999.

Chris Scarre reports that the greatest advance in techniques used in archaeology over the last 50 years has been in dating sites. More recently, the last two decades have seen dazzling new information about past human societies gained by techniques borrowed from advances in nuclear physics, laser technology, and computers. At the most personal level, DNA studies have put real people into archaeological studies.

19. Space Age Archaeology, Farouk El-Baz, Scientific American, August 1997.

Exploiting the technology of remote-sensing devices ranging from space satellites to handheld ground sensors, Farouk El-Baz reports that archaeologists are able to achieve a new hands-off" approach. They can now generate a virtual archaeological reality, as well as secure the future preservation of historical sites.

20. A Wasp's-Nest Clock, Rachel Preiser, Discover, November 1997.

Most prehistoric rock art is impossible to date because it lacks the organic carbon necessary for radiocarbon dating. However, Rachel Preiser describes an unusual case in which two Australian scientists were able to date an in situ fossilized wasp's nest that was directly overlying a painting of a human figure. The technique of optical luminescence dating placed the nest and painting at 17,000 years old. This may be the world's oldest portrait of a human.

21. `Let the Bones Talk' Is the Watchword for Scientist-Sleuths, Elizabeth Royte, Smithsonian, May 1996.

Elizabeth Royte reports on a forensic anthropologist who works with the authorities to determine if Nursing Home Man" is the victim of the perfect crime or just someone who wandered away and met with an untimely death (he was only 45). It appears that knowledge from criminal cases can be applied to archaeological investigations and vice versa.

22. What Did They Eat?, Eleanora Reber, Anthropology Newsletter, February 1999.

If an unglazed pot is used for cooking food, lipids and water-soluble compounds from the contents are absorbed into the vessel. These residues may be extracted and identified. A gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer then identifies each compound through its molecular fragments. As with most radiometric measures, the samples must be painstakingly protected from contamination. Eleanor Reber indicates that with this modern technique, much can be learned about prehistoric diets and pottery.

23. The Archaeologists Who Wouldn't Dig, John Fleischman, The Sciences, May/June 1997.

The history of the legendary Pylos of Homer's Iliad is being rewritten by the use of a notably simple archaeological technique. John Fleischman reports that in archaeology, surveying is done by simply walking over a site or region and observing surface artifacts, which may be mapped and/or collected. At Pylos, without even lifting a shovel, the history of an entire landscape is revealed.

UNIT 5. Historical Archaeology

24. Rethinking Modern History, Kathleen Deagan, Archaeology, September/October 1998.

Historical archaeology is the field that integrates history and archaeology and generates unique ideas, perspectives, and information on past lifeways. Kathleen Deagan describes the mainstays of historical archaeology as twofold. While it offers a truly global perspective of the past, it also brings to light the lives and contributions of disenfranchised peoples who have traditionally been denied a voice due to poverty, illiteracy, race, religion, and gender.

25. Anthropologists Search for Amelia Earhart, Mara R. Greengrass, Anthropology Newsletter, March 1999.

The fate of the romantic figure Amelia Earhart is still a very popular topic. Mara Greengrass reports that recent archaeological excavations on the Polynesian island of Nikumaroro discovered a scattering of 1930s-era shoe fragments believed to be Earhart's. In 1997, researchers found a British file that describes the 1940 discovery there of 13 human bones and a woman's shoe. Unfortunately these bones and shoe fragments have since been lost.

26. Reading the Bones of La Florida, Clark Spencer Larsen, Scientific American, June 2000.

Clark Larsen reports on bioarchaeology, an emerging field that focuses on organic archaeological remains, lending new detailed perspectives to the history of the lives of Native Americans as a result of European contact. Changing food resources, contaminated shallow well water, and forced heavy labor generated negative health effects on the Indians.

27. Doing Time: How Confederate POWs Weathered Captivity, David R. Bush, Archaeology, July/August 1999.

By the end of the American Civil War, approximately 200,000 Confederate soldiers had become POWs. As told by David Bush, the Union camp at Johnson's Island in western Lake Erie was the only prison designed to hold Confederate enemy officers. A comparison of archaeological data and prisoners' written accounts of their ordeals corroborate and expand information on this piece of history.

28. Living Through the Donner Party, Jared Diamond, Discover, March 1992.

The infamous story of the Donner Party unfolds anew as an anthropologist invokes the dynamics of scientific thinking. In generating a new idea about an old problem, the type of predictability about human behavior necessary for cultural historical reconstruction of the past is demonstrated.

29. Reclaiming the Bounty, Nigel Erskine, Archaeology, May/June 1999.

Australian divers have located the remains of the HMS Bounty off the remote island of Pitcairn, located 1,350 miles east-southeast of Tahiti. Although primarily an underwater archaeology project, land surveys and ground excavations have also been done. Goals of the project include the study of the eighteenth-century ship modified for the transport of botanical specimens and the revelation of the fascinating history of the settlement of a small community founded by British mutineers.

30. Life in the Provinces of the Aztec Empire, Michael E. Smith, Scientific American, September 1997.

Few Aztec sites have actually been excavated. From the sites discussed in Michael Smith's article, it appears that both rural and urban commoners of this city-state enjoyed a fairly good standard of living, the difference being that wealth appears to be mostly quantitative rather than qualitative. Both historical and archaeological data indicate that the workings of the market economy were independent from Aztec state control.

31. Life Below Ground, Jacek Rewerski, The UNESCO Courier, December 1995.

Troglodyte communities represent a little-studied form of architecture and lifestyle in the archaeological record. Jacek Rewerski reports that the earliest troglodyte community is probably Paleolithic cliff dwellers. However, many other kinds of living adaptations from underground temples and tombs to more opportunistic military fortifications are represented. With increasing demographic pressure, many urban infrastructures are rediscovering this underground option.

UNIT 6. Contemporary Archaeology

32. Burying American Archaeology, Clement W. Meighan, from Archaeological Ethics, AltiMira Press, 1996.

The application of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is challenged in this essay. Who decides when there is a valid genetic and cultural relationship between living persons and those long deceased? How is it decided? An argument is presented that science and archaeology are being put aside to cater to an overly politically correct" and misplaced sympathy for the American Indian.

33. Ethical Dilemmas, Armando Anaya, Anthropology Newsletter, January 1998.

As Armando Anaya reports, well-intentioned archaeolgists find themselves embattled when caught in the larger politics of a dispute over ownership of the past. In this case, an attempt to preserve a Mayan altar provoked local jealousies over longstanding land feuds and erupted in violence against both locals and archaeologists. However, archaeologists must be sensitized to the fact that sometimes their goals are of no interest to local peoples and may even bring about mental and economic suffering.

34. Land Can Be Divided. History Cannot., Amy Dockser Marcus, Washington Post, July 1, 2000.

Archaeologists find themselves politically involved in high stakes matters when it comes to excavating the extensive sites of the Middle East. Here, land crosses national, cultural, and religious identities, both present and past, in a complex pattern that defies solution. Amy Marcus suggests that perhaps archaeologists may be able to introduce some commonalities into this complex mixture to assuage some of the most current conflicts.

35. The Past as Propaganda, Bettina Arnold, Archaeology, July/August 1992.

What happens when archaeologists lie? Nazi-driven archaeologists manipulated archaeological data to create a propaganda line that was ethnocentric, racist, and genocidal. The Nazi Party machine used this German-centered view of the past to justify expansionism and genocide.

36. Colorado Coal Field War Project, Randall H. McGuire, Phil Duke, and Dean Saitta, Anthropology Newsletter, December 1998.

The Colorado Coal Field War project is a long-term public archaeological project documenting the Ludlow massacre, a seminal event in United States labor law. In this notorious episode, the Colorado National Guard opened fire on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners, resulting in the deaths of approximately 20 people, including women and children. These current excavations at Ludlow raise public awareness of a conflicted past and of archaeology as a means of bringing the past into its current social focus.

37. The Antiquities Market, David P. Staley, Journal of Field Archaeology, Fall 1993.

Who owns the past? From the looter's point of view, an archaeological site may be a natural or economic resource. Native diggers in a small town in Alaska excavate antiquities for fun and profit.

38. Tales From a Peruvian Crypt, Walter Alva and Christopher B. Donnan, Natural History, May 1994.

The looting of an ancient pyramid led to an operation in salvage archaeology during which one of the greatest archaeological finds in the Western Hemisphere was recently made. The discovery of the fantastically preserved burial chamber of an ancient warrior-priest revealed the art, rituals, and religion of the Mochica people of ancient Peru.

39. Protecting the Past: An Interview With Walter Alva, Mary A. Dempsey, United Airlines Hemispheres, September 1995.

A famous Peruvian archaeologist is working on an antilooting campaign, a notion especially daunting in Peru, where grave robbing has been an accepted pastime since the Spanish Conquest. Walter Alva has attempted to reverse the economics of looting, so that it pays the indigenous peoples to protect their cultural heritage rather than to sell it.

40. Against the Tide: Venice's Long War With Rising Water, Richard Monastersky, Science News, July 24, 1999.

Richard Monastersky reports on archaeology in Venice, Italy. Archaeological data show that since its inception around 421 A.D., the people of Venice have fought rising waters. Estimates based on carbon-14 dating suggest that Venice has run out of time. Environmental impact studies consider installing floodgates; however, archaeological data suggest continuing to build up the ground surface.

41. Long, Rich Cultural Heritage in Anguilla, James B. Petersen, Anthropology Newsletter, February 1998.

Recent archaeological excavations have not borne out earlier depictions of the Amerindian occupation of Anguilla and elsewhere in the Caribbean. James Petersen indicates that radiocarbon dating, ceramic analysis, and human burials have been instrumental in establishing a more accurate knowledge of this area. The local people are now supportive of archaeology and appreciative of the pride derived from a clarified history of their varied antiquity.

42. Metaphors We Dig By, Warren R. DeBoer, Anthropology News, October 1999.

The following study" emerged from Warren DeBoer's casual classroom survey of introductory archaeology students at Queens College during the 1998-99 academic year. It should hit home with many professional archaeologists who, while falling out of their ivory towers laughing, would have to agree that we usually (sometimes) don't know our posteriors from a hole in the ground, be it a processual or post-processual hole.

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