Author Archives: kellamthrogmorton

Bears Ears (Revisited) – All About Landscapes

Howdy! Last September, I wrote about the controversy surrounding the creation of Bears Ears National Monument, in Utah. I argued that while we as a nation have inherited the public lands of Southeastern Utah, that does not necessarily mean we own them. Furthermore, I suggested that as a consequence of the history of power relations in the U.S. West, “local” communities should not have “disproportionate power and authority to dictate land management strategies” on adjacent public lands. At the time, it was not certain whether or not the monument would be created. Well, in the waning days of his administration, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate a new 1.35 million acre national monument – Bears Ears became a reality. The designation was applauded by conservationists, environmental groups, archaeologists and tribal groups. For others, the monument came as a bitter pill, and opponents of the designation decried it as a “federal land grab.” Considering that nearly all the acreage that became Bears Ears National Monument was already administered by either the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, I’m not entirely sure who the federal government “grabbed” it from. I presume that opponents are referring to the possible removal of vast [Read More]

Martin’s Cove and the Future of Public Archaeology

Howdy! With this final post, I will relinquish my tenure as the guest editor of the Binghamton MAPA blog. It’s been a pleasure covering issues in public archaeology in the American West. I suspect you’ll enjoy the work of my successor, the very capable Trish Markert, a PhD student in historical archaeology. So now my task is to bundle up the several ideas I’ve explored this month, and to propose a few things that will be challenges for public archaeology in the future. As you may have noticed, I’ve got a lot to say on the issue of public archaeology and the public lands of the West. But I’ve got comprehensive exams to take in a few weeks, a dissertation prospectus to be writing, and grading to be done! So I’m forced to keep this as brief as possible, and leave several major issues unexplored.   However, for now, I want to turn to the issue of the public and private spheres, and how public archaeology is going to increasingly be called on to mediate the two, particularly in regards to sacred sites, cultural landscapes, and traditional cultural properties. Since large-scale, publicly-funded salvage archaeology began during the Depression, we’ve gotten pretty [Read More]

Bears Ears and the Issue with Ownership

Howdy! This week I return to our “regularly scheduled programming” and discuss the issue of ownership in relation to archaeology and public lands. The question “who owns the past?” arises wherever there is contestation over cultural heritage between groups. Conversations about ownership have hinged on the ethical considerations surrounding portable artifacts, antiquities, and human remains. Examples include the return of the Euphronios Krater to Italy, the recent sale of Hopi Katsina friends (or masks) in a Paris auction house, England’s stubborn refusal to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, and the long controversy over the repatriation of the Ancient One (Kennewick Man). The ownership of portable cultural patrimony is a huge, fraught issue that isn’t going away. Dozens of books discuss cultural patrimony and ownership. However, the debate is a bit different when we talk about cultural sites and landscapes that cannot be moved (unless you’re Carmen Sandiego!). The issue of ownership is no less applicable in the case of cultural landscapes, though it is the ability to make decisions about management of particular places that is at stake. This is a lengthy post, so let me lay out a map on the hood of the truck and give you some directions. I am [Read More]

DAPL is the biggest issue in Public Archaeology right now

Howdy! I had planned out a nice narrative arc for this month’s blog post, but the rapidly evolving situation in North Dakota has encouraged me to throw some of those plans out the window. In this post I explain the string of legislation that has led to the showdown in North Dakota, and explore some of the implications for public archaeology. *Edit: while I was writing this, the Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Justice issued a joint statement effectively halting construction of DAPL within 20 miles of Lake Oahe. You can read it here. It very intriguingly insinuates that the government may revisit its process for tribal consultation.* The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL for short) is without a doubt the biggest issue in Public Archaeology right now. “But, why is this a *public* archaeology issue?” you may ask. “Doesn’t most of the pipeline route run through private land?” Well, the answer lies not only in the complicated legal framework of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, but also in Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899. These documents are laden with jargon and legalese, but I’ll try to break them down. [Read More]

Public Archaeology and our Vast Public Lands

Greetings! I am Kellam Throgmorton, PhD student in archaeology, and I will be at the helm of the Binghamton MAPA blog this month. Over the next several weeks I will be highlighting the ways that archaeology intersects with the vast public lands located throughout much of the western United States. These are spaces that collectively belong to the citizens of the nation, though opinions vary widely on what they mean, who controls them, and how they should be managed. These opinions are often expressed in strong language and actions: an armed occupation of federal facilities in Oregon; contentious public meetings between ranchers, Native groups, environmentalists, and federal officials in Utah; and ongoing peaceful protests by tribal members in North Dakota intent on protecting vital cultural sites. In this month’s posts, I will explore the surprising connections between these events, public lands, and archaeology. Previous guest editors have interpreted “public archaeology” in numerous ways. Clearly an important facet of public archaeology is critical engagement with one of several “publics”—be they descendant communities or people who simply have an interest in local history. Similarly, previous posts have used the term “archaeology” primarily to refer to the material remains of the past—houses, monuments, [Read More]