Tag Archives: archaeology

The Columbian Geography of Binghamton

As state employees and school children around the country enjoy their four-day work weeks, we at MAPA are hard at work deconstructing Columbus day, like any credible archaeology blog must. I am back, with my colleagues Andy Pragacz, to talk about Columbus commemorations. Thanks to BlackLivesMatter activism followed by far-right reaction, monuments, particularly of Confederate soldiers, have seized national and local news, bringing many archaeologists into the controversy: Rosemary Joyce and Paul Mullins, to name a few. As Columbus Day approached, many statues of Christopher Columbus were similarly ­­­­­­­­­questioned. Baltimore’s monument to Christopher Columbus, the first monument to the man in the United States, was smashed in August of this year. After recent vandalism of similar monuments in New York City, police are guarding the Columbus Circle monument in Manhattan from future attacks. Some in Minneapolis have suggested that a statue of Prince should replace their Columbus monument. In our own city of Binghamton, the statue of Christopher Columbus that adorns the Broome County Court House was spray painted “murderer” twice in as many weeks.  Binghamton residents tossed vegan bologna at a portrait of Cristobal Colon in Columbus Park, temporarily renamed Bologna Park for the occassion. The Columbus of  1492 is [Read More]

Mentoring Session for Careers in Archaeology: Government Archaeology Work

In keeping with my goals of networking to further my career opportunities (see post “Networking for Introverts”), I signed up for the Mentoring Session for Careers in Archaeology for Government Archaeology Work. This is a new session, sponsored by the Queer Archaeology Interest Group and the Committee for Status of Women in Archaeology, during which small groups of graduate students and young professionals were matched up with archaeologists experienced in the subgroup topic – other groups talked about Work/Life balance, discrimination in the workplace, moving from graduate school to tenure track and other topics, all within the lens of the challenges particular to women and queer folks in archaeology. I wasn’t exactly what the format or discussion topics would be, but as a queer woman entering government service, I want to take advantage of every chance to talk to and learn from others in the know – and I’m so grateful for QAIG and COSWA for setting up the event. I hope they continue to provide opportunities to discuss these topics in a safe and open environment. For the Government Archaeology table, we had two excellent mentors – David E. Witt from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [Read More]

Queer Archaeology and the Public

In last week’s post I discussed the necessity of taking queer archaeology into the field and laboratory because these are where archaeology “happens”. However, there is a significant portion of the archaeological process that I ignored in that post – engaging with the public. All archaeology should be public archaeology to some degree; if we are not making an impact on people outside of the academy, then at best archaeology is a hobby, and at worst it’s irrelevant. Thus, if queer archaeology is to make the impact that I am sure that it can, it must be willing and able to engage with its various publics. This is no easy task. “Queer”, like many of our other favorite academic terms such as “feminism” and “Marxism” are rife with social and political tension.  In addition, queer archaeologists are people too. In attempting to take their work to the public, they are exposing themselves to the kinds of reactions queer individuals experience in other social situations. These two issues – how do queer archaeologists disseminate their work to non-archaeologists and how do queer archaeologists protect themselves – will be my concern for this post. Taking Queer Archaeology Outside of the Academy Queer archaeologists [Read More]

“So, you dug it up and then you just reburied it?”

Last summer, I was involved in a small excavation in northern New Mexico for my dissertation project. When I give formal talks about our work, with lots of background information, people get excited about the research questions and how much we learned from just a month of work. At those times I feel like I’m making some progress as a public archaeologist, something that is very new to me. But in more casual conversations, it’s sometimes hard to get the excitement across. Folks are intrigued at first when I tell them we were excavating a thousand year old building that may have had as many as 100 rooms, but then I can see their interest dim a little as they realize how small our excavation actually was. It usually leads to two questions: First, “Are you going back next summer?”  Second, “Wait, so you just reburied it all at the end? Archaeologists understand that extensive, long-term excavations are neither necessary nor feasible in most places, that research funding is severely limited, that our labs are full of artifacts and samples that we may never have time to properly analyze, and that backfilling is the best way to preserve architecture and features. But that is [Read More]

NAGPRA After Kennewick Man

Last weekend, Congress passed legislation that directs the Army Corps of Engineers to transfer the human remains of Kennewick Man, also known as the Ancient One, to Washington state authorities so they can repatriate him to claimant tribes in Washington State. Tucked into a 270-page bill called the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, Section 1152 requires transfer of the human remains within 90 days after the president signs it into law. Barring new developments, we seem to be nearing the end of a long saga. His remains were found 20 years ago, in 1996, and the litigation began the same year. It has been twelve years since the Ninth Circuit ended the lawsuit, ruling that Kennewick Man was not “Native American” within the meaning of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). (For those who aren’t familiar with the Kennewick Man case, visit my footnote[1] down below for an overview.) While some research still questions the cultural link to Native Americans, a 2015 article in Nature reported that his DNA is closer to local Washington tribes than to any other population, and as a result, last spring the Army Corps of Engineers began repatriation consultations. A senator from Washington [Read More]

When Archaeologists Teach the Law

When I left my job as an attorney to study archaeology, I assumed I was leaving the law behind. But one of the things that has surprised me most in my new life is just how much work archaeologists do in teaching the law. Time and again, in undergraduate seminars, at excavation sites, at museums, in field schools, at national parks, or online, I’ve watched archaeologists and anthropologists educating people about Section 106, NAGPRA, historic preservation law, the Antiquities Act, the legal history of Native American dispossession and public lands, or the finer points of Native American sovereignty. Many archaeologists seem uncomfortable with this role, though. If I’m around and they know my background they’ll sometimes look to me as if I might be able to chime in and clarify everything. The truth is that many professional archaeologists know much more about these areas of law than most lawyers do. My law practice mostly involved product liability and insurance law. When I started my PhD program, I could have told you all about the laws regulating dangerous products but almost nothing about any of the laws that surround archaeology. Only once in my legal career did I even have a [Read More]

Checks and Balances: The Legal Future for Archaeology and Archaeologists

If your Facebook feed as a fellow anthropologist is anything like mine, then you know the fear that has accompanied the election of the new president. My friends are expecting imminent deportations, registries, all of the worst possible scenarios. At a lower level of terror, my archaeologist friends are also fearing for their jobs and for our natural and archaeological resources. As a naturalized immigrant, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and the adoring aunt of two biracial toddlers, I am not immune to the nightmare scenarios, and I also fear for the future of archaeology. But I am also a lawyer by training, and my legal background colors my views. There are checks and balances in place, and they are not just formalities, and that is what I want to write about this week. I’m not a constitutional scholar, nor an expert on the laws surrounding archaeology, so this is necessarily a basic and general discussion. I’ll try to address the laws that surround archaeology but also the possibility of civil rights violations that are really keeping people awake at night right now. And in the hopes of including people who might have different political views, I’m going to put [Read More]

Part 1: Archaeology and Climate Change – Past, Present, and Looking to the Future

Public Archaeology and Climate Change: Intersections and Trajectories Climate change is not an issue that has been central to the election this year. We rarely hear the two major candidates discussing the issue, it was given minimal time in the debates, and there has been little media coverage of the candidates’ views. However, with global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent consistently breaking records, and CO2 concentrations surpassing the 400ppm threshold, climate is an issue that should be on everyone’s minds this election season and beyond. This is especially true given that the next President will be responsible for keeping the US in line with the recent Paris Agreement – the most comprehensive and stringent climate agreement ever to be entered by the US. Archaeologists can – and indeed, are – playing a significant role in improving the science contributing to our understanding of climate change and raising awareness about its trajectory, historically and as we move into coming decades. Two key roles stand out: first, archaeologists can help shed light on the past effects of climate change upon human societies, and second, we can raise awareness about the ways that climate change is affecting us in the present: our sense [Read More]

An Archaeologist’s Guide to Election Season: A Preface

It’s Election Season – but what does Archaeology have to do with it? November 8 is a mere three weeks away.  Where do we start, so close to the end of what has been perhaps the most divisive and vitriolic election in the history of our country? Over the next month, I propose to assemble a series of posts exploring the relationships between archaeology and the national and global issues facing the country as we elect our 45th President.  These connections are rich, challenging, productive, and continually developing, though perhaps not immediately apparent to a general public that sees archaeology as a discipline dealing exclusively in a distant, resolved past.  As we witness wars, our own and others, through images that many of us can barely comprehend from the safety of our homes; as climate change, mindless of the debates around its existence in political circles, takes its increasing toll, already displacing whole communities and leaving the Great Barrier Reef dying in its wake; as Black bodies are met with fear and violence and exposed to national input on the validity of their lives and the justification of their deaths; as sacred lands and access to clean water are denied to Native Americans in the name of profit; as women [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]