Tag Archives: collaborative archaeology

“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]

Part II: Eroding – How the Archaeology of Climate Change Denial is Threatened by Climate Change

For Part II of the mini-series on climate change, we welcome guest blogger Kevin Gibbons, a fourth-year PhD student in the Zooarchaeology Laboratory at the University of Maryland. In Part 1 of this series, we surveyed some of the roles that archaeologists are playing in grappling with climate change. Archaeologists are engaging in climate change research to better understand how societies have coped with shifting environmental conditions in the past. We’re also confronting the significant loss of cultural heritage due to increased erosion, thawing, flooding, pollution, development, and other such threats in the present day. Political Challenges to Accepting a Species’ Worth of Responsibility It is no secret that the issue of climate change is contentious within American political discourse. The very existence of global warming is debated by the Republican Party and its elected officials. The Republican presidential nominee has asserted that it’s a Chinese hoax to somehow hamper the American manufacturing sector. While this denial appears to be an insidious combination of political expediency, conflicting economic interests, and a result of years of denigrating intellectualism, rationalism, and the scientific process, it’s also served to block any meaningful dialogue within Congress about how to address our collectively harmful impacts on [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]