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Tag Archives: Archeology

A better way to eat.

The majority of human existence has been to find a simpler or better way to make things to make us happy.  Food is no exception to this at all.  From poppy seeds to cheese and back around to garum and worchestershire sauce, using the plants and animals we cultivate in a variety of interesting and flavorful ways is always interesting.

This article from io9 discusses a bit regarding this.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2013 in Anthropology, Gjale, Goofballery, Nature

 

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…And, we’re back!

Okay; so essentially, I took two and a half weeks away from writing full time and constantly.  It was for a really, really good reason.  One: I’m again up for promotion at the bureaucracy at which I had previous attempted promotion and was denied; and two: I’m up for a very good job in the compliance field of archeology. That interview seemed to go very, very well and I feel like I built a solid report with the interviewer.

The plan for this week is to get back to writing on my fiction, the game rules, and for this space.  I plan on attempting to get a review done for an album and for a game.  Either way, thanks for bearing with me if you did.

 

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Apocalyptic of the Day: Jamestown and Cannibalism – Paul Mullins

Here’s an interesting article regarding the history of the first “successful” colony in America from Paul Mullins.

 
 

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Apocalyptic of the Day: Oh, Those Crazy Aztecs.

Once again, a mystery in Mexico: Archaeologist Uncover Hundreds of….

Also, Century Media has a kickass sampler out: This is Armageddon.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Accountability, Anthropology, Art, Geek, Music

 

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Inspiration of the Day: Modern Ruins from io9.

Science, Science Fiction and Fantasy blog io9 runs a series on their site regarding modern ruins and their states as they decay from human abandonment and non involvement.  To an archeologist, this means a lot as we watch the taphonomy of the building and the site.  It is sobering to watch what was once amazingly beautiful or important fall apart.  In the words of Yeats, “the center cannot hold, things fall apart.”

Posts Tagged As Modern Ruins.

Again, I won’t be writing a Nocturnal Rumination this night.  Enjoy the images instead.

 

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Weekly Writing Review: In which we revisited the past…

Toltec MoundsThe photograph above is from the Plum Bayou Trail at the Toltec Mounds Arkansas State Park, a site listed on the NRHP.  The mound in the foreground is Mound A (center left) and the mound on the right is Mound B.  I forsook my weekend writing this week to take Paimona and our spawn to the site and enjoy its surroundings.  Situated now in the middle of farming country in Arkansas, the Toltec Mound site is not in fact Toltec at all.  Though surmounting evidence is demonstrating that perhaps the tribes of Mexico had interaction with Texas bands, they never got anywhere close here.

The site itself sits upon an oxbow lake of the Arkansas River, directly in its valley, and is near the Plum Bayou stream.  It is a site of great importance to the people that lived in the area circa 600 through 1100 CE.  A place of ceremony, at one point in time it had 18 mounds (all but the largest two are deflated and marked as such)  There was an embankment that circled the site that had two broken areas to map the Equinox and Solstices.  Most likely, the only residents of the city were the ruling elite of the area and the specific feasts and festivals would bring other those that lived in other communities to the mound site.

In the most generalized of terms, this site is late Woodland to early Mississippian periods of history in the US. Using Little Rock as a bearing, Arkansas is a state that can be divided into quarters, drawing a straight line essentially going west to east and north to south.  During the Mississippian period, we know the NW was inhabited by possible mound building cultures from OK and TX; however, the Osage mostly inhabited this difficult area during Summer months.  The NE was inhabited by the Quapaw (from whom we derive the name Arkansas as mentioned by French Missionaries whom called these people the Kappa Akansea).  There are a large number of mound sites in the NE corridor of the state, most specifically Casqui (Parkin, AR) and Nodena (outside Wilson, AR).  Both these cities were mentioned in the Gentleman of el Vey’s account regarding De Soto’s trek through the Southeast and is where his journey began to fall apart. The SW corridor of the state was home to the Caddo, and the SE corridor was home to the Plaquemine/Tunica peoples and was were De Soto would meet his demise and be consumed by the oxbow lake of the Mississippi now known as Lake Chicot.

What makes Toltec so interesting is that the site was abandoned essentially 200 or so years before the other large mound complexes in AR were established.  We do not know who they were or whom they became after leaving the area.  Most likely (my opinion), the site’s importance began to wane during a period of harsh environmental concern like other later mound complexes, causing the importance of this ceremonial center to fall in comparison to another, growing mound site.  Due to its location in Arkansas and the general geography of the later people, it is hard to identify as to which tribe or in what areas the Plum Bayou culture integrated or developed.  The site sits between North Little Rock, AR and a small group of farming towns outside the city known as Scott, Keo, and England.  Down the road in Scott is the Arkansas Plantation Museum for those interested in the historical period.

As a writer and a developer of a world, these experiences are interesting because some of the most interesting and important decisions and locations are sites like these.  This is literally the keystone in a cultural geography.  If you are ever in AR and you need something to do, attend this museum.  The staff there is genuinely helpful and kind.  Further, the prices for a guided tour and not expensive.  And even though it’s touristy as all hell, by SOMETHING or ANYTHING for that matter.  Those funds help keep this park going and it’s historical significance is worth even a few scant dollars of your time and interest.

 

 

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Inspiration of the Day: An update…

Tomorrow, 29 March, we’ll not be posting at all.

Further, I may going forward have to take more days off; I’ll continue to attempt to publish my weekly music review and writing log.  My truest and most sincere inspiration is starting her softball season soon enough and missing a game of hers is unthinkable for me.  Further, I’m attempting heavily to return to archeology or a museum setting from my current Social Services job.  Applied anthropology is fun, but I still find that I enjoy skeletons and artifacts more than clients.  Less talking back or something like that.

Anyhow, I figured an update would be best in this position.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Accountability, Inspiration

 

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Inspiration of the Day: Arrowheads v. Spear Points

Top image is from Hampson Museum in Wilson, AR and displayed on CAST’s Hampson Museum project website.  The bottom image is from the Helena, AR Musuem and is displayed on their website.

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Note the differences in size.  These are the points most commonly found in Eastern Arkansas.  Nodena’s distinctive willow leaf shape stands out and is very small in size.  The points and bits below are axes, spear points (the larger points), and the smaller narrower points are arrow points.

I bring this up for one reason: as part of the suite of the laws governing historic/archeological items, there is a statue that is colloquially known as the “Collectors’ Statue.”  Essentially, it states that, if during your use of public land in the US, you find an arrowhead, you may keep it.  It defines arrowhead as a point no more than 4cm in length (refer to the above Nodena point).  Any other point should be immediately given to park staff and reported.  It is a crime to remove a point larger than 4cm in length from any public land or private land (without the owner’s express permission).  Further, due to trends in methamphetamine usage and the looting of archeological sites, it’s becoming more and more common for looting to be considered a felony in the US.

In the vein of an earlier topic (Who Owns History), how would you feel if a piece, however small, of your marginalized people’s heritage was removed without academic study and care?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Accountability, Anthropology, Geek, Inspiration, Nature, Rants

 

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Apocalyptic of the Day: Richard III

Richard_III_of_England

 

Archaeoporn at its finest!  King Richard the Third’s burial place in Leicester was found beneath a parking lot.  My first thought was to tell a bureaucrat friend of mine.  This is our conversation.

Buer: “They found King Richard the III.”

Bureaucrat Friend: “Yeah?  That’s interesting.”

Buer: “Completely; seems like his plan for perseverance after death didn’t work that well.”

Bureaucrat Friend: “It rarely ever does.”

Washington Post has a good write up on the subject, and other sources have reported that he had a shaming wound on the backside.  So for all the disgust at the treatment of Gaddfi’s body after death, remember, your own people did the same thing.  And, some still do.

It’s important to note that, if you look at pictures of his remains, you’ll see how severely curved his spine was.  IT must have genuinely been painful to have been him.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in Anthropology, Characters, Rants

 

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Nocturnal Ruminations: To whom does history belong?

There is no simple answer to this question.  It is one fraught with turns and twists, spins and dichotomies that would make Levi-Strauss grin with pleasure at its analysis. History can be interpreted, shredded, and analyzed in a most curious way that would make Kierkegaard smile every time one says “hindsight is always 20/20.”  Though, I’ve always enjoyed Megadeth’s take: “Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking back things are still a bit fuzzy.”

Ultimately, history is a collection of shared communal experiences whose threads when drawn together weave the tapestry of modernity.  Simplistically, we can point back to say the American 1950s as a time in which things were great, men by and large worked, women took care of the home and children went to school happily and didn’t question their teachers.  Families lived in subdivisions (all the rage at that time), having two children, a white picket fence and one motor vehicle.  This is the modern, mainstream presentation of this era; however, its reality is questionable at best and outright wrong at worst.  The 1950s offered little to no social mobility to women, homosexuality was an underground and perilous state of being that could led to one being tried as if a communist, and I have not even begun with the state of minorities in the U.S.  So, therein, there are many histories from the 1950s alone: the History of the Government, the History of the Mainstream, the History of the Minority, the History of Sexuality, &c.

So, to whom does history belong?  And for that matter about history which are we writing?

Anthropology and archeology come from explorers and vagabonds, the rogues of the academe, to perform their analyses on the cultural lineage and situations of humans worldwide.  When the fields began and throughout their early periods in the United States, the scientists were tasked to record dying languages, quiet Indian problems, and to understand history from material culture records.  The result of this was the looting of archeological sites of heritage, especially in the Southeast, fictional accounts of cultural experience, and altogether ethnocentric interpretations of the past and present.

Mound sites in the Southeast were systematically excavated without concern for the mound structure and as a result no longer exist.  The bodies of those buried in the mound and their associated grave goods were placed in museum, dusty offices, and barns that served as museums or galleries of curiosities. The academy was able to understand and interpret all the artifacts, burials, and imagery, but at the expense of literally ripping another people’s heritage from the ground and destroying their cultural geography in the process to place it in laboratories and later museums.

As a result to this, our academic history of violence and theft, the U.S. Federal Government began legislating (not of their own accord, mind you, but through years of hard work) acts like NAGPRA and amendments to NEPA, NHRPA, and the other federal laws regarding cultural heritage and artifacts.  Ultimately, this led to the return to the tribes their dead whose skeletons, having been properly excavated, were locked still in the soil their bodies were placed, so that they could be reburied.  The tribes were allowed to have input into what and how their heritage was being displayed.

Ultimately, laws like this benefitted all parties in the U.S., which is a great thing.  Innovative and emphatic scientists found ways to work within these new laws to go further.  A great example of this are historic cemeteries in Arkansas, many of which were located near rivers when they were placed and over the course of just one hundred years are now being eroded into these rivers.  Often, these cemeteries contain individuals of a low socio-economic bearing or African-American.  Using NAGPRA and its funding arms, scientists contacted the descendent communities, excavated the cemeteries, were allowed to analyze the burials, and then aided in the repatriation process.

Therefore, it is obvious: one of owners of history are the communities from which the individuals whose stories are being told come.  This includes the living and the descendent communities whose wishes and input should be sought when undertaking an analysis of their people.  This is, in fact, why we’ve got these laws put in place and it is in fact our ethical obligation to do so.

A Part of the Larger Community

History is not solely the purview of the descendent community alone.  It is also a part of the larger background of the entire population of a city, a county, a state, and further a country.  This is not to say that it is owned by these official political organizations, but that its events belong as part of them.  In social science, there is a theory of interaction with the larger social group.  It is these large “agents” as you will that establish the Dialogue, and those beneath interact with the Dialogue by their Statements.  History obviously informs the Dialogue of these political organizations, and the hope is that they alter the manner in which they interact with their communities.

A Word on the Democratization of History

We live in an accessible time in which search engines have replaced the Dewey Decimal system.  Wikipedia, for all its derision by the academe (as of my last year of graduate school, students could still not use this site as a source), is better peer reviewed than some academic journals, I’m certain.  I have been involved on projects whose aims were to pull artifacts, at the behest of the descendent community, from their storage chambers and display cabinets so as to turn them into digital representations of the real objects for dissemination on the internet.  The ultimate result of this is that history, cultural experience, and understanding are always at your finger tips the moment you sit down to your keyboard.  You have access.  You should have access.

Ultimately, however, for as well meaning as these things are and have been, history is essentially real world philosophy, meaning we have historical facts and interpretations. There are no such things as historical truths, because your truth and my truth could be completely different based off the facts we use to defend our arguments.  False interpretations of facts often leads to mass market success for people.  If you have cable television, go to the History Channel or its sister channel, H2, and look at the titles of the series in question.  If you do not, go to their websites and look at their viewing guides.  You’ll find shows like “America Unearthed,” a show done by a Forensic Geologist (did not know there was such a thing until this show) who is doing archeological analysis of strange locations and events in American history and tying them to wild and completely unprovable things (e.g: Phoenicians landed on the Salisbury Plain and began building Stonehenge before coming to the US and building a menhir here; Mayan explores traded with Etowah in the US).  Brad Meltzer, a mass market novelist, offers a show called Decoded, in which he purports to deconstruct and analyze the semiotics of secret, conspiracy theory things.  Please note that Mr Meltzer, who’s a successful writer of cheap conspiratorial fiction and cliffhangers, uses the word “symbology” to describe what he is doing.  His study is in fact semiotics and symbology is not a word or field of study with a rational mind.

The democracy of history is good in that historical fact belongs to everyone; however, it allows for many interpretations.  The danger in these interpretations is that if they are misused and misguided, it could cast a very poor and dim view of history.  Ultimately, history belongs to everyone and it can be viewed in many different ways to craft a picture of the past.

 
 

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