Day of Archaeology

What’s it like working in a research team in archaeology?

I work on stone tools and soil chemistry from a site in Yorkshire called Flixton Island 2 as well as a little bit of work on another much bigger and better known nearby site called Star Carr – and yes, it can be dull at times (putting soils out to dry is never thrilling, though oddly calming) but the results about what they can tell us about how people were living tens of thousands of years ago can be really exciting. These sites are both from the Mesolithic period, when we were still living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in Britain. It’s all about getting down to the nitty gritty, day-to-day lives of people in the past.

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Labor arqueológica en la región costera de Tabasco, Sureste de México.

En el Sureste de México, específicamente la región costera de Centla, Estado de Tabasco -formada por un multidiverso medio de lagunas, rios, esteros, manglares y pantanos- , llevamos poco más de tres años realizando trabajos arqueológicos. Esto suscrito dentro del Proyecto de Protección del Patrimonio Arqueológico, Centro INAH Tabasco del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Esta área resulta importante ya que aquí se encontraba el mítico Potonchán prehispánico, una de las tres capitales mayas-chontales, que controlaba el comercio de larga distancia, desde tierra adentro y en este punto por vía marítima. Para el Siglo XVI, en el lugar se establece una de las primeras Villas españolas y para el Siglo XVIII y XIX resurge como un importante puerto de comercio, esta vez internacional.

Inicialmente, en el 2013, nuestra labor se centró en registrar sistemáticamente los sitios arqueológicos en la Región de Centla. La prospección por sí misma era una aventura diaria: arduas caminatas bajo el ardoroso calor tropical y húmedo de primavera y verano, que en días rebasaba los 40° Centígrados°; inmersos hasta la cintura o chapoteando constantemente entre aguas de pantano y manglar o entre espeso fango con profusa vegetación hidrófita rodeandonos por doquier; alertas a la fauna local para la que no eramos más que intrusos… ¿Quien dijo que la arqueología no era aventura?

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Medio imperante en la Región costera de Centla, Tabasco.

Al final, registramos 18 sitios arqueológicos. Todos de arquitectura de tierra, es decir estructuras realizadas con matrices de suelo apisonadas,  que permanecieron hasta hoy en día como montículos. Además conocimos de forma inherente la conformación geomorfológica del área y mediante etnografía -primero de forma involuntaria y después de forma más sistemática- logramos conocer la forma de vida de los actuales habitantes de la región, que quizas no dista mucho de lo que fué hace poco menos de 1000 años.

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Vista general de un sitio arqueológico -montículos visibles al fondo- y el medio asociado.

Nuestra intervención en la región no cesó en ese momento. Hasta ahora se han estado llevando a cabo varias intervenciones arqueológicas tanto de prospección como de excavación, ampliando una muestra del área de estudio. Dichos trabajos nos han brindado valiosa información sobre patrones de distribución de los sitios, de la presencia o preferencia de determinados bienes y artefactos de adquisición y consumo, asi como sus sistemas de adquisicion, temporalidad, entre otros. Con un rango temporal que va desde la época prehispánica hasta un periodo histórico reciente.

Es así que este el Día de la Arquelogía, lo celebramos esta vez en gabinete, analizando el material procedente de una excavación realizada en la actual Ciudad y Puerto de Frontera, capital municipal del Municipio de Centla, Ciudad localizada en la ribera del Rio Grijalva.

Feliz Día de la Arqueología

Project Archaeology and Archaeological Education in Arkansas

Because archaeological sites are endangered and finite resources, I spend a lot of my time doing archaeological education encouraging people to care about and protect sites. I teach in a university setting, but I also do youth programs to help teach young people to be stewards of the past. This year, I have spent many of my days of archaeology co-writing a 5th grade (age 10-11) social studies curriculum about archaeology and plant-based foodways in the southeastern United States. The curriculum, which focuses on sites in Arkansas, will be aligned with common core standards to promote and enhance archeological education in Arkansas’s public schools.

Project Archaeology Leadership Academy course materials.

Project Archaeology Leadership Academy course materials.

Like the majority of archaeologists, I didn’t learn how to teach archaeology to the public in college. Fortunately, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This summer, I attended the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy in Bozeman, Montana. Project Archaeology is “an educational organization dedicated to teaching scientific and historical inquiry, cultural understanding, and the importance of protecting our nation’s rich cultural resources.” They are a national network of archaeologists, educators, and concerned citizens working to make archaeology education accessible to students and teachers across the country through high-quality educational materials and professional development. Each year, they offer a Leadership Academy to teach educators (and archaeologists) to use Investigating Shelter, an inquiry-based Social Studies and Science curriculum, and empower them with educating their peers on how to implement the curriculum in the classroom.

Workshop participants visited Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Workshop participants visited Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

It was a fun week of learning new ways to teach archaeology, visiting Madison Buffalo Jump State Park and the Museum of the Rockies, and meeting educators and archaeologists from around the country. The 5-day workshop underscored the importance of working with descendants to learn about the past, how archaeology contributes to inquiry-based learning, ways to connect archaeological education to common core standards, and a lot more.

Dr. Emerson Emerson Bull Chief, Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, talking about Native American buffalo stories.

Dr. Emerson Bull Chief, Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, talking about Native American buffalo stories.

Panorama of the Buffalo Jump.

Panorama of Madison Buffalo Jump State Park.

When I was an undergraduate student, if someone asked me: “What does an archaeologist do?”, it never would have occurred to me that archaeologists teach educators (and other people) to teach about the past. This is changing as archaeologists have come to recognize the importance of working with communities and teaching others to think like archaeologists. But I hadn’t thought about how important it is to teach educators to teach archaeology until Courtney Agenten pointed it out during the workshop. As an archaeologist, I have taught an archaeology camp for 10-15 students, which I wrote about last year. The students learned about the process of archaeology from excavation to lab work and from artifact analysis to report writing. In the process, they developed a love for learning about and preserving the past. But if I teach 10-15 educators to teach archaeology in their science or social studies classes, in one year, those teachers have the potential to teach 250-375 students about the importance of archaeology. That’s a huge impact if you think about how many students could be reached in 10 years!

So now as I sit at my desk in front of my computer, like so many of my days of archaeology, I am inspired by my experience at the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy to teach their fun curricula about shelter and nutrition. I am also motivated to continue to develop high-quality lesson plans focused on archaeological sites in Arkansas that teachers can implement in their classrooms. Thanks to the support of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, the Arkansas Archeological Society, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the curriculum should be available this fall. Check out the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s website for classroom materials currently available to teachers and keep an eye out for new things to come. arkansasarcheology.org

 

Another Day in BioArCh: A Photo Diary

My Day of Archaeology started fairly early as I had a lot I wanted to get done before the weekend. As ever, nothing went to plan, but it was still a productive day and I got a big job ticked off my to-do list, which I think is always a nice way (if a rare way) to end the week. My name is Keri Rowsell, and I’m currently in the first year of my PhD at the University of York, based in BioArCh.

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Diving into the Past: Public Archaeology and SCUBA Stewardship

This summer, the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the University of West Florida have been hosting archaeologist-guided public dives on the 16th-century Spanish Emanuel Shipwreck II to help educate local SCUBA divers and promote submerged site protection. These tours have been a wild success and have helped encourage new levels of community appreciation for Florida’s many historical shipwreck sites!

To see all of our wonderful “Archaeologyin3” videos, visit our YouTube page. To learn more about the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the many outreach resources we’ve made available to other archaeologists and educators, visit our website!

My Day of Archeology – internet rules

Hi!

 

My name is Alicja, and my today’s activity is to moderate Polish edition of Day of Archaeology in 2015.  What I really love about the whole day of arch undertaking is the fact, that in the same time I don’t have to be in some particular place. I can moderate this completely virtual event from any place in the world! And so I am, at the river shore! Talking and discussing archaeology 🙂

This is the power of the internet – we can do our work from any part of the world, which brings us together, besides many kilometers which separate us.

Happy Day of Archaeology everyone!

 

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You call *this* archaeology?!

The scene is one I’m sure many of you have watched a hundred times: Indiana Jones punches a Nazi off a tank and Henry Jones Sr (aka the magnificent Sean Connery) pops his head up and exclaims “So, you call this archaeology?” Archaeology is of course a great many things, but punching bad guys off war machines is not one them (or at least I’ve never been involved in anything like that!)

Regardless, this scene, and the Indiana Jones films in general, forms one of my favourite cinematic moments for its brilliantly ludicrous nature and unashamedly ironic humour. Last week I presented it to a group of Year 12s I was teaching to exemplify how Hollywood tries to glamorise and manipulate “archaeology” into palatable cinematography. Indiana Jones was by no means the first, and was certainly not the last, to do this, and whilst what I do day-to-day is almost certainly not thrilling enough for Steven Spielberg, archaeology must surely be one of the more engaging and varied subjects out there and holds our interest as a connection with our past.

The Day of Archaeology (i.e. today!) celebrates the variety of my profession and is meant to be a medium for me to offer an insight to all you lovely readers into my daily archaeological life (on a side note, that’s actually the point of my entire blog!) Unfortunately, if I charted my routine for Friday 24th July 2015, it would inevitably begin at 8:30am with a picture of me reading and typing at my desk with a mug of tea and a full lunch box, and end at 5pm with a picture of me reading and typing at my desk with three mugs of tea and an empty lunch box. It’s sad but it is true.

I’m pleased to say I don’t spend every day like this though. “Why yes”, I hear you say, “you of course must spend some time digging”. I am under no pretences that when I tell people I study archaeology, the immediate vision that forms in their heads is of me in a field on my hands and knees starring in a Time Team-esque scene finding something glamorous and newsworthy in only three days. Ironically enough, I actually hardly ever do that.

But it's been known to happen

But it’s been known to happen (Author’s photo)

So what is it I actually do then?! My main task, in fact the main objective of my PhD, revolves around studying and interpreting objects in museums, and my mugs of tea and empty lunch boxes are all casualties of my intellectual pursuit to actually do this well enough to have my opinions respected (or at least tolerated!) Museums are overflowing with material, the majority of which is never presented to the public, and I travel around with my bag of important archaeological equipment (ok it’s essentially a pair of calipers, kitchen weighing scales and a camera in a H&M bag) studying relevant artefacts, offering my thoughts, and utilising what I’ve learnt to present this information to other academics in the form of a long tedious text that even I will probably never read in full. This is just one element of what I do and love though.

Check out the concentration

Check out the concentration (Author’s photo)

Increasingly over the last few months I’ve been taking time away from the screens and museums in order to get my hands dirty with Experimental Archaeology (which is essentially the study and replication of prehistoric activities), whether this entails chiselling stone, hitting swords with rocks, smelting ores into metal, sewing bellows, starting fires, dressing up, sleeping in roundhouses… This is a relatively new passion of mine that continually grows and many of my friends and family I’ve spoken to definitely would never regard this as “archaeology”. I’m fortunate to have these opportunities and they definitely add some excitement to my PhD that people can relate too.

Heating and destroying objects (22)

See me doing some important PhD research by smashing sword replicas with a hammer (Author’s photo)

More and more my daily routine incorporates some form of teaching or passing on my growing knowledge and personally I think that’s perhaps the most important part of what I do at the moment. There’s no point learning all this stuff if I’m not passing it on to others. One of my friends recently told me that having read about my recent trip to Butser Farm his new favourite word is “Archaeometallurgy”, and whilst I doubt he could now explain to people what it is, it’s great that he’s at least remembered that there’s more to archaeology that meets the eye! Besides, I love doing it – students are generally a pleasure to teach and in many ways it’s as challenging to have them grill me on my subject as it is to have academics do it.

Plus it gives me the opportunity to legitimately get up to ridiculous antics

Plus it gives me legitimate opportunity to engage in ridiculous antics (Author’s photo)

So no, I don’t have a fedora, whip, and mythical artefacts (sadly), and no, I don’t have “just three days to do it”. What I do have is a trusty laptop, a library of resources, many museums of objects, and three years to get my PhD done, and right now I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had by studying a subject that is increasingly challenging and diverse on a day-by-day basis, even if it isn’t what Henry Jones Sr might consider “archaeology”.

“This is what an archaeologist looks like.” Help support the Day of Archaeology!

Show the world what an archaeologist looks like by wearing one of the official Day of Archaeology shirts now available online (http://www.zazzle.com/dayofarchaeology). Several styles are available for women, men, and children, and you can pick the color you like (because archaeology isn’t always black-and-white!). Bonus points to you and your team if you wear these on the Day of Archaeology, July 29th 2016. Proceeds help to offset operating costs of the project. Thanks for your support!

The Day of Archaeology team

 

"This is what an archaeologist looks like."

“This is what an archaeologist looks like.”


Aniversario

RafaVaron

Casualidad de las casualidades y todo casualidad. El Día de la Arqueología cae en 11 de julio. Este día mi vida normal de arqueólogo -o lo que sea que se entienda por “normal” y por “arqueólogo”- va a estar teñido por el recuerdo.

Ese mismo día, en 2008, yendo a excavar -una gran obra, en mi cabeza todo prisas y agobios-, volqué con el todoterreno. Afortunadamente iba solo; con mi estrés, eso sí. Una curva demasiado rápida me puso boca abajo en un trigal, a un paso del siniestro total y a un poco más de haberme quedado allí.

Después de organizar todo para el traslado del buga, de que llegase la policía -patrulla, secretas, eran otros tiempos en Euskadi-, y pudiese contactar con mis compañeros, llegó la ambulancia y me traslado al hospital, pero solo un rato. Lo justo para que me dieran el alta y pudiese volver al campo.

Todo eso paso. Y algo más. Hoy es el día que esbozo una sonrisa de agradecimiento al recordar la cara de susto de mis compañeros Lorena y Etor, que vinieron a verme al lugar del crimen. Que se preocuparon infinito por cómo estaba el coche, pero que estaban mucho más preocupados por como estaba yo. Que no me dejaban dormirme, que me animaban continuamente y que me metieron en la ambulancia para que me marchase de una bendita vez.

Y llevo ya desde entonces, todos los 11 de julio, celebrando la vida, incluso la dedicada a la Arqueología. La celebración incluye, siempre, mi agradecimiento a mis dos compañeros, al desvelo que pusieron y a la atención que me prestaron.

Gracias a ambos. Hoy mi día va a ser mejor.