Serra is a regular old Archaeologist with an MS Cert for GIS. She has taken on the endeavor to debunk bad archaeology and to reach out to the public in an entertaining and informative way in hopes of increasing public understanding of her chosen field. Podcasting has become a regular part of her life now, and she's involved not only with her own podcast, ArchyFantaises, but also with the Women in Archaeology Podcast and the 8bit Test Pit Archaeogaming podcast. All hosted on the Archaeology Podcast Network. Check her out as ArchyFantasies on Twitter and Facebook for a full experience of Archaeology in the People Republic of the Internet.

Podcasting Archaeology or Why to Communicate Archaeology via the Internet.

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What started as a vanity project, a blog where I could vent my thoughts on psuedoarchaeology, has blossomed into a multi-bloomed flower of sorts. Each blossom requiring attention, and each one being as satisfying as the last. I’m talking about podcasting, of course.

Media, and the use of newer forms of media; podcasting, YouTube, twitter, Facebook, etc, is a weakness of Archaeology. Even with the influx of younger archaeologists into the field, those who should be more comfortable and accepting of digital media, it still seems to escape us as archaeologists. What is it? How does it work? What do we do with it?

When Chris Webster and Tristan Boyle launched the Archaeology Podcast Network (APN) back in late 2014, there were only about three (maybe 4) archaeology podcasts on the digital air. None of them were really aware of each other, and frankly, most people didn’t even know they existed at all. Today the APN has 15 shows covering topics ranging from broad topics like CRM archaeology, technology in the field, terms, techniques and concepts, to specific topics like women in archaeology, debunking psuedoarchaeology, Caribbean archaeology, and archaeogaming. If you consider that the APN isn’t even two yet, 15 shows is quite the achievement.

These shows attempt to educate and inform as well as entertain. They reach out to the archaeological community, trying to connect archaeologists together, and at the same time, reach out to the public and help them understand what it is we do. This is done with both female and male voices, both field and academically employed. It’s Archaeology for everyone, as Chris once put it, and it’s very effective at communicating.

So why are there not more shows out there? Why don’t were hear one from every University that has an archaeology program? Why isn’t there one for every sub-field of archaeology? One for every professional organization (I’m looking at you SAA)? One for every conference? We need to communicate with each other and with the public, so why aren’t we using this medium to do so?

I'mma Pro

Maybe some of it has to do with the perceived cost in money and in time. I assure you, this need not be a barrier. You can record a decent enough podcast in a quiet room with a laptop and free recording software like Audacity or Garage-band. You don’t even need an external mic, though sitting close to the computer is necessary.  If you want to up your game a bit you can buy a cheep recording mic, and most of them are good as well as affordable. Simple soundproofing can be achieved with a large cardboard box and towels. Only the pros go all in and get the big mics and the soundproof rooms, but hey, if you’ve got the budget, go for it.

Time is another story. How long your finished show is, will determine how long you’ll need to record. In my experience you should add 30 min to whatever the final show length is for recording. So an hour long show requires a minimum of an hour and a half to record. Editing can take a bit too depending on how familiar you are with the software, and how much you care about um’s, ah’s, and long pauses. Honestly, editing can be a time suck, but it’s worth it to hear your finished piece. Still, this is not as much time as you would think, unless you’re a procrastinator, and then I can’t help you.

So with time and money out of the equation, why are there not more shows? Some people just don’t want to do it, which is fine on an individual level, but when we get to the Professional and University level, this is less of a realistic excuse. Part of doing archaeology is making it accessible, and podcasting makes it accessible. This isn’t even the Open Access argument that grates on a lot of professionals and academics. I’m not asking you to talk about sensitive material, just talk about what you do, how you do it, and why it’s important. If it’s interesting, people will listen, and they wont care that your audio quality is crappy, or that your intro music is midi, or that you only publish once a month.


Which leaves me with, suspicion and the avoidance of being vulnerable. Archaeologists seem to tend to be suspicious of new things. Even I am times, but we have to push past that. I see it happening every day, with the new influx of young archaeologists who are accustomed to social media and digital media. When I joined Twitter back in 2009, I looked for every archaeologist I could find on twitter to add to my feed. I had about 20. In the whole world of twitter in 2009 there were 20ish archaeologists using it, and most of us didn’t have a clue what we were using it for. We did it anyway and we figured it out, and today, there are more archaeology twitter accounts than I can ever hope to follow sending me updates and pictures and artifact id challenges and blogs, etc. So if we can accept Twitter et al, why can we not make more podcasts (or even videos)?

I think some of it has to do with the avoidance of being vulnerable many professionals have. Making a recording, in real time, has the potential to catch a movement of vulnerability. A mistake, a misspoken word, the wrong date or term, an embarrassing laugh, an uncomfortable question. It’s called being human and mistakes will be made. Yet somehow we’ve become petrified at the idea of being caught being wrong, and instead of just saying “oops” and either fixing it or apologizing for it, we’d rather not even try. This causes lots of problems, one of which is being seen as aloof and unapproachable to the public, and thereby being invisible.

Some will tell me that they are afraid of being taken out of context. Well let  me tell you a thing. I’ve been working with pseudoarchaeology and the fringe for almost a decade now. It doesn’t matter what you say, how you say it, or even IF you say it. You will be taken out of context by someone at some time and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. So instead of hiding, come on out here and make create something informative and educational.

Podcasting is fun, it’s refreshing to connect with others, and talk about shared topics with peers. It creates a medium that is being embraced by more and more people as technology advances. It can be quick and informative, long and educational, and interesting at either length. It’s one of the best ways to communicate with the public, and it’s accessible to most people. Pretty much anyone with the internet or a phone can hear your podcast these days, making it one of the best ways to educate and inform. Recording software is free, hosting sites like Sound-cloud are free, Or you can join forces with the APN and make an ever bigger, better Archaeology Podcast Network. The benefit to this would be access to people who are already using podcasting as a way to communicate (and maybe edit). So basically, there is no cost to this beyond time, and lets face it, you’re probably supposed to be reaching out to the public anyway, why not make a lasting impression with a podcast that will live forever on the internet?

Join the podcasting revolution and spread Archaeology to the public, one show at a time.


Archaeogaming and Podcasting

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We specifically timed the release  of this new podcast on the Archaeology Podcast Network (APN) so it would coordinate with the Day of Archaeology. The timing to us, couldn’t be more perfect. The APN had worked to create a channel of sorts for all things podcasting about archaeology. At times that’s made it push the envelope for the use of new media in communicating and sharing of archaeology. It’s fitting then, for this network to be the first to dedicate a podcast to the breakout field of Archaeogaming.

This isn’t to say that blogs on the topic have never existed before. A quick glance at the show notes for episode 1 gives an incomplete but informative look at those pioneering the field. The show’s hosts, Andrew ReinhardMeghan Dennis, and Tara Copplestone, consider themselves to be part of the second wave of archaeologists in archaeogaming. They list several researchers before them, but even those only go as far back as the early 2000’s or late 90′. That makes this quite a new branch of archaeology, and like many such branches, there is, at times, strong discussion over if such a thing is even necessary.

Most people are not sure what to do with archaeogaming exactly, it seems new and weird. For the most part it has been received positively, as many can see the need to study the fastest growing part of the entertainment industry. One that is interactive and creating culture around and inside of itself. Reinhard argues that there is no difference between real and virtual culture, that all culture is man-made, therefore even computer generated culture can be studied archaeologically. This idea has been met with some push-back, but overall, his argument stands. You don’t even have to play games to see “gaming culture” in general and genre specific culture in particular.

Archaeogaming examines the culture inside of games as well, and Dennis focuses specifically on the ethics in and around games. Most famously, for example, is it ethical to loot a tomb? What if that is the only option the game gives you to complete a level? What if, in the game world, you are “saving” artifacts by looting them? What if you need to sell those same artifacts for game world money? Dennis is working on these and other questions for her Ph.D. thesis, and explains a bit more about it in her interview on Not Just a Game Episode 2: Looting Mortuary Spaces with Meghan Dennis, the bi-weekly podcast with Dr. Catherine Flick.

Archaeogaming also examines the game code itself as an artifact. Copplestone looks at this intersection of game and archaeology, and it’s a very interesting concept. How does real life archaeology affect game world archaeology? Why do game designers represent archaeology they way that they do? Can we as archaeologists use games as a way of communicating archaeology better to the public? How? What would that game look like?


At which point all of this brings us to the No Man’s Sky Survey, led by Reinhard. This ambitious real life survey of a huge virtual world is probably not the first of it’s kind, but it is the first to be done on such a detailed and massive scale. Reinhard, Dennis, Copplestone and others have worked hard to create survey and excavation forms, data collection standards, and even a code of ethics for in-game and out of game interaction. Reinhard plans to publish updates on the progress of the survey as well as produce a peer-reviewed paper for presentation and publication. I’m really excited to be part of this and plan to keep track of my own progress over on my own blog (you know, if you want to read it).

In the meantime you can listen to our newest podcast on the APN and learn a lot more about what archaeogaming is and what we hope to accomplish with it.


July 29, 2016

In the first Episode of 8bit Test Pit: Main Campaign we meet our host panel Andrew Reinhard, Meghan Dennis, and Tara Copplestone. We talk about what Archaeogaming is, the history of the field, and what the overall goals of studying the intersection of gaming and archaeology are. We also talk about the upcoming No Man’s Sky Survey and why a survey like this should be done.

Random Musings While Surveying 75 Miles in 8 Days – Women in the Field of Archaeology

*Note: I am posting this for a friend out in the field.*

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By Emily M. Long

All undergraduate archaeology theory courses briefly cover the introduction of a feminist lens in archaeological interpretation, with it typically tied in with post-modernism and post-processualism. Numerous articles and books outline the importance of looking beyond gendered perspectives (i.e. it’s unlikely that only men knew how to create stone tools, etc.). What is not covered in—or at least does not appear to be— academic courses and beyond is the need for the mere presence of women in the field, in the actual practice of archaeology. Multiple viewpoints are a good thing. As a post-processual/processual- plus archaeologist (yes, I’m one of those archaeologists), I’m all for varying interpretations of the archaeological record (within reason).

However, are we actually seeing this happening in the field? In my, albeit short, career as an archaeologist, it is not unusual for me to be the only female archaeologist in a Federal agency office or on a CRM crew. Why?

Obviously, the Women in Archaeology blog and podcast indicate that we are out there, but is it enough of a presence? There could be any number of reasons why I tend to be the lone wolf. It could be regional. There could be more women in office-bound/higher- up positions, so I simply don’t see them in the field. And yet, as woman in her early 30s, I just don’t see very many women in my age group and up directly in the field. I remember there were far more women than men studying archaeology at my college. I remember there were far more women than men at my field school. I remember there were only female interns at the various archaeology internships in which I participated. So, where are they now?

I recently read Charles J. Peliska’s ‘Results of a Survey for Field Archaeologists/Cultural Managers’ for an episode of the Women in Archaeology Podcast. I highly recommend checking it out, as it gives some insight into how we’re being paid, what the job market looks like, issues of discrimination, etc. There were two things that particularly struck me: 1) the decrease of archaeologists in their 40s and up, and 2) the relatively high rate of those who have witnessed or were the victim of sexual harassment.

Addressing age, Peliska notes that the physicality and inconsistency of our work can cause archaeologists to shift careers. Furthermore, since many of the current positions in CRM and at Federal agencies tend to be seasonal, health insurance, retirement plans, and maternity leave are typically not provided. After a certain age, you have to start thinking about the future. With a busted knee, I know I need to consider what the future holds in store for me (i.e. employment with healthcare). I do wonder if the absence of older archaeologists working in the field may have a connection to the lack of childcare offered. You can’t exactly strap a child to your back while surveying. What needs to change to better support field archaeologists in order to keep them in the field?

As for sexual harassment, sadly, I’m not too surprised at the high rate of incidents witnessed or experienced. Of the 479 survey participants, 60.9% had seen/heard sexual jokes but no one seemed openly uncomfortable, and 30.3% had witnessed or been the victim of jokes or teasing of a sexual nature. Harassment and sexual discrimination can come in a variety of forms, some of which may seem harmless at the time. I find that ‘casual sexism’ is far more prevalent than overt sexism—at least in my experience. For example, I was the assistant crew chief for a large-scale project in which the crew chiefs were changed each session. One of these crew chiefs would only ask my male coworker for project information, assistance with equipment, etc. He would have been mortified if I said he was being sexist, but his actions said otherwise. Has casual to overt sexism made it such a difficult work environment that women tend to veer away from field jobs at a certain point?

So, here are some questions to end this stream of conscious-esque article:

1. How does fieldwork need to change?

2. How do we encourage more women to work in the field?

3. What needs to change to make the practice of archaeology a more welcoming environment?

4. How can we, as a community of archaeologists, create a zero tolerance policy for all kinds of harassment?

5. In what ways can Federal agencies and CRM companies provide support to archaeologists with families?

6. How can archaeology societies/organizations better approach issues of discrimination and harassment?


Works Cited:

Peliska, Charles J.

2016 Results of A Survey for Field Archaeologists/Cultural Resource Managers. Electronic document,, accessed May 27, 2016.

A Letter From the Field (sort of)

*Note: I’m posting for a friend who is out of internet range this Day of Arch. *

Hi there!

I’m so glad you could join us for Day of Archaeology 2016. My name is Chelsi Slotten and I am a current PhD student at American University, as well as a cohost on the Women in Archaeology Podcast. I’m writing this a couple weeks before the Day of Archaeology on my way into the field since I will be excavating in Northern Canada on July 29th. I will be participating in an expedition run by Dr. William Fitzhugh from the Smithsonian Institution. This is of course assuming that the weather is cooperating and we don’t get stuck anywhere as a result of rough seas.

As much as I am looking forward to the expedition itself, and hoping for cooperative weather gods, it takes a lot of effort to plan for and get into the field. It will take us 2 solid days driving, an 8-hour ferry ride and 3 full days on a boat to get where we are going. As I am writing this, we are currently driving though Maine on our way to the boat we will be living on for the next month. One of our favorite topics so far is the important historical and archaeological sites along our route. Maine is the location of the Maine Maritime Archaic tradition, as first discovered by Warren K. Moorehead in the 1920’s. The burials in Maine are referred to as the Moorehead complex for that reason. The Maritime Archaic tradition was famous for “red paint” cemeteries. These cemeteries are identifiable by the layer of red ochre paint that was sprinkled over bodies and tools in burials. These days no bones remain in the Maine cemeteries, as the soil is too acidic to preserve bone. Following this discovery in Maine, similar sites were found first in Newfoundland by Dr. James Tuck in the 1970’s and then in Labrador by William Fitzhugh. Clearly the burial tradition was wide-spread.

While no bones had survived in Maine or Labrador, the soil in Newfoundland is more conducive to bone preservation, so there were skeletal remains found there. The wide geographical spread of this burial custom helped to explain some of the artifacts that Moorehead found in the 20’s. While the burials contained no skeletal remains, many of the stone tools did survive. Many of the tools were made out of a stone called Ramah Chert, a beautiful translucent type of chert found up in Labrador, Canada. When the tools were first found, no one was sure where the stone had originated from. Decades later, that question was answered when the source of that stone was located in Labrador.

While there are similarities between these three geographical locations- similar burial traditions, use of the same type of stone for tools and evidence of trade- they are not identical. Rather, the cultural traditions should be thought of as 3 subgroups- one each in Maine, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Later work by Dr. William Fitzhugh revealed that the Maritime Archaic tradition in Labrador lived in longhouses, some up to 100 meters long. The tradition included ritual hunting of large sea mammals and even, in Maine, of swordfish with antler harpoons and slate spears. The swordfish bills were often used as daggers and knives. They also hunted caribou, seals and walrus for survival.

This summer we will continue working on Maritime Archaic sites, particularly in Groswater Bay, Labrador. If you are interested in learning more about the red ochre cemeteries, Dr. Fitzhugh was the principle archaeologist in a film on the subject called “Mystery of the Lost Red Paint People” by Ted Timrek.

Here’s hoping for a great field season and some interesting new discoveries!

Adventure Awaits!


Interns and Training: You Get What You Put Into Them.

Lunch in the Woods


Training Interns is perhaps one of the funnest parts of my job over the past two years. For the most part I am stuck in the office way more then I want to be, so I really enjoy escaping into the woods to dig a phase 1. My office takes on Interns every summer, and some at random other times too so we have a fluctuating number of Interns as the years wans. This year we’ve got a huge crop (4 at once) and at this point in the summer “training” is over and “practice” is in full swing, which is great because we’re finishing up some big projects we wouldn’t have been able to get done this quickly without them. I wish we could pay them, but that’s not my decision, so I try really hard to make up for that with education and filling holes in knowledge.

Most of the Interns are fresh from their undergrads or on their last year of it, and they don’t know how to do a lot of basic stuff. Things like, how to dig a hole, how to look at soil, how to take notes, how to run a Trimble GPS, how to collect artifacts, fill out paperwork or an artifact bag, and what to do with it all when they get it back to the lab. I know these are perceived as little things but they have huge impacts. I also understand that things like paperwork and bags change from place to place, but there is a basic template for them all and knowing one makes the other easier to pick up.

So that said, I figured I’d dump a little advice here gleaned from a day working out in the tick infested woods of Southern Indiana training a fresh batch of Interns on how to do a phase 1.




Advice #1: Use your internship as practice, and practice everything. 

The two most important things you can do is Ask Questions and Get Feedback. I know this can be annoying for some people and it intimidates others, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by not figuring out what’s going on and why. Just start asking questions, and after you do something ask for constructive feedback. As an intern it’s kinda expected that you won’t know everything, unlike your first real job, so take advantage of this and use this time to learn.

The reverse of this is, Hey if you’re someone who is working with Interns, teach them how to do stuff and give them constructive feedback when they do it. You’re doing all of us a favor!




Advice #2: Take time to teach the other Interns what you’re not clear on. 

I know this sounds like a weird thing to suggest. How can you teach something if you don’t know it all the way? But that’s my point, By forcing yourself to be in a position where you have to explain what you are doing and why, you’ll see the weak points in your own knowledge and be challenged to fill them. Then you either fall back on research to fill those holes, or go back to Advice #1 and ask someone you’re working under to explain it to you.





Advice 3#: Take notes.

Yes there will be a test, and it’s call The Rest of Your Career. Take notes now on what you’re learning, what you already know, and what you need to learn. Create checklists to keep track and test yourself frequently. Also, learn to read the literature out there. Ebsco, Jstor, and any professional journal is an excellent place to start. Read, take notes, and ask questions.




Advice #4: This one is for those who are working with Interns. 

These are the next generation of archaeologists. What you teach them is going to inform them, but what you do when you teach them is going to impact them even more. If you tell them one thing and then do another, it’s just going to confuse them in the long run. Also, if you can’t make time to answer their questions you’re going to put them off and hamper them. Be open, be cordial, answer the same question five times if you have too. Show them how to do things correctly and fix problems when you see them. Also, have fun with them, because Interns are fun to work with.




Advice #5: How to be prepared to dig all day in the woods.

This is my final set of advice. Its aimed at the new graduate or Intern that is on their own and lost in the woods on their first job. I can’t write a post that will give you all the knowledge you need to do a good job, but I can give you advice on how to make outdoor work a little more pleasant. I’m focusing on the woods here because you can apply all of this in open field as well, and I like the woods. “But”, you think, “it’s the woods, how bad can it be?”, and you’re mostly right. I would rather dig in the woods any day then hot open Ag field, but there are still things to consider:

Wear appropriate clothing.

  • Wear long pants made of durable fabric, bonus points if it ‘breaths’.
  • Wear a shirt you don’t mind getting dirty, because you will. You can wear long sleeves if the material is breathable, I’ve seen some nice shirts like these in the Forestry Catalog, they also cost money, so take your pick.
  • Wear appropriate shoes. Pick shoes with a tough sole, think hiking shoes not running shoes, because you will be hiking and you will be stomping on a metal shovel, over and over. Reinforced toes are a great idea, but not a necessity, as is waterproofing. Go with comfort as much a possible, you’re going to be in these shoes all day.
  • Lets talk undergarments briefly. Men, I got no clue what kind of underwear makes the most sense to you, sorry. I assume something supportive and sweat wicking. Women, I got you! You’re going to be out all day, swinging a shovel, shifting dirt, sweating, crouching, hiking, and lugging heavy objects. Do yourself a huge favor and get a supportive sports bra that wicks away sweat, and do the same for your underwear and your socks. Wicking fabric is an amazing thing and worth the extra cash. Also, you won’t get your pretty underthings dirty and you may spare yourself a yeast infection, just saying.
  • I am also a big fan of hats, even in the woods. They keep things out of your hair and can shade your eyes when the trees get thin. Also, if it rains (and it will) it’ll keep the rain out of your face.

Pack in plenty of water and food.

  • Water is the #1 issue here. Most people don’t bring enough the first time they come out. I must insist that you have AT LEAST the equivalent of three full water bottles with you at the beginning of the day. I highly recommend that you try to drink one bottle completely by lunch and one completely by the end of the day. The third is back-up and/or other uses. Other uses include: Washing hands/wounds, wetting handkerchiefs for cooling, and sharing with your buddy who didn’t bring enough water with them. Yes it adds weight to your pack, but better that than heat-stroke or dehydration (both suck).
  • Bring enough food to keep you fueled. Also, always know where your lunch is. This amount will vary from person to person, some people are meal eaters, some a grazers, some just like to look at food. Either way, bring a good lunch and a few snacks with you, and keep track of it so it doesn’t get lost or eaten by nature.

You’re out in nature, so be prepared for it. On top of appropriate clothing you’re going to want to protect yourself in other ways too.

  • Spray for ticks. It won’t keep them all off, but it will keep them at bay, also, it will keep the mosquitoes way so win/win.
  • Wear sunscreen. I know you think you’re ok in the woods, but you’re not. Do yourself a huge favor and just wear the sunscreen. You don’t want to be 40 years old and have to have doctors slowly carve cancerous piece of your flesh off because you didn’t protect yourself from the sun when you were 20. Always wear sunscreen.
  • Keep an open eye out for snakes and other forms of wildlife. Depending on where you are this is more or less of an issue, but keep an eye out anyway. Besides, nature is cool and you might get to play with it a little if it’s not poisonous!
  • Tecnu Extreme is your friend. This gem of a product will keep you from getting poison ivy. You will not be able to avoid touching it, so get a tube of Tecnu and scrub down as soon as you get home. Bonus effect, it exfoliates wonderfully.
  • Find a Tic Buddy. Tic Buddies are people who are ok with taking tweezers and picking the little f*%#$ off your body after you’ve been in the woods. Return the favor if necessary.

Random comfort Items! Everyone has suggestions for what can make life outdoors more fun/comfortable. These things include:

  • Cloth Handkerchiefs, for a variety of reasons. You can use them to make a cooling wrap, for wiping away sweat, blowing your nose, first aid, and so on. I always have one and prefer the cotton ones over the poliester, they absorb better.
  • TP. Bears poop in the woods, and so will you eventually.
  • Plastic zip bags. Good for protecting your phone, keeping little things from getting wet, keeping things form rolling around in your bag, etc.
  • Energy drink power. Sometimes you just need a pick me up, these things are great for that.
  • Sunglasses. Bonus is they can double for safety glasses, Just be sure to take them off when you need to examine anything.
  • Clean, dry socks.
  • Hand wipes.
  • hand/foot warmers
  • And so on…

With that I wish you all Happy Intering, and if you want to share further ideas with me, contact me at and/or post to comments here!

Sometimes You Just Have to Debunk It.

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On the Day of Archaeology, we archaeologists get together and blog about all the different ways we do archaeology. Take a moment and browse this awesome site and you’ll find blogs on digging, research, office work, and life after grad school. You’ll also read about Public Archaeology (of which Day of Archaeology is part), the reaching out to the public, and making archaeology accessible to the public.

I am a HUGE fan of public archaeology, but I take a slightly different twist on it.

I am a Debunker. I use real archaeology to debunk pseudoarchaeology.

Four years ago I started a blog called ArchyFantasies, where I’ve tackled everything from the infamous 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts to the current project of deciding who discovered America first. I also discuss archaeological history looking at it from the founding mother’s perspectives and I try to answer questions people send me about the weird, wacky world of archaeology.

Four years and going I’m pretty pleased with the blog, and I’m even more pleased with how it’s grown. For the last three years now I have given presentations on debunking pseudoarchaeology at Gen Con, Incon, and The Center for Inquiry in Indianapolis. Hey I’m a gaming geek, and my goal is to reach out to everyday people. I also work with children doing mock-digs and teaching them about context and the archaeological process. I love reaching out to people and I’m really glad my little blog has led to me being able to do more.

Still, debunking pseudoarchaeology is incredibly important, as is understanding why pseudoarchaeology is so popular and persists in modern time.

Was Mound A built by some vanished and forgotten civilization, or by basket load by early Natives?

Was Mound A built by some vanished and forgotten civilization, or by basket load by early Natives?

Pseudoarchaeology makes the past fun, mysterious, and special. Through the manipulation of facts and evidence, sometimes resorting to simply making them up, Pseudoarchaeology tells us that Aliens visited the planet thousands of years ago, humans and dinosaurs lived together in harmony, and a now vanished race of people known as Atlantean pretty much created all culture and all of technology. It can validate cultural, racial, and national identities, like Afrocentrism or the Bosnian Pyramids. It can bolster religious validity like with Creationism. It can allow for thinly veiled racism like the total disregard of local native peoples with the Mysterious Mound Builders or insisting Aliens did everything for “primitive” ancient peoples. It can make the individual person special too because they now become the only ones to know the Truth, and “mainstream” archaeologists are part of a worldwide conspiracy to hide the Truth.

Compare this to the real world of archaeology. The real, sweaty, labor intensive, research heavy, jargon laden, paper writing world of archaeology. Half the time when you start telling the average person how you’re comparing the ground-truthing of a magnetometer reading with the traditional interpretation of said magnetometer reading you can watch their eyes cross as they try to stay politely interested. The other half of the time they want to know if you’ve found gold or dinosaurs.

It's not a spaceship, it's a magnetometer.

It’s not a spaceship, it’s a magnetometer.

The public loves archaeology; we see evidence of this with the success and endurance of every Indiana Jones movie (whether or not they were good), the success of TV shows like Time Team and Ancient Aliens (now in its 5th season) and the popularity of magazines like Archaeology and Popular Archaeology. The problem isn’t the public’s lack of interest; it’s the public’s inability to get a hold of good information.

An aspect of real archaeology, digging deep, by hand.

An aspect of real archaeology, digging deep, by hand.

With shows like Diggers, American Diggers, Ancient Aliens, other random shows about the lost secrets of Atlantis and thousands of books/websites/podcasts discussing Viking Mound Builders in America, Alien skulls, Giant Burials, the fifth discovery of Noah’s Arch, Aliens building the Pyramids, Bigfoot, and my personal favorite, how all of us “mainstream” archaeologists are trying to keep the TRUTH from the public, it’s hard for the public to figure out what’s what. Especially when academic archaeology is basically silent, particularly on these topics.

Another tick infested aspect of archaeology. Survey in the woods.

Another tick infested aspect of archaeology. Survey in the woods.

In the March 2013 issue of the SAA’s Archaeological Record, David S. Anderson, Jeb J. Card, and Kenneth L. Feder made a plea to the archaeological community to band together to reclaim the public perception of Archaeology and to understand why pseudoarchaeology persists. Anderson et. al. thinks this attempt in understanding should be part of our jobs as professional archaeologists (2013:26). They see ignoring pseudoarchaeology as dismissing an important element of human culture (2013:26). They tell us we can’t ignore the modern popular relationship with the material past simply because it’s annoying (2013:27).

Working with the public can be rewarding and get things done.

Working with the public can be rewarding and get things done.

I agree whole-heartedly.

We as archaeologist need to address pseudoarchaeology when we see/hear it. We need more blogs like mine and Bad Archaeology. We need some skeptical Podcasts that address pseudoarchaeology and cover the actual archaeology behind those stories. We need more shows akin to Time Team that can directly compete with shows like Diggers et al. If we can’t do that, we need to address pseudoarchaeology in the class room, in the local newspapers, and even in the public sphere.

Four years ago I started a simple blog on addressing pseudoarchaeology, I did it in my spare time, and it’s blossomed into a whole lot more. I challenge everyone posting on the Day of Archaeology blog to dedicate one post on their own blogs/websites on the topic. I’ll even offer to host the post on my own blog! Let’s do it, let’s band together and give the public what they really want, solid facts about real archaeology.


Archaeology Doesn’t End in the Lab, It’s Got an Office Too


Today you’re going to read lots of great and interesting posts about what we do when we are in the field and lab, but I want to show a bit more than that. I want to take you out of the Field, out of the Lab, and into a place of magic and wonder! I want to show you the world of the Archaeological Office!



I am currently doing an internship with the DHPA here in Indiana. For those who don’t know the DHPA stands for the Department of Historical Preservation and Archaeology. I do quite a bit of a variety of things. I’ve been in the woods looking for prehistoric artifacts, I’ve been in the lab labeling artifacts, but mostly I’ve been in the office, learning GIS and an awesome new system called SHAARD.

SHAARD and GIS are great for a geeky-chick like me. I’ve got a soft spot for computers, and I’ve been fascinated with GIS ever since one of my coworkers took a picture of his cat and made a 3D Topo-map out of it. It was cool.



SHAARD’s main page with a drop down menu showing selections

SHAARD stands for The Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database. (It’s the government, they love alphabet soup.) This database is open and searchable by the public, except for the archaeological records. Now what does that get the average person? Well, you can search cemeteries, Historical theaters, anything on the National Register, Historical Bridges, and the County Surveys. Check it out, you don’t have to do anything to search and access records.


                                                                    One of several images in SHAARD for the historical Indiana Theater

If you are a professional, you can apply to receive access to the archaeological part of the data base, which is where I come in. I am one of a team who are busily inputting data from hand written field and site reports into the online database. This is  a whole lot more intresting than it sounds, and sometimes a little more difficult.

Just a tip to the field people, other people have to read your handwriting…just saying…

SHAARD is a bit groundbreaking with all it’s trying to do. It’s unique to the State of Indiana, and it is attempting to be the most complete searchable database out there. It is currently focused on connecting the site information to a massive GIS map of the entire state. When we get done, not only will you be able to log in and see all the data collected so far, you’ll see a list of artifacts, references, descriptions, vital contact information, and maps. When you click though, it will take to you a usable GIS map with photo overlay. No more guessing.

I was ecstatic when I found out this last bit, and I will admit, I’m very picky about point and polygon placement on the map. I know what it’s like to be out there in the field with a Tremble “guessing” about where the site really is. I’ve been there, I’ve dug those empty holes, marched that extra half mile, been lost in that wood. I get it.

I’m also picky because this is what I’ve decided to get my masters in. GIS is becoming vital to our field. Not just for mapping, but other excellent uses…like making Topo’s of your cat pictures…or artifact density analysis, you know, whatever is more important.

DHPA and Cemeteries

The DHPA is also responsible for locating and recording cemeteries in the state. I don’t just mean the easy to find ones like beautiful Crown Hill, I mean tiny, probably forgotten, no-tombstone having, cemeteries too. One of my fist projects at the DHPA was to help defined the boarders of a small, neglected cemetery. It turned out, I already knew quite a bit about the cemetery because I’d done work on two sites connected to it already.

I won’t lie, I spent a fair amount of time in the State Library going over old records, newspaper clippings, city histories, and Sanborn maps on micro film. (Not a fan of microfilm). I’m a bit of a research nut, so this was pretty cool, and I got goofy excited when we went to the State Records Archives  and look at the 1930/40’s aerial photography looking for my little cemetery.  Sadly, I never did find it, but sometimes this happens.


                                                                                       John Walters and a cleaned headstone

Now you all know I’m big with the public outreach and all that, and I was really happy to find out that one of the things the DHPA does is works with our local Historical Foundation to host Cemetery workshops. They host a two-day long class where people come and learn how to restore and preserve the cemeteries around the state. They work with John Walters, an expert in cemetery restoration, to teach people how to clean, repair, and restore tombstones. They also provide lectures on how to identify features of the tombstones, what kind of stone they are, and how to use SHAARD.


A local geologist showing how to identify types of stone used in headstone production.

The class also has an advanced component where you can become certified to probe in the state. See, there are laws that control when and how you can dig on land that isn’t your own. In Indiana you can become certified to probe with a solid body probe in order to look for buried tombstones.


DHPA is also involved in a little thing called National Archaeology Month, where each year they put on numerous workshops and day camps, bringing archaeology to the public. I’m also going to be involved with those.

So, yah, I’m not bushwhacking though greenfield in 100+ degree weather, fighting for my life against mosquitoes and ticks right now. I am making life a little easier for those who are, and extending archaeology to the public little by little. I like to think this end of archaeology is just as interesting as the survey and recovery end, I know it’s just as vital. In the end, I’m having as much fun here as I’ve ever had in the field, and I know having done the full gambit allows me to understand what people in the field need from those in the office. I feel like I am bridging a gap, for the time being, and when the time comes and I’m out in the field again, I’ll understand more about why the Tremble hate us.