Annual Editions: Archaeology, 11e
UNIT About Archaeologists and Archaeology
The Awful Truth about Archaeology, Dr. Lynne Sebastian, Albuquerque Tribune, April 16, 2002
“You’re an Archaeologist! That sounds soooo exciting!” Of course it sounds exciting because of the hyperbole and mystery perpetuated by TV shows, movies, and novels— professional archaeologists know better! Yes, the thrill of looking at the past is truly exciting, but the process of discovery is slow, tedious, and frustrating, especially when nothing is found. Digging square holes in the ground and carefully measuring artifacts, cataloging, taking notes, and hoping to publish something meaningful about the past—it is more of a work of love that has its inherent reward in knowledge.
Decadence Now, Edward Humes, from Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, p. 143–166, Avery, 2012
In the author’s words, “the concept of garbology is simple: If we use the same archaeological tools and techniques previously employed on Egyptian pyramids, lava-encrusted Pompeii and the painted caves of Lascaux, what can we learn about American civilization from its garbage? What is the secret story of trash?”
Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s ‘Indiana Jones,’ Thinks Giza Pyramid Holds Hidden Treasure, Owen Janus, Live Science June 9, 2013
Cleared of all the corruption charges against him, Zahi Hawass is once again on the world-wide lecture circuit raising funds for research and touting new technology for probing Egypt’s pyramids.
Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology: Communication and the Future of American Archaeology, Jeremy A. Sabloff, American Anthropologist, December 1998
Jeremy Sabloff discusses the role that archaeology should play in public education and the need for archaeologists to communicate more effectively with relevant writing for the public. He further suggests the need to recognize nonacademic archaeologists and to focus on action archaeology, or what is more usually termed public archaeology.
CSI: Italian Renaissance, Tom Mueller, Smithsonian, July/August 2013
A forensic anthropologist, along with a team of archaeologists, physical anthropologists and historians of medicine, use state-of-the-art medical technology to investigate the lives and deaths of illustrious figures of the past.
UNIT Problem Oriented Archaeology
The First Americans, Heather Pringle, Scientific American, November 2011
For decades, archaeologists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic from Asia to America, but new data seems to indicate that they were wrong, not only in terms of when, but how they came to the New World.
Coming to America, Andrew Curry, Nature, May 3, 2012
What part of Asia did the earliest migrants to the New World come from and what specific routes did they take? The answers to these questions lie in the genetics of the people, the geology of the landscape and the archaeology of the cultural past.
Beyond the Blue Horizon, Roff Smith, National Geographic, March 2008
An ancient sea-faring people with simple canoes and no navigation gear somehow managed to colonize hundreds of far-flung island specks scattered across an ocean that spans nearly a third of the globe. That ocean was the Pacific and the descendants of those pioneers are today’s Polynesians.
Prehistory of Warfare, Steven A. LeBlanc, Archaeology, May/June 2003
The state of primitive warfare is examined and found to be endemic to all such cultures as seen through archaeology. It is suggested that warfare might have occurred under conditions of resource stress and poor climates. It is surprising to learn that warfare has actually declined over time. Foragers and farmers, who constitute approximately 25% of the population, have much higher death rates than more complex societies.
Uncovering America’s Pyramid Builders, Karen Wright, Discover, February 2004
As a United Nations World Heritage Site, Cahokia had one of the largest pyramids in the world and one of the most sophisticated societies in North America. Yet, we know very little about it—how it came into existence, how it functioned, and why it ultimately failed. As they try to stay ahead of the developers, archaeologists are scrambling to try to understand it.
A Coprological View of Ancestral Pueblo Cannibalism, Karl J. Reinhard, American Scientist, May/June 2006
Cultural reconstruction can become easily colored by the projections of the archaeological community, combined with the inclination of the media to oversimplify and sensationalize. The finding of one coprolite and how it came to be considered as ironclad evidence of cannibalism among the Ancestral Pueblo people is one such cautionary tale.
Beer and Bling in Iron Age Europe, Science Daily, March 19, 2012
In excavating Celtic burial grounds of Iron Age Europe, archaeologists can tell whether someone was male, female, a child, married as well as their social role by what they were wearing. They can even tell how well-off they were by what they were drinking.
Woman the Toolmaker, Steven A. Brandt and Kathryn Weedman, Archaeology, September/October 2002
Not only were women leaders and hunters in the Ice Age, but according to ethnoarchaeology, they are also skilled toolmakers in modern tribal societies. These female flintknappers again defy the stereotypical roles of men and women, showing that today’s tribal women, as did women in the archaeological past, excel at toolmaking.
Bushmen, John Yellen, Science, May 1985
This article examines a revealing experiment in which anthropologist John Yellen excavates !Kung Bushmen campsites. Comparing the archaeological data with information from living informants and historical resources, Yellen discovers a kind of lyrical “back to the future” experience. A whole way of life and values has disappeared, but the natives cannot permit themselves to confront these changes.
UNIT Techniques in Archaeology
Lasers in the Jungle, Arlen F. Chase, Diane Z. Chase, and John F. Weishampel, Archaeology, July/August 2010
Until recently, Maya sites have been almost impossible to see as well as expensive and labor-intensive to map. Now, a new remote-sensing technology allows archaeologists to “see” ruins below the heavy canopy of trees. It stands to replace traditional mapping in tropical rainforests, drive new archaeological research by revealing unusual settlement patterns, identify new locales for on-the-ground work and, ultimately, revolutionize our understanding of Maya civilization.
Archaeology of Titanic, James P. Delgado, Archaeology, May/June 2012
Technological advances and interdisciplinary efforts have combined to usher in a new era of exploration at the bottom of our oceans. The Titanic, which sank over 100 years ago, has finally become an archaeological site.
Mayas Mastered Rubber Long before Goodyear, Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2010
Hundreds and perhaps thousands of years before Charles Goodyear discovered the vulcanization process that made commercial rubber viable, Mesoamericans were carrying out a similar process to produce rubber artifacts for a broad variety of uses.
Profile of an Anthropologist: No Bone Unturned, Patrick Huyghe, Discover, December 1988
Archaeologists have borrowed a method first used by physical anthropologists to develop a technique for learning the age, gender, possible ethnicity or ancestral relationships, etc. and the cause of death of extant human beings through analysis of skeletal remains. As long as there are bones, there is archaeological information to be gained, whether the person lived in ancient times or the more recent historic past. Determining the cause of death such as warfare, personal violence, criminal violence, suicide, cannibalism, or natural death sheds a great deal of light on the culture of the individual who is being studied.
Interbreeding with Neanderthals, Carl Zimmer, Discover, March 2013
The recovery of DNA from fossil hominins such as the Neanderthals is enabling us to make genetic comparisons with modern populations. From such analyses, we are increasingly able to reconstruct the migrations of ancient peoples, figure out who mated with whom along the way and, perhaps, the implications of such interbreeding for modern human health.
UNIT 4: Prehistoric Archaeology
Human Evolution: The Long, Winding Road to Modern Man, Chris Stringer, The Guardian, June 18, 2011
As Chris Stringer ponders the decades-long controversy regarding the origin of modern humans, he reviews his earlier position that Africa was the only source of our ancestral heritage. He then proceeds to reconcile this position with recent genetic evidence that modern humans expanding out of Africa did, in fact, breed to a modest extent with local populations in Europe and Asia—the co-called “leaky replacement” model.
When the Sea Saved Humanity, Curtis W. Marean, Scientific American, August 2010
Shortly after Homo sapiens arose, harsh climate conditions nearly extinguished our species. Recent finds suggest that the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa.
A New View of the Birth of Homo sapiens, Ann Gibbons, Science, January 28, 2011
As in the previous article, Ann Gibbons discusses the question— did modern humans come out of Africa, spread around the world and replace, rather than mate with, the archaic humans they met? However, in this piece, she reviews the new genomic data in more detail and shows how the principle adversaries in the dispute—Chris Stringer and Milford Wolpoff—can each come away thinking they have been vindicated.
Refuting a Myth about Human Origins, John J. Shea, American Scientist, March/April 2011
For decades, archaeologists have believed that certain sophisticated tools and food-getting strategies developed along with “modern Homo sapiens.” However, archaeological evidence is now showing that at least some of our ancestors’ capabilities, most importantly the capacity for wide behavioral variability, actually occurred among people who lived much further back in time, particularly in Africa.
Rethinking the Hobbits of Indonesia, Kate Wong, Scientific American, November 2009
New analyses of Homo floresiensis, popularly known as the “Hobbits,” reveal the diminutive species to be even stranger than previously thought. Its skeleton and primitive tool-kit hint that major tenets of human evolution need revision. Some of the questions raised include: which species of our genus Homo was the first to migrate out of Africa and were there really two hominin species in existence as recently as 18,000 years ago?
Putting Stonehenge in Its Place, William Underhill, Scientific American, March 2011
As Great Britain’s best known and grandest pre-historic monument, Stonehenge appears to have been part of a much larger ceremonial complex. Even five thousand years ago, it attracted people from throughout Europe as a place of healing—the pre-historic equivalent of Lourdes.
The First Vikings, Andrew Curry, Archaeology, June 10, 2013
Two ships filled with slain warriors have been uncovered on a Baltic island. Dating back to A.D. 793, the discovery may help archaeologists and historians understand how the Viking warships evolved from short-range, rowed craft to sailing ships, where the warriors came from and how their battle tactics developed to the point of raiding and trading on four continents.
UNIT 5: Historical Archaeology
Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx, Evan Hadingham, Smithsonian, February 2010
No human endeavor has been more associated with mystery than the huge, ancient lion with a human head that seemingly rests on the rocky plateau just a stroll from the great pyramids. After a lifetime of archaeological sleuthing, one man has helped confirm what others had speculated—that some parts of the Giza complex, the Sphinx included, make up a vast sacred machine designed to harness the power of the sun to sustain the earthly, as well as the divine, order.
Home away from Rome, Paul Bennett, Smithsonian, June 2010
Excavations of villas where Roman emperors escaped the office are giving archaeologists new insights into the contrast between the emperors’ official and private lives. The economic power of the larger villas, which tended to expand as Rome grew more politically unstable, may even have contributed to the empire’s decline.
Carthage: The Lost Mediterranean Civilisation, Richard Miles, History Today, February 2010
Situated on the nexus of the two most important trans-Mediterranean trade routes, Carthage became the pre-eminent maritime power of its time. However, little remains of the great North African empire that was to become Rome’s most formidable enemy. Only its complete annihilation could satisfy its younger rival.
The Weapon That Changed History, Archaeology, January/February 2012
Using a remotely operated submersible vehicle, archaeologists have for the first time been able to supplement historical documents with actual underwater evidence for a particular ancient naval battle. We can now understand how Rome, in one fell swoop, was able to gain naval advantage over its primary rival, Carthage, with the result that all the islands of the Mediterranean, from Sicily to Sardinia, came into Roman hands.
Lofty Ambitions of the Inca, Heather Pringle, National Geographic, April 2011
The Inca have been called the organizational geniuses of the Americas. They transformed fragmentary networks into interconnected highways, mastered high-altitude agriculture into sophisticated terracing and irrigation. They cultivated some 70 different kinds of crops and stockpiled three to seven years’ worth of food, all the while maintaining inventory control. Having mobilized labor to build architectural masterpieces like Machu Picchu, it is no wonder that they awe visitors to this day.
Return to the Trail of Tears, Marion Blackburn, Archaeology, March/April 2012
Excavations at the untouched site of a U.S. Army fort are providing a rare look at the path along which 13,000 Cherokee were forcibly removed in 1838 from their homes in the Appalachian Mountains to a new government-mandated homeland in Oklahoma.
Living through the Donner Party, Jared Diamond, Discover, March 1992
The infamous story of the Donner Party unfolds anew as an anthropologist invokes the dynamics of scientific thinking. In generating a new idea about an old problem, the predictability of human behavior that is necessary for cultural and historical reconstruction of the past is demonstrated.
The Great New England Vampire Panic, Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian, October 2012
A vampire panic spread through New England during the nineteenth century. Relatives of the deceased would exhume and violate corpses in order to prevent them from feeding on the blood of the living. Reasonable people—finding themselves in the midst of a tuberculosis epidemic that they did not understand—resorted to a folk system that offered an alternative—a choice—and their only hope.
UNIT 6: Contemporary Archaeology
Maya Archaeologists Turn to the Living to Help Save the Dead, Michael Bawaya, Science Magazine, August 26, 2005
By enabling local residents, rather than outsiders, to serve as custodians of their own heritage, archaeologists have helped to instill in them a sense of identity and, instead of looting and destroying valuable sites, they are now dedicated to preserving them.
Archaeologists Race against Sea Change in Orkney, Sara Reardon, Science, November 25, 2011
Coastal erosion, accelerated by climate change, is threatening archaeological sites of the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Just as the people themselves have adjusted to such changes over the millennia, archaeologists are adapting with the use of new technology, such as 3D laser scanning.
Ruined, Michael Marshall, New Scientist, August 4, 2012
Recent studies of the correlations between climate change and social upheavals such as wars, famines and the collapse of civilizations indicate that temperature changes and droughts have played a significant role in human history. Perhaps the most important question now is: Will we learn from history or are we doomed to repeat it.
Archaeology of the Homeless, Nicole Albertson, Archaeology, November/December 2009
Homelessness has long been a significant sub-culture of American society. It is now being examined by archaeologists in order to reveal its rules, realities and patterns, leading to an Understanding which may help improve programs that aid the poor.