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Public Education Committee Sponsored Sessions at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings

April 21, 2014

I am honored to currently serve as the Chair of the Public Education Committee (PEC) of the Society for American Archaeology.  At the Annual Conference of the SAA this April 23-27 the PEC is pleased to sponsor the sessions listed below.  Here is a link for more information on the Annual Meeting including a complete program.  Hope to see you in Austin!

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Welcome to Online Archaeology!

  •  Thursday, April 24, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
  • Maximum 24 persons;
  • $79 Annual Meeting attendees;
  • $49 student meeting attendees;
  • $129 non-meeting attendees

Instructors: Shereen Lerner (MesaCommunity College), Nancy Gonlin, RPA (Bellevue College), and Christine Dixon (University of Colorado and Bellevue College)

Target Audience: Archaeologists who teach or want to learn how to teach online or hybrid courses or improve the current content of their courses. The latest trend in education is the offering of online courses. As archaeologists, it is our duty to ensure high-quality education and to successfully convey the essence of the field through the medium of online teaching. This workshop will be a hands-on experience to demonstrate and share what has worked successfully in the online archaeology classroom. Several archaeologists have extensive experience in teaching in this environment and are familiar with various approaches that can be taken, regardless of the learning management system used by an institution to run online courses. Attendees will have the opportunity to map out a module of their own classes.

Major outcomes and lessons of the workshop participants will take away:

  1. A sense/knowledge of what approaches work well in the online environment
  2. Activities, films, assignments, and other assessments that convey essential archaeology concepts
  3. Links to resources for online archaeology education
  4. How to set up blogs and discussion areas and incorporate it into the online classroom
  5. How to incorporate or improve a course module and an outline of it

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Public Education Committee Meeting

  • Thursday, April 24, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
  • Salon C (HA)

Public Education State Network Coordinators Meeting

  • Friday, April 25, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
  • Salon D (HA)

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Electronic Symposium · Getting Back to Saving the Past for the Future: Heritage Education at a Professional Crossroads

  • Thursday, April 24, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Room: 19B (ACC)

 In 1988, the Society for American Archaeology initiated the “Save the Past for the Future” Project to curb vandalism and destruction of archaeological resources, and provide for public education. Federal and state agencies and partners responded with an impressive variety of programs such as the Passport in Time program and Project Archaeology. The SAA’s Public Education Committee (PEC) became not only a clearing house for heritage education, but launched a number of successful internal and external initiatives, through the dedicated service of over 50 members. Despite the successes of the PEC, Board support for the large, active group waned and in 2008 reduced the size to 15 rotating members, in keeping with new SAA committee policy. During the same period environmental educators formed the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). The NAAEE has state chapters to promote environmental education within states, establish best practices, and holds an annual meeting that attracts 1000 educators. Today the future of heritage education is threatened because it has no organization to support the efforts of a large group of heritage education professionals. This session will explore the development of heritage and environmental education and examine the possibilities for future professionalization of heritage education.

Here is a link to the papers for the session.

 Chair: Margaret Heath

 Participants:

  • Shereen Lerner—Challenging the Status Quo
  • Maureen Malloy—Archaeology Education in the U.S.: Past, Present, and Future
  • Jeanne Moe—Archaeology and the Common Core State Standards: All Hands onDeck
  • Hope Luhman—Considering the Possibilities: Cultural Resource Management’s Role in Heritage Education
  • A. Gwynn Henderson—Public Archaeology at the Kentucky Archaeological Survey
  • Ryan Harke—Towards a Public Environmental Archaeology: History, Survey and Suggestion
  • Ben Thomas—Facilitating Outreach and Education on a Grassroots Level
  • Robert King—Heritage Education at the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree: A Report on an Opportunity Taken
  • Meredith Hardy—New Directions in Archeological and Cultural Heritage Education
  • Eleanor King—Heritage and the Underrepresented: the Perspective from Howard University
  • Margaret Heath—Past, Present, and Future Directions of Heritage Education

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[152] Symposium · Co-Creation, The Public, and the Archaeological Record 

  • Friday Morning, April 25, 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Room: 19B (ACC)

Co-creation in public archaeology is a means to engage and empower citizens to become stakeholders of the archaeological record. In museum contexts Simon (2010:278) writes that the purpose of co-creative community projects is “to give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals.” The papers in this session discuss a variety of recent archaeological projects that implement the co-creative model. The contributions demonstrate how co-creation moves beyond “hands-on” educational experiences or typical volunteer programs because participants are invited to play an active role in designing and constructing the final products to address their needs and interests. Co-creation aligns with current emphases on informal, lifelong, and free-choice learning models that foster public engagement in the preservation of cultural heritage resources. The papers in this session also explore the benefits and challenges of using this method and provide examples of best practices for implementation. Finally, these papers speak to the impact of co-creation on the discipline and how the process increases the ability of archaeology to contribute to debates on contemporary issues.

Chairs: Elizabeth Bollwerk and Robert Connolly

 Participants:

  • 8:00 Robert Connolly—Co-creation as an Essential Means Toward Open Authority in Archaeology
  • 8:15 T. J. Ferguson and Stewart Koyiyumptewa—Co-Creation of Knowledge about the Past by The Hopi Tribe and Archaeologists
  • 8:30 Kimberly Kasper and Russell Handsman—The Duality of a 21st Century Tribal Museum: Archaeological Research and Museum Stakeholders at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
  • 8:45 Kenneth Robinson and Stephen Whittington—The Road Goes Ever On and On: Public Archaeology at Teozacoalco
  • 9:00 Elizabeth Katherine Cruzado Carranza and Rebecca Bria —Making the Past Relevant: Finding Solutions to the Challenges of Heritage Preservation in Rural Communities in Peru
  • 9:15 Britton Shepardson and Beno Atan—Approaching sustainable public archaeology on Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile): education, conservation, research, and tourism
  • 9:30 Teresa Moyer—Building Capacity for Co-Created Digital Moviemaking through Youth Programs
  • 9:45 Bernard Means—Promoting a More Interactive Public Archaeology: Archaeological Visualization and Reflexivity through Virtual Artifact Curation
  • 10:00 Elizabeth Bollwerk—Open(ing) Archaeology: A Model for Digital Engagement
  • 10:15 Holly Andrew and Bonnie Pitblado—Engaging and Empowering Citizen Archaeologists through the Co-Creative Process: A Case Study Involving the Oklahoma Anthropological Society
  • 10:30 Matthew Reeves—Transforming Metal Detectorists into Citizen Scientists
  • 10:45 Kimberley Popetz—Turning Privies into Class Projects
  • 11:00 Sarah Miller, Jeff Moates and Michelle Williams—Co-Creation and the Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) Program Across Florida
  • 11:15 Michael Barber, Carole Nash and Michael Madden—The “Public in Public Archaeology: Down from the Ivory Tower and into the Real Trenches
  • 11:30 Mallory Haas and Elizabeth Hoag—Developing archaeological vernacular when approaching salvage in community: Decommissioning Euclid Avenue Churches in Cleveland Ohio.
  • 11:45 Carol McDavid—Discussant

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[274] Forum · THE ENGAGED CLASSROOM: DEVELOPING ACTIVITIES FOR ARCHAEOLOGY COURSES

  •  Saturday, April 26, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
  • Room: 8B (ACC)

Archaeology courses offer ample opportunity to engage students in creative learning. Our discipline is one of infinite curiosity and discovery, which translates well to hands-on and/or critical thinking exercises. However, designing and implementing appropriate activities can be a challenge, particularly for new instructors. It takes time to develop an activity, supplies may not be readily available, planned activities may not live up to expectations, or student interaction may be difficult to facilitate. This forum is designed to offer archaeology instructors the opportunity to discuss, brainstorm, and share classroom activities. Our goal is for attendees to leave with examples of activities that could be implemented in a variety of archaeology courses. Each discussant will present a successful activity, including sharing tips and techniques to replicate the activity. Forum attendees will then collaboratively outline activities to teach common archaeological concepts in an engaged manner, allowing participants to learn from the successes and challenges others have experienced.

Moderator: Heidi Bauer-Clapp

Participants:

  • Heidi Bauer-Clapp—Discussant
  • Robert Connolly—Discussant
  • Bonnie Pitblado—Discussant
  • Katie Kirakosian—Discussant

 

 

Reading the Built Environment

April 14, 2014

A benefit to my job at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa is that I work at a museum surrounded by 40 acres of forests that is surrounded by another 1400 acres of forests and open grasslands.  This past Friday after spending several hours dealing with budgetary matters, to clear my head I decided to take a walk in the woods.  I grabbed the Museum’s Nikon and headed out for a quick one mile trek around the Mississippian mound complex on which our museum is located and then through our 0.5 mile nature trail that connects to the six-mile trail at T.O. Fuller State Park.

I snapped the occasional photograph of images that resonated with me.  I got about half-way through the walk and began to think of conversations I often have with my colleague, Allison Hennie, who was back at the Museum, minding the store as it were.  Allison is an architect, anthropologist, museum studies person, now in a PhD program where she will look at concepts of landscape literacy and the built environment of prehistoric earthwork complexes.  I thought of comments I wanted to make to her as I walked the path.  Then I came to wonder about the photographs Allison might take as she walked along the path.  Interesting idea.

So when I got back to the Museum, I handed Allison the camera and asked her to walk the same loop as I had just completed and take 10 – 20 photos as I had done.  I was curious about the similarities and differences that might occur in our two sets of photographs.

Here is a slideshow of my set of photographs:

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Here is a slideshow of Allison’s set of photographs:

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Differences I note right off include:

  • my photos are more vegetation-centered, more green.  Allison’s photos are more holistic and include more of the earth and sky.
  • Allison incorporates more of the total environment, including the historic.  I intentionally framed photos to exclude the modern that was not made of wood.
  • In so doing my focus seems more past and Allison’s seems to have the past meet with the present.  This observation is also a key part of our discussions of landscape literacy where Allison reads more of the past by the present and I tend to make less of that connection.

An enjoyable walk in the woods, regardless.  Come visit us if you are in the Memphis area!

 

 

 

On Riding a Bicycle

April 12, 2014

gearsA Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles.  When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes.  I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!”  The teacher praised the first student.  “You are a smart boy!  When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!”  The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.”  The teacher gave his praise to the third student.  “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.”  The teacher was pleased and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.”  The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “I am your student.”

from The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, Bantam Books, 1992, p. 36

Co-Creation, the Public, and the Archaeological Record

April 7, 2014

My colleague Elizabeth Bollwerk and I have organized a session of papers (Friday morning, April 25 at 8:00 AM) around the theme of Co-Creation, the Public, and the Archaeological Record  for the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting this month in Austin Texas.  We previously organized a session on museums and co-creation at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings a couple of years ago, published last year as a thematic volume Open(ing) Authority Through Community Engagement in the journal Museums and Social Issues.

The 2014 SAA meeting session brings together a set of papers by practitioners that take-up co-creation and open authority within the discipline of archaeology.  We are particularly pleased that Carol McDavid, a long-time leader in public archaeology and community engagement will serve as a discussant for the session.  The session abstracts are listed below.  If you are going to be in Austin, we hope to see you at our session!

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Open(ing) Archaeology: A Model for Digital Engagement - Elizabeth Bollwerk (Central Washington University, Museum of Culture and Environment) - This paper begins with a brief introduction of the Open Authority and Co-Creation models and explores their role in altering and revolutionizing archaeological practice.  The focus then shifts to a discussion of engagement methods that archaeologists are currently utilizing on the web, including blogging, crowdfunding, and social media and evaluates their success as co-creative projects.  These methods are compared with co-creative methods that are being utilized by other scientific disciplines, in particular, crowdsourcing.  This paper concludes by considering 1) the obstacles and challenges facing the implementation of archaeological co-creative projects that are web based and 2) best practices for digital co-creative engagement identified from successful projects.

The “Public” in Public Archaeology: Down from the Ivory Tower and into the Real Trenches - Michael B. Barber (Virginia Department of Historic Resources), Michael J. Madden (USDA-Forest Service), and Carole L. Nash (James Madison University) - Archaeology is not for the benefit of archaeologists.   Building on the foundation of the Archaeological Society of Virginia, Virginia’s community of professional archaeologists has joined forces and developed the “Certification Program for Archaeological Technicians.”   The program trains avocational archaeologists in the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the profession.  It is our contention here that co-creation should begin with the first phases of any archaeological endeavor and continue through interpretation and overall historic preservation.     

 Making the Past Relevant: Co-creative solutions to the challenges of heritage preservation in rural Peru - Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza (PIARA) and Rebecca E. Bria (Vanderbilt University and PIARA) - In the impoverished traditional Quechua communities of rural Ancash, Peru, the planning and implementing of archaeological heritage preservation and community museum projects faces a variety of obstacles that require creative solutions. At two nearby monumental archaeological sites with over 2000 years of prehistoric occupation, Hualcayán and Pariamarca, archaeologists work directly with the local community to demonstrate the relevance for the preservation of their cultural resources. Conflicting interests by adults who are pressured by local political parties, business interests, and a loss of connection to the ancient past has led the US and Peruvian collaborators of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) to engage local communities in developing a multi-faceted and co-creative approach to present and protect their cultural heritage.  The engagement includes 1) long-term, education-focused heritage preservation projects with local school children, 2) the design of local museums that also serve as community centers, and 3) plans for the creation of a community-run development project to generate communal funds through ecological and cultural tourism activities. The latter project will connect the two sites as archaeological parks, museums, and campgrounds or homestays as tourism destinations rather than a simple pass-through on a Cordillera trek.

The Duality of a 21st Century Tribal Museum: Archaeological Research and Museum Stakeholders at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center - Kimberly Kasper (Rhodes College) and Russ Handsman (Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center) - Since opening its doors in 1998, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center has identified as both a tribal center and a museum committed to challenging the public’s conventional understandings of Native history in New England. Within each stakeholder arena, archaeological research continues to provide a critical pathway for recovering and illuminating the historic experiences of reservation life. In this paper, two internal case studies are presented to illustrate the complexity that exists within the museum’s dual identity as it integrates new information  “with, for and by” the tribe and public. The first focuses on the materiality of late 18th-century Pequot house sites and a recently developed low-cost but high impact, I-Pad-based program for museum patrons. The second reflects on how archaeobotanical studies, from 17th and 18th century Mashantucket historic sites, are incorporated into an ongoing project to nurture and enrich the storytelling tradition in the tribal community. For each project, there are two different audiences, two different types of archaeological material studies, and two very different approaches for collaborative engagement – co-existing in a single institution. That duality may not be present in other tribal museums but it is both foundational and essential to MPMRC’s mission to (re)construct nuanced understandings of Native American histories.

Co-Creation of Knowledge about the Past by The Hopi Tribe - T. J. Ferguson (University of Arizona) and Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa (Hopi Tribe) - For two decades, the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office has worked with archaeologists to co-create knowledge about the past and the contemporary values associated with heritage sites. Much of this work has been accomplished in the framework of research mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Here we describe the processes of this community-based participatory research, including research design, implementation of fieldwork, peer review of research findings, and reporting. The Hopi Tribe’s collaborative research with archaeologists provides intellectual benefits for the management of archaeological resources and the humanistic and scientific understanding of the past.

 Co-creation as an Essential Means Toward Open Authority in Archaeology - Robert Connolly (University of Memphis, C.H Nash Museum at Chucalissa) - Based in constructivist educational theory and using participatory museum and open authority models, this paper examines products co-created by visitors, volunteers, students, and museum staff at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  Two case studies are featured.  First, an exhibit on the African American Cultural Heritage of Southwest Memphis based on the excavated materials from a 1920s era farmstead that was co-created with University of Memphis and neighborhood high school students.  Second, using curated collections, a set of education products and museum exhibits co-created by avocational archaeologists, and museum studies graduate students.  Critical to the co-creative process is incorporating the authoritative voices and decisions of all participants.    This paper argues that co-created products are ultimately more robust and relevant to the public than projects that incorporate only the voice of the professional community.  As well, co-creative processes in archaeology serve as a vital link to educating the public on opportunities for engagement and the funding needs of cultural heritage institutions.  Co-creation forms an essential opportunity for sharing with the public the authority and responsibility for the curation of a community’s cultural heritage

Salvaging a Community: Archaeology, Demolition, and Resurrection at the Euclid Avenue Church of God, Cleveland, Ohio - Mallory R. Haas (Center for Community Studies) and Elizabeth A. Hoag (Cuyahoga Community College) - The unfortunate demolition of the ca. 1888 Euclid Avenue Church of God has created a unique opportunity for public archaeology. Both before and after the demolition, we began a new kind of community-based historic salvage and preservation project, to save public social memory and tangible artifacts from the church. In this paper, we describe how, working with various stake-holders involved with the structure including the congregation, municipal offices, and private institutions, we have utilized a more holistic perspective that seeks to accommodate everyone’s agendas. We are developing a co-creative approach to historical preservation while preserving social history and legacy of the structure.

Promoting a More Interactive Public Archaeology: Archaeological Visualization and Reflexivity through Virtual Artifact Curation - Bernard K. Means (Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University) - The Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University was established in August 2011 with funding from the Department of Defense’s Legacy Program. Since its establishment, the Virtual Curation Laboratory has created hundreds of 3D digital artifact models from a wide range of archaeological sites located in the eastern United States, as well as printed plastic replicas of many 3D digital models. Some have questioned whether our efforts and those of similar projects are curiosities or novelties with little to contribute meaningfully to scholarly research or public engagement. In this paper, I will argue that 3D digital models and printed replicas allow for new ways of visualizing the past, while preserving the actual artifacts themselves. These forms of archaeological visualization enable the broader public and not just a narrow band of researchers to dynamically and meaningfully interact with rare and fragile objects in ways that would otherwise not be possible, empowering their own contributions to interpreting and understanding the past.

Co-Creation and the Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) Program Across Florida - Sarah E. Miller (Florida Public Archaeology Network) - The Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) program offered by the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) began in 2011 as a reaction to the rapid deterioration of historic cemeteries in Florida.  During the first year the Northeast Regional Center of FPAN collaborated with community partners to conduct CRPT workshops in each of its seven counties.  CRPT has now expanded to over 20 cities across the state.  Workshop participants learn to view cemeteries as outdoor museums in their community through morning and afternoon sessions.  The morning session focuses on: cemeteries as archaeological sites, laws that protect cemeteries as well as the people who care for cemeteries, the importance of survey and recording, and examples of cemetery projects within the community.  The second session puts theory to practice with hands-on landscape assessment, headstone cleaning, and recording in a local cemetery.  This paper will assess CRPT as a c co-creative public archaeology program and discuss its relevance to the participating communities.

Building Capacity for Co-created Digital Moviemaking in Youth Programs - Teresa Moyer (National Park Service) - The Urban Archeology Corps is a National Park Service work program that invites youth to reflect on archeological stewardship through digital moviemaking. Youth from communities surrounding the Anacostia River watershed engage in interdisciplinary research with the end goal of individually crafting a short film about their experiences. Especial emphasis is placed on connecting the stories that go untold in the national parks with the youth and local people. This paper is a case study in building capacity in youth programs for co-created digital products that enable the National Park Service and the communities it serves to share in archeological stewardship.

Engaging and Empowering Citizen Archaeologists through the Co-Creative Process: A Case Study Involving the Oklahoma Anthropological Society - Holly Andrew & Bonnie Pitblado (University of Oklahoma) - Like many avocational archaeological groups across the nation, the Oklahoma Anthropological Society (OAS) has struggled in recent years to meet the needs and interests of community members.  To address this challenge, in spring 2013, OAS leadership requested our help to revitalize the group’s membership and its recently shelved archaeological certification program.  To ensure a co-creative approach to the reshaping of OAS, our approach to providing assistance began with an ethnographic study of the OAS membership—using methods including participant observation, individual interviews, and survey administration—to establish member values and goals.  We then compiled these data and used them to develop concrete proposals for a revised OAS certification program and for reaching out to a broader cross-section of Oklahoma citizens than had traditionally been the case.  Finally, we offered the proposals back to OAS membership for comments and suggestions for improvement, and revised the ideas accordingly.  Our paper overviews the methods and results of this collaboration between professional and avocational archaeologists and reflects upon the success of our co-creative effort to improve public archaeology programs and educational opportunities in the state of Oklahoma.

Transforming Metal Detectorists into Citizen Scientists - Matthew Reeves (James Madison’s Montpelier) - In 2012, the Archaeology Department at James Madison’s Montpelier began an experimental program with Minelab Americas to encourage metal detectorists to become more involved in the scientific process of archaeological research. Specifically, the program was designed to be a week-long experience where archaeologists and metal detectorists would work together to identify and preserve archaeological sites at the 2700-acre Montpelier property.  In the process, the metal detector participants were taught the importance of site preservation through background lectures and detailed information on how the survey methods they employ during the week with their metal detectors ensure minimal disturbance of the site while identifying enough information regarding the site to ensure its preservation. Participants learned how gridded metal detector surveys were conducted and the importance of proper context and curation of recovered objects.  In turn, participants provided feedback on what would enhance the experience to inspire continuing learning and interaction with archaeology in the future. The success of this program led to a new public-set of programs that are held three times per year and are open to the public. Having previous participants recommend this program to their friends and community members has been integral to the success of the programs.

Approaching sustainable public archaeology on Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile): education, conservation, research, and tourism - Britton Shepardson (Terevaka.net Archaeological Outreach) and Beno Atán (Explora) - Rapa Nui, like many other locations rich with archaeological heritage, poses extreme risks and potential when attempting to combine cultural conservation with tourism.  After ten years of work on Easter Island, Terevaka.net Archaeological Outreach (TAO) has developed a program to provide tourists, hotels, archaeologists, and conservationists with a vested interested in the education of high school students local to the island.  Our 2013 project sheds light on both a recipe for success in sustainable archaeology on the island and our shortcomings in reaching the goals of all participating organizations.

Turning Privies into Class Projects - Kimberley Popetz (Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum) - What would happen if we gave a group of high school students the opportunity to act as archaeologists and curators with a real archaeological collection? Would they benefit from the experience? Would we? And what about the rest of the community? Could they derive some benefit from the project as well? We decided to find out. Students worked with a collection of artifacts that was excavated more than 30 years ago, turning it into an exhibit for the public. If you’re contemplating a similar project, join us to learn what worked and what to avoid.

The Road Goes Ever On and On: Public Archaeology at Teozacoalco - Kenneth Robinson and Stephen L. Whittington (Wake Forest University) - Co-creation in public archaeology can be challenging outside of the United States, particularly when a project provides the first opportunity people have to meet an archaeologist, or even to hear of archaeology. The staff of the Teozacoalco Archaeological Project has been working since 2002 with citizens and authorities of San Pedro Teozacoalco and other small communities to undertake the first archaeological research in a remote part of the Mixteca Alta in Oaxaca. The project is attempting to collect data and respond to the desires of rural communities while negotiating regulations and politics at local, national, and international levels.

Discussant - Carol McDavid (Community Archaeology Research Institute, Inc.
& Rice University)

Chilam Balam by Thomas Merton

April 5, 2014

I came across a book of poetry, The Geography of Lograire by Thomas Merton, in a used book store in New Orleans a bunch of years ago.  I sat in Jackson Square, a great place to watch the world, and read bits and pieces of the book.  I found the poem below particularly enjoyable.  Note I am not a Mayanist, beyond a few courses and a single field season in Guatemala, and don’t vouch for whatever Merton’s scholarship in attributions to anything.  Rather, the poem presents images and concepts that are good to think about.

Seemingly an analysis of Merton’s intent for the book can be found in The Mandala as Structure in Thomas Merton’s “The Geography of Lograire” by Virginia Randall

 

X. Chilam Balam (Yucatan)

1. “They came to Tisip
With pepper in their speech
In 11 Ahau
Cleared cornfields
Built a city.”
 
2. They were received like Fathers
With nodding plumes at the well’s edge
In Itza
Thus they were called the “Itzaes.”
 
3. Sunrise. New Kingdom.
Fresh wakes sweet tropic earth!
Tribute paid in cotton
For the Four Men
(North South East West)
In Chichen.
 
Then the Lords
Rich in cotton
Meet Gods
Equal in voice to Gods
And those whose voices
Were not equal to Gods’ voices
Were thrown in the well
To cry louder.
 
4. Then came Laws
High pyramids
Thirteen Itzaes in majesty
With pepper in their prayers
Made deals with the Raingods
In clouds of smoke.
 
5. “Our Gods have grown bigger” they said
Then bitter times began
The plain smoke
All the way to the sea.
 
6. Thirteen katuns they ruled.
Until the treason of Hunac Ceel
Driven from their cities into jungle
4 Ahua was the katun
The wail of lives
Thirteen katuns of suffering and law
And they were called in the end
“The Remnant of Itzaes”
The last few built Mayapan
“Maya men”
Was their new name.
 
7. Lamentation
Priest of Xiu
Slow along the cavern wall
From altar to altar
On the well’s rim.
 
8. “The priest asks for green bark. Thirteen times he strips all flowers and all leaves off the branches. He strips them utterly bare. He binds the stripped branches in a bundle. Katuns without hope!”
 
9. Prayer in the cavern
For the last time
Pitch dark well
Stopping at the altars
Blind fingers explore the faces
Of rock signs
Figures cut in the wall
Spell: “Justice exits”
“Heaven exists”
And the prophet Chilam answers
Hix binac hix mac
(Maybe yes maybe no)
“But we carry the sons of Itza on our backs like boulders.”
And the priests have come to the end of submission
The end of desire.
They are about to destroy themselves because of the injuries done to our people.
 
10. FACE OF THE PRIEST CHILAM WHEN HE IS ON THE POINT OF ENTERING THE WELL OF THE CAVERN.
 

(The Geography of Lograire by Thomas Merton.  1968.  New Directions Publishing, New York, pp. 31-33).

Blogging Archaeology in the Future

March 31, 2014

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The final question posed by Doug for the blog carnival leading up the Society for American Archaeology meetings in April is: “…where are you/we going with blogging or would you it like to go?

I will take up Doug’s question more broadly from the perspective of user-generated content and open(ing) authority and consider additional forms of user-generated content.  The question raises a few themes for me:

Information Sharing - When I began this blog a few years ago my desire was to share information about outreach in museums and archaeology with my colleagues and a broader audience.  I knew that collectively we were doing a lot of interesting stuff in cultural heritage outreach that could benefit others.  My interactions through this blog over the past several years supports that claim.  Counting hits, reblogs, comments are gauges of whether the information presented is considered of value.  But my primary motivation for continuing to blog comes from the side comments made in phone calls, emails, or visits with colleagues and students who note how a particular post was helpful to them.  These interactions confirm to me that there is a desire for sharing information, my basis for launching this blog in the first place.

Beyond formal blogging, I am pleased with other new means of sharing information.  As an example consider academia.edu.  A bunch of years ago when doing my dissertation research I transcribed the handwritten field records of archaeologists who had conducted excavations at the Fort Ancient site (33Wa2) in Warren County, Ohio.  As I now slowly edge toward retirement, coupled by working with a PhD student with an interest in those records, a few months ago, I loaded the transcribed notes to the academia.edu site.  There are not a huge number of views of the records, but certainly enough to warrant the 60 minutes or so it took to format and load the notes.  Similarly, I loaded course syllabi to academia.edu.  I appreciate that others have done the same.

Diversity – I appreciate that blogging provides me with a diversity of thinking on a topic.  For example, I enjoy the Bamburgh Research Projects approach to community outreach in Britain.  Blogs such as Paul Mullins’ Archaeology and Material Culture, Jamie Gordon’s Narcissistic Anthropologist, and Amy Santee’s Anthropologizing are resources that allow me to expand my box of thinking in consumerism.  The list of topics I learn about through blogs is extensive.  In my day-to-day existence, I simply do not have the time or resources to access this diversity of material through traditional print media, or even online journals.

I liken much of my blog reading to the three quarters of linguistics courses I took as an undergraduate.  I am not certain how those classes aid me directly in my career today but I know they provide me another angle to approach research and a good way to think.  The same is true with blogs I read.  I appreciate this level of diversity and my ability to be a part of that process.

Relevance – A growing buzzword in the cultural heritage industry today, particularly in the public sector, is relevance.  Today, a good bit of virtual ink is spilled that 10 years ago would be limited to peer-reviewed publications, conference papers with the obligatory “Do not cite without the written permission . . . ” or other scholarly publications.  Today, I am as likely to Google a term as opposed to searching in JSTOR, depending on the task at hand.  Peer review is in a state of transition and I do not mean to dismiss the process.  However, as I discussed and demonstrated in my Wikipedia as a Scholarly Research Tool undergraduate honors seminar this past fall, it’s not difficult to find Wikipedia entries that are more accurate than information found in scholarly publications on a particular subject.  That is, increasingly, the platform of delivery is less important than the scholarship behind the presentation.  I suspect this process will continue to evolve, and that blogs will be a part of that process.   Blogs and similar types of platforms will prove relevant to a range of public needs in informal and lifelong learning processes.

I suspect that 10 years from now blogs will be a thing of the past, replaced by a technology/mechanism that better suits the public needs.  For me, the ability to share and receive a diversity of relevant information will likely keep me blogging for the foreseeable future.

The Wave by W.S. Merwin

March 29, 2014

From his book The Lice, published in 1967, I first read W.S. Merwin’s The Wave in 1969 when a couple of hip English Lit types conned a group of their adoring high school fans, of whom I was one, to pay them money one summer for a poetry workshop on the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  We somehow even thought we would get some college credit, but the fact is, we met on the front steps of some building and our only registration was giving the hip English Lit types cash each week, $5.00 as I recall, and then they talked for maybe an hour or so.

But knowing this poem, 40 plus years later, proved the best part of the experience.

The Wave 

by W.S. Merwin

I inhabited the wake of a long wave

As we sank it continued to rush past me
I knew where it had been
The light was full of salt and the air
Was heavy with crying for where the wave had come from
And why
It had brought them
From faces that soon were nothing but rain
Over the photographs they carried with them
The white forests
Grew impenetrable
but as for themselves
They felt the sand slide from
Their roots of water
The harbors with outstretched arms retreated along
Glass corridors then
Were gone then their shadows were gone then the
Corridors were gone

Envelopes came each enfolding a little chalk
I inhabited the place where they opened them

I inhabited the sound of hope walking on water
Losing its way in the
Crowd so many footfalls of snow

I inhabit the sound of their pens on boxes
Writing to the dead in
Languages

I inhabit their wrappings sending back darkness
And the sinking of their voices entering
Nowhere as the wave passes

And asking where next as it breaks
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