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UNIT: About Archaeologists and Archaeology
The Awful Truth about Archaeology, Dr. Lynne Sebastian, Albuquerque Tribune, 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.
Zahi Hawass, Egypt's 'Indiana Jones,' Thinks Giza Pyramid Holds Hidden Treasure, Owen Jarus, Live Science, 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 Archeology: Communication and the Future of American Archaeology, Jeremy A. Sabloff, American Anthropologist, 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, 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.
Tomb Raider Chronicles, Lauren Hilgers, Archaeology, 2013
In spite of the inherent dangers involved, the harsher punishments and the creation of a national information center on the part of China’s security forces, tomb raiding is on the increase. What is taken moves through the hands of middlemen to collectors and to auction houses and, finally, around the world. The result is the destruction of everything that is valuable to the science of archaeology.
New Evidence Ties Illegal Antiquities Trade to Terrorism, Violent Crime, Heather Pringle, National Geographic, 2014
A transnational criminal network is involved in moving stolen antiquities from the countries of origin to the international market and, in the process, laundering artifacts to attract a legitimate, well-heeled clientele. Some of the profits are even helping to fund insurgencies such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
British Forensics Expert Shapes the Future of Holocaust Research, Matt Lebovic, The Times of Israel, 2015
Using non-invasive forensic methods to uncover evidence of the notorious killing fields of Eastern Europe, a forensic archaeologist is overcoming Nazi efforts to conceal their deadly deeds.
UNIT: Problem Oriented Archaeology
Prehistory of Warfare, Steven A. LeBlanc, Archaeology, 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, 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.
City of the Moon, Mike Toner, Archaeology, 2015
Recent evidence shows that the city of Cahokia, the largest city of the Americas north of Mexico, was heavily involved in a lunar cult and, as such, attracted most of its inhabitants from elsewhere. Its demise seems to have been marked by a combination of rapid deforestation, a decline in cultivated crops and a single massive fire that may have had something to do with outside aggression.
On the Trail of the Mimbres, Jude Isabella, Archaeology, 2013
Archaeologists are tracking the disappearance of a remarkable type of pottery. Did the culture really decline or did the people simply respond to climate change and alter their lifeways?
A Coprological View of Ancestral Pueblo Cannibalism, Karl J. Reinhard, American Scientist, 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.
UNIT: Techniques in Archaeology
Lasers in the Jungle, Arlen F. Chase, Diane Z. Chase, and John F. Weishampel, Archaeology, 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, 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.
Profile of an Anthropologist: No Bone Unturned, Patrick Huyghe, Discover, 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.
UNIT: Prehistoric Archaeology
Rethinking Neanderthals, Joe Alper, Smithsonian, 2003
Contrary to the widely held view that Neanderthals were evolutionary failures, the fact is that they persisted through some of the harshest climates imaginable. Over a period of 200,000 years, they had made some rather sophisticated tools and have had a social life that involved taking care of the wounded and burying the dead.
When the Sea Saved Humanity, Curtis W. Marean, Scientific American, 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.
Refuting a Myth about Human Origins, John J. Shea, American Scientist, 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, 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 hints 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?
The First Americans, Heather Pringle, Scientific American, 2011
For decades, archaeologists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic from Asia to America, but new data seem to indicate that they were wrong, not only in terms of when, but how they came to the New World.
First Americans, Glenn Hodges, National Geographic, 2015
Judging by recent DNA and skeletal evidence, the peopling of the Americas dates back at least 15,000 years. It was accomplished by humans originally from Asia and who looked somewhat different from modern Native Americans but who were definitely ancestral to them.
Clovis Points, Charles C. Mann, Smithsonian, 2013
Clovis points were once thought to represent the first truly American culture and to be associated with the hunting of large game animals such as mammoths. The archaeological evidence now shows that they were not the first people to enter the new world and that they mostly foraged for plants, hunted small mammals, and probably fished.
Scientists: Mysterious Kennewick Man Looked Polynesian and Came from Far Away, Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post, 2014
Kennewick Man, who died about 9,000 years ago, in the Columbia River Valley, actually seems to have more immediately come from the somewhere along the Pacific Northwest Coast. However, his diet, based primarily upon marine life, and his cold-adapted body build seems to indicate his longer-term ancestry to be among the ancient people of the Pacific Rim. He is currently the subject of a legal tug-of-war between contemporary Native Americans, who claim him as one of theirs, and archaeologists who say that he cannot be identified as belonging to any particular tribe, as the law would require for purposes of “repatriation.”
Beyond the Blue Horizon, Roff Smith, National Geographic, 2008
An ancient seafaring 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.
Before Stonehenge, Roff Smith, National Geographic, 2014
Monumental buildings made of fine-grained sandstone, including homes and temples that dominated the landscape, were almost on the scale of some of the great classical sites in the Mediterranean, such as the Acropolis in Greece—except that these structures are 2,500 years older, some of them are astronomically aligned and found in one of the most surprising places: Scotland’s remote Orkney Islands.
Putting Stonehenge in Its Place, William Underhill, Scientific American, 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, 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.
Climate and the Khan, Russ Juskalian, Discover, 2015
A fortuitous shift in weather patterns fueled the Mongol Empire's explosive growth 800 years ago. It so happens that Genghis Kahn’s conquest coincided with the most consistently wet—and likely resource rich—period in Mongolia in more than a thousand years. Today, however, countervailing tendencies reveal a complex interplay of social, environmental, and economic challenges that the rest of the world will be dealing with in the coming decades.
UNIT: Historical Archaeology
Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx, Evan Hadingham, Smithsonian, 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.
Rome’s Imperial Port, Jason Urbanus, Archaeology, 2015
With a burgeoning population of over 1 million and the importation of a massive amount of resources from throughout its expanding empire, Rome needed a deep water port as grand as its vision of itself could possibly be. With Roman engineering capabilities at their height, a new imperial port system would enable the seat of the empire to be continuously supplied for the next 400 years.
Rethinking Nero, Robert Draper, National Geographic, 2014
Contrary to the negative public image of the Roman Emperor involving murder and arson, archaeologists see a more nuanced version of his rule, including such accomplishments as patronage of the arts and construction of public baths.
Home away from Rome, Paul Bennett, Smithsonian, 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, 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.
Lofty Ambitions of the Inca, Heather Pringle, National Geographic, 2011
The Inca have been called the organizational geniuses of the Americas. They transformed fragmentary networks into interconnected highways and 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.
America’s First War, Jason Urbanus, Archaeology, 2015
Using a broad range of investigative methods, the goal of archaeologists associated with the Battlefields Project is to identify and preserve the sites associated with the Pequot War of southern New England. The resulting power shifts between the Dutch and the English as well as between native peoples themselves would set the pattern for the control over resources as well as American military policies regarding Native Americans for centuries to come.
The Horrific Sand Creek Massacre Will Be Forgotten No More, Tony Horwitz, Smithsonian, 2014
What amounts to a 19th century crime scene on the empty grassland of eastern Colorado is finally being recognized as a national historic site that will restore to public memory one of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated on Native Americans.
Living through the Donner Party, Jared Diamond, Discover, 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.
America’s Chinatowns, Samir S. Patel, Archaeology, 2014
Dozens of archaeological digs are revealing information about the life of Chinese American immigrants to the United States including information about their health, culture, and food customs. Although they were viewed with great suspicion by Euro-Americans and early Chinatowns were considered to be insular, traditional, and resistant to change, archaeologists have found the story of the Chinese in America has been one of both tradition and change.
The Great New England Vampire Panic, Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian, 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: Contemporary Archaeology
Ruined, Michael Marshall, New Scientist Magazine, 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, 2009
Homelessness has long been a significant subculture 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.