The short version is that we wrote this after watching a lot of people sounding off about how these are all evidence of impending “collapses” etc.. Jakob and I both work on the archaeology of periods that were incredibly trying and traumatic, but many of these periods showed tremendous innovations in social practices that led to healthier, sustainable, and more just social systems, so we wrote this as a counter to the “fall of humanity” narratives we were seeing from some classicists, historians, and archaeologists re: the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then, while we were shopping this piece around that discusses how these types of crises can be triggers for massive movements towards social justice, the 2020 Uprisings began. So, I think, as we say, these lessons can be valuable. But the main point of the op-ed, besides that yelling “collapse” on a crowded planet should be frowned upon and that person should be required to get a tattoo on their forehead that reads “I implicitly believe in the progressive Band/Tribes/Chiefdoms/States Model”, is that while those looking to increase equability in social systems can use these triggering events to do so, they’re also simultaneously being used by those looking to strengthen their grip on the controls. Naomi Klein has called this disaster capitalism. And we’re seeing that in rampant effect in the US right now.
We’re also watching folks liberalize the Uprisings, and the concurrent decrease in the destruction of property of the protests, to effectively rewire the media, and thus the public’s gaze, away from the protests and on to new topics that aren’t as dangerous to the foundations of power that so many of the folks that control the media and politics in this country stand on. Or are supported by at least.
I’ve taken too much time, I suppose, trying to settle after a pretty crazy few months with one international move, one cross country move, and wrapping up about 3 months of field work. So I should have gotten to all of the staff and student blogs before this. I got most done, but a few have been glaring at me from my todo pile. Here’s an awesome one by EB Dresser-Kluchman on her paleobot work on the project. We’re looking forward to some super exciting findings . . .
Another excellent (yep, I’m biased) blog post. This one by Institute for Field Research (IFR) #GLoH2019 field school student Olivia Ellard. Enjoy! And please share. That really helps drive our students voices forward.
“Single stories in archaeology are perpetuated by an increasing gap between information available to research academics and information easily available to the general public. In the process of making information publicly accessible, it is boiled down to the simplest and most interesting terms, thus loosing essential components of research that are essential for complex understandings. A single story of Indigenous American archaeology reiterates the single story of native peoples on this continent. It is a story born out of oppression and violence, and one that continues to negatively impact communities to this day. Although difficult, it is not impossible to change the story. A better public understanding of research disciplines such as archaeology would allow for more broader and more inclusive discussions, helping to eliminate the single story as well as educate a wider scope of society.”
New photo blog by one of #GLoH2019 Institute for Field Research (IFR) students is up. This one about preparing indigenous (Dine and Zuni) foods. We all ate these and they turned out really well.
“To make the bread, I needed juniper ash. So, I collected branches of juniper to ash for the Navajo blue bread. I used a Coleman outdoor grill powered by propane and a metal bowl covered in foil to collect the ashes.”
New #GLoH2019 Institute for Field Research (IFR) student blog post by Stan Frank. “Archaeologists can be more interested in conducting field work than analyzing and publishing the results of the work, and after writing for the required academic channels may not have time to or be interested in reconfiguring their work for a popular audience.”
Part of the practice of ethical archaeology, really research in general, should be creating content based on the work you’re doing for folks outside of the often limited and closed academic systems. As the first 2019 segment of the Gallina Landscapes of History project is coming to a close, this means you all are about to get a swarm of wonderful material that the students have been working hard on. Not all are traditional blogs. I’ve been moving away from straight writing requirements to allow people to explore different ways of transmitting information. This year we have everything from regular blog posts, to lesson plans, to food, to songs. We’ll start with a lesson plan on Archaeological context for Third Graders (8-9 year olds).
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of grunge, it was the age of Robin Hood ballads; it was the epoch of flannel, it was the epoch of tight rolled jeans; it was the season of techno, it was the season of boy-band pop; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us . . .
Yep. It was the early ’90s. And I was in high school.
What this meant for me was a whole lot of awkwardness; some purposely bad hair (read: mullet) as a reaction to small-town high school snobbery; punk, grunge, and techno music; and some incredibly bad emotive poetry. Oh…and Latin. And Dungeons and Dragons. And cross-country running. And folk wrestling (i.e. collegiate). And Tae Kwon Do. And skateboarding. And street skating. And flannel. And Chuck Ts. And massively over-sized overalls. Really, just pure nerdery and hormones and more awkwardness.
And angst. Holy crow, the angst.
Oh, man. It was horrible.
The 1990s were actually a pretty incredible time, though. Music had diverged in two important ways that created somewhat overlapping, but dramatically different constituents. Grunge music was as a wake-up call to pop-radio consumers. Techno, trance, house, and drum and bass music flooded the warehouses, farm fields, and clubs in the Midwest along with what, at that time, was a very forward-thinking, optimistic social movement packaged within rave culture.
So, with my eyes opening to capitalism and social repression through grunge and punk and my heart opening to the promise of Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones that the rave community was enthralled by, I took my first high school career placement test on a fancy, dirty white computer that generally just ran Oregon Trail and Scorched Earth.
This test was exciting. I pictured a pat on my back by our counselor as the computer screen was flashing that I was a perfect fit as either an archaeologist or a writer. Needless to say, it was a total shock to me when the first career fit was proctologist.
Okay, so it didn’t actually say “you should be a proctologist,” but that was the first option in the program’s list of what I would be good at. Now, I don’t want to upset any proctologists. Honestly, you all are awesome and deserve far more credit than you can possibly ever receive, but as a 16-year-old romantic . . . well, let’s just say there was a cognitive disconnect.
Clearly, this test is faulty. I should take it again, right? Right. This second time will surely clear things up. Wait…what…bus driver? What the he–? This is about where my counselor walked over and patted me on the back. I got up and slouched out of the office, trying not to trip over my untied Chucks or the huge hem of my baggy overalls. I wrapped my flannel around me like a blanket and set about trying to understand how things could have gone so horribly wrong. Who was I supposed to be?
I still have no idea how those tests work. I’m guessing they were along the lines of an early Buzzfeed quiz. But there I was, apparently destined to be the first operator of a mobile proctology clinic. My solution to this was simple. Flee.
I promptly asked my mom if I could go to a high school archaeology field school. Note that I didn’t choose a writing camp. I can only imagine that, somewhere deep down, a part of me already recognized that lines like, “A tin puppet prepares his twin sorrows / he’ll force nature’s sign” were best forgotten with the other garbage in Al Capone’s vault.
So, off to archaeology camp I went, where I immediately learned far more about historic blue glass, rusted pieces of historic metal, and old pieces of wood than a high schooler who yearned for images of Western skies at dusk could handle. I was done. And not in any good way. Archaeology was horrible. And boring. Definitely. Not. The Bomb.
So, I trudged through the last bit of high school. Graduated and ended up chasing down the writing dream. I put together two mostly horrible novels that I still tell myself I might salvage one-day, a slew of trite and tripe short stories, and more bad poetry than an entire decade of an Introduction to Poetry class could possibly create. I wasn’t a total failure. I did have a couple of poems published and, for a while, there were some bites on my first novel—but I spent more time at the bar than the typewriter, and I never really had my heart in the effort of it. Writing was hard. Drinking was not.
The years blew by. Weird experiences and amazing people (and vice versa) racked up like points in a particularly great pinball game. And before I knew it, I’d put the fiction writing on hold, packed up my heart, said good bye to those amazing people, and moved out to the great American desert. In Albuquerque, after a year of racking up some more points on that odd pinball machine, I landed at the University of New Mexico. There, I started taking anthropology classes and eventually took an Introduction to Archaeology class taught by Dr. Patricia Crown.
School was always pretty easy for me. Minimal effort, maximum return. Then I took Patty’s class. The first test in that 100-level class was a brick to the face. Somehow, I rallied, buckled down, and poured myself into my studies in a way I never really had before. I had to fight against a lifetime of education that had taught me that “smart” should mean “gets it right away” and not “worked at it till it was learned.” But, somehow, I did it, and came out of that class with the first A I’d ever really been proud of. There would be many more that I would fully earn, but that was the first. During that semester, I finally put my hand to the plow, and I’ve been tilling ever since.
Now, there are some other things we could talk about, but I’m getting short on time and am way over the word limit (as always). So, for now, we’ll summarize and discuss.
Life handed me a bus-driving proctologist. I said no way to archaeology. I tried to shoot the moon for writing, but eventually found my way back to archaeology. There, I fell in love with humanity’s detritus. And even more importantly, I fell in love with the sense of humanity you can get from studying the things we love.
Now I get tears in my eyes when I see my daughter’s favorite teddy bear slowly getting older from 6 years of intense love. I choke up when I hear my youngest tell me she’s worried about how damaged her favorite stuffed toy is and that she doesn’t want her friends to see it, but then she still finds her and snuggles with her at night. I do this because I know that as inanimate as these things are, they’re defining my daughters as much as my wife and I are. These things form the spaces within which my children grow, and learn, and become amazing. These things create the shape of who they are and will be as young women and will continue to create the spaces that shape them until they die. And I know that long after I’m gone, things of mine will remain that will preserve a portion of the shape of who I was. Our things are our stories and they are us. And this is exciting and comforting to me.
So…how I became an archaeologist is maybe not the most interesting tale, and it’s definitely not the culmination of a single-minded lifelong quest. Instead, I think it is more the chronicle of this long process of moving from making up stories to realizing that there was already a world littered with stories.
After writing this out, it now seems clear that how I became an archaeologist is also why I became an archaeologist: because I realized that archaeology is an honest way to uncover the story of the people I love. Archaeology holds the story of all of the people I’ve learned so much from. It holds the story of my wife and my children, my family and my friends. All of the incredible, and horrible, people I’ve met, along with millennia of incredible people I could not meet. Because archaeology, once we get past the dictionary definition, is not the study of things, it’s the study of the human narrative and of our humanity. It’s the study of our stories that form in and around our things.
Basically, dear reader, I became an archaeologist because I think you are pretty darn awesome. You and all of your things that make you, you. And I would really like to read that story.
Hi! I’m properly citing this borrowed idea (Brughmans 2016) of taking hang-out photos with something I wrote that was just published.
The book is called Foreign Objects: Rethinking Indigenous Consumption in American Archaeology. It’s edited by Craig Cipolla. It’s full of a lot of great work by archaeologists using and expanding consumption theory.
The chapter I wrote with Barbara Mills is about using consumption theory to analyze the archaeological record as a record of human choices. As we say in the chapter, pots are not people, but they are choices.
“An archaeology of choice revealed through consumption patterns recognizes that decisions are involved at every step along the consumption continuum. In an archaeology of choice, ceramics, for example, are liminal objects that transition the archaeological record from one of things to one of acts, decisions, and experiences. Ceramics are evidence of historical choices. Each pot moves beyond the corporeal field of the material and into the incorporeal field of human history” (Borck and Mills 2017:30).
Anyways, the book is available through the University of Arizona Press and you can read our chapter here.
Island Networks: Analytical and Conceptual Advances in the Archaeological Study of Intra- and Inter-Island Relationships
Dr. Jason E. Laffoon, Leiden University/Free University Amsterdam—The Netherlands: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Lewis Borck, Archaeology Southwest/Leiden University—USA/The Netherlands: email@example.com
This is a call for papers for archaeological researchers working on inter- and intra-island networks and relationships to submit an abstract for the upcoming conference of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA). The conference will be held in Maastricht (The Netherlands) from August 30th to September 2nd, 2017.
Many island settings throughout the world represent archaeologically understudied spaces with turbulent histories. These regions often offer complex interconnections of settler and indigenous dynamics further complicated by restricted terrestrial environments. These colonial/indigenous relationships are also frequently built on existing inter-community indigenous relationships that can be difficult to uncover. Archaeologists have used a wide variety of analytical and conceptual tools to understand and highlight the existence of these pre- and post-colonial interactions, and to explore how these relationships were built, maintained, modified, and abandoned. These include network analysis (both quantitative and conceptual), châine opératoire, consumption frameworks, artifact biographies, communities of practice and enculturative learning paradigms, and actor network theory. While surficially different, these forms have underlying similarities in that they all focus to varying levels on relational qualities found in various forms of data, including between individuals, archaeological settlements, groups, material culture, and steps in the production process. Relational analyses like these allow researchers to build bridges between multiple temporal periods and between the islands (and often the mainland). In this session, to represent the truly heterogeneous nature of data and relational methodology, presenters will use a varying mix of historical documents, oral traditions, and a multitude of analytical techniques applied to the material record to examine historical inter- and intra-community social relationships present within and between islands.
If you feel you have research that would fit within these themes, you have until March 15th, 2017 to submit your paper title and abstract directly at http://www.eaa2017maastricht.nl/deadlines by scrolling down to the submission section. For questions, email either Lewis Borck or Jason Laffoon.