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Intern Preserving Naval Heritage

It has been a very busy couple of weeks since my last post. It is hard to believe that this internship is coming to an end. At the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the History & Heritage Command (NHHC), I have continued to clean and preserve the two brass flash pans as well as work with more of the survey equipment. The photos below are what the artifact looked like before I started to clean it and then during the cleaning process.

Brass Flash Pan during cleaning

Brass Flash Pan during cleaning

Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History & Heritage Command

Brass Flash Pan Prior to cleaning

This past week I was able to go to Williamsburg, VA to test survey equipment out on the water for two days. It was great to actually see everything working after we got all the bugs worked out. This week the UAB is planning on conducting an archaeological survey to relocate a flagship near the D.C. area. I am hoping to be able to spend a day or two working with them on the survey to get as much experience as possible.  In the picture below, the long white object is a magnetometer. Once in  the water, it is towed behind the boat. There is a sensor on the magnetometer that detects changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. It is used to locate ferrous material such as iron that is buried under the seabed.  The sensor then sends a signal to a computer that makes a chart. When the sensor passes over iron on the seabed it makes a bump on the chart. The chart can later be analyzed to find the appropriate location of the wreck. We will be using this magnetometer when we are trying to relocate the flagship.Joshua Anderson, 2014 AAA Summer InternJoshua Anderson, 2014 AAA Summer Intern

I have been keeping busy during my free time as well. I drove up to Philadelphia the weekend before last to pickup my wife, May, from the airport and took her to New Jersey.  She is instructing a class at Fort Dix for two weeks. I enjoyed the small amount of time we had together.  This past weekend I learned to double check with the bus drivers around here on where they are actually going. I was planning on taking a bus out to Kent Island, MD to visit my cousin. The bus that was going to Kent Island, MD was actually going to California, MD which is two hours southwest of where I was supposed to be. I ended up getting a ride to a car rental place and drove out to Kent Island. On Saturday, we went out to a beach on my cousins boat and stayed the night. I was able to get up and watch the sun come up Sunday morning through a thick fog. It was a great start to the day.  We went crabbing shortly after I took this picture and caught a few crabs that we later steamed and ate.Joshua Anderson, 2104 AAA Summer Intern

Sunday afternoon my dad and family from Minnesota arrived out in Kent Island. They brought their camper out and are going to be spending the week in the D.C. area checking out all the sites and hanging out with family. When they got here we took a ride on the boat and then went out to eat. We ate at the Crab Deck on Kent Island and took the picture below.  I am looking forward to hanging out with them later this week.Joshua Anderson, 2014 AAA Summer Intern

After this week is over I am on my way to Fort Dix, NJ for two weeks to instruct a carpentry/masonry class for the army. When I get finished up there I finally get to go home. I will be jumping right into classes at Minnesota State University Mankato (MNSU) where I will continue working with the anthropology department conducting archaeological research.

This internship has allowed me to expand my knowledge, gain experience, and extend my abilities as an anthropologist. While at the American Anthropological Association I was able to aid in the planning process of the very first annual National Anthropology Day.  During my time at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History & Heritage Command, I was able to work in the lab as well as get experience with some of the equipment in the field. I would like to thank all of the donors, professors at MNSU, and my family for encouraging this educational opportunity and supporting my future career as an anthropologist.Joshua Anderson, 2014 AAA Summer Intern

AAA Collaborates in Support of Egypt/U.S. Memorandum of Understanding

In collaboration with the American Schools for Oriental Research, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Society of American Archaeology, AAA President Monica Heller expresses support for the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and the Arab Republic of Egypt that will be considered by CPAC at its upcoming public meeting on June 2 of this year.

Below is an excerpt, read the entire letter here:

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our collective support for the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United States and the Arab Republic of Egypt that will be considered by CPAC at its upcoming public meeting on June 2, 2014. Our organizations represent the primary professional bodies for the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and Egyptology as well as many interested members of the public. Our collective membership of over 230,000 has a strong interest in the long-term research, preservation, presentation, and safeguarding of the heritage of Egypt.

Modern-day Egypt is host to some of the oldest and most significant archaeological remains in the world. The geographic diversity and temporal representation of the archaeological and historical material of Egypt covers fabled monuments, such as those related to the rich Pharaonic past and the Roman and Byzantine periods, as well as places and complexes of the Islamic, Ottoman, and Christian inhabitants, many still in use today. Whether woven into the urban fabric of the cities of Cairo or Alexandria, or situated in the rural areas of the Fayum, Sinai, and Upper Egypt, the cultural landscapes of Egypt represent a palimpsest of time. The proposed MoU imposes import restrictions on archaeological material from the Early Dynastic Period through the New Kingdom period as well as on the more recent Islamic material, ending with the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517.

Our call for action under this MoU recognizes the significant place of history from Egypt in our collective lives, from the plazas of Rome to the halls of U.S. institutions; from the covers of National Geographic, Archaeology magazine, and the New York Times to the stories told by National Public Radio and Fox News. The indelible position of Egypt in our understanding of the ancient history of writing and medicine, as well as the histories of museum practice, the preservation movement, and tourism development, notably in Cairo and at Abu Simbel, all offer sound evidence for the importance of protecting the Egyptian past. An MoU offers further opportunity to expand cultural relationships between the United States and Egypt. The MoU enables and encourages collaborative initiatives that aim to support research, to preserve archaeological and historical places, to promote educational exchange programs, and to quell activities that contribute to the illicit trafficking of Egyptian heritage.

Read the entire letter here.

New Volume of the Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association

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Read the new volume of Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association on “inalienable wealth” in AnthroSource!

“Inalienable possessions,” as conceptualized by Annette Weiner (1985, 1992), are objects imbued with meaning and value based on the social identity of the original and subsequent owners. They maintain attachment to their owner- even when passed to other individuals- although this attachment may not always be physical. These objects also contain embedded histories and knowledge and legitimate identity and authority. According to Weiner (1985):

The primary value of inalienability, however, is expressed through the power these objects have to define who one is in an historical sense. The object acts as a vehicle for bringing past time into the present, so that the histories of ancestors, titles, or mythological events become an intimate part of a person’s present identity. To lose this claim to the past is to lose part of who one is in the present. In its inalienability, the object must be seen as more than an economic resource and more than an affirmation of social relations (210).

This innovative and exciting volume of the Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association (AP3A) emerged from an organized session sponsored by the Archaeology Division of the AAA for the 73rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). Session participants and authors were asked to apply Weiner’s concept of “inalienable wealth” to prehistoric cultures in Mesoamerica. The result is a deep reflection on “inalienable wealth” as a theoretical construct that can assist archaeologists- and anthropologists across the four fields- in understanding how artifacts and materials gain value and have been used in specific historical moments “to create, maintain, or destroy identity, hierarchy, and social relations” (Kovacevich and Callaghan 2014:8). In using the concept of “inalienable wealth,” the authors in this volume of AP3A have brought new perspectives and understandings to issues of identity formation, social hierarchy, labor and production, land and social difference in prehistoric Mesoamerica.

Read the Introduction by Brigitte Kovacevich and Michael G. Callaghan here.*

*Content is open and accessible for 30 days through Wiley Online Library.

Citations:

Kovacevich, Brigitte and Michael G. Callaghan
2013     Introduction: Inalienability, Value, and the Construction of Social Difference. AP3A 23(1).

Weiner, Annette
1985     Inalienable Wealth. American Ethnologist 12: 210-227.
1992     Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-while-Giving. Berkeley: University of California Press.

National Geographic Channel International Cancels “Nazi War Diggers”

To AAA members:
This letter was sent on March 31st, 2014, to the National Geographic Society, National Geographic Channels and National Geographic Channel International to protest a program aired in Europe (with a trailer briefly available on YouTube), by the presidents of six anthropological and archeological associations based in the United States and Europe, including the AAA. The effort was spearheaded by Jeff Altschul, President of the Society for American Archeology. The content of the letter provides, I think, sufficient information for you to understand why this program is of concern to all anthropologists. Shortly before the letter was sent, Dr. Altschul received the following statement from John Francis, Vice-President of National Geographic:

“National Geographic Channels International, in consultation with colleagues at the National Geographic Society, announced today that it will pull the series Nazi War Diggers from its schedule indefinitely while questions raised in recent days about allegations about the program can be properly reviewed. While we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers, those left behind and still unaccounted for, and illuminate history working in concert with local governments and authorities, we also take seriously the questions that have been asked. National Geographic Channels is committed to engaging viewers in the exploration of the world and all of us associated with National Geographic are committed to doing our work with the highest standards. We know the same holds true for our producing partners, including our partners on this series.”

We look forward to their response to our letter, and will indicate to them our willingness to work with them to ensure their programming meets the highest professional standards.

Best,

Monica Heller
President, American Anthropological Association

 

Dig Wars – Reality TV Show Loots Historical Sites

President Leith Mullings wields her pen once again in request for preservation of historical sites against reality television shows. This year the Travel Channel has a new reality television show “Dig Wars”. President Mullings’ letter gives a detailed overview of the show and suggestions to rethink the show’s direction towards a productive and entertaining piece.

Below is the text of the letter. To read the letter itself, click here (PDF).

Dear Mr. Sharp:

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) and its 12,000 members worldwide join other professional organizations and concerned communities in urging you to withdraw or modify the new reality television show, “Dig Wars.”  This program actively encourages the needless destruction of the archaeological record. Its theme is a competition among teams with metal detectors to determine which team can locate and dig up antiquities from the ground. These are treated as “loot” (the show’s term) and assessed for their monetary value.

Reasonable viewers watching this program may be mistakenly led to believe that such behaviors are ethically acceptable.  On the contrary, the looting as portrayed on the show is deeply disturbing. The overall message is that this nation’s cultural and historical heritage is “loot” that is up for grabs for anyone with a metal detector and shovel.  This the wrong message to give the public, especially in an age when so many historical sites are disappearing.

The show focuses on taking teams of metal detector enthusiasts to known archaeological sites of historical interest (notable examples include Fort Saint Phillip, Louisiana, and Eastover Plantation, Virginia).  The historical interest of these places is important to the program and is an obvious reason for showing it on Travel Channel.  However, the program’s emphasis on digging at those archaeological sites to retrieve relics described as “treasure” is at odds with maintaining the historical integrity of these places.  Your viewers are encouraged to consider these historical sites as places to plunder, experienced through the activities of the metal-detecting teams.  It is at best a mixed message for your program to feature historical places as worthy of travel and tourism and at the same time promote their wanton irrevocable damage, robbing them of historical value.

The winning team is determined each week on the basis of the total monetary worth of their “finds,” as assessed by an appraiser at the end of the show. The value of historical relics is reduced to dollars and cents.  The Travel Channel’s message is that  any value of historical places and objects as reflecting our common heritage is negligible compared to  the money  to be made  trafficking in looted artifacts.  That disturbing message causes grave concern among the archaeologists and historians who seek to preserve and protect our historical legacy.

This is doubly unfortunate because the program has the potential to promote the historical value of these artifacts.  It could be retooled to enlighten Travel Channel audiences, explaining how the objects found by metal detecting enthusiasts can be used to interpret the historical past. For example, instead of being appraised, the objects could be assessed for how they tell a story about the past, as evaluated by local historical societies or local archaeologists.  Such stories could make for more compelling programs on these historical sites, drawing in larger and more diverse audiences.
As an example of how this could be done, last year the National Geographic Channel, working with professional archaeological associations and metal-detector enthusiasts, modified its “Diggers” program.  It now focuses on topics in American history from the point of view of two hobbyists working in coordination with local historians and archaeologists. That program became an opportunity for a multi-platform franchise that provides entertaining content for a broad TV audience and celebrates our shared history.

The AAA urges you to modify the contents of ”Dig Wars” so that it will enlighten the public, encouraging respect for cultural heritage and for the many surviving historical sites of interest that are worthy of travel and tourism. We would be happy to help you locate and work with trained archaeologists to communicate the excitement of discovery and of history in a more responsible, ethical, and engaging manner.

Sincerely,

Leith Mullings
President

New Podcast! Ordinary Anthropologists Doing Extraordinary Things – Matt Piscitelli

Listen to the new podcast in the series Ordinary Anthropologists Doing Extraordinary Things featuring AAA member, Matthew Piscitelli. Matthew has gotten creative with funding his next project.

Through my years of work as an archaeologist, I’ve always been amazed whenever I can hold something in my hand that no one has touched in the last 5,000 years.  Well, now I am asking your help to provide more such opportunities, and in the process, help preserve part of our global heritage.

I am currently applying for funding to support my archaeological dig in Peru this summer.  The results of the project will form the basis of my Ph.D. dissertation and eventually help me accomplish my goal of becoming a university professor.  I have had some success already applying to the National Geographic, my university (University of Illinois-Chicago), as well as my place of employment (The Field Museum).  I also have applications pending through the National Science Foundation and Wenner-Gren Foundation.

During this process of application, however, I had an idea that definitely falls outside of the box.  In general, scientific projects in any field are funded through the government, private organizations or through a network of wealthy donors that are somehow already connected to those scientists.  The general public hardly ever hears of these projects, let alone gets the opportunity to support these important scientific endeavors.  With the popularity of social networking, a recently developed fundraising tactic known as “crowdfunding” is beginning to be used to back small-scale inventions, innovators, entrepreneurs, etc.  So I thought, “why can’t that work for scientific projects like my own?”

I have signed up through Peerbackers, a well-known and trusted website (Google it) in order to test run this strategy.  I ask you all to check out my project, offer words of encouragement, contribute (always well-appreciated), and most importantly, spread the word.  Please Tweet, post a link to my project on Facebook, forward this post to friends and family, etc.  Don’t hesitate to respond with questions and comments.  As with any Ph.D. student, I would be more than happy to talk to you about my research!

Are you interested in sharing your extraordinary in an upcoming podcast? Click here to learn how.

The Oxford Bibliographies

Today’s guest blog post is written by AAA member, John L. Jackson, Jr. John is a Richard Perry University Professor of Communication and Anthropology and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Oxford University Press has created a new and ambitious online project, Oxford Bibliographies, which attempts to provide scholars, students, and other interested readers with introductions to important topics and themes from many academic fields/disciplines. Anthropology’s module was launched last month, and I have agreed to help edit that particular module. Oxford was able to put together a strong editorial board for the project, which included scholars from all four of American anthropology’s major sub-fields: archaeology, linguistic anthropology, physical/biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. These nine scholars helped to select and vet the entries on various topics (including applied anthropology, cultural evolution, public archaeology, language ideology, globalization and many more). All in all, OB’s Anthropology site contains 50 entries penned by scholars from across the country and the world, including Tobias Kelly on Legal Anthropology, Vernon J. Williams on Franz Boas, Jeremy Sabloff on public archaeology, Neni Panourgia on interpretive anthropology, Kudzo Gavua on ethnoarchaeology, John Trumper on ethnoscience, Judith Irvine on Language Ideology, and Christina Campbell on primatology (just to name a few).

Although I don’t consider anthropology’s four fields a “sacred bundle” never to be disassembled under any circumstances, I am intrigued by the idea of forcing myself to learn more about the four farthest corners of this sprawling and hubris-filled discipline that imagines itself to cut across the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Oxford’s new initiative will allow anthropologists to think about how much we might really gain from conversations across the intradisciplinary domains that often divide us. Oxford’s intervention will help us to see how physical anthropologists and cultural anthropologists might differently approach topics. For example, we can determine what kind of reviewer an urban anthropologist working in contemporary Latin America would make for a piece on “the histories of cities” crafted by an archaeologist. Or we can ask a physical anthropologist and a cultural anthropologist to pen two different entries for, say, “race” or “gender.” I’m intrigued to see what (hopefully productive!) sparks might fly from such four-fielded contact, and I’ve already learned so much about those other anthropological spheres during the build-up to this year’s launch. Check out the new site. 50 new entries will launch every January, and current entries will be revised and updated throughout the year.

Also, please feel free to let me know if there is a topic/entry you’d like to suggest and/or author.

Bookmark Oxford Bibliographies, today: oxfordbibliographiesonline.com

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