Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Archaeology, time, and POW/MIAs.

Hi All,

   I wanted to post this interview I gave for Calu Connections, at California University of Pennsylvania. It brings up to date the work I did on Diggers, the DPAA, and my time as an adjunct at the university. Pour yourself a rum neat, and enjoy the interview. I think the next interview will be about classic British motorcycles. Take care, 

Archaeology Dude

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Frack and ruin: Archaeologists fear drilling could obliterate Chaco connections

Frack and ruin: Archaeologists fear drilling could obliterate Chaco connections: In recent years, advances in aerial photography have shed new light on the Chacoan landscape, illuminating how it was tied together by a road system radiating from Chaco Canyon. Some roads lead to isolated communities with similar architecture. Others lead nowhere. Scholars increasingly believe that whether they were pilgrimage routes or corridors for trade and commerce, the roads are key to finally comprehending Chaco’s reason for being.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Archaeological Conferences and a Need to Attract New Blood.

Hello Everyone,

Over this past weekend, I attended the annual Eastern States Archaeological Conference in Langehorne, Pennsylvania. This is probably my thirteenth ESAF conference since I was an undergraduate in 1997. I presented a paper titled, "Riding the Lightning: An examination of the Waynesburg and Blacksville Street Railway Company in Green County, Pennsylvania." This was a summation of an archaeological survey that the company I work for performed over the summer.  

While I have been an active conference goer for most of my archaeological career, I would like to point out the value of attending such conferences. I was lucky as an undergraduate, I had a professor who had the means and where-with-all to take a group of you adults to a meeting, sometimes states away, and have them actively participate in giving papers and networking with advocationalists and professionals in our trade. He also had the fortitude to put up with nights of partying with archaeologists, who like pirates, enjoy liquid refreshments of the alcoholic type. 

One of the things I have noticed over the years is a lack of attendance of these national conferences both by professionals and students. Granted we've lost a few good women and men due to ravishes of time, but we also have ignored the costs to students and young professionals just starting their archaeological career. The costs of travel, memberships, registration, hotel, and board have skyrocketed. I know many will say, "but we have student discounts!" Sure and that is admirable. Some even have prizes and some colleges have travel grants. I know many archaeology/anthropology student who have to work a job or even two just to stay in school. Education is skyrocketing and conference attendance is down. How do we stop this?

While sitting and listening to papers I had an idea. I'm a bit of a technology guy, and I think technology can offer unparalleled access to those in need, and I'm not just talking about archaeology. Ted talks and podcasts are the rage right now as people live in small sound bites or lives that can be paused and resumed at will. I think this offers a unique opportunity for students and conference organizations.

My idea would be to POD cast the papers live and record them for Youtube or some other media outlet. Let students pay a small fee, or better yet, allow classes to pay a small fee so that archaeology professors can show these videos to their class on their own time. Conferences such as the Eastern States Archaeological Federation (ESAF), Mid-Atlantic Archaeological Conference (MAC), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), plus others, could offer a digital membership to students or classes. These conferences could be integrated into lesson plans and used instead of physically attending the meetings. Students could watch them live, download them, and save the ones most relevant to their own research. 

What do you think?     

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Where have I been?

Hello Everyone!

          Well it's been a few months since my last blog post and many of you know the reason why. I became the onscreen production archaeologist on the National Geographic show Diggers. For those of you who read my blog you know that I was an outspoken critic of the show specifically in the way that the digging… or um looting of artifacts to some, was portrayed. I was approached by Michael Baker International an engineering/environmental firm out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the on camera role and to keep all activity of the Diggers crew within Department of Interior standards for archaeological survey and excavation. I want to stress, and this is where my colleagues come in, the show has had an archaeological firm behind it since Season 2.  Bryan Cunning (Principal Investigator for Michael Baker International) has been providing consulting services as the Supervising Archaeologist since Season 2 and has ensured that all artifacts were recovered and recorded according to professional standards.  Although Bryan only appeared a few times on-screen, Mike Durkin (Archaeologist with Michael Baker International) was the Production Archaeologist providing field recordation, on-camera assessments, and support.  During Season 2, Diggers participated in excavations conducted by RISHPO, Charles Ewen (SHA President), and at Fort Adams (Rhode Island State Park).  None of this would have been possible without the support of Michael Baker archaeologists, who remained mostly behind the scenes...it is, of course, a show about two other guys.  I was merely coming in for the third season as a full-time archaeologist who possessed a PhD and over 17 years of field experience and several years teaching at a university level.

      The production company really didn’t want me. They feared I’d hold them to task and make shooting the show difficult. I can tell you that staying within the standards is easier than trying to skirt them. Half Yard (through the advice of Michael Baker) approached Trimble about sponsoring a GPS handheld so that all artifacts could be marked at sub-centimeter accuracy and plotted in GIS. After my field recordation and on-camera assessments, Bryan conducted all the artifact processing, analysis, report writing, and ensured the land owners received their artifacts.
            Is this the perfect system for showing archaeology on a reality TV series like Diggers? No. Can this create a foundation where one community (archaeologists) and another community (metal detectorists) can work together? Absolutely. Common ground is what we seek, and have to seek. There are no laws protecting cultural resources on private land. The show never went on any property that was not privately held and always with landowner written consent. Archaeologists have to accept the fact there are people with metal detectors. We cannot lament their existence or try to stifle their use. Fathers take their sons or daughters out metal detecting, people comb beaches with metal detectors, and looters raid sites with them. All of them are passionate about history even the ones who feel they are entitled to own it. It is then up to us, the archaeologist to guide the narrative. For too long has organizations like the SAA (Society for American Archaeology) and SHA (Society for Historical Archaeology) called for a public presence of archaeologists to engage the public about the value of cultural resources. We are to be activists leading the charge in the public’s eye as the holders of the arcane knowledge of the past! That is a pervasive sentiment among our profession. Who owns the past? The archaeologists? We feel we’re the most qualified to interpret it. The metal detectorists? Many have a deep connection to the land and feel as if history can be owned or commoditized.
            The Diggers show has introduced me to both camps now and everyone in between. I met hardened looters who keep what they find and distrust archaeologists. I’ve met archaeologists who keep what they find in white storage boxes in backrooms ready for their “analysis”. Diggers places us in a unique position. For one, we as archaeologists should have had shows like this a long time ago. Instead we attend conferences and write papers waiting for the production companies to come to us and talk about public engagement. Now there is a controversial show where we must be reactionary. I disagree, this is the moment we need to seize. This is the moment we can help metal detectorists and others in their community become stewards of the past like we are. We can educate by creating programs like the one Matt Reeves established at Montpelier, Virginia, using metal detector enthusiasts to help interpret a site. Both communities can work together to explore and preserve the past.         

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Threatened! Junction Group in Ross County

Hello Everyone,

             As usual here in the US, archaeological sites are under constant threat of development. The laws aren't as strong here as they are in Europe for protecting heritage sites especially from developers. Part of this stems from we are colonizers of this land, Native Americans are not a part of many of our ancestries. If these were the sites of the American Revolution, or the Civil War, then maybe this conversation would be different. Actually, I know it would be. But here we are sitting at the eve of the possible destruction of a very large earthworks in Chillicothe, Ohio. This site represents the most intact Hopewell earthwork complexes not bisected by roads or development. Here is a link to the article: http://www.chillicothegazette.com/article/20140308/NEWS01/303080032/Conservancies-hoping-preserve-earthworks

I have included the text from the email I recieved today. Please read it and decide for yourself if this site is worth protecting. Please donate to help save it.

Archaeology Dude

Here is a link on how you can help:

Squire and Davis from earthworksconservancy.org
Results of Jarrod Burk's geophysical survey of the site, overlaid on a satellite image from .chillicothegazette.com

One of Ohio's major earthwork sites is threatened: the Junction Group in Ross County. It was made famous by Squier and Davis's map of the site from the 1840s. It is going to auction on March 18th and a consortium of organizations are working together to purchase it. A few years back another Squier and Davis site, Spruce Hill went up for auction, and it was saved through a similar effort that came through with a lot of wonderful support...we are attempting to do the same sort of thing now with the Junction Group.

Junction Group is a collection of nine small-to-medium sized enclosures, including Ohio's only known quatrefoil, found during a magnetic survey in 2005. The site covers about 20-25 acres but is part of a 89.4-acre field, and this is the parcel we need to buy if we are to save the site. The earthworks are located just at the SW edge of Chillicothe in an field with road frontage and nearby city water and sewage--in other words, a housing development could very likely destroy the earthworks if developers buy the land.

The Heartland Earthworks Conservancy (HEC) is one of the organizations leading the charge on the Save the Junction Group campaign. At this point we are seeking donation pledges, not actual money yet. Our goal is to get a grant to cover most of the cost of the acreage, but such grants require matching funds. This is where we all can make a difference! We need to raise the money to cover the matching funds. The grant application is underway and there is a good chance we will get the grant. While we would love to make an offer before the auction, we may be going to auction to make this purchase and this is why we are asking for pledges rather than money donations. This worked great for Spruce Hill, and we think it will work well again for Junction.

Please visit the HEC website (www.earthworksconservancy.org) for more information about the Junction Group, to see the 2005 magnetic data, and to make a pledge. Every bit helps and we greatly appreciate your support!


Jarrod Burks, President
Heartland Earthworks Conservancy