Learn archaeological mapping in Death Valley

A reasonably priced opportunity to visit Death Valley for educational purposes:

Compass to Computer: Learning the Basics of Archeological Mapping
The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training and Death Valley National Monument are partnering to host a three-day workshop on archeological mapping. The workshop will be held March 11-13, 2014 at Death Valley Monument. The workshop is limited to 20 participants, so please reserve your spot early. Tuition for the workshop is $350 and there is a reduced rate of $250 for students.
Participants will learn the fundamental of archeological mapping using a variety of technologies and techniques. We will map a variety of archeological sites located across Death Valley National Monument—an amazing setting in the spring. We will start with the basics—a compass and tapes—then move through GPS, survey grade GPS, and finally, total station mapping. Laying out a grid, piece-plotting artifacts and mapping features will all be covered in the three day course.


Hunter-Gatherer Tooth Decay

Another example of things not being as simple you like to think: Evidence of tooth decay found in Moroccan hunter-gatherers from over 13,000 years ago. Tooth decay is usually associated with agricultural populations. As seen at Past Horizons. Abstract of the research article is at PNAS.

Paisley Cave Coprolites May Not Be From Humans

Well, this keeps Pre-Clovis studies interesting. As reported by Western Digs,

Now, reporting in the Journal of Archaeological Science, another team of researchers says that its analysis of the oldest coprolite from the cave suggests it’s from an herbivore, not a human.

“The specimen under study … was not excreted by a human,” said Ainara Sistiaga, an archaeologist and visiting researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an interview.

“Our results show a predominance of the product of … plant intake. This value is too high to represent a human origin.”

The entrance to one of the Paisley Caves in Oregon. Source: Wikipedia/Bureau of Land Management.

Archaeology, Xbox, and the Legendary E.T. Video Game


USA Today, among others, recently reported that original TV series to be produced for the new Xbox TV will focus on the story of the E.T. video game for the original Atari videogame console. The game is often considered the worst video game ever released, and according to legend, millions of unsold or returned game cartridges were buried in a landfill in Alamagordo, New Mexico in 1983.

The documentary reportedly will include an excavation of the landfill in an attempt to find the remains of the E.T. game cartridges. Paul Mullins has been on top of this story:

An excavation of the Atari dump does not promise an especially compelling material analysis as much as it plumbs the complexities of memory and dissects the intersection of popular imagination and materiality… It seems unlikely that the recovery of any discarded ET games or Atari gaming systems will radically rewrite our understanding of Atari or the broader industry in the early 1980s, …Yet the process of digging the dump—the literal theater of an excavation—is what Fuel is leveraging when observers invoke the project as “archaeology.”

Anthropology bootcamp/internship opportunity

Interesting if pricey opportunities for college students interested in an Anthropology career:
Taught by Carol J. Ellick, author of The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: from Student to a Career and a team of nationally-recognized experts, the Anthropology Career Boot Camp and Internship Program will provide you with the employer-identified knowledge and skills that will prepare you to start your career. The 6-day Boot Camp will be held on the University of Maryland, College Park campus followed by a 6-week long internship within the DC metro area or anywhere across the U.S. Every effort will be made to place interns according to their field of study, area of interest, and geographic preference.

Anthropology Career Boot Camp June 23–28, 2014
on the University of Maryland College Park Campus
ANTH4481: 3 UM undergraduate credits, $952
ANTH6891: 3 UM graduate credits, $1719
as a non-credit workshop, $952

Anthropology Career Internships July 7–August 15, 2014
(Internships must be completed by August 29)
ANTH386: 6 undergraduate credits, $1904*
ANTH789: 6 graduate credits, $3540*

The Name of the Sword

Glamdring, Andúril, Sting. Some weapons have names. Beowulf used the sword Hrunting, King Arthur had Excalibur, and of course the hammer of Thor is Mjölnir. In The Spirit of the Sword and Spear (Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23(1):55-67), Mark Pearce references the named weapons of myth and history to argue that swords and spears can have individual identities, and thus, potentially, biographies. As he says, “I do not mean to argue that prehistoric weapons were regarded as equivalent to humans, but rather that they had some sort of spiritual persona…with its own specific agency, believed to have its own intention and volition. This might have been perceived as some sort of in-dwelling spirit.” (p. 55)

 From these named weapons, he attempts to look farther back in time to ascertain whether swords and other weapons from the Iron Age of Europe also were assigned identities. There are, in fact, at least two Iron Age swords with names stamped onto their blades, although the names could belong to the sword, the owner, or the blacksmith.

 More common are swords and spears that have faces (or geometric designs that could be interpreted as faces), which, Pearce argues, may also indicate that they were given an identity. He is aware that “It is dangerous to use analogies from myth to reconstruct prehistoric reality” (p. 64) and “it is certainly true that human beings have a tendency to interpret unstructured visual stimuli in meaningful ways”  and “It might be easy to over-interpret stimuli that may seem to depict faces.” (p. 62)

 Against these statements, he can muster only a weak defense: “But when looking at the spearheads and swords illustrated in this article, the faces are very striking… It is clearly impossible to demonstrate conclusively that faces are meant, but it does seem evident.” (p. 62)

 It does not help that “in some cases the decoration tends towards the abstract and can be recognized as indicating a face only by reference to, and comparison with, the more figurative examples.” (p. 62)

Yet his main idea is intriguing. Perhaps a less descriptive and more analytical approach would produce stronger results.

 The article is open access and available to download at the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.