Seriation of Astronomical Observatories

It seems that humanity has always been fascinated by the night sky. Across the globe, archaeologists have found records of people analyzing the movements of the heavens and using those movements to measure time and to signify important cultural events. While the specific reasons for the study of the cosmos has changed over time, one thing has remained constant: the use of observatories. While the methods and materials used for building observatories have changed, their overall appearance has changed very little.

A prime example of this is El Caracol, found in the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Iztá. This stone observatory was built on the southern side of the city and was rebuilt several times. Archaeologists believe the final version was erected between 900-1000 A.D. The observatory was used to track the movement of the sun and certain planets. The observers seemed to be especially interested in the movement of Venus, as an entire floor of the two-story observatory is dedicated to tracking its movement. The observatory also allowed the Mayans to tell when the sun reached its zenith. This mattered to the Mayans, as the rainy season starts right after the sun reaches its zenith in May. Knowing when the sun reached this point allowed the Mayans to make sure their fields were ready for the rain. They also viewed the planets as embodiments of the gods, so their movement was of religious significance to the Mayans. While the observatory was built using ancient methods and is comprised entirely of stone, its overall structure is similar to that of modern observatories, with a domed roof that allowed for viewing at all angles, and its positioning at a high point in the landscape.

El Caracol, or “The Snail”, an observatory found in the ancient city of Chichén Iztá.

As time went on, observatories shifted from having religious and agricultural significance to being more heavily based in scientific discovery. This is the case for the Vassar College Observatory. Completed in 1865, the observatory was used as both the home and observatory of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer. The observatory was used to study telescopic moments, along with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Unlike El Caracol, the Vassar College Observatory is comprised of mostly brick, with the dome being made of metal. The observatory also has a telescope, a commodity not invented until 1608.

Vassar College Observatory, located at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Even in modern day, observatories continue to maintain the same basic appearance. However, they have changed quite dramatically in the scope of both their reach and potential. One example of this is the Mount Graham Observatory. Built to research exoplanets and to analyze the dust around stars. While maintaining a similar shape to both El Caracol and the Vassar College Observatory, it not only has a cube shaped top rather than a dome, but it has two telescopes rather than one.

The Mount Graham Observatory, located on Mount Graham in Arizona.

Sources:

Miller, Julia. The Caracol, or Observatory of Chichén Itzá. Yucatan Today. Accessed September 17th, 2017. http://yucatantoday.com/caracol-or-observatory-chichen-itza/?lang=en.

Maria Mitchell. Vassar Encyclopedia. Accessed September 17th, 2017. http://vcencyclopedia.vassar.edu/faculty/original-faculty/maria-mitchell1.html

Vassar College Observatory. National Park Service. Accessed September 17th, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/places/vassar-college-observatory.htm

Beal, Tom. Huge Mount Graham telescope finally paying off. The Arizona Daily Sun.  Accessed September 17th, 2017. http://azdailysun.com/huge-mount-graham-telescope-finally-paying-off/article_116733a4-fdd4-592f-a256-cb9c5f1bcbeb.html

Picture sources:

Wikimedia Commons. Accessed September 17th, 2017. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vassar_College_Observatory.jpg

EL Caracol, The Observatory of Chichén Itzá. Atlas Obscura. Accessed September 17th, 2017. http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/el-caracol-chichen-itza-mexico

Beal, Tom. Huge Mount Graham telescope finally paying off. The Arizona Daily Sun.  Accessed September 17th, 2017. http://azdailysun.com/huge-mount-graham-telescope-finally-paying-off/article_116733a4-fdd4-592f-a256-cb9c5f1bcbeb.html

 

 

Radiocarbon Dating Leads to a New Discovery on an Ancient Manuscript

An Indian text commonly referred to as The Bakhshali Manuscript is documented as the oldest record of the concept of zero and it was believed to be originally from the 9th century.  However, the document was recently tested at the University of Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit and the results determined that The Bakhshali Manuscript is from 224-383 AD.

Radiocarbon dating is a technique used by archaeologists to determine the approximate age of an artifact and or ecofact. It measures the radioactive decay  of  carbon-14, which is found in all organic material. It is the most common and reliable absolute dating technique. Researchers were able to use radiocarbon dating on The Bakhshali Manuscript because it was made out of birch bark, an organic material. However, it was difficult to determine the true age of The Bakhshali Manuscript because the 70 page document is composed of materials from three different time periods. When the University of Oxford tested the document with their Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit they used three different samples and each sample came from a different century. One sample came from 885-993 AD, another from 680-779, and the most shocking from 224-383 AD.  There may be more information on why The Bakhshali Manuscript  comes from three different time periods but, an official report of the results have not yet been published.

The University of Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit

There is little information on how The Bakhshali Manuscript was discovered. Researchers do know that the document was found in 1881 by a farmer in Bakhshali, a small village in  Pakistan,  buried in a field. In 1902, The  Bakhshali Manuscript was transferred to The Bodleian Library at Oxford University.  Translations of the Sanskrit text on the document reveal that it was a reference book for traders on the Silk Road. The  Bakhshali Manuscript contains simple arithmetic exercises, most likely for determining profitable exchanges. It are these  exercises where the zeros, which are used as place holders and found as solid dots,  are located . It is a shame that there is no context recorded of the site where the manuscript was discovered and perhaps more artifacts are waiting to be found. However, there is still a lot to learn from the document itself.

The zero is found as a dot on The Bakhshali Manuscript

The  new discovery of The Bakhshali Manuscript’s true age  reveals  how cemented the idea of zero was in India. It is challenging to image a world without zero, but many cultures, especially European found it difficult to adopt this new concept.  India has had a long religious history of contemplating nothingness.  Marcus du Sautoy, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, believes that this is why the concept of zero might have been influenced through cultural practices. Du Sautoy stated,  “This [The Bakhshali Manuscript ] is coming out of a culture that is quite happy to conceive of the void, to conceive of the infinite.That is exciting to recognise, that culture is important in making big mathematical breakthroughs.”  The Bakhshali Manuscript is a remarkable artifact that demonstrates the interwoven relationship between complex math concepts and culture.

Additional Readings

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-15/ancient-indians-used-zero-earlier-than-previously-thought/8949890

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ancient-indian-text-pushes-back-history-of-zero-by-500-years/articleshow/60524162.cms

Sources

“A Big Zero: Research Uncovers the Date of the Bakhshali Manuscript.” YouTube, University of Oxford, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV_gXGTuWxY&feature=youtu.be.

“Carbon Dating at Oxford University Finds Bakhshali Manuscript Contains Oldest Recorded Origins of the Symbol ‘Zero’.” Fine Books, 14 Sept. 2017, www.finebooksmagazine.com/press/2017/09/carbon-dating-at-oxford-university-finds-bakhshali-manuscript-contains-oldest-recorded-origins-of-th.phtml.

Devlin, Hannah. “Much ado about nothing: ancient Indian text contains earliest zero symbol.” The Guardian, 13 Sept. 2017, www.theguardian.com/science/2017/sep/14/much-ado-about-nothing-ancient-indian-text-contains-earliest-zero-symbol.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. Archaeology Essentials. London, Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Picture Sources

The Bakhshali Manuscript. media2.intoday.in/indiatoday/images/stories/zero-xl_091517122744.jpg.

The University of Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. www.arch.ox.ac.uk/rlaha.html.

 

Suggested Cosmology and Retracted Image: An Analysis of the Newark Earthworks

Across American society today, prevailing trends purvey an understanding of Eastern Woodland Peoples as naturalistic itinerants with a deep and harmonious awareness of forests, waters, and the bounty offered therein. Almost as a default, ‘structure’ suggests images of impermanent longhouses and wigwams. Likewise, ‘culture’ suggests a reverence for the Earth. People seldom consider Native Americans movers and shapers of the landscapes around them, especially in the context of timelines extending back nearly 2000 years. In archaeological practice, the rigid assumptions of the populace at large endanger objective analysis from the outset, especially when it comes to the identification of significant sites and the decision to interpret evidence.

 

In Newark, Ohio, not far from Columbus, lies what basic historical literature refers to as “the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures in the world” (“Newark Earthworks”). Even though the area surrounding the sites is highly urbanized in a way that engulfs each one as a separate island of greenspace, archaeology is concerned with the ancient context that extends throughout the landscape. Here, sites of interest have been revealed by extrapolating Native American cosmology and mathematics from features on the landscape.

Recent studies using ground and aerial survey techniques emphasize the importance of Geller Hill in understanding the creation and significance of the Newark Earthworks. Plotted on a map in the midst of a flat plain, Geller Hill is a landmark. Using the diameter of Newark’s Observatory Circle (OCD) as a baseline, archaeologists recognize the significance placed on spatial distance by Hopewell peoples. Located approximately seven OCDs from the peak of Geller Hill, the centers of the Newark’s octagonal and circular earthworks appear to form the sides of an isosceles triangle. According to a local source, “the measured Geller Hill, Octagon, Great Circle triangle varies from the geometric ideal by an average of less than one percent,” much like other Hopewell sites (Romain).

Image 1: Schematic plan of the Newark Earthworks

Consistent use of the OCD lends credence to an integrated view of landscape and erodes the perception of Native American societies as hapless in their patterns of settlement and naive in their understanding of the universe. Altogether, the Newark Earthworks compose an extensive natural observatory that people used to position themselves within a valid reality. The triangle’s axis of symmetry “[aligns with] the moon’s maximum north rise point” and thereby associates the site with Hopewell ideas of a balance cosmos. Bradley T. Lepper goes so far as to compare the site with a “gigantic machine or factory” drawing together the energies of the Hopewell universe (Lepper).

Image 2: The Hopewell Cosmos

The People of the Eastern Woodlands clearly possessed a rich cosmological framework enhanced by an understanding of astronomy and mathematics. Subsumed in development, the sites are sequestered from the landscape to form an image that today’s society finds agreeable, an image that archaeologists possess the means to retract.

 

Sources:

Hopewell Archaeology. 2005. National Parks Service, www.nps.gov/mwac/hopewell/v6n2/doc/v6n2_all.pdf. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

Lepper, Bradley Thomas. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio’s Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.

“Newark Earthworks.” Ohio History Connection, 2017, www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/newark-earthworks. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

Romain, William F. “Newark Earthwork Cosmology: This Island Earth.” The Newsletter of Hopewell Archaeology in the Ohio River Valley, Mar. 2005.

 

Image Citations:

Schematic Plan of the Newark Earthworks. National Parks Service, 2005, www.nps.gov/mwac/hopewell/v6n2/doc/v6n2_all.pdf. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

Eastern Woodlands Cosmos. National Parks Service, 2005, www.nps.gov/mwac/hopewell/v6n2/doc/v6n2_all.pdf. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

 

Links:

https://www.crt.state.la.us/dataprojects/archaeology/marksville/hopewell-culture.html

https://www.nps.gov/mwac/hopewell/v6n2/doc/v6n2_all.pdf

 

 

What Pottery Can Teach Us About Ancient Pueblo Cultures

One of my fondest memories is of travelling down to Mesa Verde National Park and being given pottery shards to piece back together like a puzzle. For many archaeologists, this seemingly fun task is actually of monumental importance to learn about ancient native Pueblo people.

One of the simplest yet important discoveries regarding pottery was how it was made. Using other artifacts found around old kilns made from dung, archaeologists have been able to deduce that Pueblo peoples made their pottery by making long coils of clay, stacking them, and then smoothing over the gaps with smooth pottery shards, and lastly firing them in a kiln heated by burning dung. They were then painted using a paste derived from boiled plants. This method is still used today making this discovery rather straightforward.

Modern Example of an Ancient Pueblo Kiln

Another extremely evident characteristic of the pottery is the varying color of the clay used. Pottery was made using either grey or red clay. This is immensely important because the base color was determined by the location of the tribes who made the pottery. Certain tribes in Utah made the red clay pottery not for its color but because their environment was naturally more rich in oxygen than that of their southern brethren. This environment would oxidize the iron in the clay during the firing process and turn the pot red. Examples of such pottery have however been found much farther south in Arizona, which is important because it provides evidence that the tribes traded amongst themselves.

Example of Ancient Pueblo Red Clay Pottery

Similarly interesting is that the designs showed clear examples of linearity. That is, almost all pottery from specific time periods shows similar designs like zigzags, animals, etc. These time periods have been proven by dating sites using the rings in timbers of surrounding structures. This is especially interesting because it shows that ancient native cultures, like those of today cared about conforming to societal definitions of beauty. Archaeologists do not know why tastes changed, but presently this is very helpful because the designs of pottery at sites are yet another tool to help date a site.

Another important distinction that can be made about ancient native potters is that they figured out many uses for their pottery. Lots of pottery that has been found actually has no designs and shows clear scorch marks showing that pottery was used to cook, not just for decoration, rituals, or storage like it mostly is used for today.

What is perhaps most amazing is I have not presented anywhere close to all of the insights pottery has given archaeologists into past cultures. Pottery is just as useful today for archaeologists as it was for the people who made it. Because of the importance of these artifacts to present cultures, and all of the information that they offer archaeologists, it is undoubtedly more important than ever that sites are excavated as scientifically as possible so as to best preserve evidence of the ancient cultures that we still have so much to learn about.

Sources:

https://www.nps.gov/teachers/classrooms/upload/Pottery-of-the-Ancestral-Pueblo-Lesson-Plan.pdf

http://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/files/Educators/mesa_verde_primary_resource_set.pdf

Picture Sources:

https://www.pinterest.com/oldterritorial/maricopa-and-mojave-indian-pottery/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:24_Acoma_Pueblo_oven.jpg

Further Readings:

Ortman, Scott (2006), “Ancient Pottery of the Mesa Verde Country: How Ancestral Pueblo People Made It, Used It, and Thought About It”, in Nobel, David Grant, The Mesa Verde World: Explorations in Ancestral Puebloan Archaeology, School of American Research Press, pp. 100–109, ISBN978-1-930618-75-6

Glowacki, Donna M.; Neff, Hector; Glascock, Michael D. (1998), “An Initial Assessment of the Production and Movement of Thirteenth Century Ceramic Vessels in the Mesa Verde Region”, Kiva, 63(3), pp. 217–41

Lang, Richard W. (2006), “Craft Arts of the Mesa Verde”, in Nobel, David Grant, The Mesa Verde World: Explorations in Ancestral Puebloan Archaeology, School of American Research Press, pp. 58–65, ISBN978-1-930618-75-6

Decolonizing Archaeology

The study of archaeology was originated in Europe, therefore its colonial roots are very apparent. Because it originated as colonial practice, in general, archaeology has mainly been westerners traveling and trying to understand the history of different Indigenous people (Indigenous Archaeology as Decolonizing Practice). The fact that the colonizers were the people determining the history of past civilizations reveals that a bias exists in how we understand certain cultures. When artifacts were found and analyzed, they were easily misinterpreted and taken out of context. Then they would be taken and placed in a museum, creating a false history. These inaccuracies are then passed down and are taken for the truth. For example, when British archaeologist Neville Chittick came across ancient stone towns on the Swahili Coast, he automatically assumed that they had to have been made by outsiders (Matters of Context).  His misinterpretation was then documented in textbooks and has misguided many people who read his work. In class we discussed the importance of contextualizing artifacts. In order to fully understand the artifact being studied, it is crucial to be conscious and knowledgable about the culture, traditions, rituals and other defining characteristics surrounding it. Without this understanding, artifacts are taken out of context, misunderstood, and the entire truth is not revealed. Archaeology’s colonial roots and prioritization of Western cultures has proved to be problematic, but there are ways to break away from this system.

Figure 1: Stone towns in the Swahili Coast

When the correct steps are taken, archaeology has the ability to unearth many overlooked aspects of history. While it can be used to learn about the past, archaeology is not just about learning about history, but it is extremely helpful in understanding the complexities of relationships between people today. By revealing other ways of life, and events that had major impacts of entire cultures, we can achieve a greater appreciation for people who we view are different than us. These realizations can help solve issues that present themselves today. For example, the history of Indigenous people in North America has been misrepresented by mainstream archaeology (Decolonization in Archaeological Theory). By studying artifacts and getting the real story of their past, we can begin to make reparations for everything that was taken from Native Americans. This includes returning cultural property, restoration of cultural landmarks and heritage sites, and better representation in museums and the media (Decolonization in Archaeological Theory). Archaeology has the ability to bring justice to marginalized groups of people when it is a community-based project that prioritizes the people they are studying.

Figure 2: Native American artifacts

Citations:

Atalay, S. “Indigenous Archaeology as Decolonizing Practice.” The American Indian Quarterly, vol. 30 no. 3, 2006, pp. 280-310. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aiq.2006.0015

https://www.archaeology.org/issues/116-1401/sidebars/1719-colonial-archaeology-swahili-coast

http://www.academia.edu/6661058/Decolonization_in_Archaeological_Theory

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/202291

Figure 1: https://www.archaeology.org/issues/116-1401/features/1634-swahili-coast-towns

Figure 2: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/native-american-artifacts/?lp=true

Further Reading:

Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: The New Pragmatism-https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Ccsmpug-xaoC&oi=fnd&pg=PP14&dq=archaeology+and+social+justice&ots=2yFTD2uM2p&sig=4eGMgQdw_Z7lsfvqo4piGimha2U#v=onepage&q=archaeology%20and%20social%20justice&f=false

Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement- https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ZMjjwT8_OT8C&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=archaeology+and+social+justice&ots=gx2HAYuzK4&sig=F5HF7451z1UAgQ5sKy4IyGoaNHs#v=onepage&q=archaeology%20and%20social%20justice&f=false

The Dogs of Lake Baikal

 

In the 1980-90s, sites near Irkutsk were investigated for archaeological evidence of early nomadic groups. The area hosts a plethora of burials from early gatherer steppe societies. One central finding in the region involved evidence of domesticated dogs buried with people, alone, and for sacrifice.

 

The Lokomotiv site housed what archaeologists refer to as the “Lokomotiv wolf.” The wolf’s skull was approximately 10.5 inches long, its shoulder placed at a height of ~30 in. Isotope analysis revealed that the wolf’s diet was largely ungulates — and while there is little evidence to support the animals domestication, it was buried formally.

Other sites, such as in Shamanka II, provide full skeletons and evidence of injuries and diet. At Ust’-Belaia a dog was buried wearing a necklace of four red deer canine teeth pendants. Excavation at the Shamanskii Mys site revealed (see image) human remains surrounded in canine skeletons. Shamanskii Mys is, however, not an isolate and cemeteries in the region have unearthed several instances of dogs buried with human remains.

Field work east of the Baikal has also revealed canine remains buried with consumed and sacrificed animal bones. Whether domesticated dogs were eaten or sacrificed is not clear. However, this expresses the importance of context in these cemeteries. Canine bones, whether alone, with human artifacts or bones, or among other animal remains presents varying interpretations. Additionally, the dog burials have been dated and connected to different known tribes and time periods. Using the surrounding artifacts and ecofacts of a dig, canines can be understood as followers of nomadic humans, participants in culture, or simply food — or all three. In any case, the dogs of Lake Baikal teach us that context is king, and that dogs have been with humans since the beginning.

References —

K. Kris Hurst, “How and Why Dogs Were Domesticated” https://www.thoughtco.com/how-and-why-dogs-were-domesticated-170656

Robert Losey, et al., “Burying Dogs in Ancient Cis-Baikal, Siberia,” http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0063740#pone-0063740-t001

Image Sources (in order) —

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mietje_Germonpre/publication/229412056/figure/fig1/AS:340602022580224@1458217258116/Fig-1-Map-of-the-study-area-with-locations-of-sites-mentioned-in-the-text-indicated.png

“Burying Dogs,” http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0063740#pone-0063740-t001

Further Reading —

Andrzej Weber, et al., “Radiocarbon Dates from Neolithic and Bronze Age Hunter-Gatherer Cemetaries in the Cis-Baikal Region of Siberia,” https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/radiocarbon/article/viewFile/2855/2620

V.I. Bazaliiskiy, “The Wolf of Baikal,” https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+wolf+of+Baikal%3A+the+%22Lokomotiv%22+early+Neolithic+cemetery+in…-a0100484923

Pueblo Culture in the Four Corners: Nothing Lasts Forever

Modern ideology would have us believe that the United States will last forever. However, history has shown that all civilizations fall, and give rise to new cultures and people. The ancestral Pueblo culture lived in the four corners region of the United States from about 100 to 1600 C.E. before they migrated to the south and east. Though their occupation of the area ended, their culture still lives on in several Native American tribes. At their peak in this area, they constructed large stone houses, known as pueblos, with between 20 and 1,000 rooms. The dry environment of the area has led to the preservation of many

Nearly inaccessible pueblo on a cliff face (Photo by Greg Child)

of their sites and artifacts. These show that around 1250 C.E., the features and context of their society began to change. People began building defensively, grouping together into larger pueblos and surrounding themselves with a wall. Where a high population could not be supported, buildings were constructed in almost inaccessible locations. Shortly after the construction of these dwellings, many of the buildings were abandoned.

Archaeologists have determined that there was a severe drought during this period, causing extreme crop failure and other ecofacts point towards the deforestation of the area, both of which may have led to the abandonment of settlements. There is also evidence of violence within the ancestral Puebloans and with the Apache and Navajo nations. Starting in the 11th century, there began to be evidence of violent deaths likely related to internal struggles. By the 13th century, there was evidence of warfare.

In Sand Canyon, teams found skeletons with their skulls bashed in and others left lying, missing the usual evidence of a ritual burial. Castle Rock, another

Map of the Castle Rock Pueblo, abandoned after a massacre of at least 41 people (Photo by Crow Canyon Archaeology Center)

settlement, had evidence of a massacre and possible cannibalism. By analysis of bones and through finding myoglobin – a human protein –  in human feces and inside cooking vessels, cannibalism was likely to have occurred in a site called Cowboy Wash. Similar physical bone characteristics are present on the bones at Castle Rock. These violent events coincided with the end of habitation in many sites.

The timing of these events was determined through both absolute and relative dating techniques like dendrochronology and comparison of tree ring width, and the comparison of pottery shards to a known progression of decoration. For example, Castle Rock was only inhabited for about 28 years based on the analysis of roof beams. Also important in both timing and finding sites are the oral histories of the descendants of the ancestral Puebloans, who are the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Laguna tribes.

These symptoms of decline are present in our society. We have tension within and without of our borders and we are dealing with overuse of resources and climate change. Our circumstances are remarkably similar to those of the ancestral Pueblo culture; we will have to see if our culture will live on as theirs did.

Sources:

“Ancestral Pueblo Culture.” Encyclopedia Britannica. July 7, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2017.https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ancestral-Pueblo-culture

Kuckelman, Kristin A. “Final Days, Archaeology of Castle Rock Pueblo.” The Archaeology of Castle Rock Pueblo, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 2000, www.crowcanyon.org/researchreports/castlerock/text/crpw_finaldays.asp

Roberts, David. “Riddles of the Anasazi: What awful event forced the Anasazi to flee their homeland, never to return?” Smithsonian Magazine. July 2003. Accessed September 16, 2017. https://www.google.com/search?q=fall+of+the+Anasazi+people&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

 

Images:

Image 1: Child, Greg. “Pueblo Cliff Dwelling.” Riddles of the Anasazi, Smithsonian Magazine, July 2003, www.google.com/search?q=fall+of+the+Anasazi+people&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8.

Image 2: “Map of Castle Rock Pueblo.” Map of Castle Rock Pueblo, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 1999, www.crowcanyon.org/EducationProducts/ElecFieldTrip_CRP/cr_plan.asp.

 

For Further Reading:

“Anasazi.” “Anasazi.” State of Utah, 2017. http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/american_indians/anasazi.html

Kuckelman, Kristin A. “Archaeology of Castle Rock Pueblo.” Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. 2000.  www.crowcanyon.org/researchreports/castlerock/text/crpw_contentsvolume.asp.

Shogren, Elizabeth. “Is Ancient People’s End a Warning for the Future?” NPR. NPR. 29 July 2007. www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12313268.

“What’s in a Name?” Archaeological Institute of America. Vol. 59, no. 4. 2006. http://archive.archaeology.org/0607/news/insider.html

 

Clonycavan and Old Croghan Man

 

When thinking about archeology and the preservation of organic materials one usually thinks of the archeological sites in dry environments or cold environment. Thinking of preserved bodies many think first of the mummies of ancient Egypt or of the Ötzi, the frozen iceman found in the Alps. However, another major location for the preservation of organic materials in archeology is wetland sites, especially the peat bogs in Europe.

 

Bog bodies refer to the corpses that have been naturally mummified found in these bogs. Two such bog bodies were found in 2003 in Ireland less than three months apart. Based on carbon testing the partial corpses found twenty-five miles from each other had lived and died during the height of the Celtic Iron Age (archive.archeology.org). The Clonycavan Man, a corpse that was only recovered from the torso up, was shown to have lived between 392 and 201 B.C. Whilst the Old Croghan Man, a torso with only the arms, was dated to have lived between 362 and 175 B.C. Both corpses had been of young, healthy men who had been violently killed, the Clonycavan Man having been struck by a stone ax, splitting his skull, and the Old Croghan Man having been decapitated, stabbed and cut in half. Many of the other wounds on their bodies imply that they had been tortured before their death, possibly as a part of a ritual, especially as both corpses had their nipples pinched and cut off (irisharcheology.ie).

 

Archeologists studied these two corpses, learning not only about the deaths of these two men, but learning about the lives they had lived. There were few signs of physical labor on the men, and there was much evidence found of the Old Croghan Man’s wealth and higher status.

The nails, hair and stomach of the Old Croghan Man were so well preserved in the bog that researchers were able to conclude that due to his well-kept fingernails, lack of calluses and good diet he had been an “individual of relatively high status” (Archeology Essentials).

 

The keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, Eamonn P. Kelly, used the information learned about the lives and deaths of these men to develop new insights on the Celtic culture of Ireland in the Iron Age. Kelly interpreted these brutal, almost ritualistic killings, of two well-to-do men as the killings of “failed kings or failed candidates for kingship,” as the loss of their nipples would have been a sign of no longer being fit for kingship, whose bodies had been an offering to a Celtic goddess (archive.archeology.org). The analysis of these bog bodies was able to give more of an understanding of the culture that lived over 2000 years ago, presenting beliefs and rituals of the time through the similar wounds on the bodies, connecting two separate archeological finds from wetland sites to one another.

The Clonycavan Man

The Old Croghan Man

 

 

Sources:

http://archive.archaeology.org/1005/bogbodies/clonycavan_croghan.html

http://irisharchaeology.ie/2011/08/irish-bog-bodies-recent-discoveries/

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: theories, methods, practice. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015.

 

Picture Sources:

http://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/clonycavan-man-2300-year-old-murder-mystery-002100

The Bog Bodies of the Iron Age: The Clonycavan Man and the Old Croghan Man (Belen Gimenez)

 

Further Readings:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/3888875.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A3a9be95373a6db218086439777ae20d4

The Bog Bodies of the Iron Age: The Clonycavan Man and the Old Croghan Man (Belen Gimenez)

The Archaeology of Immigration in Ancient Teotihuacan

When we think about ancient civilizations, it can be easy to think of them as being homogenous. However, migration has always been present in human history, and evidence of the transfer of ideas and people between settlements is often found. Still, evidence does not stand on its own and it must be supported by its context. Migration especially can only be theorized upon when the artifacts, ecofacts, and features of sites are considered as a whole. For example, the ethnic composition of Teotihuacan has been analyzed by taking all of these site features, understanding their relationship to each other, and comparing these findings to other sites in the Mesoamerican region.

Figure 1. Layout of Teotihuacan, including the locations of the Oaxaca Barrio, Michoacán Enclave, and Merchants’ Barrio.

While studying the ruins of Teotihuacan, archaeologists found evidence suggesting the presence of communities of various ethnic “groups, [including] the Zapotecs of Oaxaca, who lived in their own barrio [community] on the southwestern fringe of the city; the Gulf Coast merchants, who dwelled in the Merchants’ Barrio on the east side of the city; and people of the West Mexican Michoacán enclave, who lived on the western limits of the settlement” (Manzanilla 2002:59). Studying the infrastructure of these communities in themselves would seemingly only reveal differing architectural practices. But when we consider the mentioned ecofacts and artifacts within these compounds separately, along with features that are not part of the infrastructure, we can understand ritual, social, and culinary practices in themselves. Finally, when these practices are viewed in association with each other, we find that even a few small pieces of the city can actually reveal its multiethnic composition and ties to the rest of Mesoamerica. We can see that the context of excavations matter. For example, square burial tombs that had only been found in sites in the state of Veracruz were found in some barrios of Teotihuacan. Apartment compounds, especially within the Merchants’ Barrio but also in all the ethnic enclaves mentioned in Figure 1, included goods from other regions, such as distinct shells or pottery. Immigrants in the Oaxaca barrio apartment complexes, identified using strontium isotope ratios, retained what are now known as Western Mexican burial practices, but also adapted to Mexica culinary practices. This is especially interesting to note, for although some people assimilated to Mexica culture, they still retained the practices that made their identities clear. Because these discoveries deal with the differences between each barrio and with similarities to other sites, it is clear that the understanding of immigration in Teotihuacan was only furthered because the site as a whole was considered.

Figure 2. Zapotec urn found in Teotihuacan’s Barrio Zapotec, also known as Tlailotlacan.

Civilizations have always been connected, and in some ways very intertwined, something we cannot ignore in the present day. It is no surprise that Teotihuacan would attract people from other areas of Mesoamerica- not as people who were conquered, but as people who were attracted to the power and almost mythical status of the city. It parallels the reasons why some groups migrate to certain regions today, reminding us that, in a way, that we are not always so different from our ancestors.

 

 

Sources

Manzanilla, Linda, “Corporate Life in Apartment and Barrio Compounds at Teotihuacan,

Central Mexico: Craft Specialization, Hierarchy, and Ethnicity,” Memoirs of the Museum of

Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, vol. 49, 2009, pgs. 21-38, Web,

http://www.iia.unam.mx/directorio/archivos/MANL510125/2009_Manzanilla_Libro_Mic

higan.pdf

 

Manzanilla, Linda, “Houses and Ancestors, Altars and Relics: Mortuary Patterns at Teotihuacan,

Central Mexico” Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological

Association, vol.11, no.1, 2002 pgs.55–65, Web,

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1525/ap3a.2002.11.1.55/epdf.

 

Manzanilla, Linda, “Social Identity and Daily Life at Classic Teotihuacan,” Mesoamerican

Archaeology Theory and Practice, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, pgs. 124-147, Web,

http://people.uncw.edu/simmonss/Manzanilla%20%20Social%20Identity%20in%20Teoti

huacan%20%202004.pdf

 

Storey, Rebecca, “Teotihuacan and the Demography of Preindustrial Cities; The Tlajinga 33

Apartment Compound,” Life and Death in the Ancient City of Teotihuacan: A Modern

Paleodemographic Synthesis, The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa and London,

1992, pgs.  27-70, Print.

 

 Image Sources 

Figure 1.

Manzanilla, Linda, “Corporate Life in Apartment and Barrio Compounds at Teotihuacan, Central

Mexico: Craft Specialization, Hierarchy, and Ethnicity,” Memoirs of the Museum of

Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, vol.46, 2009, pgs.21-38, Web,

http://www.iia.unam.mx/directorio/archivos/MANL510125/2009_Manzanilla_Libro_Mic

higan.pdf

 

Figure 2.

Cabrera, Veronica Ortega. “Zapotec Urn in Teotihuacan.” Museo Nacional De

Anthropología,National Museum of Anthropology, Web,

http://www.mna.inah.gob.mx/index.php?option=com_sppagebuilder&view=page&id=4840.

 

Further Reading

 Link to Post by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History Discussing Foreigners in Teotihuacan, Which Can Be Translated to English.

“Teotihuacan Hosted 1,300 Foreigners.” Instituto Nacional De Antropología e Historia,

National Institute of Anthropology and History, 28 August 2013, Web,

www.inah.gob.mx/es/boletines/2370-teotihuacan-albergo-a-mil-300-extranjeros.

 

Link to Mentioned Study of Strontium Isotope Ratios in Bones of Individuals in Teotihuacan’s Foreign Barrios

Price, Douglas T., Manzanilla, Linda, Middleton, William D., “Immigration and the Ancient City

of Teotihuacan in Mexico: A Study Using Strontium Isotope Ratios in Human Bone and

Teeth,” Journal of Archaeological Science, vol.27, no.10, 2000, pgs. 903-913, Web,

http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0305440399905046/1-s2.0-S0305440399905046-main.pdf?_tid=0fb432de-968d-11e7-97a7-00000aacb35f&acdnat=1505092006_bf1259b5c406c9102503f9bda0f16d1a.

 

 

 

Roman Aqueducts in Spain Present New Findings

Segovia, Spain proves the need for open-mindedness before, during, and after archaeological digs.  Home to one of the most well-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world, this small Spanish town is rich with history and information surrounding cross-cultural  interactions.

Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain. Presumably built 112 AD, this is the site of many archaeological artifacts, ecofacts, and features.

This aqueduct is representative of archaeological features, or manmade alterations of the landscape which cannot be moved, within locations of past human activity which allude the daily routines, processes, and values of past generations (Renfrew, 40).  Aqueducts, in particular, act as evidence of interstate trade and societal structure, both socially and geographically.  Those who lived closer to the aqueduct reaped the benefits of its presence and ended up relatively advantaged.  After the aqueduct’s construction, urban development would become executed in relation to its location.  Today, Segovia takes the active aqueduct into consideration when expanding the city and planning celebrations of its history and culture.

Segovia, Spain with the Roman aqueduct running through the city center.

The aqueduct’s existence extends further into history than previously believed.  Recently, a team of archaeologists discovered an artifact from the aqueduct’s foundations from an excavation dating back to 1998.  The discovery of an “ancient Roman coin minted between 112 and 116 AD” alluded to the existence of Roman relations within Segovia prior to the original timeline, (Martín, El País).  This finding stresses the importance of evaluating the artifacts, ecofacts, features, and palimpsests of archaeological sites in relation to one another in order to mold discoveries based on contextual clues.

Not only does this discovery point to the age of Segovia as a whole, but it is also representative of daily activities and societal structures.  The Roman coin proves that the civilization at the time had a structured trading system involving monetary tangible currency rather than, or along with, bartering.  It alludes to the affluent nature of ancient Segovia and emphasizes the valuation of efficiency and trade within the city under Roman influence.  The fact that the aqueduct is still in use today only proves that similar values surrounding trade and efficiency remain.  Therefore, misconceptions about “lost civilizations” dating back to AD prove false based on various evidence, the use of the aqueduct being the most prominent.  This emphasizes the need for constant development and open-mindedness in research in order to provide context clues about the history of the world.  Knowledge of the past will help in understanding the present and future, as “time” operates cyclically.  It is important to constantly rediscover the world within new contexts and to continue to ask critical questions.

Sources:

PAÍS, EL. “Age of Segovia Aqueduct Revised after Discovery of Ancient Coin.” EL PAÍS, Síguenos En Síguenos En Twitter Síguenos En Facebook Síguenos En Twitter Síguenos En Instagram, 1 Nov. 2016, elpais.com/elpais/2016/11/01/inenglish/ 1477997248_304960.html.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: theories, methods, practice. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Photo Sources:

History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/ancient-rome/ pictures/roman-architecture-and-engineering/roman-aqueduct-segovia-spain.

Fletcher, Taylor. “Safe Travels >>>.” Pinterest, 4 Nov. 2013, www.pinterest.com/pin/ 170996117075648596/.

Further Readings:

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Segovia.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 24 Jan. 2011, www.britannica.com/place/Segovia-Spain.

“Aqueduct of Segovia.” World Monuments Fund, www.wmf.org/project/aqueduct-segovia.