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.


“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



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






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


Picture Sources:


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


Further Readings:


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.




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,




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,



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

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




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,




Figure 2.

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

Anthropología,National Museum of Anthropology, Web,



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,



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,





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.


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.

Techniques In The Field: Finding the Temple of Ehecatl in the Heart of Mexico City

On June 5th, 2017 during the tearing down of the Hotel Catedral in the heart of Mexico City archaeologists uncovered the “Templo de Ehecatl” (Temple of Ehecatl) and a stadium for “Juego de Pelota” (Ball Game). This site had originally been discovered seven years prior when the owners of the hotel had the foundation of the property examined. The temple has a round base that measures 36 meters in diameter and the ball court, which is still not completely uncovered, is believed to be at least 50 meters long. Using stratigraphy, archaeologist Raul Barrera was able to detect three distinct phases of construction in the stones of the temple. This led him to assume that the temple and court were used between the years 1481 and 1519. The floor was made of “piedras lajas” (flat rocks that are aligned like shingles) that were still in good condition and the curvature of the base of the temple was made of “tezontle” (a highly resistant red volcanic rock still commonly used for building foundations in Mexico) that had been stuck together with mud. The mud conserved the “tezontle” very well and by using both the “piedras lajas” and “tezontle” archaeologists were able to date the structure to around 1486 AD. Archaeologists also found several groups of human cervical bones that corresponded to individuals aging from infancy to young adults. The groups of bones were found under a staircase in the “Cancha de Juego de Pelota”. From the context of where the bones were found and previous knowledge of Aztec culture, archaeologists were able to deduce that the bones belonged to individuals that were used as an offering to the god of wind, Ehecatl, as a ritual for the game. Because the site had remained underground and unopen to the air, the temple was very well preserved and still had white stucco that had been used to decorate the walls. Another main reason for which so much of the temple is so well preserved is simply because almost all the artifacts and features are made of inorganic materials. The techniques we learn in our course are used in the field all the time. For this archaeological dig, Raul Barrera and his team used stratigraphy to give a good estimate of when the temple and court were used. Using their knowledge from previous Aztec findings and the location of the artifacts they deduced why the cervical bones were at the site.



Link to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History website. Link is in Spanish, but you should have the option to translate the page to English.


Link to CNN Espanol report on the finding of the Templo of Ehecatl. Link is in Spanish, but you should have the option to translate the page to English.

Revelan nuevo hallazgo arqueológico en el corazón de Ciudad de México

Section of the Templo of Ehecatl (Temple of Ehecatl), the Mexica god of wind. Picture taken by Hector Montano, INAH

Stairway that players used to enter into the Cancha de Juego de Pelota (Field of Ball Game) Picture belongs to Mexico’s Cultural Secretary and INAH


The Archaeology of Hurricane Katrina

In the past two weeks, the southern United States and much of the Caribbean were devastated by two hurricanes. These storms serve as a reminder of nature’s destructive powers and bring back memories of Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans in 2005. As an archaeologist we are prompted to ask, how do hurricanes provide us with research that can strengthen our understanding of human nature? What do the artifacts, what was left behind, tell us about the social, political, and cultural values of the communities destroyed? Using archaeology, we can learn about cultures through natural disasters.

Because archaeology is the study of what is left behind, human migration plays an important role in understanding cultures. When Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans, the mayor had only recently issued an evacuation order for the residents. Because he waited to do so, many people, predominantly poor people of color and the elderly, were left without means to leave. Their possessions have since become archaeological artifacts which can provide insight to their lives. As an archaeologist studies an artifact, they must consider questions of context and taphonomy. For example, if a researcher was examining a body of an individual who died in the hurricane, they might ask questions about why the person was not able to escape. Asking deeper questions allows for an archaeologist to consider the broader social and political context. The majority of those who died were poorer people of color and the elderly. Knowing this, anthropologists can begin to learn more about the economical situations and racial relations in New Orleans at the time.

Residents seeking shelter in the Superdome from Hurricane Katrina.

Additionally, archaeologists played a very specific role in the reconstruction of New Orleans. They were able to use methods of “GPS and GIS technologies to locate and identify historic properties” (McComb). By doing this, they helped the city decide what to rebuild. Understanding that sites change over time and are not time capsules is an important element of archaeology. New Orleans now is not what it was ten years ago. The decisions surrounding what buildings to rebuild provides commentary on a society’s cultural values. In New Orleans, the economically rich tourist centers, such as the French Quarter, were the first to be salvaged. In contrast, the poorer neighborhoods of the lower ward were never rebuilt. By realizing that sites are palimpsests and by questioning why certain buildings remain whilst others do not, archaeologists consider context.

After and before Hurricane Katrina.

In summary, archaeology can be used in times of natural disasters to learn more about a culture’s values. By asking questions about who and what was left behind, and what was rebuilt, anthropologists can learn more about issues of racial and economic segregation. Natural disasters play a huge role in history and have heavily impacted archaeological research.

Further Readings:

The Archaeology of Vulnerability: Hurricane Katrina and archaeology in the midst of disaster

Archaeological Sites After Disasters



McComb, Angela. “The Archaeology of Vulnerability: Hurricane Katrina and Archaeology in the Midst of Disaster.” MAPA. February 17, 2017. http://mapabing.org/2017/02/17/the-archaeology-of-vulnerability-hurricane-katrina-and-archaeology-in-the-midst-of-disaster/


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

Picture Sources:

Fig. 1.: David J. Phillip. From: Associated Press. 2005. http://rare.us/rare-news/across-the-u-s-a/these-before-and-after-photos-of-hurricane-katrinas-mammoth-trail-of-damage-will-leave-you-breathless/

Fig 2.: Gerald Herbert. From: Associated Press. 2015. http://rare.us/rare-news/across-the-u-s-a/these-before-and-after-photos-of-hurricane-katrinas-mammoth-trail-of-damage-will-leave-you-breathless/

Fig. 3: Marty Bahamonde. New Orleans residents lining up to shelter inside the Superdome. From: FEMA. 2005. http://mapabing.org/2017/02/17/the-archaeology-of-vulnerability-hurricane-katrina-and-archaeology-in-the-midst-of-disaster/


Terracotta Army Archaeology: Understanding of Ancient Military and Production Strategies

In 1974, near the Chinese city of Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province, several local villagers made a tremendous archaeological discovery while digging a well: the Terracotta Army. These clay-based figures, standing in battle formations of thousands in three pits, are the lasting reminders of an ancient civilization more than two millennia old. Every warrior, life-size and sporting unique and distinct facial characteristics, was built to serve the notorious first emperor of China, Qin Xi Huang, in the afterlife. The Terracotta soldiers are organized into various militarized units—foot soldiers, archers, chariot battalions, and armored units.

The Terracotta Army is extremely important to modern archaeology for its insights into the ancient Chinese society of the Qin Dynasty. Much can be learned about the level of technological advancement and the infamous military of Qin Dynasty by studying the distinctive and notable formations of the warriors as well as the weapons and tools found alongside them.

The pits containing the Army provide myriad information regarding the military tactics and formations of units employed by Emperor Qin Xi Huang during his reign.

A chariot battalion from the Terracotta Army pits.

The presence of an agile and maneuverable vanguard containing chariots, infantry, and the cavalry preceding the main echelon of troops pointed to the idea that military strategists of the past were very much aware of the capricious conditions of the battlefield and relied on mobile units to quickly adapt. Furthermore, the diverse weaponry found with the figures allowed archaeologists to infer that each unit, armed with multiple weapons, evolved to play diverse support roles when necessary, filling in the weak and vulnerable spots of the army during ambushes or sieges.

The bronze weapons found with the Terracotta Army also resolved the quandary of whether or not the bronzesmiths of the time mass-produced or individually crafted weapons used by the army. Due to the nature of the size of the massive army and the uniformity of the weapons, it was assumed by many archaeologists that ancient China employed some form of an assembly line.

Arrowheads recovered from Terracotta Army pits.

However, with the help of an X-ray fluoresce spectrometer, archaeologists measured the chemical compositions of some tens of thousands of arrowheads collected from the pits, coming to the conclusion that weapons of the Qin Dynasty were created in multiple workshops individually and debunking the idea that Qin bronzesmiths employed mass-producing assembly lines.

By studying artifacts gathered from the Terracotta Army, modern archaeologists learned much regarding the military and the level of technological advancements of an ancient Chinese society. Through the careful study and the understanding of the Terracotta Army formations and the use of modern-day X-ray fluoresce spectrum imagery, archaeologists gained insights into the military tactics and production methods employed by ancient China under Emperor Qin Xi Huang..

Further Readings:




Jarus, Owen. “Terracotta Warriors: An Army for the Afterlife,” Live Science, November 28, 2016.

“Military Formation of Terracotta Army.” Travel China Guide. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army/strategy_1.htm.

Pinkowski, Jennifer. “Chinese terra cotta warriors had real, and very carefully made, weapons,” The Washington Post, November 26, 2012.

Viking Hoard Archaeology: Complicating the Plundering Stereotype

While Vikings are historically viewed as violent, plundering people, the archaeology of Viking hoards has added some intricacies to their story that may seem surprising and contradictory to the typical trope. At the Viking hoard at the site of Fröjel on the Swedish island of Gotland, archaeologists uncovered evidence of violence and coercion to obtain and maintain their wealth, but also signs of trade, business, diplomacy, and international relations. In addition to evidence of external affairs, metal workshops and techniques to determine pure silver versus impure silver show a high level of intelligence and technology.

An excavation unit at Fröjel of a silver-smelting workshop (Photo by Daniel Weiss)

The location of Fröjel on the island of Gotland, Sweden (image created by author using Google Maps)

The vast count and variety of coins found shows just how far the Vikings traveled or at least the origins of the people they traded with; several of the artifacts signify further travel than the Vikings were originally thought to have undertaken. Archaeologists and historians can use the coins and foreign products to trace the distances and connections of the world for a point in time when a lot of the globe was not very accessible.

In regards to the structure of the island and its governance, the locations and changes of concentrations of the hoards indicated shifts in power, allowing archaeologists to sketch a potential timeline for the island and the Vikings who lived there. The earlier hoards were dispersed throughout the island, demonstrating a distribution of wealth. However, as time passed, the later hoards became larger and more concentrated, illustrating how the population’s wealth and power was held by the fewer Vikings who were burying it.

In addition to the physical artifacts that the hoard revealed, it also changes the interpretation of land use and alludes to other potentially significant sites nearby. Before the discovery of vast Viking activity across the island, Gotland was believed to be mostly used for farming. The significance of the hoards led to the successful search for a nearby Viking cemetery and a hypothesis that the arm jewelry found was made on the island turned up a workshop.

Hoards are fabulous stashes of artifacts of a particular moment in time, but it is not easy “to distinguish between hoards originally intended to be recovered and valuables buried with no reclamation intended” (Renfrew, Bahn, 47) Regardless, both interpretations indicate the hoards contained items that were specially valued. However, due to the assumption that these hoards are specially valued, archaeologists have a hard time investigating the more day to day parts of Viking culture from sites like these. The Principal Investigator of Fröjel, Dan Carlsson, can speak to great lengths about the significance of silver coins in the Viking culture, but can he point to any evidence from the hoard that shows what they ate on a daily basis? For further research and study, additional Viking hoards, like ones found in Scotland and England allow a variety of other historical discoveries that complicate and enhance history as we know it.

Additional Reading:


Photo Sources:

Los Angeles Water System

Many cities in California don’t use water sources from where they’re located, but instead pull resources from different regions. This is truer for Los Angeles than most cities. With its large population, location near saltwater, and drought conditions, Los Angeles relies on fresh water from miles away. LA’s use of  outside water sources not only puts people out of their homes, but also takes water from outside areas. Through the study of where water is from and how it changes the landscape, we can further ask the question if it is alright to take water from outside sources to fuel a city.

The original aqueduct built to sustain Los Angeles was the Zanja Madre, in 1781 on the L.A. River. In the 1800s, Judge William Dryden was hired to build a more elaborate water system in the middle of the Los Angeles Plaza. Dryden then became the head of the Los Angeles Water Works Co. and after his water system flooded, the water company got passed on to another private owner, and then eventually to city ownership in 1902 as the L.A. Water Department.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct project began in 1905 and was completed in 1913 diverting the Owens River into a canal that flows into the the Lower San Fernando Reservoir. This effectively destroyed Owens Valley, which was a prospering farming community. The ownership of this land was made through deceptive moves and insider information, which eventually led to the California Water Wars. The water that was being taken from Owens Valley was being fed into Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, but none was saved for the people living in Owens Valley.

Owen’s Valley post Los Angeles Aqueduct

Currently, Los Angeles gets water from San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, Colorado River, Eastern Sierra snow melt, local groundwater, and desalination. The only somewhat local resources are local groundwater and desalination. The sad part is that these supply the least amount of water to Los Angeles even though they are the closest to Los Angeles. Snow pack and the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta provides nearly 95% of the water to southern California. The issue is taking water from other places. Other states are affected due to California’s use of the Colorado River and extreme reliance on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

With Los Angeles’ continual population growth more water is being funneled hundreds of miles to reach the metropolitan area. Luckily for Californians, most of California is out of the drought or in less severe drought levels, but that doesn’t mean they need to stop conserving. As someone from San Diego, we need to keep up initiatives to reduce water consumption and look for alternative water sources. Desalination is becoming an option, but still uses too many resources and money to be viable. If people want to continue consuming large quantities of water, the best answer might be to move out of desert and temperate climates.

Map of California’s drought last week

 Further Readings: http://waterandpower.org/museum/Water_in_Early_Los_Angeles.htmlhttp://www.cadrought.com/southern-california-gets-water/

Sources: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home.aspxhttp://www.owensvalleyhistory.com/http://www.history.com/topics/los-angeles-aqueduct

Image Sources: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?, CAhttp://a.scpr.org/i/9dd3c84ad1a3286fb9d46206d4fa4acb/70909-full.jpg



The Archaeology of Slavery

Slavery has, unfortunately been a prevalent theme in most societies throughout all of history. When the average person in the United States thinks about slavery, they think of colonialism, African slave trade, plantations, and the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln finally put an end to the madness. But slavery has happened so many times before, is happening today, and will happen again in the future. It is not merely a laps in moral judgment that happened during a specific time, like from the birth of the US to the Civil War, or while the Egyptians built the pyramids. The exploitation of slave labor is consistent part of humanity and should be treated as such.

Many documents are valuable for the identification and study of slavery in the United States. These should be used along with archaeological methods for a thorough investigation.

Up until the adoption of the post-processual approach to archaeology, any notice of slavery was done through historical written record. It was believed to be the only way of seeing slavery, that there was no way to know that slaves existed unless you knew they were there. Ropes deteriorated over time, and chains were often repurposed.  But there are many ways of identifying the presence of slavery in the archaeological record. The places slaves lived, especially on plantations in the United States, were generally smaller and separated from the remainder of the house. It is often hard to tell if these quarters were for slaves, free blacks, or white servants. Sometimes with slaves, more effort was put into hiding their existence, and the house’s reliance on slave labor. Screens could be put up, or very elaborate alternative ways of navigating spaces, like different stairs etc. However, given such detailed and well-recorded accounts of slavery in the US, it seems counterproductive to not rely on both documentary and archaeological sources. But what about the places that have fewer or no written records? In ancient societies, slaves were taken from the defeat or sacking of other societies. The men were killed, and women and children were taken to be sold into slavery. This led to the idea that if more women were found on the archaeological record, then slavery was present in the society. Slaves are also depicted in frescos and paintings as smaller than other people in the picture.

Slaves depicted as smaller than the rest of the people in the picture.

Once slavery is “discovered” then what, and does it even need to be discovered? We know that 1 in 3 people in Italy during the Roman Empire were slaves and that they were integral to society. There are over 20 million people in slavery today. Nothing has changed. At this point, do we need to identify slavery? Or can we just “assume access to coerced labor… in the same way access to drinking water is assumed.” Some archaeologists want to shift the focus of the archaeology of slavery to the study of its effects and consequences, instead of merely whether or not it existed. These invisible demographics throughout history, like slaves, homeless people and migrants, can provide insights into the present and ways to tackle these issues right now.


  • Cameron, Catherine M., et al. The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion. No. 41. SIU Press, 2014.
  • Singleton, Theresa A. The archaeology of slavery and plantation life. Routledge, 2016.
  • Mark Cartwright. “Slavery in the Roman World,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 01, 2013. http://www.ancient.eu /article/629/.
  • Ian Muir-Cochrane, Are there really 21 million slaves worldwide?http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26513804

Image Sources

  • http://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-lincoln-slavery-and-emancipation
  • http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.713849

Further reading:

  • https://cliojournal.wikispaces.com/Slavery+in+Ancient+Greece
  • https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/