The Importance of Contemporary Archaeology on Warfare

        Archaeology is often associated with the study of the distant past; however, in current decades archaeologists have been placing a larger emphasis on studying events in the more recent past (Harrison, Breithoff, 2017). This sect of archaeology is considered to be Contemporary archaeology. Contemporary archaeology allows people to interpret the more recent years of history, and analyze its direct effects on the world today. One example of Contemporary archaeology is the study of contemporary warfare.

         The archaeological study of warfare throughout all periods of history is very common. However, the relationship between archaeology and warfare is tricky, for their are immense benefits of studying warfare, yet warfare may also be detrimental to archaeological sites. For instance, the destruction of archaeological sites such the Great Mosque of Aleppo caused archaeologists a severe disadvantage. Due to the destruction, archaeologists are able to study little to nothing about the history of the mosque. Despite the major disadvantage warfare can have on archaeology, the social science itself can be considered a weapon in warfare. One example of this “weapon” is when archaeology is used to justify the actions of certain peoples (Pollock, 2017 ). For instance, archaeology has been used to justify the disposition of people from their own lands, such as the conflict in the Silwan area of Jerusalem.



(Flickr, 2010) A picture of Aleppo before destruction.

(image source: Fangi, G., & Wahbeh, W. (n.d.). THE DESTROYED MINARET OF THE UMAYYAD MOSQUE OF ALEPPO, THE SURVEY OF THE ORIGINAL STATE. Retrieved from Aleppo after destruction.

           An additional study of archaeology focuses on the engagement of material remains in the past, as well as the present (Pollock, 2017 ). Archaeology examines the themes of the past, and how they contribute to the people of the present. For archaeologists to be fully aware of events in the past, the event must have a situatedness with the people of the present. Thus, when archaeological sites are destroyed due to events such as terrorism, it makes the archaeology of that site irretrievable. Therefore, it is important to study the archaeology of warfare to be able to develop some understanding of the archaeological sites that have been destroyed. For, sometimes the archaeology of the destruction is just as valuable as the archaeology of the actual site.

          Although warfare is often very deleterious, it can also be very telling. By studying the archaeology of modern warfare, archaeologists are able to uncover answers to questions of today’s society. Therefore, it is very important archaeologists place a large emphasis on analyzing more recents events in history to prepare for a better understanding of today’s turmoil.




Harrison, R., & Breithoff, E. (2017). Archaeologies of the Contemporary World.    

           Archaeologies of the Contemporary World,46, 203-221. Retrieved November 18,    


Pollock, S. (2016). Archaeology and Contemporary Warfare. Annual Review of

          Anthropology,45(1), 215-231. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-102215-095913

Additional Readings:

Modern conflict archaeology

Inca Agriculture

        What we have learned and use from ancient civilizations? If they helped to create our foods, we should use some of their same farming practices right? According to the article by Cynthia Graber, the Inca were able to use the Andes Mountains (Figure 1) to get more water through canals. (Graber 2011) She also says, the Inca cultivated many variations of the vegetables we use today, such as, potatoes, quinoa, and maize. (Graber 2011) Was this because of their climate? The structured agriculture?

Figure 1

Inca Empire Image Credit: Kylie Blangley

           The Inca Empire have left a lot for archaeologists to explore and even experiment with. (Figure 2 Moray Ruins 2018) Kaushik’s article says, the Incas were truly ahead of their times. According to Archaeologists, these huge stone depressions are in the land, to cultivate the different crops. (Kaushik 2013)  Kaushik describes, in the article, about how these circular terraces are so well designed, no matter how much it rains, these beds never flood. They drain perfectly. (Kaushik 2013)

Figure 2

Circular Terraces in Peru
Image Credit: Savage McKay April 14, 2012


         Looking at these vast circular terraces and learning that they had more than three crops to cultivate. The Incas were true genius’ to create such a landscape. According to Carolyn, the land wouldn’t get as much sunlight and there could be a 27* difference from the bottom to the top. (Graber 2011) The Inca lived in South America, (Figure 1) which means there wouldn’t be a very long growing season. The more crops the Inca could  grow at a time, the better. Many archaeologists decided to explore more about the Incas agricultural process, especially the water systems.

           “Over the years, Kendall learned how the Inca builders employed stones of different heights, widths and angles to create the best structures and water retention and drainage systems, and how they filled the terraces with dirt, gravel and sand.” (Graber 2011) Kendall speaks about terracing and how people in Mountainous regions will practice these methods in order to conserve water.  (Graber 2011) In this article, Kendall goes on to discuss how after the canals were irrigated, they were found six months later damp. This shows how sophisticated the canals were. (Graber 2011)

           Now the question is, what can we change about our own farming methods?  According to Carolyn’s article, Archaeologists have found many of the canal systems and the people who live there are helping to restore this old way of gathering and collecting water. (Graber 2011) Maybe once this process is restored, it can make its way to other farms all over the world. This method could help us cut down on our own water waste around the world! Also if we remember how our food was originally created, we wouldn’t feel the need to genetically modify it all the time. 

              In the Carolyn’s article, Archaeologists have also found some of the stone in the canals to be older than Inca times. (Graber 2011) The Incas used what was already on the land and mastered it. Proving to be one of the most sustainable civilizations on the planet. 



Further Reading



Learn about the food they cultivated for us: Inca Food and Agriculture–agriculture/

How the climate affected the Inca?:

Hotter Weather Fed Growth of Incan Empire



References Cited



Graber, Cynthia

2011 Graber, Cynthia. Farming Like the Incas. Accessed September 6, 2011


2013 Kaushik. The Mysterious Moray Agricultural Terraces of the Incas. Electronic Document. Accessed March 4, 2013

Moray Ruins

2018 Moray Ruins. The Only Peru Guide. Electronic Document. accessed 2018

National Science Foundation

2005 National Science Foundation. News Release 05-088. Electronic Document. Accessed May 27, 2005.


Images Cited



Blangley, Kylie

2018 Blangley, Kylie. Inca Empire. Electronic Document, Accessed 2018.


McKay, Savage

2012 McKay, Savage. Peru – Cusco Sacred Valley & Incan Ruins 045 Moray. Flickr. Accessed April 14, 2012.

The Suffering Of Japanese Americans During WWII

World War II was a dark time in history. Countless lives were lost or destroyed both on and off the battlefield. World War II cannot be discussed without mention of the Holocaust and the Nazi’s despicable crimes against Jews. Meanwhile, Americans don’t seem to be taught, or choose not to remember, the internment of Japanese Americans after the events of Pearl Harbor. The United State’s crimes against its own citizens is being forgotten, but archeology is saving this history from being erased.

Executive order #9066 ordered the internment of Japanese Americans into camps along the western portion of the United States. They were imprisoned for crimes they had not committed and lost all they had worked for in the United States. Their houses were no longer theirs, most of their possessions were lost, they couldn’t work, their culture was being taken away from them, and they were seen as the enemy by their former neighbors. Over two-thirds of the prisoners were American citizens, and their interment was against their rights (Camp). The Japanese Americans relocated to these camps did not know how long they would be staying, or what would be waiting for them when they got out. They suffered at the hands of their own country and it isn’t widely acknowledged by history.

An Image of an Internment Camp in Colorado during World War II

Life within the camps was kept hidden from the outside. Pictures were controlled or not allowed, letters were censored, and prisoners constantly supervised (Camp). This led rumors to spread that the internees were living well, even better than average Americans during the struggles of the war. Archeology is helping reveal the truth of that life was like for the people forced to live there.

Not much is left of these camps, but archeologists are finding remnants that can tell us how Japanese Americans lived and dealt with their internment. Excavation of now vacant camps show evidence that the people housed there attempted to make the most of their stay. They were only permitted to bring one suitcase with bare necessities and forced to sell the rest of their possessions, an essential robbery of their life and heritage since many personal items left behind reflected Japanese culture. So it makes sense that Japanese Americans would try to create their culture where they could. Exterior areas were given a Japanese style with gardens ponds and walkways. Evidence at one Colorado camp even shows that the Japanese Americans altered the soil with eggshells to grow traditional Japanese vegetables (Camp).

An irrigation pipe that was turned into a Japanese style garden

Archeologists have also found evidence of high security around the camps. Guard towers and fences gives evidence that those living there were not free to leave, and were in fact prisoners. At some camps prisoners were forced to work; at the Kooskia Camp in Idaho Japanese Americans were forced to build a highway (Banse).

Most people kept in the camps had to start entirely new lives upon their release, forced to acclimate to American life once more. Even after the release of Japanese Americans their suffering continued. They faced racism and xenophobia that hindered their ability to move on and start again. The least history could do is acknowledge the suffering Japanese Americans went through.


Banse, Tom

 2012  Archaeologists Resurrect Nearly Forgotten WWII Internment Camp. Northwest News Network

Camp, Stacy Lynn

 2015  Landscapes of Japanese Internment. Historical Archeology Volume(50):169-186

Contreras, Russell

 2015  Colorado Japanese-American Internment Camp Opens Forgotten History. The Associated Press

Valentino, Claudia

 2011  The Archeology of Internment. Archeology

Further Reading:


Scenes from Japanese Internment Today


Archaeology of the Japanese American incarceration

Is Warfare Part of Human Nature

Warfare has compromised most all of human existence. This omnipresence of violent conflict begs the question, is war an innate human element? We can attempt to answer this question by looking into our pasts, deep into our pasts.

Chimpanzees, our most closely related ancestor, can provide much insight into our affiliation to warfare. Chimpanzee’s behavior towards outsiders is remarkably violent; they will ambush opposing groups and aggressively kill them. They show, “…systematic and lethal intergroup violence” (Johnson). These actions are acutely similar to those of humans. However, in contrast, bonobos display completely different behavior. Instead of resolving their conflicts through violence, they use heterozexual and homosexual sexual activity to cope. There still is a great amount of discord within their groups, but an almost complete absence of violence; the sexual activity seems to be used for, “…stress reduction, conciliatory purposes and resource competition” (Johnson). This allows there to be much less violence.

Male chimpanzee defending his territory

The extreme contrast between two so closely related primates then raises another question: why do their forms of conflict resolution differ so greatly? One explanation could be the differing environments they evolved within. For instance, bonobos resided in a stable environment. There was no threat of outside competition, due to the absence of other primates like gorillas, and there was no shortage of resources. Chimpanzee habitats were the complete opposite: they experienced shortages of resources as well as outside competition. This created a dependency on violence to keep their resources and group safe. Humans developed in a very similar environment. Therefore, it can be inferred that chimpanzees and humans share violent tendencies because of their difficult environments.  

Violence within humanity has transcended through history because the issue of scarcity has transcended with it. Even the so called “noble savage” is riddled with archeological evidence of gruesome violence. If humans had developed in a stable environment like the bonobos did, would we too solve our conflicts through sex too? If modern humans reach a state of resource stability, can we change our warlike ways or has evolution engrained it within us? Is war actually part of human nature, or does the structure of our society perpetuate the idea that it is human nature?

Humans connection to chimpanzees.

Work Cited

Johnson, Dominic, and Bradley A. Thayer. “What Our Primate Relatives Say About War.” The National Interest, The Center for the National Interest, 6 Oct. 2014,

Image Sources

Additional content

Evaluating Perspectives on the Collapse of Viking Greenland

For centuries archeologists have hypothesized about the causes of the demise of the Greenland Vikings. Most theories are relatively similar, though there are many points that archaeologists disagree on: chiefly perspectives on adaptation, and the roles of environment, economy, and identity.

Climate change has come into focus, with some describing it as the main cause of the collapse while others seeing a more minor role. Archaeologist, Matthew Mason argues that climate change was the most significant reason for the Greenland Vikings disappearance. Mason states that the initial Medieval Warm Period was misleading, causing the Vikings to adopt farming, which was unsustainable in the Little Ice Age (Mason 2018). However, archaeologist Nicolas Young, believes that blaming climate change is not only an oversimplification, but ethnocentric. Young explains that as the Medieval Warm Period only affected parts of Europe it is ethnocentric to give it a central role. Young believes that economics mainly underlie the collapse as the climate was cold and harsh the entire time the Vikings lived in Greenland (Connor 2015).

Another economic argument suggests that an over reliance on tusk ivory – thought to be the main item of trade with Europe – led to the  Greenland Vikings demise. Some archaeologists believe that Russian ivory coming to the market in the 14th century devalued the Viking ivory. Furthermore, as climate worsened, storms made Walrus hunting harder, leading to an ivory shortage and declining profits (Kintisch 2016).

A less popular perspective, highlighted by Mason and Connor, is the role of religion in the collapse. Connor explains that resources were directed to the building of Churches and Cathedrals, led to deforestation and soil erosion (Connor 2015). Mason argues that the Vikings rejected hunting as outdated and associated it with Paganism, though it sustained the Inuits. This rejection lead to food shortages and environmental destruction from failed farming attempts (Mason 2018).

Mason argues that there was an “unwillingness to move away from practices of European identity” and this inflexibility in identity doomed the Vikings. The idea of the Viking’s inability to adapt is one of the most popular theories. Mason argues that the Vikings inability to adapt is evident in their failure to switch from crops and farming methods meant for richer, European soil (Mason 2018). However, archaeologists Arneborg and McGovern believe that the vikings did partially adapt. McGovern uses the contradiction in Seal hunting as evidence: although the Vikings did not use spears to hunt like the Inuits, appearing to reject this adaptation, they did hunt seal extremely successfully even as climate changed (CUNY Media 2011). Arneborg finds evidence for adaptation in the Viking’s rejection of livestock practices when they became profitless in the worsening climate (Kintisch 2016).

Whether it was environment, economics, ingrained identity, adaptation, or some yet-to-be-discovered cause, the story of the Viking collapse provides Archaeologists with a model to study the rise and fall of societies. The ultimate cause of the demise of the Greenland Vikings may serve as a warning and framework for directing our own thinking on sustainability and adaptation in modern societies

Above is an image exemplifying the harsh climate of Greenland today, comparable to the environment of the Viking period.

Above is an image exhibiting ruins of Greenland’s Hvalsey Church, an example of one of the religious buildings built as highlighted by Steve Connor.

Reference List

Connor, Steve

2015 Geologists have all but ruled out claims the Medieval Warm Period accounts for Greenland’s colonisation from 986AD. Electronic document,, accessed November 11th, 2018.

CUNY Media

2011 How Nature Vanquished the Vikings of Greenland. Electric document,, accessed November 11th, 2018.

Eli Kintisch

2016 Why did Greenland’s VIkings disappear? Electronic document,, accessed Nov 6th, 2018.

Mason, Matthew

2018 What Environmental Data Can Tell Us about the Greenland Vikings. Electronic document,, accessed November 5th, 2018.

Image Sources 

Stockinger, Nther and Spiegel

2013, Ruins of Hvalsey Church, Hvalsey, Qaqortoq, Greenland. Electronic document,, accessed Nov. 11th, 2018.

Kelly, Gwyneth

2015, Minutes. Electronic document,, accessed Nov. 11th 2018.

Additional Sources



The Creation and Adoption of Gunpowder


The ancient Chinese accidently invented one of the most widely used weapons.  Alchemists in ancient China spend centuries trying to concoct an elixir of life with no success.  During the Tang Dynasty, an alchemist mixed 75 parts saltpetre with 14 parts charcoal and 11 parts sulfur, which exploded when it was exposed to an open flame.  

At first, China used gunpowder simply to scare or surprise their enemies.  When the Chinese realized the significance of what they had invented, they started to use gunpowder to kill instead.  The military forces of the Song Dynasty started using gunpowder devices against the Mongols as early as 904 A.D. The first of these devices was “flying fire”: an arrow with a burning tube of gunpowder attached to the shaft, primitive hand grenades, poisonous gas shells, flamethrowers and landmines.  By the 11th century, the Chinese were filling bombs with gunpowder and firing them from catapults. These fire cannons needed two people to carry them and were fired from moving platforms placed near the wall of the enemy city.


The Song government realized the extreme advantage they had in warfare and tried to keep gunpowder a secret from other countries.  In 1076, they even banned the sale of saltpeter to foreigners. Despite all their efforts, knowledge of this new substance was carried along the Silk Road to India, the Middle East, and Europe.  By 1280, recipes for gunpowder had been published in the west.

Gunpowder is just another example of how when a new technology is created, the rest of the world must either adapt or become obsolete.  This is extremely relevant when it comes to weapons and tools of warfare. If one civilization has better weapons, they will be able to conquer everyone else unless other civilizations learn the technology.  This is a constant cycle as civilizations create new technology while also trying to keep up with the new technology of others.

Additional Content:

Work Cited:

“Flying-cloud Thunderclap Eruptor.”

“Flying Fire.”

“Gun and Gunpowder.” Silk-Road,

Ross, Cody. “Middle Age Technologies Gunpowder.” Four Rivers Charter,

Szczepanski, Kallie. “The Invention of Gunpowder: A History.” ThoughtCo, 23 Apr. 2018,

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Gunpowder Explosive.” Encyclopedia Britannica,

Viking-Age Burials, Beads and Gender Views

Usually when asked to imagine what a Viking may have looked like, many people think of the strong male viking warrior, while the women in their society is confined to being servile and dutiful wives. This sentiment has continued throughout the years, even in a Time article in 2000, described them as meek house workers, reinforcing our view that theirs was a strictly male dominated society. (Lemonick et. al. 2000)  However, studies about Gender in Viking societies completed as early as almost a century ago has shown that gender roles were not as clearly defined as preceding archaeologists and historians may have thought (O’Sullivan, 2016). Specifically, by looking at the graves for Viking age Scandinavians, and the objects found in associated with them, archeologists are able to discover new perspectives and ways of thinking about gender for these people which can help us in understanding modern day culture as well.

It has been found that stereotypically “feminine” designated items such as beads or brooches, that have been considered simple adornments based on our modern concepts of jewelry, are actually very helpful in learning about the Viking culture and helping to do away with previous notions that there was a conclusive division of male and female in Scandinavian society, and how these concepts carry over to modern day Scandinavian society (O’Sullivan, 2016). One such way this is supported is by finding beads in association with burials displaying otherwise “male” attributes or bodies determined to be biologically male. Examples of these male designated graves that have the presence of beads include findings from Norway, Dublin, England, and Iceland. In the cemetery at Ire on the Baltic island of Gotland, ten individuals that were determined to be male were buried with glass beads, and also were buried in association with weaponry (Fig. 2). Some male graves are also found without weapons but still with beads in their graves, which indicates that the inclusion of beads would not confirm nor negate the determination of a grave being named male (O’Sullivan).

In many female determined grave sited, oval or tortoise brooches, and box brooches were found, usually on the chest of the body or below the chin, meaning that they were likely affixed to a dress or used to keep a cape closed. These brooches also reflect the rank and status of the woman, as well as tasks they may have carried out in their lives (Jesch, 1991). These brooches could designate their positioning within social classes. In the Viking social hierarchy, there was three classes; upper, middle, and lower, all of which, women were able to be a part of, as well as had considerable social mobility (Larson, 2012). In fact, the Oseberg ship burial, one of the most famous burials that many do not realize was for a woman (Fig. 1). The remains of two women, one a slave, and the other likelely a noblewoman or völva, a religious shaman of the norse religion. Inside the ship, tapestries, a four wheeled cart, wood works, spades, and a staff were found. In the same area was the Gokstad Ship burial which held the remains of a Viking chieftain, showing that it was possible for women to hold a position as high as a male or higher with in the Viking culture (Larson, 2012).

By looking at the archeological remains of the Vikings and others like it we see that many times there is evidence for less strict divisions of gender, that gender was likely only one small part of what defined their place in culture and that it is important to question previously unchallenged and undisputed assumptions about cultures, both past and present.


Fig 2. Beads typically found in male burials, these are specifically from those found in Cumwhitton Cemetery (


Further Reading:



Jesch, Judith.

1991. Women in the Viking Age. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell.


Joanne O’Sullivan.

   2015. Strung Along: Re-evaluating Gendered Views of Viking-Age Beads, Medieval Archaeology,59:1, 73-86.


Larson, Caitlin.

2012. VIKING SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND GENDER ROLES IN SCANDINAVIA BASED ON BURIALS AND GRAVE GOODS. The Archaeological Studies Program Department of Sociology and Archaeology.


Lemonick, Michael D., and Andrea Dorfman.

2000. “The Amazing Vikings.” Time,9171,44020,00.html



Warfare in the Late Stone Age: Nataruk, Kenya

The origin point and reasoning for human warfare is widely debated. Yet, an answer would provide valuable information that could help humans cease or prevent wars. Warfare is said to be common after state societies emerged 5,000 years ago. This does not mean that there aren’t accounts outside of those descriptors, though. At one sight in Kenya, evidence of warfare was dated to 10,000 years ago. This site combats the generalization of warfare’s origin story.

(Figure 1. The Nataruk site during excavation, Photo from Wikipedia)

In 2012, at a site in Nataruk, west of Kenya’s lake Turkana, researchers discovered a large number of battered skeletons. The skeletons were widely spread out. The remains seem to be of a small hunter-gatherer band who lived approximately 9,500 to 10,500 years ago. The remains and surrounding sources were dated using radiocarbon dating, optically stimulated luminescence, and uranium series.

There were 27 skeletons at a minimum. All 27 of them were not buried. The remains comprised of six children and 21 adults. Trauma was found on the crania, cheekbones, hands, knees, ribs, and neck, to name a few (Handwerk 2016). There is also evidence of bound wrists on four skeletons. These locations of trauma are the most commonly targeted in violence cases. The weapons used to create all of these lesions were projectile points, a club-like weapon, and another weapon to be held at close proximity. This knowledge implies that the people had undergone violent deaths.

(Figure 2. Distribution of finds at Nataruk. Graphic by Esri, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, i-cubed, USDA, USGS, AEX, Getmapping, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, swisstopo, and the GIS User Community)

Usually conflict arises in sedentary societies. Since sedentary societies control land and resources, is believed that the “root causes for most warfare was control of resources… Including food, labor, and raw materials” (Sabloff 67). This, however, is not true at the site in Nataruk. The projectile points show inter-group conflict (Lahr 2016) and the rest of the weapons show that the hunter-gatherer group was victim to a premeditated attack. This shows that the group had valuable resources, even though it wasn’t a state society.

This begs the question, “what valuable resources did they have?” Evidence shows that West Turkana was a fertile landscape. The hunter-gatherer group found could have been raided for this fertile territory. They also could have raided for their women or children (Lahr 2016). There was some political complexity between the attackers and the attacked that led to this act of aggression. This exemplifies that raiding for resources is not only inherent in state societies, but foraging societies as well.

Since the Nataruk site shows us that warfare was evident in prehistory, we can conclude that warfare has existed for much longer than we assumed. Warfare seems to be a recurring phenomenon in human history and prehistory. If we study the past examples of warfare like the one at Nataruk, we may gain knowledge helpful in preventing or stopping war.


Further Reading: (Another study showing prehistoric warfare, in Central Europe) (Warfare in mobile hunter-gatherer bands and the implications on warfare origins)


Reference List:

Handwerk, Brian

2016, An Ancient, Brutal Massacre May Be the Earliest Evidence of War. D.C., Washington. Accessed 10 November 2018.


Lahr, Mirazon M.

2016, Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya. Nature, International Journal of Science. 529, pages 394–398. Accessed 10 November 2018.


Sabloff, Jeremy A.

2008 Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World. Left Coast Press. Walnut Creek, California.



The Political Impact of ISIS’ Destruction of Antiques

While notorious for public beheadings, ISIS also attacks Syrian and Iraqi artifacts and ancient sites. ISIS follows a strict Salafi interpretation of Islam that prohibits worship of shrines, tombs, and idols, and this interpretation leads ISIS to destroy churches, mosques, and even artifacts and antiquities deemed idolatrous. In 2015, ISIS territories were situated next to several world heritage sites (Figure 1), many of which they destroyed. Irina Bokova, the head of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, refers to the destruction of antiques as “cultural cleansing”, and says that destroying artifacts “adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people” (Hartmann 2015).

ISIS employs the brutal war tactic of publically destroying the culture of those who disagree with their ideals, including posting a photo showcasing the destruction of a religious site (Figure 2). ISIS is attempting to erase history. They are symbolically trying to disconnect their enemies from the past and the land, and they are trying to pave the way for a future in which the only history of Syria and Iraq is the history of ISIS.

ISIS’ attacks are demoralizing, horrific, and profitable. Selling and looting antiquities is ISIS’ second highest source of funding after oil, making the destruction of culture both a profitable escapade and a form of cultural warfare. In light of this news, in 2014 the U.S. sought to implement a bipartisan cultural protection czar to reduce the amount of smuggled antiques into the U.S. in order to curtail ISIS funding (Muñoz-Alonso 2014). Both the U.S. and Germany have started imposing laws that would catch smuggled artifacts at their respective borders.

In recent years, ISIS has lost 96% of its territories (Bendaoudi 2018). Still, the sites and antiques ISIS destroyed can never be truly rebuilt, which is why the impact of cultural warfare is so tragic. If the past is forgotten, those in the future can never look back to where they came from, and the connection to the land, the culture, and the people of the past could be lost. Governments and the UN must defend antiques and world historical sites from terror, and their importance must never be forgotten. For this reason, archaeology and the study of the past remain relevant and important subjects today.

Figure 1. ISIS territories in proximity to world heritage sites. Graphic by New York Times. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Nimrud is on the Tentative World Heritage List); Institute for the Study of War (control areas); Satellite image by Landsat via Google Earth

Figure 2. A photo by ISIS showcasing the destruction of a religious site. Photo by Hyperallergic

Works Cited:


Muñoz-Alonso, Lorena

2014  Could US Cultural Protection Czar Stop Rampant ISIS Looting? Electronic document,, accessed November 9, 2018.


Hartmann, Margaret

2015  ISIS is Destroying Ancient Art in Iraq and Syria. Electronic document,, accessed November 9, 2018.


Bendaoudi , Abdelillah

2018    After the “almost 100 percent” Defeat of ISIS, What about its Ideology? Electronic document,, accessed November 9, 2018.


Additional Content:

“How Antiques Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture”

How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture

“The Race to Save Syria’s Archaeological Treasures”

The Effects of Volcanic Activity on Societies in the Jama River Valley

Volcanoes can be destructive, but they can also lead to beneficial changes in societies. The Jama-Coaque I peoples lived to the west of the Ecuadorian Andes, which includes more than 30 active volcanoes. After the eruption of Pichincha (Figure 1), one of these volcanoes, the Jama-Coaque I peoples left the Jama River Valley (Coutros 2018). However, the destructive volcanoes did not keep people away from the Jama River Valley forever. The Jama-Coaque II peoples, descendents of Jama-Coaque I, resettled the valley hundreds of years later (Coutros 2018). This cycle of settlement and abandonment of the Jama River Valley began long before the Jama-Coaque I peoples left the valley. Around 1880 B.C., Pichincha erupted and the Valdivian peoples were forced to abandon their thriving farms, and around 467 B.C., the eruption of Pululahua, another volcano in the region, led to the Chorrera peoples leaving the Jama River Valley (Coutros 2018).

Figure 1. Ecuador’s Pichincha volcano.

The volcanic activity of the Ecuadorian Andes led to changes in the Jama-Coaque II peoples who returned to the valley. Previous inhabitants of the Jama River Valley, like the Valdivia and Chorrera cultures, relied on floodplain agriculture, which involves growing crops on river banks. When the river system was clogged by volcanic ash, their crops died. By diversifying their nutrient sources and agricultural techniques, the Jama-Coaque II peoples did not have to rely on floodplain agriculture to survive (Coutros 2018). This illustrates the importance of a society’s ability and willingness to change in order to adapt to a changing environment (O’Donnell 2017). The changes made by the Jama-Coaque II peoples led to their success in surviving in the Jama River Valley (Figure 2).

Figure 2. A map of the Jama River Valley and the Ecuadorian Andes.

Communal storage pits, which were used to store food for more than one household, and increased warfare and raiding suggest the rise of a centralized authority in the Jama-Coaque II communities (Coutros 2018). Communal storage and increased warfare allows the Jama-Coaque II peoples to maintain and protect food reserves. While volcanic activity may have pushed communities out of the Jama River Valley for hundreds of years, it also led to the Jama-Coaque II peoples developing practices that allowed them to thrive in the valley.

Volcanic activity has importance in archaeology beyond studying how it affects various cultures. A dating method used in archaeology involves studying layers of volcanic ash deposits. Tephrochronology is the study of volcanic ash, or tephra, deposits (U.S. Geological Survey 2016). Tephrochronology is a helpful tool in areas like Iceland, where tephrochronology was utilized in a study of human impact on the environment (McGovern et al. 2007). In these situations, the layers of ash deposited by volcano eruptions can help archaeologists date artifacts.

Additional Content

This page explains how the Jama-Coaque culture is known for its ceramic creations and describes a Jama-Coaque sculpture:

An article about how early humans may have survived the eruption of a volcano named Toba:

References Cited

Coutros, Peter

2018 How Volcanoes Destroy and Nurture Societies. Electronic document,, accessed November 8, 2018.


McGovern, Thomas H., Orri Vésteinsson, Adolf Fridriksson, Mike Church, Ian Lawson, Ian A. Simpson, Arni Einarsson, Andy Dugmore, Gordon Cook, Sophia Perdikaris, Kevin J. Edwards, Amanda M. Thomson, W. Paul Adderley, Anthony Newton, Gavin Lucas, Ragnar Edvardsson, Oscar Aldred, and Elaine Dunbar

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