A Cemetery as an Archaeological Site?

I believe archaeology is misunderstood because people assume archaeologists only work at ancient sites where the artifacts, ecofacts and features are thousands of years old and are dug up on a different continent instead of under our feet or in our backyards. Even if they do understand that archaeology can be done anywhere, they lack the understanding that archaeology goes beyond collecting, identifying and analyzing artifacts, ecofacts and features. Archaeology looks at the big picture. Archaeologists use analogy and theory to answer the big questions such as “What does it mean to be human?” and “How do humans deal with change?”

A stone wall and a fence serve the same purpose

As we were searching for the cemetery at Boyd Corners North, we stumbled across a stone wall in the middle of the woods. Using what Ashmore refers to as analogy, we could infer that the stone wall was used to mark a property and possibly enclose a house or a church by comparing the shape and structure to what we use today (fences).

Where we found artifacts/features

When we found stone walls and eventually the cemetery along our hike, we plotted the latitude and longitude coordinates of each feature or artifact in the GPS. Ashmore stresses the importance of this on pg. 187 because “spatial distributions and associations of archaeological data are often directly observable” when plotted on a map. If we were to go back and look at the plots, patterns could arise and we might be able to conclude how big the community was and how it was laid out. Then if we wanted to look deeper, we could infer why they placed features in specific areas and what the purpose of each feature was.

Example of a woman's tombstone

A cemetery might not sound interesting to most of the general public, but I was amazed to realize how much a cemetery that was only a century old could tell us about who lived on the ground we were exploring. In the short fifteen minutes we were there, we concluded that it was not solely a family cemetery, but a community cemetery. The presence of a stone wall around the land suggests that those that lived there planned to stay for a long period of time. Also, there is evidence based on the wording and trends of the tombstones that women didn’t have much power in their society because husband’s names were listed on the wife’s tombstones but not the other way around.

A cemetery, before my practical on Friday and this week’s classes meant a place where several dead people were buried, a place where their family, friends, and ancestors could come pay their respects. Never had I considered the amount of archeological knowledge that could come from just walking around one.

The difference between “Seeing” and “Observing”: Why Sherlock Holmes would make a better archaeologist than Indiana Jones.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”– the elementary(my dear Watson) clichéd words of wisdom we all (or will) encounter at least once in our early years of empty-slated minds– although simple and clichéd, is how we all should approach the field of archaeology.

The title really says it all– Indiana Jones is a horrible archaeologist, and he actually creates more damage on cultural and social history than anything else. This post will explain why the approach with the mindset of Sherlock Holmes will actually make us the better and the most idealistic archaeologist.

When we think graveyard in the context of archaeology, many pop culture, up to date(or perhaps outdated ones as well, Indian Jones is pretty old after all) movie-goers will probably think: “Let’s dig to find what people buried, maybe we can find some gold.” Sherlock Holmes fans may think differently. Yes, some might dig the graves to dig up some dead bodies for forensic analysis like they do in the recent Sherlock HolmesBBC TV series, but that’s not what I’m getting at.Sherlock Holmes, will probably take a mental picture of what he is looking at, from every details, to the type of grass, the age of the tombstones, any patterns, the relative ethnographic distribution of the area in a bigger context and picture. He will map out every detail, every singularities, differences, and similarities of the position of the entire graveyard before even digging the site.

Although all the evidences may be gathered from the site, there are still missing links that are lost that is impossible for us to obtain. The relative age, the reoccurring names, the stone wall encasing the particular graveyard, the size, the location, the soil type and samples, the decorations and engravings on the tombstones, are all pieces of a puzzle that archaeologists attempt to readjust and re-piece to map the history of their origins. Looking at figure in Ashmore’s Discovering the Past shows a graph of relative time periods certain tombstone types were popular in a particular graveyard, and the frequency of these tombstones will help determine the relative age and background about the tombstone or graveyard. But this data is not universal, and nor will it tell the history of the dead– it is merely a small tool to make an educated guess— it’s a hypothetical solution or approach to how a graveyard may have formed, under certain contexts.

Figure from Ashmore’s text, Graph of distribution and popularity of particular tombstones

In class, we approached these tombstones in different ways, Feminist and Marxist approaches to the graveyard data that the practical team gathered last week. We analyzed how a certain graveyard in Boyd Corner’s North might have oppressed women, or how women may have been treated differently than men by looking at the written words on tombstones and the general trends. Women’s tombstones all had the name of their husbands while the husbands’ tombstones did not show the names of their wives, which clearly shows the paternal nature of that community. The small size of the graveyard, as well as the walled stone surroundings shows that the graveyard was a reserved space for the small community. The dead also had reoccurring last names such as “Parker” which shows possible inbreeding amongst family members.

Observation is key and finding general patterns are important, and with general trends, we can perhaps guess about many things. But it is important to acknowledge the fact that archaeology lies in between the scientifically quantitative and the historically qualitative evidence. And at times, the evidence that is translated may be biased and not necessarily the truth, however, that itself will become part of the history and the motives behind the bias. Take the famous Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre for example:

What does this image tell you about the British soldiers, the "Lobsterbacks?"

From this image we can infer many things, or guess. But these initial guesses are not backed with any evidence and therefore would not make you a Sherlock Holmes archaeologist. The picture shows the colonists completely helpless, and it looks like as if the general ordered these British soldiers to shoot on order. Another thing this engraving makes viewers believe is that the colonists look completely innocent. Reality: the colonists attacked first with snow, rocks, and fecal matter, and an accidental gunfire made others soldiers to believe that they were ordered to shoot. The British commander, Captain Prescott, did NOT order the call to shoot, and instead he was trying to calm the situation. Also many historians and history teachers teach students that they were nicknamed the “lobsterbacks”(as it says in the caption) during the American Revolution, however there is no evidence of the term being ever used until 1812-1813(Source). Paul Revere was on the Colonists’ side proving that even a primary source has its own bias and story.

As you can see, we can’t just accept things for what they look like, we have to actually observe every possible detail we can extract from anything we encounter as archaeologists. As archaeologists, we need to dig(both physically and metaphorically) as far as we can to understand the true purpose of what is found. Although one may argue that ethnographic and ethnoarchaeographic research eventually is the translation of the observer’s biases, it’s the best guess there is, and it’s viable to change and improvements over time as more evidence and more stories are gathered.

Instead of a whip and a Cowboy hat and fancy battle scenes with the Nazis, Smoke pipes, deerstalkers, and magnifying glass are the more appropriate tools of a true archaeologist. Indiana Jones is more like the professor Moriarty in the field of archaeology.

Bridging the Lab and the Dig Site

One of the main reasons the general public is confused about archaeology is the fact that they do not understand modern technology’s role in studying the past.  The classic image of an archaeologist is of someone in the field, digging with a shovel or trowel.  People picture a very isolated dig site without any sort of modern equipment and cannot understand why professional archaeologists need training for such straightforward work.  Because the act of digging seems so physical and basic, people assume that archaeology is not a science but guesswork.  They do not know that today, there are many advanced scientific ways to gather data about an artifact or ecofact.

This past week, we looked at flakes of obsidian in class.  When asked to speculate on what tools these flakes were, some people suggested that they were knives because of the way the stones fit into the palms of their hands.  However, it is dangerous to try and determine utility from something that varies as much as hand size does.  People have even mistaken ordinary stones for artifacts using this method.  Professor Beisaw instead suggested that one could determine usage by looking at the flakes under a microscope.  If the edge of a flake had been worn down, one would know it was used to cut something.  From there, one might be able to hypothesize more specifically about how it was used.  On the other hand, maybe the microscope would reveal that it was simply an abandoned remnant of a larger piece of stone that had been made into an arrowhead.

Obsidian Flake

Professor Beisaw also explained that a gun-like instrument that could determine a stone’s chemical makeup had been developed.  This technology helps identify whether a tool was made from local materials or materials from further away by scanning nearby natural resources.  If none of the natural resources match the tool, it not only reveals more information about the tool itself but also suggest that trade once occurred within the region.  In this way, using technology to analyze artifacts helps determine the exchange systems of ancient cultures.

Wendy Ashmore mentions a similar type of technology in Discovering Our Past.  On pages 200-201, she describes X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and neutron activation analysis (NAA) as analytical methods that determine the physical and chemical makeup of artifacts.  X-ray fluorescence works by releasing photons due through radiation that correspond to particular elements.  (http://serc.carleton.edu/research_education/geochemsheets/techniques/XRF.html)  Neutron activation analysis involves targeting nuclei with neutrons, producing a specific gamma ray reaction. (http://archaeometry.missouri.edu/naa_overview.html)

Neutron Activation Analysis

These technologies only scratch the surface when it comes to the methods used to study archaeological sites.  In addition to collecting artifacts of interest, archaeologists use both their knowledge of historical context and scientific instruments to paint a more complete picture of past civilizations.

Soiling The Name of Archaeology

Last week I experienced an awkward but relatable moment in my archaeology class. “What’s the substance in the ground,” Professor Beisaw asked. The answer seemed obvious so I stated, “Dirt.” “That’s right. It’s soil! Most people would have incorrectly answered dirt,” she explained. “Oops,” I thought and immediately broke eye contact! I then thanked the heavens that I have a voice softer than a mouse and that Professor Beisaw heard a different student answered the question before me! She further explained that the soil around an artifact holds valuable information about the past, while dirt is simply the stain on a shirt. I have walked on this earth and felt the soil between my toes for over 19 years, and never once have I thought about the stories that soil might tell. I have even soiled its name by assuming that it was the same as dirt! I believe that people misunderstand archaeology because they disregard the importance of the artifact’s surroundings, specifically soil. I will attempt to illustrate soil’s importance through the use of stratigraphy.

First, the ground is composed of sloping or marginally horizontal layers or strata of different soil on top of each other. They can usually be distinguished by their color, texture, or composition. As Wendy Ashmore notes in her book, Discovering Our Past, this is called stratification. She further points out that the sequence of these layered deposits obeys the Law of Superposition, meaning the sequence of the strata reflects the order of deposits. Archaeological assessment of stratification is known as stratigraphy. The benefits of stratigraphy are astounding, but numerous people overlook them. Most notably, by recording and analyzing the artifact’s location in relation to other artifacts and strata, archaeologists can determine the function and age of the artifact.

This stratification example provides a wealth of information. Due to the law of superposition, the natural subsoil was deposited first. We can assume that the Iron Age ditch and post-hole were from the same occupation because they are in the same strata. The Iron Age soil was deposited next and then the Roman dump soil. The Roman wall was then built because it was placed deep into the soil, and next the Roman floor was built. After that are the remains of the Roman building. The medieval pit must have been built before the wall since the wall’s edge is slightly in the pit. These lines of analysis continue for the entire stratification. All this information allows archaeologist to determine the relative age of the artifacts and understand specific time periods.

The example also demonstrates the complexity of stratigraphy. Behavioral and transformative processes can disrupt strata. In a class exercise, students found between 10 to 15 strata and 9 to 16 features in the picture. These results were anything but conclusive. However, through careful examination and a well thought out research question, an archaeologist can distinguish the important aspects of the stratification. By attempting to understand the intricacies of this archaeological technique, individuals can come to understand the field as a whole.

Features vs. Artifacts & Ecofacts

I think one of the most misunderstood aspects of archaeology is that artifacts are more important than features in telling us about the past. When most people think about archaeology and excavations the first thing that comes to mind after gold, curses, and Indiana Jones of course, are artifacts: chipped ceramics, arrowheads, statues, bones and mummies. They often forget about features such as stone walls, buildings, hearths, storage pits, and roads.

I think one of the main reasons people seem to care more about artifacts and ecofacts than features is because they can relate to them more easily. For example people are often more excited about finding ancient tools than an old road because they can physically hold a stone tool in their hand and compare it to more modern tools that they use daily, whereas most of the general public doesn’t think twice about the development of roads over time. Another example is the excavation of bones, either human or animal. I think people feel a strange connection to bones because we have a fascination with death. All cultures have certain burial practices and beliefs regarding death but for some reason most people would be more shocked and excited to discover bones on their property (ecofacts) rather than a stone wall (feature) surrounding a cemetery.

Stone Wall

While artifacts and ecofacts are extremely useful in teaching us about past activities and environments, features are just as helpful in finding out about past cultures. They help us understand the spatial distribution and organization of human activities and can reveal information about construction methods and the resources available during a certain time period (Ashmore 149).

Confederate Civil War Fort Excavation: Fort Pocahontas on Jamestown Island in Virginia

The video above shows the excavation of a bombproof shelter that was a feature of Fort Pocahontas on Jamestown Island during the Civil War. I think it’s really interesting for a number of reasons. First of all the bombproof shelter was a part of Fort Pocahontas that was constructed in 1861, the southern half of which was built directly on the remains of James Fort which was originally constructed in 1607.

One really confusing aspect of archaeology to explain is stratigraphy and I think this video does a good job of showing different layers of strata in the excavation of the bombproof shelter. When we looked at the sratigraphy diagram in class on Tuesday we all had a difficult time determining which layers contained features and which were simply strata. I think the archeologist in this video does a good job at showing the coloration of the different strata being excavated and touching on the often misunderstood concept that the top layer always contains the most recent features or artifacts.

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

The idiom entitling this post is the literal truth in the field of archaeology, and it perfectly articulates how worthless items from past societies can offer valuable information to today’s archeologists. When hearing the word artifact, items that immediately come to mind are golden idols and jewelry, pottery, and arrow heads. Though it is true that these items are all artifacts, they represent the stereotype that an artifact has to be something ancient, valuable, and either buried in the ground or hidden in a booby-trapped cave. There is also the misconception that the point of finding an artifact is to get money and put it in a museum. In reality, the point of finding an artifact is not the artifact itself, but what it can tell you about the culture it came from. When found in context, artifacts can relate important information especially about the date of a site. A variety of techniques can be used to determine an artifact’s relative date, for example radiocarbon dating. Also a set of artifacts can often be put into a chronological sequence based on their style and frequency. This technique can help archaeologists observe changes and patterns in human behavior over time. Artifacts are not necessarily ancient either; any item from any past time period can potentially be an artifact depending on what is being studied.

In class this past week my professor and a couple of classmates discussed surveying a site at the Ashokan Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Though they did not dig at all, they found numerous artifacts on the site that provided a lot of information about the past people who had been there. Most of the so-called artifacts were just beer cans and old glass bottles.The general public would consider these items trash and probably not realize their archaeological relevance. However, this litter actually contained a lot of information about the past society of the site. The beer cans, due to the style of can and brand, made the site easily datable and provided insight into what kind of people were there.

The fact that so much can be learned from the discarded trash of the past is amazing. There are archeologists who focus solely on the study of landfills and garbage to discern the past. For example, archeologist William L. Rathje, once a professor at the University of Arizona, conducted a project beginning in 1973 known as the Garbage Project.

William L. Rathje in the Field

He studied the waste of residents of Tucson, Arizona in order to observe patterns in human consumption (Harrison). Items of garbage hold some of the most reliable information about what past cultures were really like. Sure a golden idol is pretty cool, but how much can that idol alone tell you about the daily life of a population?  Think about all the litter seen every day and how much information it could relate to future generations. I am not in support of littering, but if you ever do litter and someone calls you out on it you can just tell them that you are actually providing future archaeologists with artifacts.

Archaeology: Changing the Perspective of the Future

Ashokan ReserviorArchaeology may be one of the most misunderstood fields. By encompassing aspects of history, science and anthropology, archaeology helps explain past communities and their adjustments to cultural and environmental changes. In class we examined the Ashokan Reservior. The Ashokan Reservior is located approximately 70 miles north of New York City and holds 123 billion gallons of water. It was placed into service in 1915 and currently supplies 40% of New York City’s daily drinking water. However, New York City’s thirst for drinking water has caused the displacement of thousands of people. These changes have distorted the balance of communities but also the culture and economics surrounding them. One area severely affected was Ulster County where during the turn of the century, many residents were unfairly compensated for their homes. For an archaeologist this may not seem like a relevant issue, however, archaeology especially in this case is essential. As we have discussed in class the many stereotypes surrounding archaeology and the fact of the matter is, the recent events involving the Ashokan Reservior are not typically considered ‘ancient’ or ‘glamorous’ enough to be further researched by an archaeologist. However, by researching the areas affected by New York City’s desire for water, useful information about the culture as well as environmental changes can be studied so we are more adequately prepared for the future.

The snowball effect created by the displacement of a single person can lead to socioeconomic changes that can affect entire communities. An archaeologist is able to study artifacts from these sites in order to complete the story of how much the Ashokan Reservior has affected the surrounding areas. Moreover, archaeologists, through these sites may be able to uncover social class differences that may lead to further understandings of cultural effects of the Ashokan Reservior. It may seem strange that archaeology can be used to solve these issues. However, for people who are unaware, archeology is an excellent median to publicize this information.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

The recent events of hurricane Katrina caused a similar snowball effect like the one examined in the Ashokan Reservior. In class we briefly discussed how socioeconomic factors can be seen on a larger scale. For instance, hurricane Katrina was on the radar of the entire nation while hundreds of cameras documented the disaster. Even though the hurricane is still considered recent in history, a plethora of “environmental conditions, politics, and economic forces” can be examined to shape the archeological record of New Orleans (Toner). The article examines the artifacts collected by Professor Dawdy that included “Native American pottery, French cosmetic jars and wine bottles” that were lost in the wake of the storm. From these artifacts, cultural and environmental changes can be understood about the communities destroyed by Katrina. By using the techniques and approaches referenced on pages 76-82 of Wendy Ashmore’s Discovering Our Past, the hope is that New Orleans may begin a more concerted effort to protect the culture that it represents. With the use of archaeology to understand the communities involved in devastation of Katrina, more questions can be answered to further the shelter New Orleans in the future. Furthermore, the hope is that the similar techniques used in New Orleans can also be implemented in the areas affected by the Ashokan Reservior. Archaeologists can understand the communities involved with the Ashokan Reservior to help understand the affects of relocation on culture and environment. Therefore, the use of archaeology is a multifaceted tool changing the way people view the world.

What Makes an Artifact Meaningful?

What is an artifact? More importantly, what can an artifact tell us about past cultures, peoples or even individuals? If you ask someone these questions, it’s very likely that you will get an earful about beautiful, rare and precious items found in exotic places deeply attached to ancient rituals and curses.

Besides the plagues, curses and grumpy mummies, I don’t think anyone in that movie was too interested in learning about ancient Egyptian culture from those artifacts.

In fact, the most commonly encountered artifacts in the archaeological record are lithic and ceramic industries – stone tools and pottery.  Of course, there are a HUGE variety of other types of artifacts in the archaeological record, but to keep it relatively concise I’ll mainly discuss these two industries. These artifacts are among the first to be made by early humans and even hominids and can tell us important information about the daily lives and behavioural patterns of past cultures – they are often beautiful and can be precious, but without any context they are just objects that mean absolutely, squat-diddly nothing.

Not Learning Much.

So what makes an artifact culturally meaningful?

The answer is its context. The context of an archaeological find depends on geographic location, depth/soil layer or level in which an artifact is recovered (stratigraphy), association with surrounding ecofacts and features (and whether or not the association has been altered by living organisms or natural geological forces), and analysis of the processes that some human being undertook to make that object (which can indicate cultural change over time.)

Different layers of soil.

For example, the observation of stratigraphy – the level and layer of soil in which stone tools or pottery shards (or any other artifact, for that matter) are found is very important in assessing the age and associations of the materials discovered. An artifact may look pretty, but if you don’t know its context, you lose its most valuable properties. Take that, Indiana Jones.

Association with surrounding ecofacts (naturally-occurring yet culturally meaningful remains – such as animal bones or plant materials) and features (stationary human-made or altered materials, such as a hearth or building foundations) is another way that archaeologists can make sense of the artifacts they find. The age and type of animal and plant remains occurring in the same layer and level as an artifact can give a huge amount of information as to the climatic state, available resources and behavioural patterns of ancient people (for example, an arrowhead found in association with mammoth rib bones gives an idea of how long ago the tool was crafted and to what cultural means it was used – in this case, acquiring a hefty dinner.) Association with features in the same context can also be useful in assessing an artifact’s age (through relative dating methods) and to indicate how an artifact was used in the past.

Now THAT’S what I call learning culturally-meaningful information from artifacts!

One of my favourite examples of the extent of blatant lies and misconceptions in archaeology and anthropology is the movie One Million Years B.C. – depicting a prehistoric world in which humans and dinosaurs lived and died together.

“Travel back through time and space to the edge of man’s beginnings…discover a savage world whose only law was lust!”

Note the dinosaur battle occurring in the background.


Wearing “mankind’s first bikini” and battling the Allosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodon, Rhamphorhynchus and Ceratosaurus, the beautiful cavewoman from the Shell tribe not only sparked the imagination and excitement of little boys everywhere when the movie premiered in 1966, but blatantly falsified the archaeological record. Modern humans didn’t exist until about 200,000 B.C., and dinosaurs went extinct around 65 million years ago. I doubt anyone has ever, or will ever, find human artifacts and dinosaur remains in the same context.

A cavegirl's gotta look good while defending her life. Just don't ask where she got that mirror.


According to the director, however, the movie wasn’t made for ‘’professors’’ who ‘’probably wouldn’t go to see these kinds of movies anyway.’’ And we wonder why Archaeology is so widely misunderstood?

-Emma G.

Why is Archeology So Misunderstood?

In order to figure out why archeology is popularly misunderstood, we need to begin our discussion with the primary source of our education about archeology: namely, pop culture.

Human love for entertainment has caused society to pick and choose the aspects of archeology to portray. We love adventure, and we are very much intrigued by the remote past: to us, ancient cultures are mysterious and exotic, simply because their lifestyles were very different from our own. Humans are often not nearly as interested in the “recent past” (let’s say the past century or two) because the system of values put in place during this time is familiar to us. Societies that contradict our worldview are much more interesting: for example, many are shocked by the ancient Mesoamerican practice of human sacrifice. This shocks us and compels our curiosity; the ideas of vast treasure, ancient rituals, and curses thrill us in the same way. Popular portrayals of archeological endeavors will often appeal to this.

A complementary force at work here is our modern tendency to brutalize past cultures in order to separate ourselves from the “less civilized.” We don’t want to believe that the Native Americans that we so insensitively displaced had such advanced cultures. In elementary schools, the histories of the most advanced Pre-Columbian cultures—such as those of Cahokia and Pueblo Bonito—are ignored. For the sake of fostering patriotism, we teach that this land was mostly uninhabited, and that the few who lived here were nomadic teepee-dwellers with little accomplishment to speak of. The archeological discoveries (the monumental structures, advanced trade networks, and splendidly crafted artifacts) that tell us otherwise are pushed out of sight.

Combined, these two forces create a culture that pushes real archeology off to the side, and invites pseudoscientific, entertaining “archeology” to fill that void. What we are left with is the stereotypical, pop-culture based archetype: an adventurer, decked out in khakis, who braves rough terrain and unspeakable perils to dig for the lost treasures of the ancient world. In the fictitious worlds of these brave heroes, the goal of archeology is to search for wealth or mysterious objects and to take them away to a museum for display.

It’s our responsibility to remember that this image is false, and that real archeology is about studying the trends and behavioral processes that set us aside from other species of homo – that construct our identities as human beings. Additionally, archeology almost never involves removing an artifact from its context, or provenience, without careful study of the context (as Indiana Jones’ go-fetch style might suggest); an object outside of its matrix and away from potential associations automatically loses its meaning ( Ashmore).

The uncovered information can then be used to help us reflect on decisions and issues that we encounter during our lifetimes; for example, if we can look at how past cultures dealt with the changing climate, we can make informed decisions about how to deal with climate change now. In other words, archeology brings the lessons of history to light so that we can actually use them.


Side Note: On the way to visit the Ashokan Reservoir this week, we drove on “Clayton Peg Leg Bates Memorial Highway,” and were curious about the man behind the name. It turns out that Mr. Peg Leg Bates was a black man who lost his leg in a cotton gin accident. He turned his tragedy into a blessing, however, and learned to tap dance on his peg leg (which was carved by his uncle, Whitt Bates). He led a career on Broadway.  Later in life, he and his wife Alice ran a country club in Kerhonkson (thirty miles from here), hence the memorial highway in this area.

Archaeology and Looting in The Sims 3: World Adventures

There is a game that I have been playing for a few months now called The Sims 3: World Adventures that, while there is no mention of archaeology in the description, still manages to perpetrate misconceptions about what archaeologists do.

In this game, the player can send their Simulated people to China, Egypt, or France. Egypt has pyramids, the great Sphinx and Abu Simbel. The Chinese town is located right next to The Great Wall, and has its fair share of famous tomb sites. France has mausoleums and a Celtic circle. While at these locations, players are prompted to complete quests given by the locals, the majority of which require that players explore the tomb of so-and-so to retrieve a Relic of a certain value. Along the way, the player is encouraged to pick up any artifacts or relics that they can find.

This game pays homage to Indiana Jones, and looks like a combination of Indy and the Lara Croft Tomb Raider series. A lot of the tombs require that you first locate a key before you can gain access. One feature that might amuse true archaeologists, is that you can Analyze a relic you found no matter your current location. Your Sim will stand there for a few seconds and ponder the item in question, after which they will have narrowed down its age to ‘Very Ancient’, ‘Ancient’, ‘Very Old’, ‘Old’, or ‘Contemporary’, and also how much more or less the relic is worth than their initial appraisal. And of course, the older something is, the more it is worth. There are also a variety of dig sites scattered throughout the world in which you can dig up items of varying worth, including trash. Broken artifacts are worth less than whole or complete artifacts. The trash has no value at all, other than to disgust your Sim and prompt them to say, “Who put that there??”

As we have all learned in class this week, an item’s ‘worth’ is derived from what an item can tell us about our past, not on how much money can be made by selling it. This makes trash just as important as artifacts. On pages 71-75 of chapter 4 of Wendy Ashmore’s Discovering Our Past, we learned that an important aspect of analyzing an artifact has to do with the context in which the artifact was found. There is much more to analyzing an object than just looking and contemplating; one has to consider the composition of the Matrix, the layers in Provenience, the Association with other objects in the Matrix, and the Context in which all this information is found.

While The Sims 3: World Adventure seems to promote and encourage looting and gives misinformation on the true process and worth of analyzing artifacts, it is nevertheless a fun game to play with. The Features and monuments are beautifully crafted and designed, and if you don’t take the looting and pseudo-archaeology in it too seriously, then it is a game worth checking out.