Rare Indian Burial Ground Demolished

 In Larkspur, California a burial site over 4,500 years old containing 600 human bodies was annihilated for the construction of a housing complex. The mound was the Coast Miwok’s who were the inhabitants of Marin and southern Sonoma Counties. Archaeologists were able to record some of the findings from the mound but the things found are now unavailable for people who want to study them. All of the artifacts at the site were removed and reburied in an undisclosed location. The geological records of the artifacts were destroyed concluding the chances of further studying the original mound.

The archaeologists hired to excavate the mound were required to let the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria manage the excavation due to the Environmental Quality Act. The Graton Rancheria gave the go ahead to rebury and relocate the mound. The archaeologists worked with the demands of the Native Americans in order to solve the problem. Unlike many of the problems between anthropologists and Natives, this encounter resulted in terms favorable to the Indians.  But in the end, this decision left other archaeologists puzzled.

The chairman of the tribe, Greg Harris said, “The tribe traditionally reburies sacred objects because many of them are intended to stay with the person who died.” In other words, it’s in the best interest to rebury these artifacts and not examine them because they are supposed to remain in the ground forever (with the dead). Thus, the Natives don’t care that the items from the mound have archaeological value since they are only concerned with where they end up. Archaeologists, Jelmer Eerkens told the chronicle “ It [the mound] should have been protected.” Eerkens believes that the developers have the authority to build their own land, but they also have the responsibility to save samples from the building site and protect the archaeological information discovered. Archaeologists like Eerkens assert that a crucial chunk of Native American history had been lost. The excavation was first conducted under secrecy and wasn’t known by other archaeologists until March of 2014 when it was disclosed at the Society for California Archaeology symposium, already too late to preserve the ancient site.

Photo of after the site was repaved over

After the site was repaved over

Over the years, the preservation of Native cultural sites has been a controversial procedure in San Francisco, since Native American mounds are no longer abundant in the area. Many times there is tension present, sometimes resulting to courtroom battles between Native Americans, who usually want ancestral artifacts left alone, and archaeologists who want to gather and keep the ancient artifacts to better understand the history of their people. But the archaeologists don’t have the right to examine something that is not rightfully theirs (without permission). Even though we cannot ever examine these artifacts, I still believe that it was the right decision to listen to the Graton Rancheria because their cultural needs are more important.


One of the homes built over the burial site

One of the homes built over the burial site







further reading:



Photo 1:


Photo 2: http://archinect.com/news/gallery/98858858/0/indian-artifact-treasure-trove-paved-over-for-marin-county-homes#

Archaeology and Sustainability in the Amazonian Basin

As global population grows at a startling rate, global emissions of greenhouse gasses and demand for more reliable sources of food grow in parallel. These issues are slowly becoming ones that urgently need to be addressed. Gradually, more and more individuals are trying innovate new ways curb anthropogenic greenhouse emissions and cope with the growing global demand of food. Engineers are developing cleaner sources of energy and international politicians are trying to implement legislation that limits emissions. More recently however, archaeologists concerned with preservation and sustainability are rediscovering land management techniques used by ancient civilizations that could be replicated in a modern fashion with enormous payoff.

During her work in deep within the Amazonian rainforest, Crystal McMichael, an archaeologist/paleoecologist at the Florida Institute of Technology, mapped a large collection of soil deposits classified as terra preta or “black earth”. These deposits of darker soil are drastically different than the soil surrounding it. Typically, Amazonian soil is of rather poor quality because the biodiversity of the rainforest promptly extracts any extra nutrients. It would be almost impossible to maintain a civilization on this type of soil. However, the terra preta found in many sites had a considerably larger nutrient count and was much more suitable for agriculture. McMichael’s team located several terra preta deposit sites in Amazonia and found that a majority of sites of enriched soil were located in eastern Amazonia on top of bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Typically, these bluffs were eroded of the porous Amazonian soil and were practically bare and infertile. However, after the terra preta was introduced, there’s evidence that these bluffs could have sustained huge swaths of agriculture. From a purely archaeological standpoint, this data is useful because it can be a basis in which future archaeologists plan to dig. Because the terra preta soil is a direct cause of human interaction, wherever there are deposits of terra preta, there are likely past developments of human society. Using statistical analysis, this data can be used to predict where other terra preta deposits are, and therefore where other people used to live.

Big picture. A new model of the Amazon predicts that terra preta is more likely to be found along rivers in the eastern part of the rainforest. The letters indicate known archaeological sites.

(Region of McMichael’s study)

While valuable from an archaeological perspective, the discovery of terra preta also could be a major breakthrough in more sustainable agriculture. According to Johnannes Lehmann and his team at Cornell University,

“The knowledge that we can gain from studying the Amazonian dark earths…not only teaches us how to restore degraded soils, triple crop yields and support a wide array of crops in regions with agriculturally poor soils, but can also lead to technologies to sequester carbon in soil and prevent critical changes in world climate”.  (Johannes Lehmann)

Via experimental methods, Johannes deduced that the terra preta was made by slowly burning biomass in a low oxygen environment (also known as biochar). This method of slow charring transforms the biomass into an incredibly useful substrate. The terra preta has an abundance of calcium and phosphate (nutrients that most of the Amazonian soil lacks) and the process of biocharring the organic matter actually sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

(Biochar use in agriculture)

Archaeology has come a long way from the era of collectors and curiosities. Today, archaeological findings are being used to possibly help ameliorate some of the world community’s most pressing issues.


Picture 1: http://news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/2014/01/searching-amazons-hidden-civilizations

Picture 2:http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar/soils

“Searching for the Amazon’s Hidden Civilizations.” Science/AAAS. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.

Johannes, Lehmann. Biochar for Mitigating Climate Change: Carbon Sequestration in the Black (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Terra Preta Soils and Their Archaeological Context in the Caqueta Basin of Southeast Colombia
Michael J. Eden, Warwick Bray, Leonor Herrera and Colin McEwan
American Antiquity, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Jan., 1984), pp. 125-140


A Giant Hoax in Cardiff

In 1869 in two men digging a well came across at ten foot tall stone man in rural New York. Immediately the find was claimed to be alternately an example of the Biblical giants from Genesis 6:4 or an ancient statue carved by a long gone tribe. In fact it was neither of these it had been created by an atheist tobacconist named George Hull. He was inspired and enraged by a conversation with a biblical literalist reverend he met in Iowa. Hull acquired a 5 ton block of Gypsum and swore multiple people to secrecy along the way as he got the man carved and buried on the farm of William Newell in Cardiff New York.The Cardiff Giant being "exhumed"

Newell began to display the artifact now known as the “Cardiff Giant” under a tent on his farm and charging fifty cents for people to come look at it, and he made a killing with this. American’s traveled from across the eastern seaboard to see this remnant of some sort of ancient past. This was the Burned Over District during the Second Great Awakening which meant that the Cardiff Giant was discovered in a time and place there was an immense amount of religious seeking and thus the idea of physical evidence of an ancient Biblical past on American soil was enthusiastically received by the general public. It’s not so different from the beginnings of Mormonism.

The Giant was soon exposed as a hoax and yet people continued to visit it in its new home in Syracuse. And P.T. Barnum even offered to lease it for 3 months for $60,000 and when he could not get it he built his own replica to travel with his circus. The Giant now resides in the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, New York where people still visit it today.

The Cardiff Giant on display at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown,  NY

The Cardiff Giant on display at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, NY


The Cardiff Giant is an example of groups of people building a cultural identity around an “archaeological” find. Fundamentalist Christians wanted to validate their faith and their connection to a Christian past in America to legitimize the colonization of America. And if this giant man was really a petrified body of a biblical giant no one could deny that Christianity and, by the logic, Europeans had a right to be in the Americas.

But even when the truth was revealed and the Cardiff Giant was clearly not an actual archaeological artifact people continued to be fascinated by it, and in this way we can see something about America today. We are interested in how we see our pasts and the Cardiff Giant is now a ridiculous example of how easily people could be hoaxed in the past. We like to think we have e come farther and that we are better at validating our artifacts but fraud in archaeology is still prevalent and it is estimated that over 1200 fake artifacts are on display in major museums, so honestly we cannot say that we have gotten much better as a society at collectively recognizing hoaxes. Or maybe the hoaxers have just gotten better.



“Cardiff Giant, Cooperstown, New York.” RoadsideAmerica.com. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2172>.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. Archaeology Essentials. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2010. Print.

“The Cardiff Giant.” The Farmers’ Museum. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.farmersmuseum.org/node/2482>.

“The Littlest Literary Hoax.” Museum of Hoaxes. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_cardiff_giant>

Indigenous Archaeology: Easier Said than Done

The Israel/Palestine conflict illustrates how different the theory of indigenous archaeology is in practice. The discrepancies involve how complicated the following issues are: determining cultural affiliation, the right to control and keep archaeological finds; pseudoarchaeology, the misrepresentation of the past; and repatriation, returning artifacts to their places of origin. Both groups claim precedence to the land and attempts to return Israeli occupied Palestinian territory have often involved one step forward and two steps back. In the face of this, determining which group has claim to the artifacts according to the mandates of indigenous archaeology is very difficult.

In nation-building conflicts such as this, who has cultural affiliation over excavation/archaeology is crucial. Artifacts are part of creating imagined communities as the identity of people and nations is built on past experiences. This is the motivation behind why groups want to regain their artifacts. Artifacts represent part of their history and national/ethnic identity and are therefore essential in substantiating their claim, so much so that they may be manipulated or misrepresented in the process.

In the West Bank pseudoarchaeologists, religious scholars studying biblical archaeology, in conjunction with the Israeli state have shaped the archaeological landscape. These pseudoarchaeologists suggest that all artifacts found are of Jewish heritage and serve as evidence to back up Israel’s religious/historical claim to the land.  However, these people are searching with the preconceived goal of finding artifacts that prove the land’s Biblical and Jewish connection, rather than being open to the possibility that artifacts found here may represent something different if interpreted through Palestinian traditions. Indigenous archaeology argues that artifacts must be interpreted within the relevant context, so as both groups provide the context here, dual or co-interpretations may be necessary.  Additionally, this pseudoarchaeology is a distortion of the scientific method which requires using facts to form conclusions not forming conclusions and then finding facts that support them.

Figure 1: Charred goat bones discovered at Qumran thought to be a genetic match for the leather of the Dead Sea Scrolls and provide a Jewish connection to the site

Figure 1: Charred goat bones discovered at Qumran thought to be a genetic match for the leather of the Dead Sea Scrolls and provide a Jewish connection to the site

Currently, Israel controls who has access to archaeological sites like Qumran in the West Bank, even though according to maps/treaties, this land is Palestinian.  Therefore Israel determines who excavates the area, religious pseudoarchaeologists, and through this control determines how artifacts are interpreted. Additionally, the Israeli government determines where artifacts go, which involves the transfer of the artifacts out of Palestinian territories and into Israel.  Since 1967 over 6000 sites in the West Bank have been excavated; these artifacts remain in military warehouses in Israel, completely hidden from the public until 2007 when Israeli researchers sued and obtained limited access.

Figure 2: A map of where in the West Bank is being excavated and each red dot is an excavation site in the West Bank whose artifacts haven't been published

Figure 2: A map of where in the West Bank is being excavated and each red dot is an excavation site in the West Bank whose artifacts haven’t been published

However, these Israeli officials and pseudoarchaeologists in control are “others” to the culture of the Palestinians, so artifacts that are more closely related to Palestine may be overlooked or misinterpreted to create the Israeli narrative. Alternatively if the Palestinians controlled who excavated and interpreted findings, they may overlook or misinterpret artifacts of Jewish heritage effectively “othering” the Israeli. This demonstrates how difficult it is to determine who has right to access when multiple groups can claim a place as their area of origin.

In archaeological theory, cultural affiliation and repatriation may seem clear cut but since the social and political conditions of the world are often very complicated it can be difficult to determine who should have claim to certain artifacts for their nation building. The role of pseudoarchaeologists further complicates these issues. So multiple indigenous interpretations and varied or shared cultural affiliations may be necessary when the alternative is inhibiting both groups from access to their history.

Read more:http://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.589219


Resources: Figure 1:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2331562/Dead-sea-scrolls-sale-family-sells-fragments-set-raise-millions.html

Figure 2:http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/the-biblical-pseudo-archeologists-pillaging-the-west-bank/273488/?single_page=true

Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined Communities. London: Verso Books.

Renfrew, Colin and Paul Bahn (2010) Archaeology Essentials. 2nd edition. Thames & Hudson, New York.

The Biblical Pseudo-Archeologists Pillaging the West Bank. (2013, February 28). Retrieved from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/the-biblical-pseudo-archeologists-pillaging-the-west-bank/273488/?single_page=true

The Fun Stuff isn’t just Pseudo

You don’t have to solely follow pseudoarcheology to get all the thrills and compelling stories, such as the possibility of aliens on our planet. Bioaracheology and forensic anthropology can provide captivating stories in regard to the cause and time of death of humans from the Holocene (10,000 years ago) to the present, without the gross exaggerations created in pseudoarcheaology. Bioarcheaologists and forensic anthropologists are specialists in human osteology who use theory and method of biological anthropology to answer questions about how recent humans lived and died. Largely born from the practices of New Archeology, it advocates using processual methods to test hypotheses about the interaction between culture and biology, or a bio-cultural approach. Due to the fact that the shape of skeletons of humans and other animals is dictated mostly by its function in life and its evolutionary history, bioarcheaologists and forensic anthropologists can reconstruct probable age, sex, and sometimes ancestry. As a result, biological profiles of the skeletal remains can be constructed to further understand the life of the individual and their response to natural and cultural change. Skeletal remains can be aged according to their skeleton size and teeth and sexed based on the pelvis and the skull. But at what cost?

The aging and sexing of a skeleton is crucial evidence in determining how that individual may have lived. Both features are present in Snow’s protocol for proper identification. When determining age, the skeleton is crucial due to the fact that it grows rapidly during childhood. For this reason, assessing the age of a subadult (younger than 18 years) is easier and often more precise than aging an adult skeleton. In addition, teeth are a key factor in determining between children and adults. However, after the child has reached 12 years of age, aging by teeth becomes difficult due to the fact that at this point most adult teeth have erupted. In regards to sexing skeletons, the pelvis is the best indicator. Due to selective pressures for childbirth, human females have pelves that provide a relatively large birth canal. Skeletal remains can also be sexed with the idea that humans are slightly sexually dimorphic…whereas in most cases men will be larger than women. Male skulls are more robust on average and have a larger browridge. So why might all this information be useful and relevant to modern day people and cultures? Bill Maples case of the Romanovs used the preceding information, among other information, to successfully identify nine individuals thought to be the remains of the Romanovs.


Figure 1. Male Pelvis (left) and Female Pelvis (right)

From a bog on the outskirts of Ekateringburg, nine almost complete skeletons were found in a shallow grave. Assemblages to these skeletons included fourteen bullets, bits of rope, and a shattered jar. Bill Maples was able to identify the age and sex of these individuals and identify five of them as male and four of them as female. Additional information included that all of the females had dental work while most of the males had few teeth at all. There is a skeleton to fit everyone in the Romanov family that was reported as missing with exceptions of Tsarevich Alexei and his daughter, Anastasia. If discovering bodies that have been missing in history is not as exciting if not more exciting than aliens on our planet, I’m not sure what is. Archaeology can be captivating if given the attention and everything doesn’t and shouldn’t be about pseudoarchaeology.


Accumulation of skeletal pieces from Romanov remains

The previously mentioned “cost’ of bioarchaeology includes that it is often criticized for having little to no concern for culture or history. Large-scale skeletal collections have been amassed from the remains of Native Americans with no permission granted from surviving family for study and display. Federal laws such as NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) have allowed Native Americans to regain control over the skeletal remains of their ancestors and associated artifacts in order to reassert their cultural identities. The attempt of NAGPRA to balance science and respect for the past is a nearly impossible task. The results are a never-ending cycle between trying to respect past cultures while also trying to better understand them. In a world full of questions, its becoming harder and harder to find the answers.

Image References:

 Ipatiev House – Romanov Memorial – The Final Chapter. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2014, from http://www.romanov-memorial.com/final_chapter.htm

Pelvic Girdle Male and Female. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2014, from http://faculty.tcc.fl.edu/scma/aplab/Practical Two/Appendicular/PelvicgirdleMaleandFemale.htm


Renfrew, Colin and Paul Bahn (2010) Archaeology Essentials. 2nd edition. Thames & Hudson, New York.

Maples, W., & Browning, M. (1994). Dead men do tell tales. New York: Doubleday.

Future Reading:

 Duffield, L. (n.d.). AGING AND SEXING THE POST-CRANIAL SKELETON OF BISON. Plains Anthropologist, 18(60), 132-139. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25667142

 Slater, W. (2007). The many deaths of Tsar Nicholas II: Relics, remains and the Romanovs. London: Routledge.















What Exactly is Punk Archaeology and is it Worthwhile?

I do think that Punk Archaeology does succeed in challenging established modes of thought. First, let’s define Punk Archaeology since it’s a very different way of studying archaeology. It is a technique that urges one to approach the familiar understandings of archaeology in new/unfamiliar ways. This type of archaeology supports conventional archaeology, which provides a distance for understanding objects from the past, but in most cases these objects are already unfamiliar to the modern viewer. Maybe I need to emphasize how punk archaeology makes the familiar and everyday unfamiliar. Punk archaeology began between archaeologists Kostis Kourelis and Bill Caraher who while studying archaeology listened to punk rock music. Punk Archaeology follows certain elements of punk philosophy through the study of archaeology. Archaeologists demolish the very object that they seek to study, and Punk Archaeology grasps chaos as a creative force. Its spontaneity gives off a creative destruction of the objects they are seeking to study.

The archaeologists who dug up the Atari game in the trash dump in New Mexico validated the theory of Punk Archaeologists is an established mode of thought. Filmmakers were also part of the crew of archeologists. Their initial response was motivated by interest in archaeology science and video game history. These punk archaeologists reversed the value of a culture that valued the past and things that are old and unique for searching for games that were not rare, but ordinary. The most interesting thing about this was that the scientists dug up the old Atari game, which represented a look at corporate history and the “end-of-lifecycle” for products. Thus their work helped people better understand Atari’s corporate decision making and how they tried to advertise the game. This dig answered the question where old, returned or overproduced products went to die out. Did they just vanish? Punk Archaeology showed where these old products went. Thirty years later, these old video games became material record of the past. The most favored game was E.T. The Extra -Terrestrial, and E.T. finally came home. The archeologists were part of turning these old games into museum artifacts from target of consumer wishes. The archaeologists also wanted to see the concrete and the line between product and trash as well as the games. Atari had concealed the unsold and/or undesirable games under concrete.


Film director Zak Penn holds up Atari E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial game at the dumpsite

After the media blitz, the archaeologists were overlooked in the papers and the news focused more on the filmmakers who documented it. The filmmakers knew that the excavation gave the archeologists, anthropologists and historians a chance to look into a modern landfill while digging up the recent past, while people responded to this modern find. Even though some believe they were overlooked, I believe this excavation showed that Punk Archaeology did succeed in challenging established modes of thought to help people better understand our culture.

Up close photo of game cover

Up close photo of game cover





Image URL/further reading:


2nd image:



Punk Archaeology- Not Just for Punks

When one thinks about archaeology, the mind drifts towards ancient ruins and discoveries connected to lesser-known cultures. Hunting for infamously terrible Atari games in a trash dump in New Mexico sounds unconventional. This example of punk archaeology uses artifacts to learn about human behavior– as do other examples of archaeology. But this case of punk archaeology challenges societal norms that people take for granted. It pushes against 21st century capitalism by exposing a corporation’s reaction to its own mistake. For this reason, punk archaeology proves its relevance for today’s society. Punk archaeologists hypothetically could hold corporations accountable for their actions by sharing their findings with the public.

In addition to exploring the actions of a corporation, punk archaeology calls into question the established modes of thought of what archaeology should uncover. The team of punk archaeologists searched for something common and not ‘over-hyped’. While ‘over-hyped’ is an arguably inappropriate description for artifacts from the Mayan civilization, the punks have a point. Within the field of archaeology, people know that artifacts can be common items (even available for purchase online at a low price). However, the majority of the public would not guess that. Punk archaeology succeeds in challenging the masses’ ideas about archaeology, rather than the structure and function of archaeology.

Figure 1: Excavation of landfill in Alamogordo

Figure 1: Excavation of landfill in Alamogordo

Who is archaeology for? Here is a question that punk archaeologists answer in a unique way. While the team in New Mexico had a number of goals, they recognized that the dig would primarily serve as ‘entertainment for gamers and geeks’. Punk archaeology reaches out to groups that would normally have little interest in the field and findings of archeology. Also, most archaeological processes and findings are not captured in a documentary like this one was. With a documentary rather than an article published in an archaeology journal, the information from this excavation appeals to a potentially different and broader audience.

Figure 2: A member of the team holding the Atari 2600 game 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial'

Figure 2: A member of the team holding the Atari 2600 game ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’

These punk archaeologists used the dig to consider America’s fascination with success and the underdog- two themes that are often associated with the punk aesthetic. By examining these ‘punk ideas’, punk archaeology presents a new take on how archaeology helps, influences, and connects to contemporary society. Punk archaeology alters the mainstream reputation and perception of archaeology in a way that maintains the traditional processes of archaeology. Time will tell to see if this trend catches on and can continue to present new ways of thinking about archaeology that will attract a wide audience.

Resource: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/why-we-dug-atari/375702/

Figure 1: http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2014/05/01/punk-archaeology-and-excavating-video-games-in-new-mexico/

Figure 2: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/tag/punk/

Additional reading: http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/04/26/the-dig-uncovering-the-atari-et-games-buried-in-new-mexico-desert



Punk Archaeology: Entertaining or Educating

At first glance, punk archaeology seems like an oxymoron, how could punk, inherently about disobeying the man, possibly have anything to do with the disciplined study of artifacts? However punk archaeology gets its name because it aims to approach archaeology in an unorthodox manner, similar to how punk musicians approached their music. Punk archaeology looks at, not just the ancient but also, the overlooked recent objects as artifacts, and through this study critiques modern society publicly, in order to reach and effect a wider audience. But just because punk archaeology’s intends to challenge established modes of thought doesn’t mean it succeeds.

The Atari excavation of the landfill in Alamogordo, NM, is an archetype of punk archaeology but does this excavation challenge the typical conventions of archaeology and/or the public’s established beliefs about archaeology? As Andrew Reinhard mentions in “Why We Dug Atari”, archaeologists doing the Atari excavation plan on publishing their findings in academic journals (the common end goal of most traditional archaeology) and set out not to dispel the widespread Atari myth but rather to examine the stratigraphy of the site and the lifecycle of consumer products (Caraher, Guins, Reinhard, Rothaus, & Weber, 2014). This excavation examined the recent past to of criticize our current culture, in this case our culture of consumerism and convenience where we quickly discard whatever isn’t the latest model. But rather than go against traditional archaeology this topic is a common archaeological pursuit already being examined by garbologists. Therefore, although this excavation was done with a bulldozer, an unconventional tool, to find a video game, an unconventional artifact, the core of the excavation was rather conventional.

 Use of bulldozer in Atari landfill excavation

Figure1: Use of bulldozer in Atari landfill excavation

Furthermore as there is no real explanation of how these punk archaeologists excavated this site, specifically whether the trash was recorded through standard scientific measures, it’s unclear how unconventional this study was. If conventional scientific measures were used it will increase adherence to normal modes of archaeological thinking while if scientific measures were not used can this study even be classified as archaeology? And if it falls into some other disparate field then it can’t be challenging archaeological norms anymore then a Chinese speaker can, by speaking Chinese, challenge a Spanish speaker’s standard mode of speaking Spanish.

 On-site audience consisted of gamers who were more interested in the video game than the archaeology

Figure2: On-site audience consisted of gamers who were more interested in the video game than the archaeology

Additionally this excavation was highly publicized, with an on-site audience of gamers and media coverage to reach the general public. But just because the public was present doesn’t mean their archaeological views were challenged or even that they got the punk archaeologist’s purpose. The punk archaeologists were trying to challenge the conception that archaeology is restricted to the study of extravagant long gone cultures and how instead even what has more recently been discarded and forgotten can provide valuable information and cultural insight. However, the gamers present only wanted to know if Atari had dumped/hidden its rejects and showed up for this myth busting. Even the team of archaeologists admitted that their true purpose was overlooked in media and by the public (Caraher, Guins, Reinhard, Rothaus, & Weber, 2014). In conclusion, instead of challenging modes of archaeological thought punk archaeology adheres to them and, due to the disconnect between the purpose of the excavation and the entertainment experienced by the public, is also unsuccessful in correcting/expanding the public’s opinion on archaeology despite the potential media attention grants it to do so.

Resources: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/why-we-dug-atari/375702/?single_page=true

Image 1:http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/04/video-ars-talks-to-the-experts-on-ataris-dump-at-yesterdays-big-dig/

Image 2: http://mashable.com/2014/04/26/legend-confirmed-atari-2600-e-t-game-discovered-at-new-mexico-dig/

Read more:http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2014/05/01/punk-archaeology-and-excavating-video-games-in-new-mexico/




Punk Archaeology and American Consumerism

Popular culture and media depicts archaeology in a way that likens the study to glamorous finds of mysterious cultures in exotic parts of the world. However, Andrew Reinhard and his team of “punk archaeologists” are not looking for mummies or treasure, but rather a deposit of old video games in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill. The team was not focused so much on the content of their excavation, but rather what the discarded game had to say about current modes of thought in American culture. Specifically, Reinhard’s archaeologists were looking to analyze “corporate history, the product’s end-of-life cycle and how objects move from desire to discard” (Reinhard, Why We Dug Atari) in a contemporary American society that is dominated by capitalist and consumerist desires.

A key idea of capitalism is consumerism. In order for economic growth, citizens within the United States must continually buy newer and more appealing goods at an ever increasing rate. Reinhard’s dig unearthed, quite literally, a striking example of consumerism. Deep within a landfill, mulched with dollops of dried concrete and other trash, there was a deposit of Atari games, many of which had not even been opened. The consumerist mentality of many drove Atari to discard these supposedly old and outdated products. Even today, when Atari is nothing but a distant memory in the lives of many, the same ideology holds. Technological giants design and release supposedly newer, more powerful and overall better products faster than many can buy them. On one hand, this may instill a desire in the consumer to continuously spend and therefore stimulate our economy; few would argue this to be a bad thing! However, when one steps back and truly analyzes what is going on, they may be disturbed to find that the blistering pace of capitalism and consumerist demand is severely devaluing our personal, material objects.

The Alamogordo dig challenged this way of thinking by resurrecting and revitalizing the value of the forgotten goods. The frantic pace of American consumerist society stripped the games of their value even before most of them hit the shelves. However, the punk archaeologists redefined the value of the overlooked games simply by uncovering them and showing them to the world. The work of the archaeologists can be seen as a reality check. Perhaps, by showing society how quickly objects cycle from ripe to ruin, the archaeologists can slow the blistering pace of waste and consumerism.

Is Punk Archaeology the Real Deal?

A collective of punk archaeologist set out to the south west to excavate a New Mexican landfill. Andrew Reinhard, the lead archaeologist for the investigation, defined punk archaeology in an interview as archeology work that embodies Punk Rock’s do-it-yourself aesthetic. The purpose of the five punk archeologists visit to Alamogordo, New Mexico is to investigate the famous myth that the gaming company Atari secretly dumped all of its unsold E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game in the early 1980’s. Although many of the news and media outlets portrayed the main purpose of the project to find out if the games were really dumped in the New Mexican desert, this is untrue. The archaeologist already knew the games were there. The archaeologist’s purpose of the Atari investigation was actually to gain a unique look on corporate history and the end-of-lifecycle for products. This example of the Atari investigation demonstrates how punk archaeology succeeds in establishing modes of thought but only to a certain extent.

The Punk archaeology’s investigation gained national attention from media outlets such as BBC, NPR, CNN, and NBC. These outlets turned the excavation of a remote town in New Mexico into international news that attracted people, mostly game enthusiasts, to find out more about the Atari myth. During the physical digging of the landfill, the city of Alamogordo became inhabited by hundreds of curious onlookers, documentary film crews, and reporters. All this attention shows that punk archaeology is able to attract media attention towards itself, leading to a heightened curiosity to what they are investigating. But although punk archaeology can get people interested in the subject of its investigation, the actual archaeologists are not in control of the direction of the information to the public.

The media outlets are selecting the information told to the public because they are the ones attempting to sustain the viewers’ attention. The punk archaeologists in Alamogordo are more interested in the understanding of corporate history and the end-of-lifecycle for products, but that isn’t eye-popping enough to keep the national attention for very long. However, the media’s focus on, “Are the rumors true? Have we found the mythical and secret dumping grounds of Atari?!?!” grabs the viewers’ attention and does not let it go. So even though the punk archaeologist can gain the initial intention with their unique investigations, the media outlets run with the projects and can shift its focus to fit the public’s desire and short attention spans.

Punk archaeology does effectively establish modes of thought, although the focuses of those thoughts are not always displayed to the general public by the major media outlets. The media side of punk archaeology does positively contribute by drawing attention to the project. And once media outlets peak the curiosity of a viewer, the viewer is now aware of the project’s existence and can then research the published work from the actual archaeologists.

Link to Reinhard Interview: http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2014/05/01/punk-archaeology-and-excavating-video-games-in-new-mexico/