Immigration Archaeology: The Trails Behind Migrants

As anthropologist Jason De León illustrates, “[a]rchaeology is about ‘trying to understand human behavior in the past through the study of what people leave behind’…[n]obody ever said the past had to be a thousand years ago” (Hartigan Shea 2018). When one hears the term ‘archaeology’, they may be tempted to think of the far past whereas it — as De León emphasizes — could refer to even one minute prior.

Today, immigration across the Mexico-United States border (into the United States) remains a prominent issue. De León has studied this area (specifically the Sonoran Desert where many migrants attempt to cross despite its gruesome conditions) in great depth. De León has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 2017 for his expertise in “[c]ombining ethnographic, forensic, and archaeological evidence to bring to light the human consequences of immigration policy at the U.S.–Mexico border” (MacArthur Foundation 2017). Unsurprisingly, De León is one of the only people within the “[range of] archaeologists and material culture specialists” (Hamilakis 2016) to partake in this field.

A Dora The Explorer backpack, among many others, recovered from near the Mexico-United States border and displayed in the “State of Exception” exhibit at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center of The New School (Dobnik 2017).

On the Greek island of Lesvos, a similar situation with immigration is occurring. “[M]ore than 500,000 people crossed from Turkey, migrants and war refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as many other Asian and African countries, to [this] island with 85,000 permanent inhabitants” (Hamilakis 2016). In venturing to safer land, “[s]ome of [their] camps…can become substantial and highly organized structures despite their makeshift character, as [seen] in northern Greece” (Hamilakis 2016). These people make do with what little they have, setting up shop and moving onwards — these campsites becoming modern sites for archaeological investigation.

An aerial view of a cramped, makeshift camp in Idomeni on the Greece-Macedonia border, housing approximately 7 thousand people at the time of imaging (Telegraph Video 2016).

In regards to what immigrants jettison in regions like the Mediterranean and the Arizona desert, what is left behind “form[s] worthwhile topics for further reflection and study” (Hamilakis 2016) — and a budding ‘branch’ of archaeology. By locating these abandoned objects, voices and identities are given to otherwise invisible people. This growing problem of today mirrors the movement of past peoples and how they have been studied to understand why they left and where they went. However, currently — the time in which this is an issue — the world has the power to work to reach a logical solution. When looking through their belongings, one can see how these people, regarded as ‘invaders’ and ‘inconvenient’, are human. Understanding that these immigrants are giving up everything to head to safer places for acceptable livelihoods is crucial; they are leaving their past lives to stay alive.

Inevitably, there is no reason to disregard the people leaving their countries for our land of dreams, because they are just like the rest of us.

Additional Readings

De León, Jason

  2013 Undocumented migration, use wear, and the materiality of habitual suffering in the Sonoran Desert. Journal of Material Culture 18 (4): 321-345. doi:10.1177/1359183513496489.


Papataxiarchis, Evthhymios

  2016 Being ‘there’: At the front line of the ‘European refugee crisis’ — part 1. Anthropology Today 32 (2): 5-9. doi:10.1111/1467-8322.12237.


Pringle, Heather

  2011 The Journey to El Norte. Archaeology, January/February. Accessed November 24, 2018.


Works Utilized

Dobnik, Verena

  2017 NYC gallery displays migrants’ backpacks, belongings. The Washington Times, February 10. Accessed November 24, 2018. feb/10/ny-gallery-displays-migrants-backpacks-belongings/.


Hamilakis, Yannis

  2016 Archaeologies of Forced and Undocumented Migration. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 3 (2): 121-139. doi:10.1558/jca.32409.


Hartigan Shea, Rachel

  2018 Immigration Archaeology: What’s Left at Border Crossings. National GeographicAugust. Accessed November 24, 2018.


MacArthur Foundation

  2017 Jason De León. MacArthur Foundation, October 11. Accessed November 24, 2018.


Telegraph Video

  2016 Watch: Aerial footage of crowded migrant camp on Greece-Macedonia border. Telegraph Video, March 2. Accessed November 24, 2018.


Images Utilized

Lennihan, Mark

  2017 Migrant Belongings Art [image]. Associated Press. Accessed November 24, 2018.


Telegraph Video

  2016 Migrant Camp – Aerial [image]. Telegraph Video. Accessed November 24, 2018.

Memorials and the Archaeological Record

This past week in class, we talked about the way in which archaeology can help people reflect on trauma and suffering of the past. I’m interested in the way archaeological records are employed in museums and memorials to emphasize past sufferings. An example that we talked about was Holocaust museums and how the collections of the items can invoke empathy and understanding about the sheer horror and quantity of that horror that happened half a century ago. What Edward Rothstein of the New York Times calls the “archaeology of trauma” can be seen in

Piles of shoes from Holocaust victims at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Holocaust museums across the world (Rothstein). Special effects and simulations, and, more so on the archaeological front, collections of artifacts from the 6 million Jews who were murdered (United States Holocaust), work together to give a museum visitor an intense experience. Other memorials might list all the names of the people who lost their lives, if such records exist and are known. Growing up in Jewish day school for ten years, I’ve been to my fair share of Holocaust museums and memorials. I can say as a first hand spectator that looking at piles and piles of clothes, shoes, suitcases, jewelry pieces, or other various personal belongings from the archaeological record of the Holocaust shakes a person to the core. It gives you the physical objects to visualize the scale of the trauma and is incredibly effective at doing so.

Following the discussion of this topic in class, I became curious about how we then create this reflection on trauma if little remains from the archaeological record. What if there are no artifacts? No suitcases? No shoes? Nothing to point to the atrocity

At the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. There are names and places of those murdered written on the bottoms of the hanging concrete blocks.

that happened? These questions led me to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. This memorial, opened recently in 2018 and inspired by the Berlin Holocaust memorial, serves as a memorial for African American people who were murdered by lynching in this country throughout history (Robertson). This memorial / museum “embarked on a project to memorialize this history by visiting hundreds of lynching sites, collecting soil, and erecting public markers” (EJI). The memorial displays this collected soil, along with the names of those murdered and evocative art pieces that emphasize the historical racial injustice of this country. While we may not have the

Jars of soil collected for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

most personal belongings of every person who was a victim of racial violence, we do have access to art, to names, and to the soil: the soil that was underneath when these murders happened. They provide the context for the history that happened. We can look at that soil and feel the horror of what it witnessed. The art provides our narrative. We can look at the art and feel the pain of what happened. I’ve been brought up with the understanding that objects are what gives a historical event its weight, but perhaps we should rethink that definition. Doing so might stop the erasure of historical trauma that cannot always be articulated through objects.

Additional reading on this topic:

For the Equal Justice Initiative’s piece and video about why building this memorial was important, click HERE.

For more images and a look inside the memorial, click HERE.

Sources Cited:

2018 EJI. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Electronic Document, , accessed November 19, 2018.

Robertson, Campbell.

2018 . NYTimes. A Lynching Museum is Opening. Electronic Document, https:/ , accessed November 19, 2018.

Rothstein, Edward.

2012 . NYTimes. Holocaust Museums in Israel Evolve. Electronic Document, , accessed November 19, 2018.

2018 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution. Electronic Document, , accessed November 19, 2018.

Image sources:

Holocaust museum shoes –

National memorial for Peace and Justice –

Jars of soil –

Danger for the Everglades

Photo above: A boat wends its way through mangroves in the Everglades ecosystem. Phote credit to CARLTON WARD, JR

Image result for national geographic the everglades

Photo Above: Cypress trees in the Everglades. Photo Credit to Terry Eggers.

The Everglades National Park in Florida is the only natural World Heritage site in America to land on the critically in danger list due to human population growth, development, invasive species and fertilizer drainage. As a Floridian I am saddened to learn this. I am also ashamed. I actually was not aware of this until learning it in class. I also was able to learn a lot more about the Everglades in my research for this post.

The Everglades National Park is listed as a World Heritage site, International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. (National Parks Service) It is also protected under the Cartagena treaty. The Cartagena requires that all parties part of the convention take measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, and the habit of endangered species, within the convention zones. Their purpose is to prevent, control, and reduce pollution of these lands. (EPA)

Once the Everglades covered over 11,0000 square miles of Florida, from Orlando down to the tip of the peninsula. It is now only 2,500 square miles with 1800 miles of canals and dams breaking up the natural system, thanks to human population growth and development since the 20th century. It contains a very slow moving river, 60 miles wide and over 100 miles long. (Lillie Marshall 2011)

The Everglades variety of wet habitats have made a sanctuary for numerous rare and endangered species. The sea turtle, American Alligator, Florida panther, and Bald Eagle are among several endangered species dependent on the ecosystem the Everglades provide. (Everglades Holiday Park Blog 2015) If the ecosystem were to continue to encroached upon and destroyed then many or all of these species would die out.

In addition to the animals and plants that depend on the land, the Native American Seminole tribe also depend on the land. Native people have inhabited the Everglades for thousands of years, and the Seminole tribe depends on the healthy ecosystem for survival. Traditional cultural, religious, and recreational activities, as well as commercial endeavors are dependent on the Everglades. Tribal members believe that if the land dies, so will they, because their identity is so closely linked. (Seminole Tribe of Florida)

Archaeologists are helping to protect and restore this ecosystem. By looking at the archaeological record, they are able to observe and interpret lifestyle changes made by inhabitants as a result of the changing climate and landscape that occurred. This type of information can be useful to scientists and engineers working to restore an environment impacted as dramatically as the Everglades. (Thomas, 2013)

There are many other programs set up to help protect and restore the everglades. The Seminole tribe has the Seminole Everglades Restoration Initiative to improve water quality, storage capacity, and to enhance hydroperiods. Congress had passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to restore, protect and preserve 18,000 square miles of land over 16 Florida counties. The National Park Service website also has many ways to contribute. Let us save this ecosystem and preserve it.

Links to Everglade restorative programs.

More Information

Works Cited

“Cartagena Convention and Land-Based Sources Protocol.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Dec. 2017,

“Culture.” Seminole Tribe of Florida – Culture,

“Everglades National Park (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,

“Everglades Wildlife: Threatened and Endangered.” Everglades Holiday Park, 5 Mar. 2015,

Marshall, Lillie.                                                                                                              “Danger and Glory in Everglades National Park of Florida.” Around the World “L”, 26 Oct. 2011,

Thomas, Cynthia.                                                                                                “Archaeologists Help Preserve the Past, Link to the Future.” Jacksonville District, U.S Army Corps of Engineers, 19 June 2013,

UNESCO World Heritage Centre. “Everglades National Park.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre,

Image Sources

The Acropolis Museum: Losing Its Marbles

The Rosetta Stone of Egypt, the Koh-i-Noor Diamond of India, the Parthenon Structures of Greece—time and time again, artifacts find themselves in the hands of a place other than their origin. Better known as the “Elgin Marbles,” these Greek treasures were named after Britain’s Lord Elgin who acquired the pieces from Athens in the early 19th century as an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, going on to sell them to the British Parliament—of which they still reside in today (Sánchez 2017). The cultural patrimony of objects like the Parthenon Structures for the Greeks fuels a long-held debate about whether or not artifacts that are separated from the group or country they originated from “belong” to their respective origins. Who is the keeper of one’s history? Who should be? Where does this history—these artifacts—belong?

The horsemen of the north frieze of the Parthenon housed in the British Museum, all sixty riders arranged in ten ranks.

While there’s great controversy surrounding the truth of the dealings between Elgin, the British Parliament, and the Ottoman authorities, many Greeks argue that the occupying power at the time of the structures’ acquisition did not hold the authority to “give away such a central part of Greek cultural heritage anyway” (Stone 2018). The Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, argued that the sculptures give the “maximum public benefit” by remaining in the heart of England (Ward 2014). The trustees of the British Museum often defend these claims by expounding on how their museum’s large and diverse public gains “insight into how ancient Greece influenced and was influenced by the other civilizations that it encountered” (Stone 2018). However, if the purpose of exhibiting artifacts that hold cultural significance to countries other than one’s own is to educate the public on other heritages and their histories without having to travel across the world to do so, why not simply create replicas to use and return the original pieces? It only seems just to return the original Parthenon Structures, created by ancient Athenians themselves, back to the people who actually designed and built them.

A marble caryatid, the one missing piece of the six women figurines that previously supported the Erechtheion on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens.

Representatives of Britain often argue that, even in the British Museum, “the Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilization in the context of world history” (Selwood 2018). Yet with the advent of Brexit this coming year, what does this mean for the structures’ cultural importance and historical meaning in the greater context of Europe if they will soon reside outside of the European Union after Britain leaves? Controversially, Britain also loaned a part of the Elgin Marbles, a headless statue of the river god Ilissos, to the State Hermitage Museum in Russia, raising tempers among the Greeks since the pieces were to be shipped to another country—one outside of the EU—but still not to be returned to their rightful home in Athens (Ward 2014). By becoming more conscious of and creating more discourse about the historical and cultural importance of the objects that represent one’s past, we are taking steps to protect and appreciate the geographical heritage of some of the world’s greatest artifacts by bringing them back to their origins.


References Cited

Juan Pablo Sánchez

2017 How the Parthenon Lost Its Marbles. National Geographic. Electronic document,, accessed November 16th, 2018.


Jon Stone

2018 Greece demands UK open negotiations over the return of the Elgin Marbles. Independent. Electronic document,, accessed Novemeber 17th, 2018.


Janine DeFeo

2011 Which Museums Have the Right to Own World Heritage? Mic. Electronic document,, accessed November 17th, 2018.


Victoria Ward

2014 Why are the Elgin marbles so controversial—and everything else you need to know. The Telegraph. Electronic document,, accessed November 18th, 2018.


Ian Jenkins

1994 Greek Architecture and its sculpture in the British Museum. British Museum Press, London, ENG.


Image Sources:

Wally Gobetz

2006 The Horsemen of the North Frieze of the Parthenon. Flickr. Electronic document,, accessed November 18th, 2018.


Trustees of the British Museum

2018 The Parthenon Collection. The British Museum. Electronic document,, accessed November 18th, 2018.


Further Readings:

Dominic Selwood (2018)

How Brexit has revived controversy over the Elgin Marbles in Britain. Independent.


Paul Cartledge (2018)

Pressured to Return the Elgin Marbles, Should the British Museum Finally Give Way? Frieze.

Genetically Modified Organisms

The term genetically modified organism is one that is widely used and also widely misunderstood. Most people imagine a brand-new technology that creates mutant animals and giant monstrous foods like in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. In reality, it is but a sophisticated name for something humans have practiced for thousands of years. Every food item we consume is not fully natural or GMO-free because of the way we create and sustain our food source. One of the main problems is the stigma against the actual term GMO and the fact that it is so difficult to define. It has become so controversial that it has fueled social justice causes and has inspired movements, such as the Non-GMO Project.

According to the Non-GMO Project, a GMO is a “plant, animal, microorganism or other organisms whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology” (Non-GMO Project 2016). They then argue that this modification “creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods” (Non-GMO Project 2016). This organization specifically defines GMOs as created in a laboratory and does not acknowledge other techniques such as selective breeding. The Non-GMO Project’s mission is to raise awareness and to preserve sources of non-GMO products. They believe that in order to create a safe, healthy food supply for future generations, “The integrity of our diverse genetic inheritance is essential to human and environmental health and ecological harmony” (Non-GMO Project 2016). Although it is understandable that people want to have “natural,” safe, and healthy foods, the benefits of genetically modified organisms must also be appreciated, especially in the field of social justice.

Image result for teosinte vs corn


The Banana Xanthomonas Wilt, or BXW, is a bacterial disease that is considered to be one of the “greatest threats to banana productivity and food security in Uganda and eastern Africa” (Senapathy 2017). With the addition of a gene from pepper, a resistance to banana wilt was introduced, until the anti-GMO movement stifled its success (Senapathy 2017. Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts argues that “we need to make sure that we in the developed world understand that it is an indulgence for us to be either for or against a particular food” (Senapathy 2017).

Image result for banana xanthomonas wilt

Symptoms for Banana Xanthomonas Wilt

The terms selective breeding and artificial selection were coined by Charles Darwin. They are not specifically considered to be strictly GMOs in the modern definition but are still the ancestors to our current genetic modification. The earliest evidence of artificial plant selection “dates back to 7800 BCE in archaeological sites found in southwest Asia in wheat” (Rangel 2016). In addition, according to the United Nations, by 2050 humans will need to make 70% more food than we currently do to simply adequately feed the world’s population (Rangel). As these problems rise up and meet the negative aspects of increasing production of GMOS, In short, we must be conscious of our reasons for being against GMOS and determine whether the benefits outweigh the consequences.


Gabriel Rangel. “From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology.” From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology, Harvard University, 23 Oct. 2016,

“Non-GMO Project: Most Trusted Seal.” Non-GMO Project, The Non-GMO Project, 2016,

Senapathy, Kavin. “The Anti-GMO Movement Has A Social Justice Problem.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Nov. 2017,

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