Aquaculture in the Bolivian Savannas

Archaeological discoveries in Bolivian savannas reveal how Pre-Columbian societies used aquaculture, or fish farming, as a method of adaptation. The Llanos de Moxos region, which lies on the outskirts of the Amazon rainforest, is characterized by expansive grasslands and months of torrential floods and subsequent drought.

The remains of canals, mounds, and other features suggest that societies permanently inhabited the austere landscape. Despite this overwhelming evidence, the Llanos de Moxos lied at the center of a decades-long dispute within archaeology. The prominent archaeologist Betty Meggers asserted that the region was incompatible with long-term settlements due to poor soil conditions and massive flooding (Mann 2000). Similarly, researchers associated the Smithsonian Institute took issue with the earthworks themselves, claiming that such features are the result of natural processes or migratory bands of settlers (Mann 2000). The environmental destruction of artifacts in the plains also contributed to the poor understanding of the region. Unfortunately, this dismissal of the archaeological record constituted the overwhelming consensus.

Intensive fieldwork only made possible by the easing of political tensions supports the existence of permanent, large-scale societies through the analysis of structures used for aquaculture. Inhabitants of the plains constructed lengthy walls with zigzags at various points. During periods of flooding, fish would swim through the channels and collect in traps, also referred to as fish weirs. (Figure 1). Archaeologists have also discovered extensive artificial ponds, most likely used for raising fish during the dry seasons (Mann 2000).

Figure 1. An artistic depiction of a fish weir in use

A recent excavation of the Loma Salvatierra mound provides greater insight on the extent of fish farming in the Llanos de Moxos region. The mound, which was occupied between 500 and 1400, is situated near a network of channels and ponds. A team of archaeologists discovered 17,338 fish remains in 62 stratigraphic units, most of which were remarkably well-preserved. While complete species identification of all the fish remains elusive, 63% were identified to the order level, representing a great diversity (Prestes-Carniero et al. 2019) (Figure 2). The three most common groups of fish raised at Loma Salvatierra include swamp eels, armored catfish, and lungfish. These species are well-suited to the dry conditions of the drought periods, suggesting that the mound was the center of a society that inhabited the plains year-round (Prestes-Carniero et al. 2019).

Figure 2. The osteological remains of fish excavated at Loma Salvatierra

The findings at the Loma Salvatierra site significantly contribute to our understanding of how societies in the Llanos de Moxos adapted to the alternating cycles of flooding and drought. Furthermore, the contention surrounding the region illustrates conflicts within the discipline of archaeology; discoveries are often made that contradict previous assumptions about people and places studied.



Mann, Charles C.
2000 Earthmovers of the Amazon. Electronic Document,, accessed
September 29, 2019.

Prestes-Carneiro, Gabriela, Philippe Béarez, Myrtle Pearl Shock, Heiko Prümers, and Carla Jaimes Betancourt
2019 Pre-Hispanic fishing practices in interfluvial Amazonia: Zooarchaeological evidence from managed landscapes on the Llanos de Mojos savanna. Plos One 14(5)
Figure 1
2017 fish weir. April 22
Figure 2
Prestes-Carneiro, Gabriela, Philippe Béarez, Myrtle Pearl Shock, Heiko Prümers, and Carla Jaimes Betancourt
2019 Pre-Hispanic fishing practices in interfluvial Amazonia: Zooarchaeological evidence from managed landscapes on the Llanos de Mojos savanna. Plos One 14(5)


Further Reading

A brief history on aquaculture

An introduction to the geography and climate of Bolivia’s Moxos plains

Teeth: The Window to the Past

In general, the Neolithic Period is universally known to mark the rise of crop farming and animal domestication, activities not many modern day people can relate to. However, what most do not know is that we share a vital part of our lives with these prehistoric people: the consumption of milk.

A study conducted by the University of York has revealed new evidence that proposes milk consumption to have dated back over 6,000 years ago (Garner 2014). The University’s team obtained the teeth of ten Neolithic Britons from three different areas of southern England and analyzed their calcified dental plaque (Ewbank 2019). Through mass spectrometry and proteomic analysis, archaeologists found traces of beta lactoglobulin, a protein found in animal milk, in seven of these British farmers’ enamel, making this the earliest known evidence of humanity’s milk consumption (Solly 2019).

Figure 1: University of York scientists preparing a plaque sample (David 2019).

Figure 2: plaque on teeth being analyzed for milk proteins (Gramling 2019).

The importance of this find lies in its support of earlier claims and in its help in depicting the conditions of the Neolithic Period in the area now known as England. For one, since the ten Neolithic farmers who produced the dental plaque came from three different sites as opposed to just one, York’s archaeologists could safely conclude that dairy consumption was more widespread than originally thought without “[making] assumptions based on [their] own experience” (Renfrew and Bahn 2018). In addition, pottery priorly found by archaeologists already suggested that humans had consumed milk products, but direct evidence linking human ingestion of this milk was lacking. However, because teeth normally survive in good condition, scientists have been able to directly trace dairy consumption to humans with this new evidence, proving a cultural pattern that had long been unsupported. Furthermore, these farmers seem to precede the era in which humans began to be able to digest lactose; most people in southern England during the Neolithic Period were lactose intolerant (Solly 2019). However, because of the beta lactoglobulin found along the teeth, it can be inferred that these Neolithic farmers either drank their milk in small increments or somehow manipulated it for easier consumption (i.e. processing it into cheese, yogurt, etc). Thus, the dental evidence shows the conditions of part of these Neolithic farmers’ diets and how they adapted to their environment.

In essence, the unique preservational characteristics of teeth have lead archaeologists to consider the past’s relationship with milk in a new way. Therefore, the dental remains of these farmers gives us more insight about Neolithic life; in relation to curating archaeological records, teeth function as a window to the past.


Reference List:


Ewbank, Anne

2019 Found: The Earliest Direct Evidence of Milk Consumption. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019. 


Garner, David

2014 Ancient Dental Plaque: A “Whey” Into Our Milk Drinking Past. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019. 


Renfrew, Colin, and Bahn, Paul

2018 How Were Societies Organized?. In Archaeology Essentials(Theories/Methods/Practice), Thames & Hudson. Fourth ed. 


Solly, Meilan

2019 Prehistoric Farmers’ Teeth Show Humans Were Drinking Animal Milk 6,000 Years Ago. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019.


Figure 1:

Garner, David

2014 Ancient Dental Plaque: A “Whey” Into Our Milk Drinking Past. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019. 

Figure 2:

Gramling, Carolyn
2019 Tooth Plaque Shows Drinking Milk Goes Back 3,000 Years in Mongolia. Electronic document,, accessed September 29, 2019.

Further Reading:

To read more on material evidence of milk consumption:

To read more on the science of beta lactoglobulin and how it is used in archaeology:

Neolithic DNA in the Modern Day?

The Basque region on the border of Spain and France (Fig. 1) has long posed a puzzle to linguistic anthropologists: the local native language, Euskara, is a linguistic isolate unrelated to the languages of the Indo-European family surrounding it. Although now only spoken by 25% of the modern-day Basque population, toponymic evidence suggests that the ancient Basque population previously occupied a much larger territory, reaching from the Garonne River in the north to the Ebro River in the south (Behar et al. 2012). One dominant explanatory hypothesis holds that Euskara descended from a now otherwise extinct Paleolithic linguistic family no later than 6-7 thousand years ago and was relatively isolated by the Pyrenees Mountains, minimizing the cultural impact of farmers from the Near East whose westward migration sparked the European transition from mobile hunter-gatherer societies to segmentary and sedentary agricultural settlements in the Neolithic period, including, potentially, the spread of Indo-European languages (Cavalli-Sforza 1988).

Figure 1: Map of the Basque region on the border of France and Spain (Hoe 2017).

Archaeological data and genetic analyses have both complicated and broadened our understanding of this mystery. Comparisons of contemporary and ancient DNA have disproved any claims that the Basque people are a “living fossil” of the first Paleolithic European inhabitants. Genetic haplogroup J, often considered to be a marker of the Near Eastern Neolithic population expansion, was found to be present at an average frequency of 16% at two prehistoric Basque archaeological sites (Coffman 2005:44). This suggests a partial Near Eastern lineage in the ancient Basque population that mixed with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherer inhabitants between 7.3 and 6.8 thousand years ago, negating the concept of total Basque isolation (Günther and Valdiosera 2015).

Figure 2: The El Portalón cave site in Atapuerca, Spain (Frankel 2018).

However, recent studies on the modern European population have identified six related mitochondrial DNA H haplogroups found to be exclusive to Basque-speaking and immediately adjacent populations, while absent from other populations in Western Europe, suggesting that these haplogroups are autochthonous or indigenous to the region. These mtDNA variants are estimated to have separated from the pan-European gene pool 8,000 years ago, predating the putative arrival of Near Eastern farmers (Behar et al. 2012). This contradicts the evidence of haplogroup J and supports a theory of partial genetic continuity in the modern Basque population from earlier Paleolithic and/or Mesolithic populations. Furthermore, genomic sequencing of eight individuals from the El Portalón cave site in Atapuerca, Spain (Fig. 2), dated to between 5.5 and 3.5 thousand years ago and in association with archaeological remains of an early European farming culture (domestic animals and pottery vessels), demonstrated that these individuals, who carried mtDNA haplogroups associated with both early European farmers and hunter-gatherers, were most closely genetically linked to modern-day Basques than to any other modern-day population (Günther and Valdiosera 2015). This evidence bridges the multiple hypotheses and suggests that the Basque population descended in relative isolation from Neolithic migration, compared to other Iberian populations, from an admixed group of early farmers and hunter-gatherers who spoke a non-Indo-European language.

Additional information on the Basque language or the Atapuerca burial grounds.


References –

Behar, Doron M., Christine Harmant, and Jeremy Manry
2012 The Basque Paradigm: Genetic Evidence of a Maternal Continuity in the Franco-Cantabrian Region since Pre-Neolithic Times. PubMed Central. 90(3):486-493.

Cavalli-Sforza, Luca L.
1988 The basque population and ancient migrations in Europe. Munibe (Antropologia y Arqueologia). 6:129-137.

Günther, Torsten, and Cristina Valdiosera
2015 Ancient genomes link early farmers from Atapuerca in Spain to modern-day Basques. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 112:11917-11922.

Levy-Coffman, Ellen.
2005 We Are Not Our Ancestors: Evidence for Discontinuity between Prehistoric and Modern Europeans. Journal of Genetic Genealogy. 1:40-50.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn
2018 Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, Practice with 303 Illustrations. Fourth ed. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London.


Images –

Frankel, Joseph.
2018 Pottery Shard Shows Early Humans in Europe Were More Connected Than Archaeologists Thought. Newsweek. Accessed from:

Hoe, Wen.
2017 From Open Data to Open Government: Citizen Participation in the Basque Country. Government Innovators Network, Harvard University. Accessed from:

Chinese Bronze Inscription

In terms of studies of written records, there are two different disciplines: Paleography and Epigraphy. The previous one focuses on the inscription: the evolution of inscriptions, the meanings, and etc.; while the latter one focuses on the handwriting specifically. As an example of study of Paleography, Chinese bronze inscription is a variety of writings that appears on the ritual bronzes (Zhong and Ding) date back from 14thcentury B.C. to 3rdcentury B.C.

Instead of a single style of inscriptions, bronze inscription can be roughly divides into four different inscriptions: Shang bronze inscription (14thcentury B.C. to 11thcentury B.C.), West Zhou bronze inscription (11thcentury B.C. to 8thcentury B.C.), East Zhou bronze inscription (8thcentury B.C. to 3rdcentury B.C.), and Qin Han bronze inscription (3rdcentury B.C.); all categorized according to the chronological frequencies. (Figure 1)

Figure 1: “Sheep” Characters in Bronze Inscription

Although the production of bronze dated before Shang dynasty, the bronze inscription has not been seen on unearthed artifacts until the after the relocation of capital (Yin Xu) during later Shang dynasty. (Figure 2) By the early stage of bronze inscription, few characters can be seen on the bronzes, and most of the contents are related to ancestor. During Zhou dynasty, the use of bronze inscription became more and more common and reached the peak during the East Zhou. The contents are also no longer restricted to the ancestors’ names: emperor’s daily events, hunting ceremonies, victories of battle, music score, and etc. After the great unification of Qin dynasty, the emperor Ying Zheng (259 B.C. to 210 B.C.) unified the inscription; together with the increase use of ironwork, bronze inscription exits the stage of history.

Figure 2: Yin Xu Site

The general practice for bronze foundries to prepare for inscription was to cast the metal surface onto the clay mold. (Figure 3) As the inscriptions are mostly interior and positive (which means the characters sink into the metal surface instead of rising from it), the current hypothesis of the practice was the craftsman first negatively write the inscription on the wet clay and apply another wet clay onto it after the first version has hardened. Yet, although experimentally proven to be one possible solution, this practice has not yet gained any archaeological background from any sites. (Oliver, 2000)

Figure 3: Casting Practice in a Bronze Foundry

The bronze inscriptions have been discovered and systematically studies by archaeologists since Song Dynasty (10thcentury to 13thcentury). Its rich content on social events provides scholars with important details on Pre Qin Period history, specifically the history related to emperor and kings, and the glyphs have greatly influenced the evolution of Chinese. (Zhang, 2014)



Reference List

Oliver Moore

2000 Chinese. University of California Press, Oakland


Xiuxia Zhang

2014 Study of Bronze Inscriptions. Electronic document,, accessed Sep 29th, 2019



Further Readings

Jeremy Norman

The Earliest Chinese Inscription in Bronze


Plcombs Chinese

Basics on Ancient Chinese Bronzes, Forms, Shapes, Uses; Ancient to Qing Dynasty




Figure 1


Figure 2


Figure 3

Distinguishing Domesticated Pigs from Wild Boars by Teeth

Accessing whether an animal was domesticated or wild from its bones has been a persistent objective for archaeologists. There are three markers signifying the difference between domesticated pigs and wild boars, used as approaches to distinguish bones (teeth and the lower jaw in particular) found on sites and thereby to study the degree of agriculturalization of varies ancient civilizations.

First and foremost, since the Neolithic period, food for humans has eventually become more sophisticated. Due to agriculturalization, food preparation became a much more meticulous process: from threshing, raking, winnowing to cleaning, food particles were then much easier to take in (Renfew and Bahn 2018:193). Moreover, the domestication of plants has also made food more refined: with a settled living pattern, farmers cultivated a variety of plants, boosting the production while also ultimately altering their structures to adapt more properly to the then desired diet (Renfew and Bahn 2018:195). Given pigs often ate household scraps (Weber and Price 2015), their diet has also experienced such a change. Now that mastication was less vital than before, pigs’ jawbones eventually experienced a shrink from the lack of frequent, forceful use. However, although the bone structure narrowed during the taming process, the inherited teeth structural traits still remained. A result of this phenomenon would be less space for development (Yuan 2019), and thus unevenly or irregularly grown teeth (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Irregularly aligned teeth of a domesticated pig (Yuan 2019).

Secondly, LEH (Linear Enamel Hypoplasia) is a condition concerning transverse markings on tooth enamel, which are formed during the developmental stages of a tooth crown (Figure 2), often due to malnutrition and mental stress (Magnell and Carter 2007). Since boars foraged their food in the wild, a balanced diet tended to be more approachable, promising a variety of sustenance. Therefore, LEH has a much lower rate of occurrence on wild boars’ enamel. On the other hand, domesticated and thus fed by humans, pigs had a less varied diet. Namely, household left-overs primarily with rich starch content, such as barley or oat, were given to pigs. Above that, being kept in a restricted space, domesticated pigs were stressed out by the captivity, leading to a higher chance of suffering from LEH. Thus, domesticated pigs tend to have a high LEH occurrence rate (Yuan 2019).

Figure 2: LEH markings on tooth enamel (Magnell and Carter 2007).

Last but not least, dental calculus, marked by a “mineralized plaque that accumulates on the surface of a tooth” (Weber and Price 2015), is also a sign that differentiates a domesticated pig from a wild boar. As mentioned above, due to the emergence of a high-starch diet, domesticated pigs were more prone to getting such a condition. Interestingly, aside from being a tool for identification, this condition, typically spotted with micro-remains of starch granules, is also used to determine the ancient diet for domesticated pigs (Weber and Price 2015). For further readings on this topic:

To read more about dental variations between domestic and wild Sus scrofa:




Figure 1:

Yuan, Jing

2019     The Story of Pigs. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019


Figure 2:

Magnell and R. Carter





Renfew and P. Bahn

2018     Archaeology Essentials (Theories/Methods/Practice). 4th ed. Thames & Hudson, London.


Magnell and R. Carter



Weber and Max D. Price

2015     What the pig ate: A microbotanical study of pig dental calculus from 10th–3rd millennium BC northern Mesopotamia. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019


Yuan, Jing

2019     The Story of Pigs. Electronic document,, accessed September 28, 2019

Early Fishing Technologies and Human Diet in East Asia

Humans have been consuming fish for a long time. Two major discoveries in East Asia give insight into some of the earliest technological advancements in fishing.

Figure 1: Partial fishing hook used by early humans in East Timor (Choi 2014). Photograph by Susan O’Conner

One site in present-day East Timor, a small island north of Australia, gives us insight on early fishing techniques. The discovery of fishing hooks made of bone and shell (Figure 1) can be dated back to 42,000 years ago (Choi 2014). These hooks are the oldest ever found (Choi 2014). What is so impressive about these fishing hooks is that they were used to catch tuna, a fish that lives in deep water, moves quickly, and is even difficult to catch today. Early humans developed new techniques in order to catch these fish. The site is at the Jerimalai Shelter (Figure 2) found on the north side of the island (Corbyn 2011). Archaeologist Susan O’Connor spearheaded the dig and found around 38,000 fish bones including fish such as tuna and parrotfish (Zukerman 2011). East Timor is a small island with not many large animals living on it today, so humans living at the site 42,000 years ago most likely relied on fish as their main source of food (Choi 2014). Therefore, humans were forced to adapt and create new technologies, such as deep-sea fishing hooks, to allow them to capture fish in the area. These fishing techniques also give us a further understanding on how humans were able to travel across the ocean for extended periods of time, subsisting on fish during the journey, to get to Australia and other islands (Corbyn 2011). 

Figure 2: The Jerilamai Shelter in East Timor where ancient fish bones and fishing hooks were found. Photograph by Susan O’Conner

Another discovery that furthers our understanding of the development of fishing comes from a site in Northeastern South Korea, where the oldest fishing net sinkers (Figure 3) were found (DeCou 2018). In the Maedun Cave site, archaeologists discovered 14 stones made of limestone with “central grooves” (DeCou 2018). The nets would sink to the seafloor because of this extra weight and would catch fish more efficiently. Thanks to radiocarbon dating, we know these stones to be about 29,000 years old and are “considered to be the world’s earliest” of their kind (Yonhap 2018). Before this find, the oldest stone sinkers were roughly 10,000 years old (DeCou). Humans were using stones to sink nets thousands of years before what we previously thought.

Figure 3: Limestone net sinkers with grooves were found in South Korea (DeCou). Photograph courtesy of Han et al.

With the discovery of these old fish hooks and net sinkers, we now know that technologies in fishing occurred much earlier than previously thought. The findings also increase our understanding of the diet of humans and the types of fish people were eating in East Timor 42,000 years ago and in South Korea 29,000 years ago.


Additional Reading

On the importance of present-day fishing in East Timor

More information on some of the earliest seafaring humans


Choi, Charles Q. 

2014 World’s Oldest Fish Hooks Show Early Humans Fished Deep Sea. Electronic Document,, accessed September 27, 2019.


Corbyn, Zoe

2011 Archaeologists land world’s oldest fish hook. Electronic Document,, accessed September 27, 2019.


DeCou, Christopher

2018 Possible Evidence of World’s Oldest Fishing Nets Unearthed in Korea. Electronic Document,, accessed September 27, 2019.



2018 29,000-year-old net sinkers, world’s oldest, found in Korean cave. Electronic Document,, accessed September 27, 2019.


Zukerman, Wendy

2011 Deep sea fishing for tuna began 42,000 years ago. Electronic Document,, accessed September 27, 2019.



Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

The American Basket Weaving Trade and its Effect on Basket Design

Basket weaving is one of the oldest crafts in Native American history. For the Wabanaki, basket weaving goes as far back as the very story of their creation. Historically, basket weaving served a heavily utilitarian role for Native Americans, but in recent centuries, trade has changed the cultural of baskets as well as their designs. (Neptune and Neuman, 2015)

In Northern California for example, the structure and design of a basket often denoted its function in society. Some examples of different woven baskets include seed beaters, storage baskets, cooking baskets, and hats. Seed beaters, used to knock the seeds off grasses and other plants, as well as cooking baskets generally lacked ornate patterns and designs due to their utilitarian usage. Hats and other more formal basketry on the other hand were more ceremonial and would have more ornate designs and patterns.

For Native Americans in Northern California, large baskets like this were used for cooking. Photo from

In the 18th century, woven baskets started gaining popularity as a trade item. As hunting and gathering rights began to get encroached, weavers started to make baskets for the purpose of making money to buy food instead of their original uses as tools. Towards the end of the 18th century, the basket weaving industry began to flourish leading to intricate new basket designs, structures, and forms. The designs of baskets began a transition from the utilitarian and ceremonial wares they were to the part of popular Native American culture they are now. (Shelton, 2019)

Along with the emergence of the basket weaving industry, new technologies also lead to changes in how the baskets were made changing their designs further. In the 1860s for example, aniline dyes became involved the basket weaving process for some Native American groups in Maine due to its ability to save time and labor. The introduction of these dyes allowed for more vibrant colors and lead to a more diverse color palette. Later in the 1880s, new manufacturing technologies such as wood splitters, gauges, and blocks lead to more changes in woven baskets and their designs. Blocks helped hold the basket’s shape allowing basket makers to create smaller, fancier, and more decorative baskets. In the 19th century, baskets began to be embellished with fancy handles, sweetgrass, decorative weaves, and dyed splints due to Victorian influence. (Neptune and Neuman, 2015)

Today, the basket trade is still going strong with various websites dedicated to selling these baskets. However, in Northeastern U. S. the basket trade is threatened by emerald ash borers which cause the destruction of the ash trees used to make the baskets. To learn more about the modern basket trade and basket collecting visit To learn more about a local basket maker in New York and the struggles she now faces visit

This is a Hopi sifter basket. Historically used for sifting acorn flour. The basket displayed in this picture is being sold online. Picture from seller,


References –

Antique American Indian Art
2018 Northern California Basketry Forms. Electronic document,, accessed 9/22, 2019.

Editorial Staff
2013 Exhibit Highlights Native American Basket Design. Electronic document,, accessed 9/23, 2019.

Jennifer S. Neptunea * and Lisa K. Neumanb * a Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, Indian Island, ME, USA b The University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
2015 Basketry of Wabanaki Indians. Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures:1-10.

Shelton, Heather
2019 Clarke Museum exhibit delves into Native American basket design. Times Standard 9/1:Lifestyle.

Typological Sequence in Greek Sculpture

By focusing on one type of Greek archaeology — the Kouros statues and similar — and examining the evolution within the type, a basic chronology presents itself. Archaeologists study artifacts, such as Greek sculpture, for similar attributes that allow them to group the artifacts into types. Both among types and within one type there may be an evolution of attributes that archaeologists can use to place artifacts into a relative chronology (Renfrew and Bahn 2018:111). This understanding of which attributes unite a type and which have evolved over time provide insight into where a type fits within a larger timeline.

Figure 2. An example of a Kouros sculpture, Kroisos. Photograph by It’s Artalicious.

Figure 1. An example of Kouros sculpture, the New York Kouros. Photograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The New York Kouros (Figure 1) and Kroisos (Figure 2) are two examples within the the Kouros type. Both share a frontal orientation and similar stance of one foot in front of the other with evenly distributed weight. They are nude male youth, larger than life and highly stylized. Their hair is in unnaturally linear braids and their muscle is largely denoted by lines and partitioning of the body. However, the Kroisos’s hair falls with the curve of its neck and shoulders, and its abdominal muscles and knee caps are semi-realistically modeled. By contrast the New York Kouros’s hair comes down in a straight sheath and its muscle exists primarily as faint lines across the chest and winged bulges above the knees. Kroisos’s progression towards naturalization indicates that it was created after the New York Kouros.

Figure 3. A similar sculptural example, Polykleitos’s Doryphoros. Photograph by Ilya Shurygin.

A third sculptural example, Polykleitos’s Doryphoros (Figure 3), differentiates itself from the Kouroi most notably though contrapposto, “bearing the weight on one straight leg, while the other is bent” (Museum of Art and Archaeology [MAA] 2019:1) which is “counterbalanced by the arms, one of which is flexed while the other hangs relaxed by the side” (MAA 2019:1). This more realistic posture causes the Doryphoros to begin to blend into a new type, but it still shares many attributes with the Kouroi. It remains a young nude male with a partitioned body structure evident most clearly in the distinct curve at the hips and in the overly stylized abdominal muscles.  

Studying these ancient artifacts through an archaeological lens allows them to be categorized together and placed into a larger historical context. Because of the distinctive features that define the Kouroi, the Doryphoros, and other similar sculpture, it is evident that they belong to a specific period of Greek history. Initially artist “were presenting images to be read, not compared with life” (Rumy 2000:53) as inspired by the purposefulness of Egyptian sculpture (Rumy 2000:53). Later works within the type, such as the Doryphoros, are increasingly interested in an accurate representation of the human body making them bleed into a new period (MAA 2019:1). This evolution from Egyptian-inspired sculpture to more natural attributes indicates that the type follows the Greek Orientalizing Period and precedes the Classical Greek Period, placing the sculptural type in the Greek Archaic Period from 650 to 480 BCE (Rumy 2000:52).



Hilloowala, Rumy
2000 Anatomy and the art of Archaic Greece. The Anatomical Record 261(2):50-56.

Museum of Art and Archaeology University of Missouri                                                      2019 Doryphoros. Electronic document,, accessed September 22, 209

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn
2018 Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, Practice with 303 Illustrations. Fourth ed. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London.



Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3


Additional Reading


A discussion of the differences between Kouros statues and Egyptian sculpture and the tools that made realism possible

The Study of Ancient Sculpture

A discussion of other ways to analyze and gain meaning from Greek sculpture


How Rome Got Its Water

In ancient Rome, water was worshipped like a deity. Its abundance not only meant the wellbeing of Rome’s citizens but was also a sign of wealth and power for its burgeoning civilization. The site of Rome is naturally well-supplied with sources of water, notably nearby springs, and easily-accessible groundwater. However, as Rome’s population grew, the demand for water rose with it. To meet this increasing demand, aqueducts and other feats of engineering were constructed.

Aqueducts carried water from springs, reservoirs, and rivers into Rome’s metropolitan area. The introduction of aqueducts to the Roman water system, starting with Aqua Appia in 312 B.C.E., allowed water from further outside the city to be utilized and thus increased the amount of water at the Romans’ disposal. When we think of aqueducts, we often recall the architecturally-striking bridges, abundant with arches. Though many of these are easily observable and well preserved, they make up only a small fraction of most aqueducts. Aqua Appia, for instance, had only 300 feet of its 11-mile length above ground. The water was primarily sent through terracotta pipes underground, which have also been unearthed by archaeologists. The pipes used were likely made of terracotta because the Romans didn’t have cast-iron technology, bronze was too expensive, and lead pipes were rarely made at such great diameters. 

Figure 1 – Aqua Appia aqueduct bridge

Aqueducts were built at a slight decreasing angle, such that the pressure would not be too great yet water would still flow in the desired direction due to gravity. When the path of the aqueduct was impeded by a valley or gorge, an aqueduct bridge was usually built, featuring the now-iconic archways that served to limit building material while preserving structural integrity. Though some aqueducts maintained their steady decline, others had features such as siphons, which carried water down a ditch and then back up it. 

Cisterns were utilized by the Romans to collect rainwater as well as to collect water from aqueducts. When the water from an aqueduct reached the city, it would be stored in a cistern or distributing reservoir called a castellum. Smaller lead pipes would carry water from the castellum to either public works like fountains and bathhouses or private residences. These pipes had inscriptions embossed on their exterior indicating the manufacturer of the pipe, its subscriber, and how much water they were entitled to. By analyzing these inscriptions, we understand that private access to the water supply had to be purchased and was regulated by authorities. Citizens could buy a license to connect their property to an aqueduct, with the cost depending on the width of the pipe. This seemingly modern system also lead to some unlawful activity, however. Illegal tapping of aqueducts, widening pipes, and bribing aqueduct officials were relatively commonplace. 

Figure 2 – Roman lead pipe with inscriptions

Though the Romans did not invent the aqueduct, its development was not only revolutionary from a technological standpoint. They pioneered the idea that water could be the property of a government and had to be paid for.



Rodà, Isabel

“Aqueducts: Quenching Rome’s Thirst.” National Geographic, November 15, 2016.


Johnston, Harold Whetstone.

“Johnston’s Private Life of the Romans, Ch. 16.” Forum Romanum. Scott, Foresman and Company, 1903.


Mays, L.

Ancient Water Technologies. Springer, 2014.




Figure 1

Figure 2


Additional Reading


How is LA like ancient Rome?

The Rise and Fall of Roman Aqueducts:



The Ainu: Indigenous Archaeology in Japan

Contrary to the pervading myth that Japan is a homogeneous society, Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is home to the indigenous Ainu people. While there is some controversy over their ancestry, they are thought to be closely related descendants of the Jomon people, who arrived in the Japanese archipelago via land bridge during the Jomon Period (about 14500-300 BCE). The Jomon people’s mixing with the Yayoi (likely migrants from continental East Asia) created the Yamato (or Wajin), which makes up the majority of modern Japan’s population.

Figure 1. An Ainu woman with a traditional mouth tattoo.

The Yamato drove the Ainu farther and farther North to Hokkaido, taking control of the area during the Tokugawa Shogunate (the Edo Period, 1803-1867 CE). In 1899, the Meiji Period imperial government began enforcing assimilation through the so-called Hokkaido Former Aborigines Protection Act, nearly driving the Ainu to extinction, until Japan lost World War II. As a result, many Ainu people had to hide their heritage for fear of discrimination and were stripped of much of their culture. Today, the Ainu language is on UNESCO’s endangered language list, and a 2013 survey shows about 16,786 self-identifying Ainu remaining in Hokkaido (though the actual number is estimated to be higher).

It was not until 1997 that the Japanese Diet replaced the Meiji government’s policy with the Ainu Culture Promotion and Dissemination of Information Concerning Ainu Traditions Act, which promoted cultural practices such as carving and dancing. In 2008, the government finally formally recognized the Ainu as a Japanese indigenous people.

As the stigma around the Ainu slowly began to wane and interest in their culture grow, more Japanese academics at Hokkaido University began to study them. Following its creation of the Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies in 2007, the university conducted an excavation at Rebun Island, led by Indigenous Studies Professor Hirofumi Kato, off the northern coast of Hokkaido. There, archaeologists have been able to recover evidence of about 4,000 years of daily Ainu life. Thanks to sand calcium-rich from shell fragments, organic materials have been well-preserved, allowing archaeologists to study the ancient Ainu diet. Other such research has led to Takuro Segawa’s theory that the Ainu were involved in significant trade with the Japanese mainland and Northeast Asia, discrediting the image of the Ainu as an isolated people.

Figure 2. The Hamanaka 2 excavation site at Rebun Island.

Still, archaeological research on the Ainu needs reform, says Kato, as “Ainu studies have been undertaken ignoring the native point of view, and most studies have depended on descriptions of Ainu culture by non-native scholars” (Kato 2017). Moving forward, he emphasizes the need for more collaboration with local Ainu in research, as well as thorough consideration of their perspectives, especially in cases involving ancestral Ainu remains. “It is fully understood today that archaeology is a powerful tool for the creation of cultural identities in the past”, Kato writes, and “it should also be understood that archaeologists cannot operate in the absence of partnerships with host communities” (Kato 2017).





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