Peace in Sustainability

War is not a sustainable part of any society. War has been a leading factor in the downfall of many civilizations. It’s a plague on humanity that seems inevitable in any modern society, and for the most part it is. Why? Agriculture is the culprit.

Behold, the bane of human existence

Behold! The bane of human existence

That’s a grossly oversimplified explanation, but one that does not need to be stretched very much to be justified. Agriculture brought with it sedentary lifestyle. Once the dispute for land and water began, the motives for warfare became unavoidable. The problem is that agriculture is just unsustainable. The most sustainable strategy for a peaceful civilization is that of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The practice of hunting and gathering left very little impact on the environment it took place in. Because of this, the environment in which it took place was able to provide sufficiently enough sustenance for the groups in that area, and when it was no longer a reliable food source the people would pick up and move to another location. The soil was left with little change and animals were hunted in reasonable numbers.

Most people nowadays would consider this to be the lifestyle of a lesser type of civilization with little value, due to contemporary American society revolving around a sedentary style of living. However, it was these very types of societies that were able to outlive Mesopotamia by hundreds of years. Mesopotamia has been nicknamed the Cradle of Civilization and is often times praised for its innovative and intelligent system for irrigation that it developed. This system had fatal flaws though, in that it caused salt to accumulate in the soil and continuously slowed the quality and quantity of crops that could be harvested each season. It goes to show that even one of the most prominent of previous civilizations was not immune to the unsustainable nature of sedentary life.

The Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Cresent

The Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Cresent

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time which warfare became more of a norm among societies, but it seems to have become common practice about 5,000 years ago when states began to emerge. States emerge with the development of political units, which are in turn developed as sedentary life and agriculture is established. With the creation of agriculture, there has to be someone in charge, in order to oversee the cultivation and this leads to the village caring for this figure and providing tribute. This trend continues as more political figures are created.

Warfare is not a common practice for hunter-gatherers. They are able to live a peaceful existence because there is little rivalry or even interaction among foreign groups. Without a sedentary life or a political hierarchy caused by agriculture the motivation of “status” for citizens disappears, lessening internal conflicts. Territorial  disputes also disappear, for nomadic groups acknowledge that they hold no claim to land. It seems that the more that the past gatherer lifestyle is compared alongside contemporary modern societies, the more the former feels like the most rational option. Reverting back to more more sustainable style would involve changing the lives that we’re accustomed to, and for many that’s a process near impossible.

– Bernardo

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Behind the Scenes Archaeology

Who would have thought that walking around aimlessly for hours in the woods is the easy and quick part of archaeology?  All in all, the stereotype that archaeologists spend most of their time in the field excavating and collecting artifacts is completely untrue.  Previously I had just accepted this to be fact from readings and lecture concerning the intricacies of archaeological research. However, recently I’ve been able to experience the full brunt of the life of an archaeologist through lab, and it is not an easy one.

the first image that comes up upon Googling "Archaeology"

the first image that comes up upon Googling “Archaeology”

Lab work is an imperative part of archaeology, providing for much of the actual results and findings that occur. Rarely is a piece ever just picked up in the field, examined right then and there, then accepted as fact and put away. In lab the artifacts are observed, recorded, sorted, and in some cases put together again from tiny fragments. So, lab work comes with many more subtle complications than field work. In the field the general dangers of spending so much time performing strenuous work in the outdoors are present, and can take an exhausting toll on the body. Similarly, lab work can take a toll on the mind, as classification systems and identification becomes increasingly difficult to do once the artifact has been through a dozen hands, some of which might be mislabeled or broken.

have fun sorting that...

have fun sorting that…

The images that come to mind in thinking of archaeology are mostly that of field work but the meat of the field of anthropology is lab work. The lab work I performed was more than anything rebagging and assorting hastily labeled and disorganized artifacts with a colourful history of tug and pull. They had belonged to private hands, and was to be possibly donated to a museum, but as the bill ranked up for the archaeological work to be done on the artifacts(evidently archaeology is not for the frugal of heart) ownership became complicated up until the point where they are just being borrowed indefinitely for the time being. This contributed to the clutter of the artifacts worked on. Thusly, my initial sentiments toward lab work was that it seemed like some cruel joke, bagging and rebagging bags upon bags of stuff that was sometimes more dirt than artifact, and squinting at a tiny bone for ten minutes to figure out whether it belonged to a bird or an annoyingly small rabbit. Once you get into though, the work itself is incredibly simple. Half the time spent in lab was sifting through a pile of similar centuries old objects and playing One of These Things is Not Like the Other. This becomes the essential component of lab, recognizing when an artifact needs to be classified separately than the material it was grouped with before, and vice versa merging groups of items together for the sake of coherence in sorting. Although archaeology is thought of many times as the dangerous and exciting field work of the likes of Indiana Jones, the work that goes into labeling it all is the vital step that gives an artifact meaning, putting it into context of where it was before and how it played into the lives of the people there years ago.

– Bernardo


Ashmore, Wendy and Robert J. Sharer. Discovering Our Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology. New York: McGraw- Hill, 2012. Print.

Columbus Day Critique

In this day and age, Christopher Columbus is known by most Americans as the brave and tireless explorer who made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to discover the New World. It’s a common perception, seeing as how the earliest mentions of the explorer originate in elementary school most often, and paint him as a heroic figure that civilized the Americas. Well, as it would turn out, not only is this view point incredibly wrong, it’s downright insulting to many Native Americans, some of which have actually gone as far as to equate Columbus with Hitler. The issue that is taken against the typically renown explorer is that the Native American people feel that the celebration of Columbus day is in a way a celebration of the mass genocide against their people that the European colonist brought about. Now obviously, this was not the intention of anyone planning the parades or celebrations. However, in the movie Unsettling Columbus Day it is clearly shown that the intentions of one group may come off as offensive to another. Particularly, the apparent embracement of Columbus as a cultural figure in the Italian community upsets the Native Americans, for to them the treatment of Columbus and the explorers that came with him was nothing to be celebrated. For this reason, the Native Americans gather every year to protest the Columbus Day parade in Columbus, Colorado where it was first established.


The Native American community is hurt that almost no regard is given to their sentiments on such a day that has a very significant part of their own history behind it. A fair compromise perhaps would be to include the Native peoples in deciding what should be done concerning the day, and involve them more proactively in the archaeological anaylisis of the history of Columbus. This process would take the form of indigenous archaeology. Indigenous archaeology is the form of archaeology in which indigenous people are involved in the excavation and care of the culture and artifacts of their ancestors. By neglecting the Native people’s concerns and their outreach to assist in more fully developing a coherent and correct history of Christopher Columbus for all, one big wave of ignorance is formed in which protesters are seemingly angry with no direction, as seen in the documentary, and parade goers are insulted anyone would ruin their fun. Through indigenous archaeology, the Native Americans can settle the offensive material away from the festive, and establish a more fairly balanced telling of Columbus for even textbooks.


Still Waters Run Deep

              On the surface, the calm exterior of archaeology is that of scrapping away at an already eroding mass of earth, with the hopes of revealing remnants of ancient pottery or jewelry. Contrary to Hollywood’s idea of archaeology and exploration, most people would be more incline to assume that the life of an archaeologist is lacking in glamour. However, within the profession there is still adventure to be found, especially by the likes of Joseph Zarzynski.

             Zarzynski is an archaeologist in the purest sense, studying and excavating the hardest to reach areas in search of answers to better understand previous life. Although the life of Zarr, as he is referred to by his friends and equally admirable crew, is not exactly the movie style action-adventure that is implied, it is picturesque. Bateaux Divers

              Zarr and his crew dive deep into Lake George here to better observe a long lost ship wreck, the 1758 Land Tortoise Radeau. Here really is where the beauty of an archaeological project may be found. It is where the mundane procedures of a respectful and well-thought out excavation meet the sheer excitement and wonder of identifying and examining this lost scene. The tedious process of safety procedures such as decompression stops and archaeological necessities like mapping the area culminate with the awe of investigating such a fantastic wreck to create something that everyone can care appreciate.

                What becomes attractive to those who can appreciate the archaeological significance of such a find such as archaeology students and Zarr’s fellow archaeologists is the history that is preserved through the rotting wood and creaky boards of the ship. It is said that what is written down in history is that which is meant to be known, but archaeological finds reveal that which people did not want future historians to discover. After much mapping together of the sunken radeau ship and research of what the area was years ago, Zarr’s team was able to successfully construct a mosaic of the structure, using photographs taken underwater alongside the more modern tool of Photoshop.

Radeau Mosaic

                The efforts of the crew eventually added to the formative historical analysis that the ship was purposefully sunk in an effort to preserve it for later use, but settled lower than intended. This was described in soldier’s journals, but the condition and fate of the radeau that was left was something that could only be exhumed through the scientific processes of archaeology.

                In addition to the sole scientific and historical benefits of such a feat, the archaeological project also displayed to the public the importance of such work. The general public of the Lake George Beach area now has a better understanding of their origins, and an enriched sense of identity with the addition of the wreck into the National Registrar of Historic Places. The undertaking of the archaeological excavation of the Land Tortoise ultimately served as a link between the archaeology of real life and movies, and of the mundane and fantastic.

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image 2 url: 2013. The Land Tortoise Underwater Preserve Site – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 Oct 2013] 2013. Joe Zarzynski | Lake George Mirror Magazine. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 Oct 2013]. 2013. Shipwrecks: Lake George Radeau | Vince Capone Marine Science and Adventure. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 Oct 2013].