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

The Domestication of Species and the Effect on Human Life

A crucial part of human history is the development of taming animals to help in daily life, rather than as prey to be hunted or a predator to be avoided. While the topic is not heavily focused on, domestication of animals was just as important as the domestication and farming of plants, because the animals were needed to be able to work the land and were a more reliable source of food than the harvest that may not come.

An estimated timeline of animal domestication
Saey, Tina Hesman. “DNA Evidence Is Rewriting Domestication Origin Stories.” Science News, Science News, 2 Aug. 2018,

Domestication happened at different points in all corners of the world, but animals were all domesticated for a reason, even if that is not their purpose now. Dogs were domesticated to assist in hunting, oxen to pull heavy loads, and farm animals like cows, horses, goats, and sheep for food and milk. While some roles are the same, dogs are no longer primarily used for hunting, horses developed into a means of transportation, and goats have recently been used to eat unwanted plants! Why wasn’t every animal domesticated? The animals that were domesticated usually had flexible diets that didn’t require much work on the human’s part, manageable temperaments, changeable social hierarchy, and would be easily bred in captivity. For example, it wouldn’t be very helpful to domesticate meerkats who have a strict social hierarchy and a specific diet along with a lack of purpose under human control.

The evolution of cattle domestication
“Domesticated Animals.” Archäologisches Freilichtmuseum Oerlinghausen, Archaeological Open-Air Museum Oerlinghausen,

Domesticating a species involves human interference in the animals’ breeding patterns. Dogs were domesticated from wolves by selecting the wolf pups that were likely the least aggressive, most obedient, had smaller jaws, or a certain coloring depending on the culture that was domesticating them. This select breading has created the entirely new species of dog, separate from wolf. Domestication also affects the animals brought into human life. Archeologists can usually tell if certain animals are domesticated based on their bones Domesticated horses and cattle used to pull heavily loads for farm work often have osteoarthritis or leg strain that would not be there otherwise.

Animal domestication changed a great deal of human society. It allowed for more permanent settlement as cattle provided a reliable food and supply source. With settlement and supplies came population growth and density and a development of communities that worked to provide everything needed for the people around, even if they weren’t of direct relation as was the previous custom. A downside to domestication was the spread of diseases between humans and animals that would have otherwise jumped between species. Pig flu and transfer of parasites are just a few examples of humans and animals getting a little too close. But without domestication humans may well still be wandering hunter-gatherers.


Further Reading:

History of the Domestication of Animals




Bahn, Paul and Colin Renfrew 2010  Archaeology Essentials. 2nd Edition Thames & Hudson              —–x—-Inc., New York, NY.

“Domesticated Animals.” Archäologisches Freilichtmuseum Oerlinghausen, Archaeological Open-Air Museum Oerlinghausen,

Lear, Jessica. “Our Furry Friends: the History of Animal Domestication.” Journal of Young Investigators, 17 Feb. 2012,

National Geographic Society. “Domestication.” National Geographic Society, 9 Oct. 2012,

Saey, Tina Hesman. “DNA Evidence Is Rewriting Domestication Origin Stories.” Science News, Science News, 2 Aug. 2018,