The Harmful Stereotypes about Homeless People

Often people misinterpret and even forget about the homeless population of America. Throughout class we have talked about how archaeology and anthropology challenge stereotypical beliefs about homeless people. In all, archaeology can explain how homeless people are more significant and normal than people think. In MTV’s documentary, “Inocente”, the main character does not give up to the helplessness of her surroundings and is persistent to become a world-class artist. When she was a child her Dad beat her and one day he beat her so hard her mother called the cops. The next day he was deported to Mexico. According to Inocente, this is when her homeless journey started. It is not her fault that she is homeless and like many homeless people, she refuses to let society define her. In this case, archaeology can be used to examine Inocente’s experiences in order to realize how much she needs to move around and how she’s able to survive. The documentary reveals that Inocente’s dream to become an influential painter motivates her to live and migrate from homeless shelter to homeless.

Inocente expressing her passion for art by painting  this materpiece called "Masters of Disguise"

Inocente expressing her passion for art by painting this materpiece called “Masters of Disguise”

The one thing that puzzles me is why do many Americans assume that homeless people don’t have any talent or intuition. In the documentary this wasn’t directly mentioned but Inocente’s story made me wonder why do many people believe that homeless people are worthless and loony. These certain stereotypes help destroy the identities of homeless people like Inocente. An organization called Rethink Homelessness strives to challenge these negative stereotypes about homeless people just like the MTV documentary does. The campaign is centered on a documentary, which is about homeless people living in Florida. The campaign’s film emphasizes how homeless people can be very talented and unique. The film doesn’t tell the story of how these homeless people are homeless but instead shows the homeless people holding cardboard signs with facts written about themselves. The campaign uses these facts to destroy stereotypes that note homeless people as forlorn and proves that these people are talented and apt. Organizations like Rethink Homelessness and MTV are changing common misconceptions about homeless people and are further humanizing their identety in society (they are normal people!). So next time when you see the local hobo walking from street to street looking for shelter, don’t just assume that he or she is hopeless and nutty.

Homeless man who you used to play in the NFL

Homeless man who you used to play in the NFL

Just one of many young college graduates who are homeless

Just one of many young college graduates who are homeless


The documentary: “Inocente”

Further Reading:

Video: “Cardboard Stories | Homeless in Orlando”

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Rare Indian Burial Ground Demolished

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

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

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

Photo of after the site was repaved over

After the site was repaved over

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


One of the homes built over the burial site

One of the homes built over the burial site




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What Exactly is Punk Archaeology and is it Worthwhile?

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

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


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

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

Up close photo of game cover

Up close photo of game cover



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What Exactly Can Knapping Tell Us?

Alaina Wilson, the speaker in the Villard room, talked about the similarities of Native American stoned tools from New York and Alaska. She compared different stoned tools and analyzed their use for the different regions. What really surprised me was that she never mentioned if the tools were made by indirect or direct percussion methods. In my opinion, this information  would have been useful in determining what type of culture the knappers lived in. What also surprised me was the fact that the speaker only talked about technological similarities of the two societies.

In Pierre M. Desrosiers’s book, The Emergence of Pressure Blade Making: From Origin to Modern Experimentation, it’s evident that knapping techniques reveal information about preexisting cultures in Central Asia. Specifically, pressure knapping was present in Central Asia during the beginning of the Holocene. Desrosiers notes that depending on the culture, tools were either made using a short crutch or a long crutch. According to Desrosiers, Central Asian civilizations adopted the technique through cultural contact with the Far East and from migration of bearers of the technique from Siberia, Mongolia, Xinjiang. From this information, different methods of knapping can describe the influencing factors of cultures and can demonstrate how cultures evolve through technological advances. Thus I believe that knapping techniques can always describe technological and cultural traits of a society.

Picture of a man using a short crutch knapping tool

Picture of a man using a short crutch knapping tool (Pressure Knapping)

What I did learn from Alaina was that shock waves are sent through the stone during the process of knapping. Furthermore, Professor Lucy Johnson flint-knapping demonstration in class helped me visualize how flakes are produced. I noticed when the angle of contact was just slightly off, her stone would not form the way she wanted it to. Professor Johnson also enlightened the class that flake debris can help archaeologists reenact the knapping done and can indicate what type of tool was being made.

The analyzing of flake debris helped the archaeologist in the study compare the types of tools that were produced. After watching Professor Johnson knap and listening to Alaina, I was curious about the concept of flake debris sizes created from flint-knapping. I found out that there’s a relationship between the weight of crafted tools and the flake debris generated from knapping. According to archaeologist Michael Shott, flake debris can help determine original tool weight and can show the depletion of the original tool.

In all, Alaina Wilson’s hypothesis was proven by the discovery of similar weight distribution of the flakes from both sites, the fact that the stones went through feather termination, and the artifacts from both of the sites showed similarities in the late stages of the knapping process.


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Short Crutch Demonstration (Pressure Knapping): (Flake removed at 3:00)


Lucky Finds at Lake George

Archaeologists uncovered ten thousand year old Native American artifacts in Lake George, proving that the area was one of the earliest occupied sites in New York. Some of these artifacts included projectile arrowheads from the French and Indian War and sharp edged rocks, which were possibly used to skin animals or chop up raw materials. The archaeologists were sent out to find artifacts from the French and Indian War and eventually they found artifacts dating much earlier than that time period. The team of archaeologists did this by first mapping out their excavation site. Instead of conducting the excavation right on Lake George’s present shoreline, the team of archaeologists began digging a few hundred feet from the beach. The archaeologists chose this site because it was estimated that in prehistoric times, this area would have been the shoreline. Interestingly enough, some of the artifacts found did not initially originate in the Adirondack region. From this observation archaeologist Christina Rieth observed that these people who left these artifacts behind were hunters and gatherers who spent time in what was once an area of wetlands. Rieth said, “It would be kind of a transit group, people who would have come here year after year for fishing or other types of activities around the lake.” She believes that these artifacts came from outside the region or were traded for other tools. According to her one of the stone pieces came from an eastern part of Pennsylvania and some of the others could have come from Central New York.


A spear point found at the dig site is estimated to be 8,000 years old.

John Hart, the State Museum director of research and collections, also mentioned that these artifacts aren’t from a permanent settlement. He believes that these artifacts came from a band of nomads who were in search for migrating birds, deer, and other raw materials. Both Hart and Rieth said the artifacts appear to be from an era much earlier than that of famous Native American tribes. The incredible aspect about these finds was that archaeologists were assigned to do a routine inspection as a part of the states’ plans to resurface the roads near Lake George. So there was a bit of luck for the archaeologist to find these findings since they had no systematic plan of what to look for specifically. The only things these archaeologists were expected to find were artifacts from the French and Indian war. The main point that did help was that they were digging at a spot, which was once the shoreline for Lake George. In all, the dig became a lucky success even though there was no initial plan and project to specifically find certain artifacts from a single time period.


Two archaeologists are in the process of collecting soil and dirt in a bucket and then through sifting locating the artifacts.

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Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, and Practice. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2010. Print.

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