How Archaeology Can Help Us Understand the Homeless

Homeless people exist in most urban areas; according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the state of California alone has roughly 134,000 homeless people in it––more than some countries (United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 2017). We don’t really like to think too much about them––we may give them a bit of our sympathy or maybe just look the other way––but they do exist, and they are indeed human, just like us.

Larry Zimmerman studies artifacts from common homeless resting places in order to get people to understand the homeless in cities. By investigating these sites, Zimmerman, assisted by a student, Jessica Welch, who was homeless for a period of time, determined that the modern day homeless is likened to an “urban nomad,” as they are extraordinarily adaptable (Zimmerman 2016). Many homeless people “panhandle” for money, their locations being spread out and diverse within the city. Welch explained this situation:

This image depicts a camp site scattered with essentials and valuables, which are frequently discarded as trash by city officials.

“You develop coping mechanisms––a fight or flight response–– when you are homeless that are probably not appropriate in mainstream culture. You get increasingly defensive and desperate. This is just one of the many things that make it difficult for homeless people to re-enter normal society. We have to understand that a goal of creating more affordable housing units is not enough; we need a complete social safety net, including better treatment and counseling options, and plenty of compassion and understanding on the part of the community” (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis 2008).

While more affordable housing units is an excellent start to decreasing the rate of homelessness in cities, we need to actually understand the people we actively shun. While investigating the sites, Zimmerman and Welch discovered an abnormally large amount of hotel shampoo and conditioner, which was left unused. Why would people without a reliable access to water have a need for stolen hotel shampoo and conditioner? We also give them cans of food, but no can openers. This just shows an ignorance about homelessness; we give the homeless what we think they need, but not what they actually want or need. Some picture homeless people as uneducated, when in reality, many of them can and love to read. They also own many priceless objects, such as pictures of their family, or medications; these are frequently thrown out by city officials. Some consider themselves “home free,” as they are liberated from the confines of mortgages and rules.

Though we think of them as “homeless” many actually consider themselves “home free,” as they are free of the constraints that come with a house.

Perhaps this archaeology of homelessness could educate us about what the homeless are really like and what they really need. Charities and shelters could help them more than ever before; they now know not to waste money on cosmetic supplies and can now focus their efforts on essentials. It is best to stop treating these homeless people like lepers––they are not invisible and they do not plague and pollute the streets of cities. A homeless person is just like you or me: a person––a human being that is worth understanding.



Albertson, Nicole.

November 2009  Archaeology of the Homeless. Archaeology Volume 62 Number 6.

Zimmerman, Larry J., Singleton, Courtney, and Welch, Jessica.

August 2010  Activism and creating a translational archaeology of homelessness. World Archaeology Volume 42, 443-454.

Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.

November 2008  Archaeology of Homelessness accessed December

1, 2018.

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

2017  Homelessness Statistics by State[]=1500&fn[]=2900&fn[]=6100&fn[]=10100&fn[]=14100&all_types=true&year=2017&state=CA accessed December 2, 2018.


Additional Readings:

Politics of Homelessness in the United States

U.K.’s Homelessness Problem Is Growing, and Spreading, Report Finds

State of Homelessness

Bosnian Pyramids: The Influence and Consequences of Pseudo-Archaeology

In 2005, Semir Osmanagich was convinced that he had made one of the biggest finds in archaeological history. He claimed that some of the hills nearby the city of Visoko in Bosnia and Herzegovina were actually pyramids built by an unidentified ancient society (figure 1). If this was true, they would be the tallest step pyramids in the world, with the largest, dubbed the Pyramid of the Sun by Osmanagich, measuring 720 feet tall, which is about 240 feet taller than the Pyramid of Khufu, the largest pyramid in Egypt. He also believed them to be the oldest pyramids in the world, that they were built 12,000 years ago, meaning that they preceded the construction of the oldest Egyptian pyramid by over 8,000 years (Woodard 2009).


Figure 1: A pyramidal hill located right outside the town of Visoko, thought of by many in Bosnia to be an ancient pyramid covered in earth and vegetation.

Other than the shape of the hills resembling that of pyramids, Osmanagich had no clear archaeological evidence to back up his claim. The European Association of Archaeologists even called the pyramids “A cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public” and labeled his theory unscientific and all his findings either natural features or artifacts that came from the groups of people that have lived in the valley since the Greco-Roman period (Keats 2018). Osmanagich further discredited his own case by making farfetched speculations about the pyramids, like how they were made out of a concrete that is better than what is used today and how they allowed people to communicate via torsion fields while also improving their health and lengthening their lifespans (Keats 2018).


Figure 2: One of the many shops in Visoko benefitting from the influx of tourists.

Despite everything that was working against Omanagich’s conjectures, they were eagerly embraced by much of Bosnia, including many government officials, resulting in support of the theory being tied into Bosnian nationalism, with any skepticism branded as anti-Bosnian (Woodard 2009). This is not surprising, seeing as accepting this glamorous addition to the country’s history could be a convenient distraction from the relatively recent genocide that Bosnia is still recovering from; it was something people could be proud of.

In addition to raising the country’s spirits, the pyramid theory also boosted the area’s economy. Tourists, including many from outside Bosnia, began flocking to the pyramidal hills, buying souvenirs (figure 2), taking tours of the area and even taking part in the excavations (Crosby 2017). The problem with all of this, other than feeding people claims not backed by science as the truth and benefiting monetarily from it, is that artifacts are being found by Osmanagich and his volunteer diggers. These artifacts, left behind by the various peoples that are known to have occupied the area, are having their contexts destroyed. Because of the untrained workforce and lack of documentation, Osmanagich’s attempts to prove his vision of the area’s history is erasing whatever the actual history is.


Additional Readings


Works Cited

Crosby, Alan

  2017   Whether Real or a Hoax, Bosnian ‘Pyramids’ Bringing Concrete Benefits to Town. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty., accessed December 1, 2018.

Keats, Jonathon

  2018   Revisiting the Bosnian Pyramid Scheme. Discover., accessed December 1, 2018.

Woodard, Colin

  2009   The Mystery of Bosnia’s Ancient Pyramids. Smithsonian., accessed December 1, 2018.



Figure 1

Figure 2

The Two Sides of Coyote Assisted Border Crossing

Wikipedia defines Coyote as “a colloquial Mexican-Spanish term referring to the practice of people-smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border”. In border crossing, the coyote assists a migrant in crossing for a fee, which is usually fairly costly, and the costs are continuing to increase (Campoy 2017). The coyote uses their knowledge of the border and security to make money off of the people hoping to cross and come to America.

Ramon, a coyote from Reynosa, Mexico, smuggles people from from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande to the U.S. side. He makes up to 4 trips across the border per week, and has been doing so for almost 6 years. Ramon charges between seven and ten thousand dollars for the whole trip (Bonmati 2016). This money is then partially transferred to the drug cartels, who have control of parts of the border and help the migrants across, as long as they are paid.

This graphic illustrates the increase in pricing of using coyotes to assist in crossing the border.


Some coyotes are known to scam migrants, promising them a full crossing and leaving them before the trip is over, or often overcharging them for a small part in the journey. Ramon noted that the worst coyotes are the ones who require a full payment upfront. He says these are the ones who are least likely to really take the migrant where they want to go. Instead, the coyotes who are not scam-artists have the migrants travel part by part. For Ramon, the job is to get the migrants across the border, but not necessarily help them mich before and after. Those parts are another coyote’s specialty. Coyotes who promise to take the migrants the full way are usually scams, according to Ramon.

Unlike many coyotes in the business, Ramon actually cares about the people he is helping. He promises them that he will try again if they fail on the first try, and he also says he will try again if they are deported once in the U.S. All he asks is that if they are caught, that his clients do not identify him by name.

A photograph of Ramon from behind, as he does not want to be identified.

Ramon’s contribution to human border smuggling is helping people who need to get to America. He treats his clients as people, preparing them psychologically and physically before the journey, and helping them get to their destination to the greatest extent that he can. This sort of coyote work is beneficial, and can prevent the huge numbers of deaths that occur while migrants are crossing the border. But, the coyotes who scam the migrants for money are only hindering the system, and making it more unsafe to try and cross. If a migrant is able to pay, having someone like Ramon to work with seems like the best and safest option for crossing the border.

Additional Content:

“Inside The Hidden World Of Immigrant Smuggling.” NPR, NPR, 19 Apr. 2012,

Noticias, Univision. “Animation: How a Coyote Smuggles Hundreds of Immigrants.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Dec. 2016,


Sources Cited:

Bonmati, Damia S.

December 21, 2016   A day in the life of a coyote: smuggling migrants from Mexico to the United States. Univision News

Campoy, Ana and Christopher Groskopf

March 17, 2017   The Trump tax: Human smugglers at the US-Mexico border are jacking up prices.  Quartz


Images Cited:

Readdressing the Myth of Ghost Towns Through Contemporary Archeology

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries towns in the American West were rapidly created and subsequently abandoned. These towns have largely been ignored by historians and are just beginning to be studied by contemporary archeologists. By studying ghost towns, archeologists can tells us how and why this phenomenon occurred and provide valuable insight into what causes a settlement to fail. This is just one of many examples of how archeology is still relevant today.

The town of Frisco, Utah was studied by archeologists in 2008. At the site they find many artifacts including tobacco pipes and remains of a collapsed mine. Using these artifacts they were able to determine the Frisco was a moderately impoverished mining town that consisted mostly of men with few women and children.

In a recent archaeological study of ghost towns across Utah, Arizona and Nevada, researches excavated 104 sites. These archeologists were then able to compare and contrast the process of abandonment as well as aspects of the lifestyle in each of these towns through their respective assemblages, specifically, Newhouse and Frisco, two ghost towns in Utah. (Peyton 2012) At the Newhouse site, archeologists primarily found food storage containers and other domestic items including children’s toys and hairbrushes, indicating the presence of women. They also found remnants of a school building. In contrast at the Frisco site there were many tobacco pipes and alcohol containers and very few artifacts that indicated the presence of women. An overall site reconnaissance survey at Frisco showed evidence of mining and that the town was likely abandoned due to a collapsed mine while at the Newhouse site a complex irrigation system and dried wells allowed archaeologists to come to the conclusion that the town had been abandoned due to water shortage.

In contrast when archeologists excavated Newhouse Utah they found many domestic items including women hairbrushes and children’s toys indicating that there were many more families moving to this town. This helps us to rethink the stereotypical image of a frontier town.

Like many contemporary archeologies, the archeology of western ghost towns can be used to dispute common misconceptions about these abandoned places. For example, not all ghost towns were mining towns as another team of archaeologist found that only approximately 45% of the towns they identified as ghost towns centered around meaning as their primary economic function. (Hardesty 2010)  Others were religious settlements, railroad towns, military outposts and in the Pacific Northwest these towns are primarily associated with fishing and logging.

Another common misconception is that all ghost towns were abandoned because whatever they were mining ran out. (Ling 2013) Archeology has shown that the abandonment of the majority of ghost towns was a multicausal combination of social factors coupled with the overuse of natural resources, most notably water scarcity. (Peyton 2012) This collapse due to the exploitation of natural resources serves as a warning for us today and prevents us from blaming the failures of these towns on purely economic factors.

The archeology of ghost towns allows us to challenge many ideas we have about the west during this period of time such as the glorification of these mining towns as well as the idea that they simply popped up one day and then crashed the next. (Buckholtz 2015) Archeology has revealed that the decline of these towns is much more complex and took place over years. By studying this archeology of abandonment, archaeologist gain valuable insight to what challenges may turn our modern cities into the ghost towns of tomorrow.


Buckholtz, Sarah

   2015 Authentic Wild West Ghost Town: Bodie, CA. Two Lanes Blog. August 11

Hardesty, Donald L.

    2010 Mining Archeology in the American West. Digital Commons. University of Nebraska

    Press- Sample Books and Chapters, Spring.

Ling, Peter

   Ghost Towns of America. Geotab Blog

Peyton, Paige Margaret

    2012 The Archaeology of Abandonment: Ghost Towns of the American West. Leicester

    Research Archive: Home. School of Archaeology and Ancient History, November 1.

Image citations:

Bezzant, Bob

Newhouse, Beaver UT. Ghost Towns of America

Gabler, Michael

2018 Frisco: A Utah Ghost Town. Urban Ghosts. September 18

Additional Reading:

They Bought a Ghost Town for $1.4 Million. Now They Want to Revive It.


A Soviet Ghost Town in the Arctic Circle, Pyramiden Stands Alone


The Archaeology of Settlement Abandonment in Middle America


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 –

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,

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