SAA 2015: A Session Honoring Ruth Tringham

I’m extremely pleased to announce the session that I have organized for the 80th meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, April 15-19, 2015:

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Lithics Cowgirl, Household Archaeologist, Digital Doyenne: A Session Dedicated to Ruth Tringham

Throughout her incredibly active, extraordinarily creative career as an archaeologist, Ruth Tringham has transformed experimental lithic technology, re-animated “faceless blobs” with her Neolithic narratives, and explored digital technology in archaeology from punch cards to virtual worlds. With field projects at Selevac and Opovo-Ugar Bajbuk, Serbia; Podgoritsa, Bulgaria; Çatalhöyük, Turkey; and the San Francisco Presidio, California, Tringham investigated fire and burning in household contexts, mudbrick architecture, senses of place, multimedia-driven fieldwork and embodied multisensorial interpretations of the past. Tringham taught at University College London, Harvard, and then at the University of California, Berkeley, fostering innovative pedagogical techniques and cultivating the careers of her students over 45 years of teaching. Her fearless, passionate, fun-loving approach to life fuels her research as well as her life outside of academia, as she is an accomplished singer, dramatist, kayaker and (would-be) bee-keeper. This session celebrates Tringham’s wide-ranging impact on lithics, household archaeology, feminist practice, and digital archaeology with presentations from her colleagues and students throughout the years.

Discussants:

Ruth Tringham
Ian Hodder
Julian Richards

Participants:

Margaret Conkey
Michael Shanks
Peter Biehl
Henrietta Moore
Mirjana Stevanovic
Lori Hager
Michael Ashley
Barbara Voytek
Colleen Morgan
Douglass Bailey
Angela Piccini
Steve Mills

Ian Hodder told me yesterday that he has been collecting good stories about Ruth–it should be a lot of fun!

Fossil Hunting with Paleontologists in Saltwick Bay

 

About a month ago I got an email. Any archaeologists who were interested could tag along on a trip to Saltwick Bay on the northeast coast of England to hunt for fossils. The trip was arranged as part of the Symposium on Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, an annual conference that was being held at King’s Manor this year.

 

Going fossil hunting with a bunch of paleontologists? Heck yeah! A month later I was neck-deep in deadlines, but decided to go anyway and do some writing on the bus. We scrambled along the shoreline and picked up a bunch of fossils.

Dean Lomax, Assistant Curator of Paleontology at the Doncaster Museum and author of ‘Dinosaurs of the British Isles‘ was along to answer my silly questions about what I’d found.

It was interesting to watch the Paleontologists in action, smashing up rocks, wrapping samples in tissue paper and putting them into plastic bags.

 

There were even a few possible dinosaur tracks! I felt pretty good about my fossil spotting after doing a fair bit of archaeological survey, but I totally missed these.

What is more interesting than dinosaurs? The debitage left behind by people looking for dinosaurs, obviously.

It was a good day out–thanks to the fantastic paleontologists who invited us along!

 

Origins of Doha Re-Photography Featured on CNN

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I was happy to see that a mash-up that did a while ago for the Origins of Doha project was featured on the special Qatar Foundation section of CNN. The photo is near the Souq Waqif, and we located and re-shot the photograph using one of the few landmarks left in that area, a small minaret visible above and to the left of the men walking toward the camera. The black and white photograph comes from the Bibby and Glob expedition to Doha.

I posted some of my initial attempts here:

http://middlesavagery.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/rephotography-in-doha/
http://middlesavagery.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/take-two-rephotography-in-doha/

You can see the full feature about the Origins of Doha Project, as linked from the project webpage HERE, and includes the print versions of the article in Arabic and English.

From the Morning

I really should be writing something else. I really should be writing at least a half-dozen other things, all looming, lurking, people expecting.

When I was a little girl, my parents had a record player, which is not unusual. I remember laying on my little round stomach, using a record as something hard beneath my paper to color on. I’d draw and draw, on white paper, on newspaper, on anything. But the records peeked out from behind the paper, and I remember a few vividly:

summer_beachboys

The Beach Boys, Endless Summer. It was a gatefold, so it was thick and had mysterious images inside. It also had the song “California Girls” which I liked, because I was told that I was born in California, though I didn’t remember it. I know all of these songs by heart, but I never owned or listened to the album after my childhood.

surrealistic

Unlike Endless Summer, I don’t remember any of these song, but I remember trying to spell out the title. For many years I didn’t even know it was a Jefferson Airplane album, I actually thought it was the Surrealistic Pillows.

Nick_Drake-Pink_Moon

For some reason, the cover for Nick Drake’s Pink Moon was indelibly embossed on my brain. It captured my imagination more than anything else–was that a clown-tooth? Was that a stamp? What are these adult symbols? I wanted to know what it meant, dammit. But like the Jefferson Airplane album, I didn’t remember any of the music.

Happily, I re-discovered Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, and listened to it obsessively while I wrote my dissertation. It was a lonely time, a time for obsessions, ritualized routines and the life of the mind. There are streets in Berkeley that I will never be able to walk down again without hearing one of my favorite songs in the world, From the Morning.

A little girl, coloring. A woman, writing her dissertation. Go play the game that you learned from the morning. 

I decided to buy it on vinyl again.

EAA Istanbul: A Blast from the (Çatalhöyük) Past

Tea on the Ferry across the Bosphorus, taken in 2006 (!)

Tea on the Ferry across the Bosphorus, taken in 2006 (!)

For the first time ever, I’m attending the European Association for Archaeology (EAA) meetings, 10-14 September in Istanbul. Istanbul is probably my favorite city in the world, so full of chaos and color, heady intellectualism, romanticism and a past that stretches deep beneath the Bosphorus. I don’t think my Turkophilia sits all that well with my Turkish friends, who have to struggle with the conservatism of Erdoğan’s government and have to fight in the streets to protect themselves from his police state. I worry about my friends in Turkey, I worry about Turkey’s slide into militancy, but I also believe in them and their passionate resistance and refusal to be silenced.

So my joy to be returning to Turkey is somewhat tempered by the ongoing struggles of the Gezi protesters and Erdoğan’s move from prime minister to president, with the accompanying fears of a cult of personality that will elevate him into an autocratic regime.

Whew–after that fairly heavy-handed politicizing, I’ll be presenting in two sessions, both about previous (slightly old & moldy) work that I did regarding Çatalhöyük that I need to publish.

granny_second_life

First is a paper:  The Life and Death of Virtual Çatalhöyük in Second Life

Abstract: From 2007 until 2011, OKAPI Island in Second Life hosted a virtual reconstruction of the Neolithic village of Çatalhöyük. This simulation included reconstructions of current excavations, past and present lifeways at the site, a virtual museum, and hosted several forums and open days. Using the reconstruction we hosted a mixed reality session,filmed machinima, held university lectures, and collaborative virtual building sessions. OKAPI Island in Second Life was an incredibly fertile proving ground for re-thinking our assumptions about archaeological interpretation and outreach.When Linden Labs, the makers of Second Life, decided to end the educational discount that made OKAPI Island affordable, a team of students and professors at the University of California, Berkeley made the effort to preserve the virtual reconstruction by record, a process that is familiar to archaeologists. After the “death” of a virtual reconstruction of an archaeological site, what lessons can be learned about digital materiality and preservation? How can we use the example of Çatalhöyük in Second Life to inform our future reconstructions? What is next for collaborative virtual work in archaeology?

Since my fairly effusive 2009 work in Archaeologies, (Re)Building in Second Life: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology, I wanted to add a coda–so many virtual reconstructions and digital projects are built, published, and we are left to puzzle out what happened later, so I wanted to wrap up all the work that we’d done and the eventual fate of the reconstruction.

I’m also very happy to be putting together a poster with my good friend and colleague Jason Quinlan:

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Title: Fifty Years of Visualization at Çatalhöyük

Abstract: Çatalhöyük, a spectacular archaeological site in central Turkey, has been the subject of visual interpretation for half a century. From Ian Todd’s photography performed during James Mellaart’s 1960s excavations to Ian Hodder’s work since 1993, a vast visual record has accumulated of over 100,000 images. The collection records not only site excavation and finds but also embedded changes recorded in the archive’s collective “metadata” in both technical and theoretical approaches to site photography over time.

In this poster we explore the changes in technology, methodology and theory at the site as seen in the changing modes of visualization at Çatalhöyük. Through quantitative and qualitative analyses of the visual record, we provide insights regarding the contrasting archaeological processes at the site. Finally, we look to the future of visual interpretation at Çatalhöyük.

I’m happy to finally be able to draw a line underneath my work at Çatalhöyük and get more of my dissertation research out the door!

Gesture & Clay: Sunday Ceramics

These are two very different videos about crafting ceramics, yet they both capture the motion of highly-trained hands and the beauty of making.

The first video shows fine art pottery from Icheon, Korea–made on a potter’s wheel, all by men. The technique and attention to detail is astonishing, as they cut, pat, stamp, coax, and dab glaze into clay.

The second is from the British Museum, a collaborative ethnoarchaeological project conducted in Kerala, India. These potters are women, and the ceramics they make are standardized pots, each performing a specific role in the shaping of the pot. You are able to see the entire process, as the women stomp, bash, pat, smooth, and tend the pots.

One pot ends up on shelves in museum galleries, the other over a fire, filled with delicious curry.

Faces of Archaeology Published in Archaeologies

 

archaeology_faces

The Faces of Archaeology portrait project that Jesse Stephen and I did at WAC-7 has been published by Archaeologies! It was a fantastic chance to collaborate with a gifted photographer and I’m very pleased with the project, the exhibitions at TAG Chicago and Turkey TAG and the final publication.

From our conclusions:

Ultimately, the Faces of Archaeology project reveals the complexity of representation in archaeology and world heritage practice. While making individual participation in WAC-7 visible through capturing and disseminating portraits of attendees, the authors contended with gender, economic, ethnic, social, political, and ethical considerations that were made explicit through this process of visualization. The authors included their own portraits in the assemblage, with the intention of both de-centering photographic practice and increasing reflexivity by showing authorship and participation (Morgan and Eve 2012). Finally, it is our hope that we can repeat this project at conferences in the future, and the collective face of archaeology and heritage will become even more diverse, complex, and beautiful.

The “online first” version can be downloaded by people who have paid access here:
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11759-014-9255-6

There is also a pre-print available here:
Faces of Archaeology at Academia.edu