Monthly Archives: April 2008

Pyramiden

Pyramiden was a Soviet mining town in the high Arctic that was completely abandoned in 1998.  We were lucky enough to have Bjørnar Olsen, an archaeologist from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Tromsø in Norway come speak to us about his recent documentation of the archaeological-site-in-the-making.  Pyramiden is a fascinating town all around, built on a remote archipelago by the Swedish, then rented by the Soviet Union in 1927 until it was rapidly abandoned one day, leaving many of the official buildings and residences intact.

Dr. Olsen’s presentation was truly compelling and left me wondering about developing a methodology addressing modern abandonment.  There is a growing genre contemporary archaeological studies, for example the archaeological excavation of a van and Gavin Lucas and Victor Buchli’s study of an abandoned flat in the UK.

I found the exploration of Pyramiden to fit more into a growing post-apocalyptic aesthetic, one that I have commented on before, but that remains of interest to a large segment of the population, if the many flickr groups dedicated to the topic are any indication.  I was also reminded of the “Elena” narrative that was circulating several years ago; a woman posted a travelogue of her motorcycle trips through Chernobyl, with astonishing photographs accompanying an astonishing story.  The details of the trip are falsified, but the images are real, and fed the imaginations of an audience fascinated in a World Without Us.

Ruins turn us all into archaeologists, speculating on the lives of the absent people and the meaning of the objects they left behind.  I wonder if these more contemporary studies bring us even closer to an everyday archaeology, living in our own future decay.

Archaeology in Action Update

Whew–life has been a whirlwind lately.  I turned in my dissertation prospectus yesterday and much of the other surrounding paperwork, but I still have a lot to catch up on while I study for my orals.  I also had a wonderful time with a certain visiting archaeologist who brought me my very own MoLAS manual–a princely gift now that the dollar is worthless.

In the meantime, the Archaeology in Action group on Flickr has been hoppin’.

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Here is one of several great shots of a large, open excavation from Kassandrus in Guda, South Holland.  It looks like they’re turning up the footings of several buildings and some interesting burials.

Archäologie im Markt

Jens-Olaf documents the excavation of an old market street in Gimhae, South Korea. I love that he also got a look at the paperwork:

Archäologie im Markt XI

There’s good photos of the stratigraphy and some interesting tools as well, if you click through to check out the rest of the photostream.

Archaeologists tools

There’s also a few photos of the excavations going on at Stonehenge from Paul Cripps. The BBC Timewatch website has video, news, and a discussion forum, but it’s nice to get this more “personal” look.  I wish the quality of the photos was higher though, and that the photos were licensed under Creative Commons, but you can’t have everything, I suppose.

As always, please submit your excavation shots to the Archaeology in Action group on flickr!

What a Girl Really Wants

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A folding metric ruler, of course.  Thanks to my mom for the early birthday present!

I’m curious to see how this one holds up next to the wooden engineer’s rulers with the metal joints.

Critical Archaeology: Call for Images

Curbside Assemblage

I need a few good images for Critical Archaeology — a journal that is currently being formed and that I am an editor for.  These would be used on the website and you would be credited for them, and possibly featured later on in our section on media in archaeology.

I’m looking for unreduced, creative commons photos that look good in b/w, and are about archaeology, broadly conceived.  Field shots are good, artifacts are good–I’d like to get your favorites + a broad array of what our field is about.  Please send a URL linking to the photo/s, the author’s name, and a short description of the archaeological nature of the photograph (who/what/when/why/how).

The deadline is APRIL 24th, sorry for the short notice.

Please email me at clmorgan@berkeley.edu if you have any questions!

Binford Shirt

For your secret (or not-so-secret) inner processualist:

You too can own an expression of your extra-somatic means of adaptation!  Y’know, that’s really the biggest problem with post-processualists–poor font choice.

Furnishing the Neolithic, pt 2

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I was able to nearly complete the Neolithic house by Cal Day, which was nearly a miracle.  I would still like to add more pottery, obsidian, bucrania, and the like.  I would also like to add embedded links to images of excavated materials like baskets and murals to show what the reconstructions are based on.

I found this exercise to be highly interesting and useful, once I understood more or less how the building tools worked.  As an excavator, I usually destroy rather than create, so building layers instead of removing them was nice for once.  I also got to see the house in different light–sunrise, sunset, midday, night–the colors changed astoundingly.  While the reconstruction isn’t perfect in that respect because there is ambient light that wouldn’t really be there, it was still educational.

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Ruth mentioned that she felt a little lost trying to identify the exact house where the reconstruction was.  How would you remember which house was yours?  How would an outsider figure out where to go?  Does this imply some kind of markings on the outside of the houses as identifiers?  I added a big column of smoke to help visitors find the house.

Anyway, I probably will not have enough time between now and my orals to do much to the house, but I hate to put it aside.  I need to make middens!  And houses in disrepair!  The list just goes on….

Pedagogy and Facebook

I was pretty chuffed to receive an Outstanding GSI (read – Teaching Assistant) award for teaching Introduction to Archaeology last year.  There isn’t a prize awarded initially, but you can enter a one-page essay describing a teaching problem you have encountered and what you did about it to get an additional prize.  Sorry about the citations–I don’t usually like to use them on blogs, but, y’know.

For your perusal:

You have a friend request.”  This email notification has become a standard occurrence in my email in-box. I had been on the social networking site Facebook for about six months, networking with my fellow graduate students and professors, joining groups related to my profession, and even planning a conference event using the popular site. At first I did not recognize the profile photograph of the person requesting my friendship, as his face was obscured by a beer keg, but I instantly recognized the name: it was a student from one of my sections. Was this request an invasion of my privacy, or an honest attempt at extending the open, informal attitude I valued in my classroom to an online venue? Where were the boundaries between personal and public in the technologically enhanced social realm of the university? Further, could we use these potentially invasive technologies to help teach our students?

After experiencing this odd disconnect between a more traditional teacher-student relationship in the classroom and becoming “friends” online, I wanted to identify the exact dimensions and repercussions of this new challenge in teaching. A critical pedagogical engagement in archaeology offers the potential to serve as an emancipatory practice, in that dominant political and historical narratives are challenged with the material record, providing a way for students to examine these narratives within their specific historical context and provide their own interpretations (Conkey and Tringham 1996; Hamilakis 2004). Would connecting online help foster a community of practice within the discipline (Lave and Wenger 1991) and offer reciprocal relationships in place of the traditional banking model of education? While there is already an element of self-disclosure in the classroom on the part of instructors trying to communicate concepts regarding a discipline that is largely based on field work, research has shown that students who interact with instructors on websites (O’Sullivan, et al. 2004) and social networking sites (Mazer, et al. 2007) attain higher levels of affective learning, but this needs to be accompanied by an active process of privacy management (Mazer, et al. 2007: 4-5).

Given the potential for an enhanced engagement with students, I chose to address social networks on three fronts: in my section syllabus, in the maintenance of my online presence, and as a research topic for students. In a single line, crafted to avoid insulting students or to exclude all possible future interaction, I stated, “As a rule, I do not accept Facebook or Myspace friend requests from current students.” In class I elaborated upon the importance of maintaining privacy and professionalism, emphasizing this necessity to an audience who might have not thought about current and future ramification of complete self-disclosure. On the social networks I went through the security options, allowing students a certain amount of access to my profile while keeping other, personal interactions private. I was able to capitalize on my detailed knowledge of these sites by giving students the option of creating a Facebook profile for a 19th century resident of the former Zeta Psi fraternity house on campus. The fraternity was the subject of research by anthropology faculty and is used as an object lesson in Introduction to Archaeology. Students who made a profile had to form a narrative around a research question, using excavation data, photos and other evidence. Designing a mock profile made the students ask questions about the day-to-day life of individuals in the past, a primary goal of the course.

Unlike last year, I have not had any friend requests from current students. The process of evaluating and maintaining these boundaries caused me to critically assess my own presence online, and to emphasize the potential of destructive self-disclosure with my students.  Integrating social networks into assignments fostered a level of enthusiasm, creativity, and engagement with archaeological topics absent in the more traditional essay format. The potential to establish communities of practice in broader academic life through social networks is an enticing venue of research, provided that boundaries are maintained.

Conkey, M. W. and R. Tringham
1996    Cultivating thinking/challenging authority: some experiments in feminist pedagogy in archaeology. In Gender and Archaeology, edited by R. P. Wright, pp. 224-50. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Hamilakis, Y.
2004    Archaeology and the politics of pedagogy. World Archaeology 36(2):287-309.

Lave, J. and E. Wenger
1991    Situated learning : legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge England ; New York.


Mazer, J. P., R. E. Murphy and C. J. Simonds
2007    I’ll See You On “Facebook”: The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate. Communication Education 56(1):1-17.

O’Sullivan, P. B., S. K. Hunt and L. R. Lippert
2004    Mediated Immediacy: A Language of Affiliation in a Technological Age. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 23(4):464-490.