All posts by scarciad

Final Blog!

When I initially wrote out my project proposal, I was planning on making an interactive website to reach out to the public. I also included a backup plan to make a Tumblr blog for the project. In the end, I decided to go with my Tumblr plan. The goal of my project was to engage college aged students with archaeology in a way that held their interest (including my own.)

The reason I chose to create my own Tumblr blog is because it is a beginner friendly site. My computer skills are definitely not proficient, so Tumblr was the perfect medium for me to promote archaeology. There are preset designs to customize your blog and the method for posting any desirable media was pretty dummy proof. I had an easy time manipulating the site, which allowed me to focus on the content of the project. Also, Tumblr is a great way to engage with my target age group. I know that Tumblr is a very popular website used among high school students and college students. So, it only made sense to post my thoughts on a site that college students were already using instead of creating a separate site that most likely won’t attract as much attention. I also figured that Tumblr would be an easy way to share news stories, since reblogging can be done at the touch of a button.

To accomplish my project goals, I posted memes, blog posts, and reblogged news articles. I also created a quiz as a prelude to the world of archaeology. I especially loved posting memes on the blog because it is a quick and fun way to send a message to the public. Plus, memes do a fantastic job bringing attention to my blog. I found some great memes that debunk common misconceptions with archaeology and add variety to my blog. I also did a few blog entries. The blog entries were a way for me to explore a couple of subjects I was curious about. Blogging allowed me to personally connect with archaeology. Hopefully, my personal accounts will help my target audience connect with archaeology. I wrote about underwater archaeology, the catacombs of Paris and the Terracotta soldiers in China. I also wanted to post archaeology news through my Tumblr, which is why I reblogged news articles. By posting current events, hopefully, my target audience will see how important archaeology is today. Lastly, I created a quiz. The point of the quiz is to provide a way to test the knowledge of the visitor of the site and hopefully get rid of the common myths of archaeology. I also included a few tricky questions for the archaeologists who would visit my blog.

Initially, I had trouble setting the tone for my blog. Did I want it to be super structured or was there another way to go about the project? But I eventually asked myself what would I like to learn about. I would have included more quizzes, but they were pain to create. The generator online was easy to use, but it was difficult to come up with questions and answers (and making sure that they were well worded.) How professors and teachers do it beats me. I also found it difficult to write blog posts that people would want to read. In the end, my posts may be kind of long for the casual reader with initially no interest in archaeology.

Overall, I actually enjoyed doing this atypical project. I was able to have fun with this project and I felt that I was able to connect with the material better. Hopefully, my page will attract a few followers!

 

 

http://canyoudig-it203h.tumblr.com/

 

 

 

Why Does Archaeology Matter to Me?

I can tell how much a class affects me by how much I talk about it (not including my complaints about assignments, of course!) Not only am I relaying newly learned facts to my friends and family, but I am also correcting them like crazy! For instance, I’m always telling them to be skeptical of those addictive pseudo-archaeology shows and that archaeologists do not dig up prehistoric animals (unless the animal is a part of human culture.)

This class has helped me to do more than just memorize facts. I have learned very important methods to distinguish scientists from pseudo-scientists and how important is is to promote archaeology to the public. I also learned a great deal about the laws that affect archaeologists and the people of study. Even learning about non-stereotypical methods of studying material culture have helped to expand my learning about what archaeology encompasses.

Archaeology is important to me because it is our method of telling the stories of the past (brought up by Dr. Potrebica.) Even though our ancestors have passed on, we are able to take a snapshot of their lives and use that to understand what has brought us to this point in time. Why did historical events occur the way that they did? What are the motivations behind changes in cultures? It is important to me to piece together the stories of our past because we can learn from past mistakes and successes.

Archaeology matters because it interacts with so many different fields of science. Throughout the course of this class, I was able to see the impact of archaeology in the medical field (which happens to be the topic of most of my blogs.) Just seeing how far diseases trace back gives new insight for causes of the disease and how it has evolved. Plus, some ancient diseases can still cause threats, specifically thinking about the recently found contagious traces of the Black Plague. It is incredible to think about how difficult it is to contain archaeology as one field of science when it stretches across so many. As a pre-medical student, I now realize how important studying our history is to the study of medicine.

 

Bonus Blog Assignment

Last Tuesday, I attended some of the “Submerged History Of The Adriatic” lecture. Sadly, I had to leave thirty minutes into the presentation because I had a late lab. Nevertheless, I will write about what I did see.

Before this lecture, I remember reading someone’s blog post about underwater excavating and I found it to be quite fascinating. So it was really cool that we had the opportunity to learn more about underwater archaeology through this lecture. Even though Dr. Potrebica has a soft voice, it was still relatively easy to pay attention to his lecture (especially when paired with the beautiful images from his slides.)

At the beginning of the lecture, he stated that around the Croatian site, there were 400 archaeological sites and over 200 shipwrecks (71 of them being modern – WWI and WWII era.) The Croatian site is an archaeological goldmine, with so many intact artifacts (such as kitchen courseware, oil lamps, pottery, etc.) I was amazed at how well the artifacts were preserved, especially the glass items found at one of the sites. With so many different sites underwater, it shows just how important this nontraditional form of excavating is. When thinking about how our Earth is changing, different methods of archaeology are a must for adapting to these changes. He stated that Neanderthals had previously lived on one of the submerged sites, meaning that over time, the coastline moved inland. It makes you think about how future archaeologist may be studying coastal cities in underwater ruins.

Even though I had to leave early, I am glad that I caught one of his important quotes that stuck out to me. He mentioned that archaeology was a way of “entering people’s lives” and that an archaeologist’s job is to “tell stories of the people who made [these] items.” I like the idea that through archaeology and history, the people of the past live on through what they built and used. It reminds me of the importance of studying the past and how archaeology acts as a direct connection between the past and the present.

Dental Plaque Found in Germany

I always gravitate toward the health care related archaeology articles. It is fascinating to see how different and surprisingly similar the conditions people of the past and present suffered from and it is also interesting to see how treatments have changed over the years. The article I came across this week was about the discovery of dental plaque on an ancient skeleton and its analysis.

In Dalheim, Germany, preserved dental plaque was found in the mouth of a 1000 year old skeleton. The fossilized calculus preserved microscopic food particles. The analysis of the plague was done by 32 scientists from 7 different countries. The importance of finding plaque in comparison to bone was stated in the article, as well. What makes the preservation of calculus different from the preservation of bone is that it grows in the mouth and enters soil more stable than bone. It stores more biomolecules than bone which allows for an easier time studying ancient DNA, whereas the skeletal bone loses its molecular information more quickly over time.

With this new discovery, scientists have found evidence that some periodontal diseases of the past were due to similar causes as they occur today, regardless of diet and hygiene. They also discovered that the calculus had the basic genetic machinery for an antibiotic resistance (which was made into an antibiotic eight centuries later.) Scientists were also able to use the plaque to study the environmental and dietary factors affecting the ancient human.

This article is a good reminder of how similar we are to people of the past. Even though we may be separated by time and cultural practices, we still share some similar health conditions and are susceptible to diseases that our ancestors once had. This research may show that genetics play a more important role in this particular periodontal disease than the dietary and hygienic environmental factors. However, it is important to keep in mind that this was from the calculus of one skeletal remain and we shouldn’t draw too big of conclusions from one sample.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140223131629.htm

 

Wikipedia Project

For this project, I expected it to be similar to a research paper. I would search for information, write about it and then add my sources. It would take a while, but it was definitely manageable. However, this Wikipedia project proved to be more difficult of a task than I had expected.

First things first, there is a reason why the stubs on Wikipedia are stubs. As I read through the list, I came across names of the most obscure topics and items. I looked at quite a few stubs and tried to look up general information on Google. Many of the topics had very little content elsewhere on the internet. But eventually I found a topic that seemed to be promising.

Second, my personal Wikipedia project consisted more of thoroughly searching for information about my topic than writing about it. I had to do many searches through books online and lengthy articles to find a small excerpt about my topic that ended up providing little or no usable information for the Wikipedia page. But by piecing together the information from each source, I was able to add a few more sections and expand on the definition of the page I was editing.

The page I chose to edit was about sickle gloss. Not the most exciting topic, I might add. The reason I chose to edit the sickle gloss page was because there was only a definition on the page and I figured that it would have been an easy edit. Also when I searched sickle-gloss outside of Wikipedia, I came across a scholarly article that I thought would work swimmingly. But as I kept my commitment to the page (and the deadline crept closer), I realized that the task at hand would be much more difficult than I had anticipated.

As it turned out, the seemingly “perfect” article was pretty dense and was a research feature. The article was about research carried out to discover the components of different sickle-gloss and I could only use the first page for confirmed information. Using this article, I wrote about four probable sources of sickle-gloss on flint tools. I had also found a book online that had a few pages about sickle-gloss and what it means in an archaeological context. But the text was difficult to understand in some parts so I did my best to add sections to my page about what I understood. I also used the information I learned to expand on the main definition of sickle-gloss that originally appeared on the Wikipedia page.

The changes that I have made to the page are still here, but the syntax and sources have been improved. I am surprised that my edits have lasted for this long, but I know that I synthesized the page with pieces of articles straight from the source with minimal bias. I tried my best to put the new information I learned into terms I could understand, especially since the sources for my information were very scholarly. I am thankful that the people reviewing the edits did it within a day or two of my edits. It shows that this site is being constantly being up-kept to remove bias and other errors on each page. But the fact that my edits were kept does remind me that these Wikipedia pages aren’t all written by experts.

This project has made me more appreciative of the people who have made edits to make Wikipedia the site that it is today. It definitely takes a ton of time to collect data with sources and write about it. Even though Wikipedia is not the most reputable source for college papers and projects, it does a fantastic job as a general overview of any topic that you desire to research.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sickle-gloss

 

Nazi Archaeology

Pseudoarchaeology is a very attractive topic for the public. Even though this topic exposes the uneducated person into the world of archaeology, it does not do so correctly. These “fun” and “glamorous” topics are harmful to the preservation of our history and can be harmful to the public (especially if those employing the archaeological fallacies using public interest to make a profit or gain power.) Although pseudoarchaeology is ubiquitous today, it has also played a drastic role in history. The particular extension of pseudoarchaeology I will explore is Nazi archaeology.

During Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler was on the quest for tangible proof that Germanic people were the descendants of the Aryan race using archaeology. He also aimed to use this research as an explanation for why it was okay for the Germans to invade other countries. Himmeler, who was under Hitler’s command, was responsible for founding a research institute called the Ahnenerbe. The institute’s goal was to discover German ancestry “using exact scientific methods.” Those who were a part of the institute were sent to places like Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Iceland and North Africa to excavate. They took a special interest in Iceland because it was there that was believed to be where the origin of the Aryan race began. They had found a cave believed to have been a place of worship for ancient Aryans. However, the cave later was proved to not have been inhabited until the 18th century, debunking any proof of the area being used by the ancient civilization. According to “How Stuff Works,” there was little or no evidence that Germanic people were linked to ruling in prehistoric times and out of 18 funded excavations, none of them provided evidence that Hitler and Himmeler were searching for.

The Nazi Party’s quest for archaeological “breakthroughs” is an excellent example of promoting pseudoarchaeology for power and ethnocentric reasons. They used their findings as propaganda to gain followers and excuse their actions. The sources that I have used state that motivations to pursue archaeology had little to do with scientific curiosity and more to do with political motives. For instance, the Nazi party tried to use archaeological finds to excuse their invasion of Poland in 1940 because they had “legitimate claims” to the land. Also, the fact that there was virtually no evidence to any of the claims made by the archaeologists is another reason why Nazi Archaeology falls short. There is no science to back up any of the “evidence” they did find (including the cave found in Iceland.) And as discussed in class today, the belief of the Aryan race stems from a fictional continent conceived in the mind of the philosopher Plato. Nazi archaeology has no scientific foundation in which to be structured upon. Thus it falls flat.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/nazi-archaeology.htm

http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/nazis-interested-in-archaeology

http://archive.archaeology.org/0603/abstracts/nazis.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_archaeology

Blog 7

Fluctuations in temperature are constantly occurring. Whether we have a significant impact on climate changes is a debate for another day. But the consequences of a climate shift, in this case a global warming, are far more profound than one may realize. One of these unforeseen issues was brought to the forefront when a microbe was discovered by a team of French scientists.

The microbe was discovered 100 feet deep in permafrost ice from East Siberia. The microbe has been frozen for 30,000 years and is relatively large. And after all that time, the microbe is still infectious. Luckily, we, humans, are not the target, but rather amoebas. However, this discovery draws attention to the fact that viruses can survive over long periods of time and that there could be potential threats, waiting to be uncovered. Another concern brought forth in the article is that the melting of permafrost due to global warming could release other ancient viruses conserved in ice that can still be a threat and affect our environment. This article also addresses the concern of large viruses. Even though most large viruses (like the one in the article) affect amoebas, there have been rare cases in which large viruses have infected more complex organisms.

After reading about this and the black plague bacteria a few weeks ago, I am continually reminded about what a fragile species we are and that the slightest change in our environment can impact our overall health in unsuspecting ways. I also find it interesting (if not alarming) that viruses can survive for such a long time (a many thousand years.) But on a positive note, such discoveries will provide archaeologists and medical researchers with insight about different viruses and environment of the past and how their reemergence will affect our environment and health. This article also emphasizes the importance of being cautious during excavations.

http://bionews-tx.com/news/2014/03/06/30000-year-old-giant-virus-reawakened-permafrost-ice-still-infectious/

Archaeologists Discover Oldest Piece of Cheese

As each week (and blog post) passes, I am continuously surprised by how quickly current archaeological news headlines catch my eye. This week was no different, when I came across an article about the discovery of a really old piece of cheese (conveniently the week before we learn about diet in class.)

Making headlines, archaeologists have uncovered what may be known as the oldest cheese in the Taklamakan Desert in China. The pieces of cheese were discovered laying among the neck and chest mummified bodies. According to Discovery News, cheese was found from ten tombs and mummies, one which included the Beauty of Xiaohe. The cheese has been dated back to 1615 B.C., making the cheese 3,600 years old. It is speculated that the pieces of cheese were buried with the mummies so that they could use them in the after life.

Even though cheese-making has been around as far back as the the 6th millennium B.C., researchers had yet to come across ancient cheese remains. The cheese found provides insight into ancient cheese-making technology. First of all, the cheese was made using kefir fermentation, which is the oldest known process for making cheese and happens to be still used today. This method of fermentation does not use milk to make cheese. The cheese made from kefir has an extended shelf life and high nutritional value. It also shows evidence that milking may have been spread to eastern Eurasia later on and it shows “direct evidence of ancient technology.”

I am amazed at the fact that a piece of cheese has lasted that long without decomposing and that it can still be analyzed. In the article, it says that protein is pretty resilient in extreme conditions, which I found interesting. But more so, I am amazed at the fact that an ancient cheese-making process is still being used today.

 

http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/lumps-of-oldest-cheese-found-on-mummies-necks-1402271.htm

http://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.576939

Engaged Archaeology Project Proposal

The advantage of taking general electives as oppose to an ISS or IAH course is that you get to explore a subject that normally would not have been a part of your curriculum. So for my archaeology project, I want to make an effort to attempt something that I would not normally have been able to in a standard ISS or IAH class. I know for a fact that I will be writing quite a bit of papers before I graduate from college (and definitely after college, if things go as planned) so I didn’t want to write a “standard college paper” this time around. Instead, I want to try my hand at something that I have never done before. I decided that I wanted to make a website that will inform the public about archaeology.

I have a few goals in mind while accomplishing this project. My first goal is to create a website that can be used as a reference for college students if they have any questions about archaeology. The website will provide the basic tools for learning about archaeology. I also want to create a website that contains activities to cement the knowledge that can be acquired through the website (via song, quizzes and word puzzles.) As a college student, it is difficult to remember a ton of information thrown at you so I want to use various methods so that the information sticks. A personal goal for myself during this project is to expand on my information presentation skills and learn how to use the internet to spread a message. I want to become more proficient with website building at the end of this project. I also want to have fun exploring archaeology further.

I plan on having a quiz on the home page so that the website’s visitors can see what they initially know about archaeology. The quiz will also provide the website visitor an informal overview about what they will learn when visiting the website. It will have questions that can be answered using the website. The goal of the quiz is to debunk common misconceptions about archaeology. Some question examples are:

  • How long ago did archaeology first emerge?
  • True or False: Archaeologists study only items that date back a hundred years ago or earlier.
  • What should you do if you come across an artifact buried in you backyard?
  • Where do archaeologists work?

Some of the tabs that I have planned for the website are:

  • “What is Archaeology?” This section would provide the generalities of archaeology, what it is, the different kinds, how it relates to anthropology and why it is important.
  • “History” This section will provide a background of when the earliest form of archaeology was and how archaeology has become what it is today.
  • “Methods of Excavation” This section will discuss the techniques used to map, study and collect material culture.
  • “Issues in Archaeology” In this section, I plan on exploring possible problems that archaeologists have to face and how they deal with them (for example, studying material culture out of context, the effects of excavation to an environment, etc.)
  • “Fun with Archaeological” This section will contain a review quiz of the material under the other tabs and hopefully will include a music video so that visitors to the site will have other fun ways to remember archaeology.

My alternate plan is to create a blog page (via Tumblr) that would contain the same contents as mentioned for the website but will include more updates on recent archaeological news. A Tumblr page may make my project more approachable to the demographic I am targeting and incorporate more applications of archaeology today (versus a website with a list of facts.)

Artifacts Found in Turkey Removed for Construction

In Izmir, a province of Turkey, archaeological findings are being removed for the construction of a warehouse. The archaeological site was previously protected by Izmir’s Cultural Heritage Protection Board when mosaics were discovered in 2012 (during the beginning of the warehouse construction.) But in August of 2013, a higher board voted on moving the material culture discovered to a museum so that construction of the warehouse could continue. The board decided to allow construction only if the remaining ancient buildings on the site were kept intact. The remains are said to be from between the fourth and seventh century A.D. and that they may have been owned by a rich aristocrat. It is also said in the article that the mosaics were removed to prevent them from being damaged. But at the very end of the article it mentions that archaeologists are asking for more time to study the artifacts in the protected area.

After learning about the importance of context when studying archaeology the construction of the warehouse will definitely affect how the mosaics are studied in the future (even though they are being transported and placed in a museum.) Of course the mosaics and other artifacts have been studied at their location, but there is still information left to be uncovered.

At least an effort was made to protect and preserve the site with the artifacts. The article mentions that by recovering the mosaics, damage will be prevented. Also the buildings will be preserved so that archaeologists can study them in their context.

The article shows a struggle between the past and the future. Should we sacrifice evidence of past for the sake of the future building? I guess I never realized the sacrifices we make when we build new cities and roads. In this article, I am reminded of the importance of the archaeology that occurs before construction.

Sen, B. (2014, February 5). Archaeological findings in industrial zone to be removed to make way for warehouse. Hurriyet Daily News. Retrieved from
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/archaeological-findings-in-industrial-zone-to-be-removed-to-make-way-for-warehouse.aspx?pageID=238&nID=62040&NewsCatID=375