WIA Blog Post: Ethics Cases and the Real World

From a post I wrote for the WIA blog: https://womeninarchaeology.com/2019/05/28/ethics-cases-and-the-real-world/

Check out all of the great posts by the hosts of the Women in Archaeology Podcast!

Full Text:

I think every student should have a good grasp of cultural resource management (CRM) legislation, from the Antiquities Act of 1906 to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA).  It’s important to know how and why we practice archaeology in the United States, to show the effort necessary to protect the past.  Frankly, without CRM law, most American archaeologists wouldn’t have a job. As much as I want to think the best about the USA, I don’t think the government would automatically record, preserve, and protect archaeological sites without laws in place.  It’s similar to the need for the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act—without it, things would be so much worse.  Our representatives have to make sure we’re not breathing mercury.  With the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), agencies like the National Park Service or Forest Service are legally mandated to have archaeologists on staff.  Without the NHPA, sites would easily be destroyed in the name of progress.  Or pit toilets.

When studying CRM law, you’ll quickly learn there’s a lot of gray area, when ‘acting in good faith’ can mean different things.  For one archaeologist, it may mean making sure everything is surveyed and carefully recorded, sending out consultation letters and following up with stakeholders, and so on.  For others, it means doing the bare minimum, cutting corners whenever and wherever possible.  It’s important to recognize the difference, when there’s both a legal and moral imperative to do the right thing.  It’s our responsibility (both as citizens and archaeologists) to keep archaeology honest, because there are far too many who relish doing work in that gray area.   Google ‘Effigy Mounds National Monument’ and ‘NPS destroys archaeology to build trails’ and you’ll see that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There are well-known public lands agencies that routinely ignore CRM laws, indicating not only the necessity of enforcing these laws, but also the need and value of integrity in our field.  Now that I have you thoroughly depressed and/or confused, back to the matter at hand.

Okay, CRM laws and archaeology.  There’s this lovely event at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference called ‘The Ethics Bowl’ where a bunch of graduate student teams debate ethical and legal issues in CRM—sounds thrilling, I know (I actually love this stuff).  For my Intro to Archaeology course, I have my students break up into groups and dissect a case study from one of the Ethic Bowls.   These cases describe real-world situations in archaeology, where the right answer isn’t always clear.  For example, one case from 2018 describes a new supervisory archaeologist at a company who is pressured to make her crew survey too fast a pace (miss sites), push it in over 100 degree weather (OSHA violations), not record GPS points or notes or take photographs, and purposefully miss sites.  This is a huge violation of NHPA, and beyond that, it is unethical to push a crew, even if it means not making the profit a company hoped for.  Both archaeology and archaeologists suffer in this instance.

There are a variety of Ethics Bowel cases available on the SAA website, including issues surrounding human remains, international sites, community involvement, looting and so on.  The cases are supposed to make you think.  The focus is largely on how we conduct archaeology, not how archaeologists conduct themselves.  There are definitely bad archaeologists in the field.  I’ve never really thought about ethics cases covering what can happen at universities, at field schools, in the field hotel on a CRM project, beyond the project, in an advisor’s office.  The things we—as archaeologists—all know happens, but simply don’t talk about. Sexual harassment and discrimination aren’t covered in CRM law and practice.  It isn’t something I’ve routinely covered with my students in the past.  This is where that issue of integrity comes really comes into play.  Is our field a safe space for upcoming young archaeologists to thrive?  Frankly, it depends.

There aren’t provisions in the NHPA on what to do if a crew chief consistently belittles you based on your gender.  It wasn’t covered in undergrad or graduate school what to do if your advisor at field school tries rape you.  Retaliation for reporting discrimination or refusing your advisor’s advances isn’t spelled out in any compliance law.  I am so used to only considering compliance legalities, not necessarily who is involved in that work.  It is easy to assume that all an archaeologist would have to worry about is the ethical and legal side of one’s work—not being afraid if your rapist, victimizer, assailant, would be welcome at the same events you wish to attend, like a professional meeting (i.e. SAA 2019 Conference).  An entire organization demonstrated that you can scream at the top of your lungs, but they won’t stop to listen, deciding to keep up the façade that there’s nothing wrong with our field.

While perusing the 2019 Ethics Bowl cases (yes, SAA, this looks bad), I was surprised to come across Case Seven, which describes the situation of Tim Roberts, a third-year doctoral student who feels increasingly uncomfortable by his advisor; she made advances, lewd remarks, etc.  When confronted, she threatens him with leaking his research.  When he reaches out to faculty, they dismiss his claim, state he shouldn’t talk about the accusations, and threaten dismissing him from the program.  Sadly, this is not an uncommon real-world story.  And, as the SAA demonstrated, something most organizations like to pretend isn’t happening.  CRM laws have no sway over this case, and reporting systems fail, so it’s all up to ethics and integrity.  And if that fails?  Long ago, I was taught to consider myself lucky to only have been sexually harassed in the field.  Did the organization I worked for do anything to the individual? No.  What did that teach me?  I simply wasn’t as important as my crew chief, to move on, that I was lucky, that it could’ve been worse.  The #MeToo symposium at the SAA 2019 Conference further highlighted how prevalent and well-known harassment, discrimination, and assault are in our field.  So, what should ‘Tim Roberts’ do?  I don’t know.  And that scares me.

As I wrote earlier, I think every student should have a good grasp of cultural resource management (CRM) legislation, from the Antiquities Act of 1906 to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA).   But, there needs to be more.  During my last couple of courses, I’ve tried sharing the underbelly of our work, not only unethical compliance stories.  Students should know.  I provide the harassment policies of various organizations, talk about reporting abuse, and so on.  I share social media statements, news articles, and my own observations from the SAA 2019 conference.

Students to professionals should be able to practice archaeology without fear of discrimination or retaliation for refusing to keep quiet.   Where do we go from here?  Instead of this whole debacle at the 2019 SAA conference becoming just another Ethics Bowl case, let’s hope the organization will sincerely listen to task forces (hopefully, CRM and federal agencies will follow suit), understand the social media anger, truly embrace the #MeToo movement, and make archaeology a more welcoming place.  Unless broad sweeping changes and major attitude adjustments are made, the same things will happen again and again.  Without action, valuing ethics and policies just simply isn’t enough.  We can do better.

Links:

If you attended the 2019 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference and/or have kept up with the organization’s incredibly poor response to the Yesner situation, you then know how incredibly disappointed so many people are in the SAA.  And, others have put it far more eloquently than I ever could.

My Resignation as Chair of the SAA Media Relations Committee (Killgrove) http://www.poweredbyosteons.org/2019/04/my-resignation-as-chair-of-saa-media.html

That Time The Society for American Archaeology Blocked Me On Twitter (Killgrove): http://www.poweredbyosteons.org/2019/04/that-time-society-for-american.html

#SAA2019 and the Public Face of Harassment: Thoughts and Resources on #metoo and the SAA (Klembara and Markert): http://mapabing.org/2019/05/01/saa2019-and-the-public-face-of-harassment-thoughts-and-resources-on-metoo-and-the-saa/

Scholarly Society in ‘Crisis’: Want to know how to handle a Me Too-related incident and related public relations snafu? Don’t ask the Society for American Archaeology (Flaherty): https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/04/30/how-not-handle-me-too-related-public-relations-crisis

View Dr. Sarah Rowe’s Letter to SAA president Joe Watkins on twitter: https://twitter.com/Archaeo_Girl/status/1120502473003819009

View new membership and establishment of the SAA Task Force on Sexual and Anti-Harassment Policies and Procedures on Twitter: @SAATFPolicies

 

Women In Archaeology Podcast, Episode 65: SAA 2019 Conference Recap

You can listen to the episode HERE (i.e. WIA website) or download the episode on iTunes!

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For the first time ever, all our hosts are in the same location for episode 65!! Come take a listen to all the amazing things that were presented at the conference. Revel in positivity as much as you can! The last segment of the episode we dive into the nitty gritty of SAA’s inaction regarding a known sexual predator in attendance. These statements were all made as of the Saturday evening of the conference. TRIGGER WARNING: contains discussion on sexual abuse, institutional inaction, and trepanation.

Show Notes:

Despite the shadow that fell over much of the conference, some pretty badass work was presented. Check it out here: Program for SAA 2019

Notes on other fun topics include: an article on the lady mentioned by Chelsi who recorded her self-trepanation in the 1970s.

Here are the important pieces to know regarding the The ineffectual SAA Anti-Harassment Policy, and the 2015 statement on sexual harassment. In the week since recording and then posting this episode, the SAA has responded with the following: A public apology to the membership, andan open letter to the membership for the chance to do better. Note there is no real plan of of action.

Follow us for a deeper discussion on the incident in the near future. If you find what we have to say meaningful to you, please subscribe and support us as a Patron.

Find us on Twitter: Women in Archaeology is @WomenArchys; Chelsi is @Osteoarcheo, Emily is @Trowel_Tales, Serra is @ArchyFantasies, and Kirsten is @ArchyFem

Artifacts Galore: Lab Day!

Check out my other posts on the ‘What’s Up, Archaeology?” blog!

Here is the full text: 

When I was in college, oh so long ago, we focused primarily on the traditional aspects of archaeology without doing much in the way of hands-on activities; anything of that sort was left for fieldschool.  Most of the students in the introductory archaeology courses were planning on majoring in the field, and so fieldschool was a requirement, so it’s not surprising methods and artifact analysis were left out.  But, I’m a hands-on kind of learner.  The more I can see, touch, and interact with, the better I will remember it.  If I solely learned about lithics and the process of creating stone tools in class/from books without learning flint knapping or working with collections of flakes, cores, and tools, I don’t think I would be able to recognize tools and such in the field as quickly or with as much accuracy.  That being said, I still drone on about theory, formation processes, the history of archaeology and the like in my courses, but I try to have a hands-on aspect as well.  After covering dating methods, I set up a large dendrochronology (see the post on tree-ring dating) master sequence on one of the walls and handed out tiny tree ring ‘samples’ that my students had to match up to the sequence.  They had to figure out when the tree started growing, when it was cut, and how many wet and dry spells occurred.

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What I hope my students see: the artifacts from this ‘site’ are from an established village. There’s groundstone, so agriculture may be present. There is a variety of pottery types, as well as lithic materials, so there may be trade.

This past week I covered the different types of artifacts typically observed in the material record, like stone tools and pottery.  I raided type collection for all kinds of artifacts to set up small mock archaeological sites in my classroom; each site even had it’s own context!  I wish we had the time to set up mock sites outside, but this was just going to have to do.  So, I set up three prehistoric sites, two historic sites, and one trick (got to keep students on their toes).  Some of the sites had to be created with photographs of historic artifacts, but I think they got the idea across.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lab questions for each ‘site.’

More than anything, I wanted my students to think about what artifacts can tell you about a site, like what people ate or trade networks.  And, how the lack of artifacts may indicate looting.  Context is key—for artifacts to have meaning, we have to know where they were located.  Then, we can generate a narrative for what happened in the past.  That’s why I included a photograph of a rather famous looter’s basement, who had artifacts piled to the ceiling.  A couple of students came up to me, saying, “but this isn’t a site! What’s the context?” and we had a nice chat about whether or not you can actually learn anything from something completely out of context.

What's up, Archaeology?

When I was in college, oh so long ago, we focused primarily on the traditional aspects of archaeology without doing much in the way of hands-on activities; anything of that sort was left for fieldschool.  Most of the students in the introductory archaeology courses were planning on majoring in the field, and so fieldschool was a requirement, so it’s not surprising methods and artifact analysis were left out.  But, I’m a hands-on kind of learner.  The more I can see, touch, and interact with, the better I will remember it.  If I solely learned about lithics and the process of creating stone tools in class/from books without learning flint knapping or working with collections of flakes, cores, and tools, I don’t think I would be able to recognize tools and such in the field as quickly or with as much accuracy.  That being said, I still drone on about theory…

View original post 356 more words

Radiocarbon Dating

I created this cartoon for the ‘What’s Up, Archaeology?’ blog!

What's up, Archaeology?

Radiocarbon

What’s radiocarbon dating all about?  It’s one of the most popular ways of figuring out the age of an archaeological site using organic material (i.e. a living thing at one point, like a tree or ear of corn).  So, bone, charcoal, cloth, artifacts made from organic material or the material itself can (hypothetically) be dated.  How does this work?  The amount of Carbon 14 in no longer living organic material decays at a steady rate (a half-life) over time; the smaller the amount of C-14 left in the material, the older the sample is.  It is incredible how this method can date sites that are 40,000 years old!

Unlike dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating does not provide a specific year to date an archaeological site, but a range of years which are calculated with fancy mathematics and physics well beyond my understanding (i.e. I just hear ‘bleep bloop fancy words blah blah…

View original post 23 more words

Artifacts: What’s all that jargon about?

Here is another one of my posts from the What’s Up, Archaeology? blog!  Here is the Full text:

There’s a whole lot of jargon surrounding the stuff archaeologists’ study, which can confuse even the most experienced in the field (i.e. Thermoluminescence, that’s a fun word).  There are terms I occasionally hear from colleagues, where I just want to yell, ‘just say “dirt” already’ but jargon is important.  Terms like artifact, lithics, ground stone, and so on, help us put things into categories, which then helps us figure out what on earth was going on at some site (i.e. a place where people made/left their stuff).  I will soon be teaching my students the primary artifact types, so that they can get an idea of how archaeologists break down what they see in the field.  Jargon makes us sound all kinds of fancy, but it can create a barrier between archaeology and the public.  The following is just a little rundown of some of the types of artifacts out there.  Hopefully, through the terms, you will see that whatever you’re looking at is more than just a pretty arrowhead or piece of pottery—jargon gives weight/meaning to each of the artifacts we find.

First things first: What is an artifact?

An artifact is anything made by human hands.  In the United States, based on cultural resource management laws, an artifact is anything made by human hands that is 50 years old or older.  That gross rusty evaporated milk can?

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A variety of prehistoric artifacts, including pottery, a hammerstone, a ground stone fragment, and debitage.

That’s an artifact!  That 1,000-year-old basket fragment?  That’s an artifact.  You get the idea.  Artifacts are an amazing tangible link to past people and cultures.  If you find any kind of artifact, please, just take a picture and put it back where you found it; taking an artifact from the site can change how we interpret the past.  Every artifact—even the ugliest of tin cans—matter!

 

Lithics: any artifact made of stone

Do you like stone tools?  Well, those types of artifacts fall under the category of ‘lithics.’  Flint knapping, the process of making stone tools, generates a whole bunch of jargon-laden terms.

-Core: a big chunk of stone, like obsidian, which flakes are removed during the knapping process.

-Hammerstone: a nice rock to hit the core, in order to make flakes.

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Quartzite flakes and debitage.

-Flake: a piece of stone removed from a core to make a tool or debitage.

-Debitage: stone debris knocked off a core that can’t be used for anything else.

Some sites may have a ‘lithic scatter’ where an archaeologist can tell if people were creating stone tools due to the amount of flakes and debitage left behind.

 

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This protohistoric chalcedony knife was made through the knapping process.

Projectile Point: those pointy things

A projectile point is the tool that gets fastened to the end of a spear, dart, or arrow shaft.  Most people are familiar with stone spears and arrowheads, but they also have been made from antler, bone, and copper.  The type of material used for projectile points can tell archaeologists about trade and the style can show cultural change overtime.  Unfortunately, projectile points are some of the most popular artifacts to be taken from archaeological sites.

Ground stone: feel the grind

Ground stone tools are formed by the grinding, pecking, or polishing of one stone with another stone.  These tools include manos and metates, which were used to grind up seeds.  There are pestles that would be used to crush seeds in a carved-out shape on a boulder, as well as beautifully crafted stone axes to pipes.

Ceramics: fire it up

Ceramics are artifacts made of fired clay, including pottery (jars, bowls, etc.), figurines, or really any other objects using fired clay.  Pottery provides archaeologists an incredible amount of information on clay types, trade, design, culture change, cooking, food, and so on.

Potsherds: no, not ‘shards’

A ‘sherd’ is a prehistoric or historic fragment of pottery.  There are many rocks that look like sherds (‘shrocks’) and sherds that look like rocks (‘jerkfaces’), which can make it difficult to distinguish at a site.

Perishables: where’d it go?

Most artifacts observed at archaeology sites are made of long-lasting materials, like stone or fired clay.  It’s not surprising that we typically do not find baskets, blankets, or animal skins at sites.  You need extremely good conditions, like a dry cave, to preserve perishable artifacts or artifacts made from organic materials, to prevent them from completely breaking down overtime.  It’s a particularly exciting day if you find a fragment of any kind of perishable artifact!

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Prehistoric Fremont baskets.  Observed at The Prehistoric Museum, Price, UT.

What's up, Archaeology?

There’s a whole lot of jargon surrounding the stuff archaeologists’ study, which can confuse even the most experienced in the field (i.e. Thermoluminescence, that’s a fun word).  There are terms I occasionally hear from colleagues, where I just want to yell, ‘just say “dirt” already’ but jargon is important.  Terms like artifact, lithics, ground stone, and so on, help us put things into categories, which then helps us figure out what on earth was going on at some site (i.e. a place where people made/left their stuff).  I will soon be teaching my students the primary artifact types, so that they can get an idea of how archaeologists break down what they see in the field.  Jargon makes us sound all kinds of fancy, but it can create a barrier between archaeology and the public.  The following is just a little rundown of some of the types of artifacts out…

View original post 612 more words

Put a Ring On It: A Brief Overview of Dendrochronology

Another post from the What’s Up, Archaeology? blog!  Here’s the full text:

This week I’m teaching my students about the different methods archaeologists use to figure out how old an artifact and/or site could be, like radiocarbon dating to thermoluminescence.  One of my favorite kinds of methods is dendrochronology, also known as ‘tree-ring dating.’ Trees typically produce a distinct thin or thick growth ring per year, depending on the weather.  A wet year will produce a thick ring, while a dry year will produce a thin ring.  Why is that important?  Well, those rings can help date an archaeological site (something specific, like 735 AD!)!  On top of that, tree rings can help us understand past and present environmental processes and conditions (UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research), like climate change.

Dendrochronology

Trees that are sensitive to wet and dry cycles create distinct thick and thin rings, while complacent trees are boring.

In archaeology, dendrochronologists use a sample of wood with distinct tree-rings from an archaeological site (i.e. a wooden structure or a roof beam) to get the age of the tree when it was cut down—that’s the important thing to remember, the final ring is when the tree was cut and then likely used at the site.  It’s all about counting the rings on that cross section of wood.  The pattern of thick and thin rings from the sample is matched up to a much larger set of tree-ring samples or sequences from areas with similar environmental conditions.  By studying samples from “California bristlecone pine, European oaks, and other trees, tree-ring experts have developed a master chronology over 8,000 years into the past” (Fagan and Durrani 2016:115).

So, if I had a sample from a wooden beam from Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park, I would try to match the pattern of rings with established tree-ring sequences in the Southwest.  That would give me the date of when the tree was cut and then used for that structure!

Dendro_example

A rundown of how to match a sample from a site to a larger master sequence of tree-rings.

But here’s the hitch (there just had to be one), we have to keep in mind that that trees may have been cut earlier, used at a structure, and then reused at a different building where it was discovered by archaeologists.  Despite this issue (important thing to consider!), dendrochronology remains a fundamental tool in figuring out the age of archaeological sites.  You can see where samples have been taken from a variety of archaeological sites throughout the Southwest, like at Chaco Canyon National Historic Park.

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The arrow points to where a tree-ring sample was removed from a wooden beam at Hungo Pavi, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, NM.

For more information, watch this great video on dendrochronology from Time Team America:

http://www.pbs.org/time-team/experience-archaeology/dendrochronology/

References

Fagan, Brian M. and Nadia Durrani

2016 Archaeology: A Brief Introduction. 12th Edition. Routledge, New York.

University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, electronic resource, https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings

 

What's up, Archaeology?

This week I’m teaching my students about the different methods archaeologists use to figure out how old an artifact and/or site could be, like radiocarbon dating to thermoluminescence.  One of my favorite kinds of methods is dendrochronology, also known as ‘tree-ring dating.’ Trees typically produce a distinct thin or thick growth ring per year, depending on the weather.  A wet year will produce a thick ring, while a dry year will produce a thin ring.  Why is that important?  Well, those rings can help date an archaeological site (something specific, like 735 AD!)!  On top of that, tree rings can help us understand past and present environmental processes and conditions (UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research), like climate change.

Dendrochronology Trees that are sensitive to wet and dry cycles create distinct thick and thin rings, while complacent trees are boring.

In archaeology, dendrochronologists use a sample of wood with distinct tree-rings from…

View original post 335 more words