Women in Archaeology Podcast: History of Badass Women in Archaeology, Part II (Episode 46)

You can listen to the podcast on the Archaeology Podcast Network (Click Here), or download the episode on iTunes.


On this episode, the hosts return to one of their favorite topics – the amazing women who have helped make archaeology the field it is. We’ll talk about some of our personal heroes, women who definitely don’t get enough credit, and how archaeological drawing is super hard and becoming somewhat of a lost art.

Check out the Women in Archaeology blog!


Living History Museums, Part 1: An Introduction

My brother and I were exposed to history, museums, and living history museums early on in our childhood; it shouldn’t be any kind of surprise that I ended up as an archaeologist, and he, a Medieval history scholar.  I loved reading about the past and viewing artifacts of daily life.  My family often visited the Ohio Village, which is a reconstructed town presenting daily life during the Civil War.  As soon as I turned thirteen years old, I was old enough to volunteer at the Ohio Village alone—and I jumped at that opportunity.  I had a wonderful period costume, hoop skirt and bonnet included, and I would demonstrate different activities in a third-person interpretation, as well as provide information about all kinds of facts about the Civil War and how people lived through it.  When I got a little bit older, I was the school teacher, the village feminist, a pharmacist’s daughter, a German barrel maker’s grand-daughter, presenting in both the first and third person.  I loved it!  This love of educating the public about the past continued into college, where I studied the background research, interpretation type, archaeology, and historiography of three early American living history museums: Jamestown Settlement, St. Mary’s City, and Plimoth Plantation.  So, why living history museums?  What makes this museum format special?

Historical facts need a certain level of interpretation to be comprehensible in a modern context.  Outside of the archivist, archaeologist, and historian, there are few who venture into the archives or archaeological sites.  To reach a wider audience, these facts can be weaved into popular historical fiction novels or epic films.  There are historical documentaries about popular periods of history such as the Civil War or World War II.  Modern society receives much of its information via visual media, from the news to the History Channel.  Therefore, it makes sense that if historians and museum curators wanted to draw in the public they would try to present historical information that is accessible and participatory.  Unlike docudramas and documentaries, as well as history exhibits, visitors to living history museums must become part of the presentation of the past.  One cannot simply watch: there are various smells, demonstrations, with history talking back at the visitor at museums like Plimoth Plantation and Colonial Williamsburg.  The visitor is experiencing heritage!

There is space at this type of museum for both the public and scholars to engage in the past.  For scholars, it can be a space for experimental archaeology and public outreach.  For the public, which is used to visual stimulation (i.e. television), a three-dimensional reconstruction of an archaeological site allows for greater interaction, and, consequently, a better understanding of the past; visitors tend to remember what they see and touch, rather than what they read.  Not only are living history museums interactive and informative, the public can also relate the present to the portrayed past.  Women today can note how women in Plimoth Plantation fit into the social hierarchy, realizing how far society has progressed and where there is still room for improvement.   So, what does every living history museum need to do get started? First, there must be a commitment to the Truth (yes, with a capital ‘T’) and a commitment to presenting that truth to the public.  There must also be a large reserve of resources, especially scholarly resources and well-trained interpreters, to re-create the environment of the settlement.  And, most of all, the museum must make sure that a compelling narrative is being told.

[Keep an eye out for ‘Living Museums, Part 2: A Brief History’]

Lovely Lorsch: The Abbey of Lorsch, Germany

My brother is a medievalist professor, which can be a dangerous thing if he spots his favorite Carolingian abbey while zipping along the autobahn in Germany.  He yelled, “LORSCH!” and swerved towards the exit—I gripped my seat in terror.  At least The Abbey of Lorsch and the town are absolutely lovely.  The Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered one of the most important pre-Romanesque-Carolingian style buildings in Germany.  The Abbey was founded in 764 AD and consecrated in 774 AD—Charlemagne was there! The library and scriptorium made Lorsch one of the cultural centers of Germany during the ninth century.  The entrance to the abbey (what you see in the photographs) is considered one of the best examples of Carolingian architecture.  It is a truly a beautifully preserved monument to the past.

Learn More:


Textbook Review of ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome’ by Chris Scarre


If you need the entire history of the Roman Empire reduced into a nutshell, with fantastic maps and photographs of archaeological ruins and busts, then this is the book for you!  The history of Roman civilization is a huge topic to tackle, especially in the span of a semester.  As a Classics minor, I had a difficult time remembering the major dates, people, and places figuring from 800 BC to 540 AD, from the origins in Rome, to fall of the Western Empire.  The Atlas provides a visual depiction of the rise and fall of Rome.  I personally like being able to see a broad depiction in order to better understand the major themes of a civilization.  Scarre provides detailed maps of important places of expansion, as well as information on trade, literacy, and cultural life in different periods.  The timelines are excellent; the timeline is broken down into The Roman State, Building and Construction, Literature and Philosophy, and Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean.  This book, however, cannot stand alone since it is a broad overview.  It is a great companion to classical texts and textbooks on the Roman Empire.  It is also perfect for a quick overview before an exam.  For those simply interested the rise and fall of Rome, the Atlas provides a great overview with fantastic images.


Picts, and Vikings, and Scots, Oh My: Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven/Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Sitting atop craggy cliffs overlooking the churning ocean lie the ruins of Dunnottar Castle, which are impressive and haunting.  The site of the castle—and the castle itself—has an incredibly rich and varied history.  Here we go . . .According to the website provided below, the area was first inhabited by Picts; during the 5th Century a saint chose Dunnottar as a site for a church; the Vikings came along and attacked/destroyed the castle during the 9th century; the castle then became a Catholic settlement in the 12th century; a 15th century poet wrote that William Wallace (Braveheart) set the castle chapel on fire with a garrison of English soldiers inside; the castle was home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland starting during the 14th century; kings and queens stayed at the castle; the Honours of Scotland were hidden at the castle; the castle was the site of major battles during the ‘rule’ of Oliver Cromwell; in 1685, 165 people were imprisoned in the Whig Vault at Dunnottar for refusing to acknowledge the King’s supremacy over religion; the last Earl that owed Dunnottar Castle was convicted for treason in 1715 for his role in the Jacobite  rising and the government seized the castle; the castle was neglected until purchased in 1925, had some repair and was opened to visitors.  Phew!  So, that’s it in a nutshell.

I loved wandering around the ruins of Dunnotttar.  It is hardly a moldering heap, but a beautiful collection of structures and features.  To get to the ruins, you have to descend many stone steps and pass through a tunnel—I was completely enchanted.  There were few visitors the day I visited, making the site particularly eerie; I couldn’t stand to be in the vaults/dungeons for very long.

To learn more about this impressive castle, check out:



American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976

What is the American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976?

The considerable range of cultural resources requiring protection and preservation, as well as the growing interest in American traditional culture, led to the enactment of the American Folklife Preservation Act in 1976. The declaration of intent and purpose provides similar language as the National Historic Preservation Act. American folklife, according to Section 2(a), “has contributed greatly to the cultural richness of the Nation and has fostered a sense of individuality and identity among the American people” and “that it is in the interest of the general welfare of the Nation to preserve, support, revitalize and disseminate American folklife traditions and arts” (United States Congress 1976:1). Consequently, preserving cultural traditions and educating the public on said traditions should not be sacrificed over progress or cultural differences. According to Groce (2010), “increased awareness and pride in ethnic and regional diversity of the American people—contributed to a concerted lobbying campaign by cultural specialists, who believed the time had come for a national center devoted to the preservation and study of folklore.” The Act, therefore, created the American Folklife Center (AFC) in the Library of Congress as a space to preserve and present American folklife.

Why do we need this law?

The American Folklife Center has undertaken a wide range of folklife documentation, fulfilling its role of procuring, exhibiting, communicating, preserving artifacts and audio and visual records representing some aspect of American folklife (United States Congress 1976:3). Such materials and educational programs would be made available to other public, private, and nonprofit educational institutions for greater public awareness of folklife, as related in Section 5(6). The center has coordinated efforts in preservation with the National Park Service, and with state and local organizations (King 1998:19). Dissemination of information on folklife to the public led to the Center’s annual Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. The Center, therefore, has fulfilled its goal of supporting the research and scholarship of folklife to “contribute to an understanding of the complex problems of the basic desires, beliefs, and values of the American people in both rural and urban areas” (United States Congress 1976:1). The educational programs provide a profound resource for the public in understanding the importance and diversity of cultural resources.

Groce, Nancy

2010 History of the American Folklife Center. Electronic document, http://www.loc.gov/folklife/AFChist/index.html, accessed April 23, 2011.

King, Thomas F.

2000 Federal Planning and Historic Places: The Section 106 Process. Altamira Press, New York.

United States Congress

1976 American Folklife Preservation Act, Public Law 94-201, January 2, 1976. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office.




National Park Service Organic Act of 1916

Enactment of the National Park Service Organic Act, 16 USC 1, in 1916 follows the intent of the Antiquities Act by establishing the National Park Service. The act created an agency with the mission to protect, conserve, and preserve both natural and cultural resources on public lands for future generations (King 1998:13). Establishing the National Park Service allowed for the regulation of designated areas as national parks, monuments, and reservations. According to the Act, the main purpose of the National Park Service is to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such mans as well leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (United States Congress 1916:1). As cultural resource managers, archaeologists, and/or concerned citizens, it is our duty to ensure that the National Park Service, and the Department of the Interior as a whole, keep to this promise of keeping our parks and national monuments protected and preserved for future generations.

King, Thomas F.

2000 Federal Planning and Historic Places: The Section 106 Process. Altamira Press, New York.

United States Congress

1916 The National Park Service Organic Act: 16 USC 1, 2, 3, 4, August 25, 1916. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office.