Basket Weaving at Çatalhöyük

I uploaded the above test clip for the longer machinima that I posted about a little while ago.  It took an immense amount of work to get this far, and this is only a tiny clip of a somewhat awkward avatar doing a single animation.  I used Jing for the video capture and downloaded Soundflower for the system audio redirect.

I think I’ve complained before about having a hard time finding a variety of avatars on Second Life.  Well, this lady is definitely in a different  mode than my usual avatar.  “Wearing” an identity like this one is deeply uncanny, and the reactions and perceptions of other people you meet in Second Life are absolutely different.  I decided to follow a fairly popular strain of visual interpretation at Çatalhöyük in dressing her as a goddess figurine in the bandeau that I made for a decidedly younger character.

Once again, the exercise of recreating this small scene raised more questions than it answered:

She’s weaving reeds, so it must be summer.  Were there cicadas?  Yes.  Why would she be doing this inside by firelight during the summer?  It would be excruciatingly hot and smoky.  What about her vision?  I’ve put her in a less than optimal situation for weaving, that’s for sure.   Why isn’t there anyone with her?  Could she hear other people?  Maybe sheep! We’ll add some sheep sounds. I think she’d be humming to herself.  But what sounds?

It’s a lot of interpretive responsibility, wearing these second skins.

DIY and Digital Archaeology: What are you doing to Participate?

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From the teachings of Big Daddy Soul:

“Think about the kind of revolution you want to live and work in.  What do you need to know to start that revolution? Demand that your teachers teach you that.”

Roll up your sleeves.  With archaeology employment declining and the world economy burning down around us it is more important than ever to do everything we can to bring archaeology to the public.  Our organization policy makers in the Society for American Archaeology in the States and more broadly in the World Archaeological Congress work hard and do what they can to raise awareness of the preservation of archaeological sites and the promotion of archaeological education, but they are not enough.

So my question is one inspired by the Young Lions Conspiracy: What are you doing to Participate?  The Young Lions Conspiracy, based in Austin, TX, was formed around an attitude toward life and soul music.  Primarily driven by Tim Kerr, one of the most fantastic musicians and artists that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching writhe on the floor in a tangle of guitar cables and beer cans, the Young Lions was one manifestation of a broader culture of participation and DIY in Austin in the 1990s.  This attitude has stayed with me through the process of undergraduate and graduate school.  My statement of purpose upon entering Berkeley included a variation of bell hooks’ feminist manifest: Archaeology is for everybody.

This seemed even more possible with the growing ease and accessibility of technology and downright necessary with the specter of ubiquitous computing and embedded landscapes looming.  While there are a few interesting projects and “proof of concepts” emerging in conference presentations and collected volumes, many archaeologists seem content to let others visualize and present their work, citing a lack of time or knowledge of the technology involved.  Those of us who are conversant with this technology–which at a basic level is no more difficult or time consuming than creating a power point presentation–need to stretch further and faster than before.  Even some of us who are technologically capable do not share, and sharing should be a reflexive, nearly automatic action for archaeologists.  I was recently inspired by Eric Paulos’ recent Manifesto of Open Disruption and Participation that calls for the creation of “an entirely new form of citizen volunteerism, community involvement and participation” to “effect real political change.”

It is worth learning new forms of communication to preserve the past.  It is important that we as archaeologists do not let others co-opt our unique vision and understanding of the world around us.  We must interfere in the public’s understanding in the past.  Change it.  Surprise, enlighten, destroy when necessary and rebuild a better, stronger, more curious and more passionate interest in what we do.  This is my charge to myself and to other archaeologists and to anyone who wants to join us.

What are you doing to Participate?

(The title is also an upcoming talk I’m giving as part of a seminar at Moesgård Museum in Denmark)

Internment Camp Yearbook

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In our Introduction to Archaeology classes, we give our students a choice over the site that they want to focus on for their final project.  These can run the gamut from Teotihuacan to the Gault Site in Texas.  Students gather materials about the site and present this information to the whole class, and the final exam covers details from these presentations.  The success of these presentations varies widely, generally according to how interested the students become in the topic, and if they can maintain group coherence.  Each year that I’ve offered the choice of Manzanar as one of the sites, the undergraduates who chose the site become extraordinarily excited and interested in the place.  Even though most of them grew up in California, few have learned about the Japanese American Internment camps within their own state, each of which has an extensive historical record to draw upon.

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So, imagine my surprise and keen interest when I ran across the Internment Camp Yearbook scans on boingboing.  Aquila, published by the Tri-State High School in 1944, documents a year in the life of internees in Tule Lake War Relocation Center in Newell, California.  It’s hard to equate these smiling teens, slick with hair pomade and starched collars with prison camps.  But look under their names–it’s where they lived before the war.  Where they were taken from, after being forced to sell or give away their homes, possessions, and businesses.  Only 60 years ago, in the United States of America.

The students get this though.  In their presentations they talk about the oral histories, examine the archaeological evidence against the documentary evidence, lay out a plan for future interpretation of the site.  And then, sometimes, they do a bit more.  Unprompted by me, the last part of the group presentation from 2007 drew parallels between the treatment of a perceived enemy population during WWII and the treatment of Muslims in America, post 9-11.  The last slide was of Guantánamo Bay.

Needless to say, I’ll be using this yearbook next time around.

Scans from “Aquila“, in the Guy & Marguerite Cook Niesei Collection at the University of the Pacific.

Utilized Glass and Experimental Archaeology in Kalaupapa

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One of my pet interests in archaeology is utilized glass, that is, glass that has been repurposed for cutting or scraping.  One of the best examples of this are the glass points of Ishi, a collection that I studied and wrote up during my first year of grad school.  Since then I haven’t worked much with utilized glass, so it came as a lovely surprise to find so much of it at Kalaupapa.  James and I planned and collected a large scatter that came up as at least 50% utilized after we looked at it in the lab.

We washed all the glass, then sorted and drew pieces that were either utilized or had identifying marks on them.  A lot of the glass looked really modern, as in, about 100 years old or so.  You can figure out a bottle’s age by color and by morphology, particularly by how the bottle’s neck and base were fixed to the body.  If you’d like to find out more about how to do this, one of the best references is the Parks Canada Glass Glossary, available here.

But we going “chicken blind” (as my darling Serbian friend Marina would term it) and we were starting to doubt our analyses.  So we did a little experimental archaeology.

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CHiSL

Last spring I started gathering information on cultural heritage sites in Second Life, in the interest of keeping track of the many projects ongoing in Second Life.  Out of this came CHiSL, or Cultural Heritage in Second Life, a loose group of projects and individuals interested in the topic.  I finally got around to creating (yet another) blog that will be a central place for news on these projects and developments with a class that I am helping out with, a Second Life DeCal (class by undergraduates taught by an undergraduate) that is based around OKAPI island, the Çatalhöyük reconstruction hosted by the University of California, Berkeley.

Here’s the link to the blog:

http://chisl.wordpress.com

Any other contributions (Electric Archaeologist, I’m looking at you) would be welcome.  Of course, I still need to put up the information from the WAC session, so I’m already behind.

Embedded Interpretation

So, once upon a time, a naive undergraduate from the University of Texas applied for graduate school in archaeology.  She sent out a statement of purpose that boiled down to: “I want to be able to embed archaeological information in the landscape, and I want other people to be able to add to that information…on my cellphone.”

Three years later, that’s what I did.  There’s several ways to do this, and this is obviously a kludge, but it’s a start.  I’ll probably load the full documentation up to the Presidio field blog later tonight.

Presidio Memory Maps

For the next three weeks I’m helping to teach a class at the Presidio of San Francisco on digital documentation, cultural heritage, and interpretive trails.  It’s an intensive course, 8+ hour days for the undergraduates and more like 12-13 hour days for me.  For the first day, I had the students create memory maps using flickr and google maps to teach them how to use the tools, but also to teach them about free-associative narratives as a part of placemaking.  It worked well as an exercise, and it was interesting to see the different scales that the students used for their own maps.  I made one a couple of years ago ago about living in New Orleans, but I felt like I wanted to update it, so I made another one from Austin, linked above.

I’m also updating the official project blog, Remixing El Presidio, here:

http://remixpresidio.wordpress.com

Good fun, but I’m ready to have my hands in the dirt again!