The Archaeology of Burning Man

Burning Man, 2007

It’s the second talk I’ve blogged in a week, but Spring is busy with talks, so give me a break! Carolyn White came to present on her project at Burning Man, the large annual festival in Black Rock desert, Nevada that has become a huge cultural phenomenon.  I went in 2007, and mentioned it briefly here and here.  Carolyn White has been conducting a project out there since 2008 and discussed some of her initial impressions in front of a packed room here at the Archaeological Research Facility.  It was great to see so many “outside” people at an archaeology talk, but a little disheartening to see so few archaeology graduate students attending.

Carolyn made some interesting parallels with Lewis Binford’s ethnoarchaeology among the Nunamiut and with Jim Deetz’s historical archaeology, but I wish she would have gone into a bit more depth regarding spacial analysis, especially the structuration of space within the Burning Man camp.  When I was there I felt very confined–almost crushed by the weight of so many people who had absolutely no idea of how to interact with a desert.   She also made several mentions of a landscape “scrubbed clean” of all traces of humans, something that had the soil micromorphologist sitting next to me grumbling about.  People leave traces of themselves wherever they go, as minute as they may be.

I was also very interested in her transformation of Burning Man into an archaeological subject.  She took architectural photos with archaeological scales and artifact-like photographs of the legendary “moop” left behind each year by burners–how did this interaction with Burning Man as an academic subject change the way she saw the festival?

So, you can hear the talk yourself on Burning Man Radio. I’m not sure if they have an archive or how exactly it will be broadcast, but it was a really great talk by an archaeologist doing fun, innovative research out in the Black Rock desert.

More Comics + New Presidio Blog + Robots

This is the semester that refuses to die! Die, semester, die!

Anyway, so I made (even more) comics about how to make mudbrick and posted them to flickr. I don’t really like the front page much (it’s rehash), so here’s the third page:


I think I’ll use this as the example comic for my short SHA article that I need to pound out.

Anyway, I also got a blog set up (with hosting from the ever helpful Noah) for the Presidio Archaeology Lab, so we’ll see if they keep using it after my research position ends there:

I really like how the map header turned out. When I tweaked the scan to make it look “older” some of the pencil marks popped out, and showed how the map had been drawn a bit differently at first–unintentional photoshop archaeology.

On a slightly different note, Katy invited us to go with her to an art opening at the Exploratorium featuring a mind-reading robot. We got there somewhat late, so we didn’t have time to try out the thing or to look around, but I absolutely have to go back. We stopped by Lucky 13, then we made our way over to the Flaming Lotus Girls benefit, where I got a few good pictures of the Orb Swarm. The Orb Swarm are remote-controlled balls that have lights inside of them, but they’re counterbalanced in such a way that makes them very hard to control, so they tended to go crashing into things. Perfect!


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