Last year’s Archaeology Southwest International Day of Archaeology blogs

To follow up on this year’s International Day of Archaeology #IDA2016, here is the blog roll from Archaeology Southwest’s #IDA2015 participation. The archaeologists and staff at Archaeology Southwest each wrote how they ended up in the discipline. Unsurprisingly for those who know an archaeology, for most, it was not a straight path from “as a child I always wanted to be an archaeologist” to “professional archaeologist”. Mine is on 10/12/2015 and is titled, How Bad Poetry Can Lead to a Career in Archaeology, if you are so inclined.

Here they are:

10/17/2015 Happy International Archaeology Day!

10/17/2015 Fortuities

10/16/2015 How a Sense of Place Made Sense of the Past

10/16/2015 I Found Nothing

10/15/2015 The Perfect Field

10/15/2015 Deep Roots and Archaeological Obsession

10/14/2015 From Arrowhead Hunter to Archaeologist

10/14/2015 Fateful Bananas

10/13/2015 The People

10/13/2015 A Long and Winding Road

10/12/2015 How Bad Poetry Can Lead to a Career in Archaeology

10/11/2016 Other Archaeologists

10/10/2016 The Making of a Preservation Archaeologist

10/9/2015 The Reluctant Archaeologist and Archaeology as a Gateway


What Archaeologists do Blog Posts for International Day of Archaeology.

The archaeologists and staff at Archaeology Southwest ran a bunch of blog posts for the International Day of Archaeology #IDA2016 from October 3rd through the 14th. As always with this group, they are a wonderful collection both of daily activities and history of archaeological ideas and practice. I’d really suggest checking them out. Mine was on October 13th and is called Bridges, if you are so inclined.

Here they are:

10/14/16 Decisions in Clay

10/13/16 Bridges

10/12/16 Delegating

10/11/16 The Translators

10/10/16 Painting Party

10/9/16 The Blog Must Go On

10/7/16 A Special Person, Two Places, and My Dog

10/5/2016 Juggling

10/3/16 Indiana Jones and the Artiodactyl-Sized Long Bone Shaft Fragment


Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: Work of Genius, or not.


In case you didn’t know . . .

Wittgenstein was offered a position at Cambridge after Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was already published. He didn’t actually have a PhD though, so he enrolled as a PhD student and submitted TLP as his dissertation. It’s said that he told his two examiners that they would never understand it. This may be possible, because one of his examiners for his PhD in 1929 was George Edward Moore. In his examiner’s report, Moore wrote, “I myself consider that this is a work of genius; but, even if I am completely mistaken and it is nothing of the sort, it is well above the standard required for the Ph.D. degree.”

Wittgenstein would later go on to post-humously critique much of TLP, so there may have been a bit of truth in both of the first two clauses of Moore’s sentence. Regardless, it is a pretty amazing statement. And it shows a surprising amount of modesty. I wonder if anyone would be this honest now-a-days.

Tucson Food Renaissance has its roots in the archaeology of the region.

Tucson is in the midst of a culinary renaissance as residents expand the use of native foods and create a local food market based on the unique palletes of the Sonoran desert. UNESCO has even awarded the city with its City of Gastronomy label, joining only 17 other cities across the globe with this designation. Much of this has to do with the deep history of agriculture and cuisine that we know about because of indigenous oral traditions and archaeology in the Tucson region. You can read more about it in these various national and international write-ups. If you live here, you probably already know how lucky we are. If you don’t, you should come visit us. See some of the archaeology that contributes to this culinary history and resurgence, eat at some of the restaurants outside of Tucson like the Desert Rain Cafe on the Tohono O’odham tribal lands that have helped underscore this interest in indigenous foods, and try some of the world class whiskey, beer, and wine that are produced here as well.

Keen on digital media applications? Seeking reviewers!



I’m very excited to announce that the Society for American Archaeology‘s (SAA) journal Advances in Archaeological Practice has recently launched a new section to appear in all future issues of the publication. We’re calling this section “Digital Reviews”.

You can read more about these Digital Reviews here (via the journal’s online presence) or on my profile. The reviews will be short, critical commentaries on digital media produced for archaeology and heritage audiences. By digital media, I mean any computer-based communication form meant to engage wide groups of people. These could include YouTube videos, podcasts, Snapchat or Facebook or Instagram or Twitter sites, subReddits, TED talks, apps, video-games, blogs and other online forums, digital TV programmes or news channels, online collections, virtual museums, SoundCloud accounts or other audio files delivered through digital means. Effectively any kind of digital communication platform that’s been deployed in the name of archaeology /…

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Wild Honey and a Skull; Port-a-potty and a Bovine Innominate


I found wild honey in a skull,

And it was strange and beautiful

To see the golden rout of bees

Bound for the farthest apple trees.

I said, “These are his dreams that go

To every field where blossoms blow,

And here is nectar that the brain

May search a life-time and in vain.

The bees make music and sweet sound

One scarce encounters underground.

I hope the bees, when I must fall,

Will make wild honey in my skull.”

         – Sterling North 1937, “I Found Wild Honey in a Skull”

But really it was a complete bovine innominate (i.e. hips/pelvis) I had run across while doing a reconnaissance survey of an area where we were going to take field school students out to train. I set it in the honeypot, I mean port-a-potty, cause those complete cattle hips always remind me of giant, Pan’s Labyrinth-esque, bone butterfly skulls. I’m not sure who ran into this in a dark port-a-potty at night, but it was moved the next morning. The students were whispering to themselves and looking over at the staff a lot. There were whispers of a skull.

I think Sterling would approve.

Bloody knuckles and grease

My jeep has been in dire need of servicing and multiple repairs while I’ve been finishing up my dissertation.

I only cried a little.

Actually, all of our household vehicles are (the motorcycle, jeep, and hatchback). Along with the pile-up of house work/repairs that I need to do, I’ll probably be spending all of my free time until my post-doc runs out in July working on those (as well as job apps). Since I also need to catch up on daddy-daughter time, I’ll be bringing the girls in to help out. They’ve done this before and are generally REALLY interested and excited for about 10 to 20 minutes.

maya car 1
This is Maya helping me out.
These are their “super excited two hours ago and just kind of worn out now” faces.

Then they wander off. Now that I’ve taught them how to play Bloody Knuckles, though, they come back pretty quickly. I have no idea why that game has caught on, but they love smashing my fist.

Anyways, one of the many things I needed to do on my jeep was replace the hub assembly. Badly. It was trashed.

Hub Assembly Madness: Tell Your Children

It’s not a particularly fun job, but I mostly wasn’t looking forward to doing it because the assembly can often get fused to the axle and the hub nut itself can sometimes be insanely difficult to remove. At least I’ve been told. I’d never done this before. I actually lucked out and the assembly wasn’t fused. The hub nut was insanely difficult. Standing and jumping on the breaker bar wasn’t doing it and my impact wrench wasn’t working either (this was after I’d sprayed some liquid wrench on the hub nut to loosen it up, too). Once I started to use my primate brain though, it went pretty quickly. I just used a very long cheater bar on the breaker bar for leverage and I got the nut removed.

6 foot cheater bar on my breaker bar.

It all came off relatively easily. The clouds decided to help and cover the sun (I guess the goat sacrifice worked. Sorry goat.).


Basically, I was happy to get that hub assembly changed out. And I was happy to have not gotten stuck in the middle of it. Now I have to pull the blower cowl and replace the heater core that just got a large leak last week.


So what’s the bigger point of this, you ask? There isn’t one. Or at least I don’t have one, but I’m sure someone could find one. I just wanted to check in and say hi to everyone. That’s about it.

Also, here’s a picture of the Cadillac of mudders. Literally. The caddy isn’t mine, but I was pretty excited when I saw it down here in Tucson. Especially because it has Minnesota plates and I really like thinking about driving that thing across country. Now to make that thing truly off-road and uncouple it’s reliance on gas by putting some photovoltaic cells on it.


Ah, heck. Since I like you all so much, here’s a picture of a truck bed full of mannequins that I saw on the road down here too.


Chi-Square, Concussions, and College Football

An archaeologist applies stats to reported instances of college football concussion and uncovers conspicuous instances of under(non)-reporting. Nice job, Shane.

D. Shane Miller

Over the course of the semester I’ve been using data from college football as examples in my Quantitative Methods course.

One data set that I found particularly interesting is this map outlining recorded concussions in college football last year. The map is kind of cool, but what’s really interesting is all of the other data they gathered along with it.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 10.27.34 PM.png

So…I downloaded the .kmz, pulled it into ArcMap, converted it into a shapefile, and then pulled out the data table.

I was particularly interested in determining if some positions were more prone to concussions than others.

Here we go…the most straightforward breakdown. With chi-square tests you compare your observed frequencies to an expected frequency distribution – in this case, if spread out all 166 concussion in their sample evenly across all of the positions. To test whether any differences are statistically significant, we run a Pearson’s Goodness of Fit…

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The archaeology of action figures

As an archaeologist, I’m often confronted with weird professional boundaries that stigmatise how and what types of culturally constructed material objects archaeologists study. This stigma primarily revolves around recent and contemporary material culture. In the UK, this is starting to change and in the US there are researchers such as myself who, regardless of what period in the past they study, think that archaeology is the scientific/social/historic/humanistic investigation of culturally constructed Things. Part of this is connected with what has come to be called New Materialism, a movement to rethink how and why humans and their world of Things (cars, toys, houses, wedding rings, toothbrushes, projectile points, tattoos, etc.) exist in a tangled web of interaction, identity construction, and cultural change.

Years ago, early in grad school this point of how archaeologists are barricading themselves within an in-artfully placed fortress of solitude was driven home to me while listening to a now retired archaeologist who publishes regularly on contemporary material culture self-deprecatingly, and I felt earnestly, note that he no longer writes archaeological literature. This same archaeologist, one of the smartest individuals I know, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and fundamentally changed the theoretical landscape of global archaeology in such an effective way that people now read his work and see it as mere “common-sense” when 30 to 40 years ago it was anything but.

More recently, while talking to a few colleagues in the U.S Southwest, I’ve been publicly criticised for declaring that my side project studying skateboards and the impact the material culture of this pastime and sport has had on processes of identity construction and environmental meaning across the globe is somehow archaeology. Many more have supported my statement in private, but that fear of going public with the idea that archaeology is actually the study of humans and their things, instead of the study of humans and their things from some vaguely distant past is a critical problem . . . in Americanist archaeology at least. I say this as an archaeologist who primarily investigates at a distance of some 600-1000 years in the past. After all, the past is only as far away as the beginning of this sentence.

Recently, for a professional anthropological and archaeological audience, I wrote that the above-mentioned “separation between what we do study versus what we can study creates a situation similar to what cyberpunk author William Gibson calls atemporality. Atemporality is essentially the idea that portions of the human narrative are historical in the Fukuyama sense, that is progressing through history and other parts are ahistorical, which is to say not progressing and disconnected from those periods that are in the flow of history. This creates a separation between skateboards and Clovis points, between worthy versus not worthy for the archaeological gaze. This sets archaeologists off from history and lends to an image of archaeological research by the public as basically frivolous.” I end by discussing what we can use to stitch the pre-modern/modern/post-modern world back together.

Regardless, while archaeologists have been fighting somewhat useless theory wars about how to investigate our (self-imposed) isolated portion of the past, the rest of the world of social researchers moved past us and started constructing their own theoretical understandings of human and object interactions. And so, to get to the point of this blog post, I would like to direct you to one such recently published discussion of the interaction between capitalism, history, and identity on the Atlantic website by University of Twente, Applied Philosophy professor Nolan Gertz. It’s a lot more interesting than I make it sound and looks at the history of action figures, particularly G.I. Joe’s and Star Wars figures. This harkens to an archaeological investigation of Barbie by Marlys Pearson and Paul Mullins that was published in 1999.* These two are definitive readings if you want to understand why and how archaeology can be an important avenue for investigating what it means to be human regardless of the time period. As an archaeologist who works in deep history**, I love research like Gertz’s and Mullins and Pearson’s, because it gives me a fundamental connection between people and their stuff that I can use to explain the past in much more realistic, and truthful, ways than simply saying that clearly these people had to move from A to B because it got too cold or there wasn’t enough rain. Also, they made different pots.***

Anyways, check out both of these readings. Whether you like or agree with the authors, these articles are, respectfully, excellent examples of what archaeologists could be doing and are doing. And feel free to leave comments below. I know I have really only stereotypically captured the spirit of Americanist archaeology and there are many folks who have worked and are working to break us out of our bubble (such as Bill Rathje, Larry Zimmerman, Jason De León, and Andrew Reinhard)


*Mullins continues to explore similar themes.

**That extensive period of time before writing was invented but after humans became cognitively the same as modern humans. Previously mislabeled as prehistoric when really it should have been called pre-textual.

***This is an overly sensationalised stereotype of bad archaeology. No one really does this . . . much . . . anymore.