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Upcoming Archaeology Events at UC Berkeley

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Upcoming Events
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Return of the Basket: On Art and Environment, Oct 31

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 15:58
Baskets are the original bags. They are among humankind’s earliest technologies, speaking especially to distant human interaction with plants. For as long as it is possible to measure, people everywhere made and used baskets in order to make life easier. In the modern imaginary, however, basketry is common, perhaps too common, and so tightly linked to pre-industrial life that it appears not just folksy, but underdeveloped and even anti-modern.

And yet, in 2017-2018, baskets from Japan have been featured in a quick sequence of individual exhibitions at notable museums in New York, Tokyo, and Paris. How to explain basketry’s surprise presence in the three capitals of modern art? With examples from California and Japan, this presentation suggests that there is an important but illusive environmental component to the basket’s unusual aesthetic power, one that begs understanding today.

Surveying Sistan: New Tales about an Old Archaeological Project in Afghanistan, Jan 23

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 11:43
This presentation will offer a brief overview of the Helmand Sistan Project (HSP), the only multidisciplinary, long-term, comprehensive survey and excavation project ever conducted in the southwest corner of Afghanistan. In the field in the 1970s and sponsored jointly by the Smithsonian and the government of Afghanistan, HSP identified almost 200 sites in the Sistan region, and excavated 15 of them, to establish the first cultural history from the Bronze Age to the present.
Further work was prevented by the Soviet invasion of 1979 and subsequent military conflicts, so our data and findings remain the only comprehensive source of archaeological, geological, and ethnographic information for Sistan. Only in the past two years has the process of publication of this material begun. Thus, this presentation will also include the steps taken in patching together a report from 40 year old data.
Presentation will be by Mitchell Allen, a Research Associate at ARF and at the Smithsonian. Allen founded two archaeology-focused publishing houses, AltaMira Press and Left Coast Press, in a 40 year scholarly publishing career. A junior archaeologist on the Helmand Sistan Project, he has since obtained a Ph.D. from UCLA, taught archaeology at five universities, and has numerous publications on both archaeology and scholarly publishing.

Overcoming Specialist Silos: Lessons from Zooarchaeology on Data Creation, Access, and Reuse, Oct 17

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:54
Specialist contributions play an important and ongoing role in archaeological interpretations. However, specialist analysis and reporting frequently occurs on a much different timeline than archaeological fieldwork. Furthermore, specialists often work in a laboratory or other setting far removed from the actual location of the excavation. This isolation can be damaging to research outcomes in many ways, especially because it encourages the formation of specialist data silos. To make matters worse, specialists may not realize that their data documentation practices are contributing to the siloization of data. In this talk, I present zooarchaeological case studies from Etruscan Italy and Neolithic Anatolia that highlight the challenges specialists face in ensuring that their work contributes to the bigger picture of archaeological interpretation. I will also discuss current research that explores how choices made during data creation can have impacts on a data set's future reuse, with an aim to improve the potential of specialist data for reuse by others.

Surveying Sistan: New Tales about an Old Archaeological Project in Afghanistan, Oct 24

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:54
This presentation will offer a brief overview of the Helmand Sistan Project (HSP), the only multidisciplinary, long-term, comprehensive survey and excavation project ever conducted in the southwest corner of Afghanistan. In the field in the 1970s and sponsored jointly by the Smithsonian and the government of Afghanistan, HSP identified almost 200 sites in the Sistan region, and excavated 15 of them, to establish the first cultural history from the Bronze Age to the present.
Further work was prevented by the Soviet invasion of 1979 and subsequent military conflicts, so our data and findings remain the only comprehensive source of archaeological, geological, and ethnographic information for Sistan. Only in the past two years has the process of publication of this material begun. Thus, this presentation will also include the steps taken in patching together a report from 40 year old data.
Presentation will be by Mitchell Allen, a Research Associate at ARF and at the Smithsonian. Allen founded two archaeology-focused publishing houses, AltaMira Press and Left Coast Press, in a 40 year scholarly publishing career. A junior archaeologist on the Helmand Sistan Project, he has since obtained a Ph.D. from UCLA, taught archaeology at five universities, and has numerous publications on both archaeology and scholarly publishing.

Remembering Queen Mary: Heritage Conservation of Free Blacks on St. Croix, U.S.V.I., Nov 7

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:54
On October 1, 1878, Afro-Crucian laborers on the Danish colonial island of St. Croix launched a historic protest that resulted in extensive damage to the island’s sugar industry. Known as “Fireburn” to local Crucians, this was a formative event in the relationship between Afro-Crucian people and plantation owners, most of whom were of European descent. Histories of this event cite three women, Queen Mary, Queen Agnes, and Queen Mathilda, as the labor riot’s leaders. Fireburn, the Three Queens, and other forms of resistance continue to be sources of pride for Afro-Crucians and are part of black heritage conservation efforts on St. Croix. Afro-Crucian heritage has also become an aspect of Danish attempts to commemorate the centennial of the transfer of the Virgin Islands, formerly the Danish West Indies, to the United States in 1917. Ongoing archaeological work conducted by the Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA) intersects with the ways Afro-Crucian heritage is created, maintained, and addressed by Crucians of African descent and Danish scholars of European descent. This talk explores the ways positionality plays a central role in the way heritage conservation is practiced by black Crucians and white Danish scholars.

What is the future of archaeology in Greece? How the nation-building project devalues archaeology and the quest for relevance, Nov 28

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:54
The nationalist role that archaeology has played in Greece since the beginning of the nation-state has been extensively discussed. Archaeology, predominantly meant as the study of Classical art, was established in an effort to protect Classical monuments as tangible links to a glorious past. The Modern Greek state could thus prove its legitimacy and worth as a descendant of the Classical Greek civilization and ensure its independence and a place amongst the ‘civilized’ Western world. In order to promote this agenda archaeology, heritage management and policy have been under the exclusive responsibility and control of the state Archaeological Service up to the present time. Indeed archaeology has been a main, if not the main, contributor to the construction of a Greek national identity, an on-going project including instances such as the internationally sensational discovery of a tomb allegedly dated to the time of Alexander the Great in 2014.

However, the nationalist role of archaeology has at the same time compromised the broader social, political and economic benefits of the discipline and the practice of heritage management. Through the process of cultural homogenization, indigenous archaeologies of Greece have been neglected and suppressed, greatly compromising the social values, the quality of political awareness, and even economic benefits that could derive from a critical investigation and presentation of the past. I will demonstrate through research focusing on three local communities how this exclusive emphasis on the glory of the past and its physical manifestations has rendered this past irrelevant to contemporary Greeks. Finally, I will argue that another archaeology is possible in Greece: a more self-reflective, nuanced and less self-referential archaeology may enable us to tell more relevant and subtle stories about the past and to more efficiently address serious issues such as racism, social fragmentation and justice. In the end, another archaeology may render another national identity possible.

Return of the Basket: On Art and Environment, Oct 10

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:48
Baskets are the original bags. They are among humankind’s earliest technologies, speaking especially to distant human interaction with plants. For as long as it is possible to measure, people everywhere made and used baskets in order to make life easier. In the modern imaginary, however, basketry is common, perhaps too common, and so tightly linked to pre-industrial life that it appears not just folksy, but underdeveloped and even anti-modern.

And yet, in 2017-2018, baskets from Japan have been featured in a quick sequence of individual exhibitions at notable museums in New York, Tokyo, and Paris. How to explain basketry’s surprise presence in the three capitals of modern art? With examples from California and Japan, this presentation suggests that there is an important but illusive environmental component to the basket’s unusual aesthetic power, one that begs understanding today.

Protecting the Dead: the LBA site of Aidonia, Greece, and the TAPHOS project, Sep 19

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 16:03
I present the preliminary results of the Nemea Center's collaborative project with the Greek Archaeological Service (TAPHOS) at the LBA site of Aidonia in the Korinthia region of Greece. This project was launched to explore the socio-cultural practices and political affiliation of the people interred in the Late Bronze Age (LBA) cemetery at Aidonia while at the same time preserving an endangered archaeological site through systematic excavation, publication of legacy material, and public education.

The tombs at Aidonia date from the early 15th to the late 13th c. BCE, roughly contemporary with the Shaft Graves from Mycenae excavated by Heinrich Schliemann and the influential palatial period that followed. The Mycenaean cemetery of Aidonia challenges current narratives regarding state development in LBA Greece because the tombs there echo the burials of palatial elites, but mortuary practices indicate that they thrived independent of the palatial societies characteristic of the nearby Argolid region.

Four years of excavation following a pilot survey season have revealed a complex mortuary tradition that includes significant variation in the treatment of primary and secondary burials indicating how the population engaged with and created memories of their past through the use and reuse of chamber tombs. Our current work has also revealed that extensive looting continues on the site and has already destroyed much of the site's narrative, but not entirely as several undisturbed tombs have now been completely and systematically recovered by our project.

After Cahokia: Indigenous Repopulation and Depopulation of the Horseshoe Lake Watershed 1400 – 1900 CE, Sep 26

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 16:03
The dynamic population history of the Cahokia archaeological complex has received significant academic attention for decades, but the subsequent repopulation of the region by indigenous groups is poorly understood. This study presents demographic trends from a fecal stanol population reconstruction of Horseshoe Lake, Illinois along with information from archaeological, historical, and environmental sources to provide an interpretation of post-Cahokia (> 1400 CE) population change. Fecal stanol data suggest regional population rebounded by 1500 CE, a post-Cahokia population maximum was reached by 1640 CE, and population was in decline by 1750 CE. The indigenous repopulation of the area coincides with environmental changes conducive to subsistence practices of the Illinois. Regional depopulation corresponds to a complicated period of warfare, epidemics, environmental change, and movement in the 18th century. The recognition of a post-Cahokia indigenous population helps form a narrative of Native American persistence over Native American disappearance.

Catching up with the (Upper) Paleolithic: “Art”, Memory, and Social Lives, Sep 12

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 14:41
In this informal talk, I will report on some recent trends and research in the study of the Upper Paleolithic, drawing, in part, from two summer conferences and our on-going research in the foothills of the French Pyrénées, at the site of Peyre Blanque. Both conferences addressed the current state of study of Paleolithic “art” that increasingly takes into consideration a wider and social context for its production and on-going-ness over many millenia, as well as its diversity. In one, we considered “what can we learn from Paleolithic art?” and in the other we explored how the study of Paleolithic art is much more than a study of an “art”….From Peyre Blanque, among other things, we are finding that pigments/coloring materials and minerals were much more abundant and used in many different ways, without having, on hand, anything much we could call “art”. Even when pigments are applied to walls of objects in the Upper Paleolithic—practices that are called “art”—they are not limited to that usage, but an integral part of everyday, perhaps notably so at sites (like Peyre Blanque) where an “investment” in place is manifest.

ARF Coordination Meeting, Aug 29

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 16:38
The initial Wednesday meeting of the semester is a coordination meeting for ARF Faculty, Grad Students and Staff. We will also have an overview of offerings from the D-Lab here on campus provided by their representatives. There is no public lecture. The first lecture occurs on the next Wednesday (Sept 5).