April 10, 2015

Just in over the EEF wires:

Filed under: Conservation/CRM, Egypt — acagle @ 1:14 pm

Ministry of Antiquities
Press Office
Translated by: Eman Hossni

Antiquities Minister: New Archaeological borders for Merimdet
Beni Salama

Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty declared that
the Egypt Exploration Society’s mission in collaboration with
The Ministry of Antiquities has reached new scientific evidences
that the borders of the famous Neolithic Settlement extends
approximately 200 m. to the south western side of its existing
Eldamaty added that the team uncovered a number of ceramics and
lithics of Neolithic date and that more investigations at the
area will present us much information about the various roads
and means of living during this era.
According to the Mission’s report: ” In summer 2014 after test
trenches had been conducted by the Ministry of Antiquities prior
to the laying of a gas pipeline – it was possible to investigate
the area just to the west of the modern asphalt road and it was
confirmed that in the pits of the MA investigations, as well as
in a test trenches by the current mission, ceramics and lithics
of Neolithic date were present. This means that the settlement
extents at least c. 200m southwest of what was formerly considered
to be the boundary of the settlement. Forthcoming investigations
and post-excavation analysis will be able to confirm whether this
newly-discovered area was occupied during the latest periods of
occupation of the settlement – as we anticipate – or whether it is
Merimdet Beni Salama where the discovery took place lies along the
desert edge of the Nile Delta and one of the aims of the Prehistoric
Survey performed by the Egypt Exploration Society in Imbaba Area and
directed by Dr Joanne Rowland of the Free University of Berlin, is to
reconsider the site within its wider geographic and environmental
Geophisical surveys conducted in a previous season revealed what
appeared to be pits that had not previously been investigated before,
a matter indicating the extension of the Neolithic settlement.

Much of what they do over there is typical CRM; that was part of the training we imparted to their Inspectors at the field schools we did (I did in 1996 and 2003). Merimde is a very important site; I summarized some of it in my dissertation if you’re interested.

March 23, 2015

One problem. . .

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 7:19 pm

with doing commercial archaeology is that I can’t often post about what it is I’m doing. Nondisclosure and such, not to mention tribes not wanting anything archaeological going out there on the Interwebs where people might see it and go loot it.

Nevertheless, part of the reason posting’s been light is that the last couple weeks have been hectic. The problem is that a client is trying to build a house on an actual, known shell midden site. With burials. That makes it very complex and also very sensitive. I have a couple of observations. First, I have to admit that, as much as I want to see the archaeological record protected, I want to see the 5th amendment protected. So I’m very uncomfortable with any government agency forcing landowners to pay thousands of dollars to mitigate or “encourage” them not to do things with their property. If it’s not materially affecting anyone else, they should be able to do what they want with their property.

Second, human remains are another issue. It’s easy to take the tribes to task for demanding that an entire site’s worth of sediment be screened for every scrap of human bone. But then, I imagine what would happen were a settler cemetery to have been discovered, perhaps even heavily disturbed in the last century at some point. I would bet most people would argue that we should expend a decent amount of effort to recover and rebury their remains as well. Still, I would rather see the tribes man and pay for at least a portion of the process. Recovering human remains isn’t a job for archaeologists, and I again don’t think it’s fair to have a landowner shoulder all of the costs.

But then, I can’t really talk about this in too much detail or show photos to you guys or anything. I wish I could, but we’re often on private property and such. But I think in the future I’ll try to talk about some of the things we’re doing on a daily basis.

March 18, 2015

My point of view confirmed

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Statues destroyed by Islamic State in Mosul ‘were fakes with originals safely in Baghdad’

The jihadists of Islamic State enraged many when they filmed themselves destroying Iraq’s ancient treasures but the head of the country’s national antiquities department confirmed they were plaster copies of priceless originals.
“None of the artefacts destroyed in the video is an original,” Fawzye al-Mahdi told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Curators at the Baghdad Museum studied the video and found that many of the artefacts that appeared to have been destroyed were in fact safe inside their own museum.
They also found that others are held in museums around the world.

I thought in a couple of the videos that the objects looked pretty. . . . .perfect. But I didn’t think most of them were.

But at least someone agrees with me:

“We should be glad that the most important relics of our past are well-protected in foreign museums when considering the barbarism we are currently experiencing,” Ms al-Mahdi told Deutsche Welle.

Spread ‘em around and decrease the chances that they’ll be destroyed, says I. And even we may end up in similar circumstances some day.

March 11, 2015

Bodies, bodies, everywhere!

Filed under: Bodies, Cemeteries, Conservation/CRM, bodies everywhere! — acagle @ 6:53 pm

Literally: Crossrail archaeology: the story so far

It is one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever undertaken in the UK.
Crossrail currently operates over 40 worksites and archaeological investigations which will be carried out at each site ahead of main construction works to build the stations.
A project spanning over 100 kilometres with more than 40 construction sites has the potential to uncover many finds.
To date Crossrail has found more than 10,000 artefacts spanning many years of London’s past across more than 40 construction sites. It is the UK’s largest archaeology project.

They’re expecting up to 3,000 burials to remove. Which will provide a tremendous amount of demographic and pathological data. And all of it’s rescue archaeology.

“This site also demonstrates one of the great dangers of archaeology; not to life and limb, although that does sometimes take place. . . .”

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 6:49 pm

In Syria, Archaeologists Risk Their Lives To Protect Ancient Heritage

“They are dedicated professionals,” says Corine Wegener at the Smithsonian Institution. She leads a worldwide effort to protect cultural heritage. “This is a new situation,” says Wegener, describing the war in Syria as a cultural emergency. “We are trying to help.”

Abdul Rahman al-Yehiya and Ayman al-Nabu seem unlikely warriors. They are academics in suits. We meet them in a hotel in southern Turkey, near the Syrian border, after they made a grueling, 10-hour journey across Syria’s dangerous frontier, including the last 5 miles on foot.

“We are a team of specialists in archaeology, engineering and artists,” says Yehiya. He led the team in an emergency preservation of the Ma’arra museum in northern Syria’s Idlib province, famous for a dazzling, world-class collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics from the 3rd to 6th centuries A.D.

Artifacts are one of the things that goes when there is any sort of upheaval, war-related or not. Looting exploded in Egypt after the revolution simply because no one was getting paid to guard the sites and people had to do whatever they could to survive.

March 9, 2015

Not so odd after all

Filed under: Conservation/CRM, Remote Sensing — acagle @ 6:59 pm

Archaeologists Use Moles To Solve Mysteries Of Middle Ages’ Fort

BLOCK: Danish archaeologist Yesper Yah-mind is working on a site where he believes a medieval manor once stood. He’s not allowed to dig on the site because the land is protected by the government. But luckily, it’s also home to a colony of moles – so he lets them do his dirty work instead.

YESPER YAH-MIND: On top of these mole hills there sometimes are pottery or sometimes are small pieces of bricks.

SIEGEL: Doesn’t sound like much but Yah-mind says, there are mountains in those molehills.

We use such things as well. Many times when we’re surveying a property — usually doing some subsurface probing — if there are mole hills present we always take a look at the sediment because they will often bring up shell midden material; it can be a good little non-destructive mapping tool.

I think they’re kinda cute. . . . .

Well, that’s a bummer of a story

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 6:55 pm

Artifacts highlight Lone Woman story

A decision by the Navy last week validated a cultural connection between the historic Nicoleno Tribe of San Nicolas Island — the most remote of the Channel Islands — and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. The determination gives the tribe jurisdiction over hundreds of human remains and burial objects.

“We are pleased with the affirmation by the federal government of our cultural affiliation between Pechanga and the human remains and associated funerary objects from San Nicolas Island,” tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in a statement Friday.

Holm also hopes the Navy’s announcement will shed more light on the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, a mysterious historical figure memorialized in the children’s novel “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” by author Scott O’Dell.

So, typical NAGPRA decision, no?

Maybe not:

The novel is a fictionalized account of a real woman known as Juana Maria, or the Lone Woman, who lived by herself on San Nicolas Island for 18 years after her tribe was massacred by otter hunters and the remaining tribal members were moved to the mainland in 1835.

Through some mishap during that evacuation, the Lone Woman was left behind. She was eventually discovered and transported to Santa Barbara Mission in 1853, then died just seven weeks later.

The book inspired by her tale has been a mainstay of elementary school literature for millions of California students, and has gripped readers with its account of one girl’s tenacity through years of tragedy and solitude.

I dunno, four words recorded 150 years ago is awful thin gruel to hang an entire cultural affiliation on.

March 5, 2015


Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 8:15 pm

Destroying humanity’s history: ISIS smash priceless 2,000 year-old archaeological artefacts at Iraq museum

is why I think having a country’s objects in other countries isn’t so bad. The more they’re spread out the less chance they’ll all have of being wiped out when things like this happen.

February 23, 2015

One reason I’ve been lax in posting

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 8:28 pm

I’ve taken on a very large and irritatingly complicated project. We have many laws here that involve archaeological sites, in addition to the federal ones. And this one is taxing them all.

Background: A property here was recently sold by the original owners (and by ‘original’ I mean the offspring of the guy who bought and built the existing house) to someone from out of state. It was a large house on a waterfront property. Initially, they called us in to do a small survey as they wanted to create a new septic system. It sits within a major site, although not a lot of work has been done in this particular lot. I found mostly disturbed shell midden but also a bit of apparently undisturbed midden.

After I submitted all that, I didn’t hear from the new owners for a couple of months and then they called back and said they’d decided to tear down the house and build anew.


So for the last couple of months I’ve been writing excavation permits for more testing, excavation, survey, and a whole lot of other stuff and it’s just been getting worse and worse from the owners’ perspective. We’d thought it probably didn’t have much of any intact stuff there — it had been an industrial site in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — but then once they’d got the old foundation out and we could see some profiles it turned out to be chock full o’ intact midden.

And did I mention all of the human remains that have turned up?

Basically, it turned into the worst case scenario. The owner will have to either radically rethink his design to minimize any new excavations or. . . .well, pack it up and sell. At this point either option I see as likely. If they decide to go ahead, it will mean tens of thousands of dollars of data recovery and screening for human remains and then monitoring all through the excavations for the new structures. In other words, a LOT of money.

Which basically kind of irritates me. As much as I want intact archaeological deposits to be preserved, it bothers me that the State can demand an individual pay thousands of dollars to do things on his own property that do not materially affect anyone else. That just feels too much like seizure by default. “Oh, sure, you can do whatever you want on your property. . . .but we’re going to make you pay to do so.”

Hence, it’s all making me a bit uncomfortable. They’re (the owners) aren’t exactly blaming us for all this, but being the middleman in the process doesn’t make me feel good. Thus, it’s been causing me some stress.

February 16, 2015

Fight! Fight!

Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 7:54 pm

Free entry at Louvre due to angry archaeologists

The protest was prompted by growing concern over the use of private companies to protect France’s heritage, which they say has had catastrophic effects over the last 10 years.

“We demand that archaeology is taken out of the commercial sector,” said Michon.

They focused on a sector called “preventive archaeology,” which helps protect ancient sites, and which was opened up to competition from private companies in 2003.

I wonder what that is, like the private companies doing that here?

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