Archaeology and the Press: Part 1- Why does the news get it so, so, so, wrong?

Originally posted on Doug's Archaeology:

Press and Archaeology

Bad “news” articles are everywhere, but sometimes it seems like they are especially bad in archaeology. Bad articles can range from something as simple as the misspelling of a name to articles about how archaeologists recently discovered dinosaur bones in which the “archaeologists” interviewed is actually an “expert” on UFO sightings. Even the best news sources can get it wrong, here is a line from the Guardian,

The recent archeological finds of a pliosaur skull in Dorset” (for any non-archaeology readers, archaeologists don’t really deal with dinosaurs)

This post is going to be a part of a series on the Press and Archaeology. I have been writing a BAJR guide on the topic on and off for several years now and with some recent events I thought it would be good to dust it off and blog about it.

Do your job dammit!

Your first reaction to a bad…

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Real-Life Paleo Diet Included Spiral-Tusked Elephant Ancestor

Originally posted on Ancientfoods:

There’s a new mega-mammal on the menu of America’s first hunters.

On a ranch in northwestern Sonora, Mexico, archaeologists have discovered 13,400-year-old weapons mingled with bones from an extinct elephant relative called the gomphothere. The animal was smaller than mastodons and mammoths, but most had four sharp tusks for defense.

The new evidence puts the gomphothere in North America at the same time as a prehistoric group of paleo-Indians known as the Clovis culture, whose beautifully crafted projectile points helped bring down giant Ice Age mammals, including mammoths. This is the first time gomphothere fossils have been discovered with Clovis artifacts.

“The Clovis stereotypically went out and hunted mammoth, and now there’s another elephant on the menu,” said Vance Holliday, a co-author on the new study, published today (July 14) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The archeological site, named “El Fin del Mundo” (the End of…

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Why are there so few Archaeologists in such a large country? America’s Archaeology Employment Problems

Originally posted on Doug's Archaeology:

When I posted that it is estimated that there were only 11,000 archaeologists working in the USA, pre-crash, several people made the comment that it seems like so few for such a big country.

“….it is pretty astounding to think that there are only 11k archaeologists pre-crash in that huuuuuge country.” - Rachel on BAJR facebook group.

The UK had roughly 7,000 archaeologists in that same time frame (pre-crash) with only a population of roughly 64 million people (2014) covering 242,900 sq. km. (land). America by comparison has 318 million people (2014) and covers 9,826,675 sq. km. (land) (sources: populations here and size here).

Why?

The reason is simple, laws. In the UK heritage protection laws cover almost everywhere, now even marine as well. Effectively, the UK government owns everything six inches below the ground ( a simplification but it works). In Scotland, it owns all lost objects, except…

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Chilling Out With “Mammoths: Ice Age Giants”

Originally posted on What's In John's Freezer?:

Mammoths and I go way back, not quite to the Ice Age but at least to the late 1970s with my family’s visits to the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, and Milwaukee Public Museum, to name two prominent places that inspired me. And one of my favourite science books had a colourful mammoth painting on the cover (I’m trying to find and post it here; stay tuned), an image that has stayed with me as awesomely evocative.

Stomach-Churning Rating: 3/10. But there’s a butt below, but that’s too late for you now. And there’s poo and other scatological (attempts at) humour. Otherwise, bones and a baby mammothsicle.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and I’m studying mammoths, along with their other kin amongst the Proboscidea (elephants and relatives). I even bumped into a frozen mammoth in Sapporo, Japan, nine years ago–

Yep. That's what it looks like. Nope, not the front end. That orifice is not the mouth. This is the XXXXX mammoth. Yep. That’s what it looks like. Nope, not the front…

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4 Unwritten Rules of Professional Archaeology

Originally posted on Doug's Archaeology:

The Archaeology in Tennessee Blog has put out a call to collect the unwritten rules of professional archaeology. Here is a brief blurb on it-

“It occurred to us that similar sets of unwritten rules are probably operative on a conscious or unconscious level in the world of professional archaeology.  These are rules that no one has written down on paper and said, “See this!!!  It’s a rule!!!  You must abide by it stringently at all times.”  Nonetheless, just from working in the discipline of professional archaeology for many decades, archaeologists have picked upon or sensed that such unwritten rules are nonetheless there, and many archaeologists expect other archaeologists to know what those unwritten rules are and to abide by them.  While these unwritten rules may exist, some archaeologists might not be aware of them, some might not subscribe to all of them, and their application may vary…

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Lenna – Beautiful Daughter Of Geronimo c.1900

Originally posted on Retrorambling:

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Lenna Geronimo was born in 1886 in Fort Marion, St. Augustine, FL, while her father was a prisoner there. The medical staff gave her the name Marion, after the fort, but she took the name Lenna upon returning to the Southwest. Lenna Geronimo, the daughter of Geronimo and wife Ih-tedda, a Mescalero Apache, was the full sister of Robert Geronimo, Geronimo’s only living son. Lenna was Bedonkohe-Mescalero.

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After Decades of Frozen Stagnation

It’s not often profitable to point out the negative but conversely, it doesn’t do us good to hide our problems and pretend they don’t exist.

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A little cleaning to start things off.

We have been making small improvements over the past year in the Blackwater Draw Museum and I certainly hope they continue.  We began by removing decades of accumulated junk, hoarded telephone books, outdated flyers, broken appliances, broken electronics, food containers, etc. that accumulated in the backrooms of the museum.  Now we begin a new phase.  We are still extremely limited by budget but a little enthusiasm from students and a little guidance can go a long way toward making things better.  Many thanks to those who began helping last year and who are moving us forward into a new era.

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Brightening and creating a clean look.

Much to everyone’s consternation, Some displays have lingered, unfinished, for 20 years.  This level of apathy brings me actual physical pain but enthusiastic volunteers were found to kickstart a new look.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph this before we began but this is a couple hours into work.  Tattered labels are removed, and a base layer of blue was put into the oceans.

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Coastlines were repaired, poorly-placed elements removed, and color is layered on.

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The artist not only repaired Cuba, Florida, the Canadian islands and lakes, but was so bold she added Iceland as well.

More to come as we move forward.

Eight mummies, eight lives, eight stories

Originally posted on British Museum blog:

John H Taylor and Daniel Antoine, curators, British Museum

We may think that we know the ancient Egyptians on account of the abundance of carved and painted images and the many texts on stone and papyrus that have survived, but these sources convey a formal, partial and sanitised view; to a large degree they tell us only what the Egyptians wanted posterity to know.

The first mummy entered the Museum’s collection in 1756, and for the past 200 years none of the mummies have been unwrapped. But modern technology, in the form of the CT (computed tomography) scanner, has transformed the way that we can study them, allowing us to see within the wrappings and the mummified bodies, in a non-invasive and non-destructive manner.

We can now look behind the mask of material culture and encounter the actual people of the ancient Nile Valley through a forensic study of their…

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The Early Holocene Survival of Late Pleistocene Megafauna in the Americas

Originally posted on GeorgiaBeforePeople:

Most Pleistocene species of North American megafauna stopped occurring in the fossil record about 12,000 calender years ago.  It is remarkable how consistently the latest terminal radiocarbon dates of Pleistocene megafauna cluster around this time boundary.  Specimens that date to younger than this boundary are always questioned and resubmitted for another round of radiocarbon dating till a more believable result is attained, or they are dismissed as “contaminated” samples.  One notable exception to this rule was the discovery that mammoths survived on the Pribiloff Islands located between Siberia and Alaska until about 4000 calender years ago.  (See:http://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/the-late-extinction-of-the-pribiloff-island-mammoths/).  Another accepted exception are some of the fossils of dwarf ground sloths found on Carribean islands.  They also date to just a few thousand years ago.  However, these late survival sites are considered special cases explained by the isolation of islands.  The consistent terminal radiocarbon dates on the mainland suggested to scientists…

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