Making Tools

Originally posted on Paleotool's Weblog:

Back to the beginnings.  Larry Kinsella is a great flint knapper and an all-around talented guy who, amongst other things, recreates stone-age technologies from his home near Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (one of the great cities of the prehistoric world) in Illinois.

A 6.35 kilogram (14 US pound) nodule of Burlington chert.

Back in 2008, Larry, prompted by Tim Baumann, created a great lithic experiment for a Missouri Archaeology Month poster.

On May 28th,2008, Larry received an e-mail from Dr. Tim Baumann:
Larry, “I still need your help with the Missouri Archaeology Month Poster.
The theme for 2008 is prehistoric lithic resources in Missouri. The back of the poster will have unmodified samples of chert and other lithic resources used by Native Americans in Missouri. I am working with Jack Ray and utilizing his new book on Ozarks lithic resources. Jack is also organizing the fall symposium on…

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What is the use of Archaeology? Naysayers crushed by Rev. #WhyArchMatters

Originally posted on Doug's Archaeology:

“But archaeology is not simply valuable as a purveyor of facts and evidences for the use of the historian. It elevates the mind of man; it enlarges his soul; it divests us of a part of our selfishness; it lifts us out of the rut of our every-day life; it makes our hearts beat in sympathy with those who cannot repay us even the “tribute of a sigh”; it educes affections which bless us and tend to make us blessings to all around, but which are apt to be dried up by too long and too intimate an acquaintance with the market-place and the exchange.”

A few weeks ago I posted about how to write to your elected representatives.  This week I have reason to do so as the US congress is looking to cut the funding to Social and Behavioral Sciences of which Archaeology is a part of…

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What is a curator?

Originally posted on Zygoma:

What is a curator?

Every so often I’ll meet someone who asks me what I do; this draws the response “I’m a natural history curator”*. Sometimes I will then be faced with the dreaded follow-up question “what does that mean?”

I hate it when this happens, because the curatorial role involves lots of different things and it can be hard to summarise them in any kind of concise and intelligible way. Different museums expect different things from curators, which will usually depend on the rest of the staffing structure. So when I answer I can only really answer for myself and what I think MY curatorial role entails.


The most obvious responsibility is “curating collections”, which is not actually an explanation in any meaningful way. To curate more or less means to “take care of”, but these days the museum sector has become professionalised and there are other specialists who take…

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CFPo: THEN DIG – The Senses and Aesthetics of Archaeological Science

Originally posted on Middle Savagery:


I’m very excited to be co-editing a new issue of THEN DIG – the Open Access, Open Peer Review archaeology blog with Dr. Andrew Roddick. Here is an excerpt from the Call for Posts:

In this issue of Then Dig we explore encounters with the past in the context of archaeological science. From the abstract expressionist appreciation of ceramic thin sections, to the treasure hunt for phytoliths under a microscope, to the severe precautionary costumes of the Clean Room, we investigate the aesthetic, the multisensorial, and the profound in archaeological science.

After a small hiatus, the blog/journal has been thriving. I’ll be posting the last submission associated with the Zeitgeist theme very soon, and there’s a great line-up that Dr. James Flexner has put together from a conference on Oceania that will also be going up shortly.

I’ve also very much enjoyed the Open Peer Review style. It is…

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Who Has Gotten National Science Foundation Archaeology Money, Interesting Results

Originally posted on Doug's Archaeology:

Last week I presented data on National Science Foundation funding for the archaeology/Archaeometry program s and then I examined funds for archaeology projects outside of these programs . I also gave the raw data so anyone can check my results.

In that raw data are the listed Principal Investigators for each project. I took a look at that data to see if there were any ‘star’ principal investigators, at least for archaeology. This is based off of the Archaeology and Archaeology-related grants, not those that are only briefly related to archaeology (see here for discussion of the difference). Here are the top 20 performers in terms of amount won adjusted for inflation:

Name Number of Grants Amount Amount Adjusted for Inflation
David Cooper 3  $6,163,520.00  $7,505,860.75
Douglas Donahue 5  $3,970,971.00  $6,728,909.93
Michael Goodchild 1  $4,335,573.00  $6,062,437.45
T. Douglas Price 32  $3,849,165.00  $5,546,182.90
Curtis Marean 13  $4,088,408.00  $4,799,673.11
Herbert Maschner 13

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Trespassing…for Science

Originally posted on Middle Savagery:

This is of a site in Dorchester by Wessex Archaeology. I'm sure it was legitimately taken and is only used as a demonstration of the technique!

This is of a site in Dorchester by Wessex Archaeology. I’m sure it was legitimately taken and is only used as a demonstration of the technique!

Sometimes you need the shot.

The ladder isn’t high enough, and climbing up on the crane is out of the question. But you need an aerial photo of the site you are working on. So…it’s up to the rooftops!

This is a uniquely urban solution, as I realize that many sites are out in underpopulated landscapes. Sadly, most buildings are closed off to the public, even more so if you have a camera. Ideally you would build a relationship with the surrounding neighborhood, but it can be hard to get in touch with official property owners and such. Asking permission takes time and often comes back with a negative result.

Caveat: I officially do not condone any of the following actions and if you are foolish…

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Stop Saying “Archaeology is actually boring”

Originally posted on Middle Savagery:

I understand the temptation. You want to show the mundane, you feel that there is too much Hollywood glamor attached to the profession. So you begin your article, or your Introduction to Archaeology course, or public lecture with some variation of the following:

I know you all think that archaeology is all whips and snakes, Indiana Jones, and Lara Croft, but it is actually a set of methods that can involve long, boring episodes in the lab, counting things, and general tedium.

STOP. Stop this now. Take it out of your lexicon. Not only is it one of the most lazy, overused introduction strategies, but it actively works against the profession and is terribly bad form in science education.

When archaeologists introduce their work with this cliché, they are attempting one of two things:

1) They are trying to tell their audience that their work is actually Very Important…

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