Supporting Science, Saving the Planet
12 hours ago
I naively continue to be surprised by how reluctant many who purport to value cultural and historic preservation (not just expect to make a living at it) consider it unnecessary and/or scary to consult with interested parties about those resources.The big finale:
It can be scary, no question about it, and it also can be irritating, frustrating, time consuming, and generally a pain in the backside. This is particularly the case because those interested parties – whether they’re tribes or others – probably don’t speak our specialized language; they may not relate very well to the National Register Criteria or the Criteria of Adverse Effect. They may not split hairs the way we do, and they may split different hairs. But the fact remains – here I go on my soap box again – that Congress enacted NHPA and other such laws not for the convenience and enjoyment of CRM practitioners and government officials, but to ensure consideration for places that citizens – that is, taxpayers, voters – care about. And when, in the 1980s, we failed to pay proper attention to the concerns of tribes, the tribes prevailed on Congress to change the law and remind us of our duty. However inconvenient it may be, I don’t think we’re doing our jobs – whether we’re consultants, federal officials, or SHPOs – if we close our eyes to the law’s clear direction to consult with tribes and others. And in evaluating historic places, we can’t pretend that archaeologists speak for anybody but themselves, about what’s important to them. They certainly don’t speak for tribes unless the tribes authorize them to.
Reed and Metcalf proposed the Aspen Tradition in order to account for Formative Era archaeological remains in the northern Colorado River Basin that seemed not fit into existing taxa such as Fremont or Anasazi. In their argument, they suggested that the Formative Era occupation of the Piceance Basin was dominated not by Fremont seasonal hunting camps (as had been proposed by Grady) but rather by highland-adapted groups similar to and perhaps directly descended from the region's Archaic Era inhabitants. In 2008, SWCA Environmental Consultants conducted extensive block surveys in the Piceance Basin, resulting in the recording of hundreds of archaeological sites representing all periods of regional prehistory. These data make possible a preliminary evaluation of the taxonomic affiliations of the region's Formative Era archaeological remains. Our analysis indicates that Fremont seasonal use can adequately account for the entire Formative Era archaeological record of the project area. The question must therefore be asked: is there any reason to postulate a poorly-defined taxonomic unit such as the Aspen Tradition when the archaeological record can be adequately explained without it?References Cited:
The other downside that I would mention is that it has tended to divorce the archaeological enterprise from an intrinsic political consideration, or an ethical consideration, of the projects that they are actually helping clear. There is no integration ... of political or ethical considerations into the project itself. I don't want to paint the picture that the archaeologists doing this are unethical, quite the contrary, but there is no mechanism by which the political/ethical dialogue is insinuated into the project itself. The project is legitimate, it has been cleared by the Federal government, so that our responsibility, our ethical responsibility, is purely to the archaeological record.Duke appears to be laboring under the significant misaprehension that CRM in the United States is purely concerned with the research value of archaeological sites. What he does not appreciate is that the contemporary practice of CRM requires extensive consultation with interested Native American groups, and others, concerning not only archaeological sites but also cultural landscapes and traditional cultural properties more generally.
In the Southwest, antiquities are what a stolen car stereo might be in New York--an untraceable commodity of the criminal underground. "This is what the West has, so this is what the West gives up for its drugs," says N. Artifacts can be looted from remote public lands near impoverished communities with acute drug problems, and there is an infrastructure of shady galleries and trading posts that can "launder" them for sale. A kind of strange synergy is developing with meth in particular that puts every archaeological site and collection at greater risk. Law enforcement officials in the Southwest even have a term for those who combine tweaking and digging--"twiggers."Wow. "Twiggers."
Most of his cases come from the poverty-stricken trailer parks of Farmington, Bloomfield, and Aztec in the state's archaeology-rich northwest corner.I happen to be from that area, and my Dad lives in Aztec. Characterizing Farmington, Bloomfied, and Aztec as drug- and crime-ridden slums is really a bit much. Farmington, especially, is really a boom town, at least until the price of natural gas fell off a cliff recently, and the Farmington unemployment rate is well below the national average.