Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Huatacoa is now online

Amanda Cohen's dissertation is finally available on-line as a PDF. This important document describes the excavation of the earliest sunken court structure known from the Lake Titicaca Basin, as well as several subsequent sunken courts constructed in the same location. This is a must-read for any self-respecting Andeanist.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Anthropology is Bad for Archaeology


A recent job posting for Colgate University on the SAA website illustrates some ways in which the continuing identification of archaeology with anthropology is a Bad Thing for archaeology and for archaeologists. The post in question reads as follows:
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University invites applications for a tenure-stream position in Anthropology at the level of Assistant Professor (Ph.D. expected by time of appointment) to commence in the 2011-2012 academic year. The Department invites applications from candidates committed to interdisciplinarity, ethnographic fieldwork, and social theory. [...]. Teaching interests in one or more of the following are desirable: transnationalism or migration; social movements; collaborative or indigenous archaeology; race and postcolonial theory; urban ethnography; medicine and the body. Geographic area of expertise is open, but the department especially encourages applications from candidates who work in Latin America, South or Southeast Asia. Teaching duties will include Introduction to Cultural Anthropology or Research Methods, and a Senior Research Seminar, and will include participation in the University’s Liberal Arts Core Curriculum (teaching an interdisciplinary course in the candidate’s areas of specialization). [...]
Of course, I have no idea what the context of this advertisement might be, but the fact that it was listed on the SAA website suggests that there is some intent to hire an archaeologist. However, a quick read of the text shows that they really want a cultural anthropologist, since their areas of interest and teaching duties have very little to do with anything that archaeology, as a discipline, might find interesting or substantive.

Steadman Upham, currently the president of the University of Tulsa, and an accomplished archaeologist, argues in a 2004 essay in the SAA Archaeological Record, that archaeology is poorly served by its disciplinary association with Anthropoology, which he describes as a "mature field" that has "lost important academic ground in the last decade." Reading the Colgate job posting makes clear one of the reasons why this is the case. From a disciplinary perspective, Anthropology is a lodestone hanging from the neck of Archaeology.

Uphams's solution, in part, is this:
[...] the field of archaeology must secure a separate and distinct institutional identity within the academy. What this means in different institutional contexts will vary, but archaeology requires an identity that segregates it from its most fractious and fragmented social science and humanistic kin on the one hand and places it outside of departments of anthropology on the other.
I agree completely.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Becoming Villagers

The Book, as I like to call it, is out. It was officially published in September. I think it looks great, contains some terrific scholarship, and I can't wait to hear what people think of it. Thanks to Jake Fox, my wonderful co-editor, without whom this thing would never have been completed. You can buy it on Amazon!
Becoming Villagers: Comparing Early Village Societies

Edited by Matthew S. Bandy and Jake R. Fox

The shift from mobile hunting and gathering to more sedentary, usually agricultural, lifeways was one of the most significant milestones in the prehistory of humanity. This transformation was spurred by an alignment of social and ecological forces, pressures, and adaptations, and it took place in broadly comparable ways in many prehistoric settings.

Based on a Society for American Archaeology symposium and subsequent Amerind Advanced Seminar in 2006, Becoming Villagers examines this transformation at various places and times across the globe by focusing not on the origins of agriculture and village life but rather on their consequences. The goal of the volume is to identify regularities in the ways that societies developed in the centuries and millennia following a transition to village life. Using cases that range from China to Bolivia and from the Near East to the American Southwest, leading archaeologists situate their specific areas of specialization in a broad comparative context.

They consider the forces acting to divide and fragment early villages and the social technologies and practices by which those obstacles were, in some cases, overcome. Finally, the volume examines the long-term historical trajectories of these early village societies.

This transformative collection makes a powerful case for a renewed and invigorated archaeological focus on large-scale comparative studies. It will be an essential read for anyone interested not only in early village societies but also in the ways in which archaeology relates to anthropology, other social sciences, and history.
The image at the top is the source for the cover art. Unfortunately, it is yet another engraving from Theodore de Bry depicting a New England village scene. De Bry engravings are a very popular source of imagery for archaeological texts. I had originally proposed an engraving from a 1707 edition of Hans Staden's description of his captivity among the Tupinamb√° of Brazil. (second image). I thought this was great and different until the editor pointed out that it depicted an execution scene in the plaza of a village, and that the palisade was surmounted by severed heads. We all decided that the de Bry image was probably a better choice after all.