Breaking apart the chairs

The chairs at the Preserving the Past Together workshop were literally locked together. To create small groups for discussion participants had to work together to pull apart the chairs. Dr. Gonzalez made an interesting comment about how the chairs represent archaeology’s structural impediments to collaboration and it had me thinking about that metaphor more deeply. If individuals want to work together but the system does not allow that to be easily implemented, how do we break apart the “chairs” toward a more collaborative archaeology?

The questions raised by the audience also mirrored this concern. How do we find the time, personnel, and funding to build meaningful collaborations? In the lowest bidding environment, the cheapest bid wins. How can archaeologists demonstrate that working with tribes is an asset to the project and not a hindrance?

Dr. Gonzalez mentioned that working with tribes from the outset of CRM projects saves money. Long term planning and relationship building seems to be a useful strategy for saving money and for demonstrating the worthiness of collaboration. I think that in these beginning stages of collaboration it will take many individuals putting in overtime, going above and beyond their bids, and being creative about how to reach out to tribes. We may have to swim against the current until the tide changes. Breaking apart the chairs, breaking apart structural impediments, and breaking apart attitudes will be a long battle, but a battle worth fighting.

Hunyadi Janos, Fights Ottomans and Constipation!

The hunt for more information about this green, 2-piece-cup bottom bottle started with the word “Bitterquelle”. I thought the embossed letters on the base was another word for “bitters”, as in a cocktail mix, but it turns out that bitterquelle is actually a mineral or spring water.


                                        The mineral water bottle company belonged to Andreas Saxlehner of Budapest, Hungary. His brand “Hunyadi Janos” features a Hungarian military hero on the label. Hunyadi Janos, or John Hunyadi, was a military and political leader for the Hungarian military during the 15th century. Outnumbered 2 to 1 in a battle against the Ottomans, Hunyadi escaped from the battlefield to be captured, imprisoned, and eventually set free. He became governor in 1446 and continued to finance wars against the Ottomans.

The marketing campaign for the mineral water took the form of a dietary and health-conscious laxative. The claim was that the mineral water was for fighting “the evil consequences of indiscretion in diet,” and was a primary elixir for relieving hemorrhoids. Perhaps this campaign is a play on words for “diet of Hungary” which was a Hungarian legislative institution that met once every 3 years. Saxlehner’s marketing is so funny. A man known for fighting Ottomans is also on your side to fight constipation and IBS.

These mineral water bottles were a popular import and were commonly found in the United States between 1870 and 1920. The bottle that I examined in the lab was in pretty good condition. Even some of the paper label glue was still intact. This hunt for more information made me interested in 1900’s marketing campaigns and how we use romanticized images of the past to sell just about anything.

Preserving the Past Together Workshop: Owning One’s History

Often archaeology is taught and viewed from the side of a university, indigenous people and groups are often viewed as passive agents and are sources of information. That information is extracted and used for the benefit of the universities rather than the tribe. The direct descendants or cultural descendants of a community are often not the ones uncovering and publicizing information and discoveries about archaeological sites. This separates indigenous groups not only from their history but from modern society, when someone else is writing their history it’s easy for others to forget their existence and remember them as something belonging to the past. The Meaningful Collaboration workshop was a brilliant educational reminder of these facts.

As a student of archaeology I believe these workshops explore important aspects to the discipline which have either been ignored or unidentified as sources of conflict between indigenous groups and archaeologist. Instead of extracting information archaeologist should work alongside, or even for, indigenous groups to build relevant knowledge for these groups. As scientific the discipline wants to appear, when working with descendant populations the information uncovered does not belong to the archaeologist, it belongs to tribe. When gathering information it is important to consider how one is interacting with indigenous groups, the Modes of Interaction chart shown during the workshop, highlights what these different modes look like, from one of colonial control to one of indigenous control. Personally I believe that either a mode of indigenous control or one of collaboration should be used depending on the situation. Although overall an archaeologist should strive to work for an indigenous group, rather than working for their own benefit. One of the most important questions that this workshop raised for me was how archaeology should be conducted to be beneficial to those it effects the most.

Preserving the Past Together

As a student, it’s enlightening to hear about the challenges faced by those in the field of archaeology. Whereas in an academic setting we focus on theories or frameworks to guide us, other real world issues in archaeology arise such as financing, bureaucracy, and limitations on time. Utilizing a focused framework to apply to an archaeological project is an essential tool, and can help to guide the design of the project. Yet this alone cannot lead a project when the history of a community is being explored. Above all, it is important to remember that at the forefront of archaeology today should be respect and collaboration. This theme was a key component of the Preserving the Past workshop and the reception of this idea shows the positive changes happening in archaeology. Panelists and attendees whom addressed these issues were frank and forthcoming about the challenges they’ve faced, and it provides a broader perspective to archaeology in practice. Like other students, I found the breakout sessions informative as well. One attendee spoke about the positive changes she had witnessed in archaeology during her education, and that progress is deeply encouraging.


Workshop 2: Meaningful Collaboration

I was intentionally late for this presentation. Not because I didn’t care or didn’t want to go but because I had a class until 1:20 which made it difficult to make it on time. But, because I was late I didn’t get to collaborate in the groups because they where already established. Well, yeah I could have but I really wasn’t in the mood to interact with people more than I had to that day (I wasn’t in a good mood). Although, there was a few key points that I got out of the lecture and discussion. First, if you don’t read more of this blog at least read that the bases of Indigenous archaeology is communication and respect. Without these two things there would be no collaboration. One of my favorite lines goes something like “In the scholarly sense it is I … but in the traditional sense it is WE.” (Sven Haawkanson, curator of native american anthropology, Burke Museum) It is important to remember that when you are working with tribes, they make their culture with you. It was also pointed out that there are a lot of restrictions to this method. Especially when it comes to a persons position in there profession. If the people higher up in the chain do not agree with these methods its hard for individuals under them to change much. This doesn’t leave much hope for the future but remember large frameworks like this take time to catch on. Be patent and resilient, and you’ll make a difference.

Archaeological Alliances

I was excited to attend the second workshop in the Preserving the Past Together series last Thursday. I thoroughly enjoyed the first workshop and was eager to build on that experience. Also, I was excited to hear Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh speak. I have read some of his work and discussed his concepts in several classes, so I was curious to see what he was like in person. As a student, the authors that we read can sometimes appear intimidating and inaccessible, so I was thrilled to confirm that Dr. Colwell-Chanthaphonh is a normal human being. One point that he brought up was that collaboration between archaeologists and Indigenous peoples is not always going to look the same; it can take multiple forms and can vary over space and time. The important thing is that the needs of the archaeologist do not trump the needs of the tribe, and that the tribe sets the terms of engagement. The archaeologist’s goal should not be to extract knowledge from the tribe, but to generate knowledge together.

Another aspect of the seminar that I really enjoyed was the interactive component. During the workshop we separated into smaller groups and had the opportunity to share our thoughts and hear from multiple people. My group consisted of UW faculty members and an individual who works at a local museum. We discussed how to address colonialism in archaeology and came up with several useful approaches. For one, developing reciprocal relationships is extremely important; historically, relationships between archaeologists and Indigenous peoples have been hierarchical which has proven to be harmful. Another solution is to confront colonialism head-on and put it at the center of archaeological projects rather than skirting the issue.

Although some participants appeared to be less optimistic than others, I think it is important that we as students immerse ourselves in these kinds of discussions. If we learn to approach archaeology from a collaborative standpoint and focus on developing reciprocal relationships rather than exploitative ones, we can change how archaeology is done in the future.


Research Findings: What to do with them in collaborative archaeology

Knowledge is a systems of place and people, and that has no disciplinary boundaries

–Dr. Chip Colwell, 02/16/2017

First breakout session – Twitter account @preserveseminar

The second workshop of the “Preserving the Past Together” seminar series had a guest key note speaker, Dr. Chip Colwell, senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I walked in half way through the lecture and was glad to see the room was full of people because the types of the conversations that are occurring throughout this series need to be discussed more often. It shouldn’t just be for individuals in the archaeology field, but also among those in museums, history, cultural resource management and any discipline that is involved with some type of historical preservation, including tribal preservation.

One conversation that arose was the creation of knowledge and what to do with it. Sure, there is some public outreach to educate people about new discoveries.  But more often than not, the information does not reach the community it should be reaching. Several of the panelists addressed the importance of sharing the knowledge with the community related to the space where the knowledge is produced. Academics shouldn’t share their knowledge just among themselves, but back with the community itself. This is probably one of the last, but equally important steps to take when working in a collaborative archaeology project, a main theme in the overall series.

Two other important aspect of collaborative archaeology that I took from this seminar  were knowing how to listen and knowing when to step away from the collective. There are more workshops in the making that will be produced this academic year, but if there is one word that can sum up all of these themes and topics its respect.

Achieving meaningful collaborations

In the second workshop of the Preserving the Past Together Seminar Series, there were presentations separated by break out sessions. What stood out to me was the conversations that we had during the break out sessions. I was in a group with several people that worked for tribes, people that worked for the state in planning, heritage managers and a few others. I believe we were all there with a similar vision in mind for the future; restoring sovereignty and authority to indigenous peoples in respect to their cultural heritage, acknowledging the fact that colonialism has never ended. However the perspectives and attitudes of all the individuals participating was vastly varied. The students in the group were excited and optimistic that we were having these discussions and we were focusing on these topics in our classes. While many individuals working for the tribe seemed to share optimism with the students, they were the first ones to point out that they are still felt very helpless when it came to working with people outside the tribe, weather it be firms or universities. They pointed out that they could create barriers for outsiders to pass, but they could not stop any work from being done on tribal related cultural property, it would be done eventually – no matter what. While this was a bit disheartening to hear, it is a sign that there is still a long road ahead of us to refining and strengthening this collaborative system. From my own experience in our educational system I feel confident that the future will bring stronger relationships and more care for the culture of those around us. It is exciting to be alive during a critical turning point for cultural preservation in north america and to be part of these invaluable discussions.

What can glass tell us?

Swift’s Pharmacy bottle – courtesy the Burke Museum

One of the things I love about archaeology is how a single artifact can open a window into time. This unassuming, small Blake style medicine bottle with a prescription lip belongs to the Burke Museum and is approximately 100 years old. There is still residue of some kind within, but it is difficult to tell what kind of medicine it may have once contained. However, with a little bit of research into historical records, it is possible to find some information.

The narrow mouth and neck means that it was likely not for tablet medication, and instead once held a liquid. Though difficult to see in the photograph, this bottle’s inscription provided a wealth of knowledge and allowed for the possibility of a more precise date. The embossed face of the bottle reads: “Swift’s Pharmacy 2nd Ave. & Pike St. Seattle Wash.” Swift’s Pharmacy was not as widespread as Seattle’s famous Bartell’s throughout the city, but it did have multiple locations through at least the 1940’s.

Seattle Star April 1907 –  courtesy University of Washington libraries

This advertisement from the Seattle Star in April 1907 indicates the recent move to the corner of 2nd and Pike, allowing us to infer that the bottle was not manufactured before Swift’s Pharmacy completed this relocation. Furthermore, the markings on the bottom of the bottle W.T Co. C U.S.A. means that the bottle was manufactured by the Whitall Tatum & Co. of New Jersey. The particular mark was in use until 1924. In addition, George Bartell eventually bought this location from Swift’s Pharmacy owner Louis Swift. A photo from the MoHAI’s digital collection dated 1926 shows Swift’s Pharmacy gone from the northwest corner of 2nd and Pike, and a Bartell Drugs in its place.

So what can this bottle tell us? It can show that sometime between 1907 and 1924, a customer may have walked into Swift’s Pharmacy in the Eitel building on the northwest corner of Pike Street and 2nd Avenue in Seattle. Perhaps the pharmacist who prepared the medication was Ed W. Smith, who was Swift’s head prescription clerk in 1911. Whatever the scenario may have been, it provides an example as to how a single artifact can produce an image of time, place, and behavior.