Meadows

The border between sunlight and shadow—these are important locations for ecosystems.  These borders have high levels of biodiversity, containing plants and animals that thrive in both light and darkness and those which thrive only in the demarcation between forest and meadow.

In the third week of field school, the FMIA team went to Fingerboard Prairie in the Willamette National Forest to investigate an ARPA violation that was a result of a Rainbow Family gathering at the site.  Some of the individual meadows in the Fingerboard Prairie are in rehabilitation, being managed by the Forest Service so they can remain or become meadows again.  Around the perimeter of the meadows, trees had been girdled in order to prevent them from continuing to encroach on the meadow.  These trees are now dead or dying and will fall into the meadow, adding space to the meadow and contributing to the richness of the soil.

The diversity present in the meadows was spectacular to behold for a student who spends most of her time in the Seattle Metropolitan area.  For me, biodiversity is seeing a different variety of toy dog, balcony gardens, and evergreens growing on the side of I-5 as I ride the bus to campus in the mornings.  Meadows are not simply empty spaces in the forest, nor do they only support grass.  Berry bushes grow in pools of sunshine, flowers draw honeybees into the meadow to pollenate all the flowers (and make Archaeology students nervous), and ferns nestle against tree trunks at the margins.  There were things to be mindful of; we were warned of poison oak, we were careful of our footing around some very large holes made by very small mountain beavers (which are not even beavers), and beneath many fallen logs lay mountains on ants.

Amongst the threats posed to this prairie, the most dangerous was the one which drew us, archaeologically, to the Fingerboard Prairie—Rainbow Family.  One of the first things pointed out to us as a danger were the poorly hidden latrines.  As we surveyed the damage done to the site, we were forced to stop accounting for all the garbage we encountered after approximately an hour due to sheer volume.  Fallen wood which would have enriched the soil was instead burned, either in personal campfires or in the large bonfire in the center of one of the meadows.  According to the Forest Service Archaeologist, Cara, the actions of the Rainbow Family significantly set back the efforts toward restoration of the forest.

For centuries, Native peoples in the region maintained meadows through judicious… judicious use of carefully controlled fire which kept the trees from invading, enriched the soil, and promoted the growth of pyrophilic plants.  The diversity itself was not the goal, but rather the variety of foods they provided, both faunal and floral; foods that were more numerous in a carefully maintained environment such as the meadows.

Meadows are important, both culturally and ecologically.  This applies specifically to Oregon in this situation, but across the Northwest and beyond.   They require maintenance as they are important and, ultimately, fragile spaces today and in the past.

Introducing Rachel!

Best in Terms of Pants

Best in Terms of Pants

Rachel is an Anthropology major attending her first field school: Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology.  She is a general nerd, interests ranging from video and board games, sci-fi TV shows and cartoons.  These activities keep her indoors most of the time, so a few weeks camping for field school are probably good for her.  Camp essentials for Rachel include her Kindle, loaded with an excessive number of books, a plant field guide, and a multitude of card games.

Originally hailing from the Seattle area, Rachel recently moved back to that region in order to attend University of Washington.  Though she is an Anthropology major, she is giving serious consideration to adding a Creative Writing or Archaeology Science Major.

When choosing the field school of her dreams, Rachel was enamored of the prospect of working in collaboration with descendant groups; she knew Professor Gonzalez’s field school was the one for her.  Another area of interest, emphasized by FMIA, are low-impact methods of research; she is looking forward to getting to know all the “toys” that go with such methods.

Life goals for Rachel include writing the next Great Novel, defeating invading, interstallar aliens, and solve a beautiful mystery.  If she is not at school, she can generally be found under a pile of cats, attending Emerald City Comicon or living the dream at PAX.

Five Points Brothels

I started my research project on New York brothels not because I had a particular affinity with them, but because we had been reading articles on the subject in class and I found it interesting.  In the course of my research I found myself becoming even more interested in these women who had chosen to live a life that we now imagine as being the last resort for the desperate.  I felt that it was really important to give these women some agency, to imbue some humanity into them.  I wanted to let these women be human, not just a female urinal or fancy china in a poorer district.

The best thing I came across while looking for sources was, unfortunately, something that turned out not to be useful for the final paper:  The Gentlemen’s Directory.  Following the link will lead you to the original article I read as well as access to a pdf of the book itself.  The sorts of houses described in The Gentlemen’s Directory are unlikely to include the sort of brothel that was described in the Five Points District.  The Directory is both advertising and an early form of Yelp, giving recommendations for where the gentleman from out of town might find some welcome entertainment.

Similar to the Five Points brothel is one found in Boston; also a sealed privy that had been found due to construction.  Following the link leads to a video in which Mary Beaudry discusses some of the finds she and her students came across starting on 2008.

In trying to make these women more human, I found myself terrified to incorrectly present stories about their past.  As the one presenting the life of another person, someone whom I have never known, I eventually was quite happy to help them be human rather than simply artifacts in a record.

Queen Anne’s Revenge!

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In 1996, the underwater shipwreck of the infamous pirate Blackbeard’s flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found off the coast of North Carolina.  The site is being operated as both an archaeological one as well as a tourist attraction in a part of the country that already has a thriving marine tourist activity.

The website for this project is associated with the North Carolina Department of Cultural resources and, by all appearances, is a pretty legit archaeological dig.  Their site emphasizes the things that can be learned from the Queen Anne’s Revenge that will “shed light on the wider political, economic and social systems of the colonial period in North Carolina and beyond.”  They can’t quite shake the commercialized and tourist feeling of the whole venture, however.  Clearly advertised on the main page of the website are two of their primary donors, Grady-White (a boat-building company) and the Boat House at Front Street Village (boat storage and community area with gift shop), as well as a handy link to donate toward the cause.  On the other hand, the site is also quite transparent about these elements, they are quite clear these are sponsors and that a part of their mission is to have a positive economic impact on the immediate region.

The website for the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck is well-organized and smooth running, but it feels more like an advertisement to visit North Carolina than it is an educational site about archaeology.

Theodor(e) Jacobsen (Jacobson?) Observatory

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In 1891, Dr Joseph M Taylor built the first observatory on the University of Washington campus.  According to the Jacobsen Observatory’s own site (which, interestingly enough is operated outside of the UW site), the first observatory was built by Taylor himself between teaching classes, employing carpenters to build the frame and a mason to professionally mount the telescope.  I dearly wish this information was sourced, as it sounds rather too fantastic and anecdotal for my preferences (but then again, maybe maths professors in the late 19th century were super human, I don’t know).

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When the University campus moved, less than a decade later, a new observatory was constructed; it was designed by the same architect, Charles Saunders, who designed the Administrative building, now Denny Hall.  The Observatory is the second oldest building on campus (in line directly behind Denny Hall) and was build out of the remaining sandstone from the Administrative construction.

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In 1912, the water tower that had been near the observatory was converted into a chime tower.  This lasted until 1949 when the chime tower was damaged in a fire and was not reconstructed.  In 1928, the UW hired one Theodor S. Jacobsen as the astronomy professor.  He taught for 37 years as the only astronomy professor at the school.

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Even in its earliest state, on the old campus downtown, the observatory has had a goal of reaching out to the public and exposing them to the wonders of the stars (weather permitting of course).  This tradition continues even now, the same telescope Dr. Taylor installed in the 1891 observatory (a 6-in refracting Warner & Swasey) that was refurbished in the ‘90s.

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The observatory remains on campus, just across from the Burke Museum.  The historic building seems, like its older sibling, Denny Hall, lost in time and tucked away in a forgotten corner of the University Campus.

From doing research, the information on a minor building, such as the observatory, seems to be surprisingly difficult to find.  I could find a lot of information on the telescope inside the building, articles about the chime tower burning down, and advertisements for sky-viewing within the observatory; but there wasn’t a lot to be gleaned from about the building itself.  One source would claim that Dr. Taylor designed the building himself (I guess it was the old, wooden building on the old, downtown campus?), and other than the building being the second oldest on campus that was about it.

Observatories and Instruments:  A great piece on a great building.  There’s a link to the survey from the ’70s when it was being made a historic building.

Graves and Identity

Social identity is an odd thing.  I could get into the details of how fluid a thing it is, but instead I would like to address a specific aspect of identity: social status.  In the tradition of social anthropology, there are two distinct types of social statuses—ascribed and achieved.  An ascribed status is one we are born with: race, ethnicity, and gender are some examples of such (this is a generalized statement, when decolonizing anthropology, ascribed statuses are NOT an essential part of a person’s identity).  An achieved status is precisely as it sounds, the sort of status that can be achieved during one’s lifetime: doctor, high school graduate, dog-owner.

From looking at the data collected from the Calvary Cemetery in Seattle, there are some very interesting things to note about the titles granted to the deceased after their death.  Women, buried in this particular cemetery, are far more likely to be identified with ascribed statuses: sister, daughter.  There is a fair share of achieved statuses as well, but many of them are mother and wife; domestic-based titles that pair their identity with other people, particularly with a male in their lives.  Men’s titles, while not all achieved (there’s a fair amount of brothers and fathers), the larger percentage are identified as doctors or with military ranks.  Their identities are independent of anyone else (and certainly not dependent on a woman to create their identities).

All of these are identities that were chosen for the deceased by those who were left behind, generally grave markers are chosen for a person after they have already died.  Nearly all of them, even the achieved statuses like doctor and military ranks, while perhaps not dependent on other people, are about relationships, especially with those who are left behind.

Garbology is not a study of a rock band

I’ve always been a nosey person, while working at a department store I happen to like finding people’s shopping lists.  It is a different sort of gratification that can be gotten from looking at the recorded contents of someone’s garbage can.

The list we were given to analyze is from a narrow frame in time, an arbitrarily selected week.  I know that my list was not a typical assortment of garbage for my household so it stands to reason that any of my fellow student’s garbage could be anomalous to their standard garbage.  Looking at old garbage (“real archaeology” if you will), it’s easy to forget the human agency behind the garbage.  A certain layer of refuse could reflect an accurate portrayal of a household’s garbage- alternately it could represent having houseguests over for several days.  It is also helpful to remember that what we remember we have disposed of, what we tell people we have disposed of, and what we have really disposed of are often in conflict with one another.  Garbology is evidence why simply having a written record of an event is not enough to believe that is the truth.  Reasons why historical archaeology is necessary.

So, addressing my sample more specifically.  All the recorded refuse seems to be food-related, although it can’t be said that some of these items had alternate uses elsewhere in the house.  There was not a lot of actual food-waste, most of the garbage was actually packaging.  I feel a bit concerned for the eating habits of my garbage donor; only in the initial opening bit of their week did they deposit any fresh produce remains, the rest of the food containers were dominated by processed and prepackaged foods.  Anonymous garbage-donor, don’t you know those are really high in sodium?!

I do feel much better now about the number of instant coffees and string cheeses on my garbage record.

This is not Garbology

This is not Garbology

Introducing: Rachel!

Best in Terms of Pants

Best in Terms of Pants

Rachel Fahlgren is an Anthropology Major and general nerd.  When she is not reading articles for class, she can generally be found reading (or writing) a book of the sci-fi fantasy genre, watching anime, reading comics or just rolling about her living room watching something awful on Netflix (for like, five hours).  Originally hailing from the Seattle Metropolitan area until her teenage years, she moved back to attend the University of Washington after completing two years at a community college in Spokane.  Now she lives in Lynnwood and, while she has the best of intentions to get some reading done on her morning commute, she usually just dozes for a half hour every morning.

This summer, Rachel hopes to go on an Archaeology field school in Oregon, write the next Great American Novel, breed the cutest cat ever (that one’s a joke because clearly Lil Bub is the cutest cat ever), hopefully not sunburn too badly while out on adventures, and attend PAX for the fifth year.