Historical Archaeology in Indonesia

As I finish up the annotated bibliography for the final project, I find that I am still frustrated with the problems I face defining historical archaeology within Island Southeast Asia. For the purposes of my paper, I chose to define historical archaeology as text-aided archaeology, yet this doesn’t really capture the problems inherent in using Deetz’ definition of an archaeology that studies European influences and the spread of capitalism post-1500 for this region of the world. The major problem with applying that definition to Indonesia is that the area experienced contact with other colonial powers such as India and China many centuries prior to European contact, and the region was a central player in pan-regional capitalist trade networks. I’m not sure that I have truly solved this conundrum in how I think about historical archaeology in this region, but others have suggested the use of the more specific term Colonial archaeology to define the archaeology of post-European contact in the region. This solves the issue of temporal discontinuities, but it does still impose several assumptions, namely that only European colonial powers have the ability to impact/affect/destroy indigenous systems.

More simply, the goals of my project were to explore the following questions:
›What historical contingencies exist?
›How might these present in the archaeology?
›What is the scope of the existing historical and historical archaeological research in this area?
Are we aware of dominant narratives in the maps and documents that we use to explain the archaeological record?
How can we include more nuanced and holistic interpretations?
I explored these questions through several topics of interest, which included religion, material culture, gender and identity, agriculture, general background information, and territories and political boundaries. Having accomplished this bibliography, I realize just how diverse the topics of study in this region are, despite the fact that the depth of each topic is generally poor. There is a great deal of potential research out there, for those of us that are interested!

Freedman towns

Davidson (2008)’s article for Tuesday’s readings touched on a freedman’s town in Dallas. I had never heard of this town-within-a-town situation, so when I came across this article discussing a freedman town in Hampton, Virginia, where some 7000 freed man and women resided during the Civil War before Confederate forces burned the town down, I thought it somewhat serendipitous.


The Grand Contraband Camp in Hampton

Note the style of houses shown in the photograph of the camp. Since the camp was burnt down, there may not be any substantial archaeological record of the house and associated structures for the archaeologists working at the site to find. I think this is a great instance in which historical documents of the camp can assist in archaeological interpretation, and give some context to the daily lives (and suffering) of the people who lived at this camp during a politically unstable and dangerous period.

Japanese Internment Camps

This week’s readings touched on the Japanese American experience during WWII. I thought it might be nice to have some more information on Amache, the camp discussed in Clark and Skiles (2010)’s article.



What is most surprising to me is the scale of these camps. Hawaii never experienced this scale of relocation, only a small number of politicians and teachers were relocated as a result of the War Relocation Act, so to realize that 8000 people were forcibly moved to just one of these camps is astounding. Aside from the work done at Amache, I am not familiar with other archaeological projects that have looked at Japanese internment.

Exploring a Historic Cemetery

Gravestones and Gender
Is there a marked difference in gravestone styles between the men and women interred at Calvary Cemetery? This was a question that I considered during the last lab assignment, in which my team and I analyzed more than 30 gravestones for diachronic stylistic changes. Since our preliminary analyses did not include a gender component, I proceeded to conduct my own. I wanted to know if there was a significant difference in the shape and material of gravestones between the sexes, and if this could be explained at all my previous gravestone seriation.
Frequency tables of material and shape by sex show some clear associations between gender and gravestone style. For example, men are more likely to have a horizontal slab or obelisk (34% and 10%) than women (at nearly 14% and 7%; table 1). If you are a women, you are more likely to have a gravestone made out of marble, while men are more likely to have a gravestone made out of granite (see table 2). Gravestones for men are more diverse in the material used, with 13% of male gravestones being limestone or stone, while the majority of female gravestones are limestone.
 There is likely a correlation between temporal periods and the materials used, but the small sample size used for this lab limits any conclusions that could be drawn regarding diachronic stylistic changes for each sex.
Table 1. Gravestone shape by sex.
Sex      1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9
  F 0.1379 0.0690 0.0345 0.0345 0.0000 0.0345 0.0000 0.0345 0.0345
  M 0.3448 0.1034 0.0000 0.0000 0.0690 0.0345 0.0345 0.0000 0.0345


Table 2. Gravestone material by sex.
Sex      1      2      3      4      5      6
  F 0.0345 0.1724 0.0690 0.0345 0.0000 0.0690
  M 0.1379 0.0690 0.2069 0.0345 0.0345 0.1379
1 horizontal slab, 2 obelisk, 3 round column, 4 vertical slab, 5 square column, 6 tablet, 7 other, 8 pillow, 9 monument
1 Limestone, 2 Marble, 3 Granite, 4 Mixed, 5 Slate, 6 Stone

Blog post #5

Given that this coming week’s readings focus on colonial contact between Russians/Spanish and indigenous groups, I couldn’t resist throwing in a little bit about “Hawaii’s Russian Adventure”, because it speaks very clearly to issues of differential colonial processes, indigenous agency, and mainstream interpretations.

My undergrad mentor’s dissertation work was focused on Pa’ula’ula o Hipo heiau (temple/ritual complex) located on Kaua’i Island (http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/kauai/russian-ft-elizabeth.cfm). It is a National Historic Landmark, but interestingly, it was listed as an NHL because of its association with the Russians during the early colonial period, rather than as a monument that depicts a very complex and dynamic period of history for the Hawaiian Kingdom. Historical documents and maps reinforced the early ideas that the fort was built for Russians, but archaeological work at the site shows that despite the incorporation of Russian architecture in the foot print of the fort, the internal structure and occupation sites on the exterior of the fort are typical of Hawaiian ritual organization.

The article does it more justice than I can pretend to do, so read it here http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/anthpubs/ucb/text/kas081-009.pdf


Hawaii's Russian adventure : a new look at old history

The book that he wrote based on his dissertation research is available in our library, and is a great read if you are bored over the summer.

Fort Vancouver news

I know a lot of people are interested in local archaeology, particularly in the Fort Vancouver area. This is a recent report regarding cultural resources at the fort. There is a nice discussion in the director’s letter about Places of Abjection versus Places of Memory, and an article on historical ceramics that is particularly relevant to this week’s lessons:


Blogging Archaeology- last one

“Field Notes”


This blog is hosted by Curtin Archaeological Consulting, Inc., a CRM firm located in New York State. The archaeologists use this blog to document projects they are working on, even posting field photos of excavation and the recovered artifacts. Because of their location, the topics are largely focused on the heritage of the southern New York region, topics which are undoubtedly of interest to community members. What is great about this blog is that people who observe archaeology going on in their community can go online and have relatively immediate access to information about that project. The tone of the articles is accessible for the public and the information presented makes the CRM projects more transparent (for example, an article will say who the developers on a project are, what phase it is in, so forth). While I am sure there are some things that are not published, in general the blog seems to be a great way to involve the community in the archaeological process.

Blogging Archaeology – no.4

“Adventures in Archaeology, Human Palaeocology, and the Internet”


Authored by Matthew Law, Lecturer in Geography at Bath Spa University, UK, and PhD student at Cardiff University, this blog explores human-environment interactions and the authors’ personal “archaeomalacological analyses” (i.e. results of his faunal studies). The posts are well-written, extensively referenced (a plus for students) and link to other scholarly sources and academic blogs such as “Then Dig” hosted by UC Berkeley. This suggests that the audience is largely from academic circles ranging from geography, environmental studies, and archaeology. The topics covered are various, and are often related to small things that are taken for granted, for example, preserved dog prints on historic architecture (who thinks to look for that??).

Blogging Archaeology – third times a charm

“Where in the hell am I”?


This blog is written by John, who worked as a CRM archaeologist for several years and is now an archaeologist with Texas State Parks. The purpose of this blog is to give the public a better understanding of what field archaeology and CRM is all about, but there is also a lot on the blog that professional archaeologists will find useful. For example, if you aren’t sure where to get a taco or good BBQ while in Austin for this year’s SAA conference, John has you covered. His posts cover topics ranging from what he did at work today, to which community outreach and educational programs he is involved with. So while the article is not necessarily scholarly in tone, it bridges the gap between the public and the academic world in a way that makes CRM more transparent and accessible to the general public.

Blogging Archaeology again

“Hazelnut Relations”


This is a humorous blog written by Marcel Cornelissen, who is an archaeology PhD student at the University of Zurich. The blog largely discusses (but is not limited to )Neolithic and Mesolithic European archaeology in an exciting way that captivates the reader. The rather obscure title of the blog (drawn from Bradley’s 1984 quote “… Neolithic farmers had social relations with one another, while their Mesolithic forager predecessors had ecological relations with hazel nuts.”) means the audience that the blog draws is probably academic and from fields that explore human-ecological relationships. The blog is well-written and cited, providing a great resource for scholars, and is in touch with the current state of archaeological matters (there are several recent posts discussing the SAA blogosphere session, for example), so this blog seems legit in my book. And I love the quote.