Gender bias, even in death

During our observation of the Calvary Cemetery, my team mainly noticed differences in gender between gravestones. As other people have mentioned, our sample size (N=33) was quite small to be making general conclusions, but from what we observed, men’s gravestones tended to be larger than the women’s. In the family plots we found, the male head of the house was given a larger gravestone than the women and his siblings or children. In cases of memorial stones over family plots, it was often the case that the patriarch’s name would be on the large memorial stone, while his family member’s names would be on footstones in the surrounding area. This reflects our society’s habit of valuing men over women. Gender inequality is also shown in the decoration and detail of gravestones at the cemetery. Often, the men’s graves were monuments or columns, more richly decorated than the women’s. It seems pretty cliché that the only conclusion I can try to make is one of gender inequality shown at a Catholic cemetery, but there you have it.

As my colleague noted, we discovered some interesting facts when we talked to cemetery staff; I learned about the Seattle flu epidemic that occurred in 1918-1919. Not being from Seattle, I don’t know anything about its history, so learning that prompted me to do a little side research into that time of history.

Another interesting thing we discovered was that there were ‘forgotten’ burials in a section of the cemetery, people who could not afford footstones or any other gravestones. These people were essentially forgotten by family and staff. One of the staff members recently recovered information on these people’s names and birth/death dates, and has had a memorial erected for all those people.

Memorial to the "forgotten" burials of the cemetery

Memorial to the “forgotten” burials of the cemetery

Garbology lab: wherein I reveal my judgmental tendencies

Garbology is the study of modern trash. In my own opinion, archaeology and garbology are basically the same thing; archaeologists look at past material culture (making general statements here) and garbologists look at modern material culture. Much of what archaeologists find is in fact the trash of ancient people.

This week for our lab, my team and I studied two bags of trash from the UW campus. One bag was taken from Denny Hall, and one was taken from the Physics building. While sorting and recording the piles of garbage from each bag, we took a few minutes with every new handful and tried to analyze where it came from, who threw it away, and why they threw it away.  Because it was relatively early in the day (around 10:30am) when we collected the trash, there were several breakfast-related food and drink items, especially in the form of coffee or tea from Starbucks.

At first, I was inclined to make assumptions about those people who had bought Starbucks; they had bought their morning drinks, and brought them to school, finishing as they entered the buildings (both trash bins were located near main entrances to the buildings). I tend to think a certain way about people who bring Starbucks to campus:

1. They are most likely female.

2. They must live near campus, to have to time to wait in a long and slow line just to get coffee. Or they arrive ridiculously early. Or they are late to class (I tend to see that fairly often, students who arrive late just so happen to have Starbucks in their hand).

3. They have money to waste on a 4-6 dollar cup of coffee.

Being the judgmental female that I am, these are the things that I automatically assume when glancing at the large amount of Starbucks cups in the trash (most of which were compostable!) However, I also realize that these assumptions I make are mostly likely wrong (as the popular saying goes, “when you assume, you make an a** out of u and me”). When I sit down and really think about it, I know very well that the coffee in the garbage cans could have come from any person, male or female, young or old, professor or student, and that my other automatic assumptions are likely just as off as the first.

Garbology is a wonderful field, with so much potential and so many real world applications. But it is also important to know that what you see in the garbage, from the past or present, cannot tell you for certain and without a doubt the details of someone’s life, actions, and ideals.

Elfshot – Sticks and Stones – Blog

Blog Link: http://elfshotgallery.blogspot.com/

This blog is written by Newfoundland archaeologist Tim Rast, and focuses on experimental archaeology, mainly artifact reproductions from the NE Coast, Newfoundland and the eastern Arctic. This blog is very interesting, full of photographs and detailed posts. It is written in a fun and welcoming way, for a public audience to get a look at the processes that go into artifact recreation, flintknapping, and the extensive research and patience that such projects require.

Bad Archaeology – Blog

Blog link: http://badarchaeology.wordpress.com/about/

There are times, when reading an ‘archaeological’ news story, or researching archaeology for fun, that you come across a statement, article, theory, or book that is so WRONG, you must physically facepalm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facepalm). There is a website, titled “Bad Archaeology,” (http://www.badarchaeology.com/) that covers a wide variety of these wrong things, debunks theories and calls out authors, news programs and anyone else who dares use ‘archaeology’ in a way that makes us all look bad.

This blog (http://badarchaeology.wordpress.com/about/) is a companion to the website, written by an archaeologist named Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, and is written in a more personal tone about the topics from the website, though still in a professional, if at times slightly cynical way. The blog is an interesting and refreshing read, and well written. Further discussion on topics continues in the comments, where it seems the author is active, and willing to accept criticisms and corrections on his own writing and research.

These are NOT aliens!

These are NOT aliens!

Makiah Author Bio

Makiah Salinas was born in Bellingham, Washington, and grew up in a small town just north, about 8 miles from the Canadian border. She is currently attending the University of Washington in Seattle, and is planning to graduate with a bachelor’s degree as an Archaeological Sciences major, with an American Indian Studies minor in June 2014. Her academic interests are solely in the archaeological sciences, and have been since her first day at the University. Outside of school, her interests include fantasy novels, video games, and many other geeky things. Overall, she enjoys not acting like a responsible adult. After graduation, she has no idea what she will be doing.

Where I'd rather be right now.

Where I’d rather be right now.