Scuba Diving and Archaeology

Exciting news! It sounds like one of my really good friends, who happens to be my favorite diving buddy, and I are going to go on an Australia SCUBA trip early next fall! We are referred to by our favorite divemaster as Pinky and the Brain because I wore pink tanks during our first weekend of open water diving, and she actually read the book and knows what is going on (and thus keeps me alive).

Anyways, I will be relying on her brain power, because we will be diving a wreck for the first time, and who knows what kind of trouble I will get in while swimming in and around a shipwreck 60′ below the surface.

This niche subfield of archaeology (nautical or maritime archaeology) has captivated me since I first started taking archaeology courses, and though I don’t plan on continuing on in archaeology, I really hope to take a field school at some point.

Recently maritime archaeologists made headlines when they made claims to have found Christopher Columbus’ flagship the Santa Maria. They were able to use a combination of unique ship identifiers and journal entries from Columbus himself to narrow down the location. Like what?!? So cool. I have a feeling maritime archaeologists are just getting warmed up, and have a few more amazing finds coming soon to a journal article near you.

By land, or by sea? How exactly did agriculture get to Europe?

Agriculture is important. Most of us spend our days enjoying bread, salads, beer and steak without considering the enormous history behind them. Humans have been farming and domesticating animals(other than dogs) for at least 12,000 years, and it is well established that the earliest evidence for true agriculture can be found in the Middle East, from where it spread to Europe, and the rest is literally history. Seriously. Writing had to be invented to keep track of grain shipments, harvest times and recipes for beer.

A Hymn to Ninkasi, possibly the first recorded recipe, that just happens to be for beer.

This is all rather well established, but the details of exactly how agriculture made its way to Europe aren’t entirely clear. The running theory has been an overland route from the Fertile Crescent in modern day Iraq, through Anatolia (aka, Turkey), across the Bosphorus and into Europe. Just a hop, skip and a jump really.

However new data from a team of geneticists working out of the University of Barcelona paints a drastically different story. By comparing genetic data from five different sites in Germany, Spain, Cyprus, Crete and Damascus, they’ve discovered strong genetic similarities between individuals at each site. According to the researchers, the data clearly indicates that small pioneering groups used a maritime route across the Mediterranean to bring agriculture into Europe.

This isn’t an absolute, there’s still a long way to go from Crete to Spain and Germany, but the genetic similarities shared between known seafaring farmers and farmers located in disparate areas of continental Europe begins to tell a very interesting tale about the spread of agriculture into Europe.

So it seems that our wheat growing ancestors were even more pioneering that previously thought. Not only were they traveling to a new land, they were going by sea and bringing wheat, barley and an entirely new culture and technology with them. Who said farmers were boring?

Even French stones are better!?

I’ve been nose deep in the history of forks in Colonial America, so I’m possibly a tad stuck on the strange things that Americans have imported over the last three hundred years. This is possibly one of the stranger imports I’ve seen lately.

In the 18th and 19th centuries it was common for American farmers and millers to import a specific stone, known as French buhr, for the crafting of millstones. The vast majority of these stones seem to have come from the regions surrounding France and it was believed that millstones crafted from French buhr ground a superior wheat product.

French buhr millstone

I first found out about this little quirk of American milling here, from a ScienceDaily article detailing work being done in Ohio to identify millstones that had been shipped in from France. The internet being the rabbit hole that it is, I eventually found myself at Penn State’s Medieval Technology and American History site(found here), where a few of the finer details of the older milling processes were highlighted with an explanation of what makes a better millstone. As with most tools for production its stone hardness, if the vanes carved into the stone became dull the grind would be coarser resulting in a wheat flour that would ferment faster.

Why the French buhr stones were preferred I’m not entirely sure of, yet. However, I see an excellent opportunity for some experimental archaeology…

The Importance of a Narrative

Sources of inspiration come at odd moments.  This quarter has been really neat because a lot of my classes have really been informative towards one another – they worked in conjunction, sort of mirroring each other in subject matter, while varying in content.  One of the things that we discussed was whether or not archaeologists should tell a narrative, a story about an artifact and the people that helped to create, use, deposit, and recover it.

I’ve really come to think that it is a fundamental necessity of what we do.  Captain James Cook (1728-1779) was a surveyor for the Royal Navy, and the written records and drawings from his voyages contain important ethnographic accounts and fantastic pieces of art.  John Webber was the ships artist, and he recorded scenes in great detail.


These works of art at first glance could be used to tell a great deal about how material culture was used, and how space within the home was organized.  A journal entry from one of the men on Captain Cook’s voyage, however, described their interaction with the Arctic Indians upon arrival.  He recounts how the men instantly accost the women of the home, forcing themselves on her.  He even comments on how accommodating they are “refusing no request, even though her father or husband may be standing by.”  He refers to this process as “properly addressing the women”.  It is very clear that this is the standard custom.  It instantly changes the image. It’s sickening.  To know that such an extremely violent and exploitative act took place changes the way that we interpret the picture.  Those people aren’t reflecting their typical spatial patterns.  There are people hiding along the sides of their home while the children are seeking comfort. It’s hard to believe that these men didn’t understand the difference between terrified resignation and willing accommodation.

This is why a narrative, a story is so important.  It can serve to correct the record.  It is not just pictures and data we need, but a means by which to combine these things to get a better understanding of what really occurred in these places.  Drawing and photographs, due to their static nature, have the tendency to be thought of in terms of absolute truth.  It is important to know that we can use words, stories, and recollections to correct and inform our data.  This is the power of a narrative, to reflexively correct and inform archaeological direction.

Who is my ancestor?

When I traced the history of my family, I found an interesting fact that the first founder of my mother’s family was one of Kaxinga’s general, Han-Chau JIAN(簡漢超). Koxinga is the establisher of Kingdom of Tungning, a kingdom to against Qing Empire in late 17th century (1662-1683) in Taiwan. Followed with Koxinga, Han-Chau JIAN (簡漢超) attended the battle between the Dutch in the Fort Zeelandia, and eventually stayed in Tainan area. JIAN became the very first founder of my mother’s family.

JianFigure 1: The burial of Han-Chau JIAN

Surrender_of_ZeelandiaFigure 2: The battle in the Fort Zeelandia  (

The battle between Koxinga and the Dutch was a significant event for Taiwan. After this battle all Europeans left Taiwan basically but Taiwan was already entangled into world system due to the colonization of European. The Indigenous society had been altered or influenced by the contact or colonization processes. In Southwest Taiwan, many lands were transformed into sugar plantation, and this process stimulated the speed of Hanization to local Indigenous. In the place where my ancestor settled have many local indigenous people, and according to some historical records, the marriage between Han people and indigenous people is not uncommon. Therefore, I believe that there is Indigenous blood in my family.

Before the study of family history, I never consider about how close between Taiwan history and me or my family. I think that every family history tells not only their personal story but also the historical background in that time.

templeFigure 3: The ancestral shrine of Jian

Dive Deep – Sources of Inspiration

In 2008 I lost an amazing job as an administrative assistant.  It was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me.  I took my fantastic severance package, and paid off all of my bills for a year.  I used that time to really think about what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go with my life.  I decided that I didn’t want a job, I wanted a career – something that I am regardless of what I am doing at that specific moment.  I also didn’t just want a career, I wanted to do something that I would pay to do.  If it wasn’t the kind of job that made me excited to be alive, then I didn’t want to do it at all.

So I wanted to share with you one of the things that made me decide to become an archaeologist. At this point I had taken a few classes in my spare time while I was working, and I’d even thrown the idea around about doing something archaeology related, but I’d never really put into context.  It just wasn’t in the realm of something real or achievable.  Half of my friends and family still think that I’m freaking insane for doing this, and my in-laws really do think I’m downright nuts. But I was watching PBS one day and this came on.  I saw these people doing something so fantastic and out of this world that I couldn’t help but be mesmerized.  It really made an impression on me.  It also redefined my view of just how many amazing things are still out there; you really can still wander out into the wild and find something incredible.  So here you go, this is one of my personal sources of inspiration; one of the coolest jobs in the world.


Nova; Extreme Cave Diving

My “Sweet” Hometown—we are what we eat

“Why Tainan food is so sweet?” This is a common question or maybe just complaint that my classmates will ask me when I studied in Taipei. I never realized this fact when I lived in Tainan before 18 until I first leaved my hometown. The food in Taipei is good, but I always feel that it can be better if they put more sugar in it even my friends think it is sweet enough. The foods I like always have the common feature: sweet, for me, this is not only a flavor, but also a familiar memory.

Tainan is located at Southern Taiwan, and is known for its old history, temples , and traditional snack food. Not just my classmates, I am also wondering why the Tainan people prefer the sweet flavor. The only way to find the origin of the traditional flavor is to dig the history. There are many different stories, and the oldest one could be related to colonial period by Dutch. When Dutch occupied Taiwan in the 17th century, they found that it is a suitable place to cultivate cane and produce sugar, which was an economic product in that time. Because of the landscape and the condition of whether, the plain in Tainan is one of the main places to plant cane.


Figure1: The Dutch map for a port in Tainan

In the colonial period by Japan (1895-1945), Japanese also cultivate cane and build several sugar factories in Tainan. Dues to the easier access to sugar, it is a common condiment for Tainan peoples. Another story is that because most Han people in Tainan come from Fuzhou (in Southeastern China), the sweet flavor is a traditional style of their cuisine.


Figure: The sugar factory in colonial period by Japan

Although these stories provide some explanation for the reason of sweet food, some arguments is hard to prove only through the oral history. Maybe the archaeology can tell us more different stories. If we can find the material culture which can be associated with the sugar, we might be able to trace back this cultural tradition. Whether we can find the real answer or not, I know that I will always love this sweet flavor. It is like a kind of identity which passes down from generation to generation.

Just as Twiss(2007) said, “We are what we eat”. From the sweet flavor, I find my identity and my sweet hometown.

Twiss, Katheryn C.   2007   The archaeology of food and identity. [Carbondale, Ill.]: Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.



Quantum Tunneling in the Fraser Valley

During my research of Native American and First Nation cultural landscapes, I have been repeatedly struck by the diverse and multifaceted relationships forged between people and place. A particularly interesting example comes from the Stó:lō people of the Fraser Valley. As explained by Keith Carlson in his 2010 book The Power of Place, The Problem of Time, which explores the construction of Aboriginal identity in British Columbia during the colonial period, Stó:lō cultural landscapes contain a series of “special tunnels”. 

Chilliwack Lake, Stó:lō Territory

Understanding how these tunnels work is akin to watching Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about theories of relativity. That is to say, it takes some work. According to the Stó:lō, these tunnels link, and can instantaneously transport individuals between, various points on the landscape. This journey is not without danger, as many corpses have been found at tunnel exits many miles from where the living person was last seen. Those that survive the journey are endowed with special powers and prestige.

These tunnels form a crucial part of the Stó:lō cultural landscape. They also actively structure how the Stó:lō conceive of space and time. Imagine, for instance, two Stó:lō villages separated by 50 miles but linked by special tunnels. For those ensconced within Western ways of measuring space, the distance between these villages is quantifiable, as is the approximate time required to travel between them. These calculations have little purchase among the Stó:lō, for whom tunnels allow for instantaneous teleportation. Consequently, the communities, places, resources, and landscapes with which the Stó:lō feel most connected are not necessarily those most proximate to Stó:lō villages, but rather those situated near and linked to special tunnels within a culturally constructed landscape. These relationships, Carlson shows, were utterly lost on Canadian officials during the creation of reserves.

This account of Stó:lō tunnels serves as a powerful reminder that conceptions of landscape depend not just on the meaning or history ascribed to particular locations, but also on underlying and culturally contingent beliefs regarding physical laws and the nature of space and time itself.

Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper

I decided to do some research on African-American newspapers in order to get a sense of the types of articles that were published in the past. As I began looking for sources, I came across relatively old articles made by Baltimore Afro-American company which was founded in 1892 by a former slave known as John Murphy. Like many other newspapers, Baltimore published articles about sports, societal or cultural issues, food and even humorous stories. The image below, shows a very unconventional article published in 1893 with the title: “Best way to get rid of rats”. The author of the article suggests that people can kill rats by feeding them “emetic tartar”, a substance that will make them sick and will force them to leave the house.

Baltimore News 4Many of the articles that I found were associated to robbery or crime stories. For instance, the image below was published in 1925, under the title “Good Lord, How He Can Shoot”. The article describes a robbery in which Andrew bennett (African-American individual in the middle of the picture) stopped three bandits. He injured one of the bandits with a pistol , although he never used a gun before. In the picture, he is handing the gun to a detective.

Baltimore article

Something that surprised me is that I literally found over 2000 articles related to marital issues (e.g. cheating on another person, child custody, economic issues). It appears that sharing personal issues or stories with the public was a common practice. The article below shows an article published in 1941 with the title, “Wife says Hubby won’t Pay Rent”. In this article, the wife explains that her husband spends the whole day at home drinking alcohol and he doesn’t provide anything for the family.

Baltimore, Marital issues

Finally, as expected, I found many articles related to racial issues affecting African-American communities. The article below was published in 1946, with the title “Asks Federal Laws to Punish Racists”. The article describes a convention that took place in Atlantic city with the goal of making racist actions or prejudice into a federal crime.

Baltimore, Racism

Clearly a lot can be learn about different issues affecting individuals and the community by looking at newspapers. Baltimore is one of the many newspapers that can help us achieve those goals.


WWII American Posters

I’ve always been interested about WWII and the different events that led to the genocide of six million Jews (i.e. Holocaust), therefore, I decided to make a post related to this topic. I searched the archives from the UW library and I found very interesting posters made by the U.S. Government, which were meant to be use for propaganda between 1939-1945. The image below shows Nazis burning books (an event that took place in 1933) but the poster itself was published in 1943.

American Poster 1943The year 1933 was an important turning point for Jews living in Germany because Hitler’s government passed different laws that allowed the exclusion and discrimination of Jews. They were removed from jobs and other public services. During the same year, Nazi officials conducted campaigns to burn books related to Jewish literature or anything that was viewed as inappropriate in Nazi Germany. The image below shows another poster published in 1942 in which Nazis are burning books and there is a large book with a quote from president Franklin Roosevelt that says, “People die but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that  embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know books are weapons”

American Poster #2, 1942

Finally, I found another poster (shown below) that dates back to 1943. During this year, anti-semitic attitudes were common in Germany and multiple massacres were taking place in the extermination camps. The poster below shows a hand (with a Nazi symbol) holding a dagger that goes through a bible. There is also a text that reads, “This is the enemy”. This poster clearly shows that Nazis were perceived by Americans as dangerous individuals and their actions were opposite to the religious values/beliefs of American culture.

American Poster 3, 1943

I think these posters are useful because they can help us understand the American attitude towards Nazis during WWII. Although, I couldn’t find any posters created by Nazis, I’m sure they also used them for propaganda purposes. There are also a variety of personal diaries, photographs, and governmental documents that can help us understand more about people’s attitudes and actions during WWII.


Benz, W., & Sydenham-Kwiet, J. (1999). The Holocaust: A German historian examines the genocide. New York: Columbia University Press.