I wrote earlier about the online edition of Rachel Haynie's piece about my artwork. The print edition is now out, and I just got a copy (thanks, Rachel!). I think this may be my first time in a magazine that is actually delivered to people in the mail.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the main photo that they chose to use -- one of me with "Beauty and Grace" in progress where I think I don't look like an idiot. The photo doesn't appear in the online version of the article, but is a full page in the magazine.
I like it. I think I'll frame a copy.
In the week before SEAC, I had the students in my South Carolina Archaeology class sorting sherds in my lab. As the first part of a group/individual ceramic project, they were getting some experience identifying vessel portion, kind of temper, surface treatment, and decoration in sherds from a surface collection from Allendale County, South Carolina (the Larry Strong collection -- the same one I used to get some data for this Kirk paper). For the second part of the project, I'm going to supply them with the combined data and ask them to: (A) match the groups to named ceramic wares using information on excellent sites such as this one; (B) create a graphic depiction of change through time in temper, surface treatment, and the frequency of decoration; and (C) address in writing several questions linking the pottery to patterns of social/technological change.
I'm posting some quick images of most of the rim sherds (and some decorated non-rims) here so they will be able to look at them without coming back to the lab repeatedly while they're working on their projects. I know that some of you will know what these types are -- please don't deprive my students of the joy of discovery!
Also - hi students!
I'm currently in Tulsa, OK, at the 2017 Southeastern Archaeological Conference. I took a break this afternoon from papers and talking to hole up in my hotel room and put the finishing touches on the presentation I'll be giving tomorrow. I'm honored to be senior author on a paper with David Anderson (University of Tennessee). Our paper will be last tomorrow in a marathon symposium organized by Shane Miller (Mississippi State University), Ashley Smallwood (University of West Georgia), and Jesse Tune (Fort Lewis College).
I'm really looking forward to the session, which will present summaries, updates, and syntheses of work from across the Southeast. It's intended to be a 20-year update to the work that culminated in the landmark Paleoindian and Early Archaic Southeast volume that was published in 1996. Congratulations are due to the organizers who conceived of the symposium and pulled it off.
I briefly discussed our paper back in September. Significant work has happened since then, and I'm pretty happy with the result. The point of doing a "big" paper like this, in my view, is to attempt to identify and describe patterns that require explanation. We used information from three large datasets -- PIDBA, DINAA, and an always "in progress" compilation of radiocarbon dates -- to investigate patterns of population stability/fluctuation during the Paleoindian period in the Eastern Woodlands.
As of now (rushing through this blog post so I can go out to dinner) I like the result: a six period chronological/geographical model identifying the time/space parameters of population stabilities and fluctuations. As I listen tomorrow to region-by-region updates on what we know about the Paleoindian period in the Southeast, I will almost certainly learn of many things that are wrong. But I will be listening to the results of others' work with a model in mind. That's useful. As the famous quote goes: "all models are wrong, but some are useful." To me, a useful model is a machine for thinking that makes predictions about the world that can be evaluated. So I'm looking forward to seeing what I got wrong. I wish I had a big piece of paper I could spread out on a table so I could take notes time period by time period, region by region.
After this updated photograph of Woody Guthrie, I'll post images of a few key slides from the presentation. I'll put the whole thing on my Academia page tomorrow after the dust settles. [Update 11/13/2017: the presentation is available here.]
This article about me and my artwork came out a couple of days ago in the online version of Columbia Living Magazine. The author -- Rachel Haynie -- visited me several times while I was working on "Beauty and Grace" and also accompanied me on the scrap junket I wrote about here. It has been a pleasure to get to know Rachel, and I think the article turned out well. Enjoy!
I'm finally done with "Beauty and Grace." It has taken me about eight months of intermittent weekend work, from when the idea first ossified in my head during that Against Me! concert last March until I submitted it as my entry for ArtFields 2018 this evening. I finished "Grace" in time to put her into the second part of my Afterburner show at Tapp's in June, and I have mentioned the combined piece in passing a few times and posted a few photos on the Zero Point Mechanic page on Facebook. But other than I haven't talked about it too much.
That's because I was too busy struggling with it to spend energy talking about it. The beaten and bloodied boxer sitting on the stool between rounds doesn't want to chit chat.
Someone will probably accuse me of making up some art weirdo nonsense for saying this, but trust me when I tell you that sometimes you really don't know what a piece is about as you're making it. You think you know, but you don't. You're looking and seeing and doing, but meaning is percolating on some other level.
I always knew this piece was about the tension/opposition/inter-connectedness of transformation ("Grace") and acceptance ("Beauty"). It was only during another musical experience -- the Foo Fighters concert in Columbia last October -- that I understood the feeling I was going for. It's been a long week and it's beyond me right now to try to articulate it. That experience of hearing (and seeing, and feeling) live the music that connects together so many parts, people, places of my adult life was like pulling on a loose thread and seeing that what looks like a tangled mess is actually a beautifully complex, inter-connected structure. I understood then what “Beauty” and “Grace” represent to me and how they connect, relate, and depend on one another for balance. I can't explain it. But it's art, so I don't really have to.
I'll write more about making this piece at some point. For now, here are some more images from my "four king sheets and a bunch of safety pins" hillbilly photo studio in my driveway:
As I knew would happen, I've had relatively little time for art since the semester started. It has been a busy (and productive) fall so far in terms of academics and research. My creative ideas and materials have been piling up, though. I could go into high gear at any time, but the problem is I don't have any time.
I'm almost done with my entry for ArtFields (the deadline is November 9th), so I've been using what time I have to push "Beauty and Grace" toward the finish line. I just have some grinding/polishing/cleaning to do, and then I have to figure out a way to take some decent photos. That has to happen before I leave for SEAC. I also need to finish a luna moth that will grace the sign for my wife's shop (Luna Lola) that she'll open soon on Rosewood. More on that later. Follow the ZeroPointMechanic page on Facebook for updates.
I wanted to share a few photos of a nearly complete sculpture that I more-or-less finished last weekend: "My Father's Hammer." It is a sentimental piece, so it's not for sale. It came together quickly -- I thought of it as a sketch trying to capture the energy and motion of a crow coming in for a landing. It's a freeze frame about adaptability, which is one of the main gifts my father gave me. The head is made from the head of his old hammer, complete with the nails hammered in to shim it onto the shaft. Lots of other odds and ends are pieces of old tools that he let me pick out of his garage over the summer. I'm going to have to secure the piece to a larger metal base to make it stable. Other than that, though, it's done as is.
I happy to announce that my first owl sculpture (now named "The First Owl") received first place in the professional sculpture division at the 2017 South Carolina State Fair. The prize money will make a nice addition to my art war chest. I've got big plans.
This is the last weekend of the fair. My wife and I have been virus-ridden zombies all week, but we managed to rally and get the kids out there this morning (we live just a short distance to the fairgrounds). I can report that the baby ducks are still being tricked into going down the water slide, the roosters are still cool, and AC/DC is still the soundtrack to the Matterhorn ride.
I can also report that, though a five minute conversation with a representative from the Libertarian Party, I have definitively demonstrated to myself that I am not a Libertarian. I do not believe a "de-centralized, community-based" to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico would be more effective than what the federal government is capable of doing. I also do not believe all state and local governments have done a super great job of protecting the fundamental rights of their citizens. Or educating them. Or providing them with basic services.
Also: the kids each came home with an inflatable rainbow poop emoji. I have refused to participate in blowing them up. That's today's report from paradise.
I recently announced the return of the Broad River Archaeological Field School for the spring semester of 2018. Student registration begins in November, and the logistical and strategic wheels are in motion.
This week I received radiocarbon dating results from two samples I submitted to Beta Analytic. Radiocarbon dates are not cheap (about $600 for an AMS analysis that returns an age estimate from a very small sample), and I am grateful to a private donor who supplied funds to date one of the samples from 38FA608.
Here are the date results on a generalized figure of the stratigraphy at 38FA608 as I currently understand it (based on profiles of Units 1, 2, 9, 11, and the original machine cut):
The date for Zone 7 -- from a single piece of charcoal that Jim Legg picked out of the profile of Unit 9 -- came back right at the Middle/Late Archaic transition. It's a date that's consistent with Zone 7 being related to the Guilford point fragments that we've gotten from the site (only one of which has actually been found in situ). Thus my original suspicion of a Middle Archaic age for Zone 7 is supported.
The date for the Zone 19 sample, however . . . was a bit of a surprise. It also came back as Middle Archaic in age, about 700-800 calendar years older than Zone 7.
I only wrote briefly about Unit 11, which I and several volunteers put in after field school to get our first good look at what is beneath the deposits exposed by the original machine cut. There wasn't much material until we neared the boundary of a seasonal water table. Right above that, there were some large cobbles and a very light scattering of small, angular quartz fragments. As I wrote back in May, none of the cobbles appears to have been modified (at least based on a macro inspection), and none of the pieces of angular quartz is a slam dunk for a human-made stone tool. Other than human deposition, however, I can't think of a good explanation for how that material got there -- it is so unlike its sandy matrix in terms of size that it could not have been transported by the same mechanism.
I dated a single piece of charcoal plucked from the wall of Unit 11 (FS 1318) from a zone beneath the "cultural" material in an attempt to learn something about where those deposits might be in time. Given what seemed to be a fairly regular accumulation of the sand from the Middle Archaic though the Woodland period, I was expecting an Early Holocene rather than a Middle Holocene age -- I thought we might be looking at the edge of an Early Archaic deposit.
There are two main possibilities for the date: (1) it accurately dates the age of Zone 19; or (2) it doesn't.
It's possible that that piece of charcoal worked it's way down through the sand from a higher elevation, perhaps through bioturbation (movement by animals or roots). There's no obvious signs of intrusion from where the sample was taken, but that doesn't mean much in these old sands: we wouldn't necessarily expect that subtle signs of intrusion would be discernible in these kinds of sediments after 6000 years.
So the date could be "bad" in the sense that it isn't giving us the age of the deposit. I think it's entirely possible, however, that it is accurate. While the idea of a slow and steady accumulation of sand over the course of the Archaic is appealing, there's no reason to assume that that's how it went down. It's possible that rates of deposition varied. The levee could have aggraded more rapidly during the Middle Holocene, perhaps as a function of both Middle Holocene climate and the lower elevation of the existing surface at that time (making it easier for the landform to be over-topped by flood waters).
If Zone 19 really dates to around 4700 BC, the deposits in Zone 15 could be related to a deeply-buried Morrow Mountain occupation.
Investigating the deep deposits at 38FA608 is a top priority for excavations in the spring. Stay tuned!
I'm happy to announce that I'll be teaching an archaeological field school again during the Spring semester. We'll be returning to site 38FA608 in Fairfield County, South Carolina, for a second season of fieldwork. The course will be listed as ANTH 322 (722 for graduate students) and the basic details will remain the same: every Friday from 8:00-4:00, transportation provided. You can learn all about last year's adventures through blog posts on the Broad River Archaeological Field School website and through a summary article in Legacy.
The Spring 2017 field season helped us learn a tremendous amount about the natural and cultural deposits at 38FA608. The discovery of a buried Mack (Late Archaic/Early Woodland, ca. 2000 BC) component was one of the big surprises. There is also evidence of a slightly earlier Savannah River component (perhaps represented by several intact pit features). There are tantalizing suggestions of a deeply-buried component that could date to the Early Archaic period. The basic laboratory processing of the materials from 2017 has been completed, and I'm working on an analysis as time permits. I sent to radiocarbon samples off to Beta Analytic last week (one from the deeply buried zone that I'm betting is Middle Archaic in age, and one from the lowest zone exposed in our post-field school Unit 11 excavations last May).
The 2017 field season has set us up very nicely for work in 2018. My two main goals are to: (1) excavate several of the pit features that almost certainly belong to the Mack and/or Savannah River components; and (2) make a more extensive exploration of the deep deposits. The feature excavations will involve both re-opening and expanding the "upstairs" block as well as working along the profile wall to salvage the features that were exposed by the old machine cut. Investigating the deep component will require some engineering to protect ongoing work from water, both from above and flowing into the air. I've got a plan for that and it involves sandbags. We are, after all, not lacking in sand.
I've got some strategic, monetary, and logistical issues to work out before January. I'll keep you posted as my plans develop and as analysis of the 2017 materials moves along. In the meantime, here's a quick diagram illustrating what I have in mind.
This is just a quick post to update some recent goings on in my art world. I've been busy at work and home the past couple of weeks, so I've had little time to do much new except collect materials and make some minor progress on "Beauty and Grace" (my entry into this year's ArtFields competition, pending completion). But here's what else has been going on:
"Old Ben" at the Zoo Auction
The winning bid on "Old Ben" at ZooFari was $325. I have no idea who walked away with it (I've met or know every other person that owns one of my sculptures). I estimated the piece would go for around $300, so I got that part right. I wish I knew who bought it.
"Call It In" at Rosewood
I'm happy to announce that my entry into the Rosewood Art & Music Festival won first place in the three-dimensional category. I entered "Call It In," my first attempt at a Mississippi Kite. There was a lot of great artwork at the festival, and it was an honor to win a prize.
I didn't know these birds before I moved to Columbia -- they migrate into the area in the summer from South America to breed and feast on cicadas, circling over our neighborhoods in June, July, and August.
I put a price tag on "Call It In" but it didn't sell at the festival. If you're interested, it's now listed on my Etsy site.
It doesn't make sense to beat up on my own artwork when it's for sale, but there are a few things about this piece that bother me. The wings are too short, and I'm not satisfied with some aspects of the posture and body covering. I'll probably attempt another kite at some point for that reason. I've done three owls now and I still haven't made the owl I really want. I'm working on my fourth ceratopsian and my third crow. We'll see.
I'd like to thank my neighbors for their interest and support. Columbia is a good art town.
As always, I invite you to follow the Zero Point Mechanic page on Facebook to keep up with what's going on in my garage.
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