"Social Implications of Large-Scale Demographic Change During the Early Archaic Period in the Southeast"
I've loaded a pdf version of my 2016 SEAC presentation "Social Implications of Large-Scale Demographic Change During the Early Archaic Period in the Southeast" onto my Academia.edu page (you can also access a copy here). Other than a few minor alterations to complete the citations and adjust the slides to get rid of the animations, it's what I presented at the meetings last Friday. I tend to use slides as prompts for speaking, so some of the information that I tried to convey isn't directly represented on the slides. There's enough there that you can get a pretty good idea, I hope, of what I was going for.
If you’re like me, there’s always some part of your brain that is thinking about hunter-gatherers. Sometimes when I’m at work the percentage can get as high as 95 percent. Most of the time it’s lower, of course, but it never gets down to zero. I’m always on duty.
Yes, I just said that with a straight face. And yet I'm a surprisingly poor poker player.
One of the interesting things about the hunter-gatherer archaeology of the Eastern Woodlands is that, for some chunks of early Holocene prehistory, some aspects of material culture appear to be amazingly uniform across vast regions of space. An Early Archaic “Kirk Horizon” (dating to about 8,800-6,600 BC) is marked by a distribution of Kirk Corner Notched points that extends north-south from the southern Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and east-west from the Mississippi corridor to the Atlantic. That's a big area.
And not only does this initial "horizon" emerge in the context of what by all appearances are very thinly distributed, highly mobile hunter-gatherer populations, but projectile points styles seem to change in lockstep across this same region of North America for at least some time after. How can we explain this? Although lithic raw material data suggest that Kirk groups were highly mobile (e.g., see this paper) the area of the "horizon" is much too large for it to be the product of a single group of people: the hunter-gatherers discarding Kirk points in Ontario are not the same individuals as those discarding Kirk points in Florida.
But that doesn't mean they weren't part of the same society. We can define a "society" as a population defined by the existence of social ties among and between groups and individuals. Ethnographic hunter-gatherers have numerous mechanisms for creating and maintaining social ties (e.g., marriage, exchange, group flux, periodic aggregation), and there is no reason to suspect that all of those same behaviors were not utilized to knit together the social fabric of early Holocene hunter-gatherers in the Eastern Woodlands. Maintaining social ties that extend beyond "over the horizon" may be especially important to high mobility hunter-gatherers operating at low population densities, as such ties allow local populations to gather information about large areas of the landscape.
So maybe the apparent uniformity of lithic style that we recognize as the Kirk "horizon" emerged as simply the unintentional product of the presence of a continuous, "open" social network that stretched across the Eastern Woodlands. That's a logical possibility. Demonstrating that such an explanation is plausible, however, is a multi-faceted problem.
First, you need data that actually let you characterize the degree of variability in the Kirk Corner Notched cluster and how that variability breaks down with regard to space (and raw material use). Given how widespread Kirk is, that's a big job. But it's a doable job with the right commitment: Kirk points are common and fairly easy to recognize (they really are remarkably similar in different parts of the east, at least the ones I've looked at). I started working on assembling a Kirk dataset from the Midwest as part of my dissertation work and grant work while I was at IPFW. I'm going to continue that work down south: I've applied for some grant money to start working on inventorying and collecting data from a large collection of points from Allendale County, South Carolina, and there are numerous other existing collections available. My plan is to create 3D models of the points as I analyze them, which will aid in both morphometric analysis and data sharing. I don't think I'll have to create the whole Kirk database myself (see this post about 3D modeling of points from the Hardaway site in North Carolina).
Second, it's a modeling problem. How much interaction across a social landscape the size of the eastern United States would be required to produce and maintain the degree of stylistic uniformity that we see? You can't answer that without a model that lets you understand how patterns of social interaction might affect patterns of artifact variability (run-of-the-mill equation-based cultural transmission models won't cut it, either, because they typically don't take spatially-structured interaction into account). I started to try to tackle that question in my dissertation and with some other modeling work. The simple assumption that the degree of homogeneity would be proportional to the degree of interaction is probably wrong: network theory suggests to me that a nonlinear relationship is more likely (a small degree of interaction can produce a large degree of homogeneity).
Finally, circling back to the beginning of the post, we need to have some understanding of environmental variability across the Eastern Woodlands and the implications of that variability in terms of the hunter-gatherer societies that dealt with it. While there are some environmental commonalities in terms of plants and animals that help unify the Eastern Woodlands as a single macro region (and a “culture area” throughout prehistory), it's obviously not all the same. Seasonal differences in the weather would not only affect human behaviors directly, but indirectly through their effects on primary game species such as white-tailed deer. I'm not a deer hunter or a wildlife biologist, but the contrasts between the modern deer-hunting practices and laws in Midwestern states (e.g., Ohio, Michigan, Indiana) and in South Carolina are striking in terms of the length of season, the bag limits, etc. While I'm sure that modern history, culture, and land-use play some role in these differences, I would be very surprised to find that environmental differences don't contribute significantly to the amount of hunting that deer populations can bear in these different regions.
Significant differences in the density and behaviors of deer populations would have had implications for the hunter-gatherer populations that exploited them, perhaps especially during the Fall and Winter. I would guess that variability in deer populations and behavior vary continuously across the Eastern Woodlands along with other aspects of environment (temperature, mast production, etc.). Different strategies, perhaps involving patterns of seasonal mobility and aggregation, would have surely been required in the far north and far south of the region. Whatever the components of those differences, however, they were apparently not sufficient to produce hunter-gatherer societies that were disconnected on the macro level during the Early Archaic period. It may be the case, in fact, that differences in seasonality across the region, in a context of low population densities, actually encouraged rather than discouraged the creation of an "open" social network that resulted in the emergence of the Kirk Horizon. Later on in the Archaic we do indeed see a regionalization of material culture that makes the Midwest look different from the Southeast.
Whatever the characteristics of their larger social networks (and smaller social units within those networks), those Early Archaic societies provided a foundation for much of the Eastern Woodlands prehistory that follows. It's going to require theory-building and a lot of data from a large area to understand it. We need some kind of Kirk Manhattan Project.
As the four readers of this blog may have noticed, I haven't written anything for several weeks. I've been on vacation. I spent a couple of weeks in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula, watching lawnmower races, visiting the beach, photographing dragonflies, and spending a lot of time with my family. Then last week I took a short road trip with my daughter to see Against Me! in concert in Grand Rapids. And we also saw "Mad Max: Fury Road" and visited the graves of Frank L. White (the man on the Cream of Wheat box) and Mr. Chicken, a rooster with plastic legs that was a blood donor to a parrot then died fighting a raccoon. So . . . you know . . . vacation.
For better or worse, I didn't completely tune out anthropology, archaeology, and fringe nonsense during my vacation. I don't have anything ground-breaking to talk about, but I wanted to share a few vignettes that I think illustrate what goes on outside "mainstream" archaeology.
The Indiana "Mummy" That Wasn't
On June 27th, www.nwitimes.com ran a story with the headline "Ancient burial ground? Mummy found in Lake County could be 2,000 years old." Calling the remains a "mummy" turned out, of course, to have been an error: a July 2 story corrected the initial account, stating that the remains were not those of a mummy, but "just turned out to be really old."
But the fringe crowd has decided that the lack of an actual mummy from Indiana shouldn't detract from the joy of talking about a mummy from Indiana. They're milking all the mileage they can from it, and the correction to the story is now taken as evidence of a cover-up. J. Hutton Pulitzer contacted me and asked me to be on his radio show to discuss the "mummy." I declined. I was on vacation watching three kids, and, believe it or not, contributing to Pulitzer's campaign of manufactured crap masquerading as an interest in history is about as low down on my priority list as it gets. As best I can tell, much of his silliness is calculated to get him on TV or sell his treasure hunting books. I'll pass.
Anyway, there's no mummy from Indiana. The story is relevant to understanding fringe archaeology culture for two reasons, though:
This embrace of the patently untrue to further a story brings us to the next vignette, another J. Hutton Pulitzer special.
Fake Artifacts Are Evidence Too, Apparently
When there's a market for artifacts, fakes will be produced in an attempt to capitalize on that market. This is true of some lithic artifacts from eastern North America (such as fluted points). It's also true of copper artifacts: they have a value to collectors, and fakes are produced for the purposes of making money. If I were attempting a serious artifact-based analysis of some aspect of prehistory (say, for example, trying to demonstrate that copper artifacts from North America were the product of craftsmen from the Old World), I would want to have some degree of confidence that the artifacts upon which I based my analysis were genuine.
But I guess that's just me.
Pulitzer made a video of "flashcards" to help his followers quickly recognize what a copper artifact looks like. It turns out that some of the artifacts shown in the video were allegedly fake (i.e., not ancient, but modern reproductions that were produced to sell). An artifact collector (Lee Born) who claims to have been defrauded brought the presence of the alleged fakes to Pulitzer's attention in a post on one of his Facebook groups. Pulitzer's response was to accuse Born (who had taken the case to court, and won) of libel, saying there was no court case.
I got involved in the discussion and posted links to a Green Lake County, Wisconsin, court document which showed that Lee Born won a judgement in 2008 for $2,264.80 against Mary Ann Peltier. The document doesn't say what the suit was about, but reportedly it concerned the sale of modern copper artifacts that were represented as ancient. From what I gather, there is a long story behind "Mary's Copper" (see this website, and the discussion on this forum) and the controversies about it. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the legal proceedings or the story behind them, or to have the expertise to discriminate ancient from modern copper artifacts. But it's demonstrably true that Born took Peltier to court and won damages.
A person really interested in understanding prehistory would want to know about allegedly fake artifacts that were contaminating his analysis. Pulitzer preferred not to know, I guess, and really didn't want to talk about it (he eventually kicked me off the site, and the alleged fakes remain in his "flashcard" video). As long as we're making videos with fake things in it, we should at least spice them up a little bit. I recommend adding some stuff about the Flat Earth. Or maybe some pictures of unicorns. Which brings me to my next story.
Photo Of Unicorn Barfing Rainbow Brings Out The Best In People
One of the "archaeology" groups I follow on Facebook is called Archaeology & Prehistoric& Ancient Wonders. This group has over 73,000 members, and I've learned a lot from it. Most of what I've learned, however, has more to do with how people view the importance of the past and less to do with anything in particular about the details of prehistory. Many of the posts in the group are related to various pseudo-science ideas about ancient aliens, Atlantis, giants, the existence of worldwide pre-Flood civilization, etc. Some people post some interesting ethnographic and historic photos, and I have learned some things about the archaeology of different parts of the world that I did not already know.
One of the most interesting things about monitoring this group is the cultural/ethnic/linguistic fault lines that are exposed in discussions about the past. Tensions among peoples who identify as southern European (Greeks, Albanians, Serbs, etc.) are especially prominent, with lengthy arguments arising frequently and seemingly out of nowhere.
This was illustrated to me yet again just yesterday. Bored, I had posted an image of a unicorn with a rainbow and a caption saying that it was as relevant to prehistory as many of the posts in the group (a true statement). As of now, there have been 212 comments, most of them related to an ugly homophobic argument among southern Europeans. All I did was post a picture of a unicorn with a rainbow.
I don't know if/how/when arguments like these break out in other places on the internet, but I find it interesting that a group that is purportedly about interpretations of the past serves so readily as a battleground for unleashing the tensions of the present. If you think the past doesn't matter to people . . . my experience says otherwise. Someday I'm going to do a quantitative analysis of the posts and the comments in this group, and I think it will reveal some interesting patterns.
"May The GREAT RAVEN GOD TAKE YOU STUPID"
Finally, my last story relates to audience feedback. I don't get a lot of comments on this blog, but sometimes my audience really comes through and lets me know that I'm doing the right thing by taking the time to write.
As my daughter and I were visiting the cemetery in Leslie, Michigan, where Frank L. "Cream of Wheat Man" White is buried, I noticed a grave with a bronze placard next to it. It was the grave of Elijah Woodworth (1792-1886), the first European settler of Leslie. Woodworth had written his own epitaph, which proclaimed him to be "The first itinerant lecturer in the field of modern spiritualism, and controlled to write ancient languages in the form of hieroglyphic characters; a modern seer and sage in natural and spiritual civilization . . ." The reference to "ancient languages" piqued my curiosity, but I haven't found much about Mr. Woodworth yet (I wonder if he is somehow related to Maria Woodworth-Etter, an important person in the early Pentecostal movement).
It did get me thinking about what I would write on my own tombstone, however. I realized the answer had already been provided to me in the form of a comment on my post about retractions of the 1885 hoax story about a city buried under Moberly, Missouri. After cutting and pasting a long story about encountering reptiles in an underground tunnel, a commenter had the following to say:
"Dear ANDY WHITE
are you fake anthropologist? NOT BELIEVING in MAGIC is SIN under ANTHROPOLOGY/FOLKLORE!
the number one rule #1 Magic is Science has Religion which is Philosophy!, ie the Occult/Metaphysics based on the teaching of houdini and buddhist and norse and egyptian all being in collaboration on telling the same story!
for SHAME ON YOU FOR failing to understand Cybernetics(cyber anthology the use of infomantics ie information technology on all the science to singletary )(? May the GREAT RAVEN GOD TAKE YOU STUPID, also i hope a lizard man eats you!"
I think that speaks for itself.
Since I started making a concerted effort to engage with fringe notions about the human past last November, I've learned a lot. I've learned that strategies for successfully communicating ideas on the internet are very different from those with which most academics are familiar. I've learned that there are people out there who are genuinely interested in exploring ideas and are open to considering evidence that may run counter to the most "exciting" or "mysterious" interpretations. And I've learned that there are plenty of people out there who, despite their repeated statements to the contrary, have no interest in actually discovering the "truth." These are the snake oil salesmen and the ideologues, motivated by money, religion, and/or perhaps even pathology. It isn't always obvious where people are coming from, how best to communicate with them, or if constructive dialog is even possible.
Sometimes, though, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly.
Fritz Zimmerman, author of The Nephilim Chronicles and self-proclaimed "antiquities preservationist," has decided that the professional archaeological community is keeping the world from seeing whatever "truth" he is attempting to uncover. One of his remedies is to publish a book that he markets by saying it reveals the locations of sensitive archaeological sites that professional archaeologists don't want you to know about. (One of his webpages, for example, states "There is one burial mound at the park, but the DNR won't tell you where it is....but I will" next to the ad for his book - sounds like a pretty serious scholar, right?). He has found a sympathetic ear in treasure hunter J. Hutton Pulitzer, author of numerous books that purport to share "SECRETS and TECHNIQUES that make it possible for people to find lost history and treasure." If you don't see the irony here, you've probably already stopped reading.
In a recent exchange I had with Zimmerman on Facebook, he stated that
"It won't be long before the American people discover that university archaeologists are little more than a criminal organization based on outdated theories, deception and lies."
Now, as a professional archaeologist, that hurts my feelings. I've been doing archaeology now for about twenty years, and I don't recall ever sitting down with a cabal of other archaeologists and plotting about how we were going to suppress the truth with our outdated theories, deception, and lies. We discuss our outdated theories all the time, of course, and that discussion sometimes involves beer. In those cases, the lies and deception we perpetrate are aimed at each other rather than the American people at large. Sometimes bailing on the group before the check arrives is involved, but that's about as egregious as the misbehavior gets.
Zimmerman's statement about the criminality of academic archaeology came after I commented on a Facebook post by Pulitzer. Pulitzer had reposted the 2012 story of Jim Vieira's talk being removed from TEDx with the proclamation "SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE: This is how the academia are suppressing our Hidden History. This is a sad sad sad state of affairs." Pulitzer, fresh off his TV appearances on The Curse of Oak Island, has been trying to drum up enthusiasm for his exploits by doing a series of audio interviews that he says showcase the "raging debate" about prehistory centered around "the Copper Culture" (I wrote about one of those interviews here; I have not listened to most of them). He says he wants to explore "all sides" of whatever this raging debate is supposedly about (I still haven't figured that part out, as he seems to throw everything including the kitchen sink into the "Copper Culture"), but if you pay attention it's pretty obvious that objectivity isn't really part of the equation. When I saw all the capital letters in his post about the suppression of Jim Vieira, I thought maybe World War III had broken out. And you know it's serious when you use "sad" three times in a row. Anyway, I basically told Pulitzer he was being silly and it was no wonder he had a hard time finding professional archaeologists to interview (he had invited me previously but I had declined). That brought out some giant enthusiasts, and we were off and running with the "but there's thousands of accounts" argument (again), and then Zimmerman, apparently also feeling suppressed, piped up with his commentary.
In addition to the obvious practical love affair one might expect between a person who wants to sell site locations and a person who writes books about how to find buried treasure, Zimmerman and Pulitzer share the common bond of not understanding how science works. That emerges clearly in this interview when they discuss their disdain for academic archaeology (about 13:00 in):
Pulitzer: "What they're talking about in peer review is ten guys just like themselves, who have the same exact degrees, who have the same exact theory. You write all your paper out, you present it to your peers to review. Well, if you do anything that is against the system, anything which is against the status quo, anything against what those degrees taught you it was, not only do they edit it, but in most times you have self-identified yourself as a rebel. And what happens is you get run out of town, you don't get your tenure, you're made into a laughing stock. So peer review is not to assure quality, as much as I believe peer review is actually to hide the smoking guns. And if you are so adamant about coming out about hidden history and forbidden truth, you're actually committing professional suicide if you're willing to talk about it. Do you agree, Fritz?"
Zimmerman: "Absolutely. You know, I liken it to the 15th and 16th century Church and it is why we are in the Dark Ages of history in North America."
According to these two (and many others who believe in giants, alien encounters with the ancient world, unicorns, a flat Earth, Bigfoot, etc.), there is some kind of "truth" out there, known but hidden by scientists, waiting to be revealed by someone courageous enough to do it: it's up to those outside of academia to really figure out what's going on and to somehow work around these obstacles that science has erected in their path. To heighten the drama of this particular battle in the war with the academic elites, the description of the interview loudly announces the existence of SECRET ARCHIVES that hold the "historic smoking guns." As best I can tell, those secret archives are the county history section of the Allen County Public Library where Zimmerman did his research (it is clear from the interview that Pulitzer does not really even know what county histories are - here's a description). Apparently there's a Dunkin' Donuts inside the library now, which is new since I lived in Fort Wayne.
Anyway, this conspiracy of academic archaeologists to suppress the truth comes as news to me, as does Pulitzer's revelation about how peer review actually works. Maybe the other scientists are shutting me out because I let my secret society membership dues lapse.
Zimmerman and Pulitzer aren't the only ones frustrated with science. But they're frustrated for the wrong reasons. As a scientist, I can tell you that there is a human component to all scientific work. Science isn't perfectly efficient. Sometimes it takes longer than it should, for example, for an incorrect idea to be discarded because egos, personalities, or institutional inertia get in the way. But incorrect ideas are eventually discarded, not arbitrarily but because they can be shown to be incorrect. The ability to falsify something (to show that it's wrong) is central to how science works: that's what lets us sort the plausible ideas from the implausible ones; that's what makes science cumulative; that's why we know more about the way the world works today than we did several hundred years ago. And despite what Zimmerman says, we know vastly more about prehistory now than we did a century ago. Watching ideas being proven wrong is watching science in action: it's a demonstration that science works, not evidence that it doesn't. In the classes I teach, I tell my students that each of them could probably outscore Aristotle on a basic quiz about the natural world covering physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy . . . That doesn't mean they're smarter than Aristotle, it just means they have the benefit of 500 years of scientific inquiry that he did not have. There has been an amazing increase in our knowledge that didn't come about by scientists conspiring to hide "the truth."
And there's no doubt that today's peer-review process isn't perfect and could use some fixing (here's an article in The Economist discussing that issue; here's another in Slate). But the imperfections in how science is done are not the reasons why Zimmerman's ideas are not accepted (or even entertained) by mainstream science. Speaking for myself, I can give you two better reasons.
The first reason is plainly obvious when you look at his work: it doesn't meet even the lowest standards for presentation of evidence. Pointing out all the errors and misrepresentations Zimmerman makes in his written work, his spoken words, and on his various websites would be a full-time occupation. His online material is one of the most tabloid attempts at giantology you can find, and that's saying something. He freely mixes and matches photos of skeletons and snippets of old newspaper accounts with apparently zero regard for what actually belongs together. Apparently it doesn't matter? You just put "Nephilim" into the headline and slap a picture of some skull on there and voila, you've got yourself a "smoking gun." I own a copy of The Nephilim Chronicles but I honestly haven't read much of it - the errors are so frequent that I found it difficult even to get started (I looked at his coverage of "double rows of teeth" back when I started this adventure, but haven't revisited the book since). Who knows - maybe there are actually some good ideas in there somewhere, or at least something testable.
The second reason is more serious than sloppiness. In the audio interview (starting about 16:00 in), Zimmerman and Pulitzer spend time agreeing with one another that the government's attempts to protect information about the locations of earthworks (and other sensitive archaeological sites which contain human remains and artifacts that are prized by looters because of their monetary value) are a bad thing. Gee, imagine that: a treasure hunter and a fringe theorist coming together to support the endangerment of irreplaceable cultural resources and burial grounds for their own immediate monetary gain. Shocking.
Why won't government officials let Fritz Zimmerman into their site files? That's easy: because it is part of their jobs, by law, to manage and protect information about the locations of archaeological sites that may be harmed if their locations were publicly known. While you listen to Zimmerman and Pulitzer's forbidden history conspiracy tantrum, you should familiarize yourself with Section 304 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. That section reads as follows (bold added):
(a) Authority to Withhold from Disclosure.-The head of a Federal agency or other public official receiving grant assistance pursuant to this Act, after consultation with the Secretary, shall withhold from disclosure to the public, information about the location, character, or ownership of a historic resource if the Secretary and the agency determine that disclosure may-
(1) cause a significant invasion of privacy;
(2) risk harm to the historic resource; or
(3) impede the use of a traditional religious site by practitioners.
(b) Access Determination.-When the head of a Federal agency or other public official has determined that information should be withheld from the public pursuant to subsection (a), the Secretary, in consultation with such Federal agency head or official, shall determine who may have access to the information for the purpose of carrying out this Act.
Records of archaeological site locations maintained by state and federal governments are not public records in the same sense as marriage licenses kept at the courthouse. No-one, neither me nor an "antiquities preservationist" such as Fritz Zimmerman, can walk into a State Archaeologist's office and get access to the site files for no good reason. In fact, archaeological site locations are specifically exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under 16 U.S.C. § 470hh.
The rationale in limiting access to archaeological site records is simple and has nothing to do with concealing a "hidden truth:" it lessens the potential that sites will be looted by people illicitly seeking artifacts or other remains for monetary gain (e.g., treasure hunters). Zimmerman knows that the goal of not putting site locations into the public domain is to protect them from looting, but seems more concerned with positioning himself as someone who is pulling the veil from the "hidden history" that those of us in the professional community are trying to suppress. His goal is to sell books and to sell himself as a liberator. As is obvious from some of his material online, he understands that his willingness to disclose site locations is probably the biggest selling point of his books ("the DNR won't tell you where it is....but I will"). Are those books aimed at serious students of prehistory, do you think? Is this a person whose ideas anyone should take seriously? If he's accusing professional archaeologists of conspiring to keep him from facilitating the pillaging of archaeological sites for things to sell on eBay, I'm on board with being part of that conspiracy. Count me in.
I'm constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my best strategies for engaging with all kinds of people and ideas online. It's been a learning experience. As far as the dynamic duo of Zimmerman and Pulitzer . . . I think I've seen enough. As I mentioned above, Pulitzer has invited me to be interviewed (and to repost one of my blog posts on his site) and I have declined. I know that by doing that I'm losing out on an opportunity to communicate to a different audience than those who read my blog. But I also know that my refusal means I'm not participating in creating content that is designed to draw people to a website that promotes treasure hunting under the guise of "truth." Everything I've seen from Pulitzer so far leads me to believe that joining him in the "debate" and "search for truth" would be a game of charades. He is running a bush-league circus of disinformation. So . . . thanks, but I'm going to pass on this one.
PS: To my archaeology friends in the Midwest (especially Indiana and Ohio): please be aware of Zimmerman's activities. I do not believe he is acting responsibly and I do not believe he has the best interests of the resources at heart. I was a bit conflicted about writing this post because I didn't want to bring any additional attention to his books, but after thinking about it I concluded that anyone who is interested in using his books for illicit and/or unethical activities probably already knows about them. Conversely, I'm guessing that many professional archaeologists in the Midwest were not aware of Zimmerman and Pulitzer. So now you are. I hope some good comes of that.
Update (5/7/2015): The "TreasureForce Commander" is upset with me.
Anyone who's done archaeology for a significant length of time has a pile of "things I'm going to finish someday." My experience teaching at Grand Valley this year along with my anticipation of moving outside of the Midwest over the summer has spurred me to be realistic about the things in that pile. I'm just not going to ever have the time and energy to pursue everything that I'd like to. So in the interests of looking ahead, I'm going through my filing cabinet of unfinished projects and trying to make available things that might be of use to someone else. I started with this stalled research on fetal head molding in Pleistocene humans. Now it's a couple of radiocarbon dates from an excavation that's over 10 years old. It's academic spring cleaning in the age of the internet.
The Clark's Point site (12-Cl-3) is a Late Archaic habitation site situated on a terrace overlooking the Falls of the Ohio. While I was working for the IPFW Archaeology Survey in 2002, we did a small excavation on the site in cooperation with the Clarksville Historical Society and the Falls of the Ohio Archaeological Society. My technical report of that excavation is available on my Academia.edu page (the report is here).
The site is called "Clark's Point" because it was the site of a house occupied by George Rogers Clark. The main prehistoric component of the site (and the reason I was interested in the excavation) is Late Archaic in age. The purpose of the excavation was to dig a footer for a chimney that was to be constructed on a cabin that now sits on the site. That excavation extended into Late Archaic midden deposits, allowing us to collect controlled samples of artifacts and other materials and expose a profile.
I obtained two AMS radiocarbon dates from deposits at the site after the initial report was written. It was always my intention to do a more thorough analysis of the midden and its contents and publish a paper with the radiocarbon dates. I would still like to do that at some point, but there isn't any sense in sitting on the radiocarbon dates any longer. The IPFW Archaeology Survey no longer exists (I do not actually know where the collections are at this point), and I need to move on. Anyway, here are the dates:
The dates do not overlap at their 2-sigma range, and give some idea of the amount of time depth in the midden. The younger date (Beta-213841) is from nutshell recovered from a flotation sample from the upper portion of the midden (Zone D). The older date (Beta-213842) is from nutshell recovered from a charcoal-rich layer that seemed to mark the base of the midden. The locations of the samples are shown in the figures below. Further description of the sediments and cultural materials in the midden deposits can be found in the technical report (link above).
Please let me know if you make use of these dates. I hope to continue working on the Late Archaic of the Ohio Valley at some point in the future.
Data from "Functional and Stylistic Variability in Paleoindian and Early Archaic Projectile Points from Midcontinental North America"
I have added an Excel file of the basic dataset for my 2013 paper in North American Archaeologist to the "Data" section of the website. The file contains basic information on provenience (county), UTMs (county center), typological category, and morphometric data for the 1,771 Paleoindian and Early Archaic projectile points that I used in that study. Like the 2014 AENA paper, the NAA paper was produced from a portion of the analysis in my dissertation.
The samples I used for the morphometric analysis in my dissertation and in the NAA paper were identical, so the data in the Excel file are also in the appendices of my dissertation. I'm hoping that providing the data in an electronic format will save someone a great deal of time doing data entry, and will encourage the use of the dataset that took me who-in-the-hell-knows-how-many hours and miles to collect, compile, and produce. The measurements used, as well as the procedures for taking them, are defined in the paper and in my dissertation.
The ultimate goal of the two analyses (raw material and morphometric) was to produce a quantitative description of the apparent sequence of material culture change from homogenous (Early Paleoindian) --> regionalized (Late Paleoindian) --> homogenous (Early Archaic) that characterizes the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in the Midcontinent. A quantitative description allowed an "apples to apples" comparison with data from model experiments, providing a basis for evaluating some alternative scenarios explaining the regionalization as a result of various changes in social network structure. As the time to my defense was ticking away, I had to sacrifice some of the modeling work in order to get finished. I was able to draw some conclusions, but a satisfying analysis of the "social boundary" question is still in the future. Once I get set up at my new job I'll be able to restart the modeling work, add data from the southeast to my dataset, and reboot on the question of the social networks of early hunter-gatherers in eastern North America.
Data From "Changing Scales of Lithic Raw Material Transport Among Early Hunter-Gatherers in Midcontinental North America"
I am a proponent of openly sharing information, and one of my purposes in creating this website was to create a way that I could make available data from own papers and research projects. I realized when I recently paid my bill for the site that it has been a year and I have yet to post any data. So I'm starting now.
I have added an Excel file of the basic dataset for my recent paper in Archaeology of Eastern North America to the "Data" section of the website. The file contains basic information on provenience (county), UTMs (county center), raw material, and typological category for the 926 projectile points that I used in that study. The AENA paper was produced from a portion of the analysis in my dissertation.
The year 2006 was a long time ago. That was my first year at Michigan, and I remember being very happy when this paper of mine came out in Archaeology of Eastern North America. I had a quick look back at the paper this morning as I was writing the description. The main thing I was trying to do in the paper was formulate a chronological "model" that would accommodate the profusion of Middle/Late Paleoindian points that occur in northeastern Indiana. I came up with a scenario that was consistent with the data I had in front of me and seemed to make sense based on information from other regions. It was probably the most sophisticated piece of work I had done at that point.
Back in the day, I made a short animation (available here) to help explain the model in presentations. It is pretty simple, but it effectively communicates the idea that the occurrence of multiple Late Paleoindian point types in northern Indiana is not solely the result of a unilineal sequence of technological change. I was hoping to add a soundtrack to the animation before I put in on YouTube, but technological evolution let me down: the software I used to edit the video no longer opens the video it created. So please hum a Donny and Marie song while you watch it. I suggest this one. Or maybe this one.
After collecting and analyzing more data during my dissertation work, I now think that some of things in this paper are wrong (see the description). The paper served its intended purpose, however: a model that can be used to derive further expectations is a useful one. The process of creating an explanation like the one in this paper forces you to try to construct scenarios that are consistent with all the information you have. And it encourages you to think about how additional information could be used to discriminate between scenarios. And that is useful.
All views expressed in my blog posts are my own. The views of those that comment are their own. That's how it works.
I reserve the right to take down comments that I deem to be defamatory or harassing.
Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_A_White
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sick of the woo? Want to help keep honest and open dialogue about pseudo-archaeology on the internet? Please consider contributing to Woo War Two.