RIP Dennis Stanford

Six days ago I opened my computer to be greeted by news of Dennis Stanford’s passing. Dennis was a giant in North American archaeology. Before he went to the Smithsonian and became famous, he was a graduate student. His dissertation was based on his excavations at none other than Walakpa, covered in one of his books.

I can’t remember when I first met Dennis, but it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I remember hearing about the elephant butchery experiment from folks who had been lucky enough to play a small part. As someone who was involved in Arctic archaeology, I was aware of his work at Walakpa, but never really thought about working there. When I first started working in North Alaska, I bought a copy of the Walakpa monograph, which turned out have once belonged to Chief Justice Warren Burger, of all people. It was for reference when I was writing about other sites.

Then in 2013 the Walakpa site started eroding. We started salvage work there. Based on the Walakpa volume, I was able to tie our site grid into the grid Dennis had established in the 1960s. I contacted Dennis, and he was kind enough to share copies of the field notes (still sorted by which chapter of his dissertation they related to), and was always willing to answer any questions I had that weren’t covered in the notes. We planned on getting him to come to Walakpa when we had an excavation open, but we didn’t manage that before his health problems started. We talked about it the last time I saw him in person. I’m sorry that will never happen now. I think he would have enjoyed it.

Climate Change and Cultural Resources seminar (SAA members only)

As usual, things have been busy. One of the things I’ve been busy with was an online seminar for the Society of American Archaeology on “Climate Change and Cultural Resources.” Despite some connectivity issues, it went off well. SAA records these seminars, and you can watch them if you are a current member. You will need to be logged in to the SAA web site member section to access the archive. The climate change one is here.

Time for Recent Research Notes for AJA

It’s time to send in submissions for the Alaska Journal of Anthropology Recent Research Notes sections. It needs to go to the editors by early March at the latest, so get them in now! If you want to include any images, we need publication quality versions at the same time. We welcome notes about all fields of anthropology as well as related studies. More info here.

NB. There is a new style guide for AJA here. Please use it. I’m super busy this winter, so I can’t spend time fixing formatting, but I do want to be able to include your submission.

National Climate Assessment 4 is released

Black Friday wouldn’t seem like the ideal day to release a report as important as this, but there it is.  This report is Part 2, covering Risks, Impacts and Adaptation in the US. It is based on a massive amount of scientific study, as detailed in Part 1, which was released last year.

For those who don’t have time to read it, the short version is that things are going to get really bad soon in many parts of the US if we don’t turn this car around.  Fires, floods, coastal erosion & flooding and declining property values along the coast, climate refugees, heat waves that kill people, infrastructure collapse, agricultural failures with decreasing food security and increasing food prices, and so on.  And the knock-on effects of all that will impact places and industries that maybe aren’t feeling direct effects, so the economy will shrink. Not a pretty picture.

It won’t be just Arctic peoples’ cultural heritage and valuable scientific information that gets lost.  It will be public infrastructure and homes and food sources and drinking water.  The problems that we are seeing here in North Alaska now will most likely be coming to a place near you soon if enough isn’t done to change things.  This really isn’t the sort of thing to be gambling on.

The way it is set up, you can download executive summaries of the whole thing and of each chapter, but not the whole report or whole chapters.  They have to be read online.  Not much thought given to folks who live in rural communities with low bandwidth and/or super expensive internet ($299/month for 5Mb/sec and a 100GB data cap anyone).  If it could be downloaded, costs and the downloaded documents could be shared.



Call for Papers for SAA session on Environmental Change Impacts

I’m back from over a month in the field, and just got the Committee on Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources (CCSAR)-sponsored session set up for next spring’s SAA meetings.  The session abstract is here.

We are looking for papers. If you are interested and have a paper you think might fit, contact me!

NB.  The hard deadline is coming up fast (September 6, at 3PM ET) and you will need to be registered and with fees paid to be accepted.  You don’t have to renew/establish your SAA membership right now, but will need to do that by the end of January 2019 to give the paper.

Time to write & submit Research Notes!

IMG_4909It is time to think about submitting contributions for the Recent Research Notes column in the Alaska Journal of Anthropology.  Get the word out about a project (maybe find some collaborators), let colleagues know about some interesting little find that isn’t big enough for a full article, keep folks posted on what you are doing.  More specifics here.  This is not limited to archaeologists, folks!

Antiquity article out!

A group of us have been working on an article on climate change and the effects it is having on archaeological sites and the cultural heritage and environmental information they contain.  It has finally been published in the journal Antiquity.  It is open access, so you can read it here.  Local sites, especially Walakpa, make an appearance.

Catching up

It’s been a while since I’ve managed to post.  Lots has been going on, some of it only tangentially related related to archaeology.  I started the year with a partial right knee replacement, which led to lots of PT.  It turned out I had a loose piece of bone the size of an acorn floating around in my knee, according to my surgeon.  Getting that out was a huge improvement, but I had to do a lot of PT to get to a point where I can kneel if necessary for excavation.  I’ve got about 0-132° range of motion, so I can kneel now, although it isn’t pleasant to do it for a long time.

A few weeks later, I gave a paper at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage.  I was able to talk about Patou the mummified seal and the long-headed bear, to an audience largely composed of oceanographers, marine biologists and the like.  It was a great venue to raise awareness of the potential for archaeology to add time depth to research in other disciplines.  Unfortunately, I had to spend most of the meeting in my hotel room icing my knee, so I missed a lot of the other papers.

After that, there were the Alaska Anthropological Association meetings in Anchorage, where I organized a session on Accelerating Environmental Change Threats to Alaskan Cultural Heritage:  Emerging Challenges and Promising Responses, which involved both papers and an open discussion.  I gave a paper in that session and one on Walakpa in a session on Alaskan coastal archaeology.

Next up was the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Washington DC.   I took over as chair of the Committee on Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources (CCSAR).  I gave a paper, in the “Burning Libraries” session sponsored by CCSAR, and was also a discussant for a session on climate and cultural heritage.

Once I get the PowerPoints properly annotated I’ll put them up on-line.

A month ago, I also had retinal and cataract surgery, to resolve a retinal pucker that was blurring and warping the center of my visual field in my right eye.  The surgeon says my vision should improve over several months, but it already has improved considerably, since lines now look straight to my right eye!  I just had a one month followup visit and the doctor said I now have a foveal pit (which you are supposed to have, but which had been absent pre-surgery).  Anyway, I can see much better.

I’ve also been working on a whole bunch of articles, some coauthored with various colleagues and some that I am sole author on.  I’ve also been working on several proposals.  All that made for more than enough writing, which perhaps explains the silence here.

I’m going to be spending a good part of the summer in the community of Kaktovik monitoring the remediation of the old Air Force hangar, which contained some materials now known to be hazardous.  They are being removed as part of the demolition process, and even some of the soil around and under the hangar will be taken away.  That’s where I come in, since the hangar was built before most cultural resources protections were in place, and there is a chance that it was built on top of an old site.  Most likely there will be nothing archaeological there, but at least if there is we should be able to identify it and deal with it properly.

I had hoped to be able to get back out to Walakpa this summer, but that is not looking too promising.  The Kaktovik project falls right into the period when volunteers are available.  Plus the schedule is ever-changing as the remediation progresses.  It might not have worked anyway, since we had a VERY snowy winter, followed by a chilly spring.  As a result, the site is still covered in lots of snow.  People who have been down recently say nothing of our excavation can be seen due to deep snow, and they can’t tell if the site was damaged by the big fall storm that resulted in a disaster declaration for Utqiaġvik (Barrow).  At the rate things are going, if we were planning a field season, we might wind up stuck in the lab for half of it.


Papers wanted–Climate Change & Archaeology Session

SO late last year I submitted a session proposal on Environmental Change Threats to Alaskan Cultural Heritage.  I never heard anything, so I assumed the session wasn’t accepted and what with the holidays & the knee replacement, I didn’t try to solicit papers.

I just learned that the session was accepted, so I am looking for participants.  The organizers are being kind enough to give us a couple of extra days past tomorrow’s deadline, but this has a pretty short fuse.  The abstract is linked here, but in short, I want to get a conversation started about this issue.  In many ways, Alaska has more at risk, sooner, than most of the rest of the US or most of the rest of the world, but we seem to be responding more slowly than places like Scotland or Florida or California.  I am hoping for papers that either highlight sites that are being or have been destroyed (you don’t need to have completed excavation & analysis), or showcase specific ways that communities, agencies and/or archaeologists have tried to deal with the issue.  We should have time after the papers to actually start a discussion on ways to deal with this problem beyond simply noticing it exists.

Please send abstracts to me ( and to Andy Tremayne (

Contact me ( if you have any questions.