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!

Alaska Anthropological Association–Day 1

I’m in Fairbanks on a combined trip to do some work on the WALRUS project and to give a couple of papers at the Alaska Anthropological Association’s 44th Annual Meeting.  I was supposed to come down on Sunday and got to a zooarchaeological workshop on teeth, but alas there was a blizzard in Utqiaġvik, and that didn’t happen.

Last night, there was the opening reception.  Jenny Blanchard had organized 2-minute talks, which went well.  I did 2 minutes on Walakpa 2016, with a plug for Walakpa 2017.  We didn’t get quite as many people as we’d hoped, since we were in a room at the end of the main entry hall, and people had to pass the bar with free beer to get there, so some folks got sidetracked.

The day started early with a paper on Arctic genetics by Jennifer Raff, Justin Tackney, Margarita Rzhetskaya, Geoff Hayes and Dennis O’Rourke, in a session on the Seward Peninsula.   All of them except for Margarita had worked on the Nuvuk people as part of a big project, also involving modern that was at least in part done at the request of Utqiaġvik Elders (although they didn’t have to twist Dennis & Geoff’s arms too hard).  That project contributed to this paper, and as results continue to come out, it is only getting more interesting.  Now that the North Slope is somewhat understood, the Seward Peninsula is the next gap.

The rest of the session focussed largely on the first field season of a project at Cape Espenberg spearheaded by Claire Alix and Owen Mason.  They are working on a couple of Birnirk houses, one of which was started by an earlier project there that I spent a couple of weeks on.  Very interesting material coming out, and very interesting geomorphological and paleoenvironmental work in progress.  Their dates for Birnirk seem to be running a bit later than what we are seeing at Walakpa, up into the range I would call Early Thule at Nuvuk.  Of course, we aren’t really talking about two different groups of people here, bur rather a change through time, but it is still interesting.  They aren’t nearly done with one of the houses, so it will be interesting to see if they get some earlier dates.

Spent the afternoon polishing my PowerPoints for tomorrow, and now I’m going to try to catch up on sleep.

Vienna & CHAGS

From Glasgow, we went on to Vienna and CHAGS (the Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies), by way of Düsseldorf.  The Düsseldorf airport is not high on my list of airports in Europe.

In Vienna, we stayed in Hotel-Pension Bleckmann, a nice family-run hotel near the University, where all the conference sessions were being held.  The hotel had great breakfasts, and the staff was really nice and very helpful.  They recommended a restaurant that had great food and a local clientele, so it was more reasonable than the more touristy places.

Glenn having dinner at D'Landsknect, Porzellengasse.
Glenn having dinner at D’Landsknect, Porzellengasse.

The conference was very interesting.  Both Glenn & I were giving papers in a session on Aboriginal Whaling in the 21st Century.  I talked about the archaeological evidence for whaling in Alaska, and Glenn talked about the late pre-contact/protohistoric whaling-centric system in North Alaska.  There were a number of other northern papers in the session, including papers on Central and Eastern Canadian whaling archaeology from Jim Savelle and Peter Whitridge, as well as papers on whaling in places like Korea & Bequia.  There were 51 other sessions, all having to do with hunting and gathering groups.  Of course there were a lot of northern papers, but some of the other papers were very interesting as well.  The organizing committee and the students really made an effort to have a green conference, including the food and drinks served at breaks, and all in all it was quite fun.

We ran into a couple of hooded crows in one of the courtyards on campus.  Oddly, we’d seen one at the University of Glasgow as well.

Hooded crow.
Hooded crows.

The campus has all sort of restaurants and beer gardens more or less on or next to it.  It was very convenient after sessions.  Several times we wound up at Steigel-Ambulanz.  This was a restaurant/beer garden right across a walkway from the area where the sessions were concentrated.  It featured seriously large portions, but the food was very good.  We also had a dinner at Universitätsbräuhaus, which was more or less across the quad.


Seriously large (and very carefully arranged) caprese salad).
Seriously large (and very carefully arranged) caprese salad).
Claire Alix about to enjoy that salad.
Claire Alix about to enjoy that salad.

The conference banquet was held in a banquet hall in the Wiener Rathauskeller.   That literally means the cellar of the city hall, and that’s exactly where it is, in the basement of Vienna City Hall.  It is set up for  banquets (and also as a restaurant).  The food was great, and Richard Lee (of Man the Hunter fame) was honored for his contributions.  He was just back from something like his 50th field season!

Conference banquet in Wiener Rathauskeller.
Conference banquet in Wiener Rathauskeller.

Vienna had more places that only took cash than do most cities these days.  We wound up having to wake quite a way to find a bank that exchanged money, since we needed more Euros than we had exchanged in the first place.  On the way, we stopped by the Spanish Riding School (home of the Lipizzaner stallions), and booked a stable tour for the next afternoon, when there weren’t any sessions we simply needed to hear.  The building the Riding School is in had a stratified archaeological site under the plaza in front of it, and portions had been preserved with a wall around it.

Archaeological site in Michaelerplatz. There are portions of a Roman road, Roman fortifications, and even 18th century apartments and drains exposed.
Archaeological site in Michaelerplatz.  There are portions of a Roman road, Roman fortifications, and even 18th century apartments and drains exposed.  The entrance to the Winter Riding School is in the background.

The next day we went for the stable tour.  It was pretty interesting, and the stables were very nice, although we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the actual stables.  Much like the Royal Stables in Denmark, the horses were all in box stalls, but you could see they had been converted from tie stalls at some point in the past.

Entrance to the Hofburg from Michaelerplatz. The Riding School is on the left of the main archway.
Entrance to the Hofburg from Michaelerplatz. The Riding School is on the left of the main archway.
Largest walker in the world.
Largest walker in the world.
Saddles in the tack room at the Winter Riding School.
Saddles in the tack room at the Spanish Riding School.
The Winter Riding School.
The Winter Riding School.


Chandelier at the Winter Riding School.
Chandelier at the Winter Riding School.

Believe it or not, when it was built, the Winter Riding School hall was considered very simple in design, the better to show off the horses!

We walked back to our hotel through the Hofburg grounds.  Being in Vienna really brings home that until pretty recently, it was the seat of a major empire.

Gardens in Vienna.
Gardens in Vienna.
Display rose garden. It seemed to have one bush of each variety of rose, clearly labeled.
Display rose garden. It seemed to have one bush of each variety of rose, clearly labeled.


Another garden.
Another garden.

I couldn’t resist adding this.  The German for ice cream is “eis” and this is an ice cream shop.

An ice cream shop in Vienna.
An ice cream shop in Vienna.

DNA results from the North Slope published!

When we first started archaeological work at Nuvuk, it took a while to find a physical anthropologist who was willing to work with the human remains here in Barrow.  Dennis O’ Rourke and his team were willing to do that.  Dennis came up to Barrow to speak to the community and the Elders to get their permission.  His lab works with genetic studies as well as skeletal material, and he asked if they would be interested in allowing ancient DNA studies on the remains from Nuvuk.  The Elders were not only interested in those studies, they suggested that the group undertake a program of modern DNA studies across the North Slope as well.   They developed a proposal to do just that, and once it was funded, research got underway, with resident of all seven North Slope communities contributing samples.

The analysis took a while.  The team traveled to all the villages to collect the data and returned to present the results to North Slope residents before they were published.  Finally, the first paper based on the project is published!  It is based on looking at mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from your mother.  It is present in many more copies than the more familiar (to most people) nuclear DNA, and therefore is often studied in archaeological situations, since all the extra copies make it more likely that some of it will survive.

The short version is that the modern DNA results support the North Slope as the source for the populations that migrated to the eastern Arctic, both the Neoeskimo (ancestors of today’s Inuit/Inupiat people) and the earlier Paleoeskimo.  This fits well with the picture from the archaeological data.

Jennifer Raff is senior author, with Margarita RzhetskayaJustin Tackney and Geoff Hayes as co-authors.

This paper has gotten picked up by a number of science news sources.


Edit:  4/30/15  Fixed a link that WP had put an ellipsis in the middle of the link.  It should work now.

BASC talk tonight with Dennis O’Rourke & Geoff Hayes–GeANS project results

Dennis O’Rourke and Geoff Hayes are scheduled to give a talk at the Iñupiat Heritage Center tonight as part of the BASC Saturday Schoolyard series.  They are giving a report to the community on the results of the GeANS (Genetics of the Alaskan North Slope) project, involving both modern and ancient (mostly from Nuvuk) DNA.  It should be really interesting.

Dennis is scheduled to arrive on the evening Alaska Airlines flight, and then head over to the IHC to start the talk at 8PM.  I think Geoff may either be here or is coming in from a village.  I  just hope the AK Airlines flight isn’t as late as the one I was on yesterday; I didn’t get here until almost 9PM.

Visits to zoological collections

I am in Seattle for the Alaska Anthropological Association meetings.  Today was spent primarily in tours of the Burke Museum’s zoological collections (in the morning) and the marine mammal collections at NMML (in the afternoon).  The Burke has pretty impressive collections, especially when you add in the off-site material, and NMML has a good range as well.  After the tours, Jeff Bradley of the Burke took me to their off-site storage to look at whale mandibles.

I’ve been trying to track down whale mandibles ever since I was sent a picture of one from Cape Krusenstern and I saw one at Cape Espenberg that didn’t look like bowheads.  I didn’t think they were grey whales either, but I’m not as familiar with their skeletons.  There are bowhead skulls in front of every school in Barrow (& my daughter attended all three), the college, the library/heritage center, the city hall and the North Slope Borough building, as well as miscellaneous other sites around town, so I know bowhead jaws when I see them.

I found a couple that looked like possible matches, or at least members of the same family, so that is progress.  The Burke has pretty restrictive photo policies (they hold a lot of art, so the policies are based on that), which means I can’t put any photos up here without permission.  It would take days  & several person-hours of work at both ends, so I’m not going to try for a blog post.

Now off to bed so I can be bright-eyed & bushy-tailed (or at least halfway coherent) for our session tomorrow.  I don’t have to give any papers until afternoon, but still…  The other organizers have papers in the morning, so I’m guessing I’ll be moderating….  We’re only winging it a little 🙂

Last Call for Papers: The Connected Arctic–An Alaska Anthropological Association symposium sponsored by the Arctic Conference

I wound up agreeing to help organize a session at the upcoming Alaska Anthropological Association meeting in Seattle.  Long story about Seattle, but we have gone to Whitehorse, YT once or twice, so leaving Alaska is not a first.

Anyway, the deadline to submit sessions (including paper lists) is this Friday, so I though I’d put a description up here, since the AnthroAlaska list seems to be a bit slow showing up (although it might be my email).  We have room for a few more papers and are being fairly expansive in our interpretation of the topic.  If you are interested, the description and directions for how to participate follow:

Although the Arctic tends to be viewed as a place apart, both in the sociocultural sense and as a research area, the first has never been true, and the second is becoming less so.  This symposium will look at the Connected Arctic from both perspectives.

Papers on any aspect of trade and/or travel (pre-or post-contact) from one or more disciplinary perspectives are welcome, as long as they involve the Arctic.  We are interested in both specific case studies and methodological works.

We also welcome in papers dealing with aspects of connected Arctic research, including virtual repositories which can be used from multiple locations, shared databases, digital teaching and outreach tools, and social media.

N.B.  People wishing to submit papers are asked submit the paper abstract directly to the meeting organizers by the deadline of February 3, using the Alaska Anthropological Association meeting website form:  https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/fitzhugh/139716 .  Note you will need to register for the meeting first.  Please put “The Connected Arctic” in the space on the form.  The symposium is not on the website list of symposia yet, but we have been assured that does not matter, since sessions are due the same day.  Please also send your name and at least a paper title (preferably with the abstract) directly to one of the organizers:  Anne Jensen (anne.jensen@uicscience.org), Herbert Maschner (maschner@isu.edu ) or Owen Mason (geoarch85@gmail.com ).

Education, Culture & the Past

I just got back from the local library, where I went for a talk by Aviâja Egede Lynge on Mental Decolonization in Greenland.  Aviâja is a really great speaker, with a graduate degree in social anthropology, who is working on the process of changing the school system to be truly Greenlandic in nature.  If you ever get a chance to hear her talk, take it.

The talk was about the lingering effects of the Danish colonization of Greenland.  A benign colonization, perhaps, but that brings its own issues.  A very complex problem.  Much of it is probably the same in any area that has been colonized, other aspects are perhaps specific to this particular case.

Sunshine & blue skies…

…and a full crew.  We started work on the burial under the plank.  It took quite a while, as the plank was complex to define.  It was all one piece, in some places up to 9 cm thick, and had obviously required a great deal of work and skill to make.  The top surface looked like the outer surface of the tree.  The bottom surface showed evidence of burning, in some areas completely charcoal.  It should be good for C14 dating.

The remains are those of a large male.  Preservation is a bit variable, but it looks like there might be some ribs that could yield aDNA.  In any event, he will be safely out of the trail.

Many on the crew did STPs.  So far nothing has shown up.  It is beginning to look as if there is a gap in the burials (or at least a much thinner distribution).  I’ve begun to wonder if this could be the result of a village move due to erosion, which brought the village close to the cemetery and made them skip a bit of ground to put the new cemetery at a proper distance from their residences.

At least it was a beautiful day.

Barrow–Anthro 101 comes to life

For a community of 4400 or so souls, perched on the edge of the Arctic Ocean at the very “top of the world” as we like to say (or at least the top of the US), Barrow is astoundingly multi-cultural.  Iñupiaq, as you might expect, and various strands of Euro-American culture, but there are also many residents who originally came from the Philippines, and other Pacific islands.  Then there are members of other Native American groups who often got here by meeting a Barrow person at one of the boarding schools to which the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) used to ship students off for high school (in places like Chemawa, Oregon, or Kansas), marrying them and moving to Barrow.  We not only have four Iñupiat dance groups, but also a Polynesian one.  Pancit shows up at many gatherings.  We have a Mexican restaurant, a Thai restaurant, a sushi bar, two Chinese restaurants (both run by Korean families) and two pizza places, plus Brower’s Cafe, which has a fairly eclectic menu including burgers and Korean food..

In recent weeks, that multicultural aspect of Barrow has meant that one could get more exposure to a variety of cultures than one would in an Anthropology 101 class.  Aside from the Sweden/Denmark/Bavaria travelogue I did as part of the BASC Schoolyard Saturday, there was a presentation on Aspects of Krishna in four styles of four styles of Indian (subcontinental, not American) art given by a whale biologist from the NSB) North Slope Borough) DWM (Department of Wildlife Management), a talk on Papua New Guinea and various tribes given by a pilot for NSB SAR (Search and Rescue) who had spent two years there flying for a missionary group when he was younger, and a talk on the Netherlands, given by a Dutch social anthropology grad student who is in Barrow doing field research.

Yesterday, ConocoPhillips Alaska and Statoil were holding a public meeting in the conference room of the BARC, where my office is.  The folks holding the meeting help with a few things, and came by my office.  Two of the Statoil people were Norwegian, and when they introduced themselves, I automatically introduced myself using the Danish pronunciation of my name.  We chatted a bit with me speaking Danish and them speaking Norwegian.  One of the Barrow people at the meeting had a Norwegian grandfather (I think) and so that was fun.

My “upcoming trip to Fairbanks”–almost ready

As Tripit puts it, I have an “upcoming trip to Fairbanks” for which I very nearly forgot to make travel arrangements.  I remembered last week, and got the travel done, leaving only the paper, the poster, and the proposal I had to get done first.

The poster was finished on Friday, and sent off to Maribeth for final additions and printing.  She had a touch of flu, but has recovered in time to work out the final edits, and will be getting it printed.

I started serious work on the proposal earlier in the week, and got the final numbers on Friday to plug in.  It went off to the contracting officer this morning, and now we will see.  Costs keep going up here in the Bush, and it makes it tough all round.

I have the paper (or the PowerPoint for it) almost done.  I need to get a picture of Herman Ahsoak’s shed where he keeps his whaling gear (not in the house, behind it, just like folks have for centuries), and improve the map of the whaling captain’s work area at the Peat Locus at Nuvuk tomorrow, and then it’ll be ready.

I’m trying to get packed tonight, so I don’t have to rush after work tomorrow.  It looks like a good meeting, although for the second year in a row the Alaska Consortium of Zooarchaeologists (ACZ) workshop and the Alaska Heritage Resource Survey (AHRS) workshop conflict.  This is getting a bit old.  It should be possible to schedule them both during the meeting without conflicting, but that would apparently require some forethought and consideration on the part of those organizing the AHRS meeting.  The ACZ meeting was scheduled way in advance…

18th Arctic Conference–Part 2 (Day 1).

Here’s part one on the long-delayed wrap-up of the  18th Arctic Conference.  There were a number of quite interesting papers, as is usually the case.  Since most of this stuff is not yet fully published, it seems worthwhile to put a little update up here.  If anything here sounds interesting, contact the authors.

The first day was mostly earlier material, from Northwest Alaska and the Alaska Range around Denali National Park.  Jeff Rasic gave a paper (coauthored with Bill Hedeman, Ian Buvit and Steve Keuhn) about the Raven’s Bluff site.  This site, about 100 miles north of Kotzebue, not only has fluted points and microblades, but it has a unit (Unit 1) with well-preserved old faunal remains! The 2009 and 2010 work has looked at soils, and there is clearly intact stratigraphy there.  There is an upper ASTt (Arctic Small Tool tradition) component with a date of 2150±40BP, separated from the late Pleistocene materials with a fairly thick sterile layer.  There are 10 C14 dates so far, 9800±60 BP and 10720±50, on the lower component.  Very cool!

John Blong gave a paper on the summer’s work surveying in the uplands of the central Alaska Range, specifically the upper Savage River drainage (Denali NP) and the upper Susitna drainage.  They also found some really old animal bones together with flakes (C14 dates around 10000BP), and excavated at Ewe Creek, where they got cultural material dating to 4500 BP.

Katie Krasinski gave a paper she had done with Gary Haynes on taphonomic analysis of Proboscidean remains.  They had been able to work with fresh African elephant bones and Alaskan mammoth remains to look at how impacts by hammerstones, percussion flaking (this sort of bone can be flaked, as can whalebone) and carnivore chewing modify the bone.  This is important, as groupings of non-intact mammoth (and mastodon in some areas) are often found.  If there are lots of stone tools around, it’s fairly easy to figure out that people butchered them, even if they didn’t kill them in the first place, but otherwise, it’s a lot harder.  This research is aimed at getting data to help figure that out when sites like that are found.  They did gather a fair bit of data.  Biggest surprise: a higher percentage of the animal-gnawed bones had spiral fractures than did the human-modified one.

Brian Wygal talked about survey in Denali NPP.  There has been a several year project to try to get a handle on the prehistory of the park, finishing in 2009.  The talk was a preliminary wrap-up of the project.  He noted that they found the most sites the years they surveyed the fewest acres.  This really points out a problem in Alaska, where the place is so huge and so little has been done.  From the survey results, it also appears that the variations in tool kits which people have been wondering about are more related to seasonal movements and conditions, with microblades (and composite tools in general) perhaps being preferable in colder and snowy conditions.

Heather Smith gave paper on the excavations at the Serpentine Hot Springs site on the Seward Peninsula somewhat north of Nome.  Prior work had found fluted point bases, and 2009 work had located a hearth which yielded a C14 date of around 11,200-11,400BP.  Last summer’s work found more hearth features, which contained a lot of burnt bones and other organics.  Dating is underway.

Lunch was in the Dorothy Vernon Room, a rather interesting room in the modern Louis Kahn dormitory Haffner Hall which includes much of the original Dorothy Vernon Room from the old Deanery.  The afternoon was taken up by a visit to the collections at the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania.

18th Arctic Conference–Part 1 (the scenic view of Bryn Mawr College).

I’m back from the 18th Arctic Conference in Bryn Mawr.  It was really busy, and the Wi-Fi at Wyndham, where I was staying and had downtime, was amazingly slow, so I didn’t try posting from there.  I’m pretty busy, since I’m only here for a week before we go on a family vacation in Hawaii, so I’m going to break this into small chunks.

We were really lucky to have great weather the whole time.  Apparently the weather has been rather awful this fall in SE Pennsylvania, but last weekend it was perfect.  Bluebird days, still some leaves on the trees, not too hot or muggy.  The campus looked lovely.


Taylor Hall, first building built at Bryn Mawr College, from Thomas Library steps.
Thomas Library

I went inside Thomas, which was the original College library.  It is a bit Hogwarts looking, I suppose.  There used to be a free coffee hour every day in Thomas Great Hall, where just about everyone on campus showed up.  It was very handy.

Thomas Great Hall (apparently set up for some sort of event)
Athena (actually a replica because the original was kidnapped and damaged) surrounded by offerings, holding what appears to be invitations to Lantern Night teas.
Cloisters of Thomas Library.
Back of Thomas Great Hall from the Cloisters.
Dalton Hall. The "lantern" was a recent addition to hold a staircase that met modern code.

Dalton Hall is where the meeting was held.  It is the home of the Anthropology Department, and other social sciences.  Dalton was built in 1892 as the first science laboratory dedicated to academics.  It underwent a major rehab, which came out really well.  The old building had central stairs, which weren’t up to code, so the “lantern” got stuck on to put the new stairs in.  The labs and lecture spaces are just great, way nicer than when I was doing my AB and my PhD coursework there.


A gorgeous fall day at Bryn Mawr

I’m in Bryn Mawr, PA for the 18th Arctic Conference.  The trip went well, with the biggest problem the 30+ minute taxi from the runway to the terminal here in Philadelphia.  I’m staying in Wyndham, the Bryn Mawr College Alumnae House, replete with antiques, oriental rugs, etc.  Rick Davis pretty much had everything in hand, so I had some free time to check out the 125th Anniversary exhibit in the Rare Book Room at Canaday Library, which was really pretty neat.  A First Folio (Shakespeare), a Nuremberg Chronicle, a Maria Martinez black-on-black pot, Ansel Adams prints, Northwest Coast basketry, Mary Cassatt, Japanese woodblock prints, some lovely Greek pottery (including a plate by the Bryn Mawr Painter!) all in the same small room.

Had a nice dinner with Rick and Rick Knecht, and now off to bed to try & catch up on sleep so I can get up at what my body thinks is 3:45 AM.

Two abstracts submitted!

I still don’t have an admin assistant, and I’m getting stretched pretty thin.  The other day I had to print some checks, and got interrupted by something else before I got the check stock out of the printer.  The first five pages of an interesting white paper by Tom McGovern wound up on check stock.  I didn’t even notice until I got home and started to read the thing…  So there were some checks to void.

But I did manage to do a good bit of work yesterday on the maps for the ice road corridor for the Barrow Gas field project.  Still not report ready, but I was able to talk with the woman who is the main GIS person for the project, and mark up a map so she could constrict the cleared corridor a bit where it got close to some possible hunting stand locations.  It’s still plenty wide, although apparently the engineers were worried that if they can’t go exactly there, they’ll have to go through lots of polygonized ground, which is more expensive to build ice roads on.  The thing is the well pad the ice road is going to is on polygonized ground, and surrounded by lots more of it, so I don’t think they’re going to avoid much that way.  I can always test it next summer if they really want to go just there.

Today I managed to get two different abstracts for talks in, which is pretty amazing.  One was for the Saturday Schoolyard talk that Trace Hudson, one of the Barrow HS students from this summer, and I are giving on the 16th (gotta get my part done before then…) and the other was for the 18th Arctic Conference, which is being held at Bryn Mawr College this year.  Since I’d been implicated in talking Rick Davis and the BMC Anthro department into hosting this (the fact that I hosted it in Barrow, with 2 HS students for assistance, while writing my dissertation and working full-time so how hard can it be did figure prominently in my arguments), it really was incumbent on me to give a paper.  I’m talking about the material culture of modern whaling (the stuff that a whaling captain and his wife and crew members need to have specifically for whaling) and where those things get used and stored.

So folks, especially East Coast Arctic types, the registration/paper/poster deadline is Friday, October 15.  So get a move on!