Friday 21 November 2014

Accolades For Tom Wynn: Too Bad About That Hand Axe Thing!

This just in!

University of Colorado
Distinguished Professor of Anthropology
Dr. Thomas Wynn
Tom Wynn, of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, has just been given that institution's highest academic position—Distinguished Professor.

Well done, Tom!

He began working on bipedal ape cognition in the late 1970s, and in the past decades he and UCCS psychologist Fred Coolidge have compiled an immense amount of work around the evolution and character of, in particular, Neanderthal cognition.

Both are friends of the Subversive Archaeologist—although I'm well aware that they don't concur with much that I've written about the theoretical constructs that surround Paleolithic stone artifacts.

Tom's early work was highlighted by the 1979 "The Intelligence of Later Acheulean Hominids" (Man, New Series 14:371-391), in which he applied Piagettian genetic epistemology to "characterize the intelligence of later Acheulean" bipedal apes—makers of the ubiquitous, yet to me still inherently enigmatic, stone artifact that many call the hand-ax [or handax or hand axe or hand ax, the artifact formerly also known as the coup-de-poing.]

As you're no doubt keenly aware, I question the fundamental premise that lies beneath any such undertaking. Tom used the illustration below in 1979 when outlining his characterization of the intelligence behind the events that led to its having the shape you see here. According to Wynn, “The maker must have been able to conceive the desired shape . . .  .” That "shape" is the bilateral symmetry that has resulted from flake removals, some of which are labelled in this view because they are examples of what Tom calls "retouch," which he infers to have been the purposeful removal of small flakes to produce the desired end product. Granted, this is just one of tens of thousands of such bifaces that have been recovered archaeologically over the years—but the fundamental premise underlying its identification as a hand axe remains the same, and encompasses a shit-load of variation, including other bifacially flaked objects called 'cleavers,' and 'picks,' and 'discoids.'

Forgive me Tom, and you, Dear Reader, if I demur. While this artifact may have been purposefully shaped, that is by no means a necessary conclusion, and to me the evidence for that claim is shaky at best. Bear with me. Let's first look at the view on the right. You see a classic ventral flake surface, complete with striking platform, bulb of percussion, tiny fissures in the rock radiating from the platform, and the concentric ripples emanating from the same point, created  by the Hertzian cone of force that was required to separate this flake from its larger—source—block of raw material, in other words the original core. 

To begin with, there's really no way that I can see to know what this flake's original dimensions were. Although, I suspect that they weren't much different than you see here. I base my—freely acknowledged to be an informed lay person's—opinion on the ambiguity of the timing of all of the flake removals that I've numbered in red in this annotated view. They might all have been removed from the block of raw material PRIOR to this flake's detachment from that core. As such, absent the nibbling that you see labelled "A," the gross shape of this artifact could have been the natural outcome of the physics of rock fracture. Of course, I suppose one could propose that—as is the case with the Levallois so-called technique—those prior flake removals were intended to produce a flake of just this shape. [I think you can guess where I'd stand on that proposition!]

I'm happy for Tom. Kudos, Tom! For your tireless work, for your teaching, for your enthusiasm and for the excitement you've created in generations of archaeologists. But I still think that your construction of pre-modern bipedal ape cognition is profoundly flawed by your major presumption that artifacts such as this were 'created' purposefully in this shape.

One last comment. In the Gazette article Tom is quoted as saying that "One-point-seven million years ago our ancestors made them and continued making them for the next 1.5 million years. Then they quit." Sorry, Tom. Our 'ancestors' may quit making them—most likely when they stopped being our ancestors—but people like you and me have made objects like this up until recent times, as I've pointed out many time before.

Take, for example, these beautiful 'hand axes' from the Americas, with which I'll end this blurt. Archaeologists on this side of the Atlantic have never presumed that these were tools, in and of themselves. That's a much sounder basis—IMHO—on which to ground inferences of cognitive complexity than the one to which Tom Wynn and sooooo many others cleave.

El Pulguero Suroeste is here, in Baja California:

And the Topper Site is on the Savannah River in Allendale County, South Carolina, approximately where you see the bulls-eye in the logo below.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Nefud For Thought: Scerri et al.'s Arabian Levallois Artifacts Give Us Pause To Reconsider Middle Paleolithic Typology

Far be it for me to downplay discoveries that have the potential to overturn long-standing misunderstandings about what went on in the past. On the other hand, I can't help but be excited when I see images of artifacts such as these, for what they imply about the bipedal apes that made 'em.
From Scerri et al. "Middle to Late Pleistocene human habitation in the western Nefud Desert, Saudi Arabia," Quaternary International, available online 8 October 2014.
I call your attention to object number 1. As you can see, it's described as a "Centripetally prepared preferential Levallois core," as is object 2. Object 3 is a "recurrent centripetal Levallois core," 4 is a "Single platform core," 5 a "bidirectional Levallois point core, 6 and 7 "discoidal cores," 8 another "single platform core," 9 a "multiple platform core," 10 and 11 are "bifaces." [BT dub, gotta give the authors credit for not referring to 10 and 11 as hand axes, since that's what they, evidently, are, and would normally be called that in run-of-the-mill Middle Paleolithic scholarship. O' course, they do identify similar objects as hand axes elsewhere in their paper—I guess maybe these two weren't sufficiently 'well made' or pointy enough to make it into that category. In that case, one wonders why they weren't treated as hand axe 'rough-outs' as others have done. Somebody stop me!]

What I'm seeing here could imply much more than what Scerri et al. are reporting—that these Arabian Peninsula Middle Pleistocene assemblages are evidence for multiple demes spanning tens of thousands of years in MIS 5, the last interglacial—including anatomically modern Homo sapiens from northeastern Africa and Homo neanderthalensis from southwestern Asia.

I think the authors are missing something about the size of these artifacts. Here's a close-up of number 1, with some everyday objects for comparison. Yep. Those are a One Pound coin, a Tooney, a Sacagawea dollar, and a 2 Euro coin.

Yet, despite its size, Scerri et al. describe this fragment of rock—barely larger than pocket change—as a "Centripetally prepared preferential Levallois core." It sounds impressive! It is impressive! If it's what the authors' claim, this little beauty could be evidence for a group of bipedal apes with hands smaller than a five-year-old's! Either that, or this so-called Levallois industry is just that, a three dressed up as a nine. After all, could any of these pieces actually be Levallois cores [which, forgive me, perhaps I've missed something all along, but, I thought a Levallois core was something that was being prepared for the final removal of a flake of predetermined shape]? Give me a break!

Object number 3 is an even more impressive piece when you consider that it's a "recurrent centripetal Levallois core." As so many of you already know, I'm not a lithic analyst. But I think that means—unlike number 1, this has more than one flake scar, implying more than one flake removal in preparation for that magical, mystical flake of predetermined shape, which, equally mysteriously, was never removed. So. When is a Levallois core not a Levallois core? And why were all of these not taken to the next stage, according to [the conventionally wise construct of the] plan?

For my part, I don't know why we just can't use the old Bordesian typology, illustrated below. In that case number 1 wouldn't even make it as a Levallois core, and, at best, number 3 would be a "Classic." A classic it be, for sure! Either way, given their size, any flake of predetermined shape that a bipedal ape hoped to remove at this point in the reduction sequence would either be doomed to failure, or so small as to have been useless for any function more adaptive than cleaning one's fingernails. The same goes for the rest of 'em. And for any inferences that they can milk out of these bit of rock, however they want to describe 'em, and regardless of how many others in our field accept their inferences. [But then, that's why I'm here, in my metaphorical pajamas in my metaphorical (dead) mother's basement, bashing out this piece of uninformed criticism.]

Nevertheless, if these little bits of stone can be described in this fashion, and yet be, to all intents and purposes, useless as Levallois cores—in the original sense of the type—what does it say about all of the grown-up 'cores' that we're told were being shaped for the purpose of removing a flake of predetermined shape?

Let's face it, it's easy to recognize a Levallois core after that flake's been removed. Number 5, above, is one such example—mostly because the central flake had a point. It takes a real expert to recognize one that never got that far! Unless, of course, those final flake removals weren't, after all, the predetermined end product of the presumed process.

Many times before I've trotted out the Levallois cores from Douara Cave as evidence for the fallaciousness of the presumed Levallois technology. But it won't hurt to do it again.

Levallois cores from Douara Cave (Credit Akazawa in Suzuki and Takai 1974).
I've outlined in red the final flake removal on these Levallois cores. Can we not agree that if their final shape was 'predetermined' there's nothing here that would fit, without considerable massaging of reality, in Bordes's original—and highly idealized—classification of Levallois flakes, which you see above.

I'd be very happy to throw out the whole Levallois technique baby with this Arabian Peninsula bath water.

I'll say it again, I'm not a lithic analyst. If I were, and if these rocks from the Arabian Peninsula were what the authors said they were, and if I believed them, I'd consider jumping on their bandwagon of desert archaeology and riding it as far as I could on the road to academic fame and fortune. But I'm not. And I don't. And I won't be joining them on their—obviously very prestigious considering the number of papers they're publishing and in what august scholarly journals they're publishing them—bandwagon.

I'm outa here.


Tuesday 18 November 2014

Some Prefatory Thoughts on TAG 2014 Manchester [Updated]

If you've been frozen in a glacier somewhere and have just now thawed out, you might not know that yours truly has been invited to be the discussant for a session at the Theoretical Archaeology Group in Manchester, England, in mid December, 2014. [For more information there's a link in the sidebar.]

Most of you are acquainted with the mechanics of conferences like this. So, you'll already know that I've not seen an abstract, much less a draft of any papers. Nonetheless, I thought it might be valuable to offer some thoughts about the session, as it's described by the organizers. [Update: A few hours after this was posted, I received a reminder that I had been sent abstracts of the papers. Apologies to all involved for my omission. However, in my defense, those abstracts came while I was in the midst of working non-stop for the last three weeks of a very difficult reporting project about which some of you may already have heard.] 

Bridges Over Troubled Theoretical Waters: Crossing the Divide between Data-based Archaeology and Archaeological Theory in Prehistoric Studies

Organized by Paul R. Preston (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation), Katie Davenport-Mackey (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation, and Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester), Seosaimhín Bradley (Archaeology, School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire), and Tom Elliot (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation, and Institute of Science and Environment, University of Worcester). Vicki Cummings (Archaeology, School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire) will chair the session.* 
 During recent workshops of the MESO-Lithics project, a number of issues have arisen that have far-reaching implications for archaeology as a whole. Namely, interpretations derived from archaeological theory in prehistoric studies are becoming ever more ambitious, ranging from low-order functional or economic theory to higher-order socially or stylistically mediated narratives. However, such interpretations are presently limited by the legacy of ideological upheavals and profound revolutions in thought over the last sixty years. From Culture History to the post-Post-Processual fragmentation of theoretical perspectives. Added to this is the prevalence of following fashionable philosophers such as Bourdieu, Heidegger and Deleuze (to name just a few). However, a common feature that has remained a detriment to archaeological studies is the tendency of disciples of each theoretical movement to reject that which went before ―throwing out of [sic] the methodological and conceptual baby with the theoretical bathwater― irrespective of the value of certain approaches. One of the major casualties of these ‘revolutions’ is the use of data to support interpretations – especially by theorists. As a result, many have apparently forgotten the role of, or indeed how to marshal, data in their interpretations. Instead narratives have become ideologically led, as archaeologists increasingly prefer ‘top down’ theoretical approaches. This session aims to redress this by promoting a discussion on how this impasse may be redressed by showcasing recent attempts by archaeologists to bridge this important, conceptual divide between data and theory.
I'd like to focus on the passage I highlighted above. In part, because I believe that it's factual. But the 'fact' that it exposes is so unnecessary, for a variety of reasons, as I attempt to flesh out in what follows. 

As an archaeological infant I was weaned on what Binford called Normative anthropological theory—the idea that Culture is all about the norms of a society—something which he, especially, decried as useless for archaeologists interested in the Paleolithic. He likened it to 'paleopsychology,' and gave it short schrift.

Marvin Harris
I went on to be educated as a Cultural Materialist—in the Marvin Harris mould—and a Processual (or New) Archaeologist. As were so many others in the 1970s and '80s I was persuaded to embrace the nomothetic-deductive philosophy of science championed by Hempel and other late Logical Empricists. As a result I looked askance at Structuralism, and was dismissive of the Old archaeology. [Keep in mind that this was in the mid 1980s, when, unbeknownst to me, there was already considerable post-modern theoretical foment in archaeology.] 

When I was offered a Regent's Internship-Fellowship at the University of California at Berkelely [Cal to those of you familiar with such matters], one of my Simon Fraser University mentors warned me that there were Structuralists there. 'There' also boasted J. Desmond Clarke, F. Clark Howell, Kent Lightfoot, Vince Sarich, Ruth Tringham, and Tim White.

Meg Conkey
The Structuralist I was to be wary of was Margaret W. Conkey, who, as it turned out, had moved well beyond structuralism in her thinking and in her fieldwork. Meg's work had been brought to my attention through her 1980 paper, "The Identification of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Aggregation Sites: The Case of Altamira" (Current Anthropology 21:609-630). Structuralist or not, that paper was data driven, and its arguments cogent. But what was really exercising most of the archaeologists I knew was Meg's and others' successful efforts to expose gender bias in archaeology, and to introduce the study of gender in archaeological cultures. I heard many a male archaeologists' whispered diatribes aimed at the very idea that an archaeology of gender was worth pursuing. Most were just re-cast anti-feminism, anti-affirmative action, anti-female, and often homophobomania [my word for the utterly despicable worldview that causes ostensibly sane men to presume that to be a feminist a women must be, deep down, a lesbian, and that to be supportive of women's causes, a man must be short a testicle or two—more homophobomania, I presume].

Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
I'm very glad that despite the warnings, some said in jest, I chose to pursue a PhD at Cal, and that Meg Conkey chaired my committee, which also included Diane Gifford-Gonzalez (UC Santa Cruz) and Clark Howell. In my first year there, I was exposed to strident post-modern critiques of science and archaeology, many of which I discovered to be well-founded when aimed at the unreflexive anthropological theory then practiced by many archaeologists—especially the then-popular 'adaptationist' stance taken by most who drank the Marvin Harris Kool-Aid. Just to refresh your memory, I'm talking about the processualist view of culture as "Man's [sic] extra-somatic means of adaptation." Lots of good archaeological fieldwork was carried out under that banner; however, much more would have been achievable with a less-limited theoretical framework.

Karl Butzer
[Insider note: I was asked to guide Karl Butzer from a reception at one place on the UCB campus to the place he was to give an invited public presentation. He was on my list of archaeological deities because of Archaeology as Human Ecology. In that Cal presentation he nearly apologized for his former strictly adaptationist leanings, and came down in favour of a more nuanced examination of past human behaviour.]

Along with archaeologists Meg the Structuralist and Ruth the Marxist, there were many post-modern sociocultural anthropologists in the Department, who didn't have much time for archaeologists and physical anthropologists in general—presumably because they saw us as lacking the requisite theoretical credentials, and among our other faults we were still focussed on practicing archaeology as a scientific enquiry. Anti-science critiques abounded, although, as I was to learn, some of them used plain ol' empirical evidence to shore up their arguments [otherwise known as scientific reasoning], and they were still thinking about Science in its positivist philosophical mould, which I now see as a self-inflicted wound that went unnoticed within that circle. 

And it's to Meg whom I owe the bear's share of gratitude for expanding and deepening my theoretical toolkit. Hers was my first graduate seminar, "Issues in the Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherers." Despite the presence of a strident post-modernist and several reconstructed Cultural Materialists in the group, I was delighted by the breadth of empirical observation that was levelled against what was then popularly called the New Archaeology, or ProcessualArchaeology. Regardless of people around me proclaiming that science was dead, I was learning more about the value of archaeology as an empirical undertaking at the same time as I was being shown that the theory I'd been fed was, to put it bluntly, limited.

Alison Wylie
Meg arranged for Alison Wylie to facilitate a seminar in my second term. I had not been swayed by the proclamations that science was dead, or hopelessly flawed, or inherently androcentric, and yet I had nothing but my 'faith' that there was value in a body of knowledge that was based on empirical observation and evidence-based reasoning. Alison's work and her frequent mini-lectures in that seminar have enabled me to think differently from most post-processual archaeologists—because of my exposure to a [relatively] new way of thinking about how scientific knowledge is constructed.

I'm guessing that everyone reading this is familiar with the notion of the Scientific Method. It goes back hundreds of years. Put simply, it holds that you can't make a scientific inference unless you can observe the phenomenon. Hempel and others—sometimes referred to as Logical Positivists—belong to a group of philosophers of science known generically as Logical Empiricists. "If A, then B" pretty much sums up the Logical Empiricist stance. If you can't show that when A occurs, B follows, you don't have a scientific construct. I can't explain in detail here—and many have done it far better than I ever could—although I do a reasonably good job of it in one of the papers I wrote prior to being made a PhD candidate, "What is Archaeology, Really?

As Wylie points out, empiricist philosophy of science effectively ruled out our discipline as a science, because we attempt to make knowledge of something that, literally, doesn't exist: the past. As it turns out, Positivism also rules out early universe physics. And, I know from experience—having worked with astronomers and astrophysicists for nearly a decade—those so-called hard scientists make knowledge of the past using the very same reasoning that we archaeologists do. [Nostalgic note: the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, was nearly canonized by New Archaeologists, because they loved the idea of overturning the 'Old' archaeology 'paradigm.' Yet, as Alison Wylie pointed out to our graduate seminar, Kuhn's was essentially a social critique. His 'data' were currents of thought, which should be a lesson to any hold-out empiricist who seeks to confine 'data' to observations of physical phenomena.]

Just because we make knowledge in ways that don't fit with Logical Positivism doesn't mean that we're not doing 'Science,' or that our science is weak, or soft, in contrast to the likes of physics or chemistry. Indeed, the philosophy of science that held sway for hundreds of years has been in need of a facelift. That 'lift' is an account of how scientific knowledge is made that's often referred to as Scientific Realism. There are many philosophers of science, in addition to Alison Wylie, who can tell you all about it. I'll just say this. Empiricist philosophy of science couldn't even adequately describe the true nature of well-established scientific knowledge, because so much of it depends on recognizing and building on abstract models for physical processes that were inherently unobservable—the atomic structure is one example of a scientific finding that's been arrived at without anyone ever having seen an electron or a proton, much less an atom in the wild. Scientific Realism is an epochal shift for philosophy of science, and someday, I hope, the rest of the world will catch up. In the meantime, there is much "throwing out of the baby with the bathwater," as the TAG 2014 session organizers suggest.

The Subversive
ready to do battle
with bad inferences
I hope you'll forgive me for a rather lengthy blurt about not much of anything.

Mostly, I wanted to foreshadow my 'discussion' of the theoretical issues that will no doubt be raised by the papers we'll be seeing at TAG 2014 in Manchester.

* I look forward to meeting all of you. Paul Preston a long-time friend of the Subversive Archaeologist. [And yet it hasn't hurt his career to the best of my knowledge. Note to self: warn Paul of imminent danger.]

Monday 17 November 2014

Back To Basics: Stratigraphy 101

This is a pop quiz. Most of you will breeze through it. But if just one of you is surprised by the answer, and thereafter remembers the lesson learned, archaeology's status as a scientific discipline will be safe for another day.

You've just dug a test pit.
The purpose of the test pit was to see what's under the surface.
What you see looks like this.

Credit and thanks to: Jim Turenne, the photographer. Westport Vineyards, Massachusetts. 
The upper sediments are unbedded fines. They overlie sediments transported by a different depositional process. 

When you dig the next hole do you treat the dark brown sediments near the surface as a "natural" level and dig arbitrary levels/spits within it? What about the pale-coloured material beneath it? What about the rust-coloured dirt underneath that? 

Did you answer "Yes" to any of the preceding questions? Bzzzzzzt. No points. No! Changed my mind. You lose points!

It's completely astonishing to me that there are people out there who call themselves archaeologists who wouldn't know a soil profile if it . . .  well, if it walked up and slapped them in the face in a field situation. A! Ston! Ish! Ing! 

And, if you think there aren't archaeologists out there who'd have made such a colossal blunder, think again.

There are just two stratigraphic 'layers' in this view: the upper fines and the lower gravelly stuff. The horizontal colour changes are soil horizons, the result of pedogenesis—differential weathering, in situ, of the sediments themselves. They are not 'stratified' in any geological or archaeological sense of the word. To treat them as such is to waste your time and the time of anyone coming after you trying to interpret your field observations.

I'm done. 

Saturday 15 November 2014

Stand With Me—Pledge To End Harassment And Assault In Archaeology

There is no gray area here.

Either you stand with me or you stand against me. If you do not stand with me, you are not welcome here.

If you do stand with me you are committing yourself—regardless of your culture or your sex—to treating with decency and respect every person you come in contact with, whether that be in the home, the workplace, the classroom, or the field.

That commitment shall extend to males and females—heterophilic, homophilic, and everything in between—all genders, skin colours, nationalities, religions, and social or economic status.

With respect to all people I stand for no sexual, physical, or emotional harassment or assault, with the sole arbiter of what 'harassment' and 'assault' mean being only that person who feels that someone else's behaviour is discomforting, threatening, or worse.

If you stand with me, there is no room for cultural relativity or for appeals to tradition or history. That goes for the Abrahamic religions—including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—as much as it does for atheism, agnosticism, polytheism, the ancient cosmologies of Iran and India, and traditional, indigenous, and other folk or mainstream belief systems.

My intolerance of tradition in this regard goes double for the puritanical sects of Christianity that still wield enormous influence in many parts of English speaking North America and elsewhere. Those, which hide behind abstractions like "Family Values," are shown through impeccable scientific research, over and over, to be the reason behind high rates of rape, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, and yes, abortion, especially in the United States, but by no means limited to that nation.

And it's the long history of misogyny and homophobia in the Abrahamic religions—especially Christianity—that I believe has brought us to this place today. It's a place we've been before. It's a place that we should long since have erased from our social lives.

[Just an aside: I'm appalled that, after many, many months of irregular [at best] contributions to the Subversive Archaeologist, my return for this reason is hardly an auspicious one.]

Robert J. Muckle, a long-time friend of the Subversive Archaeologist, has just published "On Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Archaeology" in the November 2014 SAA Archaeological Record, The Magazine of the Society for American Archaeology, in which he gives his personal and professional response to this summer's “Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault” (PLoS ONE, July 16, 2014), by anthropologists Kathryn Clancy, Robin Nelson, Julienne Rutherford, and Katie Hinde.

These scholars have quantified what, for many of us, are seen in ones and twos, perhaps in a lifetime. But those experiences are multiplied by the number of potential workplaces here in North America and across the globe.

The authors asked people in academic fieldwork disciplines some questions regarding their own experience of sexual harassment and assault. As Bob Muckle points out, almost a quarter of the more than 600 respondents were archaeologists!

Theirs is not a random sample. The respondents self-selected. The authors sought participants in two brief periods in early 2013.
Links to the survey on field experiences were posted on Facebook group pages for the Evolutionary Anthropology Society Social Network, Biological Anthropology Developing Investigators Troop, Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association, Membership of the American Society of Primatologists, and BioAnthropology News. These links were then shared and retweeted by colleagues and disseminated using chain referral sampling (in a snowball manner).
Frankly, I don't give a rat's ass if the 'sample' is skewed toward those having experienced a hostile, and frequently dangerous, work environment. That this is happening AT ALL is beyond comprehension, and its perpetrators are despicable, and should be blackballed [sorry to use such a gendered expression—I think I can be forgiven under the circumstances]. That I have left out the possibility of rehabilitation is, merely, personal—I have little hope for reconstructing the mind-set of people who're capable of such acts.

Here's the makeup of the survey participants.

Here are a few lowlights of the findings.

And finally

Clancy et al.'s work might just as well have been researched and written in 1964, or '84, or '04 with the same outcome. And yet, the behaviour that's portrayed in this article persists today, across the United States and across the globe. Never mind archaeology in countries where the dominant cultural customs overtly oppress women, or specific ethnic groups, or non-heterophilic sexual orientations—THESE observations arise, for the most part, from field experiences shared with people who could be living down the street from you, in the next row in your college class, or at the front of that class (evidently a very common perch for perpetrators).

Yep. Middle Americans. Mild-mannered Canadians. Stiff-upper lipped British.

I entered the academy relatively late in life, in my 30s, and thus I can only record what I know of the last 30 years or so. They're still there. Androcentric, androcratic, misogynistic, homophobic, bigoted, dick-heads [yes, ladies and gentlemen, these people might as well have penises for heads]. They were there when I began.

Bob Muckle's commentary is valuable for his own recollections—as a fieldworker, field school leader, university professor, and anthropologist; Clancy et al.'s paper is disquieting, to say the least.

To show just how far we haven't come, I'll leave you with a light-hearted finale. Mary Sellers was able to joke, wryly, about the female field experience in her 1973 gut-busting "THE SECRET NOTEBOOK FOR THE PRACTICING ARCHAEOLOGIST: WITH PRELIMINARY NOTES TOWARD AN ETHNO-SCIENCE OF ARCHAEOLOGY," (Plains Anthropologist 18:140-148). As she put it,
     The Role of Women in Archaeology, or Women's Lib for an archaeologist is digging up two female skeletons in one day. Let's be clear: there is no discrimination against women in archaeology. They are to be found in classrooms, in summer field schools, and as wives of archaeologists. (The phrase male archaeologist is redundant.) Successful female archaeologists (read married to an archaeologist) are employed in small colleges, preferably female ones; in historical, classical, and even in archaeological museums and laboratories. Frequently they do ethnohistorical research. Usually, they help their husbands in the field.
     Few females without predilections for marrying archaeologists are attracted to field work crews. Mixed crews will continue to pose problems for supervisors concerned with decorum until the status of the Female Archaeologist is redefined, although most geared-for-success female archaeology students need little supervision in the field. They display domestic traits such as washing, sorting, reconstructing, and cataloging artifacts. To call these girls "camp followers" as many informants do is unjust. They are fulfilling important ecological niches in the profession and, without them on summer digs and in classrooms, it is doubtful that many archaeologists would get married—or remarried. They would have to change their current wife-securing procedures. It is important here to recognize the functional-structural significance of the summer feel cruise.
Wouldn't it be nice if this were just a quaint recounting of a long-since extinguished social reality?

Take the poll at the top of the sidebar. Let's give the bastards a show of numbers.

Tuesday 11 November 2014