• The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist

    The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist
    ArchaeoVenturers are more than just archaeologists and anthropologists.  They are scientists and advocates who use activism, academia, and innovation for the advancement of society and culture.  These renaissance (wo)men venture beyond the boundaries of the excavation and explore science across disciplines in the constantly changing global environment.

    Jumping right into the big questions:

    What exactly is The ArchaeoVenturers Project and why are we doing it?

    The ArchaeoVenturers Project started as an idea to bring more attention to women who are breaking the glass ceiling in science, and in particular in our own favorite field – archaeology. As we sought ways to reach out to the next generation – the key to the future of science – the project blossomed into a web series and social media platform to bring attention to the individuals and the work that is inspiring to us.

    Why ArchaeoVenturers?

    – Thoughts from ‘The Digger’

    guess who is the dinosaur?

    guess who is the dinosaur?

    So why am I doing this? That’s a story that starts a long long time ago…

    As a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn’t own a single Barbie, and for my 8th birthday, running around in dirt-smeared dinosaur t-shirts, I was ecstatic to receive a rock tumbler as a gift from my parents. All in all, I wasn’t a typical little girl – archaeology has been called “the peeping tom of the sciences” so yeah, you could call me a tomboy.

    Growing up before the days of DVR and Dish, there were few to no female archaeologists or scientists represented on popular television. Today, there are literally a thousand channels and still women remain under-represented in the public sphere. There are so many individuals out there who are not only doing incredible work that pushes boundaries in their fields both professionally and socially, but often they are overcoming obstacles to do so.

    I have been fortunate to be surrounded by strong women my whole life – no one in my family ever told me I couldn’t do something, and that left my world open to anything, it helped make me who I am today. I wanted to help create a venue that reached out to young people – and especially all of the other dirt covered, Barbie-less little girls out there – to show that science is awesome, and no matter who you are or what your gender is, that you can do things that change the world. There are incredible people doing innovative work every day, those are the people our girls should have available to them to look up to – not the reality stars of the world that dominate the social media sphere.

    – Thoughts from ‘The Diver’

    destined to swim amongst them...

    destined to swim amongst them…

    I, on the other hand, had too many Barbie dolls to count, and some very likely ended up in the dirt with me…in a sandbox…in Brooklyn.

    There is one incident however, devoid of archaeology, that sticks with me even until this day, and highlights the very reason ArchaeoVenturers is important to me: I went to elementary school with a very small class, and I was a very ‘girly’ girl until the 4th grade- I am talking pink and ribbons, you name it, I wore it, but I did this all while playing sports and running around with ‘the boys’. Then in the middle of that year, one of my girl friends said “you wear a dress to school every single day, can’t you dress normal and wear pants like everybody else?” Well, I literally took this girl so seriously that I didn’t wear another dress until well into high school. Being a tomboy became my existence because it was easier to hide the fact that I wanted to be a girly girl under all those flannel baggy shirts. I was afraid to express that I loved ‘roughing it’ all while wanting to be a lady on the outside.

    For me, this is where the ArchaeoVenturers Project comes in; I want to show other young girls, and boys, that no one else should be able to define how you get to represent yourself. In the field of archaeology, there tends to be this stark contrast between over sexualized or over frumpy – for both genders! Usually, women, because they want to be taken more seriously in the field, tend to go over to the more conservative end but why should that be? Can’t we decide that if we want to be somewhere in the middle – an intelligent covered in dirt archaeologist by day, and dressed up with red lipstick in heels by night – that it should be our decision?

    Some of the most interesting people I work with are youth from my maritime archaeology summer camp. It’s students like them that inspire me to make better choices and want to leave better impressions for the next generation. I hope that The ArchaeoVenturers Project brings archaeology, history and science in new and creative ways to a broader public, who are often regrettably left out of most academic conversations about their own past. This project will be a success to me, if even one young boy or girl becomes excited about their future because of the solutions that we help bring to light.

    Stay Tuned Each Week For A New Episode of The ArchaeoVenturers Project (youtube.com/ArchaeoVenturers)
    Tweet us (@ArchaeoVenturer) your thoughts on why you’re interested in ArchaeoVenturers! Or any similar standout moments from your childhood? We’d love to hear them!
    #ArchaeoVenturers #ArchaeoActivists
  • Treasure Hunter Barry Clifford: ‘Santa Maria’ Access Denied

    Here is an update to my post about Barry Clifford, the treasure hunter who discovered the Whydah and ‘discoverer‘ of what he believes to be Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria.

    This post is also featured on The Antiquities Coalition blog posted on Monday, July 14th 2014.

    On July 7, the Haitian Minister of Culture, Monique Rocourt, publicly stated that the Haitian Government has revoked the permit of famed treasure hunter Barry Clifford’s on the alleged Santa Maria site. When the discovery news first went public back in May 2014, UNESCO was asked for
    Barry Clifford’s photograph of the alleged Santa Maria
    wreck. Credit: CNN

    Minister Rocourt also pointed out that although Clifford had announced to the public that he had discovered this site, it had actually previously been studied by the University of Florida back in the 1970s-80s. Maritime archaeologists – trained academics and scientists – who don’t harbor the same focus on profit and fame over proper research, would have done their due diligence by conducting a full research analysis and likely have left Christopher Columbus out of the equation, until there was concrete proof of this allegation.
    As to the ‘state of emergency’ invoked by Clifford concerning this site, the Haitian Government and UNESCO have also rejected this claim, as the wreck remains protected by the natural elements and sediments, meaning immediate danger is not imminent. Doing a full excavation would do more harm than good in both the short and long term. The Council has cautiously recommended that some archaeological fieldwork will continue on this site but only under the auspices of UNESCO’s technical assistance. Their team will likely survey the site in August of this year.
    This is an example of what many maritime archaeologists face – their efforts are not only focused on research but on struggling to counteract the claims and extensive financial flows of treasure hunters worldwide. It is governments in the developing world that need to recognize the difference between claims of grandeur and hard scientific fact. Even small decisions to restrict actions by alleged archaeologists; help foster a scientific and knowledgeable environment.

    Treasure Hunter Barry Clifford discussing his ‘discovery’
    on CNN. Credit: World News

    This situation becomes even more interesting beyond the Santa Maria discovery. A simple news search shows that media coverage of this decision has only been covered by Haitian or foreign language media outlets. Once the initial announcement via the mass media was released in May to the American press, there has been little to no coverage of these developments since May in English-language outlets.
    This illustrates a trend in American sensationalist media where only the exciting or provoking news is made public, while the follow-up stories that are grounded in reality, are forgotten or dismissed. If the American public were able to know about why Clifford’s permit was revoked or why treasure hunters and archaeologists are ethically at odds, it would foster a new thoughtful perspective on cultural resources management and site preservation. The media is an integral part in spreading awareness of issues surrounding our cultural resources.  

     their technical assistance to determine the validity of Clifford’s claims and assess his permit and archaeological methods. UNESCO has since determined that the methodology and diver team employed by Clifford does not comply with the standards set by the Scientific Council of the UNESCO Convention.

  • ‘Youth Diving With a Purpose’ Maritime Archaeology Camp Article via The Miami Herald

    The Miami Herald
    Posted on Thu, Aug. 07, 2014

    Youth diving group recruiting new members for important work in waters of Biscayne National Park

      A member of Youth Diving with a Purpose takes measurements on the wreck of an unidentified 18th century sailing vessel in Biscayne National Park.
    Yasmeen Smalley / Courtesy photo
    A member of Youth Diving with a Purpose takes measurements on the wreck of an unidentified 18th century sailing vessel in Biscayne National Park.
    Over several days in July, more than a dozen teens and 20-somethings from around the United States and Africa worked as volunteer marine researchers in the clear, calm waters of Biscayne National Park.
    Scuba-diving 20 feet deep to the wreck of an early 18th century sailing vessel of unknown origin, they took measurements, placed small flags on outlying artifacts and made scale drawings to create an overall site plan. They relished the project — and so did the National Park Service.

    “The more documentation we have, the more we can inform the public,” park superintendent Brian Carlstrom said.
    Said volunteer diver Rachel Stewart, 18, a recent high school graduate from Nashville: “It’s fun working the wrecks. You get to work on a lot of skills that all come together with the diving thing. I like the archaeology, but I like the biology, as well.”

    Stewart and her fellow divers were recruited by the nonprofit group Youth Diving with a Purpose headed by retired Nashville business executive Kenneth Stewart, no relation to Rachel. Stewart, 69, has been bringing adult volunteer divers to Biscayne for the past 10 years to help the park’s cultural resources staff document scores of archaeological sites. But this is only the second year that Stewart has brought young people, supported by grants and donations. He says it’s up to them to keep the project going.

    “Most Diving with a Purpose members are 50 and older,” he said. “If we don’t do something quick, we’ll be Geriatric Diving with a Purpose. We need young people to continue this legacy.”

    Gabriel Taliaferrow didn’t take much convincing. The 19-year-old student at SUNY Stony Brook in New York had been researching careers that involved scuba-diving when Stewart told him about the program. A marine biology major, Taliaferrow loves underwater archaeology.

    “We’re writing history by going underwater and mapping different shipwreck sites,” he said. “I really like history. Maybe it could be a career choice after college.”

    The students worked in buddy teams, with one person taking measurements and the other recording data on waterproof paper. Around them, hogfish grazed in the sandy fringes of the shipwreck while lobsters peeked out from beneath coral heads that have grown over the old timbers.

    After two summers of underwater work in the park, Rachel Stewart said she has noticed a decline in the health of coral reefs. Her experience has piqued her interest in studying environmental engineering as an incoming freshman at Tennessee Tech.
    “I want to do water resources,” she said. “I want to work on the water since it’s all coming together in one place.”

    Two summers of conducting underwater mapping in South Florida is about to provide the young people with an even greater opportunity: performing groundbreaking research on the wrecks of slave ships off Mozambique in Southeast Africa next summer.

    Youth Diving with a Purpose has teamed with maritime archeologist Justine Benanty of the “Slave Wrecks Project” — a collaborative research program on the transatlantic slave trade from the 17th through 19th centuries with George Washington University, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Park Service and the government of South Africa.

    Benanty said the project will be the first to archaeologically document ships that wrecked with slaves on board. Other slave ship documentation, she said, was performed after the vessels were converted and reused for another purpose.

    “This is no game,” Benanty said. “It’s meaningful work that will help future generations preserve underwater resources.”

    Kudzi Victorino can’t wait. The 33-year old Mozambique native — her country’s first female scuba diving instructor — has been training with Benanty and Stewart’s group since last summer to become among the first to survey the wrecks of slave ships off the African coast.

    “People say there are a lot of them, but nobody knows where they are,” Victorino said. “For me, it’s important because it’s history that is lost so our kids that didn’t know about this, we can share their stories with everyone.”

    Carlstrom, Biscayne’s superintendent, is happy to have the young divers working in his park. “A very cool program,” Carlstrom said. “What better way to get kids interested in the park than have them learn underwater archaeology? We engage the next generation of stewards so they understand and appreciate and want to take care of the park themselves.”

    © 2014 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/06/v-print/4275735/youth-diving-group-recruiting.html#storylink=cpy

  • Grandiose Archaeological Claims: Do they Help or Hurt the Discipline?

    The media has always thrived on the next ‘big’ archaeological discovery- whether the claims are made by amateurs or professionals, the media circus remains the same. We as the public, crave a connection to our history and heritage, regardless of initial authenticity. Some dubious examples that come to mind are the Etruscan terracotta warriors, the James Ossuary, the Kensington Runestone, or more recently a British maritime archaeologist claiming to have found missing flight MH370 thousands of miles from the search zone.

    One particular story that has recently grabbed media attention is the purported ‘discovery’ of the Santa Maria, the largest of three ships sailed to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The discovery was announced by Barry Clifford, who in several articles, is classified as a maritime archaeologist, while in others, as an underwater explorer. Make no mistake, Mr. Clifford is not an archaeologist. He may certainly claim to be one, but his career has been built upon the salvaging of shipwrecks around the globe. The practice of shipwreck salvage is not applicable to the protection and recovery of evidence relating to submerged landscapes and resources, and is by no means, archaeology (not to be confused with rescue archaeology which is legit). However, with all of these mainstream news outlets describing him as an archaeologist, it gives a level of recognition and legitimization to his claim that he wouldn’t have otherwise, regardless of how the archaeological community feels.

    With several historians and scholars already refuting his claim, I am not concerned with whether it is or it isn’t the Santa Maria. Most certainly, a shipwreck has been found, and has been investigated since 2003, but whether it is indeed the Santa Maria is certainly too early to determine, if at all possible. Although, UNESCO and the Haitian Government are taking the claim very seriously. As a maritime archaeologist, I know firsthand how long it can take to identify submerged remains, if one can ever say for certain.

    What worries me about this trend with fantastical archaeological claims, is that it seems to be intended more as a PR campaign vs. grounded in scientific reality. Clifford isn’t sure whether this is Columbus’ ship, but now, he will never run out of funding sources. As a business strategy, follows the typical commercial salvage investor model (Kleeberg 2013), but as a pseudoscientist, it seems fraudulent.

    When the Santa Maria first was in the news, friends and family bombarded me with queries about whether or not it is true, and why I hadn’t hopped on the first flight to Haiti to dive on the excavation. The reason I have held back, as I imagine many of us have, is because these types of discoveries only hinder our mission when justifiable claims are in fact proven. There is too much crossover between pseudo and legitimate archaeology, and as referred to in my first post, the public needs to know that an archaeologist’s priority is not buried treasure or to intentionally mislead, but instead as the Society for American Archaeology says, “is to expand understanding and appreciation of humanity’s past as achieved through systematic investigation of the archaeological record.”

    - Do you think these unsubstantiated discoveries that capture the public’s attention help or hurt the archaeological discipline?

  • justDIGine: The Professional Years

    …Continued from “The Early Years”

    My professional career as an archaeologist began by receiving my Archaeology B.A. and Anthropology M.A. in a five-year program at The George Washington University in 2010. By the time I graduated, I had my fair share of global expeditions and excavations, ranging from biblical archaeological projects in Israel to working on a former slave plantation in Virginia to working at the British Museum’s Egyptian department to searching for 11th century structures in the nomadic wilderness of Eastern Mongolia. All of these adventures taught me that I needed to pursue archaeology in a way that would continue to allow me to travel internationally, while expanding my academic and digging skills.

    Shortly before I graduated with my Master’s, I was hired as a contract researcher for the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) by a former graduate professor Dr. Stephen Lubkemann, whom I can now call a dear colleague, mentor, and friend. To continue with this project, he suggested that I get PADI scuba diver certified (and I blame him because now I want to dive everywhere!). Based at GWU, the Slave Wrecks Project is currently co-sponsored by the National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Diving With a Purpose, IZIKO Museums of South Africa, South African Heritage Resources Agency, and African Centre for Heritage Activities.

    As a result of this project, I was able to live in South Africa and work at IZIKO and SAHRA in 2011, and discover my real passion for archaeology ‘with a purpose’. As I look back to my first archaeological excavation at Tel Megiddo in Israel in 2006 (the sight of would-be Biblical Armageddon), it made me realize that I wasn’t cut out for bucket lines and the hot desert. Therefore, I am so grateful for being introduced to maritime archaeology in South Africa, where I realized one could dive and dig. While I was gathering my wits as an underwater archaeologist focusing on shipwrecks of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade with the SWP, I became aware of the lack of several things, including diversity within this particular discipline, outreach towards the general public, and capacity-building initiatives by other archaeologists working in the developing world.

    When I was hired as the first full-time Associate Researcher for the Slave Wrecks Project in April 2012, my activism as an archaeologist flourished. The SWP not only pursues an archival and archaeological field research program to locate, document, and preserve shipwrecks engaged in the international slave trade (in both the Transatlantic-post 1400 and in the Indian Ocean-post 800), but we have come to develop a cultural management program that will preserve and protect this irreplaceable—and increasingly threatened—underwater heritage. We assist developing-country partners in the expansion of heritage management programs that can preserve and protect threatened heritage and looted cultural antiquities, while also fostering a unique niche for regional cultural tourism with tangible economic benefits, and promoting a new model of self-sustaining research for national educational and scientific institutions. In the countries that we are active (South Africa, Virgin Islands, Mozambique, Senegal, Liberia, Southeastern USA) or are pursing projects (Angola, Cuba, Cape Verde, São Tomé), we have gained an even greater understanding of the cultural issues at stake beyond the proverbial ‘hole in the ground’ that many archaeologists seem stuck in.

    Since I have become a maritime archaeologist, I have expanded beyond my excavating resume (turns out, it’s much harder to conduct an archaeological excavation underwater!), and become a part of several other organizations that I am deeply humbled by and proud to be associated with. The first is the Capitol Archaeological Institute (CAI), which holds a special place in my heart because the people there have truly shaped my life. CAI was created by Dr. Eric Cline, my mentor mentioned earlier, by Ms. Deborah Lehr, a beloved mentor and friend, and by Ms. Katie Paul, my fellow ArchaeoVenturer and partner in crime! At CAI, I remain their maritime heritage consultant and Historical Beer event organizer (ok, just once).

    These same colleagues mentioned above expanded upon our collective initiatives to form The Antiquities Coalition (TAC). It is an organization that works to safeguard global heritage, empower local communities to be stewards and not looters, and to combat cultural racketeering (the systematic theft of art and antiquities by organized crime syndicates) in an ever threatened world. At TAC, as their maritime research analyst, my aim is to work in/with these nations in crisis to focus on the submerged cultural resources that are being relentlessly plundered under the radar and with no end in sight.

    My last mention is a program called Youth Diving With a Purpose, a week long course designed to supply high school age lay-diver with knowledge to become underwater advocates for conservation and preservation through the pursuit of maritime archaeology in the National Parks in Florida and in Africa. While working on a boat in Cape Town, South Africa, I met Ken Stewart, whom I instantly knew was a kindred spirit. He and I helped create YDWP, a subgroup of Ken’s adult Diving With a Purpose. The kids come from all over the US and as far as Mozambique! I am the Mentor for the young women in YDWP, and amongst all my other projects, this might mean the most to me personally. Even if they pursue other career paths, they will always remain patrons and stewards of submerged cultural resources and environments. It gives me hope to watch them thrive and become successful young adults in our society, as they truly make me proud, and I only hope that our program had an influence on that.

    In sum, I want to be a maritime archaeologist that makes a real and tangible impact on the world, both locally and globally. I won’t work to promote the unforgiving inner circle of academics, but instead seek to promote an archaeology that is publicly accessible, supports the next generation, and is culturally aware. I am truly living the LIFE AQUATIC!

    …Now that you know more than enough about me, I can move on to writing substantive posts about culture, heritage, tracking and preventing looting, maritime archaeology, global women’s issues, travel, and other relevant topics in the news.

    For a full rundown of my experience, education and skills, check out my LinkedIn profile.

    All thoughts and opinions on my blog, social media, etc… are my own and are not representative of any group or organization.

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  • justDIGine: The Early Years

    There are two questions that I usually get asked:

    “How did you become an archaeologist?” (which I love talking about!)
    “Do you ever find buried treasure?”…Slow clap. Off the bat, I’ll tell you that archaeologists don’t like that question. Archaeologists care about context (i.e. an artifact’s association to its environment), not whether it’s sparkly or made of gold. So with that logic, all of it is buried treasure.

    As for the first question, it started from a youthful passion fostered by Indiana Jones (of course), because who isn’t charmed by Harrison Ford?

    However, the most influential memories I have are actually exploring the American Southwest for fossils with my Dad. This was in the ‘golden days’ of air travel, pre-2001, when you could take anything you wanted on a plane—which in my case, included bringing trilobites and brachiopods to decorate my bedroom. I was too young to realize that archaeology wasn’t the same as paleontology, nor that taking fossils wasn’t good practice (remember the context part above! Although I did occasionally donate my finds to local children’s museums), but nevertheless, I was hooked.

    I knew early on that I was destined to work in their environment

    Years later, before I was sure I was going to attend The George Washington University, I had to attend an orientation day. Luckily for me, Dr. Eric Cline, who would soon become my mentor, was speaking about the archaeology program. He was so enthusiastic about his subject that I signed up for Archaeology 101 in the fall, reigniting my long forgotten dream. 

    Two weeks into my first semester of university, I declared my major and I have never second-guessed that decision.

    to be continued….

    For a full rundown of my experience, education and skills, please visit my LinkedIn profile.

    All thoughts and opinions on my blog, social media, etc… are my own and are not representative of any group or organization.

    Follow me!!

  • Résumé of a 21st Century Terrorist: The Social Media and Marketing Major

    Earlier this month ISIS became the wealthiest terrorist organization on the planet with its financial seizures in Iraq. Today, there were headlines across the world regardingmerchandising as a new ‘marketing’ tactic of ISIS to fund raise as they work to accomplish their aspirations of global domination.

    Source: Pew

    Source: Pew

    But we should not be expressing such shock that ISIS T-shirts and merchandise are surfacing.  This is simply a symptom of an inevitable evolution of the 21st century terrorist  – a well educated, tech and media savvy, often young individual that have been influenced by the global power of Islamist groups, such as al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates across the MENA region.

    We are no longer in the era of a cave-dwelling terrorist statement recorded on VHS – videos by terrorist groups such as ISIS are uploaded online and streaming as quickly as they are moving across the region.  As the tool that inspired and enabled the Arab Spring, social media and smart phone use have spread rapidly across the MENA region, empowering young people, activists, and social entrepreneurs to find a new place in the globalizing world.

    But with the rise of any cultural phenomenon, a counter culture will arise with it, and the use of these technology networks by terrorist groups has been just as apparent since 2011.

    In 2010, even before the Arab Spring boom, Dr. Reza Aslan addressed the fact that terrorist groups had begun recruiting educated individuals to their causes,

    When it comes to this global jihadist movement…groups like al-Qaida…want to reshape the global order. And it takes a certain amount of education, a certain amount of awareness, and frankly, a certain economic status to even think of such things.

    Primary school completion rate, total Source: World Bank

    Primary school completion rate, total
    Source: World Bank

    Moreover, the outreach tactic of these groups through the use of social media also acts to attract a younger demographic on its own – and that younger demographic pool has grown substantially since the Arab Spring. As youth groups across the Arab region are increasingly disenfranchised from the governmental process they search for a forum where they are able to have a collective discussion and a voice, and social media has provided the perfect tool for that outlet.And their timing is prime, not only are masses of technologically savvy young people in the MENA region being overrun by the violent tactics of terrorist and extremist groups, they also happen to be well educated; a trend that has continued and even grown amidst the turmoil that has plagued the region since 2011 (*recent statistics were not available for Syria, but one should note that according to UNICEF, the conflict has forced 2.8 million children out of school for months, and some for years).

    What is it that terrorist groups are able to harness in this media that well-equipped governments cannot? According to Dr. Aslan,

    Jihadism is a social movement. It functions very much in the same way that other global social movements, say, for instance, the anti-globalization movement or the radical environmental movement works. It provides an alternative identity to its followers. And the followers tend to be young. They tend to be socially active. They tend to be politically conscious. They tend to be aware of such things as the grievances of the global Muslim community.

    So how can we combat terrorism that moves at the speed of social media? Earlier this month, the National Journaladdressed a report from the Woodrow Wilson Center regarding the use of new media by terrorists in the Middle East. The report shows that terrorist groups are engaging on a number of social media networks, including the most popular: Twitter and Facebook, in order to gain support, funding, and recruits.  The report’s author, Gabriel Weimann suggests,

    Source: Pew

    Source: Pew

     … the same social-media tool could be a boon to the U.S. and other nations seeking to counter terrorists and their narrative. But thus far… terrorists are doing a better job than governments at using the medium.

    In the post-Arab Spring era, community mobilization is key to any movement.  Social media was simply a means to this end in 2011, and it has not stopped serving as a tool for mobilization.  One thing that most of the MENA region governments have certainly not been able to do is to reach out to the hearts and minds of their own people.  The deep-rooted aspirations of these people are what led many of them to face bullets and beatings in order to overthrow dictators.  One thing that the Wilson Center report shows is that the convening tactics around these same passionate emotions have since been tapped into by a much darker and stronger power.

    Activism is built on community empowerment and development, and as such these organizations maintain the ability to get work done on the ground – where the violent situations are moving the fastest; bureaucracy is slow to begin with, but when governments are unstable, in flux, or non-existent, getting action to meet the speed of the terrorist groups is difficult to say the least.

    Even in the arena of cultural heritage, average citizens – #ArchaeoActivists – such as Monica Hanna, have been able to mobilize communities through Twitter and Facebook in response to heritage threats and successfully protect sites against pillaging from gangs when the Egyptian government was unable or unwilling to do so.

    There is certainly a gap between the cooperation of activists, NGOs and non-profits, and the governments leading the nations they work in. However, if this grass roots convening power can be used to address antiquities and culture, which are typically the least funded of any ministries in most MENA nations, the implications for combatting terrorism could reach substantially further if tapped into appropriately.

    In this current era of instability with the rapid pace of ISIS and other terrorist movements across the region, it is imperative that national governments exercise their abilities to work with NGOs in order to foster greater support against terrorist groups among the wider populations.  Terrorists have worked extensively to keep up with the pace of globalization as it impacts the average person – merchandising, communicating, and reaching the issues that matter to them when they are faced with a crisis and a side to choose – we should expect nothing less of both MENA reg

  • Power of the Media in ‘Monuments Movements': NY Times article inspires American to return antiquities to Egypt

    This week, the Antiquities Coalition and the Embassy of Egypt in Washington, DC announced the return of a small collection of ancient Egyptian ushabtis by an American woman and her family. After reading a New York Times piece in March 2014 that outlined the efforts of Egypt’s Ministry of antiquities to combat cultural racketeering – systematic theft of art and antiquities by organized crime syndicates – through their MoU with the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities (ICPEA), one reader felt compelled to return Egyptian artifacts (which her family legally owned) to their homeland.

    Some of the ushabtis returned to Egypt  by Ms. Croasdaile.  Credit: The Antiquities Coalition

    Some of the ushabtis returned to Egypt
    by Ms. Croasdaile.
    Credit: The Antiquities Coalition

    Egypt’s cultural heritage has been in peril facing threats of looting and destruction since the rise of the Arab Spring in January 2011. Pleas for help have reverberated through social media and press coverage on behalf of Ms. Cynthia Croasdaile, who grew up in Alexandria, Egypt in the 1970s, was inspired to repatriate her family’s antiquities after reading the NY Times article by Tom Mashberg.citizens archaeologists and heritage advocates – #ArchaeoActivtsts – both inside and out of Egypt.  But the cries for the return of artifacts taken from Egypt have not gone unheard.

    Headlines regarding the besieged historical sites in EgyptSyriaLibya – and now, sadly Iraq again – have been splashed across the news with increasing frequency as the months since the Arab Spring revolutions have passed. The power of the media to raise awareness about the loss of our heritage has proven time and again to be a strong contender in the ability to make ‘monumental’ movements (of course pun is intended!) in terms of policy and public awareness.

    Ms. Croasdaile was not the first to be impacted by the press around cultural racketeering, or even one of Tom Mashberg’s articles focusing awareness on antiquities theft.  A piece he wrote in Winter 2013 regarding Sotheby’s sale of an illegal artifact followed a multi million dollar court case which Sotheby’s subsequently lost, losing both the valued statue, and millions in court and legal fees.

    Furthermore, the timing of the returns that followed (ie the Norton Simon Museum and Christie’s Cambodian statues) fell coincidently close to the report of Sotheby’s higher than expected quarterly expenses – due in large part to their losses from the Cambodian statue legal case, which was spearheaded by Tess Davis, a Counselor at the Antiquities Coalition and Researcher for Trafficking Culture.  More likely than not Christie’s and Norton Simon saw the writing on the wall and cut their losses before enduring the same costs.  But it’s not the finances of a single legal case alone that are placing fear in these auction houses – but the massive media attention and subsequent social movements that accompany the issues of culture heritage in the current era.

    We can only hope that like the Cambodian statue returns, Ms. Croasdaile’s selfless return of a family heirloom is only the beginning of a larger trend.  Not only of repatriating antiquities, but of reaching an awareness that our history is as endangered as our environment and many of the animals we fight earnestly to protect.  There are many important resources that keep the world together – and preservation of society and its history are among the most important.

    Protesters gathered near Dahshur. Credit: Observer France 24

    Protesters gathered near Dahshur.
    Credit: Observer France 24

    I could (and probably will – so get ready) write a blog post once a week for months about local populationsyoung people, and average citizens taking risks and making social movements happen out of broken monuments.  Many of these efforts are achieved with the use of media and social media to spread awareness quickly in these extremely fast moving volatile environments – creating #MonumentsMovements in communities that now have a way to voice their thoughts on heritage to the global community.

  • AnthroPaulicy Meets Internet!

    With this being my first ‘official’ blog post I feel like I have to introduce myself and why I have begun blogging in the first place – since we’ll be getting to know each other I can’t just throw thoughts out into the blogosphere without some sort of explanation of where I’m coming from!

    Why ‘AnthroPaulicy’?

    Although I have a penchant for cultural heritage and archaeology, my primary training is as an anthropologist. It is this training that has allowed me to examine the world of cultural heritage from an angle outside of the archaeological site and focus on the impacts and symptoms exhibited by the greater socio-political situations affecting the sites on a larger scale.  (There’s the “Anthro” part for you…)

    My educational background may be highly academically focused – anyone who has studied one of the humanities knows how “academia-y” they can get (which is one of the reasons I love it!) – but my work for non-profits since graduate school has been much more than academia could prepare me for – and being in DC I have received a thorough and very fast introduction into the policy world. But – much like Louis Leakey knew Jane Goodall would introduce the world to an innovative look at chimpanzees because of the fact that she didn’t have a scientific/academic background — I think that I can bring a fresh look at policy to the table regarding heritage and culture in the MENA region with my – we’ll say ‘insufficient study’ – in policy and with the incorporation of anthropological principals and focus on local populations.  It’s policy – Katie Paul’s way – hence “Paulicy.”

    Why Blog now?

    Beginning in graduate school, and for several years since, I voiced most opinions through social sharing on behalf of the organizations I worked for, managing the social media behind the scenes.  My primary concerns were archaeology and cultural heritage and since my day life was already consumed by these topics, I didn’t feel the need to express my personal opinions in addition to all of the advocacy sharing we were doing online – but more than anything, I didn’t think anyone would care what I had to say.

    During my time managing social media on behalf of others, I was moved by the actions of several selfless individuals I have followed over these years who showed what the real power social media and media can do.  And more importantly, showed what the power of an individual could do. With that, I feel it is my time to begin contributing as an individual, an activist, an anthropologist, a researcher, an archaeologist, and a global citizen.

    I can only hope that moving forward I can have the same impact on one person that others have had on me. If one person can make a change, I am going to do what I can to try and be that person. So here I am, Internet – I hope you’re ready for me!