Blogs

  • Happy New Years from ArchaeoVenturers!

    The year 2014 has been a blessing in so many ways for Katie and Justine — We launched ArchaeoVenturers, #AVProject, traveled together for the first time, and have received so much support and advice, both personally and professionally, which has meant the world to us. 2015 seems like it is shaping up to be a year of success, education, exploration, and discovery. We have so many new plans for next year, that it is killing us to keep it secret!! Please join The Digger and The Diver in 2015 and get ready for an adventure!! Thanks for getting dirty with us in 2014!

    Sending You All a Happy and Healthy New Year!!! 

    New Years Resolutions from the ArchaeoVenturers:

    The Digger:
    Like so many of us this year I will of course be making the obligatory “resolution” to get healthy, work out more, etc. But let’s be honest, we all just tell ourselves that to feel less guilty about the abundance of food we have eaten over the past few months. So, my resolution outside of the obligatory health quest, is to do something I must admit I’m not always good at — listen to the other side of an issue.

    As much as I seek to change things happening in the world, I have to learn to be able to change myself and grow first. I’ve always made it a point to view the world through the eyes of the people it concerns – embracing a non-ethnocentric perspective in any nation I go into. However, I have realized that i rarely apply that mentality to issues within my own country. I tend to take my political or social stances on an issue – and when I feel like I have taken what is deemed the “right” choice, I tend to ignore arguments to the contrary. For instance, I support same sex marriage, I believe that for true equality we all must have access to the same rights, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, color, or religion. As such, I tend to ignore the nay sayers, this day in age those still vehemently against same sex marriage are likely not to change their minds, so I have always assumed I shouldn’t bother. But right or wrong, ignoring the other side of any argument only stunts your ability to uphold your view even against the most ignorant of nay sayers. Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Therefore, good or bad, I will be making a much greater effort this year to entertain the other side of any issues I choose to take a stand on – social, political, or scientific.

    The Diver:
    For this new year of 2015, I would really like to appreciate and understand the fundamentals of life more… if that makes any sense. I feel like the last few years, I have put other obligations ahead enjoying the fruits of my labors, having a life outside of work, making time for my friends and family, not checking my email every five minutes as if the world will crash around me if I make someone wait for a response. There are so many little things that I seem to take for granted that I think I will have time to enjoy later on, but I hope that this year, I don’t allow that to happen. When I travel, generally there tends to not be this ‘grind’ that people live by, and it is truly admirable in a sense. I believe we should all work hard and push towards our goals for family, career, etc.. but I think in this new year, I would like to make an effort to ‘stop to smell the roses’.

  • Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Cambodia: Chapter Three

    Chapter 3 of “An ArchaeoVenture in Cambodia” begins just after our lunch stop with our guide, Mr. Raty. There were three distinct places that we visited after Angkor Wat that morning, in the order of Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple, and Phnom Bakheng:

    • Ta Prohm (1186 CE): Originally named, Rajavihara (Royal Temple), is one of the most visited temples in the religious complexes, most likely for its unique look of ruined beauty mixed with invasive natural elements (in this case, ever expanding jungle trees that thrive amidst the native temple architecture and encapsulate the historic remains). The word “Ta” means ancestors and “Prohm” originates from Brahma, Hindu god of creation. As an ode to inaccurate archaeological depictions, which Katie and I talk about in the #AVProject (), I must not forget to mention that the famous Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie was filmed here, one of the only Cambodian sites depicted with accuracy in the movie- and I must have heard at least 30 different tourists mention it in the hour we wandered around. Our guide said that after the movie came out, there was certainly a larger influx of questions about the temple’s role in the movie, how it was filmed, if Angelina Jolie had been there, etc…, and that many of these questions were still asked today. Because Ta Prohm’s beauty literally lays in ruin, there is a major restoration project being undertaken all over the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as you can see in the video. This restorative conservation is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) that has been ongoing since 2004. It is said to be a difficult task as the teams are avoiding vegetation removal, which is used to illustrate “how the trees and the complex coexist.” Oddly enough, Ta Prohm has also been at the center of creationist/evolutionary debate in recent years as a ‘stegosaurus’ has been discovered (see below image) amongst the depictions- judge for yourself! 
    Mr. Raty with Hannah & Me at Ta Prohm
    Jungle Overtaking Temple
    Stegosaurus? Rhino? Boar? Heffelump? 
    Restoration
    Temples for Days
    • Bayon Temple (dating from the 12th century CE): Bayon was the very center of Angkor Thom (Big City), which was the capital built by King Jayavarman VII. It’s position is the manifestation of the intersection between heaven and earth. The many faces of Buddha is how I recall this temple site- Mr. Raty said there are over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers! He mentioned that many people point out that the Buddha’s look as though they are smiling and that some have made comparisons to the Mona Lisa’s cryptic smile. There is a tourist stop here that no matter how hard thou doth protest, you must take a rubbing/kissing nose photo with this one Buddha, reminiscent of those timed photos taken at the leaning Tower of Pisa. Between 1995-2001, UNESCO and the Japanese Government Team for the Safeguarding of Angkor (JSA) conducted an extensive research and conservation project at this temple. The World Bank warns that Bayon, and other temple towers, are sinking into their sandy foundations as the hospitality industry drains underground water reservoirs- something to seriously consider as a foreign visitor.
    ‘Smile of Angkor’
    Perfect Positioning
    Hannah & I Trying to Read One of the Bas-Reliefs
    Bayon Central Tower

    View of Heaven & Earth
    • Phnom Bakheng (Built at the end of the 9th century): Known as “sunset on the hill,” this is where to be when the day comes to a close- and you know you’re in the right spot as suddenly hundreds upon hundreds of people have the very same interest in watching dusk fall from the top of the temple mountain. And it’s certainly a hike up, and at the top you realize why- it has an unrivaled view of the valley of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. I’ve never seen more selfie sticks in my life until that moment waiting for the sunset- so many selfies to be had in the twilight of evening (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em)…. However this popularity comes at a steep price: the World Monuments Fund puts Phnom Bakheng is one of the most endangered of all the complexes. More than 3,000 tourists push their way to the top, up the narrow stone staircases every single evening (myself and friends included).
    Clambering for Elbow-Room at the Top 
    The Art of Squeezing Into Tight Spaces
    What did I say? #sunsetselfie
    At Dusk
    A huge bonus at the end of our time in Siem Reap, was that I was able to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the temple complexes (although that morning the wind had a different plan in mind). While we were supposed to go over Angkor Wat, we ended up flying over several other smaller temples on the way, and after over an hour in the air, we overshot our landing site three times because of tall trees. While we flew over many little villages, the children and adults would yell from below (even before the sun was up) and our handlers would give us handfuls of candy to toss overboard. I still have mixed feelings about this because it seems like a very unnecessary practice to feed into, but then, what do I know anyway- when we finally landed in a random rice paddy field (complete with ankle-deep water and fire ants!), all those nearby children ran up begging for candy but then all whipped out their smartphones to take pictures of the balloon that many were claiming to never have seen before. Moral of the story- hot air balloons are always worth it, despite wet pants and bug bites on your toes…
    Unknown Temple From the Air
    Unknown Temple Being Restored From the Air
    Giant Hot Air Balloon on the Exodus Across the Rice Paddy
    NEXT UP VIETNAM MONTAGE!! 
    Please stay tuned for Chapter 4 and Final in “Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Vietnam” also known as “An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam” where a montage of travel and scuba dive footage await.
    Check out “An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter Three” on YouTube

    WATCH AGAIN:
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 1 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 2 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam: Chapter 4 on YouTube

    Further Reading:
  • Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Vietnam: Chapter Four

    “We come to it at last, the great battle of our time.” – Gandalf the White

    I’m hoping that most of you just read that line in Ian McKellan’s voice but regardless, we do come to the end of the first installment of the “Global ArchaeoVentures” series. At this point, my travel companions have expanded to include 4 additional people for our beginning adventures in Vietnam!
    Vietnam started off slow as our journey out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia turned from an anticipated 4 hour journey into a delayed 6 hour journey, resulting in our missing the one(!) afternoon ferry from Ha Tien (a border town in Vietnam), thus having to spend Christmas Eve in an unplanned location. When you’re with beloved friends, you can even make a $12/night hotel a special holiday experience (the iced coffee really does make a huge difference)! We did end up making the early ferry which is delightfully called the Superdong VI (FYI Vietnamese money is called Dong), to Phu Quoc Island in south Vietnam.

    Bus/Sardine Ride to Ha Tien from Phnom Penh 
    The Fastest Speedboat in Southern Vietnam
    Sweet Condensed Milk and Coffee w/ Glass of Ice
    Deck the Halls w/ Boughs of Holly

    The style of this video is less interview-esque and more of a footage montage, owing to the fact that Vietnam had more of a vacation-feel, whereas at Angkor, everywhere I looked my archaeological radar went crazy.  I think you’ll gather from the video what I thought was most apparent about this small island in the south, known for its tourism and pearl industries, which is that there is this sharp contrast between the rapidly growing infrastructure and a traditional Vietnamese landscape. If you watch the footage of us just riding the motorbikes around the island, you already see a marked difference between what Cambodia looked like on that original drive in from the capital to Siem Reap. But on Phu Quoc itself, which has a booming tourist industry, you can see the remnants of what old Phu Quoc looks like, and then you see the amazing amount of road building going on all across the island. When I went scuba diving (which you can see footage from at the end of the video), my dive buddy who worked with Rainbow Divers, told me that there had been a 50% increase in hotel and road building in the last year alone! I don’t know how accurate that figure is, but it isn’t hard to see in the roadside landscapes, with new half-built roads and lots the size of a supersize Walmart complex. The problem it seems, and I know that Katie and I are going to do a further in-depth ArchaeoVenturers #AVProject episode on it, is the lack of communication and awareness between the local people and those invested in the tourist industry. Nothing is more apparent then on the beaches all around the island- in front of the resorts, perfect white sand beaches, but step 25ft to either side of the resort beach, and the whole beachfront is covered in trash, to the point where it’s impossible to walk sometimes. I’ll leave this discussion to our planned episode, but it is noteworthy to point out that I heard one of the scuba instructors also say that the dive industry in Phu Quoc could be easily gone within 10-15 years because of the serious overfishing problem, dying coral reefs, and unparalleled trash buildup- and if the dive industry goes, a serious chunk of foreign tourism goes with it…

    Did I Mention Vacation?
    Para-para-paradise
    Tranquility 

    You will also see in bits throughout the montage, is when we landed in Ho Chi Minh City, and visited the Cu Chi Tunnels outside town. I have to be honest here, I had very mixed feelings going into this and even more so on the other end. The Cu Chi Tunnels were an elaborate network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong. These were used for hiding, living, and guerrilla warfare, which is unfathomable if you realize how small they actually are, and how they’ve been widened for tourists (I barely fit and I’m only 5’3″!). I didn’t add more of the footage beyond my going into the tunnels, which they let you do at the end of the tour after they let you fire AK-47s at a makeshift gun range, and I really could say it’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like I was in an archaeological tomb in Egypt (I also felt that way in the Catacombs in Paris). It was very scary to realize that people lived and died in those tunnels, but at the same time, the entire tour consisted of basically bragging rights about all the ways they managed to kill Americans during the war. Not making this a political statement, but I came out feeling very queasy and eager to depart for the nighttime bars in the backpacking district of Ho Chi Minh.

    Descending into the Cu Chi Tunnels
    Hideout Spot
    Torture Traps Used During Vietnam War

     Lastly, and I already mentioned it, but you’ll see some footage from my two scuba dives with Rainbow Divers on Phu Quoc in the northern part of the island. I am told there aren’t any shipwrecks close enough to dive on with tourists, so that was slightly disappointing but I find it hard to be somewhere now and not take the opportunity to dive. The visibility wasn’t up to what I am used to, having most of my dives in the FL keys (and I know, my friends in the Gulf will laugh at me) but what was most apparent again was the lack of significant sea life- that, and also somehow in 15ft of water, my GoPro bit the dust. I managed to salvage the memory card but what a devastating (and pathetic) end to an illustrious camera companion *bows head*…

    Bright and Early on Dive Boat!
    That Leisure Boat Life Though
    Cutting Sea Urchins for Scuba Lunch Break
    Rice Fail

    Check out An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam: Chapter 4 on YouTube

    THANK YOU FOR STICKING AROUND FOR ALL FOUR CHAPTERS OF “An ArchaeoVenture to Southeast Asia” with me, The Diver of ArchaeoVenturers!
    WATCH AGAIN:
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 1 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 2 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 3 on YouTube

    THANKS FOR GETTING DIRTY WITH US! 

    Leaving On a Jet Plane!
    Grizzly Bears Are My Life- What?!
    Further Reading:

    CNNGo in Ho Chi Minh City: From secret wartime hideouts to vintage Vespas

    Hidden tunnels of the Vietnam War

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

    The Miami Herald

    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.
    http://www.miamiherald.com


    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/06/v-print/4275735/youth-diving-group-recruiting.html#storylink=cpy
  • Climate Change & Underwater Cultural Heritage

    We are back from hiatus!! Thanks for hanging in there with us through our travels! This summer will have a lot more travels in store for our “Global ArchaeoVenturers” Series! – Stay tuned for the rest of Season 3 & more ‘in the field’ footage!
    ————————————————————————————————————————–

    No matter which camp you side with in the ‘Climate Change’ discussion, its effects cannot be denied.period. Polar vortexes, massive flooding, snow in deserts, excessive drought, etc… we’ve all been privy to it the last few years no matter where we are in this world, in the extreme, and whether it happens sooner or later, these changes will continue unchecked. However, without getting into said debate, this blog & episode is about how climate change is not just affecting our atmospheres, oceans, and seas, but as a byproduct- our submerged heritage as well. If you’re a maritime archaeologist, a scuba diver, someone fascinated by shipwrecks or just someone interested in the past- this means you should be concerned for all of the knowledge that could potentially be lost because of climate change affecting the preservation and ability to document submerged sites.

    The author diving on a WWII shipwreck in Santorini

    The problem with underwater heritage is that it is by definition, underwater, meaning that many times these sites are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for even those already concerned with cultural heritage protection. Because of a desperate need for awareness and additional protection even within our own sector, UNESCO had to expand upon the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property by creating a completely separate (and needed) Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2001. Heritage managers are already fighting great odds to protect submerged sites, and now climate change is complicating that fight even more because the answers aren’t clear and the solutions may not even be feasible.

    As Katie (The Digger) asks in this episode, how can things like rising sea levels make a difference for a site that is already underwater? Well rising sea levels create two problems- 1. sites that are not yet submerged, but may soon be. Even with the right protection, many of these sites are location specific and whole settlements that cannot be moved – Jamestown V.A.- the site of the first English settlement in America or the Statue of Liberty in NYC, amongst others, are predicted to be underwater within another 100 years! What can be done to prevent this? If people would cut their carbon emissions, it could slow down the rate of these predictions of sea level and temperature rises. 2. For sites already underwater, as discussed in the episode (all other environmental factors aside), a rise in water level on sites significantly reduces the amount of time that divers/maritime archaeologists can spend on the site. This might not seem like as big of a deal, but when you take into consideration how costly an underwater archaeological excavation already is, then if the time spent on a site continues to reduce, a full study could take years longer. English Heritage archaeologist Mark Dunkley describes “the effect of sea level rise on archaeological diving projects will be to incrementally reduce the amount of time (and therefore productivity) an air-breathing diver can spend underwater safely. For example, a 20% increase in diving depth can result in a 32% decrease in dive time.” Not to forget that the deeper a site gets, the more expensive high tech equipment will be needed for proper documentation.

    Teredo navalis (shipworm type) in wood

    If you refer to an earlier blog “Forgotten Legacy of WWII Wrecks- Environmental Hazard or Underwater Cultural Heritage?” you’ll recall why the scientific world is also concerned because “shipwrecks, ocean acidification and waste dumping into oceans are among the biggest sources of ocean pollution. Some 75% of sunken wrecks date back to the Second World War; their metal structures are therefore ageing and the plates deteriorating, threatening to release their contents into the ocean under the effect of corrosion. The North Atlantic Ocean has 25% of the potentially polluting wrecks in the world, which can contain up to 38% of the total volume of oil trapped in sunken vessels” says the Council of Europe in 2012.Other impacts of climate change on marine environments include increased seawater temperatures, ocean acidification and changes in ocean circulation which will also affect underwater cultural heritage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses underwater WWII shipwrecks in North Carolina to monitor changes in the marine ecosystems that these ships support as the waters warm up. “North Carolina’s marine communities are made up of a mixture of temperate and tropical species, due to the states’ geographic location in a transition zone between north and south.” So far, they have seen an increase in tropical animals off N.C. as well as tropical algae species never before seen in the area. Invasive species like the notoriousshipworm (which is actually a mollusk) which has a penchant for boring into and living in submerged wooden structures, are spreading from their native habitats and thriving in the warming seas. As far north as the U.K. Dunkley points out that the blacktip shipworm has now become active all-year round on unprotected shipwrecks because of sea temperature increase. A report on shipworm invasions in the Baltic Sea by David Gregory for UNESCO illustrates that these dangers to wooden vessels have spread possibly beyond repair in an environment once conducive to pristine wreck preservation, specifically because of the absence of marine borers. These species are an ever-growing major threat to wooden wrecks and structures.
    These numbers are meant to be intimidating. Humanity is so concerned (and rightfully so) with losing our cultural heritage through force and violence, like in the cases with ISIS going on right now, but what happens when we sit by and do nothing, knowing the effects of climate change today on the future of submerged sites? Will we be mournful for the unknown knowledge or the lives left unremembered on the bottom of the sea because we didn’t get out acts together in time before the information was lost? We must make more strides to understand the impacts/effects of climate change and create ocean management strategies that incorporate cultural heritage, for it is necessary to help us manage the maritime historic environment for future generations.
    Watch this week’s accompanying episode entitled “How Does Climate Change Affect Shipwrecks?” HERE or visit youtube.com/ArchaeoVenturers
  • Breaking Gender Boundaries in the Middle East: It takes Balls, Brains, & Bravery

    The past month in the US has proven big in gender and LGBT issues – Bruce Jenner’s transgender interview changed the way America sees trans individuals, the supreme court makes a decision on proposition 8 regarding same sex marriage, and the nation faces the potential of its first woman president with Hillary’s bid to run.  And though there are still major strides to be made, America seems to be accepting change at an increasingly accelerated pace.

    What do changes in social gender norms mean in nations outside of American boundaries?  Change is in the air in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as well.

    As parts of the MENA region face increasing oppression under fierce dictators and the rule of terror groups like ISIS – there are young people in areas outside of terror control that are breaking the gender boundaries such Islamist groups seek to maintain.

    During the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, women were pivotal in leading the cause to advance their rights and place in Egyptian society.  But even as laws change in a few short years, social fabric can often take a generation.  In Egypt, women have been taking this into their own hands. Recently, Egypt awarded a mother, Sisa Abu Daooh, who dressed like a man for more than 40 years in order to provide for her family.  Illiterate and widowed, she was forced to find work to support her children – being a woman in Egypt can be dangerous, being a woman in the work force equally so, but she courageously worked to do so – albeit dressed like a man.

    However, there are women of a younger generation that are trying to break traditional work barriers without the gender-bending cloak and veil.  Mennatullah El-Husseiny sought to break taboos of women’s place in the public social fabric of Egypt by doing jobs considered to be “only for men.”

    Turkish male belly-dancer (zenne) performing. Photo Credit: Al Monitor

    Turkish male belly-dancer (zenne) performing.
    Photo Credit: Al Monitor

    Women are not the only ones who are trying to crack the glass ceiling they face in the Middle East – in Turkey, young men are brining back an age-old art – the Ottoman tradition of male belly dancing.

    Known in Turkish as zennes, rakkas, or koceks, the art died out during the Ataturk era and has only recently resurfaced, but in the current political atmosphere is considered part of a homosexual culture in Turkey – a sentiment that while still considered taboo in many parts of Turkey, is becoming more accepted in its modern and increasingly globalizing society.  And although the zenne scene in Turkey is becoming more accepted, one of the male dancers interviewed in an al-Monitor last December still declines to have his name and photo revealed – cracking the glass ceiling can still come with a price…

  • Time to Change the Digital Dialogue on Religion and Violence

    In preparation for writing this blog I scanned the Internet looking for images – and came across the horrific news of the Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS in a newly released video.

    Photo Source: Minhaj.org

    Photo Source: Minhaj.org

    As I struggled to digest the recent news from ISIS, I tried to determine what I wanted to emphasize most in this new blog – and although history seems to continue to repeat itself, one thing that is left out is the reality of the situations – religion does not justify the killing of others.Throughout history we have seen the repeated loss of innocent lives in the name of one religion or another – during the crusades, many Muslims lost their lives at the hands of Christians.  Yet at no point in time have these values of death in the name of god held to the true message of religion – peace, alms for the poor, and understanding of the plight of others.

    Photo Source: Women News Network

    Photo Source: Women News Network

    Baghdad was once known as the ‘City of Peace’ (Madinat al-Salam) – but that was in another lifetime. And today, even with the trillions of images that exist online, one would be hard pressed to find any images representing Baghdad and peace.Our media perpetuates so much information about the Islamist terrorists whose campaigns are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa – but what is often left out of the media is the distinction between Islamism and Islam.  One of the first things that is important to understand about the Jihadi Salafist ideology that is sweeping the world today is that this is NOT true Islam.

    In an effort to illustrate that Islam is at its core a religion of peace, I attempted to find images to display this for my blog – I was truly shocked at the dearth of imagery available to illustrate this point.  One of the few stories available in the “recent memory” of the Internet that truly illuminated Islam and the peaceful nature of the religion came out of a period of turmoil – the Arab Spring. During the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, while Egyptians rallied together,Muslims stood guard to protect the Coptic Christians from violence during prayer – and the Copts did the same.

     

    Viral Photo Shows Muslims Protecting Church in Egypt as Congregants  Attend Mass Amid Threat of Attack Photo Source: TWITTER/JAMES MARTIN SJ SCREEN  SHOT - CHRISTIAN POST

    Viral Photo Shows Muslims Protecting Church in Egypt as Congregants
    Attend Mass Amid Threat of Attack
    Photo Source: TWITTER/JAMES MARTIN SJ SCREEN
    SHOT – CHRISTIAN POST

    Every time an image of a group like ISIS or Ansar Al Sharia is reproduced, or clicked on, it only feeds the propaganda machine these groups are trying to proliferate.  As they bastardize religion by using it as a justification for violence, they are at the same time killing the true peaceful nature of that religion in the minds of those outside of it – feeding the Islamaphobia beast – and furthering their cause against those for hating Islam.

     

    Let’s stop giving them free propaganda.  Send the ArchaeoVenturers Project your images of how Islam represents peace.  Let’s change the dialogue together. 

  • Why Not Protect (Native) American History at Home Too?

    So last week’s episode was clearly a response to tons of queries that Katie and I have gotten about why we started ArchaeoVenturers. This week, we shift the focus of the rest of the season to more substantive topics.

    One thing I am sure that is apparent, either from our blogs, posts and/or videos, is that Katie and I are pretty geeky. We love comic books, cartoons, fantasy, video games, swords- you name it. So as a result, you may see reference to some of our favorite TV cult shows. This is because we tend to assume that if we enjoy something, then everyone must be enjoying it but often that turns out not to be the case. So up front, if you don’t understand references to shows like Family Guy or Futurama, we send our apologies but you’re missing out! But like all of our popular culture episodes, we get into grounded facts very quickly so hopefully everyone continues to enjoy these!
    ——–What we wanted to come from this episode was a realization that while we have so many artifacts and clues from ancient history in this country (USA), there doesn’t seem to be a common collective to rally behind protecting these links to Native American and Prehistoric culture. We’re so worried about sites being destroyed abroad, by terrorist groups like ISIS (and rightfully so), but there still needs to be a push here at home by the general public, to have an investment in this irreplaceable culture being destroyed by ignorance and greed. Plenty of organizations, both government (National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, etc) and non-profit (Native American Heritage Association), and legislation, (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA)), are deeply dedicated to these issues. Yet, why are we constantly reading about (what should be considered criminal) acts of ignorance and stupidity against culture? Various examples include:

    Also, why is one of the oddest threats to American cultural sites from drug addicts?!

    And the Keystone Pipeline controversy, which we discuss in this video, although constantly in the news, has yet to be reconciled or even discussed at length with all interested and affected parties…

    It seems insane that we can rally so strongly for destruction in other parts of the world, but when it comes to the history and culture of this land, that we can so easily take advantage of and disregard cultures, both tangible and intangible, that had existed for millennia.

    FYI if you’re interested in reading the original Manhattan purchase document, and the modern conversion; see below:

    “This letter from Peter Schaghen, written in 1626, makes the earliest known reference to the company’s purchase of Manhattan Island from the Lenape Indians for 60 guilders. Schaghen was the liaison between the Dutch government and the Dutch West India Company.”

    [ ] 5
    Rcvd. 7 November 1626
    High and Mighty Lords,
    Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23d of September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size [about 22,000 acres]. They had all their grain sowed by the middle of May, and reaped by the middle of August They sent samples of these summer grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, beans and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid ship is:7246 Beaver skins
    178½ Otter skins
    675 Otter skins
    48 Mink skins
    36 Lynx skins
    33 Minks
    34 Muskrat skins

    Many oak timbers and nut wood. Herewith, High and Mighty Lords, be commended to the mercy of the Almighty,

    In Amsterdam, the 5th of November anno 1626.

    Your High and Mightinesses’ obedient, P. Schaghen

    Further Reading:

    27 Native American Heritage Sites (PHOTOS)

     

  • Why We Developed the ArchaeoVenturers Project?

    The first episode of Season Three in the ArchaeoVenturers Project is about why The Digger and Diver started ArchaeoVenturers in the first place. What was the incentive behind this endeavor? With all that they have going on in the ‘real world’, why take on another project of this magnitude? It’s not like they had any experience in the virtual-social world beyond using Facebook to post pictures of their dogs, so what made #AVProject so important?

    The Digger:

    For years my family silently suffered behind their smiles and nods as I would go on – and on – and on about archaeology, anthropology, the Middle East, or whatever it was that I was working on or researching that week. The problem is – the details I found fascinating were not quite as fascinating to those around me – except for Justine, of course! We realized that there are so many important and amazing topics in history, science, and global affairs that would be interesting to so many – if only we could change, and shorten, our discussion of them. We developed the ArchaeoVenturers Project to break down all of the awesome stuff and put it into a more easily digestible format for those both in and outside of the field.

    What you see as available on television for the characterizations of a scientist, archaeologist or engineer, always seems to fit people into these little boxes – and women even more so. One of the amazing things about my family and Justine’s – aside from their putting up with our constant drawn out discussions of science and history – is that they never told us that we couldn’t do something. Being women never once hindered the way we conducted ourselves as school, in the field – or in fashion. Only when I got older did I realize the obstacles women faced in one field or another. I love digging in the field, getting dirty, and working outside in 100-degree weather – I enjoy getting entrenched in academic research and examining new ways of looking at the world. Both of these are commonplace for someone in a social science or humanity – but what I later learned wasn’t so commonplace were some of my extra circulars – namely, being a cheerleader in college – and for those who know the cheerleading lingo, I was a flyer. I had no idea these two roles in my life were considered mutually exclusive by many. I never liked the idea of women needing to fit into these little boxes – you often hear about a renaissance man – but less often a renaissance woman.

    Katie when she was a Sports Illustrated ‘College Cheerleader of the Week’ while at Miami University. Check out Katie’s SI interview HERE and the photo gallery HERE Photo Credit: Peter Schlitt, Sports Illustrated

    Photo Credit: Eric H. Cline and Biblical Archaeology Review

    The Diver:

    Katie and I have known each other since graduate school and something we started to talk about more over the years was how we engage a different audience for our archaeological pursuits. Her work at the Capitol Archaeological Institute at GWU fueled her need to find creative ways to make archaeological lectures more appealing and then when we started to work directly together, we tried throwing archaeologically-oriented events that would reach a broader audience. This in part was because of our friendship with the founder of Thirst DC who did exactly that- only more heavy on the science and with bigger audiences. We decided that in order to engage the current generation in their digital world , being active on social media would be only the tip of the iceberg.. When over a billion viewers watch YouTube each month and yet the average length of time they watch videos averages on 30 seconds- so that’s why we decided that videos were clearly the avenue to pursue but they needed to be short and concise – the blogs are for folks who are likely our age and older, people who are still interested in gathering supplemental information via the written word.

    So, for me at least, and luckily Katie shared the same view- we just wanted to engage a more general audience than just our colleagues, and it seemed like the logical thing to do would be to follow these growing online trends. I’ve learned that pursuing archaeology doesn’t mean much to me if there is no one to interact with, whether that’s a descendent community member, a student diver in Youth Diving With a Purpose, or someone who just found ArchaeoVenturers online randomly. We need to be sharing it with more people, or we are going to be outgunned by those who do make it more interesting. On it’s own, even without the glamorous pull of lost treasure, archaeology can be fantastically exciting and I think that as a rule, we should be doing all that we can to captivate our audiences.

    Check out Justine’s BBC Radio interview on ‘The Conversation’ HERE.

    ——
    The #AVProject was developed for all of the renaissance women, men, girls and boys out there – the people that are breaking stereotypes on their way into the field. #LetYourAVflagFly
  • Why We Developed the ArchaeoVenturers Project?

    The first episode of Season Three in the ArchaeoVenturers Project is about why The Digger and Diver started ArchaeoVenturers in the first place. What was the incentive behind this endeavor? With all that they have going on in the ‘real world’, why take on another project of this magnitude? It’s not like they had any experience in the virtual-social world beyond using Facebook to post pictures of their dogs, so what made #AVProject so important?

    The Diver :

    Katie and I have known each other since graduate school and something we started to talk about more over the years was how we engage a different audience for our archaeological pursuits. Her work at the Capitol Archaeological Institute at GWU fueled her need to find creative ways to make archaeological lectures more appealing and then when we started to work directly together, we tried throwing archaeologically-oriented events that would reach a broader audience. This in part was because of our friendship with the founder of Thirst DC who did exactly that- only more heavy on the science and with bigger audiences. We decided that in order to engage the current generation in their digital world , being active on social media would be only the tip of the iceberg. When over a billion viewers watch YouTube each month and yet the average length of time they watch videos averages on 30 seconds- so that’s why we decided that videos were clearly the avenue to pursue but they needed to be short and concise – the blogs are for folks who are likely our age and older, people who are still interested in gathering supplemental information via the written word.

    So, for me at least, and luckily Katie shared the same view- we just wanted to engage a more general audience than just our colleagues, and it seemed like the logical thing to do would be to follow these growing online trends. I’ve learned that pursuing archaeology doesn’t mean much to me if there is no one to interact with, whether that’s a descendent community member, a student diver in Youth Diving With a Purpose, or someone who just found ArchaeoVenturers online randomly. We need to be sharing it with more people, or we are going to be outgunned by those who do make it more interesting. On it’s own, even without the glamorous pull of lost treasure, archaeology can be fantastically exciting and I think that as a rule, we should be doing all that we can to captivate our audiences.

    Check out Justine’s BBC Radio interview on ‘The Conversation’ HERE.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Digger:

    For years my family silently suffered behind their smiles and nods as I would go on – and on – and on about archaeology, anthropology, the Middle East, or whatever it was that I was working on or researching that week. The problem is – the details I found fascinating were not quite as fascinating to those around me – except for Justine, of course! We realized that there are so many important and amazing topics in history, science, and global affairs that would be interesting to so many – if only we could change, and shorten, our discussion of them. We developed the ArchaeoVenturers Project to break down all of the awesome stuff and put it into a more easily digestible format for those both in and outside of the field.

    What you see as available on television for the characterizations of a scientist, archaeologist or engineer, always seems to fit people into these little boxes – and women even more so. One of the amazing things about my family and Justine’s – aside from their putting up with our constant drawn out discussions of science and history – is that they never told us that we couldn’t do something. Being women never once hindered the way we conducted ourselves as school, in the field – or in fashion. Only when I got older did I realize the obstacles women faced in one field or another. I love digging in the field, getting dirty, and working outside in 100-degree weather – I enjoy getting entrenched in academic research and examining new ways of looking at the world. Both of these are commonplace for someone in a social science or humanity – but what I later learned wasn’t so commonplace were some of my extra circulars – namely, being a cheerleader in college – and for those who know the cheerleading lingo, I was a flyer. I had no idea these two roles in my life were considered mutually exclusive by many. I never liked the idea of women needing to fit into these little boxes – you often hear about a renaissance man – but less often a renaissance woman.

    Katie when she was a Sports Illustrated ‘College Cheerleader of the Week’ while at Miami University. Check out Katie’s SI interview HERE and the photo gallery HERE Photo Credit: Peter Schlitt, Sports Illustrated

    Photo Credit: Eric H. Cline and Biblical Archaeology Review

    ——
    The #AVProject was developed for all of the renaissance women, men, girls and boys out there – the people that are breaking stereotypes on their way into the field. #LetYourAVflagFly