education

  • Archaeology in Pop Culture: Helping or Hindering the Discipline?

    When most people hear “archaeology” one of the first things that comes to mind is Indiana Jones.  How is it that a pop culture icon became the mascot of a scientific discipline?

    Archaeology – and all of the romanticized tales of ancient mummies and temples that come with it – has been entwined in pop culture since people first began literally digging into our history.

    In the late nineteenth century, common fads for elites involved “mummy unwrapping parties.” Although today many would see this as a desecration of a deceased person, most elite Victorians didn’t see anything wrong with damaging pre-Christian bodies.

    Mummies were simply a curiosity of the orient. But as the study of the ancient Near East became a common place academic discipline – particularly after the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 by Jean François Champollion – archaeology found its way into the imaginations of the West and the increasingly developing world of popular culture.

    Ancient Egypt was used to sell everything from cigarettes to soap.  And it carved out its own niche in Hollywood well before the days of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.

    Elizabeth Taylor’s famous role as Cleopatra is still well known in popular culture today as one of the iconic images of Cleopatra – never mind that many historians believe that it was not physical beauty, but wit, wisdom, and womanly cunning that made the real Cleopatra a legend of history. In reality, she is an example of what women should be valued for in society – their intellect and strength of character – but this was not the idealized beauty that Western culture wanted to portray.

    Politics of women in history and Hollywood aside – one question remains: do the common misconceptions created by archaeology in popular culture hinder or help the overall discipline?

    Some may think that if the public is going to learn about archaeology or history is should be with accuracy from the beginning.

    However, here’s my person opinion: As someone who began studying the discipline just at the cusp of the recession and finished grad school with the effects of an economic crisis in full swing, I must say that anything that gets the public interested enough in a discipline to patronize a museum or donate to an archaeological excavation is something worth containing.  Most people get into a science one way or another based on a romanticized view of what it is.  Unfortunately, cut backs in government funding for research and an economic crisis that has made many funding sources at foundations and universities tighten their belts means that other routes of funding must be sought.

    But this is a debate that can go on forever – so what are your thoughts on archaeology in pop culture?  Does it damage the mind of the public or expand it?Crowd funding has become a new means of revenue for archaeologists to seek in gathering funding for their research.  But with a source of funding that relies on the public, archaeologists must be able to appeal to the internet world’s non-scholars to get their attention – and of course dollars. This kind of appeal would not be nearly as effective if it weren’t for all of the fantasized, glorified, and heroic archaeology adventures that Hollywood and western culture portray – regardless of how inaccurate it is.  Those inaccuracies provide an opportunity to grasp the imagination of the wider public and engage them in a way where those misinformed interests can be put to rest in the name of science.

     

    For further info on crowdfunding your archaeo-project  and archaeology in pop culture, check these out:

    Crowdfunding Archaeology: Exploring the Potential of Crowdfunding in Archaeological Research

    Crowdfunding Archaeology some Data, Finally!

    Using Social Networks to Fundraise: Crowdfunding for the Archaeologist

    Archaeology is a brand: The meaning of archaeology in contemporary pop culture

  • Forgotten Legacy of WWII Wrecks- Environmental Hazard or Underwater Cultural Heritage?

    World War II was the bloodiest, deadliest and most destructive war in human history. The National WWII Museum puts battle deaths at 15 million, battle wounded at 25 million, and civilian deaths at 45 million- all unfathomable numbers to comprehend. Memories and reminders of that war are all around us, from politics to economies to cultural institutions and more. However, lying in wait on the bottom of the ocean floor are about 7800 wrecks that were involved in World War II, with 3800 of them in the Pacific Theater alone. Wrecks from WWII are significant because it was the first time where petroleum ships were specifically targeted for attack- some even say that America’s biggest contribution to winning the war was petroleum. Although oil pollution is the most noted risk from these vessels, it can also include threats from munitions, chemical wastes, radioactive materials and others. Damaging activities, both environmental and manmade, that can release these hazardous materials include dragging anchors over wrecks, dynamite fishing, shipwreck looting, more substantial/invasive archaeological methods, storms, earthquakes, and the list goes on. The amount of oil contained in these ships could be anywhere from 757 million to 6 billion gallons according to a 2005 assessment prepared by Environmental Research Consulting and others. (It should be noted that when the term ‘wreck’ is used here, it includes not only shipwrecks but also aircrafts and submarines.)

         The President of the Ocean Foundation, Mark Spalding, recently wrote a piece for National Geographic about the hazards of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) towards a healthy ocean environment. Many articles over the last two or three years have debated the issues around the potential for oil pollution from these UCH sites, as these are sites of cultural significance, and in many cases, grave sites. One of the more well known examples of oil pollution is the 1953 wreck SS Jacob Luckenbach, a supply freighter headed to Korea during the Korean War. Scientists were able to pinpoint the shipwreck after decades of questioning why sea life were being killed from oil spills with no apparent source. The cleanup from this wreck alone cost between $18-22 million. The USS Arizona, which has been leaking oil since it was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941, is another prominent example where multidisciplinary teams are still working to solve the same catastrophic issue.
    A gun on the deck of the sunken U-166 German submarine
         There is much debate about how to go forward, despite the simplest solution being to pump out the oil before the tanks are destroyed. No one organization controls, let alone has the ability, to survey and intervene on every potentially threatening wreck in the Ocean- a feat that is nearly impossible at the present moment, even if every organization were to intervene. In 2013, NOAA, as part of their Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, released a report that narrowed down the estimated 20K vessels in US waters down to close to 600, of which they completed 87 individual assessments. This report contained several vessels from WWII, amongst others, and found that only 36 of those posed a significant oil pollution threat and 17 are recommended for further investigation. So if you look at the number 7800 wrecks vs 36 or even 600 wrecks, there is room for debate for how imminent the problem might actually be. Although, certainly no one is arguing that these threats shouldn’t be mitigated for the more hazardous wrecks. And yet, despite all the problems highlighted here, many of these vessels have become artificial reefs where sea life and algae thrive. Plans for solving this global crisis must include measures for minimal disturbance of the sea life and their habitats. Because these UCH sites are by definition ‘underwater’, interested parties must work even harder to keep the public and ruling agencies apprised of the problems, but also these wrecks’ importance to our humanity and history. Conservationists, environmentalists, archaeologists, and others must create mediation plans for the coming years when oil pollution and other, potentially worse issues, arise from these wrecks so that history doesn’t become catastrophe.
    USS Abraham Lincoln manning rails for USS Arizona

     

  • Hidden History: Slavery Struggle in the North & Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

    Sure, we get a day off from work today- but we must learn to remember to focus on the reason. My guess is the most Americans take the day off for granted without acknowledging what the significance is of this particular national holiday for freedom and human rights. Today is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and by pure coincidence, this week’s episode of the “ArchaeoVenturers Project” is about Brooklyn Heights and the Underground Railroad. The Abolitionist Movement was a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement, headed by Dr. King and an inspiration and platform for millions in America.

    Untitled I wanted to have an episode about slavery in Brooklyn because just down the street from where I grew up in Brooklyn Heights, now known for its scenic and private views of Manhattan, is Plymouth Church, which is a National Historic Landmark on the National Register for Historic Places. According to the National Park Service, Plymouth Church, founded in 1847, was considered “one of the nation’s foremost centers of antislavery sentiment” in the late 19th century. I went there several times as a child on field trips, exploring the basement used in the Underground Railroad, seeing where Lincoln sat in the church pew, and I distinctly recall seeing a freedom ring that was given to a enslaved child (Plymouth’s website enlightens that the child’s name was ‘Pinky’ and the ring was given to her when her freedom was purchased by the congregation- Henry Ward Beecher declared “With this ring, I thee wed to freedom”). Also, as a result of visiting Plymouth church, I learned about Sojourner Truth, as she had been one of the famous abolitionist speakers featured. She was born into slavery, freed when New York State abolished slavery in 1827, and became an outspoken antislavery abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights. Her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech (recounted below) brought tears to my eyes as a child and although I can’t remember what grade, I performed her monologue several times in one year and ended up writing several middle school papers on women’s rights as a result of her influence. (Side note- this is likely why I was so drawn to the Slave Wrecks Project, although a completely independent decision)

    (As recounted by Frances Dana Gage, in 1863) Ain’t I a Woman?
    Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
    That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
    Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
    Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
    If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
    Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

    Everybody thinks that because the North was against slavery, that everyone in the North was by default against slavery, but that wasn’t the case at all. Although New York citizens were legally obligated to manumit their slaves in 1827, many people found ways around the law, even by sending them back to plantations in the South, as many Brooklyn businesses had dealings invested in them. Also, despite the abolished slavery law, it was still illegal to harbor fugitives, hence the prominence but secrecy of the Underground Railroad. Brooklyn’s own harbor was used on the Railroad, as runaway slaves hiding on cargo ships made their way into Brooklyn, often through Plymouth Church, which was called “the Grand Depot” on the Underground Railroad. Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and founding preacher of Plymouth Church, was a tireless abolitionist, despite hate and featured such prominent speakers like Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass as part of his antislavery efforts at Plymouth. He was even outed as being a leader on the Brooklyn Underground Railroad by The Brooklyn Eagle in 1872, along with many others in his congregation. One of the most memorable actions of Beecher’s was that he would hold mock auctions at the churchyard, showcasing the horrifying aspects of slavery while he simultaneously urged parishioners to bid for the freedom of escaped slaves. President Lincoln himself worshipped at the church, just a day before his infamous speech declaring his antislavery ambitions that is said to have won him the nomination for the Republican presidential bid.

    It’s quite cliche to state the obvious, but we must make a concentrated effort to not only engage in topics that make us squeamish as a nation on days where it’s appropriate, like today for example. We need to make it part of the national everyday conversation because there can be no healing or catharsis from ignorance and secrecy. The new Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture will ideally be a platform for these ongoing conversations, and be a safe place for reflection and interpretation. There is a new exhibition called “Brooklyn Abolitionists: In Pursuit of Freedom” at the Brooklyn Historical Society (running through winter 2018 so GO!) which explores a dark chapter in my home borough. There is so much to say about slavery in Brooklyn, and I hope to have more opportunities to highlight the courage and efforts of those involved in its abolition at future opportunities.
    Highly recommended for further reading
    - “Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church in the Civil War Era: A Ministry of Freedom” by Frank Decker.
    - Plymouth Church Website (http://bit.ly/15qOogg)
    - 10 Stops on the Underground Railroad in NYC (http://bit.ly/1CHAMIs)
    - Slavery in Brooklyn (http://bit.ly/14YoaB7)
    - The King Center (http://bit.ly/19AAcCv)
    - Donate or Become a Member of the New Smithsonian Institution African American History and Culture (http://bit.ly/1DUT8cQ)

  • Kurdish Female Fighters: Symbols of strength in women’s rights and the war on ISIS

    Who are the Kurds?

    Kurdistan is a territory in the south of the Caucuses in the mountainous regions that primarily intersect Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.  The Kurdish people have been fighting for independence for over a millennium, but their current efforts can reflect the most recent century of their history; fervently fighting neighboring entities for their chance at independence – but non of their efforts have proven successful.

    The current population of the Kurdish people stands between 10 and 15 million.  The group’s massive population and long-standing yet fruitless fight for statehood has led the region to be known as the“Invisible Nation”.  They are a group of non-Arab people who speak a language related to Persian and are predominantly Sunni Muslim.

    Map of Kurdistan region and intersecting nations. Source: Wars in the World

    Why does this matter right now?

    he terror group ISIS that has swept the Middle East is aligned with extremist Sunni Muslims – killing Christians, Shia Muslims, and any others who do not adhere to their means of extremism in their wake. The Invisible Nation of Kurds, although predominantly Sunni, have served as THE front line against ISIS since the group’s rise in 2014 – holding areas like Kobane lest they fall to the terror group.

    Centuries ago, the Kurds were fighting ethnic groups like the Yazidis (you may recognize the groups name from the headlines of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar).  But today, Kurds are joining – and often leading the fight for the survival of this very ethnic group.

    However, some of the bravest fighters in the war on ISIS are the women of Kurdistan.  Women that have certainly caught the eye of the West.

    Female Fighters of Kurdistan

    In November 2014, Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar posted an article in Global Voices calling attention the Western ‘obsession’ with the Kurdish female fighters – noting that the women of Kurdistan have been fighters for centuries, and only recently have we chosen to acknowledge their existence.

    However, I think the obsession she notes – is more of a captivation.  Most notably due to the fact that the West – and America in particular – have been bombarded with images of what Muslim women look like, what their place in the Arab world is, and what their attire is meant to look like – through Western lenses, of course.  The Kurdish female fighters do not fit into any of these little boxes the Western perspective has designed for them – so naturally, like anything that doesn’t fit our predesigned molds, they have become a cultural fascination, as opposed to be recognized for the norm of this beautiful cultural diversity that has existed for centuries.

    And what else could lead to this obsessive fascination? The fact that the Kurds have units composed entirely of female fighters.  In the US, a nation that prides itself on striving for equality, women are not currently permitted in combat after being banned in 1994 – although Leon Panetta announced in 2013 that the Pentagon would lift the ban, it will not become effective until 2016.

    Kurdish Peshmerga Forces. Source: Flickr

    So why is it that a Muslim ethnic group has created entire units of female fighters, when the Western pillar of equality has not yet done it? Because the Kurdish forces are fighting a psychological and ideological war as they see to #PsychOutISIS.  ISIS terrorists allegedly believe that they will “go straight to hell” if they are killed by a woman, and these brave women make that a certainty when they fight.

    In an interview with Richard Engel, one of the leaders of the Kurdish female fighting forces in Kobani gave some background to their reasoning for joining their men on front lines and blazing their own path against ISIS.

    “We stand and fight, especially here in the Middle East, where women are treated as inferiors. We stand here as symbols of strength for all the women of the region.” 

    From here in Washington, DC – I can honestly say that they are symbols of strength for women far beyond the region – and though I cannot join their fight I can share their message.  They make it clear that #WomenCanChangeTheWorld

    All female Kurdish forces. Source: Right to speak

     

     

     

     

     

     

    SIDE NOTE: Why did we focus on the Kurds this week? 

    Taking a look at the women of Kurdistan may seem a bit out of our science and STEM-focused wheelhouse. Aside from our goal to promote strong and inspiring women, the people of Kurdistan were a group I had wanted to shed a light on in particular.  My own relatives are members of an ethnic group with a state that never was – Pontus. Pontus was a Greek region of Asia Minor on the south coast of the Black Sea – the Pontian Greek people were ethnically cleansed from modern-day Turkey at the beginning of World War I. I see so many of the struggles and cultural triumphs in the people of Kurdistan that the Pontian community shares, so next week we will be diving further into who the Pontian Greeks were – and are today.  Stay tuned to hear about this and other missing history that may not have made it into your old social studies textbooks.

  • “We Fight Our Country’s Battles In The Air, On Land and Sea”

    We fight our country’s battles

    In the air, on land and sea;

    First to fight for right and freedom

    And to keep our honor clean

    - US Marine’s Hymn

    Coming from a country like the United States, where one can easily make the argument that women have close to, if not the most rights in the world, watching countries in the Middle East, especially with what is going on now with ISIS/ISIL/IS, can be incredibly heartbreaking for many reasons. Despite our continuous political arguments over women’s issues, as a nation, the United States continues to be a champion for women’s rights globally. An article marking the eve of International Women’s Day back in March put it succinctly “From ‘honor killings’ to legal restrictions, women in the Arab world face challenges foreign to Westerners.” And yet, only in January 2013 did the USA revisit the effort to put women back into our combat forces, including special operations. Israel, Canada, France, amongst others, are just some of the few nations that already send women to combat.

    The reason we did this special episode series of ‘Women Warriors/Female Fighters” for #AVProject was because we wanted to highlight some inspirational women, both historical and contemporary. Clearly, in only 2-3 minute segments each, we can only chat about a very tiny select few heroines (and we encourage YOU to send in your favorites!) but there were a few certainly worth mentioning.

    This episode, “Eliminating ISIS/ISIL/IS Terror: By Air” focuses on the contribution of Major al-Mansouri- the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) first female pilot to fly an F-16 fighter jet and lead the UAE’s air strikes against the Islamic State* against Syria. Not only is she fighting against an active terrorist group, she was one of the first women to join the UAE Air Force academy after women were allowed to join, graduating in 2007. In the media, she has been referred to as ‘Lady Liberty’ and her attack as ‘Operation Desert Maiden’. This milestone was in part due to Major al-Mansouri’s passion as well as the fact that the UAE is known to have the most liberal views on women’s rights in the Middle East. In stark contrast, Saudi Arabia doesn’t even allow women to drive cars or vote, amongst other oppressive laws.

    When I first became aware of the Major’s achievements, I read that as a teenager, she too had dreamt of becoming a pilot in the armed forces. Unbeknownst to some (mentioned in this episode), I got my private pilot’s license while I was in high school at Republic Airport in Long Island. Although I never made it to the armed forces (the farthest I got was visiting the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs), because I was instead drawn to archaeology, I still always dreamed I would use my skills as a pilot for my career one way or the other. (Side note, in 2005 I did volunteer to build a life-size version of Wiley Post’s Lockheed Vega, the “Winnie Mae” for the National Park Service as part of Historic Aircraft Restoration Project). I rationalized in graduate school, once I went from air to sea with maritime archaeology, that eventually I could still fly planes for aerial remote-sensing surveys of underwater sites. Years later, it is still a goal of mine, however one that is as of yet, unfulfilled.

    What I hope that our audience takes away from this episode and mini-series, is that despite impossible barriers, the human spirit finds a way to persevere. In this case, women throughout history have been often unsung heroes and it’s high time that their achievements be publicly lauded.

    “A woman’s passion about something will lead her to achieving what she aspires, and that’s why she should pursue her interests.”- Major al-Mansouri

    *The modern activities of IS are hereafter referred to only as ISIS or ISIL, because ArchaeoVenturers refuses to acknowledge active terrorists/jihadist militant groups as a legitimate state/entity

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  • International Archaeology Day 2014

         International Archaeology Day is the perfect way for archaeological and cultural heritage academics to give back to their respective local communities. I have become a huge supporter over the last few years of archaeologists taking the time to become involved in public archaeology, community archaeology, local capacity building, and investing in young kids who love exploration and history/science. Education and public engagement are in most, if not all, professional archaeological societies’ ethical or standard professional codes (examples include AIA, SHA, SAA) and it is high time that professionals in the field, make more of a concerted effort to incorporate these principles into their fieldwork and research practices.     Started in 2011, International Archaeology Day is described by the Archaeological Institute of America as:”International Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, the interactive, hands-on International Archaeology Day programs provide the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones.”

         This year, ArchaeoVenturers and Youth Diving With a Purpose co-participated with Archaeology in the Community for their IAD event at the Georgetown Library. Run by Dr. Alexandra Jones, Archaeology in the Community organizes events and activities all year round in the DC/MD/VA region (for anyone reading who might be interested in participating or volunteering). We had several interested children from the neighborhood join us for the activities, such as reconstructing broken ceramics (courtesy of DC SHPO office, organized by Ruth Trucolli) or rolling clay pots with Sara Ayers-Rigsby (all the way up from CRM work in FL) to trying on scuba equipment (which is always a favorite as kids love playing dress up). The number one question, behind the inevitable shark questions, is ‘when can I learn to dive?’ which always makes me quite giddy knowing that, in a few years (you can technically start with PADI at only 10 years old!), we could have a new crop of intelligent and inquisitive young kids becoming divers and scientists one day!
       Also on IAD, I was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to participate in “History, Heroes, and Treasures” organized by the National Archives and Records Administration- which is literally “Night at the Museum”- I wish I had these kinds of opportunities available when I was a kid! The #ArchivesSleepover is described by the Archives Foundation as:”Throughout the night, young explorers investigate – through music, chats with historical figures, games, and more – some of the greatest adventures of all time. Campers will discover mysterious shipwrecks, venture into outer space, explore the wild West, and trek through the rugged Arctic as they explore the National Archives Museum’s treasured records.”All the while, these lucky kids and their parents get to SLEEP NEXT TO THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA- a truly once in a lifetime opportunity-they will hopefully be regaling tales of this night to their children and grandchildren!I worked with David Gadsby of NPS to teach the young explorers how to document artifacts on a shipwreck map (the sitemap of the shipwreck America)- to which they exceeded all expectations. Following that, I was asked to play the part of the Underwater Explorer/Archaeologist (modern day) alongside historical characters Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark exploration fame) and Matthew Hensen (1st African American polar explorer). I donned my full scuba kit for my costume- luckily, I wore a child’s size tank, since we were standing up there under those bright lights for an hour! We were set up on stage, in tv interview format, so that all 100 kids in the audience were allowed to ask us questions. I assume I can speak for my fellow explorers when I say that being on stage answering their queries and helping to educate them about archaeology (not Indiana Jones archaeology), was an inspirational moment for me, knowing how genuinely interested these students and parents were in science and history.Overall, it was an outstanding year for International Archaeology Day and for getting young kids interested in maritime archaeology – I cannot wait to be invited back next year!



















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  • An Opinion on Ocean Threats

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    image via transhmanian devil

    In the New York Times ‘Swimming Through Garbage‘, ocean advocate and maritime lawyer, Lewis Pugh, comments that no matter where he swims on our globe, he is swimming through piles of trash- plastic, tires, diapers, bottles- you name it. As a United Nations Patron for the Oceans, he clearly illustrates the idyllic picture of how abundant oceanic wildlife used to be at Columbus’ time (no coincidence that today is Columbus Day), where the sea was ‘thick’ with turtles. When compared to present day, we must reference the Endangered Species Act (1973), which lists approximately 2,195 species on the endangered list. He is rightfully worried that in the next half-life, as more nations become developed and non-renewable resources are in higher demand, we will lose what little this Earth has left. If “an estimated 100 million sharks are fished out of the world’s oceans every year,” and we examine from now until 2030 – approx. ~15 years from now- that is One Billion Five Hundred Million sharks! In his view, the only way we will be able to limit this expansion, and perhaps reverse this alarming process, is through the creation of more marine protected areas (like NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries or PERSGA areas in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden). His ‘Seven Seas Expedition’ is “urging policy makers to protect at least 10% of our seas in a network of well managed and well designed Marine Protected Areas that represent the full range of marine life in our oceans.” I couldn’t agree more…

    As a relatively young diver myself, I have never scuba dived on a healthy reef, either for work or for play. One of my greatest laments as a diver has been that I cannot share in the same experiences of yesteryear with my colleagues who have been diving for decades, who constantly regale me with stories of healthy ecosystems and picturesque reefs. Also, my greatest marine animal experience has been at the Georgia Aquarium, a completely artificial environment, where I dove amongst four whale sharks. This was a fantastic experience, but not compared to diving off the coast of Mozambique or Indonesia and encountering the gentle giants in their natural habitat!  I remember my aquarium dive buddy commenting, ‘thank god we’ve had this opportunity- imagine flying half way across the world to maybe see something this spectacular’. She made that comment because there is no more guarantee that divers or anyone else trying to admire submerged natural beauty, will actually encounter these marine treasures- with fewer chances as time goes on. In fact, we dedicate a whole program as part of Youth Diving With a Purpose, to the Coral Restoration Foundation which “leads the development of offshore nursery and restoration methods to preserve unique genetic lineages of staghorn and elkhorn coral for research and restoration purposes,” which are both endangered.

    It’s small outlets of hope like CRF or Ocean Conservancy, that foster innovation and strategic planning for the possibility that our generation can reverse this unstoppable process. I concur with Pugh’s conclusion, and urge the public to get behind initiatives like those mentioned here, and to help create more global MPAs.  If we want our children to experience the same jaw-dropping moments in the water that we have had the privileges to engage, then we must advocate for more marine protected environments.
  • Free Speech Movement 50 years later: The NexGen Freedom Fighters

    History repeats itself. We’ve all heard it – and everyone has that point in history where they believed they have witnessed this recycling of events. But much like us, chronicles of the past evolve. Sometimes the evolution isn’t evident until we recognize it in history’s reproduction.

    Left: Fifty years ago, students on the University of California, Berkeley campus ignited protests over a ban on political activity. Crowds surrounded a police car holding student activist Jack Weinberg on Oct. 1, 1964. Photo courtesy U.C. Berkeley, Bancroft Library Source: PBS; Right: Egyptians join the military in solidarity as they celebrate protests on top of an Egyptian Military Tank in Tahrir Square during the January 25, 2011 revolution Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    Left: Fifty years ago, students on the University of California, Berkeley campus ignited protests over a ban on political activity. Crowds surrounded a police car holding student activist Jack Weinberg on Oct. 1, 1964. Photo courtesy U.C. Berkeley, Bancroft Library Source: PBS; Right: Egyptians join the military in solidarity as they celebrate protests on top of an Egyptian Military Tank in Tahrir Square during the January 25, 2011 revolution Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    “My gas mask and helmet didn’t stay in the car: there was plenty of anger in the streets, plenty of action. Tear gas and police batons often filled the air… Emotions ran high. Often the reason behind the demonstrations and marches… was lost in the battles between the protestors and the cops. Who was provoking who became the issue, and certainly it made exciting television. Homegrown battles filled the airwaves, to the point where they eventually became routine.”

    This is a scene that could describe so many of the conflicts occurring today. And it is particularly descriptive of the Middle East during the 2011 Arab Spring and in the years since – once the cradle of civilization, the Middle East has redefined itself as the “Cradle of Revolutions.” But this scene does not depict the Arab Spring, the Middle East, or even an event from this century. This is a recount by a former UC Berkley student as he recalls his participation in the birth of the Free Speech Movement.

    The Free Speech Movement of 1964 that began at UC Berkley celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The foundations of this movement and the political freedom it sought were the seeds for even more powerful rights battles in the decades to come. The 1960s and 1970s were a turning point in American history for freedom fighters, labor unions, African Americans and women – and their movements could not have succeeded without the critical role of the media.

    This was especially true during the Vietnam War era. Abroad, the presence of brave journalists in Vietnam is largely regarded as a defining moment in the perceptions of war from perspective of the Western public. At home, journalists were exposing the brutalities committed by police and the government against peaceful protestors from the civil rights movement and on through the anti-Vietnam War era. The media’s exposure of the atrocities of the war taking place both away, and in their own communities, emboldened the American public to “fight the man” and gain the civil rights and liberties that we enjoy, and are free to continuously fight for today.

    Source: Ron Torossian Blog

    Source: Ron Torossian Blog

    Once again history has repeated itself, but not on our own soil. The Free Speech movement of the 21st century takes place in the “Cradle of Revolutions.” As the world watches the turmoil unfold in Kobani, and elsewhere across Syria and Iraq under the terror campaign of ISIL, media publications in every language contain daily headlines referencing ISIL’s inhumane sweep across the region and the governments trying to – or not trying to – stop them. Media plays an important role in revealing the atrocities of war and imposing checks and balances upon government. Brave journalists from the West and the Middle East continue to risk their lives to show you and your governments what is happening to the people of the Middle East – whether in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, or Egypt.

    However, one voice that is often left out of the media is the voice of the people suffering in those regions. The headlines become about politics rather than people. Death tolls are represented in numbers of causalities by ethnicity or nationality rather than as parents, siblings, or children lost. The Western media that once sought to reveal the atrocities that were shielded from the public is inadvertently dulling the extent of those brutalities today.

    Since the 1999 Columbine school shooting, experts and politicians have argued over how desensitized our society has become to violence: TV shows, video games, even music are blamed for this desensitization. Yet, what I find difficult is the fact that we have created a culture where some types of violent imagery are ok to consume and widely distribute, and other types are not. Primarily due to the fact that the kind of violence society has deemed acceptable is only the kind that can be turned into a profitable commodity. As a result of the ways we view censorship, in American media today you won’t find images of the horrific acts occurring on the ground to people caught between terrorist groups and tyrannical governments. But we are reaching yet another milestone in the influence of media accessibility on how the public understands an ongoing war.

    This time around, the news medium is uncensored and the reporters unpaid – the free speech movement of the 21st century is being guided by social media and driven by the people on the ground. Citizens who are risking their lives to show you their story and make their voice for peace and freedom heard, much like our own people did half a century ago. Citizen journalists are fighting online wars armed with smart phones and Internet connections.

    We have all witnessed the vast influence of social media on the Middle East. The Social Media Revolution that sparked the Arab Spring has forever changed our world. But even in the nearly four years since the Arab Spring began in January 2011, social media continues to revolutionize the voice third world, and the way the first world hears them.

    The most recent impact of these social media citizen journalists can be seen on any given day through Twitter and Facebook – venues where the hashtag is the global protest sign of the future.

    A quick search of #Gaza on Twitter will immediately yield photos of destruction, dead and injured children, and even body parts that are left when nothing else remains. These are no images anyone wants to see, but they NEED to be seen. The heavy influence of the Gaza Palestinians’ use of social media to acknowledge their dead in the public eye made the war less about Hamas, and more about the innocent civilians of Gaza who were trapped in the middle – at least to the global public. It was a war won by Israel on the ground, but not on social media.

    In Syria, where many journalists are no longer able to go, it is social media that first revealed Assad’s atrocities, from his continuous bombardment of Homs in 2012 to his use of chemical weapons on civilians in 2013 – even as the global media continued to report the regime’s statements to the contrary.

    A report from Al Arabiya on May 20, 2014 revealed that of the 135 million Arabs connected online, over 75 million of them use social media. Thirty percent of those on social media consider Facebook and Twitter their primary sources of news – a similar number to those considerations for traditional news outlets in the Arab world.

    UntitledCritics of social media activism question whether or not it is true activism – some even calling it “slackivism.” And hey, I get it. I grew up in an industrial union city where true activism meant you stood out in the rain or snow and protested with your fellow union members for workers’ rights or for your political party– often bringing your family along with you (as my dad did with us). But activism today is not just about the physical expression of activism; it’s about the size of an audience and the message they receive. Political essays never brought down buildings, but they inspired people to do so. Letters to the government didn’t change their actions until the press made it public.

    “In the same way that pamphlets didn’t cause the American Revolution, social media didn’t cause the Egyptian revolution. Social media have become the pamphlets of the 21st century, a way that people who are frustrated with the status quo can organize themselves and coordinate protest, and in the case of Egypt, revolution.” – Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative

    Many of those tweeting pictures of destruction from Gaza, to Kobani, would tell you that they want the world to see what is happening to them – and technological accessibility allows the international community see them with a #hashtag that can be read around the world. The global population can’t be reached with a local picket line — unless of course someone tweets about it.

    The use of social media as a window through the eyes of those on the other end of your Internet serves its greatest purpose in connecting us with those very individuals whose suffering we feel through the web. Unlike traditional media, social media elicits a response, and for those unable to join in the battle on the ground, social media has also created a new means of engagement via crowd funding, social media activism, and viral petitions. Movements we witnessed and once considered “their” cause have now become “our” cause. People feel more engaged when they can relate to an image of a mother and her lost child – rather than simply a number of causalities substituted in for that loss.

    For all of the impersonal exchanges that take place through technology, the Arab world has regenerated the humanity behind the screen by sharing the inhumanity that has plagued their daily lives. If you’re used to getting your news through the paper or on TV, take a step forward into the rebirth of history and check out the same news in the Twitterverse. It’s your turn to take part in the new free speech movement, one that goes global and fights for the same freedoms that we celebrate today – read, watch and listen to the people the story is really about – the way they want you to see it.as

     

  • Youth Diving With a Purpose: Maritime Archaeology Camp with National Park Service

    These past two weeks have been what I commonly refer to as a ‘fieldwork bubble’ where the rest of the world falls out of my purview and my only focus is the project at hand. I have been down in the Florida Keys with a group called Diving With a Purpose (DWP) (referred to in this post) and the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center

    In 2011, I met the Founder of DWP, Ken Stewart, on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Town, looking for a shipwreck with the Slave Wrecks Project. DWP is a maritime archaeological advocacy course. We annually take a team of lay divers to document shipwrecks for the National Park Service (usually in Florida) where I am a DWP Maritime Archaeologist and Head of the DWP Research team. When Ken and I met, we immediately discovered our mutual goals of bringing the knowledge and preservation of underwater cultural resources to young people, so we helped create Youth Diving With a Purpose (YDWP), and had our inaugural session last July 2013. 

    Biscayne National Park, 2013

    YDWP is aimed at students who come from diverse communities but have been fortunate enough to learn how to scuba dive (either in school or from the help of some of our mentors). Our students represent an array of diverse communities from around the States and globally. The program is constructed to supply the young lay-diver (high school age) with knowledge to become underwater advocates for conservation and preservation through the pursuit of maritime archaeology. YDWP is a weeklong program teaching the basic skills of maritime archaeology in the Biscayne National Park, with the option for three-year renewal to become a DWP instructor in the adult course (two sessions in Florida and third session in Mozambique, Africa). The development of our youth component is a way for DWP to inspire the next generation of youth divers and give them solid maritime leads for their higher education and career goals.

    YDWP offers what other similar youth outreach programs cannot- that is a chance to take diving youth from diverse communities and actually get them in the water consecutively for years to come. Not only have our students fine-tuned their scuba skills, but they have been immersed in the fairly new scholarly pursuit of maritime archaeology. Maritime archaeology is only just becoming well known amongst the broader community of terrestrial archaeologists. As such, diversity is under-represented in this professional sphere, and YDWP aims to change those figures by teaching our students the necessary skills to become successful candidates for university programs and professional fellowships in maritime archaeology or similar subjects. Already our older students are off to pursue marine majors at universities around the United States this coming fall (Texas A&M, University of Miami, PennState, etc..). Our record of accomplishment as professionals, divers and mentors, all of whom are unpaid dedicated volunteers, are helping inspire the next generation of divers and scientists and giving them concrete ways to get there. Through YDWP mentorship, the students will develop their goals for their futures, gain a greater appreciation for the oceanic environment and the cultural heritage that is threatened on a daily basis. They will take this knowledge with them into their communities at home, at school, and when they enter the workforce.

    So for the last few weeks, I have been spending my time with this fantastic and successful group of high school and young college students. The course is divided up by different teaching focuses on the tenets of maritime archaeology. The first day is full day of presentations about the NPS, the Slave Wrecks Project, and the skills/wreck that we will be working on for the project. This is followed by an intensive afternoon of setting up a mock shipwreck and working on the skills we have just gone over. The next two days are typically boat days, where we are on the wreck doing a full survey, setting up the baseline, doing offset points, doing trilateration mapping, and in-situ drawings of artifacts/features on the site. Then we normally have a day back on land to reflect and discover any measurements or drawings that need to be retaken/redrawn. This year we had the boat three days in a row however, so we didn’t get to do as much on land mapping to create a composite site map (usually the final product), because we had a community service project up in Delray Beach, Fl. The community service aspect is an important part of our YDWP outreach, to engage local kids to becoming more interested in underwater cultural resources but also in the big blue ocean that is in their backyards. 



    Every time I see our group of students, which for some is often throughout the year, I become more proud and in awe of their accomplishments and motivations to overcome their individual challenges. It sounds incredibly cliché to say all of these things but I have become all the more motivated for my own professional and personal goals, just by spending time with them. The connection that the mentors and mentees have at YDWP is one that I find unmatched in most other situations that I find myself working, and I am sure that can be said for most in the program. In my experience, it isn’t typical for an archaeological project to have such a real world impact on young people’s lives, so for me, this goes far and above typical fieldwork experience and I greatly look forward to many years as a YDWP mentor and friend. 

  • 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