I gave a talk about Scottish beads at the Annual Meeting for the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in San Francisco roughly a week ago. In the spirit of open access, I’m going to reproduce that talk here for you…
We tend to look at the past and think, “People back then didn’t know that much. We’re so much smarter now.” We look at the past with a sort of superiority complex, acting like we’re somehow more capable, smarter, and…
I’m a native Rhode Islander, and like every native Rhode Islander, I have fond memories of Roger Williams Park (there’s a zoo, a carousel, and all kinds of fun playground stuff). There’s also a huge amount of park in Roger Williams Park, and most people drive around it for several minutes before reaching their destination. I’d never really walked around the park before, so about ten days ago (before all this snow) I decided to go for a hike out there.
There’s a nature sanctuary about half a street away my house in Mystic. It’s actually two separate organizations – one is the Moore Woodlands run by the Avalonia Land Conservancy and the other is the Beebe Pond Park, run by Groton Parks and Recreation. The big loop around the pond is about 2 miles and can take about an hour to hike if you start on the Avalonia side. I left work early (I have flexible hours at the moment) in order to catch the last bit of sun and hit the trail.
People like Bourdieu, Geertz, de Saussure, Levi Strauss, Boas, Whorf, Sapir, Kroeber, Mead, Benedict, Schiffer, Binford, Marx, Engels, and many, many others are seen as outdated. They were writing their theories roughly fifty of more years ago, and they’ve been largely disproven by later work. And many academics feel that we should therefore not use any of their theories, because they’re outdated.
Here’s the thing: None of the theories put forth by these academics were ever really disproven in their entirety. Not really. No matter who you look at, there’s something in their work that makes sense, at least for certain specific situations or types of data.
Our production of Our Town opens this Friday, and in case you haven’t heard, an actual time capsule from 1901 was discovered in the head of the lion statue at the Old State House in Boston. 1901 is when the first act of Our Town takes place, which is the exact year the Stage Manager talks about that time capsule in the cornerstone of the bank.
Whaling was one of the largest industries in New England during the 20th century, and it fueled the Industrial Revolution. At Mystic Seaport, we often say that the economy of the Industrial Revolution was built on the backs of whales.…
The Joseph Conrad was built in 1881-2 by Burmeister and Wain in Copenhagen. The ship was owned by Frederik Stage, who originally named the ship after his son, Georg. Georg died in 1880 from tuberculosis, and the ship was a memorial to him.
Frederik began his career as a deckboy and worked his way up to become a prominent shipowner. He found his start as a deckboy difficult and often demeaning, and wanted to make others’ training easier. The Conrad (known as the Georg Stage at the time) trained boys not only as crew, but also as mates.
After a very wet and rainy day and a night of being somewhat colder than I had hoped and listening to sober people shouting at drunk people and then drunk people shouting back, I woke up to a beautiful sunny day with an amazing view of Ben Nevis. I had some pretty big plans, so I ate a quick breakfast and packed by backpack, leaving my tent and sleeping bag back at the campsite.
Theories in archaeology are tools. Different theories work better in different situations, just as different tools work better for different jobs. Academics will use these theoretical tools in different ways, because they are trying to figure out what their data mean. They’re going to use the tools they think best to solve the problem.