Monday, June 16, 2014

Mediterranean Mystery: A sudden and inscrutable, Bronze Age Catastrophe. Weekly Standard.

What caused a depression and the decline of so many rich Mediterranean kingdoms around the end of the Bronze Age?
Eric H. Cline is the author of 1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed. Susan Kristol has written a review in the Weekly Standard (May 12,2014).

The catastrophe was apparently the final volcano eruption after a string of earthquakes on the island of Santorini, then called Thera which decimated Akrotiri.
I remember viewing a program about this disaster that claimed agriculture was harmed around the world for two years due to the resulting climate change.

If you go on Wikipedia, the mass of geographical data suggests that this was the world record for catastrophic volcano eruptions. But, is Wikipedia correct?

Archaeologists have frequently guessed the date of the eruption as about 1500 B. C.; but perhaps these guesstimates are changing.
We can argue about the dates, but what are the lessons to be learned? If this was actually Plato’s Atlantis, his suggestion was too much high living is disastrous.
Most Minoans certainly enjoyed a lively and sophisticated life as indicated by their art. The citizens of Akrotiri were able to figure out the oncoming disaster and fled.
That survival was not part of Plato’s story, so perhaps this was not Atlantis; perhaps he made it all up. Knowing about the impending Doomsday they left.
That was more than the  people of Pompeii could discern. Is there no way to control volcanos and other disasters of Nature? Can we forecast disasters?


Deb Stelton

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where Civilization Ended

European settlement of the Midwest is best reconstructed through historical archaeology.

Guest speaker for March 2014, Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, will retrace a page from the European view of the history of the American frontier and will report on the Fort St. Joseph archaeological project.

Dr. Nassaney has directed the annual Western Michigan Universi-ty archaeological field school at Fort St. Francis, now in its 34th year, since 1994.

In past years the CAS has been able to rediscover some of Chicago’s forgotten history, i.e. that of Fort Dearborn. But whatever re-mains of Chicago’s historical sig-nature has been cemented or paved over and our scanty history is based on sketchy historical documents.

A short distance from Chicago and near to the south shore of Lake Michigan, Niles, Michigan and archaeologists have rediscov-ered Fort St. Joseph.

Built in 1691 by the French the Fort passed through the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s Conspiracy, the American Revolution, and the Northwest Indian War and capture by a Spanish Expeditionary Force from St. Louis in 1781 for several hours!

Sometime during the early 19th Century the Fort was lost.

How one goes about losing a Fort is a mystery, but lost it was until pot-hunters discovered hundreds of artifacts that are now in the Fort St. Joseph Museum. The fort was rediscovered during an archaeological survey in 1998.

Dr. Nassaney’s research interests include historical archaeology and the study of colonialism and the fur trade in the western Great Lakes.

Dr. Nassaney contends that the early European settlement of the Midwest is best reconstructed through historical archaeology—a multidisciplinary approach that employs information from both documentary sources and material remains.

For some research questions, documents are nearly mute, enhancing the importance of the archaeological record.

The fusion of archaeology and history is logical juxtapositioning of knowledge. The reader will be well rewarded by Dr. Nassaney’s introduction to his reconstruction of Fort St. Joseph.

For video information about Fort St. Joseph you can follow these YouTube links:
History of Fort St. Joseph 
Public Archaeology at Fort St. Joseph
Militia Muster at Fort St. Joseph

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Good Society: Sustainability and the Ancient Maya Farmers of Chan

Dr. Robin will address the ways in which her research provides us with lessons about world issues today

Why does archaeology matter? How can studying the distant past in faraway places be relevant to understanding and improving modern communities and perhaps, entire societies? It is a common response of people to say that they are taking an introductory anthropology course, attending an archaeological talk, or reading an archaeology book, be-cause the subject sounds interesting. Indeed, the material often turns out to be nothing short of fascinating, but an even greater outcome is when archaeologists inform us of how their findings can be used to make a difference in the modern world!

So get ready for this February’s CAS talk when guest speaker, Dr. Cynthia Robin, discusses her re-cent research on the 2000-year history (ca. 800 B.C. – A.D. 1200) of the ancient Maya farming com-munity of Chan, in Belize. Dr. Robin will address the ways in which her research provides us with lessons about world issues today, particularly those related to social and environmental sustainability.

Dr. Robin’s primary re-search interests in the ancient Maya world reach far beyond the scope of elite writing systems and super structures. She has instead chosen to study how seemingly ordinary people in a small farming community resiliently thrived in their tropical rain-forest environment over an exceptionally long period of time and in a surprisingly consistent manner. And amazingly, how this small community phenomenon occurred vis-à-vis with a few large neighboring Maya ceremonial centers whose wealth and power not only fluctuated, but also ended in early collapse.

Thus, this February we have an opportunity to learn about the archaeological evidence that demonstrates how a community, distant to us in time and space, had established a fairly equitable distribution of goods, relative consistency in good health, and an inclusive community focus on rituals and politics that involved its everyday residents.
Dr. Cynthia Robin is professor of anthropology at Northwestern University and an assistant curator at the Field Museum in Chicago.

She has recently published two insightful books about her Chan re-search: “Everyday Life Matters: Maya Farmers at Chan” (2013) and “Chan: An Ancient Maya Farming Community” (2012). Robin is the author of five books and over thirty articles. Among several other awards, major grant funding institutions such as the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Geographic Society have supported her scholarly research.

The CAS warmly welcomes Dr. Cynthia Robin to our next meeting, which is to be held at the Evanston Public Library on February 23rd. And we warmly welcome you! Come join us for coffee, churros, and an exciting discussion. And tell a friend about this free event!

By Jeanne Jesernik

Monday, January 6, 2014

Lightning in Pre-Columbian, Colonial and Contemporary Cultures - Dr. John E. Staller

The CAS is thrilled to usher in the New Year with Dr. John E. Staller as our January guest speaker! Dr.
Staller is an archaeologist specializing in Pre-Columbian Latin America. Much of his research is related to the prehistory of the Andes and Mesoamerica. Specializations include, the culture history, evolution and spread of maize, ancient mythology and religious ideologies, political economies, ethnohistory, and the history of archaeological science. Dr. Staller is a professor of anthropology, archaeologist, writer, editor, distinguished lecturer, former Research Associate at the Field Museum, and a Fulbright scholar.

Among his many publications, you may want to check out his 2013 book “Lightning in the Andes and Mesoamerica: Pre-Columbian, Colonial, and Contemporary Perspectives,” coauthored with Maya linguist, Brian Stross. Lightning, and the surprising ways that it is embedded in the very distinctive Inca culture and worldview, will be part of the focus of his CAS presentation! Staller will also discuss how colonial imperialism and the Catholic Church transformed traditional indigenous rituals, rites and symbolic associations surrounding lightning.

All of us who attend CAS meetings are lifelong learners—oh sure, the cookies, coffee, and good company are also a draw! Often it seems that we must seek knowledge to gain it, but once in awhile it comes, at least somewhat, by way of serendipity. An example of this is that Dr. Staller’s current research on lightning revealed a new understanding of his dissertation research. A case of another piece of the grand puzzle falling into place! His doctoral research was on Early Formative Period (3500-1500 B.C.) occupations in southern coastal Ecuador and on his excavations at a ceremonial mound. There he found pottery, early ceramic bottles, and ritual offerings. While carrying out research on “lightning veneration,” he realized that the early spread of ceramic technology, maize, and certain species of marine shellfish were associated with an archaic form of lightning veneration centered in southern highland Ecuador and northern highland and coastal Peru. Come hear more about his work and discoveries. Dr. Staller is an engaging scholarly storyteller and is sure to entice you into wanting to learn everything you can about lightning in Latin America!

Please join us Sunday, January 26th at 3 p.m. in the Evanston Public Library 1st floor meeting room for a lively discussion with Dr. John Staller! Invite a guest! And don't forget about dinner after the meeting at Dave’s Italian Kitchen—on Chicago Avenue, which is around the corner from the library.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The December Holiday Celebration

Holiday Time!

Special CAS plans include raffle, ethnic sales and gourmet luncheon

It’s that time of year— time to welcome in the Holiday Season. The CAS has arranged a special luncheon welcome party for this occasion. Edith and Ray Young have prepared a special menu that is inviting for all from the hungriest carnivore to the thoughtful vegan.

Holiday lunch will be served at 2:00 pm at the Evanston Library. If you haven’t already reserved
Mythical Monkey King,
Hanuman, on sale.
your place, please do so now. For your convenience a registration form can be found on page 4 of this edition of the Codex. The form also includes your 2014 CAS re-enrollment allowing you to attend to both matters if you prefer.

Holiday participants will receive one drawing ticket for an exquisite cut-yardage Bali, Indonesia Batik Fabric, 36” x 310”, that was a donation to the CAS from world traveler Doris Neilson. The size is perfect for a large tablecloth.  Additional tickets may be purchased for $1 each or six for $5.

In response to several requests, there will be a sale table of 10 ethnic items: performance masks, including the Monkey King shown above and whatnots, all at bargain prices, It could be an opportunity to select a special one-of-kind gift for that special one-of-a-kind person.

Immediately following the Holiday Luncheon, approximately 3:30 pm, Dr. Jack Green will make his presentation. 

Date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 .
Place: Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue.
Time: 2:00 p.m. Holiday Luncheon & Special Luncheon Drawing.
Program: 3:30 p.m. Presentation by our guest speaker:
Dr. Jack Green, From Life To Death in Ancient
Canaan and Israel.

From Life to Death in Ancient Canaan and Israel - Speaker, Dr. Jack Green,

From Life to Death in Ancient Canaan and Israel

According to CAS December Speaker, Dr. Jack Green,
Death may be the great leveler and there have been both
elaborate and simple ways to assist the dead in their
transition to their next phase of existence

Cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am, recorded René Descartes in the 1644 edition of Principia Philosophiae, but it’s quite unlikely that we can ever know when consciousness evolved. Professor Lewis-Williams, The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art,  traced back the unique aspect of human consciousness to the Paleolithic and archeologists, like the December CAS speaker Dr. Jack Green continue their efforts to understand what it is or means to be human.

According to Dr. Jack Green, Death may be the great leveler, yet throughout human history, there have been both elaborate and simple ways to assist the dead in their transition to their next phase of existence, as well as honor and commemorate them through rituals, feasts, and setting up of monuments. His lecture will focus on the burial customs of the second and first millennia BCE within the area covering modern-day Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories.  In this region that witnessed the emergence of three world religions, the study of its changing mortuary customs can provide fascinating insights into attitudes to life, death, the body, and afterlife beliefs over deep time.

Early Iron Age burial 1050 – 900 BCE
It is in this region that we explore changes and continuities from the start of the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000 BC) to the end of the Iron Age II (ca. 586 BC), showing how burial customs, their contents, and tomb structures differed greatly depending on geographical region, urban vs. rural or pastoral lifestyles, and connections with    neighboring regions, including Egypt, Cyprus, and Syria-Mesopotamia. From rock-cut tombs, to ceramic coffins and pit graves, a common feature of many burials is a tendency towards the selective expression of household identity through the provision of food and drink related offerings, as well as the notion of the burial place as a “house” for the dead: an inversion of life through the mirror and transition of death.  While these observations do not tell us what people actually believed, the ritual actions as preserved archaeologically, accompanied by textual sources, can provide indications of the powerful role of the dead amongst the living long after burial.    

Dr. Jack Greene (also known as John D.M. Green) is Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (since 2011), where he is responsible for management, presentation, and interpretation of museum collections and special exhibits. Most recently, he has co-curated the exhibits Picturing the Past: Imaging and Imagining the Ancient Middle East (2012) and Our Work: Modern Jobs – Ancient Origins (2013-14) at the Oriental Institute Museum. Originally from England, he was previously Curator for the Ancient Near East at the Ashmolean       Museum, University of Oxford.  Jack received his PhD from the  Institute of Archaeology, University College London in 2006. His research at UCL and the British Museum has focused mainly on burial customs of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Ages in the Southern Levant, including the cemetery at Tell es-Sa‘idiyeh Jordan.  He has conducted archaeological fieldwork in the UK, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, and is currently engaged in cultural heritage projects in Afghanistan and the West Bank.  His research interests also include the archaeology of gender and histories of archaeology.

This will be an exciting afternoon as well as a fitting conclusion to the CAS holiday afternoon.

Date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 
Place: Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue.
Time: 2:00 p.m. Holiday Luncheon & Special Luncheon Drawing.
Program: 3:30 p.m. Presentation by our guest speaker:
Dr. Jack Green, From Life To Death in Ancient
Canaan and Israel.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Penny for Your Thoughts

The use of copper as a trade item or article of exchange in North America predates European arrival or the creation of The United States .

It would probably surprise most first-time visitors to an archaeo-logical site to witness how investi-gators excitedly react to finding seemingly insignificant material items. Freshly unearthed tiny artifacts, that might easily escape an untrained eye, often hold a wealth of information. For example, charred seeds in an ancient deposit can be a gateway to new information on the past environment, diet, subsistence strategies such as farming, or economic trade lines that included importing cultigens. Like-wise, something as small as a bead-shaped piece of copper that may have been caught in the screen at an archaeological dig can help researchers with their ongoing efforts to reconstruct past lifeways.

Former Oconto Cop-per Burial Museum curator, Monette Bebow-Reinhard became interested in copper after hearing about this oldest copper burial site(between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago) in 2000. She earned her MA in History from University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and became curator at the copper burial site in 2008. Since then, she has made the research of copper a life's challenge, especially after two of Illinois’ leading archaeologists, Dr.John Kelly and Dr. James Brown, told her "it's nice to hear someone's interested in copper." Along with her Archaic Copper Newsletter (A.C.N.), she is hard at work at the "North American Copper Artifact Trade Project," compiling a master data-base of copper artifacts in North America.

The CAS warmly welcomes Bebow-Reinhard as our September CAS guest speaker; she will conduct our first in a monthly series of presentations for the 2013-2014 season. The CAS invites the public to join us in learning about the sig-nificance of the copper trade industry in the lives of Native American groups from archaic to early contact times, focusing on Illinois.

Of course there is an endless array of the historical and modern uses for copper. Copper was used to construct the Statue of Liberty; readers of this newsletter most likely see it daily in architecture, cook with copper pots, live in homes with copper appliances, pipes, and wiring, and although far from being last on the list, copper al-loyed with other metals produces weapon-ry that has altered the fate of each of us and all human societies. Perhaps we take its value for granted at times, and Ms. Reinhard’s presentation is an opportunity to embrace new knowledge and an appreci-ation for a familiar object in our own lives.

In advance of our meeting, you may want to check out Ms. Monette Bebow-Reinhard’s website at: A Penny For Your Thoughts and request a subscription to A.C.N – it’s free!

Be sure to invite a friend and join us at this free event. See back page of this Co-dex newsletter issue for details!

by Jeanne Jesernik

  • Date: Sunday, September 29, 2013.
  • Place: Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue.
  • Time: 3:00 p.m. Social Hour: Refreshments and Fellowship.
  • Program: 3:30 p.m. Presentation by our guest speaker:
  • Ms. Monette Bebow-Reinhard: Precolumbian Copper found in Illinois.
  • Dinner: 5:00 p.m. Informal dinner with our speaker at Dave’s Italian Kitchen.