Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On Safari with the Chicago Archaeological Society

Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

If there are fundamental reason for studying anthropology and cultivating a compelling interest in archaeology the above starting rhetorical questions may be a preliminary beginning.

During the passage of eight months of a CAS Program season CAS members span the globe, with the guidance of superb speakers searching for the truth of humankind.

During 2016-2017 we traveled to Armenia, visited an Egyptian gallery of ancestors, explored ancient structures of Gobekli Tepe (the world’s oldest temple) in Turkey, and marveled at the genius of Peruvian engineers who converted the challenging altiplano, often harsh and even cruel, of the Andes to a horn of plenty. These remark-able adventures come to us through the ceaseless efforts of Vice President Lucy Kennedy, thank you Lucy!

The season is climaxed in May but year after year illusive truth keeps her distance and like Oliver we want more, please! Odd-ly unable to find illusive truth during an eighth month lecture program officers plan a one day Summer Safari—a penultimate effort so-to-speak. Early in 2017 Mike Ruggeri and Ray Young proposed a visit to Beloit College and the Logan Museum. The Logan is no stranger to the CAS, but a warm invitation from Curator Dan Bartlett was a superb decision.

The Safari visit included a sur-vey of the surviving Indian Mounds. The Beloit College campus features 20 conical, lin-ear, and animal effigy mounds built between about AD 400 and 1200. One, in the form of a turtle, has inspired the symbol (and unofficial mascot) of the College. Sara Pfannkuche escorted the CAS group on a cam-pus tour of the mounds providing encyclopedic details of their history.

The Logan Museum houses approximately 15,000 ethnographic and over 200,000 archaeological objects from 129 countries and more than 600 cultural groups. Collections de-rive from research expeditions, field schools, gifts, exchanges, and purchases. The museum’s diversity and the fact that it is a teaching institution has attract-ed global attention e.g. a group of French archaeologists traveled to Beloit to study the Paleolithic collection.

Most importantly the museum is a teaching museum! Dan Bartlett prepared a special exhibition for CAS Traveling Explor-ers—WE SAW AND HANDLED IMPLEMENTS USED BY OUR PREDECESSORS FROM THE ACHEULEAN THROUGH THE MOUSTERIAN and TO THE AURIGNACION!

Still searching for answers to the headline questions I was momentarily transformed as I reached out, spanning a time gap of 500,000 years, give or take a millennium or so, and actually touched the past.

The 2017 Safari ended with a fun luncheon at the downtown Bushel and Peck’s Restaurant and the awarding of the CAS Certificate of Appreciation to Dan Bartlett.




The Palimpsest

Ancient remains found in Peru

In the hillsides of Lima's northern district of Los Olivos (Peru), a team of researchers, led by archaeologist Luis Angel Flores Blanco, uncovered skeletal remains bundled up in a funerary blanket, that date back more than 6,000 years.

The archaeologist explained that research began in April this year with the help of the city of Los Olivos, volunteers and archeology students. Ruth Shady, discoverer of Caral, the oldest civilization in America, inaugurated the project and presented the excavation plan at a public event.

So far, preliminary excavations have revealed the presence of two buildings (terraced pyramids) which would be the most important in the valley and would make the hill called Cerro Pacifico the epicenter of this ancient civilization.

> Deb Stelton

Exploring seas of the ancient world

How early were sea routes developed for immigration and trade?


How early were sea routes developed for immigration and trade? The question leads us to more questions, mysterious questions.
The earliest seaworthy boats may have been developed as ear-ly as 45,000 years ago according to one theory about the habita-tion of Australia. Some sources claim that it was only 30,000 years ago. Either way, the con-cept is mind-boggling. Could Neanderthals or Cro-Magnons have built rafts or canoes?

The 13,000 year old skeleton of a teen age girl was found in a Yucatecan cenote a few years ago. The human features were reconstructed. Amazingly, she did not resemble contemporary Maya or ancient Siberians, but instead is said to resemble Polynesians.

Copper hatchets from the Chincha Valley of Peru were trade items found in Ecuador. Similar hatchets have been found in northern Mexico, not far from the Arizona border. These could have traveled via land routes, but did they?

The word for sweet potato on Easter Island, kuma, is the same as the Inca word. How did the denizens of that island arrive in the middle of the ocean? The distance from Chile seems just too far.

On a trip to Indonesia, in Bali, you can join the local population to enjoy shadow puppet shows depicting scenes from the ancient Hindu story, the Ramayana. In an antique shop on nearby Lom-bok we saw objects that looked Greco-Roman and thought that they were fakes or just unusual.

In Cambodia we find statues of Buddha, who was born in the 5t'' century BC in Nepal. How and when did the Cambodians learn about Buddha?

Obviously ideas and stories have been exchanged over water, and in many instances, vast distances. Humans must have immigrated over water to places that they could not see on the horizon. Just how far did these journeys take them, and just how early? Perhaps more importantly, why?

Our September 17th speaker, Dr. Lisa Niziolek will unravel the stories, well calculated, promis-es an enthralling afternoon.

> Deb Stelton


Traveler to nowhere:
Birdman of Easter Island

Thursday, May 18, 2017

When warfare and climatic challenges threaten food security

an ancient people adapt to sustain life within a challenging high-altitude environment


What do we know about ancient farming on the Bolivian altiplano near Lake Titicaca? Probably, we know very little. We might be aware that the number one superfood is quinoa, and that it comes from somewhere near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.

Perhaps your box of Ancient Grain will tell you that the grain is 3 or 4,000 years old. If you have climbed the steps to The Temple of the Moon on an island on Lake Titicaca, you know the effects on the human body at an altitude of over 13,000 ft. Or, if you have been on a tour to the ancient site of Tiahuanaco, you are convinced that organized communities did survive in that breath-stealing region.

Well, there is much more to know about the ancient farming people of Ayawiri living in the hinterlands of Lake Titicaca 3,000 years ago; Dr. BrieAnna Langlie has agreed to enlighten us.

Dr. Langlie received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Washing-ton University in St. Louis in 2016. Currently she is an in-structor at Loyola University. She specializes in paleoethno-botany and is interested in the development and long-term sustainability of agricultural systems.

The history of the crops of the Andes is rich territory for her interests. She has been studying how terraced fields, cropping schemes and food-ways were affected by war-fare and climate oscillations for Ayawiri between AD 1100 and 1450.

She is also involved in ongoing and collaborative research on agricultural terraces, and the domestication of quinoa, potatoes, and other Andean crops. How did the people manage to farm, raise or herd cattle in this challenging environment and fight the Incas who were savage warriors?
Please remember that admission to this and to all CAS meetings is free and open to the public.


the palimpsest

I am up to page 97 of In the Footsteps of Eve: The Mystery of Human Origins by Lee R. Berger, paleoanthropologist, when I stop to open my mail to find articles that you, our readers, have sent me. One is “In Smashed Bones of a Mastodon, a dispute over Early Humans” . Is everyone is looking for human origins?
Dr. Berger is searching in South Africa and Dr. Demere
is looking in California.

Dr. Berger discovered an 117,000 year old fossil footprint of a five foot woman on a southern African beach that he calls Eve and he explains what she was thinking about and how he knows all about her. His idea is that South Africa is the landscape of our “most immediate ancestors during the past 200,000 years,” and
not the area of Ethiopia, where Lucy was discovered. He allows that new discoveries could change everything.

In 1992 smashed mastodon bones, bone fragments, 5 rounded rocks and objects resembling hammers were found in San Diego County. Dr. Thomas A. Demere, a paleontologist, and some colleagues say that this is evidence that prehistoric humans – “or another lost species” occupied what is now California 130,000 years ago. The crossing of the Bering Straits has been thought to be much later, making this interpretation of the bones very controversial. NYT 4/27/2017.

The second article in my mailbox is, Scientists Recover Ancient Human DNA from Cave Dirt: Genetic Material without the Bones by Gina Kolata. German scientists have developed methods of finding DNA “even where it seemed impossibly scarce and degraded.” It is very complicated.
Finding DNA in dirt is more difficult than getting it out of bone, but Dr. Hendrik Poinar and his students are using tablespoons on their dig in Colorado. The possibilities of what this technique might allow us to know is amazing— if it works! NYT International 4/28/2017.

New discoveries and new methods appear almost daily in the search for human origins. For more information google the headlines and open the New York Times articles.

Deb Stelton

Gobekli Tepe

A new view of the past


The April 2017 presentation by guest speaker Ms.Margery al-Chalabi was a compelling tour de force
of Middle Eastern culture and history from prehistory to the current death and destruction of ISIS in Iraq.

Noteworthy was her plea for greater attention to protection of the archaeological past. Certainly
attention to Middle Eastern vandalism by Isis has been matter of concern, but it isn’t clear that the plague of vandalism and robbery of museums has been adequately reported.

Predating Stonehenge by 6,000years arguably Göbekli Tepe is the most important archaeological
site in the world.” It shows that the erection of monumental complexes was within the capacities of huntergatherers and not only of sedentary farming societies. As excavator Klaus Schmidt once put it,
“First came the temple, then the city.”

But recovering Gobekli Tepe didn’t come easy.

Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery.

The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years.The place is called Gobekli
Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, was convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple.

Our heartfelt thanks to Ms. Margery al-Chalabi for an afternoon, filled with her photos and personal accounts that were as exciting as they were informative.

Show and Tell - The Moche

Ray Young Speak Out


CAS President Ray Young, our Peruvian scholar and world traveler has prepared a special
Moche brief program for the May CAS meeting. Ray’s presentation will precede the CAS guest Speaker.

In 1987 a dangerous drama was unfolding in Peru where armed huacaros, grave robbers, were
plundering a royal tomb.

Upon learning of the depredation local constabulary literally dragged Walter Alva from a sickbed
to confront the outlaws!

Alva arrived at the crime climbed the Huaca tomb pleaded with the
armed huacaros reminding them that this was their patrimony and
offered to hire them to excavate the site. In that moment Dr. Walter
Alva became a national and international hero.

The site, Sipan, was the richest tomb or discovery ever made in
the New World. The Lords, and people, of Sipan were the Moche.
The discovery of the Sipan tomb was a story that captured the imagination of MexiMayan Travel. A subsequent voyage that included CAS members was arranged. The group investigated the site and was granted a memorable one-hour meeting with Dr. Walter
Alva.