Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Tribute to Retiring Spirits of CAS

Members and Friends invited to October 11 3:00PM Zoom Event 

Topic: Thank you to the Steltons
Time: Sunday, Oct 11, 2020 03:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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This article appeared in the September, 2020 issue of our newsletter, CODEX:

Our irreplaceable Bob Stelton has retired from a very long period of dedicated service to this organization.  Over many decades, with his wife, Deb, he kept the CAS alive, and enhanced the educational opportunities  of several generations of archaeology enthusiasts.  We salute them both, and thank them heartily – and expect to “see” them on our Zooms!
Larry Conrad offers this remembrance.

Bob and Deb Stelton Saluted

an appreciation by Lawrence Conrad, retired Assoc Prof of Anthropology Western Illinois U

Bob and his wife and helpmate Deb have been major contributors to Illinois archaeology since they provided volunteer assistance at the Charles W. Cooper site in 1971. At that time, Tom Emerson and I were lamenting the impending strip mining of the huge, National Register, Middle Mississippian Orendorf site in Fulton County and despairing of doing anything about it. It was Bob who suggested bringing students from the Chicago area and at least doing something. He did, and this was the origin of the Upper Mississippi Valley Archaeological Research Foundation (UMVARF).  In addition to recruiting 20 high school students, Bob and Deb assisted in field supervision and acted as chaperones and counselors. Bob drove the bus and Deb oversaw the kitchen.
Based on experience gained during the 1972 season, Bob, Tom (who recently retired as the first Illinois State Archaeologist) and I organized UMVARF.  Bob was the founding Secretary/Treasurer and a board member and worked with an attorney friend to secure our tax-exempt status. UMVARF benefitted greatly from the Steltons’ counsel that came from their perspectives as experienced teachers with formal field and classroom training. 

The Orendorf rescue excavation was an unparalleled achievement, clearing  and mapping over 15 acres of dense habitation remains, and all or part of over 250 structures and almost 2500 pit features in addition to thousands of feet of stockade. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey recently dedicated their 571-page report on a portion of these excavations to Bob, and IAS awarded UMVARF, including Bob, the 2019 Charles J. Bareis Distinguished Service Award for the Orendorf Project.

Bob served on the board of directors of the CAS several times and as VP (1976-77) and President (1978-79). In 1994, he became Secretary and founded and edited the CAS newsletter. He has served in both capacities until the present. He also served a term on the IAAA board (1979-80). Few would dispute that Deb saved the CAS when she took over the presidency of a disheartened organization in serious disarray in the mid-1980s. In 2004, Bob and Deb were awarded the Leonard W. Blake Distinguished Amateur Award by the IAS for their many and sustained contributions to Illinois archaeology. 
--Larry Conrad

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Identifying Prehistoric Interaction on Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Modeling the Development of Social Complexity in Extreme Isolation

Speaker: Dale F. Simpson Jr., PhD
September 27, 2020 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr. Dale F. Simpson Jr. is Adjunct Instructor of Anthropology at the College of DuPage (11th year) and the director of the Rapa Nui Geochemical Project. He has recently returned after an unexpectedly lengthened visit to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), due to current conditions. Speaking to its isolation will be spot-on for those of us in lockdown here. He writes:

Anthropological archaeologists have been investigating ancient human interaction for decades as interaction studies highlight how humans have communicated for 200,000 years at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. With the development of provenance studies and improved geochemical sourcing techniques, researchers can better document the movement of raw materials and formed artifacts from sources to habitation and ceremonial sites to understand economic, ideological, and sociopolitical interaction.

Rapa Nui has been the subject of various scientific investigations. Much of this work has been dedicated to moai (statues) and ahu (platforms) and how these megalithic features venerated the island’s chiefly ancestors and supported sociopolitical organization, ideological communication, economic (re)distribution, and elite management over the island’s ancient political economy. However, archaeological investigation of the island’s many basalt sources and artifacts, including their geological provenance and geochemistry, has been minimal. This lack of comprehensive geochemistry for basalt sources and artifacts has restricted the potential of ancient interaction studies on Rapa Nui.

To fill this gap in the archaeological literature, the “Rapa Nui Geochemical Project (RNGP)” was established in 2013. Over six years, the RNGP collaborated with more than 30 individuals from 20 institutions from around the globe to conduct field archaeology, geoarchaeological and material culture documentation, geochemical analyses, radiometric dating, artistic site reconstructions, and educational outreach. This presentation highlights the last seven years of research, as well as Dr. Simpson’s 20 years investigating and living on Rapa Nui.

Join us for this fascinating talk and get the insider’s story from the main researcher!


Zoom session for members starts at 3:15PM.  Lecture begins at 3:30PM.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Exploring the 14th Century Upper Mississippian Village of Noble-Wieting


Our meeting was cancelled.
The Evanston Library has cancelled all of their events as of March, 2020.

Speaker: Logan Miller, PhD
March 29, 2020

Dr. Logan Miller, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, is our speaker on March 29. He is an anthropological archaeologist with research interests in lithic
analysis and the archaeology of the Eastern Woodlands.

His talk will cover the past three summers of his archaeological excavation at Noble-Wieting to provide a glimpse into life at this Native American village in central Illinois during the 1300s AD.

During the Mississippian period (1000-1400 AD) the largest prehistoric North American city, Cahokia, existed right here in Illinois. The rise and fall of Cahokia reverberated throughout eastern North America, resulting in many population movements and new ways of life in the region.

Archaeologists refer to the new lifestyles in northern Illinois at this time as the Langford tradition. While most major Langford sites occur along the upper Illinois River and its tributaries, one site that does not fit the pattern is the village of Noble-Wieting in McLean County.

Since the early 1900s archaeologists have puzzled over the site’s anomalous geographic position. Additionally, the site not only includes Langford artifacts but those related to Cahokia or other Mississippian villages to the south and west. Cahokia was largely abandoned by about 1300 AD, providing a potential piece of the explanation for why people were in this new spot on the landscape.

The fall of Cahokia could have “pulled” some people from other Langford villages up north and “pushed” some Cahokia affiliated inhabitants to the area from the south.

As in any community, the inhabitants of Noble-Wieting shared certain similarities, as well as important differences, with their fellow villagers. Luckily for archaeologists, many of these social dynamics were likely
reflected in the houses and possessions of the inhabitants of Noble-Wieting.

This presentation will provide a comparison of the remains of houses, and their associated artifacts, from different areas of the village to illustrate what we know about life at this unique and important site.

The evidence points to inhabitants making new traditions at Noble-Wieting representing an example of ethnogenesis, a new cultural entity emerging from the interaction of two or more disparate groups.

Dr. Logan Miller is an anthropological archaeologist with research interests in stone tools in particular and the archaeology of the pre-contact Midwest in general. He has conducted fieldwork and directed field schools in Illinois and Ohio. His research covers a large extent of Midwestern history from 13,000 year old Clovis stone tools to 2,000 year old Hopewell mound builders to the study of discarded cigarette butts on the Illinois State University/ISU (supposedly)
non-smoking campus.

Dr. Miller reports that in class, he talks about how we know aliens did not build pyramids, why it is offensive to suggest they did, and other ways that archaeology applies to the world today.

He “grew up in NW Ohio but I don’t have a story about wanting to be an archaeologist from a young age. My mom always says that my brother was the one digging holes in the backyard. When it came time to pick a major/career, I was drawn to the adventure of archaeology (even in the Midwest) and luckily everything worked out.”

Dr. Miller holds a BA in Anthropology from Wright State University. His MA and PhD in Anthropology were earned at Ohio State University. Since 2015, he has been an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at ISU.

Members and the public are invited to join us for a social period beginning at 3:00pm and the talk at 3:30pm.

The Palimpsest

from Bob Stelton

Mule Safari to El Mirador

The MexiMayan adventure began in Carmelita, Guatemala in the northern Petén rainforest. Carmelita is at the end of the road. Traveling beyond to El Mirador would involve horses, mules, and walking. Our mules carried everything including water.

Assembling horses and mules was trick in itself. The good folk of Carmelita didn’t believe we were really coming, and we were short of mules, horses, and saddles.

Our drive to Carmelita took longer than planned and we were running short of daylight.

In time the mules and horses were saddled, and we were off into the jungle. Nightfall did overtake the expedition before first camp stop as we stumbled along chicle hunters’ trails with only moonlight serving as a beacon.

Our first stop was a chicleros camp. Chicle–still collected by chicleros by their slashing sapodilla trees and collecting the latex–once was the basic ingredient in chewing gum.

An uncomfortable bareback mule ride, or a jungle hike, battling mosquitoes, cursing ticks, and questioning personal sanity can test the strength and determination of the most intrepid adventurer but a short rest and dinner prepared by trail cooks recharged all batteries and we enjoyed a wonderful night roughing it!

A few chores before breaking camp, some dishes to wash, packing fodder for the mules on the trail, and we’re off into the jungle. Next camp — El Mirador.

Then a short jungle hike from Danta and a 260-foot climb to its top for an unparalled and awesome view of the jungle complete with sightings of distant Maya centers. Miles of green surrounded the pyramid and countless Maya structures dotted the arboreal sea.

El Mirador offered a few amenities we were denied on the trail: benches and a rough table for dining as well as an aguada with a catwalk into the pond to get the traveler closer to the algae like water.

Another serving of jungle cuisine before our discovery of many shocking any looters’ pits: the priceless heritage of a culture torn into as rodents might destroy a garbage dump.

Then Carmelita and civilization, a pleasant drive through Tikal, and we’re back at Lago Petén Itza, our mule safari to El Mirador completed.

We invite you to check out the full narrated story of our travel adventure from this timeless 1990 movie posted in 2008 to YouTube:

Exploring Archaeobotany in Ancient Near East

February Speaker Melissa Rosenzweig Attracts and Engages Audience
~ report by Anne Wilson-Dooley ~

Dr. Melissa Rosenzweig, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University, led us through a wide-ranging discussion of her use of archaeobotany to understand the expansion of the Assyrian Empire during the Neo-Assyrian period (Iron age, 911-609 BCE). Her excavations at Tel Akko in the Israel city of Acre and Turkey’s Ziyaret Tepe illustrated her lecture.

Archaeobotany is the study of human (and animal) interactions with plants in the past. It uses several methods to recover macro- and micro-plant remains from archaeological sites and their surrounding environments.  As important as the actual recovery of plant materials is deeply thinking about the processes that lead to certain materials being present–and absent–from archaeological contexts and environments.

Charring, drying, or waterlogging are often necessary for the preservation of plant parts. It is the recovery of many micro-plant materials–small seeds, pollens, and silica skeletons of plant cells–that substantially fill out our understanding of past cultures and reconstruction of their past environments. To illustrate her site findings, Dr. Rosenzweig brought small vials with examples of charred plant remains for our inspection.

Typical excavation, flotation, and chemical processes are used for recovery. Identification of materials to at least a genus level is sought, although species level is more beneficial when it can be achieved, and can enable reconstruction of the environment of their location. The reconstructions can also lead to what materials have been found that would not be expected to occur in the general location, hence procured or received from elsewhere and/or gathered, hunted, or obtained agricultural products. Recovering DNA from archaeological plant remains is of interest but not really available yet. 

Dr. Rosenzweig involved the audience several times, inviting questions. She asked us to think about all the aspects of plant material used for eating and production of clothing, furnishing, caring for our animals. She passed out apples and asked how many seeds were likely to remain after charring. Evidence from remains of what we typically eat or utilize tell something about our culture.

She addressed the concept of terra nullius, which involves cultural biased assumptions on appropriate use of lands and is often a part of colonization justification. Neo-Assyrian expansion included “agricultural and resettlement programs intended to bring subjects under control.” To use a familiar example, European expansion across North America considered ownership and cultivation of land appropriate as opposed to the Native American populations thinking of unfenced lands as communal for gathering, growing, and hunting.

Extensive soil samples from the site of Ziyaret Tepe located on the southeastern border of present-day Turkey were put through the various levels of screening, flotation, and chemical treatment to extract botanical remains. (In Assyrian times it was located in the hinterland of Assyrian Empire and was
then fully incorporated into the Neo-Assyrian Empire.) Based on her analyses, the occupants of the site were a fully agrarian community, producing domesticated crops prior to the Neo-Assyrian assimilation; their surrounding area was substantially utilized so did not fit a general definition of terra nullius. But by the Neo-Assyrian ideology the area was certainly under-utilized. 

“King-as-cultivator was a popular Assyrian trope, and Assyrian rulers used programs of agrarian investment [irrigation, intensification of cultivation, moving peoples into areas] to explain and legitimize their forays into surrounding territories as proactive measures against famine.”

The presentation was very well received and numerous questions were asked extending us beyond
our expected end time.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ancient Near Eastern Agriculture: Insights Gained from Archaeobotany

Speaker: Melissa S. Rosenzweig, PhD

February 23, 2020 • 3:00pm

Dr. Melissa Rosenzweig, Northwestern University Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, will be our presenter at the February 23 meeting.

Her talk will address her area of methodological expertise – archaeobotany, and its application in the field of Near Eastern archaeology.

Archaeobotany is the study of human interactions with plants in the past. This scientific approach provides information on a range of topics, from human diet to agricultural production practices, to environmental reconstructions. 

For archaeologists of the ancient Near East, archaeobotany has been critical to understanding the origins of agriculture, the rise of cities and states, and the development of large scale crop irrigation. 
Dr. Rosenzweig’s work has focused on examining the intersections of agriculture and empire, and in particular the ways in which the Neo-Assyrian empire of northern Iraq (ca. 900 – 600 BCE) manipulated agriculture in its quest to pull off the largest territorial expansion the world had ever seen in the first millennium BCE. 

In her talk, she will review some of the archaeobotanical studies that she has conducted, and explain how data on plants can be used to understand imperial politics.
Dr. Rosenzweig is an anthropological archaeologist specializing in environmental archaeology of the ancient Near East.  Her research incorporates regional specialization in northern Mesopotamia and the Levant, methodological expertise in archaeobotany, and theoretical specialization in human-environment interactions.

Through her research on the ancient Mesopotamian empire of Neo-Assyria (ca. 900 – 600 BCE), one of the world’s earliest and largest imperial projects, she brings a focus on relationships of power and inequality embedded in agrarian lifeways.  Political ecology informs her archaeological analysis of the ways in which agricultural practices shape political subjectivities, foment imperial ideologies, underwrite colonial acts, and facilitate subaltern resistance. 

Dr. Rosenzweig received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2014.  She was an NEH fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research for 2014-15.  From 2015 to 2018 she was an Assistant Professor of Archaeology in the Departments of Anthropology and Classics at Miami University in Ohio.

Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the National Geographic Society, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Her current fieldwork projects take place in Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Her current book project, Under Assyria’s Green Thumb, is a multi-sited comparative study of cultivation practices at Neo-Assyrian settlements distributed throughout the empire.  Working from the position that land use practices always have political inflections, she analyzes macrobotanical remains recovered from several Neo-Assyrian sites for signs of imperial agrarian investment, environmental destruction or abandonment, and subject autonomy to discern the myriad entanglements of empire and agriculture.

Her teaching includes courses on Archaeological Theory and Method, Archaeology of Power, Old World Archaeology, Political Ecology, Environmental Justice and Environmental Anthropology.
CAS members invite the public to join us at 3:00pm for a social period and the talk at 3:30pm. 

The Palimpsest

from Bob Stelton 

Gunnar Tenglin Adventure

A frequently asked question of the archaeologist is “How do you know where to dig?” Field-walking remains reliable and has not been completely eliminated despite increasing dependence on and importance of high tech methodology.

In 1971, I was participating in a University of Iowa Seminars in Sociology, a program developed for high school teachers. I was excited by my selection to participate in the program and the Stelton family looked forward to an extended camping trip alongside the Skunk River while the pater familias filled his days with school stuff.
In class one day, the seminar director challenged the group with a call for a volunteer. Without a second thought I accepted a challenge to find and to interview a survivor of the Titanic.

April 12, 1912 was an anniversary observance date for the Titanic catastrophe, but I mused so what! How did that relate to our affairs in Iowa? Reason suggested that our seminar directors had some information to direct our search. But where to dig? We needed a starting point, we needed a library where we could dig up ideas.

A quick review of newspapers on file produced a feature story commemorating the Titanic sinking that included the name of a local resident, Mr. Gunnar Tenglin. A meeting with an elderly, but affable gentleman was arranged.

The Stelton Expedition was on its way to meet and to become history itself. Some legends were challenged.

Our meeting with Mr. Tenglin, who was a 3rd Class steerage passenger on the maiden voyage of the doomed Titanic, mostly corroborated accounts of the event and the aftermath, but not all.
 Tenglin disputed the account of the orchestra performing on the deck as the Titanic was sinking. He was also quoted that he heard a woman screaming moments before she threw a wrapped baby from an upper deck to a lifeboat below. The baby was not saved, and it rapidly sank from view. Gunnar was traumatized by the horror of the moment.

“Women and children first” –legendary law of the sea – but not aboard the Titanic. Gunnar Tenglin recalled instances he observed of men dressed as females ejected by the crew from lifeboats.
In class and, as agreed upon, I presented the Tenglin Adventure. There was a mixed, but pleased acceptance. I had been expected to interview a grand lady, who was a young girl, too young to fully understand her cause for celebration.

As for Gunnar, I would not meet with him again, and he passed on three years later.
In flights of fancy I wonder if he and other Titanic travelers ever meet in angelic seminars.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Discovering Evidence of Prehistoric Warfare

Dr. Marisa Fontana: ethnological findings enlighten archaeological research
~ report by Anne Wilson-Dooley ~

Our January 26th lecturer, Dr. Marisa Fontana, has been interested in archaeology since taking anthropology-archaeology courses in high school and within a few years had participated in excavations in Colorado, Michigan, Utah, and Pennsylvania. Her power point presentation and many questions and additions from the audience made for an excellent afternoon!

In graduate school, Dr. Fontana began her focus on southeastern US, a ‘much less studied region of North America’ and specializes in indigenous warfare in the precontact period.

Studies of warfare in prehistoric/precontact societies/regions are complicated by the nature of archaeological remains or absence thereof and there is much more to warfare than just the immediate acts of violence. Today there is much concern and respect for the Native American communities and their holding the remains of their deceased and the burial location sacred. In the past, physical human remains have been a major indicator of violence and the types/mechanisms of warfare.

Dr. Fontana focused on three types of warfare evidenced in ethnological and historical studies: raids/ambushes; massacres; and battles. To recognize these in prehistoric and precontact societies, archaeologists have to rely on direct and indirect evidence.

For direct evidence, often skeletal evidence is best but, as noted, in deference to Native American communities, this is often not available for continuing studies. As an example of skeletal evidence for raids, the trauma is often to the back side of the victim – the surprise element. For massacres, the evidence is often the burning or other desecrations of an entire village or maybe of political-social-religious structures. An example cited was the burning of a charnel house at the Georgia site of Etowah, with the skeletal remains ending up spread down one side of the mound that had been located on. She defined battles as often large scale conflicts with rules; challenges are often issued to the enemy. Dr. Fontana said that battlefields have been harder to locate than might be expected. Scholars are still trying to locate a particular battle location in Georgia, for example, and an audience member offered that the sites of a couple of battles from the Blackhawk wars in northern Illinois have not been identified.

On the indirect evidence side, defense is often assumed from the placement of sites in elevated locations or with limited/restricted access. Many of the Mississippian sites had stockade walls often with bastions and often with other walls around an entry area to help control access. There may be specialized tools that are associated with warfare – maces and projectile points with extra barbs. Perhaps there is evidence of a poison remaining that could have been used on weapons for hunting or warfare.

In the US, many sites are pre-writing but may have motifs – iconography on pottery, shell gorgets, or tablets that are indicative of warfare/weapons, a ‘squiggle’ line on a skull for scalping.

This was an excellent presentation on using ethnological studies to inform our developing understanding of prehistoric-precontact societies.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Archaeological Identification of Prehistoric Warfare

Speaker of the Month: Marisa Fontana, PhD
Sunday, January 26 • 3:00pm
Meeting Monthly at Evanston Library

Dr. Marisa D. Fontana, North Central College Half-time Associate Professor of Anthropology, enlightens us in the new year on January 26 beginning at 3:30pm at the Evanston Public Library.
Her talk on The Archaeological Identification of Prehistoric Warfare will cover the various types of group violence found in prehistory and the evidence archaeologists use to identify such behaviors in the archaeological record, such as skeletal remains, weapons trauma, intentionally burned sites, and fortifications.

While human remains provide convincing direct evidence for warfare, both past and present, research involving this type of physical evidence is especially controversial for many Native American communities. Often the act of excavating human remains is viewed by indigenous societies as the disturbance and destruction of ancestral graves – a violation of their religious beliefs.  Archaeologists who work with Native American cultures must be sensitive to this reaction and find different evidence to answer their research questions about warfare that do not infringe upon the beliefs of other societies.  This talk will discuss how some of the alternative lines of evidence can be used to inform on warfare related events.

Dr. Fontana is an archaeological anthropologist specializing in indigenous warfare of the precontact period. She has excavated all over the United States, most extensively in the southeastern U.S. Her current research project utilizes laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, which involves shooting lasers at samples of Native American pottery to aid in answering questions about prehistoric trade and migration among indigenous groups in central Alabama.  She earned her MA and PhD (Magna Cum Laude) in Anthropology, at University of Illinois at Chicago/UIC.

Meetings are open to the public and free of charge.
Social period starts at 3:00pm and the talk at 3:30pm.  Join us.
Evanston Public Library  • 1703 Orrington, Evanston
All CAS meetings are free and open to the public.

Modern Technologies Used on Illinois Site

Joe Wheeler describes Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie deep exploration

~ report by Bob Stelton ~

Modern Archaeological Technologies 

It would seem that the CAS December guest speaker is a member of a magician’s cult that can conjure up not only visions of the past but the past itself! Such magic was brought to the attention of holiday revelers at the annual holiday party of the Chicago Archaeological Society on Sunday December 8, 2019.

The CAS speaker, Joseph H. Wheeler III, a retired Marine Corps Colonel, shared with a holiday gathering the mystery of state-of-the-art technology presently enhancing the new archaeological  technologies available to the archaeological discipline. Mr. Wheeler’s presentation, Traces on the Land: Using Advanced Technologies to Understand the Prairie Past, fulfilled the program.
Joe Wheeler reminds his audience that no magic is employed.  He employs good science. His talk on traces on the land works with GIS,  remote sensing, geophysical prospection, and other modern technologies at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Wilmington, Illinois which is open to the public.
Within Midewin are rich human resources and more including Monarch Butterflies, bison and plant ecology.

Fun or Hoax?

LiDAR (Ground Penetrating Radar) has been a near-magical tool for the archaeologist and note that it is as well an expensive one. However, a group of volunteers at Midewin had some fun with the tool
that exposed its versatility when Midewin volunteers took all the available pre-Arsenal imagery and historic land ownership maps showing previous farm structure locations and transferred that information to digital map softer (GIS). The results were then superimposed on LIDAR-derived bare earth models to locate patterned disturbances suggesting extant farmstead features!  (see December Codex).                  

The USDA Forest Service has an archaeological program open to volunteers “Passport in Time” that has attracted approximately 7,000 volunteers.