Friday, October 24, 2014

German POW camps in the Chicago area | Mr. James Meierhoff

Our speaker for the afternoon comes to us with an astounding range of interests from Mesoamerican archaeology in Belize and Guatemala, fresh from an archaeological dig at Tikal, to historical archaeology.

Mr. Meierhoff will share with us his experience with German POW camps in the Chicago area.
Almost a quarter of a century has passed since the ending of WW II. Faintly remembered aare the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, or the fact that the Chicago area hosted almost half a million POWs during the war. What were current events are melding into the past. Perhaps Mr. Meierhoff can refresh or memories.

We are delighted and fortunate to have Mr. Meierhoff with us this afternoon. Please welcome Mr. James Meierhoff.

October 26, 2014 Mr. James Meierhoff, World War II POW Camps.
3:00 p.m. at the Evanston Public Library,
1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston 60201-3886

Sunday, August 31, 2014

the palimpsest

Welcome back from Summer albeit we have several week before the onset of Fall.

We left May with a compelling talk by Dr. Lynne Goldstein to misnamed Aztalan which has nothing to do with Aztecs but much ado with the Mississippians.

Areal view of Aztalan

Dr. Goldstein brought the CAS up-to-speed subsequent to the CAS 2011 Summer Safari. According to Dr. Goldstein Aztalan has emerged as a significant site.

The 2014 Summer Safari plans were considering the Fort St. Joseph Niles Michigan site as a natural follow-up to Dr. Michael Nassaney’s introduction to this late 18th century frontier fort that had witnessed such historic events as the Conspiracy of Pontiac. Unfortunately we had to change planes because of the temporary 2014  hiatus at the site.

The change of plans kept the CAS in the region, but instead we went to the Snite Museum of Notre Dame University. Members may recall the May 2010 presentation by Mr. Douglas Bradley, Curator at the Snite and his warm welcome to visit the Snite. Unfortunately our visit comes after the passing of Mr. Bradley, nevertheless our visit to the Snite was warmly received. The museum houses a vast collection of  Meso American and South American art.

Some CAS members completed a summer of discovery with a visit to Nashville, Tennessee to
Dr. Michael Nassaney
explore the remarkable (remarkable because of the recreation of a towering Athena within the temple) 1-to-1 copy of the Athenian Parthenon.
MexiMayan Tours will visit the Athens, Parthenon in October for information you may call 630 972-9090.

Until October….

Bob Stelton, editor

Petitioning the Gods in Times of Drought: Ancient Maya Pilgrimage at the Cara Blanca Pools, Belize

The CAS will open its 2014-15 lecture season on September 28 when guest lecturer, Dr. Lisa J. Lucero escorts us into the lost world of the Belizean Maya. Because so much of the Maya glyphs are known, we know more about the Maya and their culture than any other New World Pre-Columbian culture. We know more about the cities than remote ceremonial centers such as Cora Blanca, and Dr. Lucero is filling in many missing pieces of the Maya mosaic.

Dr. Lucero will open new perspectives on an ancient Maya landscape that was imbued with sacred, animate qualities, which the Maya either left untouched or transformed using established customs. Of particular significance were openings in the earth, such as caves and pools, which the Maya considered portals to the underworld. They would leave offering at openings and petition gods, ancestors and other supernatural entities for plentiful rain and bountiful crops. 

Cara Blanca in central Belize is such a place with its 25 pools. Their isolation from settled communities and the relatively sparse but unique architecture near pools, such as water temples and sweat baths, suggest that Cara Blanca served as a pilgrimage destination.

Growing evidence from exploratory dives and excavations at a temple at the edge of one of the pools indicate that the Maya increased their visits to Cara Blanca in response to a series of prolonged droughts that struck the Maya area between c. 800 and 930 C.E. 

In addition to yielding information on ancient Maya pilgrimage, water ceremonies and sacred geography, pools also yield information about rainfall patterns and landscape transformation.

Personal memories:
An effective teacher at some time told you something about the past that made you wonder about how people survived in the past. Dr. Lisa Lucero had too many unanswered questions. She decided to become an archaeologist and her non-academic parents supported her decision. Today she is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, continuing her search and inspiring her students. You can google Dr. Lucero and find information about her Maya studies and excavations in Belize. You can find her abstracts online too.

Drone view of Rath Pool. Photo by Tony Rath. 
Since the mistaken idea that the Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012 made headlines, curiosity about the mysterious Maya has increased. People questioned “did they die out?” There are millions still living in villages and farming their milpas (corn fields). What did die was a hierarchal system with a bloated ruling class who told the people when to plant and when to harvest. They made the rules about their lives and how to appease the gods.

Years ago Bob and I lived in a Maya village in the Yucatan with students, to study the Mayas. These Mayas must have been descendants of ancient Maya who lived near sites such as Ek Balam. They probably were farmers because that was what they were when we stayed with them. When the ancient hierarchical system broke down, their ancestors left and found places to live together co-operatively. 

What did they do if they guessed wrong and the rains did not come after the seeds were planted? They did a ritual. We learned that it had happened to these village farmers at least once. They gathered their sacred objects and the gifts to the gods and went to a certain place and set up their table. Four boys assumed the role of frogs at the table’s corners and made frog noises all night. One of the elders decided to ask the priest if they could borrow the small carved saints from the church. The priest said no; but they borrowed them anyway. And what happened? It rained, of course. 

What they did in that village, may or may not, have much to do with what actually happened in ancient times. And it may, or may not, have little to do with what happened in a remote village in Belize where Dr. Lucero has been working. And Dr. Lucero has been working with archaeological tools to answer many nagging questions. We are wondering. What did they do when there was a drought? What did Dr. Lucero discover?

By Deb Stelton

Edward Barna Kurjack 1938 – 2014 In Memoriam

The Chicago Archaeological Society was saddened by news of the passing of their friend Dr. Edward B. Kurjack on August 2, 2014.

Professor Kurjack, Ed to friends and associates, was indeed a valued and sincere friend of the CAS who was a frequent presenter before the CAS. He always declined any honorarium even refusing reimbursement of travel expenses from Macomb or Florida! An early check cut in Ed’s favor went uncashed.

Although a nationally recognized Mayanist, Ed’s archaeological/anthropological interests spanned the globe including Greece and Italy, Egypt which began with his investigations in the Philippines as a graduate student.

CAS travelers accompanying the MexiMayan travel adventure last March 2013, Searching for the Maya, had the special privilege of sharing Ed’s depth of understand of the Maya and the Dzibilchalt├║n Site. At that time, in an underground tunnel below a Maya ceremonial platform, he presented an impromptu lecture that explained the importance of stelae fragments, intentionally destroyed and serving as part of the foundation of the structure above. Among his audience were CAS members Sally Campbell, Marcia Streetman and Ronald Albiani.

Ed traveled with the 2013 MexiMayan Yucatan travel adventure as a special consultant. In failing health he struggled with the rigors of an active tour without complaint. It would be his final presentation and contribution to the CAS,

For the reader who missed the May 2012 meeting or for those who wish to review Ed’s final bow the CAS DVD is available on loan.

We shall miss Dr. Edward Barna Kurjack.

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-├á-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.