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