Monday, June 7, 2021

 Continuity or Contingency? Small steps lead to big change in Guatemalan forests

“Field Notes” on Matthew Krystal’s Presentation

~by James Meierhoff- UIC PhD Candidate~

How do we use our forests? I can still remember how wide my Belizean friend’s eyes grew when I told him that herds of large White-Tailed Deer regularly congregate in the forest preserve a few blocks from my house near Chicago, and no one hunts them. Likewise, I recall an anecdote an anthropological colleague once told me about the astonishment some of her workers had in Yucatan after she informed them that neither she nor just about anyone else in Chicagoland needs to collect firewood daily to cook with. In many parts of Central America however, the forests are not only home to valuable resources for day to day living, but also places where spiritual and community practice can come together to forge identities.

Dr. Matt Krystal’s (North Central College) presentation, “‘It's Our Tradition to Maintain the Forest': Indigenous Water Management in San Miguel Totonicapán” (recorded and on Facebook Live) was a slight change of pace from the more straight forward archaeological presentations recently hosted by the Chicago Archaeological Society. However, even though Dr. Krystal is a social anthropologist focusing on the modern societies in the Municipio of Totonicapán in the Guatemalan Highlands, his research is not without material components from which behavior and cultural practices can be interpreted (sounds like archaeology to me!). 

One way this community addressed issues of sustainable forest management was to redesign wood burning ovens to be more efficient, reportedly saving the equivalent of a full tree per year per household. Likewise, simple low maintenance water filtration systems are employed throughout the community which relieves the need to boil water for drinking and cooking, thus using less forest resources for daily life. These are just a few of the steps which are part of a volunteer-based endeavor to provide basic daily resources for and by the local communities themselves. Not only is such a local program of resource management more dependable and equitable than what may have been provided by national services, they are also of much higher quality, and by design foster a regional autonomy that has deep roots in antiquity.

Krystal’s research in the Guatemalan Highlands is completely immersive and reciprocal. Far from just an observer of indigenous forest management, Krystal participates in collaborative ethnography where learning and engagement is a mutually beneficial enterprise between all parties involved. The autonomy created by self-governance of local resources spills into many other aspects of community life – such as agricultural production, where coffee farmers of Totonicapán have partnered with North Central Collage’s student organization Enactus who roast and sell their coffee in the United States. This causes more stability in an otherwise volatile global commodity market while giving college students the opportunity to participate in international business relations (and coffee production!).

As for more classic archaeological applications, Krystal discussed household level water management seen in the archaeological record of several ancient communities in Mesoamerica including the large ancient metropolis of Tikal as well as the smaller community of Chan – which in many ways is reminiscent of the communities of Totonicapán. Was management of natural resources such as water maintained by the smaller ancient communities due to a failure of regional governance in the past to provide basic services to the masses? Is this a possible correlation to the community action he observes in Guatemala today?

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

 ‘It’s Our Tradition to Maintain the Forest’: Indigenous  Water Management in 

San Miguel Totonicapán

Speaker: Dr. Matthew Krystal
May 23, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr. Matthew Krystal, Professor of Anthropology at North Central College, closes out our formal presentations for this year on Sunday, May 23 at 3:30pm, on Zoom.

His talk will explore contemporary analogs to ancient practices in water management and conservation efforts in the K’iche’ Maya Highlands.

Based on continuing ethnographic field research, he will look at four indigenous institutions operating in San Miguel Totonicapán, Guatemala: the parcialidad; the cantón government; the water comité; and the indigenous nonprofit, nongovernmental organization/NGO. 

The cantón and parcialidad are colonial-era institutions that likely evolved from territorial lineages.  A cantón refers to a small administrative division. The rural indigenous communities surrounding the urban center of Totonicapán are identified as cantónes.

Parcialidad is a form of land tenure.  Essentially, parcialidad is a self-governing, legally-recognized, forest-holding, natural resource management group based on kinship.

A comité de agua is a sort of user-run water management group. Members acquire springs and build and maintain the infrastructure necessary to deliver water to their homes.

Together and overlapping, these institutions effect indigenous governance of water procurement and watershed protection. 

The presentation will conclude by contemplating these institutions from multiple perspectives:

    • Are they evidence of cultural continuity?
    • Or are they better understood as accumulated responses to centuries of inept and corrupt kaxlan (outsider) governance? 
    • Do they fill a void left by neoliberal governance, or do they act as bulwarks against the involvement of central authority in local affairs?

The answer, which will emerge only with further fieldwork according to Dr. Krystal, likely will be some version of “all of the above.”

 A native of Chicago, Matthew Krystal received his BA in Anthropology from Washington University in Saint Louis in 1990.  Supported by a Fulbright grant, Krystal conducted dissertation field research in the K’iche’ Maya community of San Miguel Totonicapán, Guatemala.  In 2001 he was awarded a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from Tulane University. 

A faculty member of North Central College, Krystal lists his interests as Mesoamerica; Native North American; Ethnographic Film; Indigenous peoples’ rights, issues, and self-representation; Applied Anthropology; Cultural Ecology; and Anthropology of Religion.

Beginning in 2005, he has worked as faculty advisor and cultural consultant to the North Central College Enactus direct trade coffee and craft project.  In this work, he makes twice-annual visits to Highland Guatemala.  These trips combine direct trade functions, undergraduate student learning, and ethnographic field research.

Join us for our final talk of the lecture season.  We expect to hold informal virtual lectures over the Summer for members (instead of our usual “safaris”) – and hold out the hope of being in person in the Fall.

Each meeting has a unique Zoom address so be sure to use the link from our website. 

Members sign on early at 3:15pm for an informal period before we open to the public at 3:30pm. This lecture will also be recorded and on our Facebook Live site.

Topic: Dr. Matthew Krystal - 'It's Our Tradition to Maintain the Forest': Indigenous Water Management in San Miguel Totonicapán
Time: May 23, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Friday, May 7, 2021

 Mike Ruggeri Reports


 New and Dynamic Research
on the Peopling of the Caribbean

Previous non-genetic studies of the ancient settlers of the Caribbean Islands pointed to perhaps a single immigration of the Caribbean by people from either Central or South America. Since earlier research depended on non-genetic study of artifacts like tools, pottery, bone and shell fragments, these studies did not have the advantage of the more sophisticated genetic and DNA analysis. Now these techniques have been applied to this question for the first time, and the results are far reaching and dynamic in answering the questions of who the first Caribbean peoples were.

Two new studies using advanced genetics in Copenhagen, Leiden, and Harvard Medical School have been published recently in the journal Nature, and in the journal Science. While both papers differ in only one important aspect which I will discuss, both have reached the same overall conclusions independent of each other.

The two groups of researchers studied the genomes of 263 individuals. The genomes researched were of people in the Caribbean and Venezuela. The genome study revealed that the Caribbean was populated in two waves from Venezuela and Central America, and the first wave came into the Caribbean 3,100 years before the second wave. They extracted DNA from the bone protecting the inner ears of these individuals since the humid weather decayed the rest of the DNA in their systems.

The first people to enter the Caribbean were a stone tool using tribe that entered Cuba 6,000 years ago and expanded eastward to other islands, probably originating in Belize because their artifacts look like Belize artifacts. 

The second wave entered 2,500-3,000 years ago and were farmers and potters related to the Arawak of northeast South America who traveled to the Venezuelan coast and then to Puerto Rico and westward starting in what is called the Ceramic Age.

Traces of the oldest inhabitants from the first wave can be found in western Cuba. These two groups rarely mixed, the genetic record shows. The settlers spread to some 700 islands in the Caribbean. And although European diseases and conquest wiped out the small populations on these islands, researchers found 4% of their genes in Cuba, 6% in the Dominican Republic and 14% in Puerto Rico.

The researchers who published their paper in Science found genetic traces of Channel Islanders off the coast of California, which has a record of settlement going far back in history to at least 12,000 years ago. They would have traveled south in the Pacific and then their tribe would have traversed Venezuela to the Caribbean.

The group that published their paper in Nature did not find these genetic materials. The full Nature research paper is published online for free here: <>.  The dense genetic science in that paper gives you an idea how complex these genetic studies are. 

So just with the publication of these papers recently, we now have a much more complete and detailed history of the first migrations into the Caribbean and exactly who these people were over time. We see that the migrants were a mosaic of cultures spreading out over 1,000,000 square miles and 700 islands going back 6,000 years or maybe even earlier; the genetic research continues using lab equipment that only those who study in Eurasia had before.

There are sixteen archaeological sites in Cuba, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia — classified as ‘Archaic’ or ‘Ceramic.’  The later Arawak-related people settled in the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Curaçao, and Venezuela.

Some archaeologists pointed to dramatic shifts in Caribbean pottery styles as evidence of new migrations.  But the Caribbean DNA study shows all of the styles were created by one group of people over time.  Pictured: These effigy vessels belong to the Saladoid pottery type, ornate and difficult to shape. Source: Corinne Hofman and Menno Hoogland/Florida Museum of Natural History


Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Past for the Future?

Pfannkuche Explores the Pecatonica River Valley

~ “Field Notes” by James Meierhoff, PhD Candidate UIC ~

Required reading during my early graduate school curriculum included selections from Charles Lyell’s 1830 Principles of Geology, a book that popularized many of the concepts previously developed by fellow geologist James Hutton (most noted for his 1788 work Theory of the Earth), including the concept of Uniformitarianism. Arguably the corner stone of modern archaeological dating techniques and understanding, Uniformitarianism, as applied to archaeology, is the supposition that the natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations are the same that have operated to form the Earth in the past. 

In the nineteenth century this concept was used to counter the notion of a biblical reckoning of the earth (Creationism), and allowed archaeologists to begin dating archaeological deposits using scientific principles (such as the various laws of superposition) and push mankind’s achievements past the 4,000 BCE  threshold established by biblical scholars using genealogy from Old Testament texts.

Thus, science could then begin to use the present to understand the past. At the time, however,  I never really thought about how these same principles could be applied to the future (that is, using the past to understand the future).

April’s CAS hosted presentation Where People Lived on the Pecatonica River Valley During the Middle Holocene (5000-500 BCE) by Sara Pfannkuche (recorded and on Facebook Live), showed how this could be done. Her research is centered on an event known as the Hypsithermal (or Holocene climatic optimum), a period of dramatic climatic change characterized by increased temperatures (2° C rise in summer months) and decreased precipitation. Pfannkuche’s research is seeking GIS models to determine how such environmental issues might have influenced the decision-making processes of those who had been living along the Pecatonica River drainage for generations.

Unlike other river systems in the region, the Pecatonica River meanders through numerous glaciated and non-glaciated landscapes. Thus, those who lived among these various ecotones were able to better maintain their lifestyles during the changing fortunes of the Hypsithermal by exploiting the natural diversity around them rather than adapting to radical new means of survival. It was the diverse landscape that helped overcome the change. 

 Sara Pfannkuche: What Will the GIS Models Tell Us?

How will we react to the ongoing climatic variations before us? Like cultures in the past, societies in the present, and future, will have to choose how to confront this inevitable phenomenon. Perhaps we can take a cue from the past and come to understand diversity may be our strongest tool. Diverse foodways, energy and water systems, and yes, even diverse cultural viewpoints will be the only way we can overcome the changing storm ahead. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

 Where People Lived on the Pecatonica River Valley During the Middle Holocene (5000-500 BCE)

Speaker: Sara Pfannkuche

April 25, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Sara Pfannkuche joins us on Sunday, April 25 to present the penultimate lecture in this season’s offerings.  A professional archaeologist who has worked on both historic and prehistoric sites in the United States for nearly 30 years, she is completing her PhD in Anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Archaeologists attempt to identify how people adapted to their environment in the past by looking at where sites are located on the landscape. This type of analysis, known as settlement pattern analysis, is usually done in conjunction with large regional archaeological surveys. This presentation focuses on the uses of settlement pattern analyses and the application of this technique for the Pecatonica River during the Mid-Holocene. 

While settlement pattern analysis is often applied to large river systems, it has rarely been done for smaller drainages falling within the uplands of the major rivers.  

One such river is the Pecatonica River of southwest Wisconsin and north-central Illinois. The Pecatonica is the main tributary to the central valley of the Rock River. Its mouth is located within the Village of Rockton, Illinois, 3.5 miles south of Beloit, Wisconsin. The headwaters are about 120 miles to the northwest, within the Driftless Region of southwest Wisconsin.

During its short course, the river passes through a variety of landscapes: unglaciated terrain of the Driftless region, areas covered in till and lake deposits from the Illinoian glaciation, and areas covered by lake deposits and outwash dating to the Wisconsinan.

The study of the settlement patterns for this river, especially during the Mid-Holocene (5000 to 500 BCE) with the end of the Hypsithermal (a time of a drier and warmer climate) and the establishment of the modern climate, can give fresh insight on how aboriginal people dealt with shifting climate patterns away from the major river valleys. 

 Many archaeologists have applied Driftless Area settlement patterns to the entire Pecatonica Valley, but the lack of rock shelters for the glaciated half of the river valley for use as winter/spring habitation sites makes it unable to explain how people would have lived year-round.

In addition, the Driftless region’s mixed prairie/forest vegetation is not the same as the predominant prairie/savannah biomes located in the Illinois portion of the river valley. The differences in geomorphic and vegetative variables for these locations suggests that different resources were available in the areas that might influence how native people utilized the landscape. (pictured: Late Archaic point found within research area)

Our April meeting will include discussion on past climate change and its effects on a regional landscape and the aboriginal people who lived on it. How this change might have affected their lifestyle will be explored using evidence gathered through archaeological investigations.

Beginning in 2006, Sara Pfannkuche expanded her work on historic and prehistoric sites to include museums, curating archaeological collections and designing exhibits and tours. She helped open two museums including the Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University (February 2012) where she was Interim Director.  In 2018 she co-founded Midwest Heritage Resource Consultants, which specializes in archaeology, museum planning, curation, and exhibit design. She is also a past-President of the IAAA, of which CAS is a member organization.

Take another opportunity to explore topics in archaeology from the online connections we have expanded this year.  The April program is planned for Facebook Live, so visit our Facebook page for this and all sorts of interesting information. (However, not all sessions will be recorded for later viewing or be on Facebook Live – the March lecture was not.) We encourage you sign in for the Zoom and participate in the Q & A. 

 Lectures begin officially at 3:30pm, but members are invited to join the Zoom early, signing on at 3:15pm for an informal period to socialize and converse with our speaker before we open to the public at 3:30pm. 

Topic: Sara Pfannkuche  - Where People Lived on the Pecatonica River Valley during the Middle Holocene (5000-500 BCE)                                                           
Time: Apr 25, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Friday, April 9, 2021

Mike Ruggeri Reports

Keeping An Eye On Archaeology News & Events

Chocolate Trade Between the Ancient Southwest and Mesoamerica

Trade between Mesoamerica and the Ancient Southwest in macaws, parrot feathers, copper bells, turquoise, turkeys, pottery was well known to archaeologists for some time.  

Only recently have we become aware of the large chocolate trade between Mesoamerica and the Southwest from the 9th Century on.

Researcher Patricia Crown had seen cylindrical vessels at Maya sites that previous researchers discovered contained chocolate. Using sophisticated new technology, the chemical building blocks of chocolate, theobromine and caffeine, were found in these vessels.
In 2009, Patricia Crown was looking at cylindrical vessels that looked like the ones she saw at Maya sites at the Ancestral Pueblo site of Pueblo Bonito. She saw these vessels contained pigment decoration that was applied in the same manner as the Maya used in decorating their vessels. She then ascertained that these vessels may also contain the chemical proof of chocolate. So she and her team analyzed the vessels in the lab.

[photo: Room 28 Pueblo Bonito]

In Room 28, at the Site of Pueblo Bonito, she found layers of these types of jars, and with further digging, found an astounding 200,000 ceramic items. She sorted out the ones that came from the cylindrical type and had them tested for theobromine and caffeine. Sure enough, the tests came back positive, and we now know that the Ancient Puebloans were trading for chocolate grown 1,200 miles to the south in Mesoamerica. These date to 1000 CE.

[photo: Chaco Chocolate Vessel]

The Mesoamericans were drinking chocolate as a valuable beverage going back at least 3,500 years. They were using chocolate beans as currency. And we have recently found that they were using chocolate as a means of payment for work and services.

Further studies in smaller housing units in Mesoamerica, where poorer people lived, contain those cylindrical vessels that have tested for the presence of chocolate. So chocolate was a huge commodity in the Mesoamerican economy.

Patricia Crown followed up on these studies and did the same research on these vessels in smaller units in the Chaco Canyon, close to Pueblo Bonito and further afield, and found the same phenomena. Poorer folks had access to chocolate, probably as payment for services.

The Chaco culture had its florescence from 850-1150 CE. So chocolate was finding its way to the Chaco culture from Mesoamerica as early as 1000 CE, as we know from dating the Chaco vessels.

Then came the huge surprise, still a mystery. Dorothy Washburn, from the University of Pennsylvania, tested shallow “Abajo Red on Orange” bowls at the site of Alkali Ridge, far to the north of Chaco in Utah. And to her surprise, they contained theobromine and caffeine – in other words – chocolate!

The folks at Alkali Ridge were an extension of the Ancient Puebloan culture far to the south, and these Red on Orange bowls were different from the usual pottery found in the area. And they date to 780 CE, a full two centuries before chocolate at Pueblo Bonito.

This is an astounding find for many reasons. How did this happen? Why is this so much further north from Mesoamerica and yet the dates are 200 years earlier than the Chaco Culture dates? Why have there been no finds of chocolate between this Utah site and the New Mexico sites on the way to Utah? How did it arrive there? Who transported it? Mysteries now abound.

This coming June, I will give a Zoom talk for our membership on this whole subject with more material, some answers, and even newer discoveries. I hope to see you all there.

Friday, April 2, 2021

 Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI

Setting the Example in Modern Archaeology

~ reflections by James Meierhoff, PhD Candidate UIC ~

In the wake of the recent world-wide social movements we have experienced and witnessed lies the future role of anthropology in our society. While present issues of ethnic disparities and economic inequalities have come to the fore, our collective history, our understanding of ourselves as a community, a country, a culture, are also being questioned. How can perspectives and past experiences of all people be included in that history? (One only need to review the issue of historical monuments in the USA for one such debate.) Academically, the subfield of archaeology has been focused on trying to understand and relate to its past – which is deeply rooted in colonial institutions, perspectives, and goals – in order to understand its future. But what is sometimes overlooked is archaeology’s present.

    Perhaps the most productive way forward was demonstrated in March to the CAS and its guests during the presentation Connecting People, Past and Present:  Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI. The talk was collaboratively presented by Dr. Heather Walder, Lecturer of Archaeology & Anthropology at UW La Crosse and Marvin DeFoe THPO (Tribal Historic Preservation Officer) of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Their research is based in Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin, the first of its kind in the United States.  

    Their project’s framework is based on the concept of “Community Based Participatory Research”, which provides a methodology for engaging Native and local communities as equal partners of archaeological research. The researchers at Frog Bay approach their project collectively:  community stakeholders and traditional archaeologists engage in the research together in an immersive environment, thus providing a platform for differing perspectives to inform the archaeological data generated. This allows Native perspectives to enhance and inform the interpretation of archaeological material collected while  outside researchers (often field school students) can experience what life was like, and in many ways still is, at Frog Bay. 

    At the core of Community Based Research are often divergent but necessarily shared goals. Long gone should be the days of archaeologists simply seeking permission to perform their research in a community for their own ends. Instead, conversations should commence with local, often descendant groups, inquiring how archaeology can enhance understanding of their past, and collectively devise plans on how to accomplish those shared goals together.  The speakers illustrated very well how this can work. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

 Connecting People, Past and Present:

Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI

Speakers: Heather Walder, PhD & Marvin DeFoe, THPO
March 28, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr. Heather Walder and THPO Marvin DeFoe will be the March 28 virtual lecturers.

In northern Wisconsin is a recently developed and ongoing collaborative program, Gete Anishinaabeg Izhichigewin [Ancient Anishinaabeg Lifeways] Community Archaeology Project (GAICAP). It is a shared effort between the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) and academic archaeologists.

Dr. Walder relates: “Our project began in 2018 with the return and reanalysis of pre-contact and historic artifact collections from a Beloit College 1979 field school for curation at THPO, followed by excavations in Frog Bay Tribal National Park. Work focused on a parcel of the park repatriated to Red Cliff through a purchase from a private landowner in 2017.”

Driven by shared interest in protecting and understanding the multicomponent Archaic through Late Woodland period occupations at the Frog Bay Site (47BA60) and others nearby, this project involves Red Cliff community members, students, and additional stakeholders in all stages of planning, research design, excavation, and interpretation. Young people and adults are involved in excavating, flintknapping and in cooking, for example.

Distinctive aspects of the site – such as a lithic industry based on the reduction of locally available quartz cobbles – link its inhabitants with those of other nearshore sites in the Apostle Islands and wider western Lake Superior region, while non-local lithic materials speak of more distant social and economic connections in the midcontinent.

This presentation will focus on the results of the 2018 and 2019 excavations and community-based events and outreach related to the Frog Bay site, sharing evidence of the long-term continuity of Native people going back at least 5,000 years at the site. In 2021, they hope to return for more fieldwork and public programming, as long as they can do so safely. For the upcoming season, work will be on a much more recent historic site; plans include an archaeological survey of an area known as the “Old Pageant Grounds,” which was the location of an early 20th century tourist pageant in 1924 and 1925.

Heather Walder is an anthropological archaeologist (PhD 2015, UW-Madison) interested in interregional interaction and diaspora communities of the Upper Great Lakes during the 17th century and long-term cultural continuities in the region.  She is a Lecturer at UW-La Crosse and also a Field Museum Research Associate specializing in elemental analyses of glass trade beads and other artifacts to learn about colonial-era interactions and exchange networks.  In 2018 and 2019, she co-directed GAICAP, along with Dr. John Creese of North Dakota State University, and THPO Marvin DeFoe. Collaborative, community-based research and lab-based analytical methods inform her scholarship and teaching. 

Marvin DeFoe (Anishinabe name Shingway Benase which means sounds coming from Thunderbirds’ wings) is of the Namay (Sturgeon) Clan. His current work is THPO Tribal Historical Preservation Officer for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, protecting sacred, archeological, and burial sites past, present and future. 

He writes “Our community in which I live is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, which we call Red Cliff.  I am one of 1,500 tribal members that reside here. My education is primarily attending Anishinabe school, lifelong learning of our traditions, stories and knowledge. I have been taught by private professors that we call Elders.”

Join us on Zoom (or Facebook Live) on Sunday, March 28, as we explore the fascinating work of these collaborators.  Members sign on early at 3:15pm for an informal period before we open to the public at 3:30pm.

Topic: Dr. Heather Walder & Marvin Defoe,THPO -
“Connecting People, Past and Present:  Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI”
Time: Mar 28, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Mike Ruggeri Reports

Keeping an Eye On 

Archaeology News & Events

Who Built Serpent Mound

The phenomenal archaeological site of Serpent Mound in Ohio has been the subject of a growing recent controversy among Midwest archaeologists as to who built Serpent Mound and when.
There are two important cultures in ancient times in the area, the Adena culture and the Fort Ancient culture. The Adena culture spanned 1000 BCE-100 CE and lived in the area of the site then, while the Fort Ancient culture lived there from 1000-1650 CE, a thousand years later.

The Adena lived in what is now Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and surrounding areas. They created elaborate earthworks, including sacred circles, as well as mounds. So they were capable of constructing this huge effigy.
The Fort Ancient people were a farming culture, and many believe they introduced maize farming to the area. They were also mound builders. They constructed low, plateau-like mounds used to defend their villages or as ceremonial places. Some are thought to have been used to record solstices and other important astronomical events. So some of the signatures of the effigy match Fort Ancient iconography and build.

Serpent Mound is the largest effigy mound in the world, stretching 1,348 feet, built from thick layers of ash and clay anchored by rocks over the top, and then a thick layer of soil over the stones so that grass and vegetation could cover it. It was built in the shape of a serpent with its head directly aligned with the setting sun on the summer solstice. It is built at the edge of a four mile wide meteor crater.

The controversy centers on the construction dates for the effigy mound. Those believing it was constructed by the Fort Ancient culture believe it was built at 1070 CE. The other group of archaeologists believe it was constructed by the Adena culture at 320 BCE. There are three burial mounds adjoining the serpent, one Adena and two Fort Ancient and a Fort Ancient village. The largest group have a large number of radio-carbon dates from the mound and surrounding areas indicating that the Fort Ancient culture built the effigy mound. They also have Mississippian related dates and iconography contemporaneous with the Fort Ancient culture showing similarities in the serpent style.

The team believing the much earlier Adena culture built Serpent Mound have recent radio-carbon dates in the mound itself dated to the Adena culture, but these findings are questioned.

The head of the giant serpent is constructed in a U-shape looking like it is ingesting an egg. The serpent has seven coils which may align with the phases of the moon. Since the head aligns with the sun on the summer solstice and the body could represent phases of the moon, this structure combines both solar and lunar alignments.

The Fort Ancient adherents base part of their proof on the art and iconography of the Mississippian Civilization to the east. They look to Picture Cave in Missouri for the Fort Ancient design styles of the serpent. Radio-carbon dates from Picture Cave match radio-carbon dates taken at Serpent Mound. Immigrants from the Mississippian Civilization were making their way into Ohio to escape severe droughts at that time. They would have brought with them Mississippian religious ideas. One of the main ideas would have been the idea of a great serpent, Lord of the Beneath World, who would help in productive harvests. The intertwining of the Great Earth Goddess with the serpent in the Mississippian world is a constant theme. And there is a cave painting at Picture Cave (which I was able to find after a lot of research) showing a serpent figure with the head shaped in a U-shape just like the head of the serpent at Serpent Mound. There is also the Mississippian chunky ball game where the round chunky stone is associated with the sun, which may have something to do with the head of the serpent swallowing a round object representing the sun.

Both cultures would have seen eclipses of the sun, so the head of the serpent swallowing a round object may be a religious depiction of those events in the iconography of the serpent swallowing the sun.

After having done extensive research for this article, I strongly believe Serpent Mound was built by the Fort Ancient culture. Finding the Picture Cave, Missouri coiled serpent cave painting with the U-shaped mouth which was contemporaneous with the Serpent Mound construction, and with Mississippians entering that area at the same time, it is pretty certain the builders are Fort Ancient – despite the serpent burials and an Adena artifact you can view in the slide show I created for this article: <>


Thursday, March 11, 2021

 Becoming “Equestrian” in the Bronze Age

Horse teeth, bones, and DNA: Our Earliest Connections

~ report by Anne Wilson-Dooley ~

 Guest speaker for the CAS last month was Dr. Kate Kanne, a major researcher on Bronze Age Hungary when tamed/domesticated horses were arriving in Europe.  Her work has required detailed analysis of archaeological excavated remains, settlement patterns, DNA of horse populations, comparative horse anatomy, and strontium isotope results for both the human and horse populations.

You can watch the entire lecture presented and recorded on Facebook Live: <> where 60 viewers took the opportunity to join a core group of 32 in our Zoom and many more have watched the recording.  

Here are some highlights:

The first documented interaction human and horse was of Neanderthals eating horse meat ca. 400,000 years ago. The importance of horses to Upper Paleolithic peoples is highlighted by the anatomically correct horses beautifully represented in cave paintings such as Chauvet and Lascaux in France and elsewhere.

 Much of the early horse taming/domestication has to be inferred and is centered in the steppes of western Asia.

When did our ancestors begin riding horses? A very important indicator is in the bones of our ancestors. When horseback riding is a usual activity, there is an elongation in the hip socket from essentially circular to more oval; this is more pronounced when individuals have begun to ride as children. Another indicator is from metal bits found in archaeological remains, and wear on the teeth of horses associated with the metal bits. The earliest bridles and bits and saddles were made of organic materials which did not survive, but habitual use of non-metal bits does cause some specific types of erosion on the horse teeth.

Dr. Kanne’s major research area is the Carpathian Basin of central Hungary and its Middle Bronze Age sites, 2000-1450 BCE. Hungary has 1000s of barrows (burial) and settlement sites. It has the richest grasslands of Europe so was a prime location for horse cultures. A very important finding is that in both male and female humans both had the elongated sockets. Citing remains for one site, Érd-Hosszúföldek, she observed ‘it looks like all of the people are riding; probably using horses for riding and traveling.’ This along with other items refutes an assumption that the Middle Bronze Age societies were very hierarchical with men having a primary position and warfare being prevalent. 

The Q + A period following the presentation on Zoom was lively.  Be sure to join us “in person” for our next lecture.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Becoming “Equestrian” in the Bronze Age

Speaker: Katherine S. Kanne, PhD
February 28, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr.  Katherine Kanne is our next featured speaker in this season’s online lectures.  She will address us on a Zoom on Sunday, February 28, beginning at 3:30pm CST, although members are invited to join informally before the talk at 3:15pm.

Dr. Kanne poses this question: ‘How have horses changed us?’ The answer may seem obvious. After all, horses have had a singular impact on human societies and in our personal lives. There is an academic and popular consensus that horses had a revolutionary impact on our history. This is generally envisioned as a technological advancement in transportation and warfare, increasing wealth and connectivity, and spurring the development of more hierarchical societies. With ramifications evident today, linkages between horses and elite authority are suggested to have originated in the Eurasian Bronze Age, c.2200-1000 BCE. However, these roots are assumed rather than demonstrated. Between the earliest domestication efforts in the 3rd millennium BCE, and the widespread appearance of mounted warfare in the 1st millennium BCE, we know very little about the ways in which horses actually changed the people and societies that adopted them, or what the nature of the human-horse relationship was at this crucial stage.

In this talk, Dr. Kanne will discuss what we currently know about horse domestication and early human-horse relationships with the advent of new archaeological and ancient DNA research. She will show how archaeologists discern domestication and document early riding and chariotry, leading up to the results of her research of early horse use and riding in the Hungarian Bronze Age.

Combining the study of horse bones, human bones, and bridle bits, in her work, Dr. Kanne has identified multiple lines of evidence that coalesce to demonstrate the importance of horses in Middle Bronze Age Hungary, c.2000 BCE. She discovered the earliest evidence of riding in people, which corresponds with the appearance of fully domesticated horses and new types of bridle bits. This is supported by broad changes in equine demography, with evidence for trade of horses, a steady increase in height, along with wear from bridle bits, and bony pathologies consistent with riding and injury care. 

What is most striking here is that ordinary women and men riding horses to herd and travel built these long-lived communities that were less hierarchical than previously thought. Like metallurgy, horses were not associated with any one group or social class. Nor was their use restricted by sex. This interpretation challenges traditional grand narratives for the European Bronze Age, which see elite male warriors driving chariots, desirous of bronze, instituting new forms of exclusionary governance. With a co-evolutionary partnership revolutionized during the Bronze Age, horses continue to enrich our lives, improve our health, and impact the economy and environment. Learning how this partnership was forged can help us understand why horses have retained our enduring fascination, and how they can continue to impact our future in meaningful ways. 

Kate Kanne is an Instructor and Research Affiliate in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, where she earned a PhD. Her BA and MS in Anthropology are from Purdue University. Between degrees, she was the Project Coordinator and archaeologist for Purdue Cultural Resource Management, coordinating public sector survey and excavation in forty-two counties in Indiana, while maintaining a dual career in the horse industry. 

Dr. Kanne specializes in human-animal-environment interaction and archaeological theory, with a current focus on early equestrianism in Eurasia from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE. Her dissertation research, from which this talk originates, is in press with Current Anthropology, with additional publications forthcoming. She has presented her research at a number of major European and American archaeology and equestrian history conferences and will serve as an assistant editor for the new journal Cheiron: The International Journal of Equine and Equestrian History. Her current project, Becoming Equestrian in Bronze Age Europe: Archaeology of the Equestrian Revolution, tracks the westward spread of domesticated horses and riding, which aims to identify the factors that led to the rise of mounted warfare broadly throughout Eurasia at the turn of the 1st millennium BCE.

Be sure to join us online for her lecture and conversation beginning at 3:15PM CT for members and 3:30PM CT for start of the lecture!

Topic: Dr. Katherine Kanne - Becoming "Equestrian" In The Bronze Age
Time: Feb 28, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Sunday, February 14, 2021



Mike Ruggeri Reports  

Keeping An Eye On Archaeology News & Events 

The Enigma of the T-Shaped Doors in Southwest

If you have been to Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, you have seen many T-shaped doors at that site. What they represent and why they were designed that way is still a mystery in Ancient Southwest studies today. The foremost expert on this phenomenon is Steve Lekson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado. The T-shaped doors phenomenon stretches from Chaco Canyon to Aztec Ruins and Mesa Verde 160 miles north of Chaco, and all the way south to Chihuahua, Mexico, 700 miles south, and into the high cliffs of the Sierra Madre north of the site of Paquime in Chihuahua.

The first T-shaped doors constructed at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico were built between 850-1125 CE. The Chacoan complex disintegrated and the next construction of T-shaped doors appeared at Mesa Verde and Aztec Ruins 160 miles to the north, constructed between 1110-1275 CE. The last set of T-shaped doors were constructed 700 miles south at the site of Paquime between 1250-1450 CE, and high up in cliff houses in the Sierra Madre in the same time period.

 Steve Lekson has written about a concept he calls the Chaco Meridian to explain these time periods. The Chacoan complex population emptied out at around 1125 CE. North for 160 miles, there is a florescence of big construction including T-shaped doors at Aztec Ruins and Mesa Verde starting at the time Chaco was depopulated. Construction techniques including the T-shaped doors were similar to Chaco. In 1275, that complex collapsed and 700 miles to the south at the large site of Paquime, T-shaped doors appear again from 1280-1450 CE. And there are more T-shaped doors there – hundreds appear there. Lekson can show with his Chaco Meridian theory that if you walk directly south from Aztec ruins to Paquime, it is a very straight line just as it is from Chaco to Aztec. So large populations from these three areas walked in straight lines between one complex to the other over 150 years. 

The T-shaped doors at Chaco are found only in the Great Houses at Chaco in prominent exterior places looking out over plazas. When new construction took place at Aztec and Mesa Verde, a democratization of the doors took place. They then appear in big houses and smaller houses as well, and some are interior doors rather than all being exterior doors. At Paquime in the last phase, they become universal.

In the cliff sites of the Sierra Madre at the same time, there is room for one T-shaped door in these cliffside spaces. In some, murals of the serpent are painted around the doors. Murals of these serpents have been found at the sites to the north. There are also a few cave drawings in this general area of these T-shaped doors. And at Mesa Verde, mugs have been found with the T-shape carved into the ancient cups. At Paquime, there are T-shaped smaller altars that are portable. 

So What Do They Mean?
Obviously, the doors mean something socially. The early construction was at Great Houses only at Chaco. So they were meant only for the elite. So they are socially important. But then they became democratized at phase 2 and 3. So the elite were not the only ones that could make these doors for their abodes, perhaps indicating a change in political and/or religious structure. But beyond that, we find the serpent murals surrounding these doors in some places, and the T-shaped portable altars and in ceramic mugs. So the meaning behind this shape has to still come into view.

A Maya Origin?
And finally, the newest research being done in this shape comes into view far to the southwest at the Maya site of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico by archaeologist Mark Callis. There are several T-shaped windows found there dating to 600 CE that certainly look like the same T-shape from the southwest. Callis believes this is related to the God of wind, spirit and water,  reminiscent of the plumed serpent. Wind and water would be important at the Ancient Southwest sites as well. 

So here is a new piece of the puzzle that I do not have space to discuss now. I have created a photo album for you so you can see all that I have talked about here <>.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Indigenous Illinois in Early America

January 31 Virtual Meeting Sets Attendance Record

~ report by Anne Wilson-Dooley ~

For 130 attendees, Dr. Robert M. Morrissey, associate professor of history at U of I Champaign-Urbana, wove together a revamped view of the history of our central states proto- and early historic period gleaned from French historical writings and archeological and ecological studies. It involved large settled populations, trading, warfare, taking of captives, slavery, fire and new foreign colonial actors.

The largest population center in colonial America from 1660-1700 was the Midwest and central Illinois River basin. In 1673, Marquette first visited The Grand Village of the Kaskaskia located on the north bank of the Illinois River across from our Starved Rock State Park. Morrissey estimates there may have been upwards of 18-25,000 indigenous peoples in the vicinity, primarily of the Algonquian language family. The largest portion were the Illinois. Continuing arrivals were not merely refugees but traveling to a power center. The Illinois and other groups were already agricultural but it was vast bison herds that made the large settlements possible.
Prairie grasses store vast amounts of energy but it is inaccessible to human consumption. The bison converted the grasses into edible-by-humans biomass. To harvest this biomass the Illinois and others came to understand the use of fire to maintain low grasses on the prairies as more accessible to the bison than the tall grasses.
The Illinois became a prosperous people with much agency in multiple cultural interactions throughout the Midwest within and between the indigenous populations and the French, then later English. Their bison hunting culture was a communal, cooperative and well-organized enterprise, unlike deer hunting which was more solitary. They also raided for slaves. Warriors lost were replaced with captives, and some slaves were sold. In the villages, the French encountered large numbers of women, men frequently having multiple wives, for processing bison meat and hides for family food and trade.
The French wrote of vast numbers of bison hides as a commodity taken to Louisiana for trade. Hides were also decorated and, likely, imbued with further cultural significance.
The Illinois were not victims and exploited; they were opportunistic and power seekers. They were border peoples between ecological and cultural zones. I commend Morrissey’s published writings to you and am looking forward to the publication of his current manuscript.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

In the Middle of Everything:
The Power of Indigenous Illinois in Early America

Speaker: Robert M. Morrissey, PhD

Sunday, January 31, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr. Robert Morrissey, Associate Professor of History at University of Illinois (Champaign), will be presenting on indigenous settlement history in Illinois on a Zoom Sunday, January 31 beginning at 3:30pm.  Members wishing to check in early (especially for our annual elections) are invited to do so starting at 3:15pm.

The Native people of Illinois are not often regarded as key actors in early American history. In traditional tellings, they are frequently cast as desperate victims, beleaguered peoples whose challenges in the face of colonization were so great as to reduce them quickly to a status of dependency.

Historian Bob Morrissey will tell a new and different story about the Illinois Indians in the colonial period. He will explain how they followed a long-term trajectory of pragmatism and innovation, exploiting special opportunities made possible by their location to build power and exercise enormous agency not just in their region, but throughout the Great Lakes and Plains and even in the European power centers of Quebec, Louisiana, and Charleston.

Map credit: Native American tribal boundaries, 1700-1769. Map by James S. Oliver, IL St Mus. After: Helen H. Tanner. 1987. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian history. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. (edited)

By foregrounding Native peoples’ agency and decisions, this presentation will complicate our understanding of the early history of the state and region, challenging tired stereotypes. More importantly, it will examine why the Illinois Country – and particularly the tallgrass prairie environment that the Illinois occupied in the colonial period – was such an important place in early America. 

This presentation will make a case that the Illinois Country and its occupants belong at the center of our understanding of several key themes in early American history. As we celebrate the Bicentennial of the State of Illinois, we ought to revisit the Native American past of our region, as well as the often-ignored significance of the Illinois people in the pre-colonial and colonial eras.

Dr. Morrissey did his undergraduate work at Carleton College and earned 2 masters and PhD (with distinction) in history at Yale University.  He specializes in the history of early America and the Atlantic world, American frontier and borderlands history, ethnohistory, and environmental history.  His first book tells the story of French colonists and Native peoples of the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The book is entitled Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in the Colonial Illinois Country, and it appears in the Early American Studies Series from University of Pennsylvania Press.  His next project is entitled The Illinois and the Edge Effect: People, Environment, and Power in the Tallgrass Prairie Borderlands.  It is a study of the relationship between people and non-human nature in one of North America’s most distinctive ecological and social frontiers from 1200 to 1850.  It is supported by fellowships by the Illinois Center for Advanced Study and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Other new writings are forthcoming in the Cambridge History of the American Revolution, Oxford History of the Midwest, and a volume on early St. Louis co-edited with Peter Kastor and Jay Gitlin from University of Nebraska Press. 

Bob has recently been the Mellon Faculty Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, where he led an interdisciplinary team in programming, research, and curriculum development. Among many other honors and accolades, Bob also helps to organize the Society of Colonial Wars’ Colonial America Lecture Series at the Newberry Library in Chicago. 

Join us at 3:30pm CST or earlier for a social period (and Election - members only) at 3:15pm CST!

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Mike Ruggeri Reports

Keeping an Eye On Archaeology News & Events

New Ancient Americas Archaeological Discoveries and the Critiques

    Recently, I posted the news of an amazing discovery of ancient rock art found in the Colombian Amazon. You can see the post here: <>.

    And as soon as I posted the story, the critiques came pouring in. The critiques were centered on these observations:
    1) It is impossible to date rock art so the 10,500 BCE date cannot be correct.
    2) The Peruvian team were not the first researchers to see this rock art; indigenous people had already seen it.
    3) The rock art site was seen by researchers decades ago.
    4) The site is not as long as the new researchers say since there are gaps in the paintings.
    5) There are much newer rock art depictions at the site which bring us right up to post-colonial times.

    New and striking archaeological discoveries need critiques to point out possible errors in the description of the discovery and even the scientific basis behind the claims made by researchers. As an example, when the first scientifically verified Pre-Clovis site was found at the site of Monte Verde in Chile, critiques from the archaeological community flooded the archaeological world. The Clovis First community would not accept that their theories of the First Americans could be challenged. Others pointed out discrepancies in the proofs made by the research team led by Tom Dillahey. It took 20 years to verify the discovery after many international teams went to visit the site over many years to try to disprove the Pre-Clovis dates at Monte Verde, and finally, the Clovis First idea was proven wrong.
    In the article, it states that the research team dated the paintings by finding the remains of human meals at the site which included the remains of extinct animals dating back to 10,500 BCE. So those stating you cannot date rock art did not read the article that closely.
    Of course indigenous peoples in the Americas saw these paintings first, just as they saw all the pyramids first, later found by modern researchers. The team did not say that indigenous people were unaware of these paintings.
    Yes, researchers saw these paintings decades ago but no research papers were published as a result. This team are the first to do so.
    Yes, there are gaps in the paintings. The researchers did not say there were not.
    Yes, there are much newer rock art paintings contained in these murals. And again, the researchers did not say there were not.
    But the new research found the remains of human consumed meals dating back to 10,500 BCE, and they pointed out that some of the paintings are so high, humans could not reach them without some device. And they found these wooden tower murals which explain how these ancient peoples reached those heights for their paintings. This is ground-breaking.

    So often modern critiques are based on a misreading of the reports and biased assumptions that needlessly criticize new findings with critiques that are simply not valid.

    The real critiques will come from the professional community when the team publishes their research. And those critiques will be made and answered, which is important in the scientific method.