University of Virginia: Archaeology Brown-Bag Workshop

Archaeology Brown-Bag Workshops provide an informal, interdisciplinary venue for presentations of work in progress by students, faculty, and visiting scholars, and for discussion of developments in the recent archaeological literature. Light refreshments are served. Workshops convene more-or-less tri-weekly on Fridays at 4:00-5:30 in the conference room on the second floor of Brooks Hall, unless otherwise noted below.

Want to volunteer a talk or discussion topic? Email Adria LaViolette, or Fraser Neiman.
Fall 2014 Schedule
Sept. 12
Predatory Commerce and Economic Disaster: A Cautionary Tale from the 17th-Century Indian Ocean Economy. Chapurukha Kusimba, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, American University.

Abstract My presentation will model and demonstrate the negative effects of commercial deregulation on global economies using data on the Indian Ocean economy over the past 500 years. I will present a "trading system" model to show how predatory behaviors and agents are selected in a deregulatory climate. These agents work to further reduce regulation while simultaneously intensifying short-term maximization, leading to long-term collapse and disaster for small-scale economies. This change is a departure from traditional network-centric organizations common in ethnic trading groups that emphasize self-regulation and self-limiting behaviors as survival strategies. I use archival, archaeological and archaeometric data, to show that in the long run, deregulation of the macro-economy in the 17th-century Indian Ocean proved disastrous for Asia and Africa.
Oct. 11
Special Event
First-Ever University of Virginia Archaeology Fair. Campbell Hall, Ruffin Hall, an the Fralin Museum, 11:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. For more information, click here.

Oct. 17
Black- and Red-figure Pottery from the Sanctuary of the Nymphs in Athens Renee Gondek, Visiting Scholar, George Washington University. Adjunct Faculty, University of Virginia

Located on the southern side of the Acropolis in Athens, the sanctuary of the Nymphe was a shrine established for the cult of a single Nymph whom some scholars believe was the personification of the Athenian bride. Finds from this sanctuary range from specialized nuptial vessels known as loutrophoroi, some of the oldest ever discovered, to perfume and oil vessels. Since the dates of these votive objects range from the seventh century BCE to the third, it is clear that the shrine had an important place in the Athenian religious sphere. Interestingly, along with its nuptial associations, the sanctuary may have had an additional chthonic aspect as well. Such an interpretation is based on a fourth century stele dedicated to Zeus Meilichios and showing the image of a snake. Ironically meaning "the gentle" or "the gracious one," Zeus Meilichios in the fifth century was Zeus in his underworld aspect.This presentation will investigate the black- and red-figure loutrophoroi discovered at this shrine. In addition to exploring the marital iconography on these vessels, we will also discuss the connection of marriage and death in Ancient Athens and examine fragments from the sanctuary that display Charon, the ferryman of the dead.
Oct. 17 and 18
Special Event
Monticello Archaeology Open House In celebation of Virginia Archaeology Month, join the staff of Monticello's archaeology department for updates on their latest research, including walking tours of the the vanished Monticello Plantation landscape. The Woodland Pavilion at the Monticello Visitor's Center, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. For more information, click here.

Oct. 31
The Language Ghost: Linguistic Heritage among the Monacan People of Central Virginia. Karenne Wood, University of Virginia Department of Anthropology and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Nov. 7
Special Event
The “dirty” material and symbolic work of “state” building in central Madagascar: A Powerful icon/index potentially lost to view among enticing, exotic symbols Susan Kus. Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Rhodes College. Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology Speaker Series.Please note the special time: Friday, Nov. 7, 1:00 p.m.

Abstract The Malagasy poet, patriot and politician, Rabemananjara, wrote: “the virtue of the earth ceaselessly penetrates individuals as daily they walk the land with naked feet” (1970:56). “Earth” is and was a powerful icon/index of Malagasy identity and resistance to both indigenous and external exploitation and colonization. The term ny tany sy ny fanjakana (“the land and the rule”) is the traditional designation for the “state” in Madagascar. I propose to examine the material, linguistic and conceptual attempts, in propaganda and (landscape) projects, to co-join the icon/index of “land” and the symbol of “rule” to meet the needs of one sovereign to reunite and reshape the polity of Imerina (central highlands of Madagascar), and to subsequently envision an expansionist polity. “Land” and “landscape” played not only a powerful role in the crafting of the Merina expansionist polity of the late century, but also in the physical and “visible” imposition of French colonial authority (with political 18th complicity on the part of some elite members of the earlier indigenous expansionist polity) at the end of the 19th century. “States” can beguile us with their material propaganda. The power of the indigenous concrete icon-index of a pinch or a handful of dirt, of “land”, can get lost among brazen symbols of monumental proportion and bedazzling rare and exotic trappings of elite consumption. Nevertheless, “the land” intimately experienced and (be)labored with poetic and philosophical tropes in a society of primary orality, when it was “disarticulated” from “the rule” (ny fanjakana), served to incite and “ground” Malagasy resistance, for more than 60 years, to both corrupt indigenous “rule” and externally imposed colonial presence on the “the land” (ny tany). The examination of indigenous political concepts, when possible for archaeologists, helps call into question facile accession to abstract (and reified) vocabulary associated with “states”. The Malagasy example discussed in this talk contributes to the argument that (1) the co-optation of local icons, indexes and symbols is essential to “state” propaganda when the “constellation of power” is still nascent, (2) however such co-optation is neither facile nor straightforward, and (3) in some cases co- opted symbols can be re-appropriated for critique and resistance at the local level.
Dec. 2
A Landing Place for a New Country: BRIC Excavations at Aapravasi Ghat, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mauritius: Heritage, Indentured Laborers, and Slaves. Dr. Diego Calaon, Marie Sklodowoska-Curie Fellow, IOF, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University and DAIS, Dept. Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, University Ca'Foscari, Venice. Please note the special day and time: Tuesday, Dec. 2, 4:00 p.m.

Abstract. The Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site represents the remains of the Immigration Depot built in Port-Louis, Mauritius, in 1849. The site was chosen by the British Government for the "Great Experiment," aimed at replacing slaves with a new form of labour. It holds strong shared memories associated with almost half a million indentured laborers moving mostly from India to Mauritius to work on plantations or to be transshipped to other parts of the world.

Between 2010-13 an archaeological excavation was carried out in a warehouse beside the site, where the new Beekrumsing Ramlallah Interpretation Centre on the Indenture Labour System (BRIC) has been established. In the 19th century, the warehouse was located near the hospital block and the immigrants' sheds of the depot. The site was connected with a landing place for immigrants, as shown in maps dated 1857, and with a "Patent Slip" (marine runway for hauling up ships and repairing them).

The excavation uncovered a series of harbour infrastructures dating from the mid-18th to second half of the 19th century. The area was initially equipped with a dock, the first French marina of the city, subsequently transformed into a ship slip and furnished with a motorized winch. In the 1860s the site was partially abandoned and used as a dump. The slipway was located behind the old hospital block and most likely the people who worked there disposed of their waste in the empty area. Many ceramic finds could be interpreted as medicinal containers, pharmaceutical bottles and ointment pots. Glass remains were invariably concluded to be small flasks such as chemical and druggist bottles. Among the metal finds, portions of scissors, usually one half, were recovered, and probably functioned as medical tools.

The western (French or British) / south-eastern (Indian and African) ratio among the ceramic objects uncovered is remarkable. Only 1% of the ceramic assemblage can be assigned to eastern (or Indian) production. Unsurprisingly, 99% of the artefacts refer to European productions, and to objects used by British officers and sailors. These data, in term of representation, do not fit the anticipated demographic, with thousands of immigrants and few Europeans. The reason for this skewed picture is clear: immigrants were in transit, and carried few material objects.

According to the archaeological data, it is possible to rewrite the history of the harbour area as an industrial and commercial zone. Docks, slipways, embankments, warehouses, hospital blocks, kitchens, privies, officers' areas and labourers' sheds were part of the same port and landing infrastructure. From this viewpoint the labourers were only perceived as one of the numerous western or eastern type of 'goods' traded in the harbour area.

The excavation's interpretation and narration stimulated an interesting debate around the way in which the archaeological narrative should be presented in the future interpretation centre. The centre, strongly desired and funded by the government, was designed as an "Indian" place for shared memory of the immigration period. The archaeological evidence, on the contrary, positioned the material indicators within a broader perspective, intensely connected with the previous slave trade and the colonial economy of the island. The site evidences an important opportunity to evaluate the complexity of negotiation processes around the "negative" memory of slavery and forced migration to Mauritius. The material memory of the Diaspora is obviously deeply connected to identity-making processes of the country. Through an archaeological perspective and the need to preserve memory, the artefacts are transformed into relics of a "positive" past, grounding the identity of present-day Mauritius.

Spring 2015 Schedule
Jan. 23
Rejection or Reinvention: Rethinking social hierarchy in the post-collapse Colla polity (AD 1000-1450) of southern Peru. Erika Brant, University of Virginia Department of Anthropology.

Abstract. The collapse of the highland state of Tiwanaku, around AD1000, was accompanied by a dramatic uprising against the ruling class. Elite ancestor effigies placed in large open plazas were iconoclastically disfigured, while the Putuni Palace, home to Tiwanaku’s ruling dynasty, was leveled. In the post-collapse period, Titicaca basin peoples abandoned the symbols of Tiwanaku’s authority. A 1000-year tradition of ritual architecture and craft goods disappeared, while ritual practice turned to the worship of ancestors placed in modest burial towers, or chullpas. Does such a transition in ritual architecture and the rejection of state-affiliated material culture signal a reinvention or, conversely, a rejection of hierarchy in the post-collapse period? Excavations conducted at the post-collapse Colla necropolis and pilgrimage center of Sillustani revealed a series of kin-focused ritual compounds as well as a previously understudied domestic sector characterized by multiple elite houses. Such findings suggest a more heterarchical, and possibly situational, role for leadership during the Late Intermediate Period (AD1000-1450). Additionally, mortuary rituals appear to have been decentralized rites that strengthened the interests of various kin-groups while simultaneously thwarting the reemergence of centralized authority in the post-collapse period.
Feb. 17
Obligation, Burden, and Sacrifice among the Classic Maya. Dr. Andrew Scherer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, Brown University.

Abstract. Conquest era Spanish chronicles utilized human sacrifice as proof of the depravity of the Maya and other indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Ancient sacrifice continues to serve as evidence of the "otherness" of the Maya; employed to thrill tourists or to suggest that violence is inherent to the people of Mexico and Central America. Classic period (AD 350-900) Maya human sacrifice was expressed in three general forms - offerings of the self, the defeated, and precious youths - as demonstrated in recent archaeological and bioarchaeological work in the kingdoms of Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan, and El Zotz. Comparison with the iconographic and epigraphic evidence indicates the practice is best understood within a framework of obligation and burden where pain and bodily violence were used to mediate relations between human actors, their ancestors, and supernatural beings (some of whom were quite capricious). Consideration of comparable acts of violence in other societies helps demystify Maya sacrifice.
March 27
In Search of Peasant Communities in Late Byzantine Greece (13th -15th c.). Dr. Fotini Kondyli, Assistant Professor, McIntyre Department of Art.

April 24
The Micromorphology of Community Continuity and Discontinuity at a Israeli Neolithic site. Harris Greenberg, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Archaeology, Boston University.

Workshop Schedule from Past Semesters
For topics and speakers from past semesters, click here.