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DOWN TO EARTH: EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT CRASH SITES OF THE MOJAVE

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Since the dawn of the jet and space ages, Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles, has been the principal place for testing experimental aircraft. As a result, the landscape around it is peppered with crash sites. These crash sites represent the meeting of the apogee of American technological sophistication, with the perigee of failure – the intersection of lofted ambition and terrestrial tragedy.
 
The eleven crashes described in this exhibit were selected from among the more than six hundred that have occurred in the western Mojave Desert, and cover the range of experimentation and advancement of aircraft over the past 70 years of jet-propelled flight. With one exception, all of these flights originated at Edwards, where they were expected to return. Instead they crashed outside, in the public realm, where they remain as accidental monuments to one of the most advanced forms of technology and human endeavor.

This CLUI exhibit was based on the work of Peter W. Merlin who, with Tony Moore, founded the X-Hunters Aerospace Archeology Team, the nation’s experts on locating crash sites of experimental aircraft. Merlin and Moore have studied and documented aerospace accidents and incidents for more than 25 years, and have located and visited more than 100 crash sites of historic aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base and Area 51.

Explore the online gallery here.

Losing Ground: Preserving New York’s Historic Battlefields

This February, a new documentary focusing on the War of 1812 airs on WCNY.  Entitled Losing Ground, the documentary will focus on the ongoing struggle archaeologists and historians face in New York State to preserve sites associated with the War of 1812.

From WCNY:

Walking past any patch of land along the shore of Lake Ontario, many would not immediately recognize the rocky coast as bearing witness to some of our nation’s most notorious conflicts. The depth of the Great Lakes and their wind-swept shores hold the memories of a war; waged between a young American republic, growing Canadian territories and a bruised British empire.

Many historians distinguish the War of 1812 as America’s second battle for independence. Trade embargos, sailor impressment and Indian land expansion were among the larger grievances that pitted the newly minted United States against a British Empire still wrapped up in the Napoleonic Wars. And although it is considered a minor engagement, the War of 1812 remains an important turning point in our nation’s history. It was the first war America would wage under its freshly printed constitution. The conflict ignited a fierce spark of patriotism and pride that would help usher the country into a new age of prosperity.

200 years later, celebrations across New York and Canada commemorate the veterans and battlefields of the War of 1812. But with each passing year, there is less and less physical evidence of this significant part of New York history. As the population grows and unchecked development expands, preservationists worry that the lands that played a vital role in U.S. history are disappearing at an alarming rate. Once they are gone, so too are the opportunities of enrichment for generations of future Americans.

Book Recommendation: Skendleby

18734861Happy New Year!  Though terribly busy with work and teaching, I’ve just finished an excellent read that I’d very much like to share with diggers and non-diggers alike.  The novel is called Skendleby, it is written by Nick Brown, a UK based author, instructor and archaeologist.  While eager to share the details, I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling the plot while still enticing you to chase down a copy of the book.

In a nutshell, Skendleby is a haunting archaeological adventure set on the plains of Cheshire.  What begins as a routine CRM dig turns rather quickly into a horror laced mystery with a crew of cursed shovelbums and a vengeful mystical force at the very center.  At 237 pages, it is a quick but plot-packed read.  It avoids the pitfalls of most current horror literature, mainly predictability.

While Skendleby is written by an archaeologist, it isn’t necessarily written for archaeologists.  Brown successfully manages to splice just the right amount of technicality into his work to keep a professional interested, while dodging hang ups on the minute details of stratigraphic profiles and radiocarbon dating that may alienate someone unfamiliar with archaeological fieldwork.  Truth be told, the fact that the story centers around a group of archaeologists is just a bonus.  This is a novel that any fan of horror could enjoy.

I have only two gripes.  First, I wish the book had been longer.  Like I said, it was a quick read and the story was great; I could have stayed in that world a bit longer.  Second, some of the characters lack being memorable.  This doesn’t in any way affect the plot, just something I wanted to point out and maybe something that could have taken care of gripe number one.  Fortunately, Brown manages to form a close-knit group of central characters (some likable, some loath-able) that kept the story moving and my interest peaked up to the final page.

I’m anxious for more by Brown.  As I write this I’m about sixty pages deep into Luck Bringer, his first novel centered around the Persian Empire.  According to his website, Skendleby is part of a planned Ancient Gramarye series, so I kindly request that he get to work on the next in the series.

Skendleby is published by New Generation Publishing and is available via online retailers.  Explore Nick Brown’s website by clicking here.

Dig it: Hawks’ online course set to start in three weeks

In just three weeks, John Hawks’ Human Evolution: Past and Future is set to begin.  For those unaware of this valuable online learning tool, I’ve conveniently copied and pasted all of the information below.  Anything not covered in my CTRL-C CTRL-V can head to his site or the course information page.

Human Evolution: Past and Future

Introduction to the science of human origins, the fossil and archaeological record, and genetic ancestry of living and ancient human populations. The course emphasizes the ways our evolution touches our lives, including health and diet, and explores how deep history may shape the future of our species.

About the Course

This course covers our evolutionary history across more than seven million years, from our origins among the apes up to the biological changes that are still unfolding today. If you enroll, you’ll encounter the evidence for the earliest members of our lineage, as they begin the long pathway to humanity. You’ll see how scientists are learning about the diets of ancient people, using microscopic evidence and chemical signatures in ancient teeth. We will explore together the exciting fossil discoveries of the last ten years, which have shaken up our notions of the origin of human culture and our own genus.Genomics has fundamentally transformed the way we understand our evolution, in many ways opening the direct evidence of our history to anyone. The course will teach you how to look inside the genomes of humans, Neandertals and other ancient people. If you have used personal genomics to get your own genotypes, the course will guide you in connecting genetics to your ancestry among ancient humans.The course brings a special focus on the rapid evolutionary changes of the last 10,000 years. You’ll learn about the consequences of our shift to agriculture, and the ways that people of industrialized nations are still changing today. At the end, we trek forward to anticipate what evolutionary changes may be in store for humanity in the future, using our knowledge of history and scientific understanding to inform our speculations.

Recommended Background

All are welcome to participate and view materials, which assume no special background. To complete some exercises, a basic knowledge of high school-level biology and algebra will be necessary.

Course Format

The materials are designed to guide students on their own distinctive paths of discovery. Short documentary videos highlight the most up-to-date science and bring students virtually into some of the most famous archaeological sites. With a series of interviews, students will hear about new ideas from many of the world’s leading experts. A series of activities give students an opportunity to see their measurements next to those provided by the worldwide group of students. Students can dig deeper by investigating ways that humanity may evolve into the future.

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Dear House, Continue to support publicly funded archaeological research

On September 30, 2013, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) published an opinion piece in USA Today arguing for a reassessment of how the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards its research grants. Cantor and Smith questioned “why the NSF chooses to fund social science research including archaeology…over projects that could help our wounded warriors to save lives.” The Representatives argued that we must reprioritize “the government’s research spending in favor of improving Americans’ quality of life.” You can read The Society for Historical Archaeology’s President, Paul Mullins’ response here.

This attack comes at a time when funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), another source for publicly-funded archaeological research, is facing a proposed 49% cut in the House of Representatives.

The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) is reminding our lawmakers about the economic, social, and cultural values of publicly-funded archaeological research. If you believe that Archaeology Matters and want to voice support for continued federal funding that supports archaeological research, please:

1. Sign this petition
2. Share this petition with your friends, colleagues, family, and the communities you work with through email, Facebook, and Twitter. Tell them #WhyArchMatters to you, and how it benefits them.

When you sign the petition, the following message will be sent to Representatives Cantor and Smith on your behalf:

To Representatives Cantor and Smith:

NSF funding for archaeological research currently represents only 0.1% of NSF’s budget. This level of funding is very small and has little or no impact on the funding levels for other types of NSF programs; however, this 0.1% funds a wide range of archaeological studies that directly benefit American citizens, both culturally and economically. NSF-funded archaeological research:

- Brings together the economic benefits of preservation, heritage tourism, and job opportunities in a variety of fields (cultural resource management, museums, academia, and others)

- Provides unique educational and enrichment opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds

- Encompasses a broad range of scientific research fields, making science interesting and relevant to elementary, middle school, and high school students. It is a platform for promoting science in American educational programs.

Archaeology matters. We urge you to support continued NSF funding for archaeological research.

Click here to continue to Change.org and sign the petition.

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“Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been.” – Jim Bishop

Day of Archaeology: Societies, Chapters, and Clubs: Oh My!

Here is my post from the June 29th Day of Archaeology:

My name is Kurt Thomas Hunt.  I’m a CRM archaeologist based in New York State and I head up an archaeoblog called Sexy Archaeology.  Sexy Archaeology is one way that I provide public outreach within the field of archaeology by sharing the work that I do alongside what I consider excitingly appealing happenings from around the globe.  I’m also the president of the New York State Archaeological Association’s (NYSAA) Thousand Islands Chapter, one of sixteen Chapters within the Empire State.

For this year’s Day of Archaeology, I’ve chosen to share a brief overview of the NYSAA’s history, highlight the work of my Chapter, and attempt to persuade those who are not already members to join their local archaeological Chapter or Society.

The New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA) is composed of professional and avocational archaeologists primarily within New York State (though residency is not a prerequisite to join). NYSAA exists to promote archaeological and historical study, and research covering the artifacts, rites, customs, beliefs and other phases of the lives and cultures of the American Indian occupants of New York State up to their contact with Europeans and beyond.

The NYSAA was founded in 1916 and there are currently sixteen regional chapters of the NYSAA throughout the State. Each of the chapters holds monthly meetings where they present programs related to New York archaeology. Some of the chapters conduct their own fieldwork with the assistance of both members and volunteers.  The NYSAA also publishes a bulletin and journal and sponsors an annual meeting in the spring of each year.

The Thousand Islands Chapter of the NYSAA was founded in 1994 and hosts over thirty members with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

Our Chapter recently finished hosting a summer dig for its members along the shores of the Indian River, long known to be an essential byway for indigenous peoples through Northern New York.  While a complete understanding of the site is still a ways off, a rough interpretation dictates that the two-acre area was most likely a seasonal Iroquois occupation site.

This rough interpretation is derived primarily from surface finds and excavations performed over the past couple of years.  During this year’s dig, 298 pieces of pottery were unearthed within the first five centimeters of a single 1m x 1m unit.  Other evidence has included flakes of locally sourced chert, projectile points, and just this year a post mold.

Aside from fieldwork, the Thousand Islands Chapter has, in the past, hosted lectures and discussions from a wide range of professionals, organized tours of historical sites, and has provided educational outreach programs for both children and adults across several counties within Northern New York.

Local or regional chapters of your state archaeological society provide exciting opportunities and come with numerous benefits.  Society’s allow the chance for professional individuals to network, avocational archaeologists to hone their craft, and students the opportunity to garner experience from more seasoned individuals.  Regional societies or chapters also afford members of the community the opportunity to better familiarize themselves with the history and archaeology of their area.

I invite you to join your local Chapter and Society.  Not sure where to get started?  The AIA website is a great place to turn, but a simple Google search or an email to your State Historic Preservation Office will also help further your search.  Good luck, and make the most of it!

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