Diggers: making progress

Well it happened and it appears you missed it.  I was on an episode of Diggers.  I expected a torrent of disapproving emails from colleagues or, at least, a few snarky comments from friends.  It’s been a couple of weeks and the only person I have heard from was a former student who thought it was cool that one of her professors was on television.  And this was the show that was going to goad the metal detecting community into a looting frenzy?

So how did I feel about the program?

Initially, relieved.  I was afraid that it would validate everything the naysayers had accused the show of doing and I would be run out of town on a rail.  But it wasn’t like that.  It certainly was not an impeachable offense.  But it wasn’t very good either.  None of my keen archaeological insights or witty repartee with King George and the Ringmaster made it into the show.  I was reduced to a 2 minute bit at the end where I identified some of the swag the boys had recovered.  How did that happen and what should happen next?

When I was approached about having the show visit one of my sites I was initially aghast.  I did not want to have those two loons beeping around my site in search of “nectar.”  However, I was a part of the group that recommended that, to improve the show, they should work with established archaeologists whenever possible.  Hoisted by my own petard!  I had originally arranged for them to look for an 18th century site rumored to be where Blackbeard lived, but they were unable to secure access to the property.  Instead, I had them come out to a 19th century plantation I was surveying.

The shoot went well.  The guys are really quite personable when they are not on camera and being directed in their silliness.  The production company had their contract archaeologist lurk just off camera, to identify artifacts and mark the provenience of the finds.  I, and my students, were filmed doing the right thing and they even allowed me the opportunity to wax eloquently about how archaeology was able to give voice to the disenfranchised slaves on this remote plantation.  I left that day feeling like this might be a good show after all.

Apparently, the pirate angle was just too good to let pass and the director ditched the slave topic and stretched the story line to the breaking point to make it a swashbuckling themed show.  Some of my keen insights made it onto the program’s website, but most of the good stuff was left on the cutting room floor.  What finally made it on air was an entertaining puff piece.  Not anything to really protest against, but is that the best that National Geographic or we can hope for?

I think not.  There has been a shake up at the National Geographic Channels and I have already been in contact with the new program director as well as the head of research.  There seems to be a genuine desire to make it a better show and include more real archaeology.  They have to be careful, though.  The show, as it exists, is a popular one and, as I was informed at a meeting at the recent SAA conference, National Geographic is a non-profit.  The channel generates the funding that supports the society and allows them to give grants to archaeologists.  So, if the channel doesn’t make money, then the support that many of us have enjoyed for our projects goes away.

Would I do again?  You bet. To me, this was an opportunity to reach out to a demographic that doesn’t watch archaeology documentaries.  If we can dispel the lingering ethical issues associated with the show (the placing of values on artifacts needs to go) and sneak in a bit more archaeology, I will be satisfied.  Then we can take what we’ve learned and work with the National Geographic Channel to make a new show that does an better job of showing what we do.

Congressional Attack on National Science Foundation Funding: FIRST Act Moves To Next Phase

by Eden Burgess

On March 13, 2014, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act, or FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), was referred to the full Committee on Science, Space, and Technology for the next phase towards passage by the House.

The FIRST Act, introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee, and Larry Bucshon (R-IN), addresses funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The bill particularly targets social science funding, originally proposing 42% cuts to the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE). Amendments made during markup softened the cuts to the SBE somewhat, reducing funding (to $200M) by 22% from FY14 levels. The SBE Directorate supports “research that builds fundamental knowledge of human behavior, interaction, and social and economic systems, organizations and institutions.” Archaeological projects typically fall within SBE’s purview.

NSF’s Board took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the pending legislation, saying in a statement released on April 24 that “some of its provisions and tone suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose.”

SHA has already taken steps to oppose cuts like those proposed in the FIRST Act, circulating a change.org petition in December 2013 asking that signers express their support for public funding of archaeological research. In April, before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s hearing “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments,” SHA submitted testimony expressing its support for NSF funding. We believe that archaeological research funded by NSF and other public organizations:

  • Brings together the economic benefits of preservation, heritage tourism, and job opportunities in  a variety of fields (cultural resources management, museums, academia and others)
  • Provides unique educational and enrichment opportunities for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds
  • Gives voice to everyday Americans who may not otherwise appear in mainstream historical narratives
  • Promotes career paths in the sciences

Urge your Representative to vote against the FIRST Act, and tell him/her that Archaeology Matters! (Find your Rep here.)

 

SHA 2015 Seattle, Washington (January 6-11, 2015): Call for Papers!

The Call for papers is now open!

The deadline for online abstract submission is July 10, 2014. Mailed submissions must be postmarked on or before July 10, 2014. No abstracts will be accepted after July 10, 2014!

The Organizing Committee for the SHA 2015 Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology invites all of you back to the Pacific Northwest for the second time in the SHA’s history. The 2015 Conference will take place at the Sheraton Hotel in the heart of the city of Seattle, with many restaurants, famous coffee shops, and microbreweries within a short stroll. The conference venue is five blocks from the Pike Place Market and the rejuvenated piers of the Seattle waterfront with ships, waterfront dining, the Seattle Aquarium, and a new enclosed Ferris wheel. As one of America’s gateways to the Pacific Ocean, this is an amazing setting to thinking about our conference theme, “Peripheries and Boundaries.”

As SHA comes to the Pacific Northwest for the second time in the organization’s history we wanted to select a theme that reflects the unique circumstances of the region and addresses some of the issues that frame historical archaeology scholarship in the West. In some ways the theme echoes the historical circumstances of Seattle, a community that was geographically bounded and economically marginal, but whose history transcends those boundaries in the process of becoming one of the 21st century’s economic and cultural centers of the world. We expect that the theme will foster many papers and symposia that explore the many manifestations of boundaries and peripheries in the past – and in the present.

The SHA 2015 Conference Committee hopes to encourage flexibility in the types of sessions offered. Sessions can take the form of formal symposia, panel discussions, or three-minute forums, and each session organizer may organize the time within each session as he/she wishes. Sessions may contain any combination of papers, discussants, and/or group discussion. More than one “discussion” segment is permitted within a symposium, and a formal discussant is encouraged, but not required. All papers will be 15 minutes long. We strongly encourage participants to submit posters, as the latter will be given significant visibility in the conference venue.

The SHA will not provide laptop computers for presenters.  If you are chairing a session in which PowerPoint presentations will be used, you must make arrangements for someone in your session to provide the necessary laptop computer.

The call for papers is posted: http://sha.org/index.php/view/page/annual_meetings

Please review the PDF on the SHA page which has detailed information about the conference, papers, and submission guidelines.

The SHA.org page, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and the Blog will be updated regularly  with conference information with links to hotel reservations, travel tips, travel award application, volunteer forms, and other pertinent information. Be sure to follow the 2015 conference on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #SHA2015.

Any questions about Seattle 2015 can be sent to the Program Chair, Ross Jamieson, at the general program email address: <sha2015program@gmail.com>.

We hope to see you all in Seattle!