Living Archaeology Weekend

Students gather at demonstration stations.

Welcome to Living Archaeology Weekend in Kentucky!  On the third weekend of September, every year, over 1500 people travel to the Gladie Learning Center in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, to learn about technologies through time.  The objective of Living Archaeology Weekend (LAW) is to provide a diverse, high-quality, multi-sensory educational opportunity in American Indian and Pioneer technologies and other lifeways, archaeological interpretation, and archaeological site preservation.

The Audience

Each year, the Friday of LAW is devoted to a target audience of over 800 5th graders from local and regional schools.  In recent years, the steering committee developed teacher training workshops, pre-field trip classroom visits, and formal curriculum that can be used throughout the year.  After their visit, students have the opportunity to enter an essay contest addressing the importance of preservation of cultural resources. The winning student receives accolades in the news, and pizza party for their class, and a set of classroom resources for their teacher.

On Saturday, LAW is open to the public and typically draws upwards of 900-1000 visitors.  On both days, the demonstrations are held on the rolling acreage of the Gladie Learning Center. The native technology and lifeways demonstrations are set-up along a creek floodplain, and the pioneer technology and lifeways demonstrations are located at the Gladie Cabin.

The Experience

5th graders try their hand at tanning.The Native Demonstration Area hosts a number of exciting technology demonstrations, including flintknapping, bow-arrow, fishing, blowguns, pottery making, stone bowl and pipe making, willow basket weaving, and cane mat weaving. Visitors can try their hand at spear throwing with an atlatl, cattail mat weaving, cordage making, and hide tanning. At the pump drill demonstration, visitors use flint-tipped drills to make their own shell and rock pendants.

At the plant domestication demonstration, visitors learn about native crops, use native gardening technologies like digging sticks and shell hoes, and earn free packets of native squash seeds. Because the Red River Gorge is a World Hearth of Plant domestication, we have a demonstration on medicinal plant use on Friday. Learning about plants that were first domesticated in Kentucky, and how those plants were used for food, shelter, storage, and clothing is just one of the many experiences at LAW.

Other demonstrations focus on native arts and games. Visitors learn about cane flutes and listen to beautiful music. On Friday, members of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma lead students in the traditional stickball game. On Saturday, they demonstrate the Cherokee marble game and basket making.

Students grind corn that they just husked in the previous station. Next stop: ceiving the cornmeal!

Several of the pioneer demonstrations focus on corn, from farming and processing methods to tools and technology to crafts. At the spinning and quilting demonstrations, visitors can use drop spindles and tack a quilt. Students participating in Living Archaeology Weekend 2011 helped create a beautiful quilt for Community Hospice in Ashland, Kentucky. The blacksmith demonstrates methods of forging, melding, heat treating, and finishing. A longhunter recreator in period dress describes technology and trading on the early Kentucky frontier. Music demonstrations featuring traditional instruments celebrate the rich traditions of Appalachia.

The Gladie cabin, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, formerly served as a hotel, a post office, and a home before being moved to the Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center. Stewardship and preservation are also a primary goal of the event, and visitors are invited to tour the Gladie Cabin and learn about the importance of site stewardship. This particular cabin has been furnished over time with collected materials from the community. Rather than interpret a particular period in the cabin, or take out modern materials, we decided to harness the teachable moment and, next year, ask the visitors to think critically about the cabin and to decide what items might not represent the cabin history accurately.  Do you have ideas on more ways to interpret historic cabins?

Growing and improving

The Gladie Cabin.

The steering committee is always brain storming ways to improve our materials and the experience. One oversight we recognized this year was that the connection between archaeology and the demonstrated technologies is not clear. One solution is to develop signage for each station noting clear, concise examples of archaeological signatures for each technology. We’d appreciate examples or suggestions below!

In addition to improving the actual event, we are constantly seeking new ways to attract educators in our region to the teacher workshop. If you have suggestions on reaching teachers and successfully attracting them to a certified training event, please let us know.


LAW is made possible by a host of private sponsors and, in large part, by the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Kentucky Archaeology Survey, the Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists, and the Kentucky Heritage Council. This year marked the 24th year of the event and we are proud to say that it gets better every year!  Check out our website for more event details and links to education materials ( ).

The World Archaeological Congress, January 14-18, 2013
Early registration ends October 20, 2013.

As members of the Society for Historical Archaeology, I would like to invite you to the Seventh World Archaeological Congress, held in Jordan from January 14 – 18 in 2013. WAC is a vital, diverse, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization which promotes world archaeology. It is our pleasure to remind SHA members that the WAC conference follows directly after the SHA conference in Leicester, UK (January 9-12) and that it is a relatively inexpensive flight away from the UK for attendees.

The World Archaeological Congress holds a dynamic, diverse, and international conference every four years, with a strong commitment to participation by indigenous and underrepresented voices. This Congress should hold particular interest for SHA members, as it is deeply involved in current issues that have near-universal importance in our profession.

Three sessions of particular interest to SHA members might be:

Session Title: Socially Sustainable Development
Organizers: Claire Smith, Flinders University, Australia and Sandra L.
Lopez de Varela, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Mexico

Throughout the world, cultural heritage is at risk, due to the pressures of development, population increases and urban growth. However, we lack much of the basic data and essential tools needed to address the ‘big picture’ challenges of heritage and development. We have not yet identified the most valuable ways of growing a workforce
around cultural heritage, or of building heritage capacity. We do not have the tools to evaluate the social and economic consequences of a loss of cultural heritage. Throughout the world, we are facing an irreversible loss of cultural heritage, without the data to understand what this might mean, not only in terms of lost pasts but also in
terms of lost futures.

This session will present case studies on ways to move forward. It will focus on how cultural heritage can be used to generate jobs, create a sense of connection between people, promote cross-cultural understandings, and contribute to social inclusion and wellbeing. It will present examples of new thinking around cultural landscapes,
development and communities; finding a balance between conservation and development; and using cultural heritage to sustain communities, especially in remote regions.

Decolonizing the Ranks: Using Indigenous and Decolonizing Pedagogies
in Teaching, Mentorship, and Training
Organizers: Sara L. Gonzalez (Carleton College), and Peter A. Nelson,
UC Berkeley (Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria)

Decolonization provides a process for thinking about the ways that our research can and does matter (and to whom?). It involves thinking through the wider implications of the craft of archaeology and examining how the process of interpreting and representing the past is both deeply meaningful and politically powerful. It also entails a willingness to think beyond the traditional scope of research, focusing not solely on the products or results of archaeology, but also on how the process of collaboration offers spaces to empower,
benefit, and advocate for communities. What results from asking a basic question—How and to whom will I make my research matter?—is something that is potentially transformative, for when we highlight our accountability to both discipline and community we change what the goal of science can and should be. Envisioned thusly, archaeology
becomes a tool for increasing our understanding of the past and our ability to empower individuals and communities through that knowledge.

In this session we will consider the role of decolonization in the classroom. We invite participants to examine how engaging with indigenous and/or decolonizing pedagogies has transformed the ways in which you train and mentor the next generation of heritage

Heritage as a ‘common’: a novel perspective on the entanglements of
culture and economy
University of los Andes, Colombia.

“The commons” has emerged in recent years as an exciting arena for the examination of multiple problematic ownership situations around the globe, and thus, of an exit from the simplistic dichotomy of “private” vs. “public” property. In the form of laws, the latter categories have wrought poverty and suffering on a globalized capitalist world.” Commons” can take multiple forms, from pre-industrial remnants in rural Europe to claims by Indigenous communities against Western corporate attempts to appropriate bio-knowledge in South America. Our symposium will discuss its implications in the field of heritage and archaeology. We encourage participants from around the world to share
their ideas in theoretical and empirical papers on the connections between archaeology, heritage and property relations, addressing questions such as:

  • Could “the commons” provide a way out of problematic issues of ownership and the public/private dichotomy?
  • What is the potential of “the commons” in the fight against the commodification of heritage?
  • How can the notion of a “shared” heritage be mobilized by local communities to implement politics of redistribution and rethinking of ownership against an alienated “world heritage” that frames itself as globally “shared” common heritage of humanity?
  • What are consequences of heritage as a commons for identity politics?

Early registration for WAC ends October 20th, register now!

We sincerely hope that you will consider participating in WAC-7!

National Archaeology Day 2012

On Saturday, October 20, 2012 archaeology enthusiasts will have a chance to  participate in a nationwide suite of events during the second annual National Archaeology Day.  Not to be confused with the digital media-flavored bonanza that was Day of Archaeology, National Archaeology Day seeks to connect locals directly to professionals, organizations, and museums through vibrant personal experiences.  This wonderful celebration of all things archaeology is a fantastic opportunity to highlight local resources, reaffirm an institutional commitment to public outreach, or delve into public programming for the very first time.

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), instigator of National Archaeology Day, has identified three overarching goals including: raising awareness of archaeology as a discipline and a resource; emphasizing the universality of archaeological resources, including those right in our “backyards;” and uniting the archaeological community through a focal event (Thomas and Langlitz 2012).  At the time of this writing, almost 100 collaborating organizations (up from the 2011 inaugural year’s 14) will be promoting the day’s activities from across the United States and Canada, and in places as far away as Australia, Cyprus, Romania, Germany, and Ireland (Archaeological Institute of America 2012).  Here in the States, AIA has been joined by the Society for Historical Archaeology, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Society for American Archaeology, the U.S. National Park System, and many more organizations in nearly every state to raise awareness and provide avenues through which the public can get their hands dirty in the archaeology beneath their feet.  Last year’s activities included classroom visits, symposia, conferences, archaeology fairs, student presentations, lab open houses, and lectures (Archaeological Institute of America 2012).

As an Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, I attempted to step out of my zealous outreach shoes to weigh the benefits of such a day for those who are less publicly inclined.  Relating the intricacies of the archaeological process to the general populace is not always easy or even instantly gratifying.  However, no one can deny that in this current economic and pedagogic climate it behooves us to try.

Now, more than ever, the archaeological community needs to inspire.  Such a lofty goal may not be as hard as you think.  A perusal of the more than 400 events listed on the AIA’s National Archaeology Day events calendar include such things as a display of Pennsylvania State Museum and Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology’s dugout canoe in Hamburg, Pennsylvania and a tour of the Dragonfly Petroglyph Site sponsored by the Grant County Archaeological Society and Gila National Forest.  The AIA in Kansas City will be offering a talk entitled “Spying on the Past: Satellite Imagery and Archaeology in Southern Mesopotamia.”  The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site’s Archaeology Day includes collections tours, lectures, kid’s activities, special exhibits and more.  We at the southwest region of Florida Public Archaeology Network plan to offer a Project Archaeology teachers’ workshop, so that educators can bring structured archaeology curriculum into their classrooms.  A whole range of activities and events fall well within the scope of National Archaeology Day’s premise and are sure to appeal to a wide array of tastes and interests.

What inspired you to dive into archaeology?  Was it a museum visit?  Was it a trip to a lab or an archaeological site?  Did you hear one awesome lecture that stimulated your thirst for more?  We, as professionals “in the know,” are in the position to create great change.  Passion comes from knowledge and knowledge comes from sharing.  By inspiring and educating, we can reshape (albeit, sometimes on a painfully slow pace) public opinion and, most importantly, public support of our beleaguered cultural and archaeological resources.  All it takes is to go back to that one “aha!” moment that led you to where you find yourself today.

I feel another important emphasis is National Archaeology Day’s tenant to unite the archaeological community under a focal event.  We may sometimes feel as though our institutions are lone archaeo-bubbles awash in a cultural vacuum.  I see Archaeology Day as a perfect opportunity to reach out to the institutions around you.  Why not join up with the county museum, the historical house museum, or the battlefield site near you to put on an archaeology activity or a lecture series?  Bigger events that draw more visitors are more feasible when multiple parties come together under one overarching flag.

Excited?  Interested in joining the fun?  There is still time for you or your institution to sign on.  Fortunately for us all, the AIA National Archaeology Day website has everything tied together neatly.  Submit your group’s name to become a Collaborating Organization or donate to the cause by becoming a Sponsor.

Too late for you to plan and promote an activity for 2012?  Check out the Calendar of Events and blog for opportunities near you to help you plan for next year!  National Archaeology Day is also on Facebook and Twitter.  Make sure to use the hashtag #NatlArkyDay while tweeting from one of the amazing National Archaeology Day events!

It is heartening to see how well received National Archaeology Day has been.  I find it to be a positive sign of things to come, despite our current institutional concerns.  Will you be participating in National Archaeology Day? How will you be participating?  Can you translate your archaeological “aha!” moment for a new audience?  Do you think that events like National Archaeology Day have the power to inspire a long-term shift in support for archaeological and cultural resources and institutions?

If you are participating, please share with us in the comments below, on our Facebook Page, or send us a message on Twitter. We’d love to hear about it, and to let other people know about how historical archaeology will be represented!