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Over the past several years, we have seen many attacks on publicly funded and mandated archaeology in the United States. These attacks occur at the state level, where governors and state legislatures try to defund or outright eliminate state archaeological programs and institutions. We have also seen several attacks at the federal level. Some members of Congress showcase archaeology as a waste of public tax dollars, and others propose legislation to move federally funded or permitted projects forward without consideration of impacts on archaeological resources. These attacks continue to occur, and we expect them to increase in the future. In the past, a vigilant network of historic preservation and archaeological organizations was able to thwart such attacks. The public, however, largely remains an untapped ally. As a discipline, we have not built a strong public support network. We have not demonstrated the value of archaeology to the public, beyond a scattering of educational and informational programs. In this article, we—a group of archaeologists whose work has focused on public engagement—provide a number of specific recommendations on how to build a strong public constituency for the preservation of our nation's archaeological heritage.
While our fascination with understanding the past is sufficient to warrant an increased focus on synthesis, solutions to important problems facing modern society require understandings based on data that only archaeology can provide. Yet, even as we use public monies to collect ever-greater amounts of data, modes of research that can stimulate emergent understandings of human behavior have lagged behind. Consequently, a substantial amount of archaeological inference remains at the level of the individual project. We can more effectively leverage these data and advance our understandings of the past in ways that contribute to solutions to contemporary problems if we adapt the model pioneered by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis to foster synthetic collaborative research in archaeology. We propose the creation of the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis coordinated through a U.S.-based National Center for Archaeological Synthesis. The coalition will be composed of established public and private organizations that provide essential scholarly, cultural heritage, computational, educational, and public engagement infrastructure. The center would seek and administer funding to support collaborative analysis and synthesis projects executed through coalition partners. This innovative structure will enable the discipline to address key challenges facing society through evidentially based, collaborative synthetic research.
Addressing archaeology's most compelling substantive challenges requires synthetic research that exploits the large and rapidly expanding corpus of systematically collected archaeological data. That, in turn, requires a means of combining datasets that employ different systematics in their recording while at the same time preserving the semantics of the data. To that end, we have developed a general procedure that we call query-driven, on-the-fly data integration that is deployed within the Digital Archaeological Record digital repository. The integration procedure employs ontologies that are mapped to the original datasets. Integration of the ontology-based dataset representations is done at the time the query is executed, based on the specific content of the query. In this way, the original data are preserved, and data are aggregated only to the extent necessary to obtain semantic comparability. Our presentation draws examples from the largest application to date: an effort by a research community of Southwest US faunal analysts. Using 24 ontologies developed to cover a broad range of observed faunal variables, we integrate faunal data from 33 sites across the late prehistoric northern Southwest, including about 300,000 individually recorded faunal specimens.
Structure from motion (SfM) mapping is a photogrammetric technique that offers a cost-effective means of creating three-dimensional (3-D) visual representations from overlapping digital photographs. The technique is now used more frequently to document the archaeological record. We demonstrate the utility of SfM by studying red scoria bodies known as pukao from Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile). We created 3-D images of 50 pukao that once adorned the massive statues (moai) of Rapa Nui and compare them to 13 additional pukao located in Puna Pau, the island's red scoria pukao quarry. Through SfM, we demonstrate that the majority of these bodies have petroglyphs and other surface features that are relevant to archaeological explanation and are currently at risk of continued degradation.
This article employs comparative Bayesian chronology building to formally evaluate the quality of a legacy radiocarbon dataset from the southern Appalachian region of the southeastern United States and to interrogate the assumptions that form the basis of the extant chronological narrative for the region. By incorporating alternative assumptions into Bayesian models, a number of alternative chronological frameworks are developed and compared to one another to yield insights into the development of sociopolitical complexity across southern Appalachia between AD 600 and 1600. The treatment of alternative chronological models as working hypotheses concerning the timing, tempo, and nature of sociopolitical transformations makes use of legacy radiocarbon datasets in developing new research trajectories including the encouragement of renewed field- and lab-based investigations. As such, this article provides a case study to illustrate the value of Bayesian chronological modeling in assessing legacy radiocarbon datasets and reevaluating extant chronological frameworks. Beyond initial evaluation of extant datasets and narratives, the methods and procedures outlined below can be used to form baseline models against which newly acquired data can be formally incorporated and interpreted.
The experimental replication of lithic artifacts occasionally encounters issues of standardization and control. Two major issues are how to accurately create a large sample population and how to sample from specific stages over the flaking process. Knappable stone is unpredictable due to inclusions, cracks, and differences in size, texture, and fracture toughness. While this aspect of stone is critical to understanding some aspects of human behavior, decision-making, and skill assessment, in some experimental studies it may hinder other areas. Research for a large study assessing the failure of Folsom preforms during the fluting stage required many knappable facsimiles. The process outlined here uses porcelain as a medium for tackling these requirements. The new method presented here illustrates how a 3-D scanner and printer can be used to record and produce a copy of the artifact form. It then describes how to create a plaster mold of the printed artifact form and, finally, how to cast and fire the artifact replica in porcelain.
In the push to provide further interaction with museum and heritage exhibitions, the internet has become an established venue, offering nearly unlimited space and options for providing extensions to in-person content. These internet-based supplements in many cases outlast the physical displays they are meant to accompany. After the exhibitions have closed and the museums have moved on, the digital content remains, a static placeholder for a particular viewpoint on heritage, curation, and public outreach. Such is the case with the Interface Experience, the Web extension to the exhibition of the same name, which ran for a few months in 2015 (Bard Graduate Center [BGC] 2014a). This site, which remains largely functional, is now disconnected from the exhibition it was meant to accompany, leaving it to stand alone as a study on the connections between digital outputs and materiality.