Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moving Day!

I'm back. also alive. My apologies for dropping off the face of the planet this summer. You know how field seasons are. Also I'm getting ready to move to Ann Arbor, so the blog fell to the wayside. HOWEVER! I'm getting back into it, finishing what I started (ahem...Archaeodigms...), and doing what every other Archaeology PhD student about Archaeology. I'm moving though the blog though, so if you want to keep up with my Archaelogical adventures in the Blogosphere, go to (and bookmark) my new address over at wordpress: See you there!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Final Grad School Update

So I made my decision regarding grad school a few weeks ago, and in the rush that is the end of my undergraduate career at McGill, I completely forgot to update you all (well, the few of you who actually read my blog) as to what that decision was.

I've decided accept the offer of admission to the Anthropology PhD program at the University of Michigan. Done and done. I guess that means I'll have to move myself to Ann Arbor this summer.

The posting frequency will increase again in May as by then I'll have written my last exams and finished my thesis. Accordingly, the next Archaeodigms post will be up in early May. Also, Megalith just had a gig and has another two coming up in the next few weeks, if any of our material gets youtubed I'll be sure to post it here.

The next post will have some sort of substance, I promise. Until next time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Full Stop.

So after some positive feedback from Steve over at Glossographia I refined the gradient divisions on the Arret/Stop map from last post (from 20% increments to 10% increments) to emphasize the hypothesized increased tendency for anglophones to break language laws in regards to stop signs in Montreal. And what do you know? It works. Take a look:

Well I think it's cool. Check the caption on the Arret/Stop map from last post if you need more info. Until next time.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A brief aside...or Stop (if you will)

So it's going to be a while before I post Archaeodigms part 3 as I'm quite busy now and I've got a ton of other work to get done before writing that up. I can however update you some of the work that I'm currently getting done (woooooo...?)!

For those of you who read Steve Chrisomalis' blog Glossographia (and for those of you who don' should!) you may remember him discussing the Stop Toutes Directions project. I'm not really going to explain the project here because I just don't have the time, but I encourage you to check the website out if you are interested. In a nutshell it's a project analyzing various aspects of the distribution of Stop Signs in Montreal, Canada. A few of Steve's former students (myself included) are still working with him to further analyze our large Stop Sign database in hopes of putting together an edited volume for publication. My contribution to the project is producing a GIS of spatial linguistic variation of stop signs vs. spatial linguistic variation of language spoken in the home using census tract data. I've done the GIS as a project for my socio-economic application of GIS class, which I presented today, but I wanted to share the preliminary GIS maps I produced for the project and give a little bit of preliminary interpretation for you all. The following maps are of census tracts we surveyed in the central Montreal area.

Ok, so. The colour gradient of the CTs on this map shows the proportional breakdown (in a percentage) of Stop Signs in central Montreal, the more red the CT polygon is, the higher the proportion of signs in that CT that are 'Stop' signs, the more blue the CT polygon is, the smaller the proportion of 'Stop' signs in that CT. The little pie charts indicate the proportion of language spoken in the home for each CT (taken from census tract data), with red indicating anglophone homes, blue indicating francophone homes, and green indicating bilingual homes. (Click the image for a larger view)

This next map is essentially the last map inverted, with more blue CTs having a higher proportion of 'Arret' signs and more red CT's having a lower proportion of 'Arret' signs. The pie charts represent the same thing as the last map. (Click image for larger view)

This last map is the coolest (I think) in that it tells us the most. In this map the gradient goes from yellow/tan to blue, with yellow/tan CTs representing a low proportion of 'Arret/Stop' signs, and the most blue CTs representing the greatest proportion of 'Arret/Stop' signs. Again, the pie charts still represent the proportions of language spoken at home CT data. (Click image for larger view)

So what does this mean? Well if you look at the maps you can see that there is some distinct clustering and patterns showing up in some areas of Montreal and not in others. In north-western and downtown Montreal there seems to be at least a correlation between a dominance of English spoken in the home and a dominance of 'Stop' signs. In eastern Montreal there also seems to be a correlation between a dominance of French spoken in the home and a dominance of 'Arret' signs. The most interesting pattern is highlighted in the last map. If you take a look at it all of the CTs which have the highest proportion of 'Arret/Stop' signs are correlated with predominantly anglophone areas. Why is this interesting? Because of language laws in quebec which technically make clearly bilingual signs illegal (as both 'Stop' and 'Arret' signs are technically french and thus legal, whereas 'Arret/Stop' signs, which are logically bilingual, are illegal). Now I don't have the time to get into the peculiarities of Quebec language politics, but I think this is enough info to at least give a bit of a primer on the situation. Though I've only shown some correlations here (and we all now that correlation doesn't necessarily mean a causal link), it seems clear that it's predominantly anglophone CTs where the law is being broken most often. This could be because anglophones are a minority in Montreal (and Quebec), and are thus unlikely to report language law infractions, and thus assist in enforcing a provincial language law that puts them at a disadvantage, whereas in predominantly francophone CTs there is perhaps a higher chance that illegal signs are reported as the language laws are intended to preserve the French language and thus benefit Francophones (I think in a cultural heritage sense?). Anyway, this is just a working hypothesis and a preliminary analysis, and some more statistics need to be run, but I thought it was pretty interesting, and I hope you do to!

This post turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, which means I need to get back to work! Until next time (which will hopefully be Archaeodigms part 3)!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Archaeodigms Part 2.5: A Mustached Sidenote

You know who I forgot to talk about in the last post? Sir Mortimer Wheeler! m-m-m-mustache!

This is the mustache that every Archaeologist dreams of sporting on their upper-lip. (Image from

Ok, enough about awesome mustaches. Sir Mortimer Wheeler was part of the culture history generation and was British, which, unless I am totally off, which is possible, because I've never read any of his work, indicated that this legendary mustached man was a culture historian. Sir Wheeler worked in South Asia and excavated the Mohenjodaro Indus Valley Civilization site but his most notable contribution to Archaeology is the box grid method of excavation. You know the one, you've probably used it on a site before (I know I have). It's when you excavate using a bunch of separate square units (usually about 90 cm squared) with 10 cm baulks between them. It's also often called the ice cube tray method. Anyway, so this was definitely a major methodological contribution to Archaeology (as it is still being used today, mostly on sites which don't have access to new fangled mapping TOTAL stations), and I'm going to argue it was positive and born out of the culture historical approach. Thus I'm going to add it to the pro side of the culture history list. So let's recap the new culture history pro/con list:

- Introduction of Seriation
- The standardization of a whole slew of new excavation techniques (including an emphasis on stratigraphy and trenching entire mounds to get at said important stratigraphies)
- Love it or hate it, typology (which could also be put in the cons section, but the entire discipline currently still relies quite heavily on typology, so let's not get too hasty yet...)
- Chronologies, chronologies, chronologies....and master chronologies
- Relative dating using type finds (remember, culture history was the standard in a time before radio carbon dating)
- Sir Mortimer "m-m-m-mustache" Wheeler's box grid (ice cube tray) excavation technique (which fits in with the whole slew of new standardized excavation techniques, but I feel deserves it's own point!)

- Chronologies and typologies became the purpose of Archaeology, the past human behaviours that were supposed to be getting investigated weren't actually getting studied
- An assumption that tends to tie in with culture historical explanations, that change can be explained by migrations and invasions of people and that different types/styles reflect different ethnicities or races (ie. a migrationist definition of change)

Alright there's the updated list. Again I'm going to encourage you all to contribute by posting some comments with your opinions/criticisms/additional points! One last point, I'm pretty sure that the Monty Python skits about Archaeology are poking fun at Sir Morty (I think John Cleese's character in particular). Archaeodigms Part 3: Processual Archaeology, will be up in a while. Until then (or until I come across something else to add the culture history pro/con list), in true Sir Mortimer style, keep digging (ok, I know the book is called "Still digging: Adventures in Archaeology", but there's no way I can make a sentence where the phrase 'still digging' encourges you all to keep plugging away at your respective endeavors).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Archaeodigms Part 2: Culture History

Sorry for the delay on getting this post up, I've been pretty busy. Before I get going into culture history I just want to point out that there have been some interesting and fantastic posts on theory in Archaeology and Anthropology going on both at Chris Ames' blog (The Unsavoury Pipe) and at Steve Chrisomalis' blog (Glossographia). Chris' post discussed the current divide in Anthropology and Archaeology and the pitfalls of the traditional four fields approach, while Steve's last post thoroughly reviewed the classic Golden Marshalltown article by Kent Flannery, and examined the relationship between Archaeology and Anthropology. Anyway, check out their posts and their blogs, they make for some good reading!

Alright. Culture history. GO! Let's start in true Trigger style with discussing Scandinavian Archaeology. First we've got Thompsen who introduced the three age system (Stone Age ---> Bronze Age ---> Iron Age) while sorting out Danish archaeological materials for museum displays. Next we've got Worsaae, who proved Thompsen's three age system through much field work throughout Scandinavia. Before we bring in Montelius (whom everyone loves, I mean who wouldn't with a name like Oscar Montelius?) I want to bring in Sven Nilsson really quick. While Tompsen's three age model was not really placed in a social evolutionary framework, Nilsson took it, refined it, and turned it into his own four stage system with a social evolutionary flavour (Hunting & Fishing ---> Pastoralism ---> Agriculture ---> Civilization). I just wanted to make this note about Nilsson because even though today we try to avoid such a unilineal approach we are all still pretty guilty of looking at prehistory through this lens. Anyway, back to Montelius, who really disseminated Thompsen's three age model by applying it to all of Europe, compared sequences from all over Europe, and thus sought to discover a "European" prehistory. It should also be noted that Montelius saw changes in technology viewed in the Archaeological record as the result of migrations of people. This perception of change permeates most of the culture historical approach at it's inception and becomes one of it's most fundamental flaws, as we will see by moving on to the legendary (and...strangendary?) British Egyptologist, Flinders Petrie.

So what can I say about Petrie that people don't know? I can't really answer that question, but maybe I'll highlight something new that a few of you don't know yet, so let's start with the good, and then we can move onto the interesting...and bad. Petrie essentially professionalized Archaeology. He wrote the first textbook (quite a colourful book actually, especially the chapters on the different types of workers you can hire and how to spy on them from afar using a telescope to make sure they are working) on Archaeology. He also introduced seriation (the idea that changes in frequency of types/styles of artifacts change over time and represent changes in use/popularity of a certain artifact) into Archaeology (though he really only used contextual seriation, based on presence absence, instead of frequency seriation). His biggest contribution however was standardizing the idea of crossdating styles/types of artifacts across wide geographical ranges to come up with master chronologies. The Scandinavians started this, but Petrie standardized it. So those are Petrie's positives, but here come the negatives. Petrie strongly believed in Eugenics and had even offered Francis Galton (Darwin's cousin and the father of Eugenics) his head upon his death as he felt it represented the head of a fine gentleman (and genius, according to the ever modest Petrie) of the English race. This ties into Petrie's idea of change (similar to Montelius') that different types of material culture represent different ethnic groups or races, and that change in the Archaeological record was caused by migrations and invasions of different races. Again, you can see that the migrationist definition of change is fundamental to many applications of the culture history approach. What's really crazy is that Petrie's master chronologies of Egypt and Palestine are still in use today and the fact that they were based on his racist beliefs is not really questioned (I don't think so anyway, and not like it would necessarily invalidate the chronology, but his beliefs should be taken into account when we re-examine and use his master chronologies).

So how does this seemingly European culture historical approach get introduced into Americanist Archaeology? Well, influences by German and British Archaeologists and Egyptlogists who were already well versed in the culture historical approach. The first thing I need to say about Americanist Archaeology is that it lagged a little bit behind Europe on the culture historical train, mostly because of it's ties with American Anthropology and being influenced by Boasian Anthropology. Though we all think Boas' contributions to Anthropology are the bees knees (and at the time they definitely were) it wasn't all good for Archaeology. The extreme emphasis on cultural relativism and Americanist Archaeology's ties with Anthropology (as opposed to Archaeology's ties with History in Europe), essentially removed time depth from the equation, which resulted in a certain cultural geographical flatness being applied to the Americas, and thus the imagining of Native North American cultures as static and unchanging. Now that we know the "climate" or Archaeology at the time, we can discuss some people who contributed to changing it. I'm going to limit this to two people, as this post is already way too long. First let's talk about Max Uhle. He was a German Archaeologist working in South America who formulated a master chronology of ceramic typology of a 3000 year period during his excavations at Pachacamac in Peru. He also excavated the Emeryville shellmound in California. His work was suppressed by Kroeber (who was uber Boasian), but eventually good ol' Uhle got recognition for the monumental task he completed. Next on our whirlwind tour, is Alfred Kidder, who was a big American Southwest Archaeologist who formed a master chronology of ceramic typologies of the Southwest through his excavations at Pecos pueblo in New Mexico. Kidder was in contact with some prominent Egyptologists of the time (like George Reisner), which is a likely influence for his direct applications of the culture historical approach. Anyway, those are some examples of North American Archaeology's culture historians. Time to move on to the fall of culture history...and take a quick breath for air if you need it, I realize this is a lot of info crammed into one post.

The easiest person to discuss when talking about the fall of culture history is Walter that's exactly what I'm going to do. In 1948 Walter Taylor angered a large number of big wig Archaeologists by criticizing the Archaeology they were doing. What he did was point out the fact that the chronologies and typologies of culture history had become the reason to do Archaeology, and that no questions regarding human behaviour were actually being answered. Now it took a few years for people to actually listen to Taylor and the resulting few decades saw the application of Marxism and Durkheimian Structural Functionalism to Archaeology, as well as the birth of the neo-evolutionary school of thought (Julian Steward's cultural ecology and multilineal evolution, as well as Leslie White's focus on the evolution of energy harnessing capabilities). These all tie in more with the birth of Processual Archaeology, which will be the topic of the next part in the Archaeodigms series.

Alright so finally, after a very haphazard attempt to discuss and highlight some prominent historical people and aspects of the culture historical approach, what we've all been waiting for...(drumroll please)...a recap of the pros and cons of the culture historical approach to Archaeology:

- Introduction of Seriation
- The standardization of a whole slew of excavation techniques (including an emphasis on stratigraphy and trenching entire mounds to get at said important stratigraphies)
- Love it or hate it, typology (which could also be put in the cons section, but the entire discipline currently still relies quite heavily on typology, so let's not get too hasty yet...)
- Chronologies, chronologies, chronologies....and master chronologies
- Relative dating using type finds (remember, culture history was the standard in a time before radio carbon dating)

- Chronologies and typologies became the purpose of Archaeology, the past human behaviours that were supposed to be getting investigated weren't actually getting studied
- An assumption that tends to tie in with culture historical explanations, that change can be explained by migrations and invasions of people and that different types/styles reflect different ethnicities or races (ie. a migrationist definition of change)

Ok, now before you get on my case about leaving stuff out, I know. I've left out some prominent names (Pitt Rivers, Nils Nilsson, Kossina, and early V. Gordon Childe...just to name a few), but hey, this is a humble blog and I do not claim to be the master of the entire history of Archaeology. This was just a little reminder outline to get you all thinking about it so you can leave comments that I can add to the pro/con list of culture history, as I am pretty sure I must have overlooked at least a few points! So please, let me know what you think, important points I may have missed, major grievances, contributions to the list, etc. Post them!

That's all for today. Twas a substantial endeavor, so Archaeodigms Part 3: Processual Archaeology, won't be up for at least another week or so ('tis a busy time of year after all). That should give you all some time to digest that slew of seemingly random information and think up some good ideas to contribute to the culture history pro/con list. Until next time!

References for this post:

Kent V. Flannery. 1982. The Golden Marshalltown: A Parable for the Archeology of the 1980s. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 265-278.

Alfred V. Kidder. 1924. An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology with a Preliminary Account of the Excavations at Pecos. Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. New Haven: Yale University Press.

W.M. Flinders Petrie. 1906. Methods and Aims in Archaeology. Benjamin Blom, Inc, New York.

Waltor Taylor. 1948. A Study of Archaeology. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.

Bruce Trigger. 2006. A History of Archaeological Thought. 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Megalith Videos (Part 2 - Sabbath Time)

Ok so here are the next two Megalith Videos from our show on March 7th, and yes, they are both Black Sabbath Covers. The first one is Paranoid, a last minute addition to the set, but definitely a good decision. Most of the band was sick and you can hear the 'rasp' of the cold in our keyboardist's voice as she's singing this one, which actually makes the song sound great! The second video is Warpigs, which was what you could call our 'opus' last year (meaning it was the only song the entire band could play up until about a week before our first show!). As you can see, I think we've got Warpigs in the bag. At the beginning of the video you hear a lot of screeching feedback, which was caused by the misbehaving amp of one of our musical guests for the evening, who was playing the electric saw! yes you've read me right, the electric saw, and no this is not a band saw or table saw or anything of the power tool variety, it's your standard hand held wood saw, with a pick up duct taped to one end to amplify it (ie. AWESOME.), and played with a bow (a la cello..sort of). I think the feed back at the beginning of the song is actually quite cool and suits the feel of Warpigs in general. Anyway, enough talk, enjoy the videos, the next Archaeodigms post (Part 2: Culture History) should be up in the first half of the coming week, and stay tuned for more Megalith videos, it was a good show!

One more thing, use good speakers or headphones for the best sound quality, twas a hand held video camera after all!