Kelly L. Jenks 2014-01-09 01:49:13
Kelly L. Jenks is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Fort Lewis College. The mission of the SAA’s Committee on Curriculum is to encourage members to implement the seven principles outlined in Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century (Bender and Smith 2000), which are discussed briefly by Kamp in this issue. This article focuses on the first principle— fostering stewardship— and suggests strategies for educating undergraduates about the importance of stewardship in archaeology. The seven principles of curricular reform in archaeology were defined during an SAA Workshop held in 1998, in which participants were asked to develop a list of ethical principles that could be “infused” (Davis et al. 1999:18) into archaeology classes in order to prepare students to meet the challenges of working in the twenty-first century. The first principle— to “foster stewardship by making explicit the proposition that archaeological resources are nonrenewable and finite” (Davis et al. 1999:18)—was intended to provide students with the understanding that the value of archaeological sites lies not in the objects they contain but in what they can reveal about the past. Thus, when sites are destroyed, whether through “looting, development, erosion, or other processes” (Davis, et al. 1999:19), whatever information they might have contained is permanently lost. A basic recognition of archaeological sites as nonrenewable resources is necessary for students to comprehend the purpose of archaeological field and laboratory methods as well as the process through which we use archaeological data to reconstruct the past. This concept is also necessary, as workshop participants observed, for students to understand the purpose of cultural resource management (CRM), which in the late 1990s accounted for “nearly 50 percent” (Davis et al. 1999:19) of archaeologists. As I write this article in 2013, the need to educate students about stewardship is perhaps even more pressing than it was 15 years ago. The destruction of archaeological sites as a result of neglect or, more common, greed, continues to be a major concern. Understaffed land managers are continually seeking assistance in keeping looters away from known sites. Tales of vandalism and destruction are seldom tempered by news that the perpetrators were caught and punished. Archaeology listservs are flooded with irate messages about “reality” television shows that celebrate looting and news articles that romanticize antiquities dealers as treasure hunters à la Jack Sparrow. We respond to these challenges with calls to better educate the public, authorities, media, and future archaeologists about the value of archaeological sites and the need for responsible research. The CRM industry has continued to expand, employing more than 85 percent of archaeologists in the United States in 2009 (Doelle and Altschul 2009) as compared to only about 50 percent (Davis et al. 1999:19) 10 years previously. Because most current archaeology students are likely to gain employment within CRM, it has become imperative to provide them with the necessary background and skills to enter this field (Doelle and Altschul 2009; Yu et al. 2006). The majority of textbooks now include an overview of cultural resource laws and practices, and many departments have begun to offer courses, certificate programs, or advanced degrees in CRM. Students in these courses or programs are trained to think of sites as nonrenewable resources that should be recorded, evaluated in terms of their research potential, and conserved or mitigated accordingly. They are also encouraged to recognize that these sites are cultural resources and may be valued, especially by descendent populations, for reasons that extend beyond pure research. Another recent development that is relevant to this discussion is the so-called curation crisis that is challenging archaeologists to think about stewardship not just in terms of sites but also in terms of artifact collections and data. A rise in archaeological fieldwork conducted in compliance with CRM laws has quickly filled existing curation facilities, forcing curators to reassess and sometimes cull existing collections and be more selective about what items they were willing to accept in the future. Curation facilities were also compelled To increase their prices (Childs 2010), making it even more challenging for students or faculty to fund field projects and more appealing to conduct research using existing collections. As collections managers and researchers alike have begun the arduous process of working through older collections, the importance of preserving material culture and associated documentation has been reinforced, as has the need to justify these collections in terms of their research potential (Majewski 2010). Managing archaeological data is proving to be equally important and challenging, as archivists (including those working at digital archives such as tDAR) struggle to preserve data in perpetuity while simultaneously minimizing costs and making data available to researchers. Collections and data management are likely to continue to grow in importance in the coming years, and students entering in or engaging with these fields will need to have a firm grasp on all that stewardship entails. Teaching Stewardship in the 21st Century While a basic understanding of stewardship should be the foundation of all undergraduate archaeology classes, the results of our recent survey of undergraduate class syllabi suggest that many faculty are unsure of when or how to incorporate this material into their classes (see Kamp, this issue). This seems to be especially true in the case of classes focused on the archaeology of a particular region— for example, Egyptian or Mesoamerican archaeology. In response, I would like to suggest general ways in which this principle can be included in each of the various categories of classes discussed in our survey, and then followed up with some strategies for teaching stewardship that have been particularly effective. Lessons about the importance of stewardship in archaeology can be integrated into all kinds of classes at all levels. Introductory archaeology classes are an ideal venue in which to make students aware of the importance of stewardship. This can be accomplished easily by contrasting the discipline of archaeology with Indiana Jones–style antiquarianism, explaining how the former seeks to understand the human past through careful excavation, documentation, and application of the scientific method, while the latter is concerned only with an artifact’s aesthetic or commercial value. An introduction to cultural resource laws will also help students Recognize sites as nonrenewable resources that should be valued for their research potential and heritage value. This basic understanding of stewardship will be reinforced in field or methods classes as it explains the necessity of employing a research design and data collection strategies and carefully documenting the research project. Theory classes deal mostly with the interpretation of archaeological data; however, this presents teachers with an opportunity to discuss how the variety of theoretical approaches often rely on different kinds of data and thus can be rendered useless if excavators failed to collect those data. Classes focused on particular cultural or geographical areas can incorporate stewardship by questioning the impact of looting or of poor research on sites within these areas and/or by discussing current threats to cultural resources. Strategies for including stewardship in topical classes vary with the topic, but in my experience, most topics overlap with archaeological theory, methods, or a particular region and can be addressed accordingly. Several strategies have been particularly effective in communicating the importance of stewardship to undergraduate students. The first and easiest of these, especially for students in introductory classes, is to share a particularly egregious example of a looted site and then have students list and discuss the many consequences. The first and obvious consequence is the permanent loss of information about the past, but it is useful to have students continue listing consequences until they run out of ideas— for example, the financial boon to the antiquities market, the emotional and political consequences for descendent communities, and so forth. One particularly poignant case is that of the looted “buffalo soldier” burials at Fort Craig, New Mexico, which is described in an award-winning hour-long documentary “Helluva Way to Treat a Soldier” (Aukerman, et al. 2010). Exposing students to cases such as this and challenging them to consider the wider impact of looting helps them to appreciate the purpose, value, and limitations of laws protecting cultural resources. Another way of helping students understand these laws and their limitations is to have them collect and share the results of their research on local, state, tribal, and federal laws that protect archaeological site or traditional cultural properties. This often works best as a group project in lower division classes, where different groups are allowed to select one area Out of a list of possible options (e.g., Colorado, New Mexico, and the Navajo Nation), and are then able to compare and contrast cultural resource laws that apply in these places. The assignment can be easily modified for advanced students by turning it into an individual research project, including other countries as well as states, and/or expanding the assignment to include research on groups claiming cultural affiliation with sites in the chosen region. This exercise helps students grasp the various kinds of laws that exist (or do not exist) to protect archaeological sites. It also provides them with an understanding of the importance of public education in promoting site conservation, especially in situations where legal protections are inadequate or absent. Teaching students about stewardship means conveying to them that each site is a unique record of past events, and that when a site is destroyed, all we have left to interpret these events are the data we (or others) have collected. When sites such as Fort Craig are looted and nothing is recorded, our ability to identify or interpret past events obviously becomes very limited. But even when sites are excavated by professional archaeologists, we may find ourselves in the same situation if those archaeologists did not keep careful records, neglected to collect certain artifacts or samples, or if their records and collections were destroyed or lost. This aspect of stewardship is important to stress in more advanced archaeology classes, especially those dealing with field and laboratory methods (Figure 1). One teaching exercise that conveys to field school students the importance of documentation during field research is to share an example of a poorly documented site or feature and have students discuss what they do not know and cannot reconstruct from the information provided. This often requires some prompting in the form of pointed questions— for example: “Was the structure burned?” and “Did it have a roof?” Reminding students to think of the research design and research questions is also helpful, as it encourages them to consider the kinds of data they would need to be able to answer those questions and whether they could provide definitive answers by using the information provided in the example. This, in turn, helps students produce better field notes as they understand both the purpose of taking detailed notes and the consequences of omitting information. Incorporating stewardship into laboratory classes is equally important and can be done with relative ease. In a laboratory class, you can conclude with a discussion of the importance of curation and issues raised by the current curation crisis and, if possible, allow students to participate in the process of preparing artifacts for curation. When discussing the importance of curation, it is useful to show examples of older collections that were not handled appropriately, both to demonstrate how artifacts can be damaged over time and to illustrate how essential information can be lost as artifacts are disturbed or corroded or as they become separated from associated documentation. In a chapter about the importance of preserving the integrity of artifact collections, Alex Barker (2004) offered the example of an obsidian scraper of possible Mesoamerican origin that, according to collection notes, was recovered from excavations at Spiro. The implications of this find were profound, yet had the artifact become separated from its collection notes, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have believed that a Mesoamerican scraper could have been recovered at this site. Most repositories contain some collections that are either lacking provenience or have provenience codes but no associated maps or records to explain what those codes mean. Introducing students to these collections, and to the loss of research potential that they represent, helps them understand that our responsibility to protect the research potential of archaeological sites does not end with their excavation. Stewardship applies as much to the management of collections and data as to the management of sites. This aspect of stewardship will likely become more important as curation space continues to decrease. References Cited Aukerman, Robert, Blake Miller, Liam Rooney, and Tom Lincoln 2010 Helluva Way to Treat a Soldier: Record of Death and Internment. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, Denver, Colorado. Barker, Alex W. 2004 Stewardship: Collections Integrity and Long-Term Research Value. In Our Collective Responsibility: The Ethics and Practice of Archaeological Collections Stewardship, edited by S. Terry Childs, pp. 25–42. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C. Bender, Susan J., and George S. Smith (editors) 2000 Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C. Childs, S. Terry 2010 Repository Fees for Archaeological Collections. Heritage Management 3(2):189–212. Davis, Hester A., Jeffrey H. Altschul, Judith Bense, Elizabeth M. Brumfiel, Shereen Lerner, James J. Miller, Vincas P. Steponaitis, and Joe Watkins 1999 Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century: Thoughts on Undergraduate Education. SAA Bulletin 17(1):18–20. Doelle, William H., and Jeffrey H. Altschul 2009 Career Development: Preparing for Work in the Billion- Dollar CRM Industry. Anthropology News 50(4):27. Majewski, Teresita 2010 Not Just the End Game Anymore: A Perspective from the Western United States on Proactive Budgeting for Project Curation Needs in a Changing Archaeological World. Heritage Management 3(2):167–188. Yu, Pei-Lin, Barbara J. Mills, and Anna A. Neuzil 2006 Committee on Curriculum: What Skills Do I Need to Get and Keep a Job in Archaeology? The SAA Archaeological Record 6(3):9–13
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