Friday, 21 February 2014

Who is in charge? Who should be in charge? The management of World Heritage Sites

The BBC reported this week that conservationists in Pakistan have appealed to UNESCO to relocate a cultural festival scheduled to be held at the World Heritage Site Mohenjo Daro in the Sindh province. It is the world's oldest city and one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilizations. The festival is the brainchild of the young leader of the Pakistan People's Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

"The ruins, discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Sir John Marshall, are 425km (265 miles) north of the port city of Karachi. They are one of Pakistan's six Unesco World Heritage sites deemed places of special cultural significance. But many of the country's historical sites are crumbling through neglect, endangered by vandalism and urban encroachment, as well as a booming trade in illegally excavated treasures."
So who is in charge? Perhaps the more important question is, who should be in charge?
Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites published 'Management Plans for Archaeological Sites: A World Heritage Template' in a 2010 issue of the journal. The article aims to make the general recommendations of a failed attempt to produce a Management Manual for World Heritage Archaeological Sites and Monuments, which brought together a body of experts in 2002 at Ma'agan in Israel, more widely known among those concerned with the management of archaeological sites.

The paper summarizes the outcomes of the meeting, including ideas on the structure of a management plan, the planning process, team building and public participation, site significance, conservation, monitoring, maintenance, presentation and interpretation, tourism and action plans.

"The properties on the World Heritage List are by definition very diverse in size and nature. The cultural sites and monuments range over time from fossil hominid sites (the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian and the Java Man site at Sangiran) to the architecture of the twentieth century (the Bauhaus and its sites in Weimar and Dessau and the works of Gaudí in Barcelona). They are located in countries with widely differing histories, traditions, and present-day legislative and administrative structures. As a result, the information given in these Operational Guidelines is of necessity generalized."

So when a nation's political agenda is in direct conflict with its responsibility to preserve World Heritage Sites for future generations, who decides the winner? Unfortunately that question appears to remain unanswered.

Read the full article for free >

Read the BBC article "Pakistan's Mohenjo Daro ruins 'threatened by festival" >

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Roses are red, goat skins are bloody? A rather graphic history of Valentine's Day

Cynics amongst us often proclaim Valentine's Day to be nothing more than a ploy greedy conglomerates dreamt up to flog us all mass produced poor quality chocolate, unoriginal tomes of affection or the generic lab-produced red "rose". However, take a moment to be thankful that corny marketing campaigns are all you're being beaten over the head with.

Those Roman's didn't do things by halves and Valentine's Day is no exception, as explains Discovery News:

Forget roses, chocolates and candlelight dinners. On Valentine's Day, that's rather boring stuff — at least according to ancient Roman standards. Imagine half-naked men running through the streets, whipping young women with bloodied thongs made from freshly cut goat skins. Although it might sound like some sort of perverted sadomasochistic ritual, this is what the Romans did until A.D. 496. Mid-February was Lupercalia (Wolf Festival) time. Celebrated on February 15th at the foot of the Palatine Hill beside the cave where, according to tradition, the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the festival was essentially a purification and fertility rite.

Directed by the Luperci, or "brothers of the wolf," the festival began with the sacrifice of two male goats and a dog, their blood smeared on the faces of Luperci initiates and then wiped off with wool dipped in milk. As thongs were cut from the sacrificed goats, the initiates would run around in the streets flagellating women to promote fertility. Finally, in 496, Pope Gelasius I banned the wild feast and declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine's Day.

But who was St. Valentine? Mystery surrounds the identity of the patron saint of lovers. Indeed, such was the confusion that the Vatican dropped St. Valentine's Day from the Catholic Church calendar of saints in the 1960s. There were at least three men by the name Valentine in the A.D. 200s, and all died horrible deaths.

One was a priest in the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II. As he was imprisoned, he restored the sight of a blind girl, who fell in love with him. He was beheaded on Feb. 14.

Another was the pious bishop of Terni, also tortured and beheaded during Claudius II's reign.

A third Valentine secretly married couples, ignoring Claudius II's ban of marriage. When the priest of love was eventually arrested, legend has it that he fell deeply in love with his jailer's daughter. Before his death by beating and decapitation, he signed a farewell note to her: “From your Valentine.”

Read the full article on Discovery News >

Monday, 10 February 2014

Digging Deeper: Ceramics on the Western Frontier

This month's Digging Deeper takes us back two-hundred years to Fort Massac on the Ohio River in southern Illinois and the extensive artifact assemblage discovered there from the late eighteenth-century and War of 1812–era component. 'Ceramics on the Western Frontier: The Archaeological Assemblage from Fort Massac, 1794–1814' by Robert F Mazrim and John A Walthall was published in a 2012 issue of Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology. The hoard included a minimum of 453 ceramic vessels, consisting primarily of creamware, pearlware, and redware products and provides a well-bracketed view of the nature of such goods on the western frontier immediately before and during the War of 1812.

Historical Background
In the spring of 1757, shortly after the outbreak of the French and Indian War, a military expedition was sent from Fort de Chartres to the lower Ohio River. This convoy of bateaux and canoes was manned by some fifty French soldiers and a hundred Illinois warriors. Their goal was to establish a fort on the Ohio River near the confluence of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in order to protect the Illinois Country settlements from potential British encroachment via the Tennessee and Ohio rivers. The resulting earthwork and timber structure, called Fort de l’Ascension, was abandoned in 1764 after the cessation of hostilities and the surrender of the Illinois Country to the British. The fort was burned by the Chickasaw shortly after the French garrison returned to Fort Chartres.

The fort was claimed and renamed as the American Fort Massac in 1794 and for ten years served as the headquarters for an extensive customs district that controlled river traffic between New Orleans to the south and Pittsburgh to the east.

Works Progress Administration Excavations
Paul Maynard, a graduate student in the University of Chicago archaeology program, was hired in 1939 by the Illinois Department of Public Works and Buildings to conduct test excavations at the site of Fort Massac. Employing a crew of twelve Works Progress Administration (WPA) laborers, Maynard used what were (at that time) standard University of Chicago archaeological field techniques to excavate two intersecting trenches, each 5 feet wide and 120 feet in length, across the supposed location of the superimposed forts.

Large-scale excavations at the fort were begun in the spring of 1940. Over the following months, Maynard and his crew excavated nearly the entire area where the French and American forts once stood. World War II and the conscription of Paul Maynard into the armed services, halted further work at the site. The bulk of the artifacts recovered during Maynard’s excavations relate to the American military occupation of the fort site.

Read the full article for free >

Monday, 3 February 2014

Field Research Opportunity: Fort Charles Archaeological Project in the West Indies

Join Monmouth University's Annual Archaeological Field School in the Caribbean!
This year's field school will expand on last year's work. This includes additional excavations at the guardhouse and along the fort's northern walls as well as test units to locate additional subsurface features. Our documentation of the site's ruins will assist in the planning of conservation efforts. Limited shovel testing and full-scale excavations of various contexts will support new interpretations of those living and working at Fort Charles during the site's occupation.
Settled in the late 1620s, Nevis is home to some of the earliest British settlements and fortifications in the Caribbean. This year's field work will continue to investigate Fort Charles, the best preserved fort in Nevis. The fort was constructed in the early 1600s and is half a mile from Charlestown, the capital of Nevis. The fort remained in use until the 1890s when the site was used as a customs fort. This year's field school represents the second year of archaeological investigations at this intriguing site and its 250-year history. Our work this summer will build on last year's work exploring the colonial history of the Eastern Caribbean, particularly as it relates to issues of trade and exchange.

Students will learn traditional and advanced surveying methods, how to conduct pedestrian surveys, standard archaeological excavation techniques, and how to identify, catalogue, and analyze artifacts. There will be weekly lectures on Nevisian archaeology, history, and culture by project staff and visiting experts.

Housing is dormitory style with separate facilities for male and female crew. Meals are prepared by staff and students seven days a week. Laundry facilities are available onsite. The director will have a mobile phone for emergencies and high-speed wireless internet is availalbe at our lodgings. Language on Nevis is English and the currency in use is the Eastern Caribbean dollar ($2.70EC = $1US). Water is safe from the tap and there are no poisonous spiders or snakes on the island.

Anticipated cost for three hours of undergraduate credit (AN 390: Field Methods in Archaeology) is $3200 plus airfare. Anticipated cost for three hours of graduate credit (AN 520: Field Methods in Archaeology) is $3800 plus airfare. These amounts include $1000 which covers all student expenses while in Nevis. Round-trip airfare from NYC area costs approximately $600. Students will arrive on island May 24 and depart June 14. Students requiring additional hours should contact the director. Registration for these courses is by instructor approval.

Students will work 5 1/2 days per week; 8:00am-2:30pm M-F at Fort Charles and 8am-Noon Saturdays at the Hill Top Guest House analyzing artifacts.

Preference will be given to Monmouth University students. No previous experience required. We are guests on Nevis and students will be expected to behave accordingly.

Contact Dr. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant for more information. Students seeking a place in the field school will need to submit an application and $200 nonrefundable deposit by March 28, 2014.

Download application materials >