Wooster Students, Faculty, and Alumni Share Research at Archaeology Conference

A total of 17 researchers represent the College at 80th meeting of the Society for American Archaeology

27 May, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — An estimated 5,000 archeologists, including 17 with ties to The College of Wooster, gathered in San Francisco last month for the Society for American Archaeology's (SAA) 80th annual conference. Seven Wooster seniors presented their Independent Study projects (Wooster's nationally acclaimed undergraduate research experience), eight alumni shared their current research, and two faculty members talked about their research endeavors during the four-day event.

"The SAA is one of the premier archeological associations in the the world, and the conference draws participants from five continents," said P. Nick Kardulias, professor of sociology, anthropology, and archaeology at Wooster. "For undergraduates to present the results of their research at the major archaeological event in North America is an unparalleled opportunity."

Representing Wooster's senior class were Rachael Aleshire, Courtney Astrom, Bianca Hand, Blair Heidkamp, Kelsey Salmon Schreck, Megan Shirley, and James Torpy.

Aleshire, whose project was advised by Olivia Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of sociology, anthropology, and archaeology at Wooster, presented "Building and Debating National Identity: Three Case Studies of the Ownership of Ancient Artifacts," which examined the issue of artifacts that are removed —perhaps illegally or before statutes were created to outlaw such practices — to emphasize the importance of knowing the story behind an artifact's excavation and acquisition.

Astrom, who also worked with Navarro-Farr, discussed her project, titled "A Study of the Role of Cannibalism in Aztec Culture," which focused on the nature and ritualistic function of Aztec cannibalism in which only the flesh of outsiders — mostly war captives — would be consumed as part of religious rituals that provided a significant part of the foundation for their culture.

Hand, who was advised by Kardulias, shared her research on "Hellenistic and Roman Votive Sculptures as Markers of Foreign Influence on Cyprus," a study of the artistic record — specifically through votive statues — that served as a reflection of social and political conditions in the region during a period of transformation in which drastic changes in politics and new coinage, as well as the introduction of Christianity into the region, had pervasive consequences.

Heidkamp, another of Navarro-Farr's advisees, talked about "Tomb of the Goblets: Revisiting a Middle Bronze Burial from Pella in Jordan," a followup to former Wooster Professor Robert Smith's 1967 excavation of a tomb in which the contents curated at The College of Wooster were re-examined to learn more about the transitional phase at the site and to encourage the re-examination of other previously excavated materials.

Salmon Schreck, also advised by Kardulias, outlined her project, titled "The Domestication and Migration of Zea mays L. in Association with Holocene Climatic
Variance," in which she examined seasonality and scheduling in the domestication of maize by means of human selection, highlighting the basic circumstances necessary within a human population for maize agriculture to be adopted.

Shirley, who worked with Kardulias and Kara Morrow, assistant professor of art, art history, and archaeology at Wooster, presented "Anglo-Saxon and Viking Ship Burials as Indicators of Rank and Wealth," a study that compared the funerary practice of ship burials in Anglo-Saxon and Viking societies, which provide unique insight into the elite culture of northern Europe in the latter half of the first millennium A.D., including the presence of female occupants, suggesting that both genders could have held significant roles in Anglo-Saxon and Viking society.

Torpy, who was advised by Kardulias, discussed "Religious and Mortuary Landscapes in Archaic Cyprus," which focused on the dramatic transformation of Cyprus as new city-kingdoms rose to dominate its political landscape. He compared the site of Athienou-Malloura to others around the island in order to ascertain the distribution and role of rural sanctuaries and cemeteries during this period of increasing social complexity and political competition in order to examine the interplay between topography and human use of the landscape at the time.

In addition to the seven seniors, Navarro-Farr and Kardulias also made presentations at the conference. Navarro-Farr, in collaboration with three other researchers presented "Feeding the Gods, Calling the Rains: Archaeobotanical Remains from a Monumental Fire Shrine at El Perú-Waka', Guatemala," an examination of the rituals carried out at fire shrines, which seem to reflect a special concern for such themes as fertility, water, and agricultural abundance. This unique deposit provides new insights into the ritual use of plants among the ancient Maya — activities that continue today.

Navarro-Farr also joined with three other researchers to provide further insight on "A Forest of Queens: The Legacy of Royal Calakmul Women at El Perú-Waka's Central Civic-Ceremonial Temple," a follow up to the 2012 discovery of Waka's main civic-ceremonial temple and the tomb of Waka's renowned Late Classic Maya queen, Lady K'abel. Also buried in association with the sealing of Lady K'abel's tomb was Stela 44, which features a standing ruler and bears texts that also mention Lady Ikoom. Together, these monuments, the funerary assemblage, and the structure in which these elements are interred comprise an impressive tableau commemorating the importance of both these Early and Late Classic royal women from Calakmul who made their mark on Waka's dynasty.

Kardulias elaborated on "Stone Tool Use in Late Prehistoric and Historic Contexts in the Eastern Mediterranean Region," a study of the modification of various stones to make useful implements, a practice that persisted from ancient into modern times. Specifically, this study examined the continuation of lithic technology from the end of the prehistoric period (Bronze Age) into subsequent historical phases (Archaic, Classical, Roman, Byzantine) in the eastern Mediterranean and Near East. In some instances, such as with threshing sledges and the use of millstones to grind grains, the technology persisted well into the 20th century and was a significant part of the domestic and political economy.

Kardulias also joined Stephanie Bosch, a 2014 Wooster graduate and now a student in Miami University's master's program in geology, in the presentation of "Lithic Raw Material Procurement at the Multicomponent Prehistoric Wansack Site (36ME61),Mercer County, Pennsylvania: Evidence for Mobility and Trade Patterns through XRF Data," a study of what the patterns of raw material procurement at the Wansack Site show about the changing dynamics of mobility and trading relationships from the Archaic through the Late Prehistoric periods in the upper Ohio River drainage.

In addition to Bosch, Wooster graduates Chelsea Fisher, Whitney Goodwin, Emily Kate, Jennifer Lavris Makovics, Emily Long, David Walton, and Andrew Womack also made presentations.

Fisher, a 2011 Wooster graduate and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, addressed "Water Management and City Founding at Yaxuná, Yucatán," a look at how some of the earliest urban planning decisions incorporated water and other natural resources during the Formative period at Yaxuná.

Goodwin, a 2008 graduate and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University, collaborated with three others on the topic, "Technological Variability in Woodland and Plains Village Period Ceramics from Central and Eastern North Dakota," an examination of the technological variability in Woodland and Plains Village period ceramics from central and eastern North Dakota.

Kate, a 2014 Wooster graduate and a student in the master's program at Minnesota State University, and a colleague presented "Cerro Magoni: A Link Between Epiclassic Tula and the Bajío?" a look at the processes and events involved in the formation of the Toltec state and the links that might have existed between the area immediately surrounding Tula Grande, the civic-ceremonial center of the Toltec state, and sites in the Bajío region to the northwest.

Lavris-Makovics, a 1994 graduate and a member of the National Park Service, talked about "A Perfect Pothunting Day — An Examination of Vandalism to the Cultural Resources of Canyon de Chelly National Monument," a summary of efforts by archaeologists to collect detailed standardized data on archaeological site conditions and the natural and human agents of destruction that have affected the Park's cultural resources during the past 20 years.

Long, a 2008 graduate and a member of the staff at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, discussed "Elevation, What's the Point?: A Preliminary Study of Selected Obsidian Projectile Points Collected From Varying Elevations at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks," a comparative analysis of the raw lithic material, specifically obsidian, that was widely traded throughout the central and southern Sierra to determine whether there is a correlation between projectile point types from higher to lower elevations.

Walton, a 2009 graduate and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Archaeology at Boston University, shared his research on "Lithic Production and Consumption at Tzintzuntzan, Mexico," a technological analysis of 1,155 lithic artifacts recovered during excavations from 1977 to 1978 at Tzintzuntzan, the capital of the native Tarascan state prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.

Womack, a 2007 graduate and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University, presented "The Cemetery at Qijiaping: New Insights into the Production and Use of Ceramics Vessels," an exploration of techniques used to produce several classes of burial vessels discovered in 1975 in the cemetery at Qijiaping in southern Gansu province, China. Statistical analysis of vessel standardization has provided a wealth of data on life and death in Qijia society during the rise of civilization in China. Womack also co-authored a second paper and chaired a session on the archaeology of China.