CALL FOR PAPERS: Alcohol in the Ancient World

This sounds like an amazing conference! Consider submitting if you can.

Alcohol in the Ancient World
Conference Date: February 24th and February 25th, 2017
Conference Location: Penn Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Host: Center for Ancient Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Patrick McGovern, Penn Museum
Abstracts Due: December 1, 2016

The Center for Ancient Studies (CAS) calls for papers from graduate students in any discipline who are engaged in the study of alcohol in the pre-modern world. Beer, wine, and other fermented beverages have played an important role in the social, political, economic, and religious lives of humans for thousands of years. The embedded nature of alcohol in human societies makes it a productive locus for research on a wide range of topics. Possible subjects include the role of alcohol in:

•    Production technologies and techniques
•    Consumption practices and contexts
•    Visual and literary culture
•    Law
•    Medicine
•    The construction and negotiation of identity and gender
•    Trade and political economy
•    Ritual

Research on the prohibition of alcohol in pre-modern societies is also encouraged. This can be approached from a number of angles. Who is prohibited and why? When and where do these prohibitions apply? What do they entail? How are they enforced and how are they circumvented?

Applications should include a title and an abstract of no more than 250 words that summarizes the work, identifies the methodology, and states the primary conclusions. CAS encourages interdisciplinary research that utilizes multiple sources of evidence, including material culture, texts, iconography, experimental and ethnographic studies, and archaeometry. Send all materials to cas.upenn@gmail.com with the subject heading CAS Abstract: APPLICANT NAME. Please include your affiliation in the body of the email. All applicants will be notified of the status of their paper by the middle of December.

*******************************
You can also find the CFP online at the CAS website: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/ancient/grad-cfp.html

Last Minute SEAC Hotel Roommate Thread

Hello All!

SEAC is fast approaching and many of the reserved hotels are either booked or are quickly reaching that point.

Shout out to Shane Miller for having the great idea of starting a last minute roommate thread. If you are looking for a last minute roommate, please feel free to use this thread to connect with one another!

I have also had lots of luck with AirBnB (a website where people can rent out their houses/apartments on a night-to-night basis). And there are many great neighborhoods in Athens that are within walking distance to Downtown or within a very short drive.

See you all in 2.5 weeks (Yes, that is correct, only 2.5 weeks….get writing)

Jake

Are SEAC Paper Presentations Too Long?

Are the twenty-minute slots for SEAC paper presentations too long? Should they be shorter? Would shorter time slots improve the overall quality of papers? What are the pros and cons of longer paper presentations? Here are my thoughts:

 

  • Pro: More data! Being a regionally focused conference, where we are all share at least one common interest (Southeastern archaeology!), SEAC serves as a great venue for the presentation of data that others may actually care about. Many people use SEAC as a time to present data and results from summer fieldwork, collections reanalysis, and undergraduate and graduate theses and dissertations. The extra time afforded to SEAC presentations is great for introducing datasets that may be useful to many of the other Southeastern archaeologists in attendance.
  • Con: More data! How many papers have you sat through where it’s slide after slide of rim profiles, bar charts, or table after table of counts and percentages? It sometimes seems like the presentation of data is more central to the presentation than the information that resulted from the analysis that data. Because there is more space, I myself have probably included more data than necessary, or chose ways of presenting that data that may not have been the most efficient. SEAC is undoubtedly a data-rich conference. But does its richness of data sometimes keep the papers somewhat parochial? Just because the conference is for Southeastern archaeologists doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be explicitly drawing out the significance of our research to broader research themes with importance to archaeology/anthropology more generally.

 

  • Pro: With the longer presentation times, SEAC papers can be very explicitly contextualized geographically, temporally, and conceptually/theoretically. There is more room for productive discussion of the particular circumstances surrounding the research which can contribute to more powerful explanatory frameworks. Beyond being able to fully address the nuances of the particular research, there is a real opportunity to present the significance of the research in a broader theoretical and conceptual discussion that crosscuts regional archaeologies. This extra time is often used to set up detailed and unique theoretical frameworks through which the research will be presented.
  • Con: Too often this extra space, when not used to present more data, is used to present too much background. (I am guilty of this!) A detailed history/lit review of research that is related or relevant to the research being presented is probably unnecessary. I want to know what YOU are presenting. What have YOU done? Why is what YOU have done significant? Your brilliant work on that awesome Mississippian mound center doesn’t need to be prefaced with a history/significance of mound building and prestige goods exchange. You’re presenting to other Southeastern archaeologists. I’ve had these discussions. I want to know what you’re contributing to the discussion! (This rings true for methods sections. If I have to sit through another detailed explanation of how isotopes work…) Further, the longer amount of time doesn’t force us to be succinct. Being able to summarize our research and pick out the important parts is a VITAL part of being producers of knowledge and a vital part of communicating what we do!

 

Are there other formats that would be conducive to the goals of SEAC? Fifteen minute presentations with five minutes of question/answer? The meetings for the Society of Economic Anthropology provide thirty minute slots for presentations. Fifteen of those minutes are used for the paper presentation and the following fifteen are devoted to discussion/questions/answers. Should there be more panel discussions/forums? The lightning rounds at the SAAs this past year seemed quite productive. Presenters each give a five minute presentation, while the bulk of the allotted time is used for structured discussion.

 

Let’s be honest. We’ve all sat through long 20 minutes talks. We’ve all sat through long 15 minutes talks. If talks were only 10 minutes, there would still be ones that felt long. We should all be able to present our research in 15 minutes. But we should also be able to effectively present our research in 20 minutes. Maybe the issue isn’t the length of presentations but rather the presentations themselves. What makes a good conference paper? What are the hallmarks of a bad conference paper? This is clearly an issue for another post, but I often ask myself the following when organizing a presentation: How many parts (or as our lab likes to call them: Acts) does my paper have? What is the goal of each part? How do the parts articulate with one another? Asking these questions of our own papers, and really just being more critical of our own work (or having someone else comment on drafts!), would probably be way more conducive to improving overall quality of conference presentations than setting time limits.

 

-Jake Lulewicz

Program Evaluation and Archaeology: Considerations and Future Projections

A few days ago, Ph.D. candidate Kate Ellinger (SUNY-Binghamton) put forth some thoughts on the need for evaluation procedures of our public archaeology programs. You can find her post here on the blog for the SUNY-Binghamton MAPA program and I also recommend this earlier post on public archaeology evaluation needs. They’re great and you should check them out ASAP.

Building on that post, I’d like to offer some thoughts on the field of Program Evaluation and the impact it may have on the future of Southeastern Archaeology and anthropological practice. Although we all throw around the term ‘evaluate’ as a synonym to analyze, consider, investigate, etc., the concept of evaluation has a very specific meaning in the social sciences. Program evaluation is a distinct discipline within itself with professional societies, academic and doctoral programs, thousands of practitioners, and prescribed methodologies and techniques.

In 2013 and 2014 I worked for an evaluation team at the University of Kentucky through the Human Development Institute (HDI), a research and advocacy center for vulnerable populations. Through this position I learned about the field of Program Evaluation outside of its connections and implications for anthropology and archaeology.

Since that experience, I have spent time considering the potential connections between my professional worlds in both Program Evaluation and Southeastern Archaeology. Cultural anthropologists have already begun to consider this field in both applied and theoretical applications (Copeland-Carson 2005; Crain and Tashima 2005), but formal evaluations have not had much impact on archaeology thus far.

I believe, however, that this pattern is going to change within the next decade or so and we will see formal evaluations become a routine part of some (perhaps all…?) archaeological research.

My evidence for this prediction:

  • Federal archaeological funding is becoming scarcer. We have to justify our work by the broader impacts it will have. How do we demonstrate that impact? Evaluation.
  • There have been very public and political attacks on the relevance and significance of archaeological research. How do we sell the significance of our work to political and public audiences? Evaluation.
  • All federal (and most state) education and healthcare grants require extensive external program evaluations of research and practice. How do they justify the ways that they spend their public monies? Evaluation.
  • The ethics of archaeological practice have been questioned and critiqued by many groups, especially indigenous communities. How do we demonstrate effective engagement with all stakeholders? Evaluation.
  • Harassment and discrimination has recently been very publicly exposed in archaeology and other field sciences. How do we expose those private practices and demonstrate that new procedures can prevent these actions? Evaluation.

It is my experience that many archaeologists are relatively unaware of the formal discipline of Program Evaluation. I’d like to shed a little light on the scope and significance of evaluation and offer some thoughts on where formal evaluations may become an integral part of our future research agendas.

What Is Program Evaluation?

The simplest way to describe evaluation is the research of research. Program evaluators investigate how effective and appropriate studies and practices are at impacting change.

Program Evaluation is a relatively new, yet fast-growing field of social analysis. Although many professionals conduct internal evaluations as part of their overall projects or assignments, there are many full-time, professional evaluators that spend their careers conducting external evaluations for clients. The primary professional society for evaluation is the American Evaluation Society (AEA) and it has thousands of active members.

Billions of dollars are spent every year to evaluate the impact of research and practice. The education and medical fields are the most invested in the industry, but evaluations are conducted in almost every field out there. For example, there are many topical interest groups for the AEA and they intersect with some of the themes we work with every day in anthropology and archaeology. A selection that would be interesting to SEAC Underground readers includes Advocacy and Policy Change, Assessment in Higher Education, Environmental Program Evaluation, Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation, and International and Cross-Cultural Evaluations.

What do Program Evaluators Do?

In practice, Program Evaluation looks a lot like sociological or anthropological investigations. The work generally combines quantitative and qualitative approaches to see how effective a study or practice has been. To the annoyance of many anthropologists, however, there has often been an over-reliance on the quantitative results with less emphasis on the qualitative results (cue the impassioned rants from ethnographers).

The evaluator toolbox includes things like surveys, interviews, peer-focus groups, social network maps, audience response systems, interactive storyboards, etc. In fact, I learned how to manipulate survey programs like Qualtircs as an evaluator, which we later used for the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey (Meyers et al. 2015).

Evaluators are also really interested in how their data is presented and delivered. They love infographics and they hate pie charts. Seriously… they put forth countless papers and posts on this topic. Actually, I think many practicing archaeologists have a lot to learn about data presentation after my time working this field.

At their core, program evaluations are intended to assess effectiveness. Some evaluations lead to policy changes, but not all.

Program evaluators work in a variety of sectors. Some are academics or work in a university setting. Others are employed at research or evaluation firms. A large section of evaluators are independent contractors who bid for projects or contract their skills to other organizations. Content experts are often hired to conduct small evaluations of other studies even when they are not primarily evaluators. 

Implications for Archaeological Funding and Research

Public archaeology is clearly the most visible place where Program Evaluation will intersect with archaeological practice. The Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), for example, recently advertised for a post-doctoral position in program assessment (aka. evaluation). This posting was advertised on the AEA website. Awards and grants for public archaeology – including the SEAC Public Outreach Grant – wish to see evaluation and assessment built into the research design.

But, this need will likely move beyond the public archaeology subfield and we should be prepared for new requirements if they do materialize.

Federal agencies (like the NSF) are requiring formal evaluations of results for grants in more fields every year, and archaeology will undoubtedly need to offer such evaluations in increasing numbers. Many agencies specifically ask for external evaluations, thus researchers have to seek out content AND program evaluation experts to assess the impact and effectiveness of the research.

Evaluations are clearly beneficial in our work for assessing impact. They are a great thing. They may also – in the near future – become a required thing.

WORKS CITED

Copeland-Carson, Jacqueline (2005). Theory-Building” Evaluation Anthropology. Annals of Anthropological Practice 24(1):7-16.

Crain, Cathleen E., and Nathaniel Tashima (2005). Anthropology and Evaluation: Lessons from the Field. Annals of Anthropological Practice 24(1):41-48.

Meyers, Maureen, Tony Boundreaux, Stephen Carmody, Victoria Dekle, Elizabeth Horton, and Alice Wright (2015). Preliminary Results of the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey. Horizon and Tradition: The Newsletter of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference 57(1):19-35.

 

Victoria Dekle is a co-found of SEAC Underground and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky. She can be reached at vdekle@gmail.com.

Taking Care of Data

A couple of things have had me thinking recently about data management in archaeology.

You might have seen the Atlantic’s recent article on the digital collection, curation, and analysis of archaeological data. The article emphasizes the massive size of datasets that are being collected particularly with digital methods, and it highlights a few points that will be familiar to archaeologists: we work and think at various scales, many of us are invested in new technological approaches to data, and often whatever documentation we can produce and preserve is all that will remain when the original record is destroyed by the process of our research (or by war, terrorism, or climate change). The article cites projects with data points that are apparently in the billions because of digital techniques—but of course our datasets can become unwieldy even with traditional methods once you take into account decades of research at a site or investigate questions across broad geographic areas. This article speaks to both the research potential of massive datasets, and the logistical challenges they can pose at all levels.

I thought of this article during a meeting of a class in “Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship.” The class is a new department requirement related to federal research funding, and so the inclusion of data management is no surprise if you consider the increasing attention paid to this component of NSF grant proposals. In the first session we touched on ways to plan for data management early on in a research project, whether that means selecting stable file formats or making informant information anonymous (for those anthropologists who work with the living). This can be especially challenging as a graduate student; many of us are planning the first project that we will be executing independently, and bringing from its earliest stages through to the end. What steps do we need to take to anticipate the management of data that we have yet to collect, and which will likely end up taking a different form than we expect when we first formulate the project?

datasupervision

Very thoroughly supervised excavation at Weeden Island, FL, Dec 2015

So the third thing that brings me to this topic is my own research. Having finished my fieldwork in December, I am now committing most of my time to lab-based sorting and analysis, along with organizing field notes and photographs and databases—and at the same time writing proposals, revising my 3 year life plan every other week, and otherwise trying to stay in touch with the big picture. Trying to balance these drastically different conceptual and practical scales really makes it clear how much effort can go into managing all the details of a project and the data it generates, and how critical it is to do that well in order to transition smoothly to analyzing and synthesizing those results, and then to making them available in a form that could be useful to others.

If I were starting all over tomorrow, I can think of (at least) a few things I would do differently with regards to record keeping and planning for database management. I think some big challenges for graduate students directing research are accurately estimating the scale and volume of data that will result, and developing systems of organization that will continue to make sense if strategies for sampling evolve over different phases of the project. Most of my work in this area has depended not on formal training but on observing the practices of other projects, remembering things that were difficult when I’ve worked with other datasets, and spending hours fiddling around with my tables in Access.

boxes

Boxes of excavated material on their way to becoming data

I have been thinking a lot about revision in writing lately, and perhaps there are some relevant comparisons and contrasts between writing and building databases. A first draft of a written work very often needs to be “re-envisioned” to be improved, perhaps through reworking its structure and reconsidering what information it is meant to convey. Many writers benefit from the feedback of readers as they move through revisions of written work; is this true for “data work” too? I know that each time I have had reason to share some portion of my preliminary dissertation data, it has forced me to refine the organization a bit, to check that my coding and conventions are accessible to another person, and to otherwise revise my database. But the structure of a database can be difficult or impossible to change once a project is really underway, in part because strategies for data collection are usually conceived along with plans for data management.

P1020221

Data collection teamwork at Weeden Island, FL, Dec 2015

As for making my data accessible after I finish my current work, I expect to include many appendices in my dissertation, but also to archive materials digitally with The Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR). I initially looked into the terms and requirements for tDAR to fulfill a requirement—but doing so prompted me to think about how archived data really gets used. I haven’t personally undertaken any serious work with some of the archaeological data that is recently being archived digitally and made accessible (e.g. the Digital Index of North American Archaeology), although I have made use of other relevant types of data available online, like NOAA’s coastal LiDAR. I think finding ways to seek out and incorporate more resources for available data will be a future goal of mine.

Archaeologists are always thinking about long time scales, the durability of materials, and the transmission of knowledge. Even so, there can be some disconnect when it comes to maintaining our own records in a way that will be readily accessible and understandable for future researchers. Graduate students out there, is this something you’re being trained in before delving into your research? What experiences do you have working with more novel forms of data collection, management, or archiving? Looking beyond the data you collect yourself, what ways have you found to work with the data that’s already available in digital archives?

Resources and Links

URGENT: Georgia SB 346

 

Please see the link below in regards to the Georgia senate’s proposed SB 346:

Link to The Society for Georgia Archaeology’s Call to Action!

 

It has very recently come to light that the Georgia state senate have scheduled a hearing for TODAY, February 23rd, at 4:00pm for Senate Bill 346. SB 346 proposes to exempt state-funded road projects under $100 million from review under the Georgia Environmental Policy Act. This bill would put both cultural and environmental resources at great risk for destruction as mediation of these resources would not be required for projects under a $100 million budget. Please help by sending emails to the members of the Senate Transportation Committee, stressing our strong opposition to the proposed bill. Included below are the names and emails of the committee members as well as an email draft prepared by Joseph Roberts, President of the Society for Georgia Archaeology.  Please feel free to amend as you feel fit to reflect your own positions, affiliations, etc…

Click here for SB 346 text.

Senate Transportation Committee Members:

Chariman:
Tommie Williams (District 19), tommie.williams@senate.ga.gov
 
Vice Chairman:
Steve Gooch (District 51), steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov
 
Secretary:
Brandon Beach (Bill Co-sponsor) (District 21), Brandon.Beach@senate.ga.gov
 
Ex-Officio Members:
Ginn, Frank (District 47), frank.ginn@senate.ga.gov
Heath, Bill (District 31), billheath@billheath.net
Seay, Valencia (District 34), valencia.seay@senate.ga.gov
 
Members:
Butler, Gloria S. (District 55), gloria.butler@senate.ga.gov
Dugan, Mike (District 30), Mike.Dugan@senate.ga.gov
Jackson, Bill (District 24), bill.jackson@senate.ga.gov
Jones, Burt (District 25), Burt.Jones@senate.ga.gov
Lucas, David (District 26), David.Lucas@senate.ga.gov
Tippins, Lindsey (District 37), lindsey.tippins@senate.ga.gov
Watson, Ben (District 1), ben.watson@senate.ga.gov
Prepared Email:

The Society for Georgia Archaeology (SGA) and Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists (GCPA) are deeply concerned by Senate Bill 346. It proposes to exempt state-funded road projects under $100 million from review under the Georgia Environmental Policy Act (GEPA). The GEPA process ensures state agencies like the GDOT take environmental effects into account during government undertakings. In our view, this proposed exemption is arbitrary and threatens Georgia’s irreplaceable archaeological sites and shared cultural heritage.

The great state of Georgia contains world-class archaeological sites, from evidence of ancient Clovis peoples, the first known inhabitants of North America, to monumental American Indian mound sites and villages. In Georgia, you can find the encampments of Spanish Conquistadors, among the earliest historic sites in the entire nation, as well as antebellum plantation and slave sites, Civil War battlefields and POW camps, and other spectacular historic places up through the modern day. These places are important to our heritage and contain extremely important information about Georgia’s past. Some are also final resting places and hallowed ground.

Senators of the Transportation Committee, as you consider this legislation please remember that GEPA does not regulate private construction or put any burdens on the state’s businesses. GEPA simply makes sure that state government undertakings are done conscientiously, with due consideration to environmental resources such as water quality, ecology, history, and archaeology. Please support Georgia’s cultural heritage and environmental quality by opposing SB 346. For any questions about Georgia archaeology or the issues raised, please see the SGA and GCPA websites or contact the present leaders of the respective organizations directly: SGA President Joseph Roberts, 404-583-0495 or GCPA President Richard Moss, 678-910-0792.

 

Jake