In this chapter the
author discusses his views from a plane while traveling to a Bolivian province
near the Brazilian Border. The Beni, Mann writes, is a nearly flat area that
for almost half the year deals with rains and snowmelts that shift the lands
while the rest of the year the lush green landscape faces a desert-like state.
This remote plain had drawn the attention of Mann and his companions,
archaeologists Clark Erickson and William Balée. The goal of these men is to
challenge the conventional notions of many past and present archaeologist as to
how life was experienced for the inhabitants of the Americas.
The idea that Native
American Indians resided in small, remote groups with such minute impacts on
their environment for all pre-Columbian history was one of preposterous
ideology. They, along with an increasing number of researchers, believe that
the Western hemisphere has been inhabited by complex societies long before what
was previously concluded. This contrast did not bode well with scholars who
long-believed in the views of Native American Groups as Allan R. Holmberg had
portrayed them in his published account on the Sirionó people as “culturally
backwards” with haphazard lifestyles and little in the way of culture or
Mann explains that
Holmberg’s beliefs that the people and land they occupied had no history were
complete misinterpretation of his findings. Due to widespread epidemics of
smallpox and influenza as well as political upheaval in the country it can be
said that Holmberg’s research on the Native population recordings of a
culturally impoverished group but that of refugees attempting to escape from a
Mann discusses that
as new technology is developed and additional research is conducted his knowledge
of the earliest inhabitants and their migration into North and South American
drastically changes from the understandings presented to him over the decades.
Prior knowledge of cultures can be occasionally proven false with the influx of
new methods presented to us over decades of advanced research.
George R. “A Heavily Forested and Thinly Peopled Land.” The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America.
London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2004. Print.
In this chapter,
George Milner describes the diverse landscape that had once blanketed the
entirety of North America. What now ranges from bustling cities to rich
farmlands, North America was home to dense forest with only the highest peaks,
open plains and the occasional settlement were visible through the thick
canopy. The varying climates across this large continent gave way to an
assortment of wildlife from coast to coast.
Although to the
explorers this land seemed untouched by mankind, it was home to generations of
Native Americans who were able to heighten the productivity of the land on
which they lived. These various tribes gave way to a plethora of cultures that
utilized their resources to grow crops and hunt local wildlife.
Early excavations of
Eastern North America focused on the mounds and burials sites the early Native
Americans left behind. Such excavations called into question the possibility of
a separate race of people, the moundbuilders. There were multiple theories as
to the origin of these people but not much thought was given as to why these
sites were no longer built. Since WWII, archaeology began to focus on these
mounds to make room for buildings and dams, a effort known as “salvage
archaeology” or Cultural Resource Management. Since its conception, CRM has
allowed for more complete analysis and excavation of these sites expanding our
knowledge of the people and culture that constructed them.
understanding of these groups and their lives are not only a result of the
greater quantity of excavations, but the increasing diversity of the remains
being unearthed. With time, the push behind mound excavations began to stem
from the interest in the human remains located within. Through the study of
these skeletons, scientists have been able to learn more about the past people
through their health and nutritional intake. Through the information collected
archaeologists are bound to make numerous breakthroughs in extracting new
knowledge from artifacts.
Timothy R. “Questioning the Past in North America.” The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology. Ed. Timothy R.
Pauketat. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pages. 3-17. Print.
In this chapter,
Timothy Pauketat focuses his writing on the histories of indigenous North
Americans and finding the relevance of American archaeology and answer why
things throughout history happen the way they do. In North American archaeology,
there are multiple viewpoints that influence how stories are told about this
continent. One being just-the-fact researchers and the other being big-picture
The author describes
his visit to two excavation sites that demonstrated these approaches and the individuals
that ran the operations, researchers whose influence shaped how information
about the sites were transferred to others. At the just-the-facts site, any big
picture questions regarding the site and its past inhabitance were greeted with
little information. By contrast, the big-picture site was wholly dedicated to
the narrative where so much depth was given to the residence of the site that
it began to seem a bit too fantastical. Separately, these approaches face
complications in uncovering the truth, but when used together they can allow
archaeologist to obtain fundamental truth to the indigenous cultures.
there are scientific theories and models that allow for the transfer of
knowledge from large-scale models to smaller-scale practices. Our biggest
issues involving North American archaeology lie within the relationships between
these scales. For example, the author mentions how the effects of a local history
always matters, but their effects on large-scale practices make them even more relevant
to historical knowledge.
demonstrates that to reveal new knowledge of the past we must question many
things. Hold questions as to the truths that are presented to us, to the rights
and authority North American Archaeologists have to interpret past experiences
of Native Americans, the heritage of sites and how we maintain distinction
between history and prehistory, and our approach to understandings of past
In closing, Pauketat
explained that this field of archaeology is defined by those who wish to
understand the relationships among natural and cultural encounters of all
kinds. Those shaping the big problems we face are part of the big-picture as
well as just-the-facts.
Joe. “Bone Lickers, Grave Diggers, and other Unsavory Characters:
Archaeologists, Archaeological Cultures, and the Disconnect from Native Peoples.”
The Oxford Handbook of North American
Archaeology. Ed. Timothy R. Pauketat. New York City: Oxford University
Press, 2012. Pages 28-35. Print.
In this chapter,
Watkins discusses that even with increasing interactions between North American
Indians and archaeologists, there has historically been a significant
separation between the two. Watkins uses his understandings to evaluates
archaeology’s relevance, value, validity, and contemporary relationships in an
attempt to bridge the gap between the scientific and cultural variations in
uncovering the past.
archaeologists have been intertwined with the “disappearing” cultures of the
Native populations for the past couple centuries. The goal for most of those
studies was to rescue information on tribal groups before the culture went
extinct and data scarce. Archaeologists
accumulated lists of traits of excavated materials to interweave with that of
similar objects of other sites. Such generalized similarities tended to be used
to group the regional cultures and histories together creating a “watered down”
version of what was, in actuality a wide-range of sophisticated cultures.
The use of grouping
traits into early archaeological classification system such as the one
developed by W.C. McKern were to categorize select manifestations into
ever-increasing categories of shared similarities. These classification systems
created “archaeological cultures” that were thought to be distinct from one
another by artifacts uncovered, but this systems poor grasp on the chronology
of the cultures led to the ineptness of it, although the concept lingers within
contemporary thoughts on the archaeological record. Due to the ways
archaeological cultures drift about academia and other texts there continue to
separate people and culture from heritage.
To many, archaeology
represents an exciting glimpse into early civilizations, or even a quest for a
deeper understanding of our cultural pasts, nevertheless many tribal groups
considerate an intrusion of their heritage and desecration to their ideology.
Most Native Americans believe they have an strong understanding of their
histories through storytelling that has been passed down since the beginning of
time while archaeologist believe the “scientific” story is more important than
the role of the cultural one. Not all Native tribal groups reject the view of
the archaeology, some have even gone as far as take over functions as
preservation officers to control and manage their cultural birthrights.
The author believes
that regardless of the uneasy “truce” between Native Americans and members of
the scientific community, there is a growing relationship that will continue as
both sides maintain a balance between the scientific and cultural