Studying a Social Field in the South-Central Andes with portable X-Ray Florescence

April 15, 2015. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Emily Stovel, Department of Anthropology, Ripon College, Wisconsin

Southern Bolivia, northern Chile and northwestern Argentina were co-occupied in prehistory by a range of communities. In order to explore the ways ceramics were used to express and consolidate relationships across this large geographic expanse, we developed a multi-disciplinary, multi-national team of scholars which uses multiple lines of archaeometric evidence to characterize various ceramic styles. This paper details our research protocol and some of our case studies as examples of how we aim to understand changes in ceramic production and consumption at a regional level. Our principal means of data collection so far is through portable X-Ray Fluorescent instruments at a series of North and South American museums. These data permit broad understanding of the chemical profiles of well-known styles and provide hypotheses for subsequent stages of research.

Posts and Hearths, Squiggles and Beeps: Non-Invasive Methods at the Cluny Fortified Village

February 18, 2015. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Lance Evans

Dug in along the edge of a terrace above the Bow River in the Siksika Nation, the Cluny Fortified Village site (EePf-1) still stands out both literally and archaeologically. With its earthworks fortifications, distinctive pottery style, and unusual features, the village appears to be unique in the Canadian Plains and demands meticulous detail in its study. Recently, geophysical and other non-invasive techniques have been applied to the site which complement traditional excavation to further our understanding of its construction, layout, and purpose.

Creating Resiliency through Awareness and Preparation – a Long Term Conservation Strategy for Protected Community Historic Resources in Medicine Hat, Alberta

Talva Jacobson. Photo © 2015 Kai Sunderland

January 21, 2015. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Talva Jacobson, Medalta Potteries Resident Industrial Archaeologist, PhD Student, Michigan Technological University

Flood waters penetrated both Medalta Potteries National Historic Site and The Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Co. Provincial Historic Resource, in June 2013, creating awareness that the historic and archaeological resources inside these sites are susceptible to deterioration or complete loss when exposed to unforeseen disaster. The flood that impacted Southern Alberta was the most expensive flood in Alberta’s history. In addition to the tens of thousands of people displaced during this flood event, there were many heritage resources damaged by flood waters. I returned to the Historic Clay District of Medicine Hat to assess the damage of heritage resources affected by flooding, monitor decontamination, establish methods to stabilize remains and prepare a conservation strategy for the long term conservation of these resources. This talk will reveal how heritage resources at Medalta Potteries and the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Co. were impacted, what steps were taken to prepare, recover, and stabilize damaged heritage resources at these sites. Historic kiln structures require specific procedures aimed at preparing resources when disaster is imminent. The lessons learned since 2013 have revealed that resiliency lies in awareness, community collaboration minimizes risk, and an emergency management plan reduces the damage to or loss of heritage resources.

Archaeological resource management and the Nicaraguan trans-oceanic canal

Geoff McCafferty. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.

November 19, 2014. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Geoffrey McCafferty, University of Calgary

Archaeological work has begun in advance of the Nicaraguan trans-oceanic canal that will span the 300 km wide Central American country from the Caribbean to the Pacific, challenging the Panama Canal for economic dominance in the hemisphere.  Extensive cultural resources will be impacted by the project and associated development in a country that has been relatively ignored by archaeologists since the mid-19th century … with the exception of a 15 year project by archaeologists from the University of Calgary.  This illustrated presentation will address the history and goals of the Nicaraguan canal project, and describe how recent University of Calgary archaeologists have transformed the cultural history of Nicaragua.  Past projects have included excavations along the lake shore and on one of the prominent islands in the lake, areas that will be impacted by the canal, while focussing on a period when migrants from central Mexico allegedly conquered and colonized the region in order to monopolize cacao production.

Mountain Living: Frozen Artifacts and Alpine Archaeology in the Mackenzie Mountains of NWT

Todd Kristensen. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland

September 17, 2014. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Todd Kristensen

Recently discovered ice patch artifacts from Yukon and NWT have revealed a wealth of unique information about prehistoric hunting in high altitude areas. My PhD dissertation examines the broader context of alpine adaptations through excavations at mountain lakes and rivers in the vicinity of ice patch artifact locales. Results from three summers of excavations reveal that ice patch hunting could be a high-risk and labour intensive task but measures were taken to buffer potential failures.

Managing Chaos at the Okotoks Erratic.

Jack Brink. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland

October 15, 2014. University of Calgary Room ST 141. 7:30pm

Jack Brink, Royal Alberta Museum

The Okotoks Big Rock is a designated provincial historic site that is owned and operated by the Alberta government as a tourist destination. In the past several decades the town of Okotoks has exploded in population, leading to greater public presence at the Big Rock erratics and a sharp increase in vandalism, especially graffiti. In addition to graffiti being unsightly and disrespectful, it threatens the integrity of rock art and red ochre smears that are known to be located on the rocks. Improved photo enhancement has led to discovery of much more rock art at Okotoks than previously known, including in places that have been covered with graffiti. But how to remove graffiti without harming the underlying rock art? This talk explores that question, reports on recent efforts to record the rocks in 3D, reviews graffiti removal episodes and rock art integrity, and considers future directions for management of the troubled Okotoks site.

Not Quite Written in Stone: Rock Art Monitoring at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta

April 16, 2014. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Mike Turney, Golder Associates, Calgary, Alberta. 

Although rock art is literally ‘written in stone’, it is unfortunately not as un-changing or stable as this expression of permanence might suggest. The rock substrate upon which rock art is created can be affected by natural deterioration, surface weathering of the rock art itself, and by subsequent inscriptions and acts of vandalism. As part of a project to nominate Writing-on-Stone (WOS) Provincial Park for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the rock art panels at the Park have been systematically monitored for the last four years. Possibly the only program of its kind in Canada, the presentation details the implementation and progress of the monitoring program thus far and presents some of our initial findings.

Neolithic Halloween?: Plastered Human Skulls and the Origins of Agriculture in Near Eastern Neolithic Villages

Ian Kuijt. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland

March 19, 2014. University of Calgary Room ES 162. 7:30pm

Ian Kuijt, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame.

For many years researchers have debated the purpose and meaning of Neolithic human skull removal and plastering in the Near East.  Recent fieldwork has documented the wide-spread use of these practices some 10,500 years ago, and clearly identified that the elaborate manipulation of the dead was central to ritual and mundane life within the world’s first agricultural villages.  Human skulls, often found in groups, were occasionally covered in clay plaster in such a way to recreate eyes, noses, ears and other facial features.  It is clear that Neolithic people used skulls as heirlooms, and through such manipulation created tangible connections to the past.

Projecting Future Change from Archaeological Data: Evidence for Climate-Related Contaminant Fluctuations in Holocene Marine Archaeofauna

Mink Island
Mink Island. A location related to Dr. Murray’s talk.

February 19, 2014. Maribeth Murray, Arctic Institute of North America. 

Biogeochemical analysis of total mercury (tHg) and d13C/d15N ratios in the bone collagen of archaeologically recovered marine fauna from coastal Alaska shows high tHg levels during early/mid-Holocene (ca. 52-4600 rcy BP). This is linked to glacial melting and sea-level rise at the end of the Pleistocene. Under current conditions of climate warming, these processes may lead to future increased Hg bioaccumulation in marine species and by extension their human consumers. I discuss the value of length time series for understanding ecosystem structure and function and change over time, and the connections among ocean processes, sea level rise, and prehistoric human health and future health risks.


Dr. Maribeth Murray
Dr. Maribeth Murray

Dr. Maribeth Murray is the Executive Director of the Arctic Institute of North America and Professor of Archaeology at U Calgary. She came to Calgary in July from the International Arctic Research Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks where she was the Executive Director of the International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC). As Executive Director of ISAC she was responsible for the growth and development of an internationally supported, ongoing program of arctic environmental change research, science planning, and stakeholder engagement. She has worked in the Arctic and subarctic for over 20 years where her research is focused on climate change and human and marine system dynamics. She holds a BA in Archaeology from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, an MA in Archaeology from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and a PhD in Anthropology from McMaster University. Dr. Murray serves on a number of polar advisory committees, including that of the Swedish Mistra Foundation’s Arctic Futures program, the EU Svalbard Integrated Earth Observing System science advisory board, and the US Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) observing change panel.