Lecture Series

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Upcoming Lectures

 Our Lecture Series for the 2016-2017 year is over. We hope to see you all in September. Have a terrific summer!

Past Lectures

APRIL 19th:
Presenter: Meaghan Peurmaki-Brown
Title:  Ancient Maya Settlement and Resource Development in East-Central Belize
Abstract: From 2014-2016, the Stann Creek Regional Archaeology Project (SCRAP) initiated Phase I Reconnaissance and Phase II Testing at the ancient Maya centre of Alabama, nestled up against the Maya Mountains in the Cockscomb region of the Stann Creek District of east-central Belize. First located by the Stann Creek Project in the 1970s, and later investigated by the Point Placencia Archaeological Project in the 1980s, the epicenter of the site was found to have been rapidly constructed during the late facet of the Late Classic and into the Terminal Classic (ca. 750-900 AD). In 2014, SCRAP members returned to the site in order to investigate settlement development at Alabama and its possible relationship to local resource extraction and trade. Phase I and Phase II had three goals: 1) to assess the Alabama epicenter for the first time since archaeological investigations in the 1980s, 2) to initiate the first systematic settlement survey, surface collection, and test excavations of residential zones in the area, and 3) to begin assessment of local, mesolocal, regional, and exotic resource development and use by the ancient Maya of the area. This presentation will introduce the audience to Alabama; discuss our current “boomtown” research framework and preliminary results; and outline our proposed plans for relational geography research in the larger Cockscomb region.

MARCH 15th:
Presenter: Dr. Elizabeth Arnold
Title:  Bringing the Food to the City: How stable isotope analyses of animal remains can address this question.
Abstract: Stable isotope analyses are well-established in archaeology as a means to determine diet, reconstruct environments and examine herd management strategies of domestic animals. Mobility, trade and exchange of animals both within a local economic system and regional context can be determined. In this paper, consideration is given to the question of how isotopic techniques can be utilized to identify animal management practices in cities in the Near East. This question will be explored with data from several urban contexts in the Southern Levant, (Israel).

FEB 15th:
Presenter: Michael C. Wilson
Title:  Animal Landscapes and Animal Monuments of Plains First Nations, from Antler Piles to Medicine Wheels
Abstract: A transformational model suggests that nomadic Northwestern Plains aboriginal peoples expressed the same fundamental symbols through varied media in the cultural landscape.  The linked concepts of circle and power axis reflected the structure of the cosmos.  Acknowledging their role as a part of that cosmos, people were obligated to assist in its maintenance.  Structures such as medicine wheels, antler piles, stone cairns, medicine lodges, and ribstones were linked through animal ceremonialism to an ongoing program of cosmic renewal that was not simply the “earth wisdom” or “primitive conservation” favoured by modern popular writers.  Animals were thought to be unlimited in numbers and renewable as long as people undertook appropriate ritual.  Failure of animals to return could have resulted from errors in ritual handling.  This talk emphasizes findings about antler piles that were formerly present at several sites.  It is argued that elk ritual became horse ritual, helping to obscure the former in the Historic period. Formal plans were elsewhere, too: the household plan also reflected the structure of the cosmos. The outer landscape was organized by extension from the household, prompting the illusion that although people moved regularly, the outer world remained much the same.  Multiple ritual sites (including monuments) could be seen as iterations of a single “site” in a cyclic view of space.  Monuments derived their power from their location; thus, they were “of” a site rather than “being” the site, and they tended to be treated as part of the natural world, not as separate from it. This worldview was actualized within a pattern of overlapping group territories (viewed as centres with radiating itineraries or vectors), cross-utilization of resources, and transient co-residence of linguistically diverse groups who could communicate readily through sign language.

Presenter: Dr. Barney Reeves & Dr. Margaret Kennedy
Title: Medicine Wheels and Ceremonial Landscapes: Building on Richard G. Forbis’s Pioneering Contributions
 Abstract: Dick Forbis, Alberta’s first archaeologist, made many contributions to the archaeology of the Northwestern Plains, particularly in his ten years with the Glenbow Foundation (ca. 1955-1965).  Among these were the recording, mapping and excavation of Alberta medicine wheels. However he, as well as other archaeologists in more recent years, focused on the medicine wheels themselves not the archaeological landscape in which they sit. The study and interpretation of these landscapes and the ceremonial stone feature sites contained therein are, in our opinion, critical to understanding medicine wheels as a whole.
This fundamental principle is illustrated in this talk based on our past four years of study at the Bull’s Forehead and Minor Medicine Wheel Complexes at and above the Forks of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan rivers. We have found large scale ceremonial complexes, the largest identified to date in the Northern Plains.  These extend for over 10km along and behind the valley edges containing thousands of ceremonial stone features sited and constructed only where the medicine wheels or focal reaches of the rivers are visible.  They were places of pilgrimage, erected over a period of 500-1000 years by ancestral Gros Ventre, prior to their decimation by European diseases in the 1500s.

NOV 16th:
Presenter: Erik Johannesson
Title:  Before the Khans: The Archaeology of the Xiongnu Empire in Mongolia (209 BC-200 AD)
Abstract:  A prevailing view in anthropological and archaeological theory has been that nomadic societies are incapable of forming complex political polities that endure in the longue durée.  Here, Dr. Johannesson challenges this view by presenting the results of over a decade of archaeological research on the Xiongnu Empire in Mongolia.   According to Chinese texts, the Xiongnu Empire was formed when the charismatic leader Motun unified the nomadic steppe tribes of Mongolia and Siberia into a powerful confederacy that quickly emerged as a regional enemy of the Han Dynasty.  The formation of this polity is identified archaeologically with sweeping changes in material culture, technology, and funerary customs.  Drawing on fieldwork from Baga Gazaryn Chuluu in the north Gobi and Shombuuzin Belchir in the Altai foothills, this presentation will explore the archaeology of the Xiongnu Empire and how political centralization manifests in mortuary practice.  Adopting a diachronic perspective, Xiongnu mortuary monuments will be discussed vis-à-vis preceding funerary traditions to illustrate that Xiongnu tombs represent a conspicuous inversion of previous customs.  A scalar landscape approach will then be used to demonstrate how mortuary ideology was manipulated by the Xiongnu elite to incorporate local lineages of leadership into a broader Xiongnu political economy.  Finally, the reopening of tombs in antiquity and osteological evidence of violent trauma will be discussed to illustrate that mortuary contexts formed important loci of Xiongnu state-craft, and arenas in which political ideologies were both imposed and contested.

OCT 19th:
Presenter: Bob Dawe and Dr. Marcel Kornfeld
Title: Nunataks and Valley Glaciers: the Icy Corridor
Abstract:The historic debate of the first peopling of the Americas has focused on two alternate routes of entry: a coastal route versus an ice-free corridor. The timing of this entry is generally regarded to coincide with Late Wisconsin glaciation, which at the very least left continental ice that still covered most of the north half of North America. The former option requires much of the west coast to be ice free, with boats used to navigate areas impossible to traverse by foot. The alternate option has the precondition of ice recession between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets, providing a terrestrial route of access along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains for both humans and herbivores. While the pendulum has swung towards the coastal route, no smoking gun exists that will deliver a champion in this controversy. With this paper we would like to present a third option that requires neither the precondition of boats nor full glacial retreat: the Icy Corridor. In this model we question that the waning glacial conditions in the Late Wisconsin were an insurmountable obstacle for travel. It is not our intent to champion a new “earliest” route, but rather demonstrate the viability of this glacial landscape as a transportation corridor that had hitherto been characterized as a barrier. 

SEPT 21th:
Presenter:  Dr. Michael Waters
Title:  Archaeological and Genetic Evidence for the Late Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas
Abstract:  Archaeological evidence accumulated over the last few decades and new genetic evidence are showing that the 80-year-old Clovis First model no longer explains the exploration and settlement of the Americas by humans at the end of the last Ice Age.  Evidence from archaeological sites in North and South America are providing empirical evidence that people occupied the Americas by 15,000 years ago.  Studies of modern and ancient genomes confirm this age estimate and tell us who these people were and where they came from.  Together the archaeological and genetic evidence is rewriting our understanding of the First Americans.

April 20, 2016: Border Warriors: Castrum Cumidava in the Context of the Roman Occupation of Dacia


February 17, 2016: From the Desert to the Plains: A Paleoethnobotanical Research Program

January 20, 2016: Aboriginal response on the plains to the Hudson’s Bay Company pemmican trade, 1780-1879

Jan 2016 Speaker Photo

November 18, 2015: Life and Death in the Napoleonic Era Royal Navy stationed at English Harbour, Antigua, West Indies

November 2015 Speaker Photo

October 21, 2015: Recent Discoveries in the Sierra
de Atapuerca (Spain)

October 2015 Speaker Photo

September 16, 2015: The Ninth Clan—Exploring Apachean Origins in the Promontory Caves, Utah

Dr. Jack Ives. Photo © 2015 Kai Sunderland.
Dr. Jack Ives. Photo © 2015 Kai Sunderland.


April 15, 2015: Studying a Social Field in the South-Central Andes with portable X-Ray Florescence

April 2015 Speaker Photo


March 18, 2015: New Perspectives on the Western Stemmed Tradition: An Update from the Cooper’s Ferry Site, Idaho

February 18, 2015: Posts and Hearths, Squiggles and Beeps: Non-Invasive Methods at the Cluny Fortified Village

January 21, 2015: 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
Talva Jacobson. Photo © 2015 Kai Sunderland.


November 19, 2014: Archaeological resource management and the Nicaraguan trans-oceanic canal

Geoff McCafferty. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.
Geoff McCafferty. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


October 15, 2014: Managing Chaos at the Okotoks Erratic.

Jack Brink. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland
Jack Brink. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


September 17, 2014: Mountain Living: Frozen Artifacts and Alpine Archaeology in the Mackenzie Mountains of NWT

Todd Kristensen. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland
Todd Kristensen. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


April 16, 2014: Not Quite Written in Stone: Rock Art Monitoring at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta.

Mike Turney. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.
Mike Turney. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


March 19, 2014: Neolithic Halloween?: Plastered Human Skulls and the Origins of Agriculture in Near Eastern Neolithic Villages. 

Ian Kuijt. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland
Ian Kuijt. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


February 19, 2014: Projecting Future Change from Archaeological Data: Evidence for Climate-Related Contaminant Fluctuations in Holocene Marine Archaeofauna. 

Maribeth Murray. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.
Maribeth Murray. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


January 15, 2014: Understanding Geographical Constraints on Human Land Use Patterns in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta. 

Robin Woywitka
Robin Woywitka. Photo © 2014 Kai Sunderland.


November 20, 2013: Landscape Change and Human History of the Athabasca Glacier Area. 

Alwynne Beaudoin. Photo © 2013 Kai Sunderland.
Alwynne Beaudoin. Photo © 2013 Kai Sunderland.


October 16, 2013:  Small Stones and Big Buttes: Pebble Quarrying in the Misty Hills. 

Don Hanna. Photo © 2013 Kai Sunderland.
Don Hanna. Photo © 2013 Kai Sunderland.


September 18, 2013: On ’til Ragnarok: Underwater Excavations at the Viking Settlement of Birka 2013

Mike Moloney. Photo © 2013 Kai Sunderland.
Mike Moloney. Photo © 2013 Kai Sunderland.