Anthropological Dealings in South Florida|
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|Wednesday, April 25th, 2007|
|Florida Anthropology Society Annual Meeting
I have been getting ready for the FAS meeting
. It is being held towards the beginning of May in Avon Park, which is somewhere near Sebring.
Anyways, I am presenting a ridiculously long-title paper called: A preliminary study of the midden burials from the Spanish River Complex, and their potential application to questions concerning status in pre-contact southeast Florida
. Oh, and I mean the paper’s title is ridiculously long, the paper itself should fit in the required 15 minutes, and it has turned out to be kind of interesting. Comparing the closely associated midden burials to the mound burials, it is clear that life expectancy is always greater in the mound population, and with the exception of the first cohort the survivorship is also greater in the mound. Looks like decent biological evidence of differential status expressed in different burial locations to me!Click to Enlarge
|Friday, April 6th, 2007|
|Update and Cradle of Christianity Exhibit Brief
Let me see, what has been going on? After two weeks of straight work I decided to take a few days off due to family commitments (birthdays, Easter, etc). We had this month's GCAS meeting, which went well. We have a big exhibit opening soon, but I cannot mention anything about it just yet. TRUST ME, it is (or at least it was) BIG. My family also took a trip down to Fort Lauderdale to see the Cradle of Christianity exhibit at the Museum of Art
. If I have time I will post an in depth review, but it was a good exhibit. It ends in the middle of April, so if you want to see it you need to go quickly.
|Thursday, March 29th, 2007|
I am still extremely busy, working on the paper I am presenting at the FAS conference. I took today off from doing the osteological work to confirm that I could still do the required math for the life tables. What are life tables? Basically, for this type of investigation they are an important tool for paleodemographic analysis that includes things like death rates, survivorship, and life expectancy (FYI, more general information can be found on the Life Tables entry in Wikipedia
). So, was I able to remember how to do them? Yes, but only with quite a bit of arduous and tedious effort. Essentially, I had to use a combination of old college notes, various books and articles, along with reviewing a bunch of online sources. Still, at least now I am confident that once the last bits of data are collected, I can do the required math for proper analysis.
|Monday, March 26th, 2007|
|Quick One Again
Unfortunately, this is another quick update.
The Gold Coast Anthropological Society (GCAS) had our tour of the Ft. Lauderdale Historical Society two Sundays ago. It was an extremely good day out, and I think we all learnt something new about the history of South Florida.
We also did some activities in celebration of Florida Archaeology Month (FAM) at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) library. I gave a lecture about The Prehistory of Southeast Florida
in the morning and evening, along with a hands-on workshop in the afternoon. Everything went well, except that I forgot to bring calipers for measuring (plastic) human bones. Luckily, the FAU Anthropology Department allowed me to borrow a pair.
I am trying to finish up the work on the Boca Weir site, ready to present at the Florida Anthropology Society (FAS) annual meeting in May. In addition, I am attempting to bring together funding to carbon date this midden material, along with some items from an adjacent mound. Once this is done, I should be able to publish this data.
Speaking of publishing, I sent off the new version of my current article. This one addressed the issues raised by peer-review. I am still waiting to hear if there are further comments from the editors.
I am still waiting to hear about my application to the Ph.D. Comparative Studies program at FAU. If that does not come through, I may try to turn my dissertation topic into a book.
Once I have finished working on the paper presentation for the FAS conference, I may have more time to fully update.
|Thursday, March 15th, 2007|
Very quick updates.
I have re-submitted the article following the peer-review comments. It merely needs to go through a second pass with the editor, fix any remaining problems, and then it should be ready to be published.
I have sent in the abstract for the FAS conference. In-other-words, I need to have all the research done, get the write-up finished, and be ready to be presented by May.
Both Florida Archaeology Month exhibits have been installed and look good. The folks over at the FAU Library added some greenery to the installation, which now looks even better. So, I took more photos. Click to Enlarge
|Wednesday, March 7th, 2007|
|Quick Update and Florida Archaeology Exhibit at the FAU Library: Photo Gallery
I have been extremely busy. In the last two weeks I have put the finishing touches on the exhibit at the Children's Museum, been involved with the opening event at the Kid's Museum (photos coming soon), built and installed the exhibit for the FAU library, continued working on the Spanish River Complex project ensuring that it is far enough along to send in an abstract for a paper presentation at the FAS conference on that same subject, and I have been working on the editor's and reviewer's notes on my article, which need to be resubmitted by March 19th if there is a hope of making the next issue. If I have time I will update with more specifics on each of these items. Until then, here is the photo gallery of the Florida Archaeology exhibit at FAU's Main Library. Click to Enlarge
First, I had to finish construction of the mounts and signage. I did not stick the stands to the backs of these items beforehand, because I wanted to see how everything worked in the case.
Next up, everything had to be put in the case, arranged, and finalized. The image on the right shows the final set-up.
With this being a library, books were also important. So, next to the case the library staff put up a couple of bookshelves with volumes on Florida Archaeology. They also added a guest book, and I am looking forward to reading the comments.
In these three shots you can see close-ups of each section of the case. Going from left to right is loosely moving from the oldest material to the more modern.
Finally, a close-up of the pottery boards, and one more shot of the entire exhibit.
|Friday, February 23rd, 2007|
|FAU Library Exhibit--Signage
I have some good news, but first some background
One of the primary reasons behind my agreement to do two exhibits on the Prehistory of Florida for the upcoming Florida Archaeology Month
(FAM) was the notion of getting ‘two for one’ on a few factors. While going through the boxes of archaeological artifacts, pulling two pottery sherds instead of one is obviously an easy task. Another reason was (I hoped) I could utilize similar signage for each exhibit. Thereby, significantly reducing the workload. Infact, the writing aspect was the hardest part, the actual going through the archaeological archives was fun.
The good news, I have just finished editing the drafts for the signage of the FAU Library exhibit, and 90% of it was a straight ‘cut and paste’ from the text I wrote for the Children’s Museum installation. Now, I realize I am still up at 2am working, but without having to do significantly more writing for the signage, I can actually go to bed soon.
Oh, and if you click on the FAM website (see the link two paragraphs above), and search for events in Palm Beach County. Well, those three things that come up are our events. Hope to see you there (unless you do not live in South Florida, because then I think you have a good excuse for not coming).
|Thursday, February 22nd, 2007|
|Chimps and Spears
I found this article quite intriguing. The implications for Hominin Evolution are obvious, but the problem is wooden tools would not survive in the record. However, the possibilities for theoretical reconstruction are limitless. Indeed, with modern chimps observed utilizing such a vast tool kit, maybe we need to redefine what truly makes humans, well human. Additionally, the dividing line between the Australopithecines and Homo
is getting downright blurry. Maybe it is time to move Homo habilis
over to the other side and start our genus with Homo erectus
. Afterall, it is at that point that we jump from being four feet tall to six feet. Then again, the more controversial answer has already been proposed by some folks (I am thinking Jared Diamond here). Moving the Chimpanzees, and hence all the common ancestors we share, into our genus. This could get a little confusing, what with such animals as Homo troglodytes, Homo afarensis, and Homo robustus
. Right now I would settle for the former, but I find the latter concept fascinating for what it says about us (modern humans) in relation to the rest of the planet.BBC NEWS: Chimpanzees 'hunt using spears'
Chimpanzees in Senegal have been observed making and using wooden spears to hunt other primates, according to a study in the journal Current Biology.Read the original at BBC News
or ( Read More HereCollapse )
|Wednesday, February 21st, 2007|
|Children’s Museum Installation
I spent today at the Children’s Museum of Boca Raton
installing the new exhibit: the Prehistory of South Florida
. All went quite well, and I think the kids are going to like it. There are some ‘wow’ pieces that should visually interest people. However, there is also quite a bit of text. Infact, there is probably more text than 95% of kids are ever going to read. However, if only 1 in 20 learn something; fantastic…
The opening event is this coming Sunday. The only thing that needs to be finished between now and then are four information/visual posters.Click to Enlarge
First up, the bigger case, when it is empty and then when it is full. This one focuses more on paleontology, but many of these animals were hunted by the Paleo-Indians.
Here are some close ups on that case. I know children are going to like some of these fossils. Also, I have an atlatl, to remind people of the earliest Floridian hunters.
Second, we have the smaller case, which focuses more on archaeology.
With this close up, you get an idea of each level. I tried to tell a specific story on each shelf: 1) Faunal Material, 2) Tools, and 3) European Contact.
Along with the two cases, there are a few other things that come with this exhibit. On the left, the folks at the Kid’s Museum put together a selection of books for the kids to read. In the middle, a saber-toothed cat with its own hat. And, on the right, three boards to hand around to the kids for them to touch and compare.
Finally, here is everything together. As I said above, the only thing missing are the four posters. Those will be put in on Sunday.
|Sunday, February 18th, 2007|
|Finishing Projects and Sebring Dig Photos
I have been slowly finishing all the various projects I have been working on. Obviously, the Darwin Day presentation is done, as that day happened a few weeks back. I have completed an article called Historical Archaeology and the Stranahan Stores. This will be printed in the Ft. Lauderdale Historical Society
’s newsletter and will advertise the little exhibit we put in there last year. I have finished mounting all the artifacts and writing all the text for the signage at the Children’s Museum of Boca Raton
. Most of the text from that exhibit will be ‘cut and paste’ into the signs for the exhibit at the FAU library
. No point in reinventing the wheel. I also have many of the artifacts for that exhibit pulled out of the collection; they just need to be mounted.
The main project remaining is the investigation of material from an archaeological site on the coast. Longtime readers should remember a few months back when I posted photos of a trip to the site
. The plan is to finish the work, and present the findings at the upcoming FAS annual meeting
. Once I get feedback at the conference, I hope to write another article for The Florida Anthropologist.
Of course, once these various things are finished, there are always new projects and events to work on. Although, I hope to hear soon if I have been accepted into the Ph.D. program at FAU. If that is the case, I will have to adjust my schedule. Rather than concentrating on events, I will need to work on original research on the archaeological collection. My hope is to have a significant portion of the osteological material at least preliminarily studied for usage in my dissertation. If I do not get into this program, the same research will be undertaken, but at a slower pace. My hope is that our Anthropology Department at the museum will become a central resource for human osteological study in South Florida. Although, due to time, funds, and the like, it will take a number of years to get everything truly researched and established.
Finally, here are the pictures from the dig over in Sebring.Click to Enlarge
It took us about 3 hours to get up to Sebring. Because we still wanted to have a good day’s work in the field, we left at 6am in the morning.
Next up, you can see us consulting the maps, parking the van, and finally disappearing into the brush. In the photo on the left, you can see my fellow archaeologist's Robert and Rudy. And, on the photo on the right, can you find the blue van?
We were working in a variety of different environments on this site, and we had to track through them all. We had to deal with open plains, thick underbrush, and even a water feature.
It is amazing how quickly your fellow archaeologists can disappear into the wilderness. Oh, and it being Florida, despite being winter, it was hot and sunny.
Interestingly enough, a lot of our ‘work’ on this day was walking between the shovel tests. However, we did do some actual archaeology, as you can see. We dug 11 of these shovel tests, but we found nothing. Oh, and in the very last photo I decided I should be in at least one shot, so there I am.
|Friday, February 16th, 2007|
|Darwin Day Photos
As promised, here are the photos from the Darwin Day event.Click to Enlarge
First up we have birthday cake, a certain blogger giving his presentation, and our museum’s set-up at the event.
Here are some close shots of our tables. You can see the David E. Crawley Neanderthal Collection of skull replicas, along with some flyers for future events.
In addition, we had several items for sale, including ‘junk bone’ fossil fragments of mammoths, triceratops, shark teeth, and edmontosaurus, along with T-shirts.
Finally, here are some shots of the wildlife at Flamingo Gardens, including peacocks, night herons, and otters.
I also want to note that some other folks took a few of these photos, and I appreciate them allowing me to use the shots on this journal.
|Thursday, February 15th, 2007|
|Monday, February 12th, 2007|
|Darwin Day Wrap-Up and the Species Problem
Darwin Day was yesterday, and it was hosted at Flamingo Gardens.
We all agreed that we must return to the gardens, because (at least from what I saw) they are beautiful and populated by a wide range of animals. For example, I saw several (very active) otters, a pair of bobcats, and an entire flock of peacocks and peahens. There was also a tram tour through the gardens, but I only saw the tram station and nothing else. Although, I could extrapolate from everything else I saw that the tram tour would probably be quite good too.
As for the actual event, it went very well. There was an excellent turnout; I’d estimate 150 people. We literally ran out of seats. The general schedule was video/lecture/video/lecture and so on; although, we did stop for birthday cake. Of the three speakers (myself included), we covered a number of interesting subjects, including Darwin’s life and impact, Hominin fossils and Natural Selection, along with a review of the entire tree of life. We took a number of photos and video. If time permits, I will start uploading them soon.
Now, to go off on one of my tangents, I had a lengthy discussion about species/speciation with someone at the event. Indeed, I consider myself a moderate lumper (grouping animals into a smaller number of species, even if they have a few different morphological features), and my classification of the species representing Hominin evolution reflects this fact. But, as the discussion went, just what is a species? And moreover, how do you reflect evolutionary change and (eventual) speciation in your taxonomic classification? The problem originates from the fact that the Linnaean system was developed in a 2D world where an animal either was or was not a member of a particular species (length being the range of features seen in the species, and width being the chasm between these entities). That notion was one of definite, unchanged animal categories without any consideration of time. However, the evolutionary world is one of 3 dimensions, including that significant and central temporal factor (so, time is essentially depth). It is this disconnect that is problematic.
The theory of universal common descent dictates connection between all life; every species is related at some point. For example, cats and dogs share some type of mammalian-based common ancestor. So at what position as you move backwards in time should they no longer be classified as cats and dogs, and they become the common ancestor (lets say Cogs). I have never been fully satisfied with the answers that the Evolutionary Species concept gives for that question. Nonetheless, and despite my reservation, I have always defined paleo-species by the possession of a certain suite of apomorphic features. However, accounting for the issues with the Biological Species concept (for example, the ever-increasing prevalence of clearly fertile hybrids being a concern), well even this seemingly simple definition of species is thorny; thus, what can be said about something through time? I do wonder if the very concept of paleo-species needs to be re-evaluated? How do you integrate discrete (although sometimes quite fuzzy) modern-day biologically-defined species, with the entire history of the planet? Now, it is not that I do not think clear taxonomic relationships can be demonstrated, it is just when you get down to the ‘nitty-gritty.’ Is there really such a thing as a species in the past? Indeed, do species really exist at all when you look in the time dimension?
These various ramblings are not some new; the ‘species problem’ has been a fixture in biology for a number of years. Still, I sometime wonder if a novel system maybe developed to unify the Linnaean 2D world with the time component? Is that system going to be something akin to the ‘PhyloCode’? I simply do not know. Still, universal common descent is such a simple and majestic concept; it would be almost poetic to have a categorization system that matches this simplicity.
|Friday, February 9th, 2007|
|Darwin Day, Apples, Children’s Museum
Greetings one and all,
I decided to change around the Darwin Day presentation a little. I dropped Darwin's finches and some of the introduction stuff. I settle on being less technical. So, I have added a couple of new sections talking generally about Australopithecines and Homo erectus
, which compliments my already planned sections on Homo heidelbergensis
and the Neanderthals. I have also thrown together a couple of posters with photos of various fossils representing these groups. I will also employ a slightly different introduction, explaining what a scientific theory is, and using the theory of gravity as an example. That should hopefully combat the 'it is just a theory' retort. Afterall, our understanding of gravitation is merely the scientific hypothesis explaining various observations (like a certain little apocryphal tale about a certain apple hitting a certain famous scientist on his equally famous certain cranium). And, even if you do not believe in or do not understand the theory, you hardly float off the Earth's surface!
Sometime tomorrow morning I plan to drop off a few more pieces of the Florida Archaeology exhibit at the Children's Museum. I will make sure I take some photos of the finished Glades Sequence Time Marker piece. It all has to be over there by sometime next week. Luckily, after tomorrow's delivery there will only be a few final pieces to finalize, mainly text on faunal bones and European contact. As soon as that is all finished, everything for the FAU library will need to be readied.
|Tuesday, February 6th, 2007|
|Neanderthal Evolution and Glades Pottery Sequence
Greeting once again,
I have been going over the material for the discussion I will be leading at the GCAS meeting, and I think this should be a good one. As I said before, it is based on the paper I gave at the 7ICVM. Basically, I trace the evolution of the Neanderthals from their ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis
, through the accumulation of apomorphic (unique) 'Neanderthal' traits, and end with the appearance of some intriguing 'modern human like' features that appear in the very late Neanderthals. In the original paper I gave three possibilities for the appearance of this more gracile physiology: 1) adaptation to a similar environment as moderns (convergence), 2) interbreeding with moderns, and 3) tool traditions, i.e. the decreased use of the teeth as a 'tool' resulting in a reduction of facial prognathism (sticky-out-ness), with the resultant increasingly 'modern' face. I lean towards 3, but with some possibility of 2 thrown in.
On a totally different track, last night I laid out the materials for the 'Glades Sequence/Time Markers' part of the Children's Museum exhibit. Nothing has been stuck down yet, and infact I still need to mount at least one piece of Glades I pottery (the one still in the bag), but I think the layout is looking good. Oh, and since I took the photo I decided to alter the two charts, the one on the left of the poster now has Glades I (red) at the top, and Glades III (green) at the bottom, and the Calendar Date and Glades Sequence has been flipped on the one on the right of the poster. I think that makes them both fit better with the layout of the pottery pieces. Another, half-sized poster board will be added to the right of this piece to explain what a ‘time marker’ is and how it relates to the Glades pottery sequence.Click to Enlarge
|Monday, February 5th, 2007|
|Busy, Busy, Busy
Recently, I have been very, very, very, busy, busy, busy. What am I working on?
Well, first we have our February Gold Coast Anthropological Society meeting on Wednesday the 7th. I will be leading the after-meeting discussion on Neanderthal Evolution
. This particular topic was chosen to compliment the upcoming Darwin Day event at Flamingo Gardens (but more on that soon). I have designed 5 posters that I will be using during the discussion, along with the museum's David E. Crawley Neanderthal Collection of replica skulls. Previously, I presented information on this subject at the 7th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology. I always meant to submit a paper on the same subject, but never got around to finishing it. Still, the PowerPoint presentation I used at the 7ICVM was a great source for making these posters. Click to Enlarge
Next up, we have Darwin Day at Flamingo Gardens on February 11th. I am also giving a lecture here; this one is on the 'physical evidence' of evolution. I have the outline for that presentation finished, and just need to fill in some of the details. I have also made two poster-size advertisements for our museum’s T-Shirts. Hopefully, some people will like the designs I put together.
Third, by February 14th I need to have finished everything for the Florida Archaeology exhibit at the Children’s Museum. Why by that date? Because that is the day the exhibit is going to be installed. Then, on February 25th we have the opening event for that exhibit. There will be a number of activities including simulated artifact digs, how to use an atlatl, a guided tour through the exhibit, coloring now-extinct Pleistocene mammals, and designing your own pottery type.
Finally, by February 27th everything for the FAU Library Florida Archaeology exhibit must be ready to be installed. At that point I need to work on the material for the lecture I will be giving on the same subject at the library on March 21st.
Did you follow all of that?
Still, the good news is that I am quite deep into finishing these various projects. It is amazing what a little time and a little hard work will do.
|Friday, February 2nd, 2007|
|Comp Study Ph.D., T-Shirts, Darwin Day, Kid’s Museum
Early this week I dropped off all the required material at the Comparative Studies office. They now have my application, 3 letters of recommendation, GRE scores, transcripts, and my letter of intent. Frustratingly, all that can be done now is to wait and see.
The good news is that we have sold 7 T-Shirt since putting up all the designs on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the bad news is that those were all ‘internal’ sales to myself and some colleagues who will be helping at the upcoming Darwin Day event. However, the good news is that we will all look spiffy in out new PBMNH-Darwin Day 2007 shirts.
Speaking of Darwin Day, I have begun to finalize the details of my lecture at that event. After the intro talking about evolution, selection, genetics, etc, I will cover three ‘examples’ of ‘physical evidence’ for evolution. I am planning to review the evolution of the Neanderthals using the replicas available through the David E. Crawley collection. Next, I will talk about something at the genetic level, probably cystic fibrosis and its relation to plague. Finally, I thought I would end on Darwin’s finches. The lecture itself will end on universal common descent, because I like that topic and I think it is quite intellectually provocative.
Finally, I drove to Target yesterday to get the final supplies I needed to complete the exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Boca Raton. What did I need? 4 x posterboard, 1 x tape, 1 x glue, and 1 x colored paper. It is amazing how glue, tape, paper, and a little bit of work can transform mere bagged artifacts into exhibit-level materials.
|Wednesday, January 31st, 2007|
The museum has a number of events and activities coming up, so I decided to put together some T-Shirts to offer for sale to the attendees. I have completed some basic museum shirts, and some specific designs for Darwin Day. These designs have been uploaded to CafePress
. I hope to add more as I have time.
So far, there are six different designs. Each design is available in a variety of different shirt styles. If you happen to like any of the designs, just click on the photo
and it will take you to the appropriate place to chose the style you like and order the shirt.Click The Design Style You Like For More Information
This first one is straightforward, a The Palm Beach Museum Natural History logo shirt.
Some of you regular blog readers may remember this one, our Eat, Sleep, Dig shirt.
Another simple shirt with our logo and Darwin Day 2007.
This one is a little bit silly, but still amusing.
I climbed down from
the trees, and all I got
was this lousy T-Shirt
Darwin Day, 2007
I really liked this one, with Darwin’s photo and
Homo sapiens darwinius
…A Rare Breed
Finally, this is another straightforward one, a Gold Coast Anthropological Society logo shirt.
|Monday, January 29th, 2007|
|Museum Blogs and Children's Museum Delivery 2 Photos
I dropped off some of the material for the Comparative Studies program; however, they are still waiting for one or two other items. I will have to give FAU a call to make sure that everything is received and sent to the correct office by the deadline.
On a different note, this blog has appeared on Museum Blogs
. I am hoping we might get more exposure for both my work and the museum. And, if you found this blog through Museum Blogs; a big welcome to you.CLICK TO ENLARGE
I have dropped off more material at the Children’s Museum of Boca Raton. While the official opening (and the associated opening events and activities) is not until February 25th, the exhibit itself will probably be installed by the middle of the month.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
First off, here is the box of stuff. I have purposely designed everything to fit inside two standard plastic boxes. After this exhibit has finished at the Kid’s Museum, I am hoping we can update (and even improve) a few things and we have a ready made traveling exhibit.
This is a general overview of the material I took over there. You’d be surprised what you can fit inside one box!
Both of these photos show the general orientation the items will take on the exhibit shelves. On the left we have a replica megalodon tooth and a replica manatee rib with example fossil rib fragments. On the right are a juvenile mastodon tooth and a fragment of an adult mammoth tooth.
Obviously, as an exhibit on archaeology, we have to have some human-made tools. The atlatl was used by the Native Floridians to hunt mastodons and mammoths, along with many other animals.
This is everything that I have taken over to the Kid’s Museum, including the material from the first delivery. I’d estimate this is about 2/3’s of the total inventory that will be on display.
Finally, while I have previously shown the area where the exhibit is going in, along with the tall case, this smaller case will also be used. The plan is to have faunal bones on the bottom shelf, tools on the middle shelf, and Spanish Contact on the top shelf.