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The US House of Representatives really hates archaeology

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | February 13, 2016

Or maybe archaeology is just being used to distract attention from other research disliked even more by the Republican majority, which passed a bill adding burdens to the National Science Foundation while doing nothing to improve public understanding of the science done with federal support. According to Lamar Smith (a Republican Congress member representing the … Continue reading »

Performing destruction: cultural heritage, looting and ISIS

Katherine Kinkopf, Ph.D. student, anthropology | November 9, 2015

If you use Twitter or Facebook, you’ve likely seen hundreds of news articles, reports, videos, and blog posts on the violent destruction of cultural heritage that has intensified in Syria during the past few months. As an archaeologist, my news-feeds are always a-buzz with the latest updates on all things archaeology — but it’s not what … Continue reading »

There’s a real archaeological surprise in Honduras…

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | March 3, 2015

And if you have been following popular science reporting the last couple of days, you probably think you know what I mean. Well, that’s the surprise: you don’t. For those who haven’t seen the original report or its follow-ups, supposedly a “lost city” unknown to science, the “untouched ruins of a vanished culture”, has been … Continue reading »

Why fund studies of Maya architecture instead of saving lives?

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | October 1, 2013

That is the question two members of the current US House of Representatives pose in an opinion piece in USA Today, writing: Congress is right to ask why NSF chooses to fund research on Mayan architecture over projects that could help our wounded warriors or save lives. As an archaeologist specializing in Maya archaeology, who … Continue reading »

Good science, big hype, bad archaeology

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | June 7, 2012

Being an archaeologist is a funny thing, because archaeology is one of those sciences that catches the popular imagination: pyramids! tombs! mummies! treasure! But archaeology as a science is not about discoveries. It is about knowledge: understanding the human past, the lives of men and women, the ways that societies developed, how people coped with … Continue reading »

Politics and Archaeology, Russian Style

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | August 18, 2011

August used to be the silly season: a time for “the emergence of frivolous news stories”. This year, according to Patrick Barkham of the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has been providing some of the silliness,  citing pictures of Putin “looting undersea pottery” as classic silly story fodder. The imagery was irresistible for media … Continue reading »

The Wall

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | April 19, 2011

Earlier this month I went with my family for four days of walking through the countryside of Northumbria in the United Kingdom along some of the largest and most stunningly situated remains of what is known as Hadrian’s Wall. Built in a remarkable five year period on the orders of the Roman emperor Hadrian (in … Continue reading »

Art, authenticity, and the market in Precolumbian antiquities

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | March 25, 2011

Probably unnoticed by most readers of this blog, this week a major international incident exploded, pitting prestigious Mexican institutions against a French gallery, and causing social media linking archaeologists to light up. As summarized by Art Daily, the story begins with the sale of a private collection of Mexican antiquities in Paris. Primarily from the … Continue reading »

Prehispanic chocolate in the pueblos of the U.S. Southwest

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | March 17, 2011

Just about two years ago, Patricia Crown published the first study to identify residues of theobromine — a distinctive chemical present in the cacao plant, and hence in chocolate drinks — north of Mexico. The residues were recovered from three of five tested sherds, pieces of three painted cylinders from Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, … Continue reading »

Of people and things: Egyptian protest and cultural properties

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | February 4, 2011

In a post on the Berkeley Blog, Samuel Redman makes an argument that urges protection of antiquities be emphasized in the face of current events in Egypt, arguing that mummies are “shared global heritage”. I addressed similar questions in writing a  post on my Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives blog about unconfirmed reports of possible damage … Continue reading »

Anthropology: Engaged social science in a changing world

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | December 29, 2010

“The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological, and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.” American Anthropological Association, Statement of Purpose, … Continue reading »

Good news and bad news for higher education

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | December 9, 2010

I am writing this blog post from London, where today, students and faculty mobilized in fierce protest against the British government’s proposed — and now officially passed — plan to raise fees for university, to about $14,000 a year, tripling what fees were up till now. Meanwhile, the education news from California, where annual undergraduate … Continue reading »

Turkey day

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | November 24, 2010

The traditional Thanksgiving meal– turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie– is a commemorative meal. This every school child learns. But the history of that meal goes far further back than 1621. And the story it tells is far broader than the New England tale that will be retold all over the US tomorrow. … Continue reading »

What a research university is all about

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | September 3, 2010

In a basement laboratory on the Berkeley campus this week, a graduate student began the process of interviewing applicants for a project included in the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program. This innovative program lets Berkeley undergraduates from across the campus participate in the research of faculty and graduate students, experiencing first-hand the excitement of discovery, and … Continue reading »

What makes us human?

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | July 11, 2010

In some ways, anthropology can be understood as a discipline that takes this question as its focus. Usually, this would be illustrated by anthropological studies of the things like the origin of human language, life in the earliest cities, or how different societies experience and account for changes that come with aging. But there are … Continue reading »

Dead babies, brothels, contraception and presentist history

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | June 26, 2010

“Are dead babies good evidence for a Roman brothel?” That’s the question raised by a BBC story about analyses of materials from an almost century-old excavation at a Roman villa in the Thames Valley. The data: remains of 97 infants, all of whom died close to birth. To the researchers, the coincidence suggests deliberate killing … Continue reading »

“Lady Di of the 10th century?”: Poor Eadgyth!

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | June 19, 2010

“She was a beautiful English princess who married one of Europe’s most powerful monarchs and dazzled subjects with her charity and charm.” Thus did AP reporter Raphael G. Satter start a widely-reproduced story in January that the LA Daily News headline writer reduced to “Lady Di of the 10th Century“. (The Huffington Post more soberly … Continue reading »