Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Semesters End - Poster Session

In my class, ANTH 453/553 Archaeological Field Research Design, students prepared posters as a final project. These posters were done individually and as small groups of 2. The subject of the posters, of course, was the geophyisica/remote sensing archaeological field work done at Zzyzx during the semester.

Overall, I was happy with the work the students did. Generating a product out of the field work was much harder, I think, than what most of the students had anticipated. Much of the difficulty comes from the many different kinds of software packages needed to turn raw geophysical data into a final product. These included GPR-SLICE (the premier program for processing radar data for archaeology), MagMap 2000 (the free but powerful program for importing and processing magnetometry/resistivity data from Geometrics), NAV38B, the relatively crappy DOS based conductivity processing program from Geonics, ArcGIS, Golden Software's Surfer, PTGui (the best photomosaicing program I've found yet - absolutely key for generating mosaics from blimp photographs), Neosys Transform, Trimble GPS Pathfinder Office (for data transfer, conversion and post processed differential correction), ACD Systems Canvas, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and probably one or more other utilities I forgot to mention.

None of these packages are difficult in and of themselves, but there is a lot to futz around with. At any rate, I think the posters came out fine in the end and the results are interesting and useful.




You can download the posters here:

- Project Overview (SBR-0363c SBR-5417)

- SBR-0363c Burial Study (Mag, GPR, Resistivity, Conductivity)

- SBR-5417 Conductivity and Resistivity

- SBR-5417 GPR and Magnetometry

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

[From YouTube - Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot]

The ultimate relativist point of view - all we have ever known exists on a mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam... take that postmodern relativists!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Science Videos

I just ran across SciTalks ( - a directory of science related videos that are available from on the web. These include such inspiring classics as Richard Feynman's "On the Pleasure of Finding Things Out."  Great stuff.
On another note, I've been converting over more of the RCD videos over to WMV so I can post them on the web.  I have the remainder of 497 and all of 575. What I can't seem to find is 498. Ill have to dig those up. 

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Brooke Hundtoft

I am pleased to report that CSULB archaeology student undergraduate, Brooke Hundtoft has received a prestigious Provost Undergraduate Research award to do work on Easter Island "mata'a" shape variability. Congratulations!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Issue 2 of the Journal of Evolutionary and Historical Sciences (JEHS) is out!

Although the journal continues to evolve in terms of its look, format and process, we got a second issue out today of the Journal of Evolutionary and Historical Sciences (JEHS). This issue consists of posters that were presented at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Austin, Texas -- something I hope we can continue to do on a regular basis and expand upon. Since most posters are real products, it seems a shame to have them vanish into oblivion or be morphed into a traditional paper (perhaps years later). This venue provides an ideal way of having these published - in color - and allows posters to be shared with a wide community. Enjoy!

CLA Poster Showcase 2007

Jimmy Daniels has kindly posted his photos from this years CLA Student Research Poster Showcase. You can view them at

Below: Veronica Harper, Jessica Jaynes and Azzura Di Marcella in front of their winning poster.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

It has been a fairly lazy Memorial Day weekend for me. Surfing in the morning has provided the start of the day, while futzing around the house has dominated the afternoon. It actually feels great to do a whole lot of nothing. I did get the new blog worked aout and the blog completed. I've also toyed with creating a communal blog for the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts ( I guess Ill have to see if any of the faculty are interested in discussing their research, students, etc. Who knows. In addition, I've done a bit of work with Drupal ( to see if ejournal ( might be a better, more flexible solution than OJS. I started this setup ( but I still have to get the ejournal layer installed. Now, it is back to grading - method and theory II (456/556). Hopefully I can get that done today so that I can finish up 451/551 tomorrow and wednesday.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Artifact Analysis: Results of the Semester's Research

Sometime in February I wrote in this blog about the various research project's that students in my ANTH 451/551: Archaeological Artifact Analysis class were beginning. Over the course of the semester and in addition to 8 lab exercises, students conducted an independent project on assemblages that we have available here in CSULB. Working in groups of 2 or 3 graduate and undergraduates, each team develop a set of research questions and made measurements on these collections. The results of the analyses were presented at the 2007 CSULB/CLA Student Research Poster Showcase (previously mentioned). I have turned all the posters into PDF files so that this remarkable body of work can be shared with everyone. Here are the posters: (1) Beveled Projectile Points and Ballistics Technology Veronica Harper, Azzurra Di Marcello, and Jessica Jaynes (note: first place winner of poster competition) (2) Stylistic Analyses of Abelam Woodcarving from the Sepik River Papua New Guinea Jason A. Miller and Kristen Voss (3) Tracking cultural transmission in the Lower Mississippi River Valley using GIS and seriation Katie Eskew and Kristin Safi (4) Stylistic variability of stemmed obsidian biface tools on Easter Island Roberta Thomas and Brooke Hundtoft (5) Corrugation trends in Southwestern Pottery Margarita Cordova, Marisela Galindo, Amy Tupa (6) Digital image process of shell tempered ceramics from the Mississippi River Valley Jimmy Daniels and Lara Nemeth (Note: second place winner in the poster competition) (7) Analysis of wear patterns on lithic drills from the San Pedro Site (LAN-283), California Adia Shy and Tony Quach I've made links to pdfs of the posters as they become available (some students are slower than others... [Jimmy, Tony and Adia!]). These are all excellent examples of student research that results in real knowledge about the archaeological record. All the students involved deserve significant kudos for their work and dedication in getting these projects completed!

Veronica Harper - 2007 Franklin Fenenga Award for the Outstanding Graduate Student in Archaeology.

Every year, we nominate an archaeology graduate student for the Department's Franklin Fenenga Award for the Outstanding Graduate Student in Archaeology. There have been years in which it has been difficult, if not impossible to identify a student who really stood out from the others (and deserved to be called "outstanding"). In this case, the problem was the opposite - we had a number of excellent students and had to discuss who was first among equals. I am really pleased to announce that the 2007 Franklin Fenenga Award goes to: Veronica Harper Veronica is an excellent student who obtained her BA in Anthropology from the University of Kansas. She started at CSULB in the Fall of 2005 and has steadily gained a reputation at CSULB for being a serious, hard-working, intellectually sharp and talented student. Her Master's thesis focuses on the sourcing of basalt artifacts on Easter Island and her work provides a foundation for studying the movement of basalt tools and architectural features across the island. Her thesis should be complete in the Fall of 2007 and she will be applying to Ph.D. programs at that time. We expect to see great things from Ms. Harper in the future. Congratulations, Veronica!

2007 CSULB/CLA Student Research Poster Showcase

Last week, we held our first annual CLA Student Research Poster Showcase. We had 70 groups of students present posters, mostly from archaeology, classics and human development. I'm not sure why the other departments were not represented - Geography, for example, should have had 10-20 posters at least. Same with Anthropology... Four judges participated in the showcase and reviewed the full set of posters. I am extremely happy to report that the #1 and #2 positions were achieved by students in my ANTH 451/551: Artifact Analysis class. First place: Veronica Harper, Azzurra Di Marcello and Jessica Jaynes "Beveled Projectile Points and Ballistics Technology" Second place: Jimmy Daniels and Lara Nemeth "Digital imaging processing of shell temper variability in late prehistoric ceramics" First place receives an award of $200, while second place receives $100. There will be a small award ceremony on Wednesday in which the Dean will bestow these awards. Congratulations! BTW: I will be posting the posters in PDF form shortly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

O' the end of the semester! Tis' time for cheer!

The end of the semester is a busy time but it portends to much less busy times in the coming weeks (or week?). Of course, Easter Island will change that (again) but until then I should have much more time to surf. And do some various futzin' with models, simulations, reading, etc. Whooohoo! BTW: The LipoCam is back up. Not that it matters. One of those cheapo USB hubs did its cheapo thing and failed.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

After a bit of wrangling with the DNS reseller relationship between and Google, I finally have configured to serve as the "home" for my blog and other kinds of activities. Wheeee! I suppose this means almost nothing in the scheme of things, but the sense of finally getting this tattered bit of technological coordination on track provides a modicum of satisfaction (ala "It's times like this when I find a modicum of snuff to be quite efficacious."). I believe the old URL continues to work but you should now be prepared to use, for all eternity, Oh, and tomorrow I am going surfing, dammit. How can one have beach in their blog title and not actually get out to the damn sand?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Yellow Aster Butte 2003

Yellow Aster Butte 2003 003
Originally uploaded by carllipo.
I've been working on a way of getting better integration of my photos with the blog. Following the way Mark has been doing it, I think the Flickr solution is a reaonsable one. Unlimited upload and direct linking with the photo manager. Pretty sweet.

Here Tom Gaffney is waking up after a cool evening on top of Yellow Aster Butte in the Washington Cascade. Ah, the joys of the bivvy.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The potential dark future for anthropology?

Yesterday, I receive a number of forwarded emails from folks about the relatively crazy amendments to the NSF Authorization bill that was being voted upon in Congress. These amendments were being added by Congressmen Garrett (R-NJ) and Campbell (R-CA). They basically were making the specific case that a bunch of what is done in the SBE Division of NSF (this includes Anthropology) is "silly." The email from AAA is shown below.
URGENT ACTION REQUIRED Dear AAA Member: Please consider this request for immediate action -- review the following and make a call. BACKGROUND: The NSF Authorization bill for FY2008 is scheduled to come up for debate today on the House floor. Two proposed amendments – introduced by Reps. John Campbell (R-CA) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ) – would prohibit funding of nine already funded National Science Foundation grants in the Social, Behavioral and Economics Science Division based on their “silly” titles. Five of the nine grants targeted fall under the anthropology or archaeology portfolios. There are also amendments being considered to reduce NSF’s overall authorized funding level. The amendments and links to the abstracts of the nine grants follow below. The anthropology/archaeology grants are noted with an asterisk (*). AMENDMENTS to H.R. 1867 Offered by Mr. Garrett of New Jersey At the end of section 3, add the following new subsection; (h) LIMITATION.-None of the funds authorized under this section may be used for research related to (1) The reproductive aging and symptom experience at midlife among Bangladeshi Immigrants, Sedentees, and White London Neighbors; and (2) The diet and social stratification in ancient Puerto Rico. 1 = * 2= * Offered by Mr. Campbell of California At the end of section 3, add the following new subsection; (h) LIMITATION.-None of the funds authorized under this section may be used for research related to (1) archives of Andean Knotted-String Records (2) the accuracy in the cross-cultural understanding of others’ emotions; (3) bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains; (4) team versus individual play; (5) sexual politics of waste in Dakar, Senegal; (6) social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre’s Leaf Monkeys; and (7) cognitive model of superstitious belief. 1 = * 2 = 3 = * 4 = 5 = 6 = * 7 = MESSAGE: Call your Representative NOW, identify yourself as a constituent, tell him/her to vote “NO” on the Campbell and Garrett amendments to the NSF Authorization bill (H.R. 1867), and communicate the following simple messages: · NSF’s merit review is the best system for choosing grants, not Congressional meddling; · Titles are not the best judge of the worthiness of scientific research; · Silly sounding titles often produce important research results. Any questions, please call Paul Nuti at the AAA office – contacts below. THANK YOU!!! Paul J. Nuti Director of External, International & Government Relations American Anthropological Association
Fortunately for the researchers listed as under attack by these Congress members, the amendments were tossed out and the NSF bill was passed. Basically, enough people lobbied and argued that the relatively random meddling by Congress was in appropriate. Enough lobbying occurred and Congress backed off. The incidence, however, has really made me wonder whether or not it is as sign of a much greater troubled future for Anthropology. Sure, we can all express our outrage that judging proposals on the "silliness" of their titles is absurd and thickheaded. But are the critics of SBE and Anthropology really off the track for wondering whether or not these projects are worthy of funding by NSF in an era of increasing competition for resources for these kinds of projects (given shrinking dollar power and increased numbers of individuals working in the field)? Although I am certain an anthropologist and could face the same kinds of arbitrary criticisms about my own work (and titles... is "Mapping a Buried City" worthy of funding?), I have to be concerned that Garrett and Campbell's attack isn't a harbinger of things to come. From the uninformed public's perspective one has to wonder what kind of contribution is "Bison Hunting on the prehistoric Great Plains" going to provide to our economy, functional knowledge of the world, understanding of future outcomes. Now, from an archaeologist's point of view this kind of research seems entirely innocuous -- of course, I want to know more about bison hunting in the past.. that's what I study. But should anyone else care? That, I am not so sure about. Of course, I have to believe that the work we do has the potential for providing products of use and interest to the public at large. And by a product, I don't mean an interesting story that serves largely to entertain or to provide some moral perspective on resource use and downfall (or whatever). And I also don't mean a product that we have to sell to the public as being something they want but don't know they want (e.g., "you really need this Chia pet, though you don't know that yet until you get a Chia pet"). This latter "product" is simply marketing and PR (and all too much of the SAA and AAA group's emphasis). For anyone that knows me, the product I'm talking about is something else. It is a conceptual (dare I say "theory" or the "e word" these days?) model for accounting for historical change in human populations. Boom. Tough to build? Yes. Potentially powerful and productive? Absolutely. Now my point here isn't to flog this particular product as a goal that anthropologists and archaeologists must be working. Rather, I want to point out the implications of Garrett and Campbell's attack on a random sample of NSF projects in the SBE division. Without a product (and with only marketing to provide "substance"), it really isn't very surprising that these folks used the titles to make their judgement (and calling them "silly"). Would the result have been much different had they read the abstracts? Or the proposals themselves? I really doubt it. Yeah, the choices might have been different, but the result would have been the same: much of what we do really is "silly" in the sense of contributing to scientific knowledge about the world (which, I assume, is still the goal of the National Science Foundation). Detractors from this perspective might argue that there really isn't a way that a couple of bumbling Congress members could ever figure out value in anthropological research. They also would probably argue that "peer review" is the the "best" means by which evaluation of research proposals can be done. However, I have to ask: is it really? In the case of physics, I can see how peer-review of proposal works. Individuals who have a solid record of contributing functional products have a good handle on the classes of things that have to be true in order for a research proposal to be successful. In the case of physics, they don't have to agree a priori with the results (i.e., the competitive nature of science). Rather, they simply have to be able to judge whether or not the proposal provides evidence for the potential of producing a product. In the case of social sciences (especially anthropology and it's offspring), I have to wonder whether or not "peer review" serves the same purpose. Lacking a clear product (other than the stories we tell and sell), the process of peer review becomes entirely sociological - rather than ientifying classes of criteria that must be in place for potential to be judged, peer review necessarily focuses on whether or not the story supports the same kinds of things that the "peers" do. Peer review serves largely to reinforce the mean, perpetuating the lineage of researchers who do what they do because they can continue to do what they do (and often for little other reasons). I don't mean to be overly negative here (although I guess this is). Instead, I want to point out the inherent risk that we (as anthropologists) have to face in the future. And this is: as resources become more constrained and competitive (across all disciplines) choices will have to be made. The implications of this are fairly obvious. Given that we can only judge the potential of research to produce a product, those disciplines who have a greater degree of uncertainty of achieving anything are going to be the first to face having funds reduced. This is simply the consequence of switch from a resource-rich environment (where you fund as much as you can in an effort to maximize output and simply eliminate false positives) to a resource-poor environment (where one funds specific directions that reduce false negatives). In the former case, it pays to fund as much as possible with the idea that we need to give everything a chance (even though we might include some bogus stuff, like anthropology). In the latter case, it pays to fund only the activities that you know will be successful. Thus you recognize that you might be cutting funding from research that might have a product - but you narrow your focus to just the "no brainers" (e.g., energy research, genetics, whatever). This is what scares me. The amendments to the NSF Authorization bill are clearly signals that our work is going to be more carefully scrutinized. The public (yes, uninformed as they are) are going to demand more for their buck - and we need to be in a position -sooner than later- to be able to demonstrate this. If it isn't too late already.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SAAs 2007

I'm sitting in the Phoenix "Sky Harbor" airport waiting for my now-delayed flight to Austin. Bored, I decided to thumb through the SAA schedule of presentations to see what I am going to be seeing over the next few days. It is certainly a mixed back of stuff. While there are some interesting titles (such as the papers int shell temper symposium organized by Evan Peacock and Jim Feathers) as well as those in my own symposia (of course!), I have to say there are far too many presentations that just make me shake my head. A couple of examples: Miguel Aguilera—Maya Skeletal Semen: Emerging from the White-Bone Snake Richard Hingley—Ancestors and Spirits in Later Prehistoric Britain Linda Brown—The Agency of Stones and Bones: Hunting Shrines around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala Perhaps there is more to these papers than the titles indicate. I guess I shouldn't judge. But, come on - semen and spirits?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Society for American Archaeology Meetings - Austin, TX 2007

I'm very pleased to note that a number of CSULB graduate students will be presenting at this year's SAA meetings in Austin, TX. This is the "world series" of archaeology meetings and it is quite rewarding to know that our students are up to (and, surpass!) the professional standards of the discipline. Here are the CSULB papers/posters for 2007 (student names in bold):
  • Veronica Harper, Hector Neff and Carl Lipo—Basalt Artifact Sourcing on Easter Island
  • Kristin Safi, Carl Lipo, Terry Hunt and Sergio Rapu—Geophysical Explorations and Sequences of Monumental Architecture at the Anakena Dune of Easter Island
  • Roberta Thomas, Hector Neff and Carl Lipo—The Sourcing of Stemmed Obsidian Bifaces on Easter Island
  • Ian Fraser-Shapiro and Will Gilstrap—Obsidian Microdebitage Analysis By LAICP- MS
I am also pleased to be part of other papers with colleagues.
  • John Terrell, Ethan Cochrane and Carl Lipo—Branching vs. Blending is Not the Question
  • Jelmer Eerkens and Carl Lipo—Technological Change and Brownware Pottery Technologies in the Western Great Basin of North America
  • Matthew Bell, Carl Lipo and Terry Hunt—Aerial Photography of Surface Features on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Finally, I'm helping to organize the poster session on Easter Island (with Terry Hunt) and a symposium on evolutionary archaeology with Jose Luis Lanata. This latter event (APPROACHING DARWIN'S BICENTENNIAL: THE STATE OF THE ART IN EVOLUTIONARY ARCHAEOLOGY) has a great line up of archaeologists working on evolutionary applications. One aspect of the symposium we pushed was to get folks involved who were not the "standard names" of the discipline. Thus, we have a conspicuous lack of folks like Mike O'Brien, Lee Lyman, R.C. Dunnell and others who have carried the banner of evolution for the past few years. Here is the full lineup (Saturday Morning 8-11:30AM):
  • 8:00 P. Jeffrey Brantingham—Style, Function and Archaeological Site Frmation Processes
  • 8:15 Mike Cannon—Modeling the Tradeoff between Foraging and Farming
  • 8:30 Todd VanPool—Sex and Labor: An Evolutionary Model of the Division of Labor
  • 8:45 Jillian Galle—Conspicuous Consumption and Gendered Social Strategies among Slaves in the 18th Century
  • 9:00 Sarah B. McClure and Douglas J. Kennett—Cultural Transmission and the Generation of Variation in Spanish Neolithic Pottery
  • 9:15 Jonathan Scholnick—Cultural Transmission and Spatial Patterning in Historic New England Gravestones
  • 9:30 Aimee Plourde—Contributions to the Study of Sociopolitical Hierarchy from a Theory of the Evolved Capacity for Prestige
  • 9:45 John Darwent—Phylogenies of Thule Period Harpoon Components from the North American Arctic
  • 10:00 Karen Y. Smith—Correspondence Analysis: A Method for Monitoring Branching and Convergence in the Archaeological Record
  • 10:15 John Terrell, Ethan Cochrane and Carl Lipo—Branching vs. Blending is Not the Question
  • 10:30 Jose Luis Lanata and Arleen Garcia -Herbst—Exploring the Tempo and Mode of America’s Human Dispersal
  • 10:45 Mark Collard and Briggs Buchanan—A Matrix Correlation Test of Early Paleoindian Migration Route Hypotheses
  • 11:00 Briggs Buchanan and Mark Collard—Investigating the Peopling of North America through Cladistic Analyses of Early Paleoindian Projectile Points
  • 11:15 Hector Neff—Discussant

The 24th O' April

Tis my birthday tomorrow (the 24th) - but more importantly, it is my buddy Eamon's birthday too. Eamon Nicholas Gaffney was born 30 years to the day after I was and is perhaps the "upgraded" model of myself (Lipo v.2.0). I remember the late night when Tom called me about the birth of Eamon - I was living in the Malloy, a crackerbox apartment behind the elevator where I could turn the stove on while lying in bed. It was very late, as I recall, and his voice was very excited. It was a great moment, really, when I realized (blearily and slowly) that Eamon was making his entrance exactly 30 years after my own.
I remember arguing with Syd and Tom that Eamon should have been called "Nick" - if only to do justice to the black shalayle that Tom has ("Crazy ol' Nick Gaffney and his damn shalayle!").
At any rate, tomorrow is that day again. Hopefully, I'll get to surf - someday I hope to be better than that black labrador in the photo above.

Colonization of Easter Island - and implications.

I have posted the poster that Terry Hunt and I plan to present at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Austin, TX this week. You can download a pdf of the poster here. This poster presents an extended argument about the timing of the colonization of Easter Island (Rapa Nui). We suggest that the island was not occupied until about AD 1200, about 500 years after the "traditional" date of AD 700-900. While it might seem like a small point, this change in the chronology has rippling significance to the standard "collapse" story told by Flenley, Bahn, Diamond and others. What the date means is that there is only about 500 years for the entire prehistory of Easter Island - prior to Easter Sunday in AD 1722 when Roggeveen arrives on the island. 500 years for occupation, "climax," "collapse," and then rebound - if one is to accept the traditional story. One might think that this alone should present questions about the chronology as we present it. "If collapse occurred, then the short chronology can't be right." In fact, this is what a number of colleagues appear to believe and are arguing in print (Bahn and Flenley are publishing such a statement in the upcoming issue of Rapa Nui Journal). As it turns out, it appears that many researchers have worked backwards - while we have concrete evidence (as argued in the poster) for the "short" chronology, we don't have evidence for a "collapse" - at least pre-European arrival. This might seem odd to many as many assume that the story of collapse is one that is "obvious" or "certain." It's not. The problem here is a mixing of evidence and belief. This has resulted in what we term "belief based" archaeology for Easter Island. Researchers have made many claims about the prehistory of the islands but a remarkably large number of them are based on inferences derived from the story itself (i.e., circular reasoning). We do know without any reasonable doubt that there were large numbers of palm trees on the island prior to humans arriving. We also know at some point all of the trees went extinct. What we don’t know is the chronological and functional relations between humans and plants that resulted in the loss of trees. Lacking much of the basic evidence, a set of beliefs have been established and perpetuated that rationalize the story. For example: What is the connection between trees and people? Belief: Trees were used to move statues around (this is stated primarily because its assumed that this is why the trees went away) Evidence: We don’t know. We don’t even have evidence that the extinct palms were capable of moving statues around given that many of the related taxa have big mushy interiors. How did statues get moved? Belief: Trees used as levers or rollers Evidence: We don’t know but evidence points more towards the fact that they were “walked” rather than rolled. How many people were on the island in prehistory (at maximum)? Belief: 10-20,000 people because that’s the number assumed that were required for organizational structures to manipulate the movement of statues. Evidence: We don’t know though the number at contact is reported at 3-4,000 and the settlement patterns are largely dispersed rather than nucleated. When did people arrive on the island? Belief: 700-900AD because that is the amount of time it would take to get to 10-20,000 people Evidence: Looking critically at dates we can accept based on standard practices, we find that evidence points to 1200AD. This means that only 500 years passes before Europeans arrive (AD1722). When did the “collapse” occur? Belief: some several hundred years prior to European contact in AD1722. This gap is thought to occur to account for the well-fed and robust nature of the population in 1722 (i.e., post collapse) . Evidence: There is no evidence of prehistoric collapse. People were healthy in 1722, prior to that we simply don’t know but nothing exists to suggest cannibalism, warfare, catastrophe. Collapse certain did occur after 1722 – we have records of that (and was caused by disease and other dramatic population changes). How did people fight with one another? Belief: Obsidian bifaces called “mataa” are found all over the place. These were weapons. Evidence: The shape of the mataa are such that they would make terrible weapons. While there are few that are pointy, the vast majority are oddly shaped and have no pointed end. Their shape and usewear is consistent with cutting (if it were for stabbing one would expect significant impact damage on the tips – but that is not the case). Skeletal evidence also shows little evidence for traumatic injuries – skeletons exhibit non-lethal trauma.- How did people destroy their landscape? Belief: By cutting down the trees, the people “began a downward spiral” to cultural catastrophe – erosion and carrying capacity vanished. Evidence: Given known archaeological rat populations (we find them in all of the early layers) palm trees may not have been useful subsistence source – and may have harbored millions of rats. Polynesians who arrived on the island were cultivators – farmers – who relied on plants like the sweet potato, sugar cane, bananas. Thus its not clear there was a necessary relation between people and palm trees (other than the negative aspect of having them filled with rats eating the palm nuts). As for erosion – we know it occurred – but given the fact that the archaeological record is largely surficial over all (you can find mataa, obisidian flakes, groundstone every where) it doesn’t seem to have been prehistoric. Indeed, much of the major erosion seems to be a function of the 100 years of sheep ranching and other historic activities (most by Europeans). There are many more examples of a belief structure that focuses on "collapse" and "environmental overshoot" guiding what people perceive the evidence to be on Easter Island. All of these need to be carefully examined so that we can distinguish aspects of the archaeological record from the stories being spun about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More from RCD

New videos posted from Dunnell's 497 class. I'm slowly getting through these and posting them. I also have higher resolution DVD versions if anyone is interested (though that will take more time). Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2007


So one might wonder when does the surfin' happening? Well, finally after a couple of months of sloth, I got out to seal beach this weekend for some morning surf on saturday and sunday. Regulars Neff and Dudgeon were far too weak to manage the spring conditions, but I did get JimmyD out on the long board. Michael and crew from M&M Surf were there as usual. While the water was a bit chilly, the surfing was fun.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Rapa Nui Database - New Website

In preparation for the publication of the moai database, I created a new website to host the information that describes what we are doing, etc. This is now hosted via Google Apps which means we can use other features of that setup (widgets, apps, calendars, email, etc). I registered the domain: for the site. You can see what I have done at: I also created a simple widget to randomly display a photo of a moai. If you use google as your home page, or as your 'sidebar' you can add a random moai photo by pointing to:

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Announcing: The Journal of Evolutionary and Historical Science

Using the new PLoS ONE model of open-access with community-based reviews as a basis, I am happy to announce the creation of the Journal of Evolutionary and Historical Science (JEHS). JEHS is a journal that is meant to bring together researchers interested in studying the evolution of ourselves. By researchers, I mean archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists, economists, historians, evolutionary biologists, geographers, and many others. Through an open community based review system in which everyone gets to participate in commenting on articles, we hope to foster interdisciplinary discussion on the application of evolutionary theory in the study of historical phenomena. I strongly believe that many disciplines, particularly those moribund through 'traditional' thinking, trapped by the 'haves' who work hard to keep change comfortable for themselves, and those in which change is twittering on the edge of discovery, need to have venues that allow for more rapid innovation and more global and immediate feedback of ideas. As the EHB article demonstrated the engine of change is really innovation rate - and its become clear that in disciplines like archaeology innovation is often stifled, in place of rewordings of the same old kinds of approaches. Community-based publications permit us to present our ideas to the world and let researchers and scientists provide the feedback as to whether they are useful or not. Why let the old-white-men-and-women determine what is "appropriate" or not in secrecy? Free the ideas! Publications in JEHS will initially focus on getting great papers that have no chance of seeing the light of day. Papers that might go into obscure edited volumes that no one will own or read. The edited volume phenomenon is particular detrimental to non-US researchers who may not be able to afford the cost of the books. Through an open-access policy, everyone everywhere can read the material for free. In this way, it will be possible to create a larger international group of scientists than is possible with traditional forms of publications. We will also accept great conference papers or other kinds of submissions that are professionally done but could use feedback from the great minds that exist out in the world. We all have these kinds of papers - and all-too-often the idea of polishing it up to send to a traditional journal (with the attendant and obligatory "correct" citations of individuals, correct "framing" of wording to appease the Old-Men/Women, tricky wording to fool those who might be easily offended, and other huge time sinks) is too horrible to really consider. We want those papers - the world needs those papers. Organizationally, I would like to encourage as many editors (section editors, each with different kinds of expertise) as possible. These individuals (who can serve on multiple sections as desired) simply work to encourage submissions and to do the technical reviews on articles as they come in. The latter task requires making sure that the papers meet technical standards and that spelling and other basic requirements are met. Thus the burden should be fairly light and the turn around on paper submissions should be fast. The more people who can participate as section editors, the better - since it will mean more papers, and faster throughput. If anyone out there wants to become a section editor, simply send me an email ( Our aim is to get the journal indexed and crawled like a regular journal. Who needs paper anyways these days? We have applied for an ISSN number and will work with the open-access community to integrate JEHS into existing frameworks for citation analysis, indexing, etc. The advantage of all of this is that the cost of running the entire journal is zero (other than our own efforts) with no print costs. This means we can accept innovative articles, long pieces, color figures, huge data sets, etc. It's a new day in the academic publication world. JEHS is hosted on an open-source database back end platform from Simon Fraser called Open Journal Systems. The OJS software is remarkably complete - and comes standard with roles, email feedback, automated submission system, etc. Very impressive. Ultimately, I'd like to migrate the journal to TOPAZ that PLoS ONE uses - once the software (which is also open-source) is released (which is supposed to happen soon).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Random Copying II

Reuters did an interview with me yesterday on the Random Copying article. The Reuters story just came out this morning:

Thursday, March 29, 2007

More Random Copying

The press is starting to pick up the Random Copying story. To the right is a graph of the rate of occurrences over time since the story first "broke" yesterday at about noon. Let's see if the popularity of the story takes the shape of a random variant. It would be great to be able to do this on the fly - generating histograms of events from based on queries. Google "trends" does this to some degree, but it uses search terms to build its data - not frequency of reporting in the news media. Thus its measuring something different - the rate at which people go to the web to look for a term -- not the rate at which it appears on the web. Building an application to do this shouldn't too hard given the automated way in which search are generated. One would just need to parse for time and title of each entry (assuming each is really related to the topic of interest). Hmmmm.. I'll have to cruft something up. Maybe later.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Random Copying

The media is starting to pick up on the Bentley et al (2007) E&HB paper on random copying. Mostly it has been press in the UK (and India) but that could change tomorrow. It is kind of ironic that the message of the paper we wrote is now experiencing the "random copy" effect we describe as a function of the media passing the story on to one another. As it increases in popularity in the press, at least for the period of time before another story pops, it will continue to increase in frequency on science news sites. The frequency of the story itself is predicted by the story. Funny. Anyways, these are the media references to date.$1072208.htm,,30000-1258130,00.html

Monday, March 26, 2007


One implication of the random-copying model paper is that many of the cultural phenomena that we see are actually a reflection of the effect of random copying between individuals. We like to think that we strategies what we do or that we have a good "reasons" for what we do. While people may have all kinds of rationale for what they do, the data consistently show that change is a function of copying. To the right is another example of this effect. The graph shows the incidence of reports of "UFO" sightings per day from June 1 through July 30, 1947. The distribution is consistent with a trait moving through a population copying in a random fashion. I suspect the "witch sightings" data from the Salem during the late 17th century take the same distribution. Could incidence of mentions of WMD in Iraq by the Bush administration be the same?

Evolution and Human Behavior

It looks like the Bentley, Lipo, Herzog and Hahn paper Regular rates of popular culture change reflect random copying paper is going to published in Evolution and Human Behavior some time this week. You can download a copy of the paper here: We are also doing a press release for this through CSULB and the University of Durham. Here's the text of the PR that is slated to go out shortly. (Cal State Long Beach draft v. 3/26/07) March 27, 2007 #2007-XXX Random Copying Influences Popular Trends More Than Rational Choices, Says International Study Group Including Cal State Long Beach Professor Identifying the next trend-forward thing can be a crucial prediction worth billions of dollars to marketers. Yet, the popularity of things like baby names, music, dog breeds or fashions will change at a constant rate regardless of population size through a process of people randomly copying trends, according to a new study by an international team of academics including a California State University, Long Beach professor. Controversially, this contradicts classic economic models which believe that people make rational choices about the clothes they wear, the way they dance or the music they listen to. Researchers at Durham University, England, as well as CSULB, Western Carolina University and Indiana University authored an article titled “Regular rates of popular culture change reflect random copying” that appears in the May issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. It shows that almost all of us are copycats and it is guaranteed that our taste in music or baby names will change at a consistent rate over time, but there is no way of predicting how it will change as it is completely random. New ideas become highly popular by chance alone, and then over time are replaced by others, all through the process of copying with occasional innovation. Carl Lipo, an associate professor in anthropology at Cal State Long Beach and research scientist at CSULB’s Institute for Integrated Research on Materials, Environments and Society (IIRMES), said that the results demonstrate how relatively simple models can be used to explain remarkably complex phenomena. “What we demonstrate,” he stated, “is that the aggregate effect of simple rules often underlie what we see as organization at higher scales. We don’t need to invoke the idea of some individual or group for patterns to emerge.” Led by Alex Bentley of the Durham University Anthropology Department, the team looked at the Billboard Top 200 chart and found that it turned over at a constant average rate for over 30 years between 1950 and 1980. The number of albums entering and exiting the chart varied from day to day and month to month, but overall the average stayed fixed at 5.6 percent per month for the full 30-year period. A similar consistent turnover rate was established for the top baby names and dog breeds. Bentley also is associated with the Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity, funded by UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. Psychology Professor Harold A. Herzog of Western Carolina University and biology Professor Matthew W. Hahn of Indiana University also participated in the study. Their real-world data was matched by computer simulations of a random copying model with 2,000 individuals copying each other from one instant to the next, with a small proportion of innovators (two percent or less). During the simulation, they kept track of the Top 40, Top 100 and other lists of popular trends and monitored how much turnover there was. The model predicted continuous and regular turnover matching the proof of the real-world data from the charts of baby names, music and dog breeds. How quickly a list will change depends on the size of the list—the more choices people have, the quicker trends become popular or unpopular. However, the research has found that the size of the population does not have an impact on the turnover of lists. Although a higher population means more new ideas are out there, the turnover on a top 100 list does not increase as there is more competition for any particular idea to reach the list. Marketing professionals who use viral marketing, which spreads information by word-of-mouth through social networks and the Web, often classify people as innovators, early adopters and copiers. “Innovators are the cool ones who don’t bother imitating other people, but instead ‘pump’ new fashions into our world,” Bentley said. “Most are ignored, but some get copied. If the innovator is already a ‘cool’ celebrity, it means something shoots up in popularity much faster than you would predict likely via random copying. However, turnover over time will still be constant. “The model we have discovered predicts that the turnover of fashion will be proportional to the square root of the proportion of innovators, regardless of population size,” he noted. Since it is a game of chance, the model cannot predict how any one particular fad will fare, or which trends will become fashionable, just that new trends will definitely emerge at a regular and predictable rate. The discovery that change is continual and regular under the random copying model means it could be a useful tool to predict change rates as well as distinguish copying from other forms of collective behavior. There are areas in society where random copying is desired. For example, community campaigns to recycle waste benefit by people randomly copying each other’s behavior. However, in other areas such as politics, rational, informed choices are desirable. # # # For further information, contact:
  • Dr. Carl P. Lipo, California State University, Long Beach, Department of Anthropology; Tel: +01 (562) 985-2393; e-mail:
  • Anne Ambrose, Public Affairs Office, California State University Long Beach, Tel: +01 (562) 985-2582,; or Rick Gloady, Tel: +01 (562) 985-5454; e-mail:
  • Dr Alex Bentley, Durham University, Anthropology Department; Tel: +44 (0)191 334 6198;
  • e-mail
  • Media and Public Affairs Office, Durham University; Tel: +44 (0)191 334 6075; e-mail
Notes to Editors About California State University, Long Beach California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is one of 23 campuses of the California State University, the nation’s largest public university system. For the third consecutive year, U.S. News and World Report ranked CSULB among the top three public master’s universities in the western United States, and Princeton Review again named it a Best in the West. With an enrollment of 35,576, Cal State Long Beach is committed to being an outstanding teaching-intensive, research-driven university that emphasizes student engagement, scholarly and creative achievement, civic participation and global perspectives. Founded in 1949, CSULB offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctor of education (Ed.D.) degrees, along with several joint Ph.D.s with other institutions. Visit About IIRMES The Institute for Integrated Research in Materials, Environments, and Society (IIRMES) at California State University, Long Beach provides opportunities for research collaborations between faculty and students from CSULB’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and College of Liberal Arts, as well as with other institutions, in a new interdisciplinary field that attempts to integrate the physical, natural and social sciences. Visit About the Anthropology Department at Durham University The Department is one of the very few anthropology departments in the UK that teaches and conducts research in both biological and social areas of the subject; with 29 permanent members of academic staff it is also one of the UK’s largest. In the last Research Assessment Exercise the Department was awarded a 5, denoting international excellence. Reflecting the department’s interdisciplinary research strategy, four of the department’s five research groups bridge the bio-social boundary. About Durham University Founded in 1832, Durham University aims to provide internationally recognised research, scholarship and learning within a distinctive collegiate environment. Based on two sites in Durham city and Stockton on Tees in the North East of England it has 15,000 students, employs 3,000 staff, has created 16 spin out companies since 2000 and has an annual turnover of over £175m, making it the equivalent of a top 50 North-East business. The Sunday Times University Guide for potential students named Durham University as ‘University of the Year in 2005.’ The University is collegiate, with colleges providing residential, social and welfare facilities for their student members, and creating a sense of community for staff and students together. Its academic teaching and research programmes are delivered through departments contained within three faculties: Arts and Humanities, Science, and Social Sciences and Health.

Smithsonian Magazine

There is a short article about my field work and research on Easter Island in the most recent issue of Smithsonian magazine. The comments by Joanne Van Tilburg are perhaps the most interesting as they demonstrate her tightly-held beliefs about the prehistory of the island and her reluctance to consider the evidence at it exists. She comes across as though she is putting the story before information, picking and choosing the "facts" as they fit her notions about what "must have" happened. For example, why is it inconceivable that people started making platforms when they first arrived on the island? Sure it makes little sense in 19th century "cultural evolution" framework in which all cultural change goes from "simple" to "complex" in a linear trajectory. But if groups were making platforms and other kinds of ceremonial architecture before they arrived, why would they necessary stop? In fact, this may be one of the first things they would do if the "function" of platforms is religious/honor of ancestor or whatever. The point is that we have to discard the badly constructed, largely data-free story that has grown up about the island (starting with missionaries) and generate information about the structure and distribution of the archaeological record. Until we do this task, the island will remain a "mystery" -- but perhaps that is ultimate goal of Van Tilburg in the end.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More RCD

For all of you systematics in prehistory fans, philosophers of archaeological science, and mullers of conceptual frameworks for generating knowledge in the past, I just posted a couple of new RCD lectures. Enjoy.

Idle Twiddling

Just for kicks, I took an old webcam I had and created a live web feed for my office. Why? I dunno. But you can now peer into the dull activities of an archaeology professor, 7x24. Whoohooo!

Society for California Archaeology Meetings - 2007

I am pleased to report that a number of students from the CSULB archaeology program are presenting papers at this year's Society for California Archaeology meetings in San Jose. The presence of students who present papers and posters at meetings is an excellent assessment measure of success of a program. I think we do remarkably well in this area. This year's SCA meeting participants are: Kristin Safi Luminescence Dating of Ceramic Samples from the Southern California Desert (Symposium: Current Applications of Advanced Technology in California Archaeology
  • Luminescence dating can provide chronometric information about archaeological materials in regions where few cultural remains are readily available for the determination of temporal provenience. The desert region of southern California is one particular area where luminescence dating has great potential for providing chronometric information for aggregate scale archaeological features. In this study, coarse grain and fine grain analysis is conducted utilizing Optically Stimulated Luminescence/Single Aliquot Regeneration (OSL/SAR) dating techniques to determine the direct age dates on five ceramic sherds from two survey areas in Indio, California. Compositional analyses are also conducted to assess and calibrate the chronometric data to achieve greatinformation useful in provenance determination.
Clarus Backes Characterization of Rock Chemical Art Pigments by LA-ICP-MS (Symposium: Current Applications of Advanced Technology in California Archaeology )
  • Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) shows considerable promise as a minimally invasive technique for chemical characterization of rock art pigments. LA-ICP-MS offers high sensitivity to trace elements, requires only a small amount of sample with minimal sample preparation, and allows pigment to be differentiated from host rock to a degree not possible with other characterization methods. Analyses of paint samples taken directly from pictograph panels at Little Lake and of raw pigments previously recovered from excavations at the Stahl Site demonstrate the utility of LA-ICP-MS for making intra- and inter-site comparisons of pigment compositions.
I will try to get copies of the papers up on the web in the near future. The bigger, Society for American Archaeology meetings have a large number of CSULB presenters. I'll report on those soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

New RCD Lectures

Finally, I have freed up enough time to get more of the Dunnell 497 videos converted to DVD and to web-friendly movies. I have now posted Lectures 3 and 4 on my website at:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Detecting Change

One of the topics I talk about in my Archaeological Method and Theory classes (ANTH 455/555 and 456/556) is the challenge of taking a time-like (materialist) view of the world over a space-like (essentialist) view. Although conceptually we can imagine (or at least pretend to imagine) conceiving of the world where change is continuous and "things" are really events at different temporal scales, our common sense tells us otherwise. Thus, what we see as a "table" is a snapshot (i.e., a particular combination of attributes - or more generally, an event) of a continuously changing set of attributes. Imagine having a time-lapse camera in your head where you can watch an object in "fast forward" mode from the point of its creation to some far distant point. When we do that, the idea of "table" becomes fairly arbitrary because we can view the table from trees to lumber to table to table with marks on it, to wobbly table to refinished table to broken table to firewood to fire (or whatever unique history occurs). The idea of "table" only has meaning as a thing at specific instances in time. This is taking a "time-like" view of the world - and its vital to constructing a scientific understanding of history. Of course, humans are not particularly well-suited to conceiving of the world this way. Our "default" position is that things are real and unchanging. Yeah, we can understand that things change but we are not really good at detecting change. We are good at seeing difference but change is an effect that we largely understand in terms of difference. This has a number of consequences. First, as my colleague Mark Madsen pointed out to me, the cognitive mechanisms that filter information coming from the eyes highlight the irrelevance of the "realism" and "non-realism" debates in the philosophy of science. While there is some "world" out there, we can never escape the set of filters by which we observe it. In addition to all of the culturally mediated (in the Hanson 1958 and Osgood 1951 sense), we can never perceive "reality" since we don't have the mental machinery to do it. The second consequence is that our fallback position (i.e., common sense) is one of essentialism (space like views). If we don't specifically try to build explicit measurement systems (i.e., classification) we will end up making assumptions about thing-ness that embodies space-like perceptions. In other words, we will treat our observations in the here-and-now as if they are the "real" world. The degree to which this aspect of our perception and observation systems is limited by our mental machinery has been demonstrated through a series of experiments by cognitive psychologists. One of the coolest I've seen is a series of videos that demonstrate how poor we are at sensing change. These were done at the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois. You can read more about the Visual Cognition Lab and see more examples at:

Friday, March 9, 2007

At the High Table once again

While Mark was down here in Long Beach we decided to finally invest some energy and money into getting the giant pile of RCD videos digitized and on DVDs. This pile of videos, a product of our mid-90s effort to document Dunnell's classes for posterity, represents several of his most influential classes: Archy 497, 498, 479 and 575. Perhaps of interest to only a small few, the videos capture the essence of what was amazing about graduate school in the University of Washington during this time: a somewhat cantankerous man logically constructing archaeology from first principles to sweeping explanations. Although initially baffling, the lessons learned from those classes provided immense metalevel and philosophical understanding of the practice of science and its conceptual framework. Although there are those who really disliked the class, there are probably few that weren't impacted by it in a deep way. Those were amazing classes. Well, to mark the movement of RCD into the digital world, I am happy to announce web versions of Dunnell. I'll try to get more up as they are finished. But for now, treat yourself to the first two lectures of Archy 497: Formal Theory.

Friday, March 2, 2007


It is really hard to believe the number of these fortified deposits until one goes and actually looks. This one is in Craighead County, Arkansas: 3CG41. I don't think I've seen a deposit as clearly delineated as this one. Absolutely amazing.

Prehistoric Rectangular Fortified Village of the Day...

Ah, Friday. There are few things like the sense of anticipation that arrives on a Friday afternoon. And to celebrate Fridayness, I present another instance of a prehistoric rectangular fortified village deposit. This one is 3MS18 located in Arkansas.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

More fortified prehistoric villages in the LMV

Although we had long worked in this area, it wasn't until we got this photo that it became clear that Caruthersville, MO has a substantial rectangular and fortified deposit. The rectangular feature is clearly visible in this photo.

Seriation Updates

A couple of minor updates to the seriation macros. These are uploaded at:

Monday, February 26, 2007

Prehistoric Fortified Villages in the Mississippi River Valley

One of the projects I have been working on consists of mapping known (and previously unknown) earth works (i.e., spatially structured deposits) in the Mississippi River valley. As it turns out, there are hundreds of deposits that are either poorly known or not known at all by professional archaeologists (usually these are features that are known to local folks, but have yet to be systematically described). Working with Robert Dunnell and online aerial photographs, I have been trying to create the beginnings of an LMV database that brings together known site records with as many photographic images as we can pull together. Ultimately, this will be the basis of a larger project to systematically evaluate the valley.
To the right is a false-color infrared USGS image of 3MS59, a deposit identified by the Arkansas Archeological Survey. In this image, one can clearly see the large rectangular shape of the deposit and even some detail about the internal structure. The parallel lines on the perimeter of the deposit may indicate multiple episodes of construction or functional differences. Incredibly cool.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More from Guatemala

I've spent the last weekend working on the Guatemala GPR data with Dean Goodman's fantastic "GPR Slice" software ( There are aspects about the software that derive from its PowerBasic origin and "command line" type interface, but it the best thing around for generating 2D horizontal slices for multiple time-transect data. The results are stunning and the control one has over all of the steps of processing is spectacular. It takes a bit of training to use, but once mastered you have one of the ultimate tools for geophysical research in the archaeological record. One of the recent projects I've worked on is the re-analysis of the VA11 data from El Baul (from 2007 and 2006). You can see the results by clicking on the figure on the right (one annoying problem - the .jpg output always includes all possible grids to determine length when the set of slices might only be a few).
I've also processed a chunk of the VA11 data from 2006. This correspondences neatly with the 2007 data. One can see the sharp beginning of the causeway as it angles north. This image is also on the right (but you will need to click on it to really see anything).
One bonus aspect of working with Dean Goodman is that he is constantly updating his software and is always willing to entertain notions of new features, new tools, etc. As a result, the more one works with GPR Slice, the more useful it becomes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Artifact Analyses

I am quite excited about the set of student projects that came together for this semester's ANTH 451/551 (Archaeological Artifact Analyses). There are 18 students enrolled in the class - a mix of undergraduates and graduate students. I decided this year to add a project to the class requirements. Although this presents a bit of a "chicken and egg" problem, the notion of a project seems to provide a bit more immediate application for the stuff we discuss in class (and practice in lab exercises). I created a series of groups for the projects (8) so that the 2-3 students are working on each set of artifacts. For the projects, I assembled artifacts assemblages from whereever I could find them - my own, stuff in storage, Dan's material, etc. I came up with these projects:
  • Decorated late prehistoric rim sherds from NE Arkansas (stylistic analysis of decoration and rim form variability across space and time)
  • Plain ceramics from late prehistoric deposits in NE Arkansas (analysis of temper variability [using digital image processing] relative to vessel form [thickness, size])
  • Decorated ceramics from Pottery Knoll, Utah (courtesy of Daniel Larson. This project will focus on relating ceramic decorative variability to pueblo room. I hope that we can expand this to include elemental analyses of paint composition using LA-ICP-MS).
  • Decorated ceramics from sites from Arizona (courtesy of Sachiko Sakai and Daniel Larson. This project will study ceramic decorative variability through space and time at sites in and around the Grand Canyon).
  • Lithics from the San Pedro Site (LAN-283). This collection was produced through excavations conducted in 1968 and stored in the depths of CSULB since that time. From what I can tell, it has a remarkable collection of gravers and drills as well as manufacturing debris. Since the deposit also contains faunal remains and shell, it will be interesting to look at wear patterns and technological variability of these tools.
  • Painted wooden statue carvings from the Sepik River in New Guinea. These were collected by someone at CSULB (then Long Beach State) in the late sixties (as far as I can tell) and have been stored since then. There are about 50 or so statues ranging from about 20 cm in length to 1.5 meters. All of the statues have elaborate painting and decoration. This project will focus on studying stylistic variability (lineages?) in the statues with respect to space and, potentially, language.
  • A collection of projectile points collected from locations across Texas. This projectile collection has a great deal of time depth and we will seek to do cladistic analyses on haft variability (and metric variability) ala John Darwent who did this kind of work on Missouri projectile points.
  • Stylistic and formal variability of obsidian bifaces ("mata'a") from Easter Island. This project will make use of a series of scaled photographs we have of obisidian bifaces we collected as part of the parcela surveys conducted at the Easter Island field school last summer (the obsidian bifaces remained on the island). We will compare the stylistic/formal variability with compositional analyses we have conducted to determine source of obsidian (there are at least 4 potential sources of obsidian on the island, depending on how you count them).
All in all, I don't expect the projects to be "done" in any sense but hopefully the students will be able to generate enough data to say something quantitative about the collections and to begin to do solid stylistic/formal/technological/functional measurements. This will be a very "hands-on" project that will give students a chance to really get new kinds of analyses going. Of course, the projects are going to keep me pretty busy with meetings with the groups (on top of teaching the lectures and the labs). The "product" of the projects will be a series of posters - one for each group - that they will present on the last day of class in a public poster session to be held outside of PH1. This will be an opportunity for students to show off the kind of work and research they can do here at The Beach.

technical changes and new road segment?

Thanks to the generosity of the IT staff at CSULB (particularly Steve La, Director of Network Services), the entire set of photos for the moai database is being hosted on the university servers (about 6 gigabytes of data). This will substantially increase the uptime of the entire affair and make sure that my desktop machine (the previous host) doesn't melt down into a slag of sad silicon. I hope to be adding photos of the moai roads soon as well as locations of ahu and other prehistoric features. I have most of the data available here and just need to spend time (or marshall a student to do this task) putting it all together. Hmm.... minions.... Playing around this morning, I found the track of what looks like another moai road. This extends the road a bit. Ill add the tracks to the big kmz file but for the time being it is linked individually here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moai Roads!

I have updated the moai database file with the paths of the moai roads from Lipo and Hunt (2005). You can find the new file here. The paths are shown in green and represent secure locations of the moai roads on the basis of the analysis of satellite images and ground survey. There are likely more of these roads that are visible in the new color images (on Google Earth) and I will have to update the paths once we evaluate them. The network pattern of the roads is particularly interesting as it does not suggest a pattern of centralized control - but one of expedient routes to various parts of the island that are built over and over (particularly along the south coast). This is an important piece of information that tells us something about the scale of prehistoric functional organization. You can read more from this paper.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Initial GPR Results from El Baul

Oswaldo Chinchilla recently sent us this concatenation of the GPR grids we did this year (and on from last year). The results are remarkable. The slices clearly show the major causeway and a series of buildings in alignment with this structure. I am excited to complete the analyses (If I can get the multi-grid multi-time window issue resolved). More to come soon...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

3rd day of skiing...

Back to Park City Mountain today. Absolutely glorious weather despite the forecasts (rain mixed with snow). Instead: sunshine and warm air. It was a fantastic day to ski. We covered over 28 miles of terrain today - and I am exhausted. Time for the steam room! It looks like some precipitation is moving in tonight - damn - just when we have to leave. Ah well - I can't really complain: we had great conditions even with no new snow. The grooming at Park City Mountain, in particular, is absolutely excellent so the runs were fun to ride.

Evening in PC

Skiing ends when the lifts close at 4:00. The ski grows dim and the mobs from the slopes begin to make their way to be seen at the latest fashion food joint or ultra lounge. I've no idea what an ultra lounge is. What makes it "ultra" - spiced cups of fresh air? martinis the size of one's head? ultra-lly made up sour faced botox enhanced marmoset women wearing a dozen squirrels stapled together for a fur coat? Probably a little of all, with strong dash of entitlement. Tom and I had made reservations for Washo - a trendy asian fusion joint. We got there a bit early and tried to even approach the hostess. We were invisible. Soon a short tidy German guy with a real black turtleneck and his tag along boyfriend bullied their way to the counter. and then proceeded to make a real estate deal with the hostess for some mega piece of land that is "oh, only 7.4" all while we and about 12 other people crammed into a hall stood staring past each other. We left - went to Zona Nano - a mexi-sort-of place with margaritas, carnitas and not a bit of pretension. Much better. Above - the lights of Park City slopes at night. Below - Gaffney recklessly checking the weather forecasts for any chance of preciptation (as it turns out - none came).

Friday, February 9, 2007

Day 2

It's a remarkable occasion when one has the opportunity to ski more than a single day at a time. Today was day 2 of the 2007 utah trip and Tom and I made it to Deer Valley for a day of sunshine, reasonably serviceable snow and about 23 miles of downhill fun (of course measured with the wrist GPS - gotta be accurate). Having the second day means that one doesn't have to try to eek out every last once of goodness from the ski runs. We certainly got the goodness though - but knowing that we can ski tomorrow makes all so much sweeter. I am entirely exhausted though - a second day of tele skiing and my legs feel like rubbery chicken. But in a good way. Deer Valley was a good place to ski - no snowboarders. This made the surfaces more "fit" for skis. The place is big - really big. The presence of condos in and amongst many of the lifts, though, sort of ruined the effect. Tomorrow we are heading back to Park City for the 3rd day of shooshing. Tonight: steam bath, sauna and hot tub in the spa on the first level of the hotel. Maybe a nightime swim outside in heated pool. So many options. I think Deb would like this place - from the hotel there are cross country ski trails (groomed) that head out across the countryside. It is certainly comfortable digs with lots to d.

On the mountain...

Was able to sneak away to Utah and to head up to Park City for some ski relaxation with my friend Tom. There hasn't been a lot of recent snow but the skies are reasonably clear, the snow is plentiful and the area is gorgeous. I can see why Mike wanted to move back to this part of the country. Today we will be skiing at Deer Valley one of the 3 resorts here. There is a possibility of a little accumulation tonight so we are hopeful. The lack of fresh snow, however, is no damper on the fun.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've been updating my website a bit to integrate some of the various bits and to give the thing a bit of simpler format. Its not particularly extensive but I definitely prefer this template than the MS-crap that preceded it. Check it out at The next step is to update the Program in Archaeological Science website. We need to do some re-working of the text to reflect our new "relationship" with the rest of Anthropology. Some of the actual details about our program, though, have yet to be worked out.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Although the results we obtained using the FLIR thermal camera were not exactly what we hoped (largely due to the lens that was only 22 degrees rather than 45 degrees - and the lower-than-hoped-for elevation of the blimp), the thermal images we did get were fairly interesting if not intriguing. to the left is an image of an area around the excavation units Oswaldo began (centered on a monument discovered through plowing). The dark vertical lines are matted sugarcane and the areas betweeen them are about 8 meters in width (to give you a sense of scale). The bright area in the middle is the excavation unit - the rocks that are exposed are quite a bit hotter than the surrounding area. The dark areas around that are the backdirt from the unit. Note, though, that there is a diagnal "warm" area that goes from the NW to the SE (and this is generally the direction of the photo) right through the excavation unit. This likely is caused by the larger # of rocks in the plowzone than in the NE corner - and indicative of subsurface architecture. In the next set of images note the patterns of light and dark - there is clearly information there that is telling us about the composition of the plowzone. The warm temperature is likely due to the heating of subsurface rocks, the primary architectural material. We will have to correlate these results to the magnetometry and ground penetrating radar data, but quite intriguing. Note that the bright two spots on the image on the right are burning buckets of diesel fuel, used as "aerial targets" for the thermal images.

Bilbao - topo map

One of the more grueling tasks that Hector Neff took on during the project was the topographic mapping of Bilbao. Walking in systematic 10 meter transects across the deposit and using our Trimble Pathfinder Pro XRS he was able to generate GPS data for most of the area. I then post-processed the data using a public basestation in Guatemala City. The results are actually fairly remarkable. Although there are some odd effects that need to be blanked out (edges in particular) and some strange zig-zags (need to edit the grid), the map is fairly representative of what the place looks like. Compare these to the blimp photos below.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Balloon Photography

We had remarkably good luck with the blimp and camera system down in Guatemala. Ultimately, we had to get a tank of hydrogen and add additional balloons to the top of the blimp to keep everything afloat (we used a heavy camera), but the results we got were quite excellent. This photo at the urban center of Bilbao is particularly good (though a little blurry at the highest resolution). With shadows late in the day, it shows the giant rectangular mounds that comprise the deposit. Note that the scale of this photos is about 300 meters across.

Back from Guatemala

Made it back from Guatemala and the brief field season down there. We got some great work done - particularly with the GPR. Once we get some of the data processed I'll upload some images. Here we have students getting read for GPR, conductivity and mag - beneath the smoking volcano Fuego.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Guatemala City

Arrived at 6:30 this morning after a long flight with little to good to speak of. But all is well. I met up with Hector and we breakfasted at the downtown Marriott - there's always a big good hotel to cluster at in foreign cities - and in Guatemala, the Marriott is it. Found a cafe - good guatemalean coffee comes with the computer connection. Whoohoo! now this I can get to like. The weather is sunny but cool and breezy. The streets are buzzing with thirdworld action. We are going to be doing some searching for a cable so we can download data from the magnetometer (it was forgotten) so we are killing some time before the shops open.

Sunday, January 7, 2007


One might think that a central hub like LA with flights to virtually all places on the globe -- that the place would run like a well-run watch. It seems reasonable given the numbers of flights that go in and out of this place --it would have to be organized. If one made such an assumption, one would be a moron. LAX is the stock pavillion airports -a stock pavillion run by cats on crack. This place make one feel the new global economy is not really going to be that shining place that so many make it out to be - it just sucks. too many people,too many idiots in charge who probably dont fly anwhere. that said. here I am. using one of those chicklet keyboard kiosks wasting time before I get of my fight to guatemala city. all is good, except the heat is turned up to 1000 and the place smells of bad cheese. Oh, and when I checked the ticket agent asked me "which bag was my priority bag" since, apparently, they cant guarantee that *both* of them will make it. Now -- whats up with that??? cant they predict how much luggage space they will have by the # of tickets sold? and whats up with getting me to sign a voucher that I "volunteered" to separate from my bag. ah, the joys of flying. I think its time to give walking a chance again -if you cant walk there, is it really worth going? well, till I reach some guatemalean wireless - ciao.

Cotzumalguapa Bound

Going to be taking a red-eye flight tonight to Guatemala. I'll leave LAX at 11:50 and arrive in Guatemala City a bleary 7:30AM or so. I'm prepared - though - for sleeping the entire way. At least I hope. I am hauling with me an FLIR thermal infrared camera that we rented from This is a sweet camera - 14-bit resolution, false color imaging, and 0.1degree C sensitivity. Check out the crazy image of Maeve, our collie/australian shepherd hound mix. Wild. We are going to be suspending the camera from a 9' foot helium blimp ( and then studying the surface of the deposit at night (or just around dusk). As the temperatures change we expect that the buried stone architecture will cool slower than the surrounding matrix. This has worked well for other archaeologists (e.g., Ken Kvamme at the Double Ditch Site. ). We are hopeful for our work at El Baul given that we have a good solid aerial platform and an excellent camera. What we don't know is if the stone architecture is too deep to detect with thermal images. We shall certainly see!