The School of Anthropology is pleased to announce the recipients of three graduate dissertation write-up fellowships for the 2019–2020 academic year: the Haury Graduate Fellowship (established in honor of Emil Haury), the Agnese Nelms Haury Graduate Fellowship in Archaeological Dendrochronology, and the newly established Dr. Keith A. Dixon Graduate Fellowship. The Graduate Fellowships Committee received a large number of very impressive applications. Congratulations to all of our new fellows! (Anthro Digest date: 5/17/2019)
Haury Graduate Fellowship
Mathew Fox—Fall 2019
Title: The geoarchaeology of long-term Homo erectus occupations in the Qinling Mountains of central China: applying the analysis of stable isotopes and lipid biomarkers to the reconstruction of hominin paleoclimates and Paleolithic behavior
Advisors: Vance Holliday and John Olsen
Abstract: This dissertation examines the Qinling Mountain Region (QMR) of central China, which has been the focus of numerous high-profile archaeological research projects, as this region contains some of the oldest hominin occupations in eastern Eurasia, dating to at least 1.2 million years ago, and is one of the only areas in East Asia yielding Acheulean-like handaxe technology. Historical models have proposed that these mountains represent a substantial physio-biogeographic barrier that impedes the East Asian Monsoon, separates the arid north from the tropical south, and delineates northern and southern Paleolithic industries throughout the Pleistocene. However, there is growing evidence that models associated with the QMR need reformulation. New research is beginning to hypothesize that the QMR was an important corridor between the arid north and tropical south that was of some significance to hominin populations. Furthermore, there is also evidence that the QMR is best defined by ecological and climatological gradients that connect, not separate, northern and southern Paleolithic traditions. To test this, I examine long-term Paleolithic occupations that are directly to the north and south of the central crest of the Qinling Mountains, which allows me to gain a better understanding of the regional climates and environments associated with this hypothesized gradient. Thus, this research represents the first major test if the QMR acts as a true barrier to hominins, or if environmental and technological changes are more gradational in nature.
I apply organic geochemical techniques that have been widely used in African paleoanthropology and paleoclimatology but rarely applied in Eastern Eurasia. In my first article I examine the isotopic values of leaf wax lipids associated with Homo erectus occupations of the Hanzhong and Luonan basins that flank the central QMR. I also reconstruct patterns in the ratio of C3 (forest) to C4 (grassland) vegetation, which is believed to have influenced hominin adaptations such as subsistence strategies and technological innovation. Additionally, to gain a better understanding of monsoonal precipitation relevant to our isotope data, I examine precipitation data from the Climate Research Unit’s gridded dataset at a resolution of 0.5°. In this study, I demonstrate that vegetation, precipitation patterns, and archaeological records all appear more gradational than previously thought. In my second article, I examine long-term temperature patterns in the QMR through the analysis of branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGT’s), which are lipid membrane biomarkers known to be strongly correlated with mean annual temperature regimes. Similar to my isotopic analyses of leaf waxes and precipitation, these results demonstrate that QMR temperature regimes gradate on a north-to-south axis. This is further evidence that describing the QMR as a physio-geographic boundary represents an oversimplification of climatological and environmental patterns. In my final article I examine northern and southern patterns in site formation processes, soil stratigraphy, and depositional trends in direct relationship to two highly significance Paleolithic localities. Through the combination of geoarchaeology and leading-edge paleoclimatology, I argue this novel approach to the Chinese Paleolithic represents an important contribution to understanding behavioral and evolutionary trends in the region.
Title: Selling or Saving Cultural Heritage? Protected Geographic Indication Sicilian Olive Oil
Advisor: Diane Austin
Summary: This dissertation examines how a recent Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) designation for extra virgin olive oil affects Sicilian olive farmers and olive oil producers. In the European Union (EU), food certification labels like PGI serve an important political economic purpose by designating member states’ food products as unique and authentic. These legal certifications protect material and intellectual property, including product names and labels, from imitation. PGIs are enacted to create market value for specific food products as a way to protect the cultural and environmental knowledge necessary to produce that food, staking the legal claim that only certain people in particular places can create the certified food. A famous example is champagne, which can only be sold as “champagne” if it comes from a region in France and is produced in a certain way. Countries use these certified foods to showcase their cultural heritage on a world stage. However, a tension lies in the fact that these efforts promote “authentic” cultural heritage by commodifying and selling it globally. This study explores the effects of the process of legally defining and then selling cultural heritage, as embodied by extra virgin olive oil “Sicilia,” on the people and places it is meant to protect or preserve. My research questions are: 1) what are the particular knowledges and practices used to produce Sicilian olive oil, and 2) from the point of view of producers, does the PGI successfully protect olivicultural knowledge and practices, olivicultural landscapes, and olive/olive oil producers? This is a multi-sited ethnography; methods used include olive harvest and pressing participant observation, ethnobotanical walking and in-depth interviews with producers and experts, and historical archival research.
Danielle Phelps—Fall 2019
Title: “Yes, Wonderful Things!” A Multi-Scale Approach to the Royal Mortuary Practices of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt
Advisor: Jim Watson; Committee members are Lars Fogelin, Mary Ownby, and Gary Christopherson
Abstract: The discovery of the semi-intact burial of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in 1922 is one of the most renowned archaeological discoveries of recent history. Countless publications have proposed a myriad of explanations about the family history, life, and cause of death of the young king. However, none have attempted to investigate why Tutankhamun was buried in manner different than his predecessors, such as the small, unassuming tomb, with a variety of artifacts that show different points in his life, and the intentional manipulation of his body in order to help with the legitimacy of his successor. This dissertation focuses on royal mortuary patterns of the late Eighteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt to contextualize the burial and tomb of Tutankhamun as a case study into how embodiment and materiality played into royal mortuary behaviors during this period. Tutankhamun’s burial and tomb are a unique case study because his tomb is a hybrid that has influences of both the traditional Egyptian religious practices as well as Aten religious practices from the reign of his predecessor, Akhenaten. I employ a multi-scale theoretical approach to contextualize Tut’s burial circumstances specifically through materiality, agency, secrecy, embodiment, and legitimacy. The first scale looks at the postmortem agency of Tutankhamun’s mummified remains and how it was used to claim legitimacy for his successor, Ay. The second scale employs an empirical approach to produce a comprehensive analysis of the artifacts found in KV 62. Statistical analysis on the artifacts have not been attempted prior to this dissertation. This comprehensive analysis of all the artifacts found in the tomb provides information as to how Tutankhamun’s burial assemblage fits within the larger mortuary practices of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The third scale is at the cemetery level and will examine the spatial distribution of the late Eighteenth Dynasty tombs within the Valley of the Kings using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analyses to determine if the distribution of the tombs reflects the standard Egyptian mortuary practices or if they represent a new hybrid form that incorporates Amarna period practices as well as the more traditional ones. This dissertation will show how anthropological theory and quantitative analyses can bring new understanding to an almost one-hundred-year old discovery.
Title: To run or carry: Derived locomotor skeletal traits in early Homo
Advisor: David Raichlen
Abstract: The evolution of humans’ remarkable locomotor endurance capabilities likely played an important role in the origins and success of the genus Homo. Our transition from an ape-like foraging strategy to a hunting and gathering lifestyle involved a significant increase in daily travel, requiring major changes in the locomotor skeleton. One hypothesis suggests that endurance running (ER) played an important role in this transition, and was therefore a major selection pressure for many derived musculoskeletal traits seen in early Homo. These skeletal morphologies (e.g., large lower limb joint surface areas and enlarged calcaneal tubers) are considered adaptations to resist high magnitude impact forces generated at ground contact during ER. However, modern hunter-gatherers rarely run, and instead forage using a range of walking speeds and while carrying significant loads, two behaviors that may increase impact forces to levels comparable to those experienced during ER. This range of walking behaviors may provide an alternative explanation for the appearance of force-resisting skeletal morphologies in the genus Homo. To date, researchers have not explicitly compared the kinematics and kinetics of high-speed walking, carrying, and ER, leaving an important gap in our understanding of human evolution. Thus, the goal of this study is to determine whether high walking speeds and load-carrying played a significant role in the evolution of a suite of skeletal characteristics typically described as adaptations to ER. To test this hypothesis, we will measure impact forces, whole-body kinematics, and activation of key stabilizing muscles in both adults and children walking and running at a range of speeds and while carrying loads of various mass. These experiments will fill in a major hole in our understanding of how and why the locomotor skeleton changed during the early evolution of the genus Homo, adding a novel perspective to the natural history of human locomotion.
Agnese Haury Graduate Fellowship in Archaeological Dendrochronology
Title: Leaving Footprints in the Ancient US Southwest: Visible Indicators of Group Affiliation and Social Position in the Chaco and Post-Chaco eras (A.D. 900–1300)
Advisors: Ronald Towner and Barbara Mills
Summary: This research is aimed at understanding the ways in which Ancestral Pueblo people manipulated attributes of clothing visibility and textile imagery in various media to signal important aspects of social identities in the prehispanic northern US Southwest. Clothing is an ideal medium for understanding social identity, but due to its perishable nature, archaeologists are rarely afforded the opportunity to study dressing practices in ancient societies. Fortunately, in the northern Southwest, one class of footwear—twined yucca sandals—have been preserved in relatively large quantities from archaeological contexts. These sandals were complexly woven, highly ornate, and left unique footprints. Scholars have suggested that they were used in communal events or as high-status displays, particularly during the Chaco and Post-Chaco eras (A.D. 1000–1300). Through the application of clothing theories and cross-media approaches, this project aims to evaluate five research questions, designed to evaluate: 1) the nature of twined sandal production networks; 2) changes in sandal production and distribution over time; 3) the role of twined sandals in expressing social identities; 4) the relationship between the woven designs on actual sandals and their depictions in other media; and 5) the relationship between changes in twined sandal visibility and the architectural venues where they were displayed, used, and depicted.
My investigation seeks to understand stability and change in sandal-visibility attributes and the contexts of their use in the region over time. Museum collections were studied to measure and photograph sandals, acquire samples for AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) dating, and compile data from prior descriptive and chronometric documentation of building murals (based on clusters of tree-ring dated roof beams of structures with murals) and rock art depicting sandals. My research has generated three databases, each of which constitute the largest and most comprehensive dataset in their respective domains to date. The first dataset consists of the first interregional analysis of twined sandal variability, and the mural and rock art databases are also the largest and most comprehensive intraregional inventories of textile-related imagery in these media from the mid-Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods (A.D. 1000-1300). Analyses of the data are proceeding on three fronts. First, fourteen sandals were sampled for AMS dating to build a seriation of twined-sandal styles over time. Second, a dendrochronological and contextual based seriation of sandal imagery in building murals was compiled to date the styles and attributes of the sandals imagery from murals and rock art imagery. Third, a traditional design attribute analysis of sandal and sandal imagery features documented the variability of sandal decoration. With these analyses, the four research domains are being addressed to determine how sandal design styles were manipulated to signal membership with groups of different scales and organizational structures during the turbulent Chaco and post-Chaco eras.
Nicholas Kessler—Fall 2019
Title: Origins and Legacies of Rock Based Runoff Irrigation Technology in Northern New Mexico
Advisor: Ronald Towner
Summary: After the 13th century, several towns with 1,000–2,000 rooms developed in the Rio Chama basin in Northern New Mexico, an area which lacks any sign of prior farming settlements. Each major town is surrounded by tens to hundreds of acres of runoff irrigated fields defined by the widespread use of gravel mulch which is unparalleled in the region. Hypotheses about the origin and importance of this technology have focused on the process of intensification in response to sudden population increase and to the possibility that these features were used for cotton cultivation. At the local scale, remnants of runoff irrigation facilities dominate the landscape. Given the fact that these features were originally constructed to alter soil moisture conditions, the large-scale gravel mulched fields of the Northern Rio Grande could represent one of the most durable and large scale anthropogenic ecological legacies in the Southwest.
This dissertation assembles paleobotanical, soil chemistry, and primary productivity measurements from a well-preserved complex of runoff irrigated fields around the site of Poshu’owingeh (LA274). An analysis of the rate of settlement expansion across the Northern Rio Grande beginning in the 11th century A.D. using a network of hundreds of archaeological sites was also conducted. The questions addressed by the study include. What was grown in the fields? How intensively were the fields used? What are the long-term impacts of permanent micro-scale rearrangements of soil hydrology in this semi-arid landscape? Does population pressure on resources explain the origin of the unique runoff irrigation technology in the Northern Rio Grande? The following facts can be drawn from the data analyzed thus far. First, cotton is the most ubiquitous pollen taxon of any domesticate, and cotton was probably the primary crop grown in the fields at Poshu. Second, phosphorous is elevated in many fields, indicating possible anthropogenic enrichment. Third, biomass accumulation rates of trees established on gravel mulched fields respond predictably to microtopography but are not significantly affected by the presence of gravel mulch. Finally, the rate of settlement expansion after the 11th century A.D. can be modeled using a purely demographic processes, implying that population pressure on resources was a factor in driving the observed spatial trend in the earliest founding dates of agricultural communities in the area. However, the process was very slow by the standards of other agricultural dispersals documented at larger scales from around the world. This suggests that geographic and cultural barriers to population expansion were present. These barriers are consistent with selection pressure for social and technological innovations and a political-economy based on intercommunity population flux and exchange with outside groups.
Dr. Keith A. Dixon Graduate Fellowship
Juan Manuel Palomo
Title: Local Community and Foreign Groups: Political changes in the Ancient Maya Center of Ceibal, Guatemala
Advisors: Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan
Summary: With an occupation that lasted almost two thousand years (1,100 B.C.-A.D. 930), the ancient Maya center of Ceibal offers an important opportunity to expand and reevaluate our knowledge of how increasing political centralization and social inequality are reflected in diet and migration patterns. Ceibal was occupied during several critical periods of social changes in the Maya area. Throughout the Middle Preclassic period, there was an increase in centralized polities, cross-regional cultural practices, and developing inequality in the Maya Lowlands. During the Late Middle Preclassic to the Terminal Preclassic periods, sedentary villages became larger and divine rulers likely emerged. Furthermore, evidence of warfare started to appear in the archaeological record. The Proto-Classic and Classic periods were characterized by the development and decline of many political regimens that were often engaged in warfare. The occupation at Ceibal survived all of these different political changes until its final collapse in the Terminal Classic. After eleven field seasons, the Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project uncovered 75 burials with a minimum of 93 individual human remains. These remains have the potential to provide valuable insight into the processes of political centralization and social inequalities in the Maya lowlands.
By analyzing stable isotopes contained in human bones, this research addresses two questions: 1) How were social inequality and political centralization reflected in dietary practice? And 2) How were changes in social inequality and political centralization associated with migrants and external relations? To address these questions, Palomo conducted a multi-isotopic (C, N, O, Sr and Pb) analysis of 86 sampled individuals from Ceibal that date from the Middle Preclassic to the Terminal Classic periods. The present research demonstrates that in the time of political growth and centralization, there was an increase in individuals migrating to Ceibal. There were also different dietary patterns observed at Ceibal during the Early Preclassic and Middle Preclassic period, which could be connected to the transition from a mobile to a more sedentary lifestyle, while not necessarily to increased levels of social inequalities and political centralization. Nevertheless, the different dietary pattern observed at the end of the Late Preclassic, Proto-classic, Early Classic, and Classic period might be different and could be connected to the development of social inequalities and the intensification of corn agriculture.