Anthropology Archaeology Arts and Culture

The Art and Function of Shaping Stone

It’s knap time.

I learned flintknapping in college while studying experimental archaeology. I’m not very skilled in it, but I love to learn the process and share how it’s done. For a hands-on learner like me, sitting on obsidian hits much different than reading about it.


How You Can Help Archaeology Sites

Visiting archaeological sites can be a great way to connect with nature and experience adventure. Yet when visitors flock to these places, they may end up damaging the site forever. Learning how to be a better visitor is one way you can help archaeology sites. When visiting sites, you can be mindful of the cultural experience and also be a steward of cultural preservation.

The Effects of Visitors at Archaeology Sites

People might not intend to disturb the art at archaeological sites, but many tourists are bound to cause some damage. Visitors who intentionally damage rock art sites are undoubtedly the biggest part of the problem. These practices can be anything from touching the walls the art rests on to littering throughout the archaeological site. Visitors could even go so far as to destroy the art, either with graffiti or carving names.

However, far more people unintentionally damage these archaeological sites. This leads to the eventual erosion of the art from the walls, alteration of the archaeological site, and permanent loss of important cultural history. Loss of these sites means we will lose a link to a piece of history, one we may never recover again. That’s why learning how to preserve our history is important.

How to Visit a Rock Art Site

One way to be a better visitor to archaeological sites is to connect with independent conservation organizations that provide visitors with information on touring archaeological sites responsibly. One such organization called Friends of Cedar Mesa has tips on how to protect ancient sites:

Teach Each Other

Children (and let’s be real, many people in general) may not understand the gravity of the sites they are visiting and may be inclined to touch artifacts or excavations. It’s important to educate them on the importance of preservation and conservancy from a young age.

Don’t Touch Artifacts

Even though these artifacts have survived for hundreds or even thousands of years, human contact can leave behind damaging oils that do a significant amount of harm.

Be Mindful of Walls

The walls may seem sturdy, but they are part of an ongoing movement process and can become unstable as other sections undergo their own excavations. Please stay away from walls, and try not to lean against them.

No Pets

Some people may want to take their dog or other pet on hikes into ancient excavation sites; however, it’s best to leave pets at home on these trips. Pets can cause damage by either digging or stepping on something they shouldn’t.

Obey the Signs

Most areas will have signs directing you onto certain paths. Be sure to look out for these signs to make sure you follow the right route.

These are just a few tips you can follow to help make a difference in protecting our national heritage sites.

Public Intervention Campaigns

Many organizations are dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage sites and ancient archaeological sites. In addition to Friends of Cedar Mesa, there are others like Tread Lightly and The Archaeological Conservancy. Of course, federal, state, and local governments also enforce preservation laws and monitor for vandalism, but they can only do so much.

With millions of Americans visiting archaeological sites every year, it is unrealistic to monitor everybody. You are the best steward for protecting the sites and ancient cultural histories we admire. By following a few key steps and being aware of the potential harm human activities can do, you can preserve ancient history for many generations to come.

Archaeology Arts and Culture News

The Sound of Silence: Suggesting an Evolutionary Perspective in Archaeoacoustics

Presenting at the 2014 Anthropology Research Symposium, Humboldt State University


Humans have a common practice of altering auditory perception, with the ability to extend their sound experience through creating instruments, building acoustic amphitheater spaces, and producing rhythm and music with the body as with clapping, chanting, and singing. The field of archaeoacoustics offers insight into the use of sound in ancient societies. Previous research in this field has fixated on the auditory properties surrounding architectural spaces, for example, echo and amplification. These properties are often studied in relation to sound-producing artifacts. Archaeoacoustic scholars consider altering sound experience a product of human intention–as a deliberate investment of meaning rather than an epiphenomenal environmental coincidence. This has left a void of literature for the auditory architecture of religious, political and social spaces. This research will describe the issues and implications surrounding the interpretation of acoustic data in archaeology, focusing on the relation to spiritual and symbolic social practices. Theoretical perspectives will be drawn from previous archaeoacoustic research, as well as human evolutionary biology, as the evolution of auditory perception is likely to correlate with the development of art, language, and other symbolic social systems. This combination of ideas proposes a deeper understanding of the role of sound that has been essential to the human experience.

Anthropology Archaeology Arts and Culture News

Modeling Consciousness in Archaeology: A Non-Invasive Approach


Modeling the thoughts and beliefs of ancient persons is an arduous calling for archaeologists, as this data falls into the intangible realm. Often the most direct material link to the ancient mind is found in rock art. With resilience to the elements and time, rock surfaces presented an ideal canvas for the lasting expressions of past cultures. Many of these sites, however, have been damaged or compromised due to invasive recording practices. Researchers and tourists continue to utilize outdated methods, as a result of misinformation or naivety on the subject. A non-invasive, conservation-based approach to rock art recording is presented, with the intention of diminishing unintentional site vandalism. Symbols of headdresses, messengers, and lobed circles appear across differing chronological and regional rock art style categories. These elements are often interpreted in relation to altered states of consciousness and ceremony. The petroglyph panel at the Spirit Bird Cave site in southeastern Utah provides evidence of all three of these elements, and is thus well suited for this project. This poster presents the current status of the project, with a discussion of methods and preliminary field results. This project combines standard and innovative methods of field mapping, lighting and close-range photogrammetry to produce visual models which can be analyzed in a laboratory setting without concern for panel damage. These visual models can expand access to immovable data such as rock art, allowing researchers a truly non-invasive approach.

This poster was selected for the People’s Choice Award for Best Student Poster Presentation in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, at Humboldt State University IdeaFest, 2014