Monday, February 28, 2011

weekly accountability: February 27-March 5

I'm going to keep my "weekly accountability" posts, but this semester I'm just going to mention my (few) successes, and keep it at that. I've only managed my daily writing hour on one or two days a week since the semester began. Yet, I'm massively behind on all of my grading and class prep. Now that I'm teaching four classes, I have even less time for research.

My only real goal for the next few weeks is to write my SAA paper. I'm starting to get nervous, because I'm presenting in a "star-studded" symposium!

Friday, February 25, 2011

what's next, hares?

Julien Riel-Salvatore, over at A Very Remote Period Indeed, is discussing this seriously cool piece of research about Neandertal ornamentation made from bird wings/wing feathers. (Yeah, I know I should go read the original, rather than read the blog comment, but my research time is so limited right now. Darn.)

Anyway, the site is in NE Italy, and cutmarks on bird wing bones suggest that Neandertals targeted certain species for their feathers. Bird wing bones are some of the most frequently used bones for beads and bone tubes, in my experience, but it doesn't sound like they have any evidence for that.

The reason I wanted to mention this blog post, though, is Riel-Salvatore's discussion of small prey hunting. Stiner et al. 2000 discussed the evolution of small-game hunting strategies in the Levant, from a focus on sessile or slow species, like shell-fish and tortoises, to a focus on fast species, like fish, birds, and hares, that require more time and technological investment to hunt. (And which have higher failure rates, as well.) Once Stiner published the model, of course, everyone wanted to prove it wrong, or at least find evidence that it didn't work in "their" corner of the world. Sure enough, there is growing evidence that Neandertals did hunt fast game, at least in some places. We now have evidence from Gibraltar and NE Italy to back that up.

I don't think we should be surprised, nor do I think this means Stiner's model is incorrect. If Stiner's logic is correct, and small, fast animals are only hunted when human population densities reach a high enough level to impact local sessile animals, then it makes sense that small, fast animals will be hunted in some places earlier than others. If we assume Neandertals were capable of hunting these animals, but chose not to under most circumstances (as is the case for most modern people in the Upper Paleolithic, as well), then we should also expect that Neandertals did hunt these small, fast animals when the circumstances made them an advantageous addition to the diet.

Arguably, a focus on ornamentation is also related to human population density. We have greater need to signal information about ourselves when we have frequent contact with individuals we do not know personally. This was not the case for most Neandertal communities, but it appears that in some cases, Neandertals did find themselves in circumstances where ornamentation was useful. If both ornamentation and small-game hunting strategies are tied to changes in population densities, we should expect to find them together. As, apparently, we do in NE Italy. Neat.

Stiner, M. C., N. D. Munro & T. A. Surovell. 2000. The tortoise and the hare: small game use, the Broad Spectrum Revolution, and Paleolithic demography. Current Anthropology 41(1):39-73

Thursday, February 24, 2011

woody allen is wrong (or why I don't take attendance)

80% of success is just showing up.
-Woody Allen

My participation policy has evolved over my teaching career. Currently, I do not give a grade for "participation" in any intro (100- or 200-level) classes. The reasons why: 1) My intro courses have 60-70 people in them, and I don't want to waste class time reading an attendance sheet; 2) passing around a sign-up sheet allows people to come in 15 minutes late and just snag the list, plus it takes my time to put the names in the computer, and interpret illegible handwriting;

Most importantly: 3) I can't base a daily participation grade on anything but pure attendance, since I can't learn 70 people's names quickly enough to grade their participation in discussion. From my perspective, showing up isn't enough to count as "participation". I refuse to give students credit just for coming in the door. It's like paying someone a bonus for coming to work, whether or not they do their job while they're there. It should be free points, and if it's not, then the student's lack of attendance should be reflected in their grade. If neither of those things is true, then I'm doing something wrong.

On the other hand, I learned the hard way that if I don't include any incentive for attendance and participation, I'll have half-empty classrooms. Granted, most of the absent students will fail the class, but that's hardly a "win"! I have two strategies for fostering participation. In my Intro to Bioanth class, I give 10 pop reading quizzes over the course of the semester. They take place during the first five minutes of class, so if a student is late, they miss the quiz and all of the points. They don't know when I'll give the quizzes, so they need to show up every/most days. As an extra bonus, the quizzes encourage good reading habits! They also foster real participation, as the last question of the quiz requires a short paragraph answer. For example, today they were asked, basically, whether sociobiological explanations of infanticide bothered them. They aren't graded on their answers to those questions, but after the quiz, I use those paragraphs to start in-class discussion on the topic.

In my Intro to Cultural class, I have a different approach. I have 10 in-class activities, each with a short write-up, where the student reflects on what they learned. For example, when we talk about kinship, we do an in-class activity building our own kinship charts, and then the students write about what can be learned from them. The students don't know when these activities are scheduled, so they need to show up to class, or they will miss them. It is not possible to make up the activities. The activities not only tell me who is in class, but also foster real participation and learning (I hope).

Both the quizzes and the activities are worth 10 points each, so over the course of the semester, they are worth as much as an exam, and constitute about 20% of the class grade.

I'm generally happy with this approach, except for one thing: it doesn't keep students in class! My colleagues who read through a list of names at the beginning of class have much fuller classrooms, even if participation counts for less of a student's grade than my quizzes and activities! Apparently, the daily roll call is far more motivating than the risk of losing a significant portion of your grade by not showing up one day of the week. Even when I point out that there are only 30 class periods, so 10 quizzes or activities represent a lot of the class, I find that attendance drops off precipitously after the first few weeks. Perhaps this is part of the human inability to accurately assess risk? Or is it a reflection of the shame culture of a small, close-knit college campus?

Oh, well. At least the students who are coming to class are being graded for "true" participation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

5 things I shouldn't love, but do

I couldn't come up with 10.

1) Roadkill (Obviously!)

2) Blizzards (I'm not the one to shovel, so if I don't have to drive in them, I find them beautiful and fascinating. The more snow the better!)

3) Grading (I don't know why, I enjoy seeing how students do on an exam, and trying to figure out what went wrong on certain topics. And, less kindly, some students deserve to fail, and I enjoy meeting out poetic justice. I get tired of essays, though.)

4) Musicals(Whether Bollywood or classic Rogers and Hammerstein, I enjoy large groups of people inexplicably bursting into song.)

5) Spreadsheets (I love playing with data. Maybe that's not a "guilty" pleasure, like the others, but I can spend many happy hours just moving things around in Excel.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

weekly accountability: Feb 20-26

Not sure why I'm bothering with this post. We had snow delays, Bunny at home with an ear infection, Dr. Mr. Palimpsest coughing up his lungs, and two job candidates on campus. Oh, and I had the flu and could barely get out of bed for a couple days.

Yeah, I got nothing done.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

if I knew then...

I've been thinking a lot about this comment on an earlier post:

Shortly after Bunny was born, you argued strongly that you could combine archaeology with parenthood--no one (perhaps women in particular) needed to give up one for the other. I think you meant it in contrast to the messages many of us got in graduate school. Obviously, both arguments (combine kids with your career! DON'T combine kids with your career!) strike me now as part true and part false. Is there anything you would say NOW to yourself then?

I think that it must be true that we can combine kids and career, because if it isn't true, we've drastically reduced the number of people willing to participate in this field. (Yes, I know this is not the same as saying "it must be true because look at all the wonderful examples of people successfully balancing family and career!")

On the other hand, I now believe that I was overly-optimistic in the early days of parenting. I would stand by my original argument that combining kids and career is possible, but add three important caveats:

Caveat #1: Any individual's ability to balance work and family will be dependent on factors outside their control.

When Bunny was born, Dr. Mr. Palimpsest and I assumed we would be able to find some kind of shared job. Yes, we knew it was hard to find tenure-track jobs, but we didn't realize how difficult it would be to convince a university to hire both of us for the price of one. If we were both working half-time, the last few years would have been much, much easier on everyone, and we would both have greater job satisfaction. We can't force Tiny U to let us share a position, though, and so far I haven't been able to get another job offer. Given how bad the market is right now, I may never get one.

The U.S. has systemic inequalities and large gaps in childcare services, maternity and paternity leave laws, etc., etc. So much of a parent's ability to integrate children into their career will be dependent on where the parent happens to get a job, whether or not the parent has family nearby to offer support, and other factors that an academic has little control over. Yet, these factors are critical for familial well-being. Would we be happier/more balanced/less overwhelmed if we lived near family, or had jobs with a lower teaching load, or had two full incomes, or lived in a community with more resources for children? Heck, after all the illnesses my family have suffered this winter, would we be much happier if we lived in a warmer climate?

Caveat #2: Compromise is inevitable

Parenting - as with all of my varied and rich life experiences - makes me a better teacher and researcher. My career and education - as with all of my varied and rich life experiences - make me a better mother. But, at least for me, under my current circumstances, I can't do both at the same time without spending less time and energy on each than I would like. I cancel classes because my kids are sick. I fall behind on grading. I don't have as much interest and energy to devote to my students. Most importantly, given my high teaching load, research and writing takes lots of evening and weekend hours, and I'm not willing to take all of those away from my kids (or ask my husband to take care of them.)

As a mother, I hate the idea of my babies being cared for by others from 8-5 every week day. When Bunny was a baby, Dr. Mr. Palimpsest stayed home with her, so even though I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I liked, she was getting all the benefits of a stay-at-home parent. With Pumpkin, though, that wasn't an option. I've tried to keep him out of daycare as much as possible, but I can't keep my job and still have him at home for any length of time.

Dr. Mr. Palimpsest said in his comment on the earlier post that "the day home with the baby is a luxury you might not be able to afford." He's right - a full-time academic job is still a full-time job, period. But the day at home with baby doesn't seem like a "luxury" to me. It's a necessity. He needs me! He needs to be the focus of one person's whole attention, so that he gets food when he wants it, and he can go down early for a nap on days when he's particularly sleepy. He needs someone who always has his best interests at heart, and isn't balancing the needs of three other infants. He needs a mother more often than 7-8am and 5-7pm on weekdays.

Yes, I know, if what I just said is true, then no mother should work full-time outside the home unless they have a partner willing to stay with their children. I can't say that's true, but for me, at least, I'm not sure it's untrue, either, because...

Caveat #3: Your priorities and goals may change unexpectedly when you become a parent.

Before I had kids, I never thought I'd feel guilty about working. My mother worked outside the home, so my brother and I both went to daycare. I never thought my mother should feel guilty. I never felt my health or development were compromised by her job. I knew that she felt guilty, but didn't understand why. Now that I'm a mother, I'm torn up by the fact that I can't be there for my kids. I feel like I'd be a much better mother if I wasn't working such long hours - not only because I'd have more time with them, but because I'd be more patient, less frustrated, less overwhelmed, more joyful, during the hours that I spend with them.

If you'd asked me before I had kids, I would have said that it was next to impossible that I would ever consider leaving a career in order to spend time raising my children. Once I became a parent, though, both my priorities and goals changed greatly. My kids are more important than my career, and my most critical goals relate to the development of my children. Note that I'm not saying that it isn't possible to combine a career and kids. But, at least given our current circumstances, I feel a much higher level of personal conflict than I would have expected before Bunny was born.

Friday, February 18, 2011

losing my religion (or at least, losing out at religious institutions)

I had a job interview back in December, but unfortunately did not get the job. Actually, it was the least traumatic rejection I've ever experienced. The job had some negatives (very expensive location, a similar teaching load to Tiny U, but with the expectation of taking on a large number of masters students and of having higher research productivity.) Plus, I know the person who was offered the job, and I love his work, and he fits the needs of the program better than I do (in terms of the region he works in, etc.)

I have some posts planned about the job market, particularly about my experiences on search committees, but today I want to throw out one quick comment: I have once again been rejected by a Catholic university hiring within my field. I've mentioned before that I'm Catholic, and I would love to teach at a Catholic university. I've never even gotten a long-list at one, even when the job description fits me to a "t". I'm not sure why this is the case, but here are my two main theories:

1) Catholic universities are no different from any other university, so their hiring practices look bizarre and unfathomable from the outside, but from an internal perspective, they are hiring the person who best fits their needs, whether or not those needs were expressed coherently in the job description.

2) (the paranoid option) Stating that I am Catholic in my application is hurting me. The American Council of Bishops has been pushing Catholic universities to reaffirm their Catholic identity. One of the ways this should happen is for Catholic universities to hire more Catholic faculty. Ergo, if all other things are equal among the long-listed or short-listed candidates, then Catholic candidates may be given an institutionally-mandated advantage. I can see, under those circumstances, why faculty at a Catholic institution may not want to short-list, or even long-list, a Catholic candidate, if they may be pushed into hiring that person, whether they want to or not.

Is that plausible, or am I just being paranoid and self-centered?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

more of family-friendly policies

Dr. Mr. Palimpsest has the flu, so I'm taking over his two classes today. Luckily, both kids are reasonably healthy. Bunny is jumping around like, well, a bunny, and Pumpkin has a bit of a cold, but nothing too dire. I've mostly lost my voice, but otherwise I'm golden. At least I don't have the flu!

I've mentioned before that our department chair is a gift from the academic gods, and worth every ounce of her weight in gold. We are incredibly sorry that she's leaving at the end of this academic year.

Here's example of her awesomeness: One of my colleagues is adopting a little girl from China. According to Tiny U policy, she only gets 2 weeks off, plus her courses must be covered by her colleagues out of the goodness of their hearts. My colleague successfully argued with the department chair and now has A) 6 weeks off (not all of it paid, I believe); and B) $2,000 to be paid to each colleague who takes on one of her courses for those 6 weeks. Our department chair managed to eek the money out of our non-existent budget, because she believes so strongly in family-friendly workplaces. Yay, department chair!

Now to drop the other shoe: I'm taking on my colleague's intro course for 6 weeks. It's not in my field, but related (think, like, intro to world history)*. And, yes, I'm taking on another 70 students, in addition to the 70 in my intro to Cultural class, and the 60 in my intro to Bioanth class, and the 15 in my upper-level seminar. Ack! And I'm already having trouble getting anything done this semester.

On the other hand, it's $2,000 that can go toward childcare this summer. (We're currently looking at taking both kids out of childcare this summer, to save the money, unless I can get money through a grant to pay for childcare and let me spend some time working on a new project.) Also, it's my contribution to a more family-friendly workplace.

UPDATE: H1N1 is running rampant through our community. That may be the culprit in our most recent edition of the plague chronicles.

*Yes, there are faculty members in my colleague's field who would be better suited to take over this class. In fact, one of them teaches this intro course every Fall semester. She refused to take on her colleague's course, because it would be "too hard" to teach 70 more students, on top of her three (tiny) upper-division seminars. Also, she's complete dead wood who refuses to even develop a new course unless she gets a course release to make up for the lost time. Oh, and she hates my colleague for refusing to hide a previous colleague's alcoholism, which eventually led to his forced retirement for passing out in class and making students visit his house at night, while he was drunk. Aren't academic politics fun?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

men and women's commutes

After yesterday's post on family togetherness, I found this post on commutes to be interesting. It turns out that men on average commute farther to work than women, but women drive a lot more, because of their role in hauling kids around and doing errands. There is no information in this post about how many men vs. women live in a different state/country than their spouse and kids. I assume it's mostly men who leave home to take jobs elsewhere, but I don't have any actual data on that. They do say that it appears women are deliberately choosing jobs that are closer to home (or homes closer to jobs) to help balance life/work issues.

Yesterday's post was useful, because it made me really think through the issues involved in splitting our family for a year. At this point, we're not going to consider it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

family togetherness

When Dr. Mr. Palimpsest and I first got married, we decided we would rather live in the same home than both be employed. We reaffirmed that decision when Bunny was born.

We thought we would eventually find a university willing to hire us both. We knew it would be difficult to find two tenure-track jobs, but since were were willing to be flexible (by sharing a position, for example), we thought it would work out, somehow, and we would both be fully, fullfillingly, employed.

Fast forward five years. It hasn't worked out.

So now we're considering the unthinkable: should Dr. Mr. Palimpsest take a job elsewhere, while I stay at Tiny U? Neither of us is thrilled by this idea, but neither of us is willing to settle for the status quo, either. Staying here, without reasonable employment for my husband, is no longer an option.

If we were separated, it would be for no more than one or two years. But what a difficult time to be apart! Pumpkin will turn two in the Fall. Bunny will be starting kindergarten. Kids change so much during that period, and parents need so much support from each other. It's no wonder that Dr. Mr. Palimpsest is incredibly reluctant to leave.

On the other hand, perhaps a difficult year or two now would lead to a much happier family for years to come. Surely Dr. Mr. Palimpsest's life-long career, and our family's long-term happiness, are worth a year or two of sacrifice?

I've discussed our options at length with a colleague in Chemistry. When her husband was unable to get a tenure-track job here at Tiny U, he applied for jobs across the country. They've only lived in the same house for one year out of the last seven. They have two sons, aged ten and two, who hardly know their father. My colleague wishes her husband was willing to do what my husband has been willing to do: stick around, even if that means significantly fewer professional opportunities. When I asked about the advantages of separation, she strongly argued against it. But is that just a case of the grass being greener?

This is not a discussion that I'd ever hoped to have. Anyone out there with experience? Any advise?

weekly accountability: Feb. 13-19

I'm beginning to think that there is no point to these accountability updates this semester. Here was my week:

Monday - lost two hours of work time in the morning when Bunny's preschool was delayed for weather reasons. That evening, Bunny had a fever and was so exhausted she had to be carried to bed.

Tue-Thur - Bunny had the flu, Dr. Mr. Palimpsest and I had to trade off staying home. Since I'm in the classroom 12 hours/week, and he's in the classroom 15 hours/week, neither of us had much work time. Lots of late nights trying to keep up with necessities.

Friday - Bunny felt much better in the morning, took a nap, woke up with a nasty secondary infection.

Sat-Sun - home with the kids, Bunny not feeling better until Sunday night.

Today, thank God, both kids are at daycare or preschool. This week we have two job candidates coming in, and I'm swimming in ungraded exams/assignments, so I don't think I'll be getting any writing done.

Friday, February 11, 2011

ethnobiology reminder

Just a quick reminder that the deadline for submitting an abstract to the annual Society of Ethnobiology conference is this Tuesday, Feb. 15. The conference is May 4-7, in Columbus, Ohio. The theme is "Historical and Archaeological Perspectives in Ethnobiology."

I really wanted to go this year, but that's the last week of classes, and our travel money has been cut, so I don't have the budget. I'm sorry to miss it. I've really enjoyed the conference the few times I've gone.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ecological idiocy

Articles like this are why I hate philosophy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

top ten things I'm looking forward to this year

1) Spring!! Sunshine, warmth, no more cabin fever, fewer illnesses. Yay, Spring! Only two more months, two and a half at the most.

2) SAAs Friends, good restaurants, a real city. Oh, yeah, and some archaeology papers. I can't wait!

3) Sabbatical I have pre-tenure sabbatical in the Fall. I love teaching, but my heavy teaching load and family obligations make research a chore. I'm looking forward to returning to my first love, archaeology, and actually getting some research done.

4) Summer More to the point, getting out of Tiny Town for the summer. Assuming the funding comes through, I'll be doing research for a couple of months, and visiting family for a few weeks here and there. I hope to be gone all summer, with the kids.

5) Home improvement While the kids and I are away for the summer, Dr. Mr. Palimpsest will be working on our house, without having to worry about the confluence of small children and construction work. We've had a lot of long, drawn-out home projects (6 months without a bathroom, anyone?!), so I'm looking forward to leaving, then coming home to find everything better.

6) Five Bunny turns five this summer. I've heard from many friends that the improvement in attitude, cooperation, and independence is startling.

7) Hobbies I haven't had a chance to do much creative this semester. Only 13 weeks to go, and I'll have a little extra me-time.

8) Future plans This summer, Dr. Mr. Palimpsest and I will be laying the foundation for some future changes, both professional and personal. I don't know if we're going down that particular path, yet, but it's nice to plan a happier future. No doubt I'll talk more about this, if we start moving seriously in that direction, but it will be a year or more before we know.

9) Talking, running, and other developments Every time I think Pumpkin is as cute as he can be, he learns some new skill and just gets cuter.

10) Saturday! For only the second time since Pumpkin was born, we're hiring a babysitter and going out to dinner, just the two of us!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

culture vs. policy: more on family-friendly workplaces

I'm blessed with a family-friendly workplace (despite some problems, as mentioned here and here). But Tiny U is notable for its family-friendly culture, not its family-friendly policies. In fact, our policies are pretty strict. Women are allowed 6 paid weeks off for giving birth, and can take an additional 6 weeks unpaid. Men are allowed 2 weeks off, as are women who adopt children. According to strict HR policy, no other arrangements are allowed.

Luckily, we're a small campus, with many young families, and some administrators are willing to bend the rules to benefit everyone. For example, when Pumpkin was born, I didn't take any time off, but I dropped a class for the semester. It was against the rules, to the point that the department chair didn't tell the dean. But, it worked better for everyone. I was able to take more time with the baby for longer, rather than having 6 weeks off, then jumping back into 12 hours/week in the classroom (actually, more than that, since one of the classes has labs, and those are longer hours for the same credit load.) My colleagues didn't have to fill in for me for 6 weeks, a serious problem in a small university with no other archaeologists (other than Dr. Mr. Palimpsest, who had a new baby, too!) Finally, the students didn't have to worry about switching instructors.

My department chair (and others around campus) have been very flexible in interpreting (aka ignoring) the rules. Men and women with family obligations have worked out various solutions that work for them and their departments, and that makes Tiny U a family-friendly environment. Culture is more important than policy, when it comes to concrete achievements for families.

The problem, of course, is that culture can change with just a few, key administrative appointments, and then the policies on the books take on new life. I love my department chair; she has been supportive of our family needs and our two-body problem. But, she is leaving for another university. It remains to be seen whether our family-friendly culture survives without her.

Monday, February 7, 2011

weekly accountability: Feb 6-12

Last week, my goal was to survive with no more illnesses, lost days of daycare, etc. I needed some time to catch up on grading/class prep. I actually managed to finish the book review I've been working on, so I got more done than I expected. Woo hoo!

I didn't meet all my goals, alas. Pumpkin was sick all day Monday. Bunny was home for the morning on Wednesday because the schools started late due to bad weather. (Her preschool follows the public school schedule, including snow days.) I missed part of this morning for the same reason. Still, I can't complain, since I actually got some things done.

My goal for this week is to write a couple of short grant proposals. And try not to get sick.

Friday, February 4, 2011

dating exercise

I loathe lecturing on dating techniques. I bore myself before I even begin.

In an ideal world, every appropriate textbook would include a chapter on dating techniques, and explain in detail what materials can be dated, from what time periods, etc. Then, I could hold a lecture/discussion on the trickier bits, like what event one is actually dating (the death of the tree), as opposed to the event you're most interested in (the building of the house). Unfortunately, the textbooks I've chosen don't cover dating well.

This week, I put together a quick exercise for my Latin American archaeology class, just to break up all my blathering about dating. Actually, I put together two exercises, one about picking appropriate materials to date, and the other about interpreting dates once you have them. I'm just showing the second one here.

I was afraid this would be too quick and simple, but actually the students took a long time to work through the material, and they learned more from it than I was afraid they would. Before I use the exercise again, though, I'd like to refine it. It would be nice to include some deliberate misdirection, such as C14 dates that don't fit the stratigraphy, and I need to include some more types of dating. Perhaps florine dating would be appropriate? I'm open to suggestions!

Here's the exercise:

The site of Siete Colinas is found at the bend of a large river. Dr. Juan Sanchez excavated the main temple at Siete Colinas, and found the temple complex had been built and rebuilt over many successive generations. The earliest small temple, Temple 3, was buried and covered by the construction of Temple 2, which in turn was buried and covered by the construction of Temple 1. Below is a description of the dates associated with each temple.

Temple 1:
1) the main staircase up the outside of the temple was carved with a description of the king credited with building the temple. The staircase includes three dates corresponding to his birth,ascension, and death. Those dates are AD 322, AD 345, and AD 383.
2) a large monument dedicated to a military victory against a neighboring city sits in the courtyard of the temple. The inscription dates the victory to AD 315.
3)a large monument dedicated to the military defeat of a powerful rival was found on the top of the pyramid. The inscription dates the event to AD 420.

C14 dates:
1) A date of AD 500+/-40 (calibrated) from wood found in a hearth on top of the temple
2) A date of AD 350+/-50 (calibrated) from a burned beam that was part of the structural support

Other dates:
1) small fragments of obsidian blades from the top of the temple produced obsidian hydration dates of AD 520, AD 480, and AD 375.

Temple 2:
1) a mural inside the alter-house on top of the temple includes a depiction of the royal family. The dates of birth, ascension, and death for the three kings shown are:
King 1 - AD 248, AD 269, AD 300
King 2 - AD 282, AD 300, AD 325
King 3 - AD 299, AD 325, (no death date given)
2) a carved monument in the courtyard describes a spirit vision by the queen. The date of the monument is AD 337

C14 dates:
1) A date of AD 360+/-40 (calibrated) from the charred wood found in the hearth on the alter
2) a date of AD 330+/-60 (calibrated) from wood charcoal found inside the fill that supports the temple

Temple 3:
1) a carved alter shows 7 kings passing a baton of office. Each king has one date written above their head, along with their name. The oldest date is AD 116. The most recent date is AD 220.
2) a monument to a military victory was laid against the outside of the temple. The victory is dated to AD 277.
3) a burial is found inside the temple. The sarcophagous of the burial includes an inscription naming the king buried there, his birth date (AD 189), his ascension (AD 220), and his death (AD 253).

C14 dates:
1) A date of AD 270+/-60 (calibrated) was obtained from charred seeds found in a pot associated with the burial
2) A date of AD 300+/-40 (calibrated) was obtained from burned wood on the alter
3) A date of AD 210+/-60 (calibrated) was obtained from a chunk of wood charcoal in the underlying fill

Other dates:
1) one fragment of obsidian blade was dated by obsidian hydration to AD 275.

What can we reconstruct about the dates the temples were constructed, used, and abandoned?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

foxy burials

I've seen a number of popular press reports about this PLoS ONE article describing a fox (cf. Vulpes vulpes) buried with humans at ‘Uyun al-Hammam, an Epipaleolithic site in northern Jordan. The fox skull was found in one grave (Grave I), and the rest of the body in another (Grave VIII). The fox skull and post-cranial are associated with red ochre, and there are a variety of other animals in the grave:

The inclusion of animal bones in Graves I and VIII is notable. With the exception of an extensive midden, large, complete animal bones are rare from all contexts at ‘Uyun al-Hammam, and horn cores and antler are virtually unknown. Yet Grave I included the fox skull and humerus, the patella from an aurochs, and the remains of gazelle, deer, tortoise, and a notable variety of other species for such a small context (Table 3). Grave VIII contained the fox skeleton, along with red deer antler, a horn core fragment from a wild goat (Capra sp.), and other isolated bones. In addition to the disarticulated tortoise carapace fragments recovered from Grave I, the articulated remains of two partial tortoise carapaces were found beside a large cobble near the northwest portion of Grave VIII. Although we cannot clearly associate the tortoise carapaces with Grave VIII (Figure 3), articulated tortoise remains are not found in any other contexts at the site.

The press is focusing on the theory that the fox was a pet of some sort, with headlines like "fox was man's first best friend." That's the interpretation that the authors clearly prefer. As the article points out, however, there are lots of reasons that animals can be buried with humans, and fox bones are not uncommon additions to human burials throughout the Middle Eastern Epipaleolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic, although they are usually disarticulated. Fox remains are common in many Neolithic sites in non-burial contexts, often as one of the main sources of bone bead material, and presumably they were hunted for their pelts.

Personally, I don't find the pet hypothesis all that convincing, just as I don't believe the gazelle or tortoise found in the burials had a close and personal relationship with the deceased. It's possible, but it seems more likely that the fox was an important part of mortuary symbolism in the Epipaleolithic. That doesn't preclude a personal relationship with the deceased, but it doesn't assume one, either. We interact with animals on so many different levels, not just as pets or as prey. The symbolic meaning and ritual role of animals can be incredibly difficult to understand, but this is one case where the symbolism and context of the human-animal interaction seems relatively constant and clear.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

off-campus teaching and families

Just after I bragged that Tiny U is 95% family friendly, our administration handed down a new rule about Summer Programs (off-campus teaching, such as fieldschools and study abroad). Contrary to previous policies, faculty teaching Summer Programs are now unable to bring their families with them, except for spouses who are also co-instructors of the course. This means that Dr. Mr. Palimpsest and I can't run our summer fieldschool unless we leave Bunny and Pumpkin at home. I guess they're supposed to forage for themselves. This policy will make it impossible for single parents and most parents of small children to run Summer Programs.

What really pissed me off was the language of the new policy. If the administration had said, "sorry, it's a liability thing," I would be frustrated, but not insulted. What the policy actually says, though, is that family members can't come on these courses because faculty need to be able to concentrate on their jobs, and they won't be able to give the students their full attention if their family is with them. I see. So, as a mother, I'm incapable of doing my job, since my family takes up too much of my mental abilities. Sheesh.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

regional preferences in hiring

I'm applying for a job in the greater-NYC metro region. It's not an archaeology job, but it's in a related field where I'm qualified. While looking at the faculty in that department, however, I noted an odd pattern: every faculty member (every single one!) got their PhD at a university in New York City or New Jersey. This included degrees from institutions I hadn't even realized granted PhDs. (Drew University grants PhD's? Who knew?)

When I first went on the job market, I was warned that elite East Coast institutions tend to hire from elite East Coast institutions. I was also warned that smaller universities in the South tend to hire applicants from the South (more on this later). My current institution, Tiny U, has a much higher percentage of faculty from this state/region than you would expect. Partly, this is self-selecting (many people won't apply here, and those who get the job and stay often have some tie to the region.) But, partly, there is real interest on the part of search committees in finding someone who will be a willing and eager colleague for years to come. One way to do this is to hire someone with local ties, who at least knows what they are getting into when they come here! (No, seriously, this is a problem. We've lost candidates who withdrew from the search after seeing the town on their campus visit. We've had tenure-track faculty quit their jobs because their spouse takes one look around when he/she arrives, says "no way in hell", and heads back to the city.)

I understand why universities in so-called "less desirable" areas may preferentially hire people with local ties. But I don't understand why this seems so common. I applied for a job a few years ago at a third-tier state school in a large, centrally-located city that shall not be named. Fully 75% of the faculty at the school had PhDs from the only PhD-granting institution in the city, a well-respected private school. Why was this state school hiring locally? I don't know, but I wonder if they had a pattern of hiring their own adjuncts. Perhaps that was a good strategy for them - they knew they were hiring good colleagues and teachers - but they were located in a reasonably desirable market, and could easily have hired faculty from around the country, if they chose. The same is true for the school in the greater NYC area where I'm currently applying. It's in a highly desirable location, by many people's standards. Why should they limit their faculty to the cast of Jersey Shore?*

That pernicious beast "fit" is rearing its head again. Honestly, hiring biases toward certain regions don't bother me, although I don't think it is in the best interests of most institutions. The problem is, if you prefer your colleagues to be from the same region as you, there may also be a tendency to prefer them to be the same race, or the same gender, or the same political out-look.

So, break out of your comfort-zone, search committee members! Live dangerously; hire someone from Connecticut.
*Disclaimer: I've never actually seen Jersey Shore, and the only thing I know about it is that the cast is largely orange and there's a woman named Pooki, or something, who is a friend of John McCain's and reminds me (oddly) of my sister-in-law. I'm sure the cast of the show bears no resemblance whatsoever to the faculty at this university. Most of them probably voted for Obama.