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Professor John Marston’s new book: “Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany”

March 18th, 2015

Congratulations to Professor Marston!

Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany

John M. Marston, Jade d’Alpoim Guedes, and Christina Warinner
Imprint: University Press of Colorado
Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany

Paleoethnobotany, the study of archaeological plant remains, is poised at the intersection of the study of the past and concerns of the present, including agricultural decision making, biodiversity, and global environmental change, and has much to offer to archaeology, anthropology, and the interdisciplinary study of human relationships with the natural world. Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany demonstrates those connections and highlights the increasing relevance of the study of past human-plant interactions for understanding the present and future.

A diverse and highly regarded group of scholars reference a broad array of literature from around the world as they cover their areas of expertise in the practice and theory of paleoethnobotany—starch grain analysis, stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA, digital data management, and ecological and postprocessual theory.

The only comprehensive edited volume focusing on method and theory to appear in the last twenty-five years, Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany addresses the new areas of inquiry that have become central to contemporary archaeological debates, as well as the current state of theoretical, methodological, and empirical work in paleoethnobotany.

John M. Marston is assistant professor in the Departments of Archaeology and Anthropology at Boston University.

Jade d’Alpoim Guedes is assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University.

Christina Warinner is a research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and a research affiliate of the Molecular Research Group at the University of Zürich’s Centre for Evolutionary Medicine. Visit her website at

Emeritus Professor Norman Hammond presented the Fourth Andrzej Wiercinski Annual Lecture at the University of Warsaw, Poland

December 1st, 2014

Emeritus Professor Norman Hammond presented the Fourth Andrzej Wiercinski Annual Lecture at the University of Warsaw, Poland, on December 5th 2014, on the theme “From Village to City: the Preclassic Foundations of Classic Maya Civilisation”. Previous Wiercinski Lecturers were Gary Urton (Harvard) on the Inka quipu and problems of decipherment (2010), the late Klaus Schmidt (German Archaeological Institute) on  the excavations at Gobekli Tepe (2011), and Jean-Jacques Hublin (Max Planck Institute, Germany) , on the peopling of Europe (2012).

Professor Hammond also spoke recently at University College London on “Maya Pre-History”, and on January 15th 2015 will deliver an invited public lecture on “Maya Art and Maya Kingship” at the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Irina Shingiray (GRS’11) appointed Postdoctoral Research Associate, Oxford University

December 1st, 2014

Irina Shingiray (PhD 2011) has been appointed as Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of History at Oxford University (UK). During her 3-year appointment, Dr. Shingiray will work on the project “Nomadic Empires: A World-Historical Perspective.” Congratulations Irina!



Christina Luke was a recent US speaker in Serbia

November 10th, 2014

Christina Luke, Boston University Senior Lecturer of Archaeology; Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Field Archaeology; Chair, Cultural Policy Committee, Archaeological Institute of America; Co-director, Central Lydia Archaeological Survey was a recent US Speaker in Serbia (2-9 November 2014). The week-long session focused on cultural diplomacy and the recent emphasis from UNESCO to explore creative economies as part of heritage practice. Christina met with regional leaders and gave lectures in Belgrade, Novi Pazar, Novi Sad and Kragujevac to discuss heritage policies pertaining to EU integration as well as the intercultural dialogue. She also met with US Ambassador Kirby, US Cultural Attaché Drew Giblin and members of the Serbian Ministry of Culture, including Minister Ivan Tasovac and Assistant to the Minister, Asja Draca.
Hristina Mikic, executive director of the Creative Economy Group in Belgrade, organized the program and the second forum of the group was held at the Palace of Serbia on 6 November.


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National Geographic article features William Saturno, Francisco Estrada-Belli, and graduate student Mary Clarke

August 26th, 2014

Losing Maya Heritage to Looters

Stolen artifacts are making it from the Guatemalan jungle to wealthy black-market buyers.


For instance, the only way to find 14 Maya pots at once would be to uncover the burial of a very wealthy king. In archaeology, such finds can make a researcher’s career and redefine our understanding of entire dynasties or eras during the Classic period (300-900 A.D.). But taken out of context, these pots are nearly worthless to science.

“It does almost nothing,” says William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University who has been working in Xultún for more than a decade and a National Geographic grantee. “It should be returned to the country of origin where it was taken from so that they might have it back. But it’s unlikely that it will tell anything.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Professor Berlin NPR “Preserving Audio For The Future Is A Race Against Time”

March 31st, 2014

NPR “Weekend Edition Sunday”

3/23/14 (audio link)


Preserving Audio For The Future Is A Race Against Time


By Emily Siner


On the very first archaeological dig of her career, Andrea Berlin discovered the room of a house that somebody had lived in around 800 B.C. Talk about beginner’s luck.


“I felt like a time traveler,” she says.


Berlin is now a professor of archaeology at Boston University, where she teaches and studies ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean. She finds their sculptures and tools and lots of pottery — anything tangible and substantial enough to last two or three thousand years.


But even though each dig brings a lifetime’s worth of stuff to go through, Berlin says she still wishes she had more.


“I think archaeologists are jealous of historians who have access to modern information sources – audio, for example, individual interviews and shows and recordings,” she says.


Ever since the first identifiable recording in 1860, sound has added captivating and significant context to history.


“MLK’s ‘I have a dream’ speech — to hear him say it, rather than read the words, is a much more visceral and significant, I think, medium for it,” says Gene DeAnna, the head of the Library of Congress’ recorded sound section.


The Library of Congress is one of thousands of institutions, large and small, trying to make sure that future historians — and even future archaeologists — have access to those recordings. DeAnna oversees the library’s multi-decade efforts to save millions of the nation’s recordings before they’re lost.


They want to preserve things like a 1963 interview by radio personality Studs Terkel with Bob Dylan, talking about “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”


It’s part of the library’s agreement to preserve Terkel’s radio interviews with dozens of famous voices from the 20th century. “[Terkel] is a tremendous intellectual force, so to preserve that archive of 25, 30 years of radio is a great project,” DeAnna says.


But preserving audio like this is often an intricate, time-consuming and expensive process.


For one thing, a lot of the audio they’re working with is really old — like this 1904 recording of operatic tenor Enrico Caruso.


When you’re working with old formats, you are often racing against time. With wax cylinders from the 1890s — one of the oldest recording formats — the heat from your hands can cause them to crack. They require highly specialized, expensive equipment to digitize, as well as people who know how to use it.


Records made during World War II, constructed out of glass because other materials were going toward the war effort, are so fragile that they can break even when they’re handled properly.


And if it’s on a cassette tape, it’s automatically at risk, Deanna says — “no matter how well it was recorded, by whom, on what equipment. If it’s on a cassette, it’s just a terrible format for archiving.”


But the Library of Congress can only get audio recordings from the deteriorating formats as fast as they can play them. They’re able to digitize about 15,000 recordings a year, and that’s only a fraction of what’s in their queue.


“We’re probably acquiring between 50 and 100,000 a year,” DeAnna says. “We’re at least stabilizing them in a good environment so that their deterioration will slow down, and we’ll hopefully get to most of them before they’re lost.”


Many already have been lost, according to a Library of Congress study in 2010. Radio recordings, which the study calls “an irreplaceable piece of our sociocultural heritage” (we’re flattered), were rarely kept for safekeeping before the 1930s. At commercial record companies, master recordings of musical artists were sometimes thrown out due to space constraints.


And once recordings are made digital, they’re still at risk of being lost. Unless the digital format is updated consistently, it might not be recognized by a computer in 10 years. Modern recordings that were “born digital” — think songs streamed on Myspace — are especially ephemeral and at risk of being lost, the Library of Congress study says.


“It’s an active process, not a passive process,” DeAnna says. “It’s not like putting something on the shelf.”


Alexander Rose, director of the Long Now Foundation — an organization that strives to maintain cultural continuity over the next 10,000 years — says this is apparent to anyone who has unsuccessfully tried to open an early computer file.


“Things that were written on stone 1,000 years ago we can still read. Things that were written on books 100 ago we can still read. Most things that were written on computer 20 years ago we can’t read,” Rose says.


But Boston University‘s Berlin says, if we can figure out how to make our audio survive for millennia, future archaeologists will be thrilled.


“In 200 years and 500 years and 1,000 years, there will be other people studying us,” she says. “Maybe they’ll be able to hear us.”


© Copyright 2014 National Public Radio


Daniel Fallu (GRS’16) recipient of a GRAF and AIA Pomerance Fellowship

February 6th, 2014

Dan Fallu, Boston University Department of Archaeology graduate student has been awarded the long term GRAF.  The GRAF is specifically for his field work and residency in Greece. The bulk of the funding will be put towards coring the banks of the Chavos River (part of the natural fortification of Mycenae) in order to develop a history of sediment dynamics. The main goal of this coring is to determine if a dam (yet to be discovered architecturally) created a reservoir that resulted in the eventual burial of the site.
The AIA Pomerance Fellowship will pay for dating (carbon and osl) and isotope analysis to understand the effect of climate perturbuation on the stratigraphy at Mycenae.

Congratulations Dan!

Catherine West in BU Today Interview Reveals Link Between Ancient Diet and Climate Change

January 23rd, 2014

For full story click here:

Professor Runnels wine cellar discovery interview

December 2nd, 2013

Curtis Runnels, an archaeologist at Boston University, called the finding significant not only in showing the sophistication of the wine, but also in suggesting that it was meant specifically for palace use. He noted that the chemical analysis showed each jar held wine from the same recipe, showing the “consistency and control you’d expect in a palace.”

Read more

ANNOUNCING: BU AR Graduate Student Conference, Breaching Boundaries: Identity and Conflict

October 22nd, 2013

Boston University’s Biennial Graduate Student Conference
February 14-16th, 2014
Breaching Boundaries: Identity and Conflict

Keynote Speaker: Pamela Geller
University of Miami

The deadline for abstracts this December 15, 2013. There is no registration fee for this conference. Selected participants will be notified by early January, and your full paper will be due by February 1st.

Additional Information click here.