Category Archives: Weekly News Round Up

Tequesta Village, Giza Vandals, and America Unearthed. Weekly Round Up 2/21/14

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. I don’t think she reads my blog, but Happy Birthday none – the – less!

A lot had happens in the past week! In the news mostly, but still, it’s made for fun and interesting reading. The most entertaining of which has been the ongoing comedy that is the vandalism of the Giza Pyramid. Not that the vandalism is itself funny, no, that’s awful. However, the slowly unfolding story about why the vandalism occurred is becoming a comedy of errors. Also, the press can’t decide if the vandals were trying to prove Atlantis or Aliens. I’m going to let you read these two articles yourself, because there is bigger news to discuss.

The Giza Necropolis image vis Wikicommons
The Giza Necropolis image vis Wikicommons


Giza pyramid vandalized to prove ‘alien theory’

German conspiracy theorists vandalize Great Pyramid to prove it was built by Atlantis

Many of you might know that there was a Tequesta village site found recently in Miami, Florida. This site is now considered one of the most significant Native American sites in the world and it’s proponents are working to get it recognized as a national heritage site. This of course is severely irritating the construction company that paid for the dig, because they just wanted someone to officially tell them they could build their repetitive hotel/movie theater there. Fortunately, the CRM firm working on this site won’t give in that easy, and they’ve in the big guns to help save this site. Good luck to them.

The middle of downtown Miami, archaeologists excavate a site holding evidence of a more than 1,000-year-old Tequesta Indian village. Image via NPR.

Miami historic preservation board moves to protect Tequesta site

This article gives a good account of what’s been going on so far at the site. It also includes how the public is raving to the find. I like this quote the best:

The testimony from 11-year-old Bella Greenberg, a student at Miami Country Day School, may have best captured the prevailing sentiment over preservation of the eight circles and other features at the site.

“Really, a hotel?’’ Geenberg said. “What’s more important? You’re cheating a generation by cheating us of our history. Please don’t destroy them just to see a movie or stay in a fancy hotel.’’

Another good quote which is very telling of shady nature of the development firm involved:

Board member Jorge Kuperman challenged MDM’s claims of financial hardship, nothing the developers were aware from the beginning that they were buying property in a designated archaeological zone, took a “calculated risk,’’ and now should be responsible for safeguarding the archaeological finds.

“MDM knew precisely what they were buying into,’’ he said.

Fox News, of course, took a slightly different view of things. Still, they gave a great look onto the minds of the developers.

I’m not sure if Fox is trying to help Stearns it here, or if they want him to look bad, but these were maybe not the best quotes to try and win a case with:

“Let’s be honest with each other,” said Eugene Stearns, the attorney representing MDM Development Group, which owns the property and is eager to move forward with construction. “Every great city is built on the shards of a former great city.”

MDM has spent $3 million conducting an archaeological review and is now anxious to continue construction. Stearn said all of the planned commercial space has been leased and half of the residential units have been sold.

“There are enormous financial obligations and commitments that have to be met,” he said. “And they need to go forward.”

Stearn obviously has never had to fight for his own cultural heritage before. And we are to judge him solely on theses quotes, he’s Moore’s concerned about getting paid than he it’s about doing the right thing. This could just be a result of Fox’s stellar reporting style though and not the man’s real objective.

Also, I’ve begun watching a new TV series. Well, it’s in it’s second season, but it’s already as bad as Ancient Aliens. You may have seen it already:

It’s…something…and I have a hard time watching it all the way through.

Recently though, I watched an episode with Tim Baumann in it, and well, it made it a little funny for me. Dr. Baumann taught at my field school last summer so I know the guy a little. I also know that he does not support the Bat Creek Stone as being “authentic”. You could tell from the video that he was kinda angry at the guy interviewing him, so I’m trying to reach out to Dr. Baumann to see if he’s like to give a response to the episode. So keep an eye here for more on the Bat Creek Stone.

Lastly, but not leastly, the #AchaeologyChat(s) are back on Twitter! Yay! If you’re a little behind you can catch up on the ones I managed to put on Storify, and read the latest one, where we discuss Looting among other things.

First ever #ArchaeologyChat!

#ArchaeologyChat for 11/20/2013

#ArchaeologyChat for 2/20/14: What Can Archaeologists do to prevent looting?


Click HERE For more Weekly News Round-Ups.

Wooden Horses, Astrology, and Hello 2014!

Last year, as we all remember vividly (right), was the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan Calendar. Somehow we all managed to survive that and spend another year on the space marble we call Earth. I don’t know about you guys, but my 2013 was pretty damn eventful, in good ways. Not going to try to ignore my near meltdowns due to school, and I won’t say there won’t be more of those to come (oh stay tuned), but for the most part 2013 treated me well.

Last year I started a new tradition, which is that the new year is a time to have your fortune read so you know what to expect in the upcoming year, and I went a looked up the Chinese signs for 2013, and I wanted to see just how close the predictions got to being true. You know, cause hindsight it golden.

Well BILL HAJDU over at got the closest to what might have actually happened last year. He predicted (vaguely):

“Snake is the Yin to last year’s Dragon Yang. That said, Snake does not settle for mediocrity, either. We’re likely to see significant developments in the area of science and technology this year. Research and development are apt to flourish. his is a Water year as well, the element most closely associated with education and research, making 2013 a very special year for scientists and scholars.”

I mean, there was a lot of great science in 2013, and I did get to Neil De Grasse Tyson live, so…

This year Bill says:

“You could either experience a lot of lucky breaks, or at the very least, luck could soften the blows. In other words, bad luck will occur at a minimum — if at all. You can probably take more chances than you normally do. Strike out in new directions with more confidence. Make a major change in your life.

One caution: Horse energy is sometimes about fools rushing in where wise men fear to tread. Yes, luck is with you, but you still need to apply due diligence, use a little common sense and pick the best times to act.”

Good way to cover all your bases Bill. So this year I’m apparently a Lucky Fool! Hope that bodes well for the blog.

Lets see, this year let’s set some reasonable goals for the blog shall we? Last year I tried to do too much, this year I’m just going to try to only add one thing, a podcast!

I’ve had so much fun on the CRM Archaeology Podcast that I want to try doing my own. I’ve gotten some great stuff from my friend ArchaeoSoup and I am really looking forward to trying out this new medium.

Really, beyond that we’re going to keep plugging ahead with the blog. We’ve got some great women to meet in the Women in Archaeology section and we’re still trying to figure out Who Discovered America First.

As always you can leave a comment below contact us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, find us on Facebook, or just Email us at

Weekly Round Up for 11/22/13

This week we’re bring back the round up. Fortunately my MAC project is over, so I can safely get back to doing other things with my time. Like learning more about how to use ArcGIS…yay. So what has Archy been up to in her long absence?


blogging-archaeology banner

You may have seen it earlier, but I am participating in the Blogging Carnival over at Doug’s Archaeology. You can read my post here, and I encourage you to follow the link to Doug’s blog to read some of the other posts as well.

I’ve also added a new Founding  Mother to our Women in Archaeology series. Go check her out, she’s a snappy dresser!

And we take a look at more viking pseudoarchaeology in the next instalment of Where the Vikings Weren’t, this time we’re back in Canada.


The CRM Podcast is still going strong. We had our first all woman show about a month ago, it was very well received, and the second show was equally enjoyed. In the most recent episode we’re discussing Graduate School Applications, and how to pick what you want to do with your life. You can check out all the episodes at the links, or subscribe on almost any of the podcast apps out there.

Also, I got permission to used the theme music I wanted for my own podcast, so look forward to that in the new year! (I still need a good name.)



I’ve started a new thing on Twitter that seems to be popular, it an #ArchaeologyChat! For those who don’t know what that is, it’s like a chat room on twitter, only it’s public and you have to use the hashtag to make sure your comments get seen. It’s been really great so far, we’ve had two chats now, and I’ve learned how to archive them on Storify. If you’d like to read over the last two chats, just follow the links!

First ever #ArchaeologyChat!

#ArchaeologyChat for 11/20/2013


I haven’t been able to get much done here, but I’ve got some interesting articles in the cue. Hopefully I’ll  be able to get to those this next week and I’ll give you my take on them.

All you ever wanted to know at Lininations at Mound A.
All you ever wanted to know at Lininations at Mound A.

So, there you go. I’ve been pretty busy with my MAC Poster and all, and I am working on another poster for the spring. Such is life I guess, now that I’m a graduate all I do is one project after another. Still, it beats being bored!

Gen Con Wrap-Up: Archaeology, Skeptics, and Nerddom.

I had a great time at Gen Con this year. I got to play lots of great games, met some really cool people, got to glimpse Wil Wheaton, and re-launched the Skeptical Gamers. With all of the great costumes, the huge balloon Cthulhu, the balloon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, The Zombie Walk, Five Year Mission, Cardhalla, the scavenger hunt, and the massive maze that is the dealer floor, I had to narrow things down a bit. So let’s break down the event some shall we?

Cthulhu, He’s eating my mind! Ai! Ai!

Archy Talks at Gen Con

This year I gave two talks, one was my basic Archaeology vs Psuedoarchaeology and the other was Archy vs Ancient Aliens. I probably wont be giving the basic talk again. I had a really low turn out for that one. Not sure if it was because it was on Thursday, or that people were confused because Gen Con moved my room around twice and didn’t list it in the guide book, or if people are just tired of hearing it. Either way, I’m kinda board with it and I want to do different topics next year anyway. I can only really commit to two talks if I want to have any time to play myself, so, we’ll box this one up for a while. 

The  Archy vs Ancient Aliens did really well, more like what I’m used to. Also the 12pm time slot seems to be good for everyone since it’s kinda in-between game slot times and lunch. The new projector I bought works well, except that it wont connect to my small laptop and I didn’t find that out till I got to the con. Learned that the hard way, other than that little snafu everything went great. 


Reintroducing The Skeptical Gamers. 

Some of you might remember back when I started talking at Gen Con I was with a group named the Skeptical Gamers for about a year. It was a good group of people who were interested in creating a skeptical track for Indy. We had people discussing cargo cults, general skepticism and such. It went over really well, but most of the members had life changes that forced the group to close in 2012.  Well, I’ve talked to the original creator of the group and I’ve got permission to restart the group!

This year at my talks I gave a recruiting shout-out to anyone who might be interested in doing something skeptical for next year. I got a pretty good response, more than I expected. So I’ve got some folks to talk to and a website to re-vamp and then we’ll be in full swing. If you think you might be interested in helping out next year, send me an email at


Games and Groups You Should Check Out. 

Like I said earlier, I played some great games and watched some awesome shows this year. I highly recommend a few:

Dorks in Dungeons player group, with the tallest dwarf ever who worships the sun.

Dorks in Dungeons – this was a fantastic improve group who are completely making fun of gaming. Seriously, they were the funniest show I saw all weekend and completely worth the time. They are native to New Hampshire, so if you live up there check them out. They really encourage audience participation and love interacting, and it’s funny. Also, they have a Keytar Dragon, nuff said. 


The Keytar Dragon, rocking the Lame away.



Live Action Cthulhu , specifically Kettle of Fish‘s rendition of “Charlie Chonka and the Fudge Refinery”. It’s pretty much what it sounded like. I got to play one of the Parents, and well, it’s Cthulhu so you’re not really supposed to live, but as per the movie each child was picked off one by one, and we all pretty much died in the end. But my Ian, who’s such a bright boy, made it out alive, along withe the child who was apparently a clone on Hitler. The rest of us died in an elaborate ritual that allowed Chonka to continue his immortal life body-hopping from his dying body to the youthful body of an unsuspecting child. It’s Cthulhu, it’s not meant to be happy, but it was fun and the guy playing Chonka was simply perfect and amazing. Also, the players who got to play the Tcho-Tcho’s (the Oopa-lumas) did a really great job of singing and being extra creepy. 

Sixcess Core by Harsh Realities ran a fantastic game as always, and I highly recommend their table top system if you’re looking form something new and versatile. Plus the creators and the GM’s a supper friendly. I had a great time playing Steampunk in Space and running away from Flesh-bots who wanted to make me part of the living ship. Check out their store for their core book and keep an eye out for their upcoming Kickstaters. 

I played a few other things too, they were fun, but these were defiantly the top. 


School starts today and I am back at the O’l grind stone. Someday I will be done will all of this, and be better off for it. Until then, I must survive this test that is Grad School.

And Now Some Pictures of the event. 


Men with Horse Heads. I got nothing.
Men with Horse Heads. I got nothing.
The Sea of Nerd, the ocean of Geek.
The Sea of Nerd, the ocean of Geek.
Five Year Mission opened the festivals Wednesday night. They Rock!
Five Year Mission opened the festivals Wednesday night. They Rock!
Spidy senses Zombies.
Spidy senses Zombies.
Balloon Raphael
Balloon Raphael
Cardhalla raised over $4,000 for Big Brother's Big Sisters this year.
Cardhalla raised over $4,000 for Big Brother’s Big Sisters this year.
Brain Burgers, Yum.
Brain Burgers, Yum.
Zombie Hogan. Oh yah brotha.
Zombie Hogan. Oh yah brotha.
A Giant Rabbit pulling a Man out of a Hat doing card tricks.
A Giant Rabbit pulling a Man out of a Hat doing card tricks.

Proto-Chinese, Day of Archaeology, and Ticks: Weekly Round-up for 7/27/13

As usual the weekend has snuck up on me. I blame homework. Aside from learning the difference between a Fluxgate Gradiometer and a Cesium-Vapor Magnetometer is, learning that fire makes dirt magnetic, running three times a week, and working with the DNR Forestry Archaeologist i managed to read about:

China Discovers Some Of The World’s Oldest Writing 

– I’m not the hugest fan of the HuffPo, but I do read it sometimes. Apparently Chinese archaeologists found a sizable cash of artifacts, some of them demonstrating what could be a proto-Chinese script. That’s pretty cool.

Day of Archaeology July 26th 2013.

Keep your eyes peeled folks! I am participating in the awesome Day of Archaeology again! This will make year two for me. If you like you can see what I did for the past two years (I did my own thing in 2011), and anticipate what I’m going to do for this years. 

Day of Archaeology 2012

Day of Archaeology 2011


Gen Con!

Also, Gen Con moved my rooms for my talks this August, so if you bought tickets to my two talks, I have mentioned I’m giving talks right, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the room change. I’m hoping they’re nicer rooms this year, not so much running around.

if you were wondering just what I was doing for Gen Con this year, here’s the list:

I’m giving two talks this year, I’m experimenting with Noon times, so brown bag it if you want too.

SEM1341415 Archaeology Vs Pseudo-Archaeology – Friday, August 15th at 12:00 pm

–        Ever wonder what Archaeologists really do in the first place? Or what Cult Science is? Come find out with your friendly neighborhood Archaeologist. We’ll examine this & much more! (This is my regular intro talk, but I’ve changed things up a bit if you still want to come.)

SEM1341416 Archy Vs. Ancient Aliens – Saturday, August 16th at 12:00 PM

–       Ancient Aliens is one of the History Channel’s most popular shows, but how accurate is it really? We’ll examine some of the recent claims from the show and discuss how factual they really are. (This one is for my advanced audience.)

Collecting Ticks.

And lastly, I am managing to work with the DNR Forestry Archaeologist, which means I actually get to go out and physically do archaeology. I’m  kinda interning with her, so I’m not getting paid (story of my life) but I do get to learn how to write reports, actually use ArchGIS, and well, get to use my education. Also, I get to pull off multiple ticks every trip, I’m up to 7 in one day so far.

School starts in August, I need to get an Abstract written for the MAC this October, and oh hell…I gotta go get to work! Hope to see some of you at Gen Con!

Mound Builders, Staying Cool, and Gen Con!!! Weekly Roundup for 7/12/13.

Hey Everyone! I’m back! Seriously.

As you all probably know, I just spent a lovely six weeks living in a very small dorm room and digging out at the Angel Mounds Site in Evansville, Indiana. This was a great experience, and it’s not over yet. I am currently working on a project involving interpreting the Magnetometer data from the site. I’m already knee deep in the Lit Review, and it hit me a about a week after I got back, this cycle of Lit Reviews is pretty much how my life is going to be until I retire. So Woo. Actually I’m pretty excited about it. It’s nice to put my education to work, and it’s even better having it tie into my GIS focus.

While I was there I had my first legit encounter with a Native American Representative group. The Woodland Alliance came out to see us after a rather uniformed and unflattering article made it into the local paper in Evansville. I’ll hold off my usual rant against lazy reporting and bad media practices. However, my group was on the receiving end of this debacle this time, which was rather unpleasant.

The Woodland Alliance folks were alright; they came out to talk with our Supervisors a few times, and made suggestions about how to interpret some of our findings.  I’m not sure how I feel about the whole thing really; I was surprised that they hadn’t been notified about the dig in the first place, especially since it was a state park. Secondly, I was uncomfortable with communication that occurred between our groups once we were face to face. It seemed kind of strained, and exclusive. Thirdly, because of the article, there was a lot of misunderstanding as to what was and wasn’t found at the site, and what we were doing out there. Also, I don’t completely understand the reasons behind some of the requests the Woodland Alliance made of us; fortunately, it wasn’t up to me to make the final decision. Still, it was a good experience to have, I’ve learned quite a bit from it, and I look forward to using that in future encounters.

But I’m back in my own home, and I think I have this Lit Review thing down. I’m back in my office, and well, I feel slightly more energized about archaeology all over again.

That said, let’s look at what’s coming up for ye ’ol ArchyFantasies!

The Mysterious Mound Builders.

While I was out at the mounds, I learned that the mounds hadn’t always been attributed to early Native peoples.  Which is entirely not surprising, considering the times. However, as I did a little digging into the history of the study of the Mound Builders, I found that even today some people still don’t attribute the mounds to early native peoples. So, I decide to take up this challenge and see if I can set some facts straight. Look for posts in this series in the near future.

CRM Archaeology Podcast and Staying Cool

Chris Webster, with Dig Tech, podcast is still going strong. I haven’t been on in a while, but don’t let that stop you from listing. This last week the group talked about how to stay safe in the heat while working in the field and why Per Deium is paid the way it is sometimes. It’s a great podcast with a great discussion group and fun rants. Go subscribe if you haven’t yet.

Also, Bill White over at Succint Reserch made a great PDF on how to stay cool while digging.

ArchyFantasies Podcast

My own Podcast is in the works. Currently, I have selected intro music and have almost settled on a format. Look for it in August or September. I will be having a Q&A section, so if you have any questions you’d like me to try and answer, go ahead and email them to too me  Be sure to put ‘Podcast’ or ‘Question’ in the Subject line, just to help me out. You can tweet them to me to @archyfantasies on Twitter.

Last but not Least!


I will be at GenCon for the third year in a row! *Yay! Fanfare and all that!*

I’m giving two talks this year, I’m experimenting with Noon times, so brown bag it if you want too.

SEM1341415 Archaeology Vs Pseudo-Archaeology – Friday, August 15th at 12:00 pm

–        Ever wonder what Archaeologists really do in the first place? Or what Cult Science is? Come find out with your friendly neighborhood Archaeologist. We’ll examine this & much more! (This is my regular intro talk, but I’ve changed things up a bit if you still want to come.)

SEM1341416 Archy Vs. Ancient Aliens – Saturday, August 16th at 12:00 PM

–       Ancient Aliens is one of the History Channel’s most popular shows, but how accurate is it really? We’ll examine some of the recent claims from the show and discuss how factual they really are. (This one is for my advanced audience.)

Oddly enough, even though I don’t charge for this, it always ‘sells-out’, which really makes my weekend. Maybe if I can get enough people registered, they’ll quit putting me in the furthest room from the convention center? It could happen.

Anyway, hope you’re all as glad to see me back as I am to be back, and I hope to see a good number of you at GenCon this year. Don’t forget to send me questions for the Podcast, and go listen to the CRM Archaeology Podcast for a look at what I do for a living.

Flu, Podcasts, and Screaming into the Void: Weekly Round-Up 2/24/2013

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where I’ve been. (you have, haven’t you? I’m not just screaming into a black, soulless void am I?) Let’s just say, don’t put your Flu shots off any longer then you have to, cause the flu sux balz.

So after a week filled with all the joys of the Flu, I can finally eat again and stay awake longer then 20 min at a time. The good news is that I can now get back to work on my neglected blog. The bad  news is that I’m really behind on posting. That said, this time I am really going to get caught up…really…I mean it this time!



Until then I want to leave you with something enjoyable, and that would be the second episode of the awesome new podcast I am involved in, CRM Archaeology. In this episode we talk about Open Access in archaeology and there are six of us on the podcast this time, including a special guest, Eric Kansa from UC Berkeley and the Alexandria Archive Institute.  Also, the podcast is now available on Stitcher as well as ITunes, or at the website link, whichever. (Stitcher is cooler.)

Anyway, look for our regularly scheduled blog posts to resume shortly, and check out the podcast while you wait!

Podcasts, Podcasts, Maker -Scouts: Weekly Round-Up 2/10/2013

I don’t really have a whole lot to report this wee, but not because nothing is going on. On the contrary, quite a bit is happening here.

raoc banner

Chris Webber over at Random Acts of Science has invited me to be on his CRM Podcast . He’s re-worked the format for the podcast and there are several panel members, so there should be some great conversation about archaeology and the world of CRM. We’re actually recording the first episode today, so expect a giddy, self-promoting post in a few days! In the mean time check out Chris’ blog and enjoy!

I’m also working with my local CFI family group here to start our own Guild of Maker Scouts. We’re going to be coding and building robots before we know it, and many other science related things. I supper stoked about this. I really wish this had been available to me as a kid, but now I can provide this for other kids. My dad did the best he could with a chemistry set  and the computer, now it’s time to up the game and take Lego’s to the next level!

And school is still ongoing, I’ve got a ton more reading to do about GIS and planning projects, but I’ve almost got it down, just in time to write a midterm report! Yay!

So keep an eye out for the podcast and think about starting your own Maker Scouts Guild.

Happy World Digger’s Day 2013! aka Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, and the Real Crystal Skulls.

I love old Indy!

Lets be fun today, it’s the second international World Digger’s Day and as such we’ve all been asked to change our icons and avatars to either a pic of Indiana Jones or Laura Croft…I went with Indy because Croft is a Tomb Raider.

That being said, I thought it might be fun to dedicate a post to the glorious Harrison Ford. Why you ask?

I’m not going to lie, the Indiana Jones movies were my favorites growing up, I got all worked up when the Last Crusade came out, and when Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls came out I about died. I love them all, and maybe they had some influence on me choosing to got into this field. When I worked in the Arch lab during my undergrad, there was a life-sized cardboard figure of Indy watching over all of us. My advisory kept a hat and whip on hand at all times, and frankly, I can’t really think of a single individual I have worked with that hasn’t told me that they like the movies too.

Indy is a meme, or trope, for those of us in the field  however seriously or not-seriously we take him. He represents our naive ideals and is the starting point of many a real conversion on why we need to educate the public on what archaeology really looks like. We love Indy, and we hate him, and frankly we’re jealous of him.

But Indy isn’t a real person, he’s an archetype, a legend. What about the man behind him, the man who took words on paper and gave him life? What about Harrison Ford!

Harrison Ford was my first Movie Crush. I remember getting in to a fight in 4th grade with another girl over which one of us was going to marry Harrison Ford when we grew up. (needless to say neither of us won that argument.) Harrison Ford is also an active advocate for archaeology, a cheerleader if you will, and we love him for that even more.

Harrison Ford publicly speaks on behalf of archaeology, helping to raise public awareness and constantly advocating for the preservation of natural resources and places of historical significance. Matching with Indy’s statement “It belongs in a museum!” he also works to prevent looting and the illegal antiquities trade. He’s been serving as a General Trustee on the Governing Board of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) since 2008.

Screw it, I liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Now I know many don’t agree with me, but I liked the last movie. It was fun, fast paced, had all the old Indy feel to it, yah it was over the top, but Temple of Doom? Hello!

But one thing I wanted to look at a bit closer, because this is a blog about archaeology, were the Crystal Skulls themselves.

Apparently, there is something to the Crystal Skulls. Their story starts in the 19 century as a collection of small skull shaped beads. They were recovered, supposedly, from locations in Mexico in a time when no scientific archaeological excavations had been done there, so knowledge of pre-Columbian artifacts was scarce (Walsh 2008). This was also a time when it was very lucrative to fake pre-Columbian artifacts, which was something Smithsonian archaeologist W. H. Holmes observed when he visited Mexico City in 1884 and was overwhelmed by “relic shops” (Walsh 2008).

William Henry Holmes (Wiki Commons)

The man who seems to be tied most intimately to the skulls is a French antiquarian named Eugène Boban. Boban was a Frenchman who was the official “archaeologist” of the Mexican court of Maximilian, and also a member of the French Scientific Commission in Mexico.

French antiquarian Eugène Boban with his collection of Mesoamerican artifacts at an 1867 Paris exposition. (Walsh 2008)

Boban appears to have fallen in love with Mexican culture at a young age, in his teens he spent his youth conducting archaeological expeditions on his own, becoming fluent in Spanish and the Aztec language, Nahuatl (Walsh 2008). Around this time he appears to have began selling his finds through a family business in Mexico City (Walsh 2008). He returned to France in 1870 and opened an antiquities shop selling a large amount of his collection eight years later to Alphonse Pinart, a French explorer and ethnographer  (Walsh 2008). Pinart donated the collection to the Musée de l’Homme. The collection at this time contained three crystal skulls  (Walsh 2008).

In July 1886, Boban moved his museum business to New York City where he later held an auction of several thousand archaeological artifacts including a crystal skull that Tiffany & Co. bought for $950 (Walsh 2008). In 1896, Tiffany’s sold that skull to the British Museum for the original purchase price (Walsh 2008). Off topic but interesting none the less, is Boban’s 1886 catalog for the New York auction lists another small crystal skull and it is listed with a crystal hand, neither can be accounted for today (Walsh 2008).

In the end Boban managed to sell no less than 5 crystal skulls, all in museums world-wide. Where did he get them? Who made them, and can they really melt your brain if you look at them?

All of Boban’s skulls are claimed to be from either Aztec origins, or more generically Mexico Valley. But there are no records to back up those claims. Archaeology was in its infancy at this time, and the Mexico Valley untouched by academic and scientific archaeology. We are well within our rights to question the claims of Boban’s skulls.

The crystal skull at the British Museum (ID Am1898C3.1 ), similar in dimensions to the more detailed Mitchell-Hedges skull. (Wiki Commons)

So what about the Skulls themselves? Dr.  Jane MacLaren Walsh has spent a great deal of her time answering those questions. She breaks the Skulls down into generations  describing the small bead skulls as the first generation. Usually they are small, no bigger than 1.5 inches and are drilled through from top to bottom, like a bead (Walsh 2008). The holes possibly are reminiscent of their bead’s pre-Colombian origin, but the beads were probably carved after the fact to be sold to European antiquarians or as mementos mori, objects meant to remind of the eventuality of death (Walsh 2008). The earliest of these seems to be a British Museum crystal skull acquired in 1856 by British banker Henry Christy (Walsh 2008).

The second-generation skulls appear as life-size representations of human skulls and don’t a bead hole, as they are too large to wear. The first of these appeared in 1881 in the Paris shop of Boban where he exhibited it alongside actual human skulls (Walsh 2008).

The third generation of skulls  started showing up around 1934. Sidney Burney, a London art dealer, purchased a crystal skull of proportions almost identical to the one in the British Museum (Walsh 2008). We don’t know where he got it, but it’s almost identical to the British Museum skull but with more detailed modeling of the eyes and the teeth, and a separate mandible (Walsh 2008). This skull has acquired a Mayan origin and a number of supernatural powers, it has nicknames like Skull of Doom, the Skull of Love, or simply the Mitchell-Hedges Skull, it is said to emit blue lights from its eyes, and for some unknown reason has a vendetta against computer hard drives (Walsh 2008)

The Mitchell-Hedges skull, (Walsh 2008)

There have been a few other possible candidates for crystal skulls sent anonymously to various museums, including the Smithsonian in recent years. None with any real documentation towards their authenticity.  The most recent was a skull sent about 16 years ago, according to its unnamed donor, was purchased in Mexico in 1960. It dwarfs the other skulls in collections at 31 pounds and 10 inches in height (Walsh 2008). but like the others, is indeed a modern hoax.

 All the skulls in both the British Museum and the Smithsonian have been examined under light and scanning electron microscope  by Dr. Margaret Sax and Dr. Walsh (Walsh 2008). They have conclusively determined that the skulls were carved with modern lapidary equipment (Walsh 2008). Pre-Colombian lapidaries used stone, bone, wooden, and possibly copper tools with abrasive sand to carve stone, and the skulls are too perfectly carved and polished to be made in this manner (Walsh 2008). Dr. Walsh also believes that the first generation of skulls were made in Mexico between 1856 and 1880, around the time they were sold (Walsh 2008). She believes that this 24-year period represents the work of a single artisan or workshop (Walsh 2008). 

Despite the fact that all of the known skulls are fakes, they are interesting compelling fakes. They are really cool to look at and I’m sure they make great conversations starters. I know I wouldn’t mind one in my room.

So there you have it, a great way to wrap up World Digger’s Day! A bit of love to Harrison Ford and a bit of debunking on the actual Crystal Skulls.


Walsh, Jane MacLaren

2008    “Legend of the Crystal Skulls”. Archaeological Institute of America
archive. Volume 61 Number 3, May/June 2008 Retrieved February 1, 2013

The Loss of Aaron Swartz, the Need for Open Access, and a Comment on Depression.

Hey everybody! I know, it’s Tuesday…I’m behind…yah…I’ll get to fixing that.

Before I do, I wanted to talk a little about Open Access and Aaron Swartz. There isn’t a whole lot I can add to the discussion. What happened to Swartz, and what was going to happen to him was, in a word, horrible. It’s horrible that MIT and the US Government hounded him to an early grave, it’s horrible that he was sentenced to more prison time than a serial rapist or mass murderer, and it’s horrible that all this was over the access to and sharing of academic information.

We, those of us who are part of or participating in academia, should be ashamed of ourselves, because We are the ones that allowed this to happen. Fortunately, WE are also the ones who can change it.

Many others who are much better informed on this topic have talked about it, and instead of ranting on here, I thought it would be better to link articles and quote the parts that stuck out to me. I encourage you to read the articles in full and follow the links in them. I also encourage you to do what you can to push for the free and open publication of academic papers.

Carl Sagon urged that ideas and information be free and open to all, to do otherwise would create a “priesthood” of professionals and encourage the dissemination of pseudoscience in an information starved would. He’s right, as anyone who is aware of the Anti-Vaxer movement can attest too, or anyone trying to combat the idea of ancient alien visitors knows.  One of these is simply annoying, the other is deadly, both could be remedied by open access and the education of the public.

So, please read the articles, and feel free to comment. I’ll see you later this week with our regularly scheduled postings.

RIP, Aaron Swartz by 

Not gonna lie, this is really hard to read, manly for the end where the author discusses Swartz battle with depression.

Most people think they have depression, but they don’t . They have blue days, and they’re stressed, but real depression is more than that. It’s not easy to shake or to think clearly when you’re in the grips of it. And you are in the grips of it. It’s a living, breathing thing that holds onto you and won’t let go. You don’t just “get over it”, and you don’t just have a happy thought and suddenly life is all good again. It sneaks up on you, it ambushes you, it isolates you, and it lies to you. I’m not “puzzled” as to why Swartz did what he did, I am sad that he did, but I understand.

Archaeology, Open Access, and the Passing of Aaron Swartz by Eric Kansa

“We have to remember, we, as a discipline work in the public interest.” (emphasis mine)

“There are many excellent reasons to promote Open Access in archaeology, summarized in this recent issue of World Archaeology dedicated to the subject. But the Swartz case helps to highlight another. Professional society reluctance (in the case of the SAA) or outright opposition against Open Access (AIAAAA) puts many researchers at risk. Many researchers, particularly our colleagues in public, CRM, and contract archaeology or our colleagues struggling as adjunct faculty, either totally lack or regularly lose affiliations with institutions that subscribe to pay-wall resources like JSTOR. Many of these people beg logins from their friends and colleagues lucky enough to have access. Similarly, file-sharing of copyright protected articles is routine. Email lists and other networks regularly see circulation of papers, all under legally dubious circumstances. Essentially, we have a (nearly?) criminalized underclass of researchers who bend and break rules in order to participate in their professional community. It is a perverse travesty that we’ve relegated essential professional communications to an quasi-legal/illegal underground, when we’re supposedly a community dedicated to advancing the public good through the creation of knowledge about the past.”

“It’s time we also start seeing the ugliness in the current dissemination status quo, where the information outputs of archaeology become privatized, commoditized, intellectual property. This status quo carries the baggage of a legally oppressive system of copyright control, surveillance, and draconian punishments. Rather than dismissing Open Access off-hand, we have an ethical obligation to at least try to find financially sustainable modes of Open Access publication (see Lake 2012,  Kansa 2012 [pay-wall][open-access pre-print]).”

Fred Limp (SAA President) Responding to Open Access in Archaeology by Eric Kansa and Fred Limp

“However, the SAA is but one publisher. Even if its publication costs are relatively low, archaeological discourse takes place across many, many titles, typically managed by expensive commercial publishers. Legally accessing these requires institutional affiliations to get e-Journals, JSTOR and all the rest. Though you may get a few titles with your SAA membership, researchers lacking academic affiliations are still cut-off from the great majority of scholarly discourse. Most of them are stuck with extra-legal workarounds, putting these researchers in dire legal jeopardy. While I can understand Fred’s concern over financing SAA publications (and motivating membership), accepting the dysfunctions and legal dangers of pay-walls and strong intellectual property does not advance the interests of archaeologists or archaeology.”

Archaeology, Open Access, RIP Aaron Swartz

“I was at the Society of Historical Archaeology’s conference last week and in a panel discussion the issue of access to resources was brought up. Again, the time worn excuse that “we can’t go open access because then no one would join our society was used”. What I then said was, “well, have you polled your members to actually see why they join your society? The SAS polled theirs and found only a small percentage joined because of the journal.”

“What I wanted to say (and what did say later in a heated discussion about it) was, “Are you a fucking society trying to better mankind or fucking publisher in it for profit????” While societies do many great things I am starting to get real tired of them protecting the high salaries of their employees at the expense  of the rest of us, when, unlike a for-profit company, they are suppose to be helping us.”

I know it seems easy to vilify the SAA’s, but I want to strongly caution against it. Fred Limp at the SAA, to my current knowledge, is the only society representative to respond to this. That should actually give credit to the SAA because they are willing to participate in the discussion openly, whether you agree with them or not. This took guts, good for them.

Anyway, I am a strong advocate for open access and public access. I am also aware that there are aspects of this discussion I am not privy too, mainly because they are behind closed doors where I don’t have access. I also know that there are some valid reasons for not opening the flood gates and letting anyone and everyone have access to academic research. However, there is a middle ground, and it’s high time we find it. We didn’t need Aaron Swartz to prove that to us, but I hope something good will now come out of what he did.