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3 things I don't like about working in public exhibitions

Hey, guys. It's been a while. Things have been hectic here.

I'm taking both my thesis and teaching seminars and not updating as often as I'd wish. The good part of this situation is my hopes to graduate before June of next year, but everything is a mystery.

In the meanwhile, I've also taken on another job. Writing commissions stopped coming and, to be honest, I'm also on a hiatus from my pursuit of them, at least until December of this year. My stories here will continue to be updated, but for the freelancing gig... Well, I don't have the time to engage in it and give it the dedication it deserves.

This post is to talk about my new job (and vent for a while). I'm at a science fair in my country. The place is enormous and the entrance is free, with no restrictions. It's state-owned and the faculties of some universities have agreements with the place. As an archaeology-oriented anthro student, I landed a gig there. To be sincere, I started doing it last January, but the fair went on a hiatus from March to July.

It opened again during the winter break. And man, it was a mess. But since it helps pay the bills (even if our salaries don't get deposited every month) I'm OK with it. Please, don't misunderstand me. I like the place: people can come and learn, experiment and educate themselves in different scientific fields. There are artistic performances, too. And the public can go and see them. Considering the economic mess Covid left behind, as a friend of mine once pointed out, one of the good points of that fair is the fact children from humble families can go on recreational outings and enjoy themselves. It's expensive to go out. And I just happen to see more and more kids and families from humble backgrounds visiting the fair. And that's good. Poor people have the right to be stimulated, enjoy themselves and witness pretty and interesting things.

And that is just one of the highlights of the fair. The place is inclusive (or at least they try to), artists have the chance to get their work appreciated and some people genuinely become absorbed in what we teach. However, not everything is amazing. And here are some things I don't like about working on public exhibitions.

1. Some people come here expecting superficial entertainment

You see, teaching requires attention and patience. And for your audience to concentrate on it. And some families (adults, especially) just immediately get bored and leave once they realize we don't bring them a short entertainment time so they can skip and go to the next stand. I can’t shake off the feeling that people expect our talks to be like a TikTok video or an Instagram reel so they can quickly forget them and jump to the next thing that fancies their interests.

Activities here are ludic and visitors have to get involved. We are supposed to interact with families and groups. Some parents just dump their children with us and remain quiet. In fact, it's hard to get adults involved. From receiving visitors, reflecting on our interactions with them and their answers to our questions, some of my colleagues state that they see people come to the fair expecting to just be entertained without making an effort. I get most of the entertainment industry out there (going to the cinema, the circus, the theatre, a concert) involves paying cash and receiving some sort of visual and/or soundly stimulus while making little effort.

Things here don't work like that (just in case, I’m not saying the place’s name). But the public comes with that idea in mind and you see it. Entertainment and science are not mutually exclusive. Adult visitors are often disinterested in the exhibitions. And we see it in the way they push kids toward us and watch us with their poker faces as we entertain them. Elena Achili, Elsie Rockwell (and many other authors) state that knowledge is supposed to be built on the moment, during the interactions between teachers and their audience. People have their previous learning baggage, no one is empty. The tabula rasa metaphor doesn't work the majority of the time in real life. Everybody possesses information about something.

And sometimes, I find myself talking about DNA and genes and explaining them to children... to find out parents or young visitors have a medical or biological degree/study and just remain there, watching us with fish eyes as we talk with the kids. People are not forced to interact if they don't want to, but seeing the frigidity of some parents while they wait for us to be done with their children irks me.

2. You won't necessarily like how the exhibitions are displayed

Curators are not necessarily experts in the fields of their exhibitions. Resources are not infinite. Obviously, there are exceptions. And sometimes, it's unavoidable to find mistakes or be annoyed at the disposition of the materials aimed at the public. Something we discuss as anthropologists is the fact that Hominid evolution is not linear.

There were many species living with Homo Sapiens. There already were hominins leaving Africa and changing into new species before modern humans left Africa between 80k and 50k years ago. And guess what? There was inter-breeding too. Some modern populations have genomes belonging to other species. Lovecraft's nightmare, huh?

One of the reasons why Darwin's theory was too polemic back then (and still is in some circles) was that it questioned some shitty precepts that still permeate our modern societies. Humans are not the centre of the universe. Forget divine origins. Nowadays we know that we share most of our DNA with chimpanzees (our closest ''cousins'' so far).

In our new exhibition, I have to spend the introduction explaining to people that the video they see at the beginning is not entirely right… Humans don’t descend from chimpanzees. They didn’t exist as a separate species, in fact. We come from a common ancestor.

Though, I have to confess something else. The little mistakes and 'flaws' I see (such as the lack of lettering or illustrations) also push us to be creative (because I’m not the only one, among my coworkers, to note that). I can prepare my own speech, select my examples and move my body the way I see fit. We can question people and help them question their common sense. We must not forget that one of the aims of anthropology (according to many anthro authors) is to descotidianize and des-naturalize common sense, to appropriate the Otherness and to question inequalities in our modern society.

I think some archaeologists I know forget that. And there are many things I don't like about the current archaeological community, but that's another discussion.

3. Male guides love to talk

Here comes the polemic. But it's something that I've witnessed since last January and now I see it repeated with the new guys that began working with us this past July.

Men fucking love to talk.

Most of the colleagues that were with me during my shift this summer (remember, please, seasons are the opposite in the southern hemisphere) left. And we had new people coming in. And not only anthro students but also from the Arts, Geography and History fields. Most are girls, few are guys. But bro, they love to talk.

Since I was among the few people left from the previous edition of the fair, the coordinators put me in charge of teaching some of the new hosts (yup, that's what we are called). I went from being the one asking questions and watching the more experienced people last summer to preparing the new guys this winter. Needless to say, the change made me somewhat anxious.

And something I witnessed was that girls tend to be more insecure and talk less to visitors. But guys? They are confident, talk loud and expose what they know. And sure, they know a lot. But (and forgive me for saying this), they are arrogant too. And they don't seem to realize this. One of the guys I had to share a shift with had to be hurried to end by one of the managers of the exhibition and later, me. Never mind if I end up surrounded by people who keep asking me questions (luckily, it doesn't happen often), guys have no problem pointing it out to me.

But don't you dare to signal for them to hurry. You'll see the annoyance in their eyes- or just be ignored. One of our exhibitions is for archaeology and what can we learn about cave art, but we share the building with students from the Faculty of Natural and Exact Sciences (mind you, we are from the same university. Just different faculties). And yesterday I witnessed something first-hand. Hosts in the archaeology section take too long. And there are other stands for people from other careers. The public has an attention span of five or seven minutes at most. Some of my male coworkers love to talk. And they can last between ten to fifteen minutes. Once the visitors are done, full of information and fascination with archaeology... Well, some are just too tired to keep listening to others or hurry to leave the exhibition once they realize there is more to hear.

And after watching one too many tense sights from the hosts from the Paleontology stand towards my partner (They either were very much into what he had to say or just annoyed because my male co-worker never seemed to be done) I told him to shorten the talk, to last around seven minutes and it wasn't necessary to share everything.

His answer?

That if he shared everything, the talk would last even more.

Man, the students from the other faculty are right. And my partner's arrogance really showed off (at this point, I can't find another word). He may not have realized it but he didn't question it either. It really rubbed me off the wrong way. Especially when he told me that ‘'he had never been told that before'’. D'oh. Of course. Two full months haven’t passed since he began working with us. I had to tell him to keep the talk short because it wasn't the first time I heard that the people from the archaeology stand last too long. The observations from our neighbours from the next stand are fucking right. Just because we are first and are supposed to introduce the visitors to the contents of the exhibition, doesn’t mean we own the place.

Isn't it annoying how men immediately try to wash their hands and dissociate themselves from a simple critic? I remember the resignation of one of my female co-workers when one of our partners from last summer didn't shut up... and we had another group ready to enter. Even the security staff comments on it!

I really have the hypothesis guys love the power boost they get from sharing their exotic, specific and fancy archaeological knowledge with the fascinated audience.

We have to share, not be the protagonists. If I share some new info about the exhibition with the guys, they just don't care. I remember having to tell one of my colleagues (he was still new, so let me be patient) that the cave art in the exhibition wasn't from Patagonia only, but also the north... while showing him the obvious llama paintings on one wall. Guys don't ask many questions, either. The ones who do it are girls. I really prefer my female colleagues. They are more flexible, creative and easier to talk to. I feel relaxed when I share my shifts with girls. Guys leave me feeling stressed.

Now, I wonder. Does it happen to other people? Are there any museum workers or researchers from other fields that could comment here? Because while Inkspired may not be as famous as Wattpad or other platforms, I'm sure we have a decent amount of people to discuss this. And here ends my venting.

In conclusion, I like my work. I can teach, interact with kids (and some interested older visitors) and make some adults question ideas or subvert some tropes, so to speak. Not everything is bad, creativity and flexibility are needed to interact with the public. And all I'm sharing here are internal issues people don't necessarily need to be aware of. But, well... this is the point. Objectivity is not real and there are issues even at places especially specially destined to be seen.

While I don’t agree with some decisions of the (current and previous) governments in my country, I definitely think this fair is a positive thing. People can recreate in a fine way, learn cool facts and scientific vocations can be stimulated in those who are curious or just lack the means.

And those points itself is are good things.


Achilli, E. (2005) “Un enfoque antropológico relacional. Algunos núcleos identificatorios” y “El campo de la investigación sociocultural”. En Investigar en Antropología Social. Los desafíos de transmitir un oficio (cap 1 y 2). Rosario: Laborde Editor.

Balasubramanian, B. (2018, May 23). Human evolution is not linear. The New Indian Express. Retrieved August 28, 2022, from https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/2018/may/23/human-evolution-is-not-linear-1818171.html

Blaxland, B., & Dorey, F. (2022, January 28). Homo ergaster. Australian Museum. Retrieved August 28, 2022, from https://australian.museum/learn/science/human-evolution/homo-ergaster/

Cerletti, L. (2017) “Antropología y Educación en Argentina: de condiciones de posibilidad, preocupaciones en común y nuevas apuestas”. En Revista Horizontes Antropológicos, N° 49, UFRGS, Brasil.

DNA: Comparing Humans and Chimps. (n.d.). American Museum of National History. Retrieved August 28, 2022, from https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent/human-origins/understanding-our-past/dna-comparing-humans-and-chimps

Levinson, B. y Holland, D. (1996): The cultural production of the educated person: An Introduction, New York, State University, New York Press.

Wheeler, Q., Valdecasas, A. G., & Cánovas, C. (2019, September 3). Evolution doesn’t proceed in a straight line – so why draw it that way? The Conversation. Retrieved August 28, 2022, from https://theconversation.com/evolution-doesnt-proceed-in-a-straight-line-so-why-draw-it-that-way-109401

29 Août 2022 00:53:00 0 Rapport Incorporer 0

A little bit about me

Most people introduce themselves in their first blog posts. I didn't.

To be honest, this blog is a place to put my ''training exercises'' on and share whatever subject interests me at the moment. And it varies, a lot. This blog won't be updated often, since it mostly follows whatever inspires me at the moment. And being a college student in her last year, then I can assure you there won't be many posts on this 2022.

There is another reason, though. I started taking small gigs as a ghostwriter. I never got the experience to write professionally and can't share here what I do, but I can tell you it has been one of the most exciting things I've ever done. Especially because I really want to be away from customer service jobs for a while. It drains you, people are mean and the payment is miserable.

I really suck at ordering ideas and I think ghostwriting is a good activity for practice. I receive outlines and writing prompts, do my research, write it down and then correct it and rewrite it until I feel satisfied. And, if you see the dates of my post, I can tell you it's hard to satisfy me. I always find mistakes and repetitions and need to fix them.

Most of my original works remain weeks (or months) as drafts on my Google Drive until I check them out and edit them. Right now, I have an original short tale about thunder deities, but I don't know when I'll upload it. I want to take my time and enjoy the process, after all, I started sharing my fanfictions and original tales here because it's a hobby. Ghostwriting for the money, fantasy and other bizarre shit for the soul.

Now, back on the ghostwriting topic. The other thing I like is deadlines. I can organize my schedule and work around to meet them. When I write for myself, I mostly follow my deadlines and feel frustrated after I don't meet them. But following the deadlines and indications of another person? Yeah, give it to me. It gives me a structure to work around.

So far, I've only ghostwritten horror stories and short tales. And the former was rather hard at first: I hate scary movies and books, I'm a self-declared coward and avoid them as much as possible. This is why analysing the horror genre made me ironically get interested in it. Now I feel more comfortable working with it and even tried to watch a horror/suspense movie on my own: The WWitch. Some people find it too slow, but for me it was good. The fact I already did some research on the matter before helped, that much has to be confessed. I still remember how The Others (the one with Nicole Kidman) crept the hell outta me as a child.

The only other reason why ghostwriting is a useful gig is due to the distance. We are in post-pandemic (?) times, so travelling was a mess until not so long ago. Plus, my career of choice requires me to move a lot, so a job with people that don't mind me moving around is good. As long as there is a wi-fi connection and I meet the deadlines, then things are fine.

This ended up becoming a post about my job rather than about me.

Well, if you've read previous entries, then you'll see I study archaeology. My research topic is the Inca Expansion in Norwest Argentina and, if I can finally travel to Jujuy again, I'm supposed to work with decorative motifs in ancient wares. Coronavirus didn't make things easy, but I walked around it by learning to use the (in)famous software of GIS and making visual analysis to try to guess how did people in past times perceived their environment and putting it in maps.

Oh, yes. Not all archaeological job is done on the field.

Also, about the career choice, 27-years-old me would slap the naïve, 17-years-old me.

Aside from that, there is not much to tell about me. I'm a hobbyist barista and improvise drinks every once in a while. I love coffee and cats.

I fucking love reading fantasy, but I haven't been very motivated lately. Burnout has come here to stay for a long while, so, in the meanwhile, I write and explore shit while trying to get my degree and praying to receive funds for my research.

This will be the last post you'll see in a while, but I think it had to be done. There is a real person here.

26 Mars 2022 00:57:23 0 Rapport Incorporer 0

Seven Similarities Between Maleficent and Odin

Trigger Warning: this post has mentions of rape

Maleficent is one of the most iconic villains ever. She is dark, clever and knows how to entertain the public. Now, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was based on Charles Perrault’s tale, but the character received an expanded role: Maleficent is an active villain, working hard to achieve the fulfilment of the curse she cast on princess Aurora.

In Perrault’s tale (and in Sol, Moon and Thalia, one of the oldest versions) the evil fairy only works as a plot device to set in motion the events of the story. Disney’s Maleficent received a new role: we see events from the Forbidden Mountain, where she resides and conspires with the help of her minions.

Now, what does one of the most iconic characters of Disney’s franchise has in common with the leader of the Norse Pantheon? One comes from an animated film aimed at children, the other is a millennia-old deity associated with war, frenzy, wisdom, magic and mead, among other things.

Well, they are more similar than you'd expect.

1. An Affinity for Darkness

Odin is infamous for his deeds. While the God certainly had good intentions (to win the final battle during Ragnarok), it doesn’t mean he was a nice guy. One of his names was the ‘Oath-Breaker’, he was known for engaging in sorcery and sacrifices, and didn’t mind deceiving others if it got him what he wanted. Hell, even sacrificed his body and one of his eyes for wisdom. The fact scholars believe Odin was preferred by the ruling elite rather than the elite can be pretty telling: no farmer wants to worship a deity that calls for war.

Now, what does it have to do with Maleficent? She is a dark fairy that fits well with the Unseelie Court. Maleficent is also considered a witch, her magic associated with evil deeds: cursing a newborn, summoning thunder, disciplining her soldiers with violence and becoming one of the most famous dragons in pop culture.

Both are dark in nature. While Odin was worshipped in a time when the social values were different from ours, we can’t deny both figures are associated with dark themes. According to the myths, Odin engaged in treachery, raped a high-born woman (Hello, Rindr), only drank mead and wine out of paranoia and was a berserker deity. Not the most chill guy to be around. And Maleficent… well, she cursed a baby. If anything, go for the adults, not the baby who didn’t do a thing. She knew where to hit. Hard.

2. The use of Thunder

Both Odin and Maleficent use thunder and lightning. Thor is considered to be the God of Thunder but the myths make clear it was Odin who obtained it first after hanging himself from Yggdrasil's branches nine days and night, pierced by his lance.

Meanwhile, Maleficent is known for deploying green and purple thunder: she uses the former while summoning herself on Aurora’s christening, and the latter to punish her soldiers after they failed on their hunt for the baby.

Thunder is associated with power and destruction: Maleficent is acknowledged in and out-universe to be one of the strongest characters of the Disney franchise, while Odin was not only the leader of his pantheon but also a deity of magic, poetry and war. Can you get more badass than that?

3. A Horned Leader Figure

Maleficent’s gothic outfit is famous and easily recognizable: long robes of purple and black, scaly underclothes and ‘horns’. I personally believe the horns to be part of an escoffion, a medieval headwear worn by upper-class women, but you all can disagree with me. Eyvind Earle and Marc Davis, developers of the Sleeping Beauty animated film, took inspiration from medieval art.

Maleficent definitely is commandeering: when she appears at Aurora’s christening, everybody stops and listens. She has an imposing presence that makes people fear her (or respect her, if you are Chernabog).

Odin, for his part, is associated with horns. Odin’s horn is a famous pre-Christian symbol, said to be associated with mead and poetry. In this case, horns can bring over a mental image of generosity and wealth: abundance was desired in ancient times. Early depictions of Odin show him with horns. Later, he became associated with the Wild Hunt, a phantasmal horde of spectres, ghosts and other freaks rampaging the skies, making travellers lose their paths, damaging buildings and murdering people and cattle. While the former can involve a geographic license since the Wild Hunt was portrayed differently depending on which part of Europe you focus on, the leader of the Wild Hunt is often portrayed as a horned figure.

4. Fear

Odin and Maleficent are dark, imposing individuals. Both invoke fear: Maleficent was temperamental and insane behind her carefully studied mask of poise and elegance, while Odin was known for dealing with the unknown and used trickery to fulfil his objectives. Hell, even Maleficent’s name invokes the ‘malevolous’ word in mind.

None of them was a lovable person. Maleficent terrified people: party guests, guards, the royalty, Prince Phillip and even the fairies. Not even her own goons were safe. Odin engaged in trickery and violence; he was considered the god of berserkers for a reason: you definitely didn’t want to make a figure like that angry.

5. A Raven Companion

Maleficent was accompanied by Diablo, her assistant raven and, apparently, the only character she seemed to care about. Diablo was a clever bird: he could direct Maleficent’s goons, found Aurora’s hut without much effort, warned her mistress of Phillip escaping with the help of the fairies and knew humans age differently than fairies.

Odin, God associated with knowledge, had two raven familiars: Hugin and Munin. Both ravens would fly across the world and whisper to him all the information and secrets they found once they returned by night.

According to the Worldbirds web:

In Native American mythology and folktales as well as in Christianity, the raven is considered as an ill-omen and a diabolical character. In Norse, Celtic, and Druid mythology, the raven is considered an animal of great wisdom and intelligence.
It has spiritual and magical powers and although they are harbingers of death, they also are symbols of rebirth and the afterlife.They are oracular birds. Druid poet Taliesin says, “I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech.”
These birds are quick of mind and temper – not to be trifled with. The Welsh Triads (mystical poems) say: “Very black is the raven – quick the arrow and the bow.” The crow or the raven is familiar with witches, wizards, and druids.
In Norse mythology, the god of war ravens perch on Odin the War God’s shoulders in the form of thought (Huginn) and memory (Muninn).

Ravens are clever, dark birds. They are also are associated with back luck and evilness, but it doesn't mean a crafty God can use them to achieve his own aims. And for Maleficent's case... well, she is an archetypical witch.

6. A Cursed Maiden

Odin (in)famously cursed the valkyrie Brunhild after she didn’t help the king he favoured. Hjalmgunnar and Agnar were at war and Odin preferred the former, who was older than Agnar. And yet, Brunhild battled for Agnar. A furious Odin cursed Brunhild to sleep on top of month Hindarfjall, surrounded by a wall of flames, according to some versions, or by a shield wall, according to others. There, she was discovered by warrior Sigurd, who broke through her armour with his sword, Gram, breaking the curse. Later re-tellings changed Brunhild’s awakening to a kiss rather than a sword.

I know the modern debate about the discussion on questionable consent and sexual abuse, but considering the early version, damn it, having a sword cutting your armour while you are asleep is even worse.

And for Disney’s Sleeping beauty? Maleficent’s curse upon Aurora comes to fruition after she is hypnotized and pricks her finger with a needle. However, in Disney’s version, the Godmother Fairies gain a bigger role: they actively work on hiding Aurora. And when it all fails, they don’t mind taking matters into their hands and aiding Prince Phillip, who wouldn’t have survived without their help. And Aurora is awakened by a kiss.

7. A Traditionally Feminine Brand of Magic

Disney's Maleficent curses Aurora to die after pricking her finger with a spinning wheel when she turns 16. In Perrault's version, the old fairy (that everybody believed to be dead and was uninvited) also cursed the princess to die after pricking her hand with a wheel. In Sun, Moon and Talia, written by Giambattista Basile, a splinter of flax falls under Talia's nail and she falls to the floor.

Do you see the pattern? In all cases, the maid is cursed after partaking in a traditionally feminine activity: textile work. In ancient times, textile work was associated with feminine magic. Think about the Greek Moirai for example, who measured and cut threads that represented people's lives. Well, ancient Norse people had the Norns and the Völvas. The former were giantesses that laid by Yggdrassil's roots, weaving the destinies of people, with good and bad nature. The latter were seeresses that took part in textile magic, spinning threads for their spells, entering trances and shamanic states of ecstasy. This particular type of magic was called Seiðr and you can learn more about it in this wonderful article written by Brute Norse.

Do you know who else practised Seiðr? Yes, that's right. Odin.

In the Lokasenna, Loki calls Odin out for practising this feminine branch of magic. Apparently, there were strict social sanctions on men who engaged in Seiðr, but Odin, God associated with runes and wisdom, still did Seiðr spells. It's said that's what he used to rape Rindr (who wanted nothing to do with his advances) and impregnated her with Vali. Don't worry, this wasn't left with punishment: the gods kicked him out of Asgard's throne for a decade.

Maleficent invoked the danger of spinning threads to mess up with Aurora's fate. She forged a dark one. Seiðr was associated with the idea of fate, too, and all soothsayers, astrologers and fairies from all different diversions of the Sleeping Beauty tale warned the maid's parents of the dangers textile tools represented to their daughter. In all cases, the maid's destiny is darkly cursed by threads of fate. Sure, the girl escapes, but it doesn't mean she can avoid the curse first.

It has to happen. It's part of her fate.

In Conclusion

We all can see a bunch of patterns here. Thunder, darkness, evil magic, a cursed girl, a weaved fate, and the juxtaposition of dead and sleep. Hell, there is rape, too. Talia didn't have it easy. Rindr, neither.

But this essay is about Maleficent and Odin. Both are powerful, merciless figures that didn't mind dirtying their hands to achieve what they wanted. And both come from brutal, past times in which our modern ethics didn't have a place. Maleficent was the result of an artistic take from the many versions of old, angry magical hags. She is cruel and invokes an ancient branch of magic to curse Aurora, a particularly perverse one based on millennia-old feminine traditions.

Odin engages on that, too. The god wants to know more, to gain more power, and damn the consequences (and those who suffer it). I suppose the main difference would be that, in spite of his jerk moments, Odin at least had good intentions- or at least, practical ones. He wants to avoid the apocalypse but is very unscrupulous in his approach.

Naturally, we have to consider the fact these stories are taken from ancient tellings and re-tellings. There are lots of versions going on, so flexibility is to be expected. A fact we have to consider is that Christianity filtered the contents: authors and scribes changed facts, demonized or erased pagan aspects and wrote according to the principles of their times.

In summary, both Maleficent and Odin are powerful selfish jerkasses. But Odin at least follows good intentions, Maleficent is petty as hell and we never got to learn much about her. And, I think, that mystery is one of her charms.


- Goddess Rindr


(Read this one if you want to learn more about Rindr)

- How Maleficent Became Sleeping Beauty's Breakout Character

McGuire & Kay McGuire (116 Articles Published) Kay McGuire is a Seattle-based features writer for Screen Rant with an interest in movies


- Maleficent


- Norse Mythology / Characters (TV Tropes)


- Odin - Wikipedia


- Seiðr - Wikipedia


- Sex, drugs, and drop-spindles: What is Seiðr? (Norse metaphysics pt. 2) Storesund


(The one above is epic. Read it.)

- Sleeping Beauty / Characters (TV Tropes)


- Raven Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

Clifford & About The Author Garth C. Clifford Thanks for visiting and reading!My name is Garth


- Sun, Moon, and Talia, by Giambattista Basile


- The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (Perrault's version)


- Valkyries Sigrdriva And Brynhildr: Brave Warriors Who Were Punished By God Odin In Norse And Germanic Mythology

AncientPages.com & Geirrod:Giant That Tried To Kill God Thor But Was Killed Himself Featured Stories | Sep 24


- The Saga of the Volsungs


- The Wild Hunt - European Folk Myth - et al. (Mythology.net)


- What is the Meaning of Odin's Horn? Get the Facts. Christensen


31 Janvier 2022 17:29:15 0 Rapport Incorporer 0

What do archaeologists do? Deconstructing a discipline

Most people know about archaeology thanks to TV documentaries, movies and video games. While mass media is a good channel to introduce complex topics to the general public, the ideas some people can have about archaeology are often detached from real-life praxis.

Researchers nowadays don’t necessarily prioritize pompous ancient statues, ornamental objects, or riches. While some clusters of past objects made of expensive materials (such as gold, jewels, or gemstones) can be seen as treasures, the truth is that we want to use them to access information about people’s lives. We want to learn about their social organizations, their thoughts, their roles in past societies, and more. Archaeologists don’t search for past elements because our interests are the objects per se, archaeologists want to learn about their contexts, their association with other objects, and the materials used to make them in the hopes of inferring past behaviours.

Like many current storytelling devices like to remind us: sometimes, things are more complex than it seems.

So, let’s begin with the basic issue: what is archaeology?

When I started my career, one of the first courses I took was Fundaments of Prehistory (Fundamentos de Prehistoria), and we learned first-hand that Renfew and Banh were the to-go authors for our first lectures. Renfrew and Bahn this, Renfrew and Bahn that. They became our archaeological version of Lenny and Carl. Always in pairs, at first. With Renfrew and Bahn came some of my first specific definitions.

But we are going too fast. Archaeology is a subdiscipline of anthropology. So, what is anthropology?

Anthropology is the scientific discipline that studies human societies. The Encyclopedia Britannica calls it: ‘‘the science of humanity’’. And, as the term implies, it is diverse and complex as fuck. This is why it’s divided into different subdisciplines: biological anthropology, physical anthropology, palaeoanthropology, archaeology, social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology and more… but the focus of this entry is archaeology.

Archaeology focuses on the remains of past human activities. But it’s not like all subdisciplines are strictly divided: their limits can be blurry, as all fields simply put their interests on different aspects of the same object of research: humanity.

Those who are interested in human evolution (hominization) can employ techniques and research strategies from biological anthropology, paleoarchaeology, bioarchaeology, animal ethology and environmental studies. This paragraph is important because interdisciplinarity is very important for scientific research: modern-day scientists not only use elements from other subdisciplines but also from different sciences: geology, history, geography, chemistry, biology and more.

I’ve met people in real life who liked to act as if archaeology was a different field, separated from all others. Nope, it’s not. It’s a sub-discipline of anthropology. We all seek to learn more about humanity, it’s just that our focus is on past events and actions. In college, I’ve also met history students (and a professor!) acting as if anthropology and archaeology were inferior to history just because they use written records. Nope, they are not. History and anthropology have to complement each other if we truly want to advance in our knowledge of the past. Not everything that is written is veridic, as much as not everything that is underground remains pristine and pure. Records can be changed and biased, human remains and objects can be put there with specific intentions, moved or changed following an agenda.

So, what do archaeologists do? We study past human behaviours. How do we do it? We work with materials from past times. Renfrew and Bahn (2016) gave us four specific definitions that we use until today for exams, research papers and as colloquial terms between colleagues: artefacts, ecofacts, features and structures/buildings.

What are artefacts? ‘Artefact’ is the word we’d use to call an object. In Renfrew and Bahn’s words, an artefact is ‘‘Any portable object used, modified, or made by humans; e.g. stone tools, pottery, and metal weapons (chapter 3)’’. Now it gets harder, what could an ecofact be? The first syllables already spoil it: ecofacts, ''eco-'', are related to nature. The authors define ecofacts as ‘‘Non-artifactual organic and environmental remains which have cultural relevance, e.g. faunal and floral material as well as soils and sediments. (Chapters 2 & 6)’’. Animal bones that weren’t intentionally touched by people, shells, eggs, pollen and the like, that’s what ecofacts are. Ecofacts give us clues about past human and animal behaviours, ancient environments and climates. Now, features. According to Renfrew and Bahn, a feature is ‘‘A non-portable artefact; e.g. hearths, architectural elements, or soil stains. (Chapter 3)’’. From features, we can learn about the distribution of elements and mundane activities in past people’s houses, for example. We can learn if there were fires, areas to dispose of trash or if some elements were re-used by new people. Finally, structures/buildings. Here, I use both terms because both can appear in different books, papers and essays. It all depends on what the researchers were working with: houses, temples, communal houses, workshops and the like. According to Renfrew & Bahn, structures are constructions. Archaeologists can work with construction remains to see how past people lived. Stereotypical examples are British campaigns in Egypt, Researchers from the USA working with Mesoamerican Temples and the like.

Naturally, all these terms are not mutually exclusive. You’d be surprised if I told you that sometimes appear discussions on different papers among researchers defending that a building remain is just a feature, that some artefacts are just ecofacts. An (in)famous example is the polemic among different researchers concerning the first people in the Americas: the Monteverde site in Chile has evidence of very early human occupations, yet, some scientists state to this day that the architectonical remains are features or ecofacts, the supposed aligned trunks that marked different divisions were placed there naturally, that potato remains just naturally grew there. Some revisions are good, as scientists like to revise past information in light of new discoveries. Others are not.

Well, this is a good moment to say it:

Archaeology is not done without drama.

In fact, no scientific field is safe from it. And everybody who claims that scientific research is neutrally conducted and full of objectivity… well, they probably never witnessed a scientific congress, read papers or considered that we, people, are full of feelings, conscious (and unconscious) bias and motivations that precisely are what drives us to look for information. Some are good, and others are bad. Researchers looking for preserving endangered languages around the world? Good. Scientists taking blood samples from Yanomamo indigenous people in Brazil without justifications nor proper information about why did they even want it in the first place? Bad. Fuck off.

Science is biased. That’s all. It’s a result of the times people lived in, with their ideas, knowledge and beliefs.

Naturally, it affected archaeology too. People always have had an interest in the past, and to wonder about the origin of some things is unavoidable at some points. The first researchers had a lot of issues: the church, lack of proper working tools, a bias toward pretty and valuable ‘treasures’ to the detriment of important contextual information and more. This is not the subject I’ll talk about in this entry, the complicated beginnings of archaeology deserve a blog post of its own.

So, what do archaeologists do nowadays? We are research. The Coronavirus pandemic didn’t make things easy. Some were lucky enough to keep working on their areas because they were away from towns, others because their research projects were located close to the places where they lived. I, for example, started to experiment with QGis, a software originally developed by and for geographers that can truly aid researchers from other disciplines. I did different visualization analyses to have a grasp of how the area my team researches could have been perceived by past inhabitants and travellers.

However, field trips are just a small portion of the archaeological work. Those fancy adventurous journeys we see in Tomb Raider are just a tiny part of the job. And no, there are not ancient curses nor aliens. Archaeologists can work on a place because the local government or neighbourhood association requested their help because some gas or oil company was conducting explorations and found ancient remains because the place is under the care of a university or because indigenous people themselves asked for help.

Most of the scientific work is conducted in laboratories. The majority, in fact. The materials extracted are cleaned, processed and stored. Researchers study them with different techniques and materials, depending on what they are interested in learning about. Studying archaeological material takes most of the time. The other activities are… well, bureaucracy. Lots of it. Permissions, budgets, formularies, papers here, papers there. The image people have is that of a cisgender white researcher (preferably male) dressed in khaki colours, with a fancy hat on their head. Nope, not at all. Thought, the hat part is true. The sun is very nasty on some parts. You don’t want to end up with bad sunburn or in the hospital.

So, what can we recall about archaeology? Fieldwork is important, but that’s just a small part of the experience. A short one, because most of the work is conducted in laboratories and research institutes. And fieldwork is not a mystical experience about connecting with nature: sometimes, you can’t shower, your colleagues are nasty and is very easy to feel isolated. At the laboratories and other places, you’ll have to deal with competition, demanding bosses, insufficient equipment and a BIG LOAD of bureaucracy. If we do this, is because we enjoy it. But don’t glamorize it, please. Alcoholism, depression and other mental health issues are big problems in this type of work.

We are not Lara Croft nor Indiana Jones. There are lots of ethical and legal problems in archaeology, too. The relationships between archaeology and indigenous communities are not the best…

Unlike Europe (and even then, it can be discussed, if we consider indigenous populations from the northern part of the continent), the authors of the artefacts, structures, ecofacts and features we work with have descendants. And those descendants, after years of colonialism, discrimination, racism and mistreatment have all the rights to complain and claim the archaeological material we work with. Because some of that archaeological material involves the bodies of important historical figures for them, relatives and the like. You wouldn’t want your grandmother’s corpse opened, studied and exposed in a museum without the permission of your family, would you? Biological anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, bioarchaeology and the like are disciplines that carry ugly historical moments. In my country, Argentina, we have the infamous case of the remains from the Cacique Inakayal, ‘saved’ from imprisonment after the Conquest of the Dessert (read: the military advancing over lots of indigenous peoples’ lands and massacring them), moved to La Plata Museum with his family and then having his body at the museum. It wouldn’t be until 1994 when, after years of insistence from aboriginal communities in Chubut province, the Inakayal’s remains were returned. Here is a very interesting blog post that will introduce you to the history and situations of indigenous peoples from Patagonia.

Nowadays, archaeologists can help indigenous communities as mediators, using the information recovered to aid them in their claims over their ancestral territories, providing them with educational tools or introducing them to fieldwork and the management of their cultural patrimony. Anthropology still carries a huge debt to native populations in the world.

Archaeology, in fact, it’s not done in a single way. There are ‘alternative archaeologies', as the archaeologist, Ian Hodder calls them. Most of these were born out of a lack of satisfaction with the way scientific works were conducted before. Indigenous archaeology is one, but there are also feminist and queer archaeologies.

Feminist archaeology comes from a critical perspective concerning the situation of women in modern societies: the fact most researchers are biased to consider that the sexual division of work is similar to the one attested in western societies, when in fact, not all societies division of activities that follow the ‘hunting for men, gathering for women’ pattern, with women inferior to aggressive and dominant men.

Hodder takes from them the claim that there are no universal cultural characteristics, and variation has to be considered: we can see it researching funerary remains, the nutrition on skeletons and artistic representation; there are power negotiations and women can have active roles in society. In fact, I remember a couple of years ago, when there was a big deal after the discovery of a hunter girl in Peru. Why was this a big deal? Because after the researchers started checking other resources, they ended up finding many records of female bodies buried with big-game hunting tools. It was about time to accept it.

Another type of alternative archaeology is queer archaeology. According to the Queer Archaeology website:

A queer archaeology foregrounds how identity in the present shapes our understanding of identity in the past. It challenges taken for granted assumptions, questioning all aspects of archaeological method, theory and practice. A queer archaeology can be a radical and transformative practice. A queer archaeology is both founded in and owes a debt to feminist and radical archaeologies.

Queer archaeology seeks to question heteronormativity in archaeological practice. The binary notions of gender and sexual orientations are an inheritance of Western traditional conceptions. Projecting these ideas on the archaeological record is just… a big no-no. Especially for material remains that don’t have European origins, a.k.a, the rest of the world.

It also works for researchers: some of us are not exactly heterosexuals. Others don’t conform to ‘traditional’ gender ideas.

I remember a rather famous case that became viral on Tumblr. It was the case of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. This comic illustrates the situation pretty well: two male mummies buried together, with inscriptions portraying them as a traditional couple of Ancient Egypt. The first researchers stated Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep weren’t lovers, despite the obvious implications in the art surrounding them… And this was a single example. There are more out there.

Now, this entry has gotten rather long. I like the idea of writing an extended publication, especially because December got particularly mean to me and I didn’t get to publish any blog entries. And let me tell you, there is another coming soon ;)

So, what do archaeologists do? A lot of shit. We travel, we fill formularies, we drink (that’s not a good thing), we quarrel and we learn. We want to learn more about humanity, and we focus on past times. How did things come to be? Where and how did certain traditions start? Why did some things happen?

But we also do this work while being influenced by our modern world and particular contexts. And, man, it’s not easy to live through these times. Coronavirus, climatic change, the rising of right wings, economic crises and more. However, the critics and reflections we have about our lives influence our work and conceptions about it. And science advances, too. Now it’s hard to not look at past research and reexamine them in the light of new discoveries. We question how science was done in the past. We criticize our work environments. We want to change things and avoid repeating mistakes. We change, too. But some of our inquiries, don’t.

Because we still want to learn more about humanity and its past. And about how things came to be and about how did some practices start. It’s just that we do it considering the issues of modern societies and how they influence us (and how we influence them).

Change is brought about by small steps. Archaeologists do a lot of things, and even if a little, we contribute to the change, too.


About Living Tongues

About Queer Archaeology

Alcoholism In Archaeology

About Indigenous Peoples of Patagonia

Cool post about the four main categories of archaeological phenomena, written by Mwalimu Makoba kwa Njia on Blogspot.

Encyclopedia Britannica

#DiggingWhileDepressed: A Call for Mental Health Awareness in Archaeology

Hodder, I. 1988. Interpretación en Arqueología. Editorial Crítica. Cap 8.

Indigenous tribe's blood returned to Brazil after decades. BBC News, 3 April 2015.

KendraJK’s Blog

Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P. Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice (2016).

Here you can check the glossary: https://wwnorton.com/college/archaeology/archaeology7/glossary.aspx

Sexuality in the Past: Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep

12 Janvier 2022 23:40:12 0 Rapport Incorporer 0
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