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Letters to the Editor




I write on behalf of Parker B. Potter, Jr., and myself, in order to clarify our definition of a historical archaeology based on the existence of capitalism as an economic system in much of the West for the last 500 years [see discussions in SAA Bulletin 12(4):14-15; 13(1):3; 13(2):6-7].

Our attempt at definition is based on the observation that, unlike American prehistoric archaeology, historical archaeology does not have one or even two central theoretical orientations which are widely taught, used to formulate research designs, and to form interpretations. Cultural ecology and processual archaeology have not had the impact on this part of archaeology that they have had in prehistory, despite the strong work of Stanley South and his students. Neither the historicism so effectively practiced by Noel Hume nor the cognitive archaeology so fruitfully begun by James Deetz has found a group of students to continue the initial insights of these leaders. Our suggestions for historical archaeology of capitalism are offered in the light of a need we perceive in historical archaeology for a way to formulate questions from within a materialist viewpoint which would achieve two ends simultaneously. One is to link the immediate historic past with today so that the evolutionary problem of origins would be solved definitionally. The other is to make it possible to deal with questions which would allow the systematic comparison of similarities and differences among the ranges of historical artifacts. In order to achieve the goal of discussing a paradigm which would study capitalism, we gathered together a group of scholars from complementary yet separate points of view at the School of American Research in October 1993.

From the correspondence on our effort, there seem to be two worries. One is that historical archaeologists have not succeeded when studying capitalism, and the other is that such an orientation produces a critique of our own society, and not all archaeologists share that goal.

We would like to respond by acknowledging that capitalism is not easy to define, yet has a set of family resemblances which, when taken as a whole, help identify it in such a way that archaeologists can use them. Capitalism is a set of social relations in which (1) a landless workforce is created whose only means of earning a living is selling its labor, (2) land and other means of earning a living are privately owned, and 3) continuous technical change and expansion of markets is needed to ensure profits. One of capitalism's key characteristics is that it objectifies human labor and then uses labor, treated as a thing, to generate profit. Societies constructed using these relationships are stratified on the basis of control of wealth and of control of the power of the state. The state is an extension of the most powerful class(es). Such societies often see conflict, not smooth functioning or the supposedly efficient use of resources. Analysts of capitalist societies almost inevitably stress areas of contradiction, disagreement, and violence as windows into the underlying structure which generates wealth. Emphasis is often placed on the central role of ideology as the vehicle which disguises or hides less-than-smooth functioning. There are different kinds of capitalism and we see these as threads to link a study which uses the material remains of parts of European-influences societies over the last 500 years.

Marxian thought has been fruitful in other academic fields and we believe it to be an open question as to whether it will be in ours. We agree that it occupies only a corner of historical archaeology, but an active, productive one. But because Marxian social thought is comprehensive, materialist, and evolutionary, we argue that it can be productive in historical archaeology.

Second, students of capitalist societies often include our own by analyzing its history. They produce critiques of our past and ourselves which may be either uncomfortable or are seen as inappropriate to practicing scientists. Our approach is a way to connect past and present using historical archaeology because it assumes the evolution of capitalism. It appears to be unacceptable to many professionals, who prefer to stay neutral or who may be politically conservative, because it assumes change within capitalism, assumes that change is based on conflict, and that conflict stems from exploitation. There are many who do not share this point of view and we are happy to engage them in debate in order to clarify our stand.

Helpful comments were made by Thomas Patterson and Michael Lucas.

Mark P. Leone

Department of Anthropology

University of Maryland, College Park

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We applaud the comments offered by Schuldenrein in the SAA Bulletin 13(3):22-24 regarding the disparity between conventional academic training in archaeology and the actual practical needs of the CRM profession. We find his observations greatly reflect our own perceptions of the crisis, and we agree with and strongly endorse his call to arms to save what he sees as an endangered profession. However, we would like to make your readers aware of the University of South Florida (Tampa) graduate program in Public Archaeology, the first of its kind in the nation.

In the early 1970s the USSF Anthropology Department recognized the changing climate for social science now so clear to Schuldenrein and others, and anticipated the expansion of the applied marketplace in all fields of anthropology. In fact, a strong benefit of our Public Archaeology program is that it is seated firmly within a broader departmental commitment to applied anthropology. Over the years our curriculum has expanded to include compliance law, resource protection and preservation, ethics, and archaeology in public education and public media, while continuing to focus on the practical aspects of grant and contract writing and archaeological methods. We prepare students for the specific realities of working in a CRM firm or the government sector as well as in an academic or museum environment. By the 1980s we were also adding MORE coursework in archaeological theory (here we diverge from Schuldenrein) to counteract the tendency for applied approaches to lose touch with core concepts of the discipline. The more specific technical training becomes, the greater the need for students to understand the broader social context in which we interpret the past as well as the goals of science which give meaning to their work. After all, the end result should be some contribution to anthropological knowledge, not just getting the job done.

As a modest program that emphasizes Florida and southeastern U. S. archaeology (though by no means exclusively), we garner less publicity than institutions which can offer short CRM courses in specific topics. Resource managers and others with jobs in the field already might be better served by short courses than by taking 1-2 years leave of absence to relocate and attend full-time classes. However, our program offers predominantly night courses and is extraordinarily flexible and student-friendly. M.A. requirements include an internship with a public or private agency working on a legitimate research problem that has a public aspect to a greater or lesser degree.

While we have had some setbacks, such as continual delay in implementing the archaeology segment of our Applied Anthropology Ph.D. program, we have been quietly turning out practitioners who are firmly grounded in both academic and pragmatic archaeology. The success of this program is clear: our alums nearly dominate professional, nonacademic archaeology in the state of Florida, and hold many worthwhile positions elsewhere in the country (a few of our M.A.s run CRM firms and earn twice as much as their former professors!).

Nancy White, Associate Professor

Brent Weisman, Assistant Professor

Ray Williams, Professor

University of South Florida, Tampa

Editor's note: For background on this issue, see Ferguson, et al. SAA Bulletin 13(2):12-5 and 13(3):10-13.

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Lynne Sebastian's recent letter [SAA Bulletin 13(3):3] demonstrates the gulf between SHPOs and tribes on issues of great importance to tribes. The Zuni Tribe takes a position essentially identical to that of Hopi; that all ancestral archaeological sites should be determined eligible to the National Register of Historic Places under criterion a as well as criterion d. For Zuni, all ancestral archaeological sites are considered traditional cultural properties, just as they are by the Hopi. The New Mexico SHPO decision to dismiss the Hopi, and thus the Zuni, position on this matter due to SHPO philosophy, western scientific training and the need for pragmatism within the Section 106 process, does not take into account adequate consideration of Hopi and Zuni views of traditional cultural properties. It simply ignores Zuni and Hopi philosophy and cultural values, apparently to appease the developers who see time as money and little else. Sebastian seems a great deal more concerned about the angry private sector than she does about the none too pleased and disenfranchised Indian sector.

I agree with Sebastian that determining a site eligible under criterion a may afford it no greater protection than if it were determined eligible solely under criterion d. The tribes understand this. However, using only criterion d paves the way for the automatic mitigation of effect through data recovery, something the Zuni Tribe finds somewhat offensive. There is no way to mitigate the effect of disturbing house and village shrines, and human burials, even if that disturbance is through archaeological excavation. Avoidance of sites is what the Zuni Tribe prefers, and is an option that may be more carefully considered by the SHPO if archaeological sites are determined eligible under both criteria a and d. While the Zuni Tribe recognizes that avoidance is not always possible (in which case archaeological excavation is acceptable), the Tribe believes that the avoidance option is not given enough consideration. If, as Sebastian states, time is money for developers, then if the cost of doing data recovery cuts a project time frame and these costs can be passed onto the consumer, all the better for the profit line.

I wonder what SHPO consultation with tribes is meant to accomplish if the SHPO is more interested in saving developer's time than it is in truly considering the concerns of tribes such as the Zuni and Hopi. These sites and the contents therein are ancestral to the tribes, not the SHPO or the developers. All that the tribes are requesting is the same equality of consideration for their views as the SHPO gives to the western view of archaeological sites. While this may not be easy, no one should believe that historic preservation is supposed to be easy. It requires a great deal of time and effort if it is to be done fairly. For Sebastian to say that she is on the front lines trying to preserve the prehistory and history of all the people in this country is not exactly true. She is only prepared to protect the rights of the tribes if the tribal agenda just happens to fit with hers. This is not the way one develops the trust of others, nor is it the way one builds coalitions between tribes, archaeologists, and regulatory agencies to protect cultural resources from the threats of the present Republican Congress.

The differences between the views of the SHPO and the tribes are substantive, and cannot be simply dismissed as a "squabble" as Sebastian seems to think. Coalition building with the tribes requires the SHPO to take tribal concerns seriously, not dismiss them. When tribes are asked to consult, they expect their views to be given due consideration, even though this may change the balance of power in the historic preservation process. For now, however, it seems that the balance of power has already changed, with developers and their profit lines apparently taking precedence over the tribal voice in the historic preservation process.

Roger Anyon, Director

Pueblo of Zuni

Heritage and Historic Preservation Office


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