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Letters to the Editor



I am encouraged to write to you in general support of the articles in the last two issues of the Bulletin by Schuldenrein and Blanton. These articles concern the non-marketplace training/education being provided at most colleges and universities in their Anthropology and/or Archaeology programs (actually in almost all Humanities Programs). A few points:

(1) You have the problem well-defined in terms of results: Most work is available only through CRM firms. CRM-related training is generally not provided. The result is that most new graduates (all levels) have low-level skills for the job market.

(2) Your solution is wrong. Effective CRM training needs to be a mandatory part of every student's course of study. Most graduates will end up doing something different over their lifespan than they are now planning. Academia cannot absorb all of them.

(3) What to do?

A personal note: Our background (my wife's and mine) is in business--primarily Purchasing/Material Management and Project Management. We are now retired and have become active students (as an avocation) of archaeology. I dare say that either of us would be of more value to a CRM firm (based on work experience and prior training and degrees) than most new Ph.Ds. We both volunteer for and work with the UCLA Institute of Archaeology. The volunteer program is alive and well--and is going to get better. The effective use of volunteers is another area that most institutions could improve. But that is another editorial.

Mike Gottesman
Torrance, California

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It seems to me that Lawrence Moore's reply [SAA Bulletin 13(4):3-4] to Marshall Becker [SAA Bulletin 13(2):6] is a case of the pot calling the kettle shallow. Becker is not alone in decrying the tendency of the self-appointed definers of historical archaeology to narrow the field. I agree with Becker, because I think we tend to define the field too narrowly, and that we all specialize too much.

Moore's position seems to be that historical archaeology is what he and his favorite practitioners do, and no other definition should be allowed. This position reflects a number of definitions that boil down to this: historical archaeology is about European history in the last five centuries. Period. Non-Europeans who are assimilated or impacted by European culture can be slipped in the back door, but only if they have the right kind of artifacts in their sites.

There are various forms of this definition. Classic statements include Noel Hume's [North Carolina Historical Review 41(2):215-225, 1964] and Harrington's [American Anthropologist 57(6):1121-1130, 1955] identification of the field as handmaiden to history, to Dollar's [Conference on Historic Site Archaeology Papers 2(2):3-30, 1968] definition of historical archaeology as architectural in focus and reconstructive in scope, to Deetz's (In Small Things Forgotten, 1977) archaeology of the European expansion. The self-consciously new definition in Orser and Fagan's textbook (Historical Archaeology, 1995), cited by Moore, is a direct descendant. Mark Leone's work has led the way into this version of the definition: "Historical archaeology is the archaeology of the modern period, of the expansion of Europe. And the engine that drove that expansion was capitalism." He did specify that "the study of capitalism is a central focus of historical archaeology" (Ideas in Anthropology: 1994 Annual Report of the School of American Research, 1994), but Moore and others seem to think it is now the correct focus.

I am not satisfied with these definitions. I think with Becker, that historical archaeology ought to be broadly defined as the archaeology of people who can also be studied through documents. I see historical archaeology as an opportunity to compare two mostly independent data sets, archaeological and documentary (including oral), to test hypotheses and to complement each other for a fuller picture of the past. In effect, I see historical archaeology at its broadest as the archaeology of history.

It seems to me that the methodology of comparing documentary to archaeological data has common threads, whether the documents are cuneiform, hieroglyphic, or alphabetic, whether Sumerian, Roman, medieval Celtic, or colonial American. There are similar conceptual problems, and on the broadest level of anthropological and historical inquiry, comparable questions to be asked. The trendy term, "text-aided archaeology," coined to refer to this broader view, strikes me as the same kind of speech-code Correctspeak as "ethically challenged": we already have perfectly serviceable terms.

I can cite an example that I like to use in class. It is a case study in battlefield archaeology. It involves an army of a colonial power, a unit of the most powerful and best equipped army in the world at that time, on an expedition beyond its colonial frontiers. The army's mission was to round up and punish enemies that were considered ill-equipped, racially and intellectually inferior savages. It met the forces of the "savages" and was wiped out. Historical sources left a great deal of confusion about what happened. Archaeology on the battlefield clarified a number of points. The so-called savages were as well armed as the army, and better organized than the army--and its historians--were prepared to allow. Archaeology identified previously unsuspected tactical positions, clarified the course of the battle, and went a long way towards explaining the army's disaster. Archaeology offered an entirely new, and unprejudiced, view of that battle.

Historical archaeologists should recognize this scenario. It is the battle of the Teutoberg Forest in A.D. 9, when Quintillius Varus led three Roman legions to disaster at the hands of the Germans [Dornberg, Archaeology 45(5):26-33]. Most historical archaeologists, however, would be unable to think beyond the Battle of the Little Bighorn in identifying the scenario.

I think that the parallels are striking, especially as case studies in the way archaeology can illuminate historical documentation in contexts formerly dismissed as scatters of hardware. Why do we not think comparatively often enough?

Mark Leone has commented on historical archaeology many times. In the 1970s, he was critical, looking for the direction that he has apparently found in the study of capitalism. Two of his comments have stayed with me (Leone, paper presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology, Nashville, 1979). He spoke of a sense of incompleteness in archaeology--in my interpretation, a sense that we are not doing enough, not tackling hard enough questions. He also suggested that historical archaeology does not really have a question to answer. What do we want to know that cannot be answered by historians?

I would like to propose a question, one that reflects my definition of historical archaeology in its broadest sense as the archaeology of history, of historical peoples. My question is this: what is the effect of literacy on human society?

The adoption of literacy affected individuals psychologically, and societies structurally; and we have only the vaguest notions of how. This is, in my view, a subtle and fundamental question. Can we create an archaeology of history that grapples with subtle and fundamental questions?

The study of literacy ranges across disciplinary boundaries. Why must archaeologists grapple with this question? Because the contrastive case is nonliterate societies--prehistory--and archaeologists can compare the two. Historians, among others, cannot.

My point is that historical archaeology has much to contribute to broad issues. Historical archaeology is the archaeology of literate societies. It is the archaeology of societies utilizing, and influenced by, literacy. The archaeology of history offers us the opportunity to build models informed by documentary and archaeological data, to test hypotheses and methods, to range analytically across complex societies and to provide a basis for comparing literate to nonliterate cultures. I do not think that we can allow historical archaeology to turn inward upon itself, never looking beyond the temporal and geographical boundaries of European cultures of the last five hundred years.

If scholars like Moore want to define a field of study restricted to capitalism or a Modern Period, they should choose a name that reflects their concerns: Modern Period Archaeology, or Post-Medieval Archaeology, or the Archaeology of Our Very Own Ancestors. Let the term Historical Archaeology reflect the breadth and inclusiveness inherent in its phrase.

Kit W. Wesler
Associate Professor
Murray State University

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We are submitting this letter to protest a number of statements published by Anna Roosevelt, impugning the work and reputation of Betty J. Meggers and Clifford Evans. Specifically, we refer to statements by Anna Roosevelt (1991, "Determinismo ecológico na interpretaçao do desenvolvimento social indígena da Amazonia," in Orígenes, Adaptacoes e Divesidade Biológica do Homem Nativo da Amazonia, Walter A. Neves, Organizador, pp. 103-141, Belém, Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, pp. 106-107) linking Drs. Evans and Meggers with the State Department and CIA, while they were engaged in fieldwork in South America, maliciously implying that they were involved in covert activities that had no bearing on the pursuit of science. Such assertions, published in professional journals, are reproduced without control and circulated indiscriminately among students and other colleagues outside our discipline leading to a gross distortion of the discipline's history (Funari, P. P. A., 1992, Resenha de Neves, W. A., 1991, Revista do Museu de Arqueología e Etnología, São Paulo 2:150-151).

Archaeological reports must not be used as forums for making unsupported accusations. If Roosevelt has evidence for her assertions, she has a moral obligation to present it to the proper authority. Attempting to link other archaeologists with organizations such as the CIA without providing any evidence is a reprehensible act. The profound political struggles that pervade many Latin American countries today often place innocent persons in danger of arrest simply because of association with suspected individuals.

We are concerned that Roosevelt's calumny may expand uncontrollably across South America, affecting many who are currently collaborating with the Smithsonian Institution. An account by Fred Wendorf describing the consequences of a similar accusation in Ethiopia against a North American demonstrates that Roosevelt's behavior is not only highly irresponsible, but also dangerous (F. Wendorf, 1993, Review of R. Bell "Impure science, fraud compromise, and political influence in scientific research," 1992, AJPA 92:410-409).

Before ending this letter, we wish to say that we know Betty J. Meggers and her late husband Clifford Evans very well and we have the greatest professional respect for them. Their lives have been entirely dedicated to the pursuit of science and archaeological investigations. In their numerous publications, we have never encountered any words of insult directed toward other colleagues. We testify without reservation, that we have never seen or felt any type of political or other unprofessional behavior. We also firmly assert that Evans and Meggers have demonstrated generosity and solidarity toward Latin American colleagues and students, to whom they have always given their support without regard to their nationality, politics, or social status. Their office in the Smithsonian Institution has been a point of convergence for generations of scholars, students, and colleagues from Latin America.

Our academic community is the appropriate body for debate and criticism of professional behavior. We request that the attitudes and actions of Dr. Anna Roosevelt be evaluated by the Committee on Ethics of the Society for American Archaeology, and that this letter and accompanying documents be transmitted to the Committee for that purpose. We request a published letter of apology and retraction from her.

Signatories by Country:

Argentina: E. I. Baffi, H. Calandra, A. Callegari, A. Cardich, A. Castro, H. Diaz, B. Dougherty, A. M. Fernández, J. A. Pérez Gollán, A. R. González, P. Krapovichas, A. N. Kurc, J. H. Miceli, F. Oliva, M. Ottonello, P. Rafael, J. A. Rodríguez, M. C. Sempé, M. N. Tarragó

Bolivia: A. J. Arellano

Brazil: A. Alvarez Kern, A. S. Barbosa, A. H. Barcelos, M. V. Beber, M. Bezerra de Almeida, E. Bora, J. L. Brochado, L. L. Brochier, J. J. S. Buchaim, S. A. de Carvalho, I. Chmyz, J. C. G. Chmyz, M. Corte, J. F. Costa, E. Cunha e Silva, O. F. Dias Jr., A. Fernandes de Miranda, K. Hilbert, S. E. Hoelitz, A. L. Jacobus, S. C. Klamt, V. J. Luft, L. C. Machada, G. A. Malerba Seme, R. Malheiros, R. Menezes, P. A. Mentz Ribeiro, E. T. Miller, S. Molder, L. E. Moreira, M. V. S. Neves, G. do Nascimento Camps, L. de Fátima Pangaio, J. B. de Decco, D. de Oliveira, E. Faria dos Santos, B. G. Ribeiro, C. Perota, E. M. Sganzerla, L. F. Erg Lima, C. T. Ribeiro, P. I. Schmitz, P. Seda, K. das Braças da Silva Diniz, M. E. Hediros da Silva, D. C. Trinidade, M. L. Pinedo Ochoa, A. de Lessa Pinto, E. Teixeira de Carvalho, L. da Piedade Ribeiro da Silva, M. A. da Silva de Attayde, J. E. Vokov, W. J. von Puttkamer

Chile: M. Orellana R., C. Thomes W., M. A. Benavente A., V. Castro R., V. Standen R., F. Falabella, D. Jackson S., A. Cabezas M., J. M. Ramírez, C. Urreaoca, O. Silva G., D. Quiroz Larrea, G. Ampuero Brito, J. R. Munizaga, C. M. Santoro, F. Mena Larraín, M. Massone M., E. S. Aspillaga, C. A. Paredes D., F. M. Constantinesco, X. Veranco Wegener, J. H. Lehvedé, E. M. García, I. Muñoz Ovalle, L. Ulloa Torres, E. Belmonte Schwarzbaum, M. Santos Varela, J. Chacama Rodríguez, L. Núñez A., C. Aldunate del Solar, P. Alliende Estévez

Colombia: C. Angulo Valdés, L. Duque Gómes, C. A. Uribe, A. M. Groot de Mahecha, M. A. Melo, G. A. Peña L., E. de Brieva, S. Archila, L. Herrera Angel, A. Rodríguez, E. Londoño, A. Oyuela Caycedo, G. Correal Urrego, R. Pineda, M. T. Murillo, M. Pinto Nolla, S. Díaz Pedrahita, C. H. Langebaek, R. Lleras, N. C. Garzón, M. Cardale de Schrimpff, J. Alarcón, J. C. Cubillos

Cuba: J. F. Dueñas

Dominican Republic: F. Luna Calderon, E. Ortega, R. O. Rimoli, M. Veloz Maggiolo

Ecuador: P. Moncayo Echeverría, J. Echeverría Almeida, L. Cruz D'Howith, S. Mogollon Utreras, C. Maldonado, O. Holm, J. Salvador Lara, A. Nicanor Bedoya, P. Naranjo, A. Ayala, J. Quishpe, P. Ledergerber Crespo

Peru: P. P. Alayza Tijero, H. Amat O., M. S. Bastiana, L. Casas Salazar, L. J. Castillo, M. Chocano Danich, M. Cornejo, A. Ruiz Estrada, P. Kaulicke, H. Ludeña, L. G. Lumbreras, Ramiro Matos M., A. Bueno Mendoza, F. Montesinos S., A. Sandoval, G. Schuöbel H., R. Shady, J. E. Silva

Venezuela: E. L. Berrizbeitia

USA: L. R. Binford, T. L. Bray, A. G. Cook, T. Dillehay, C.B. Donnan, K. V. Flannery, C. M. Hastings, R. Jefferies, C. Mackay, R. McK. Bird, J. Marcus, D. J. Meltzer, J. R. Parsons, G. Russell, M. Smyth, D. Standord, J. Urcid, J. M. Walsh, D. J. Wilson, F. Wendorf

Canada: T. Topic, J. Topic

Denmark: I. R. Schjellerup

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Thank you for offering me 1000 words to reply to the above letter, which you forwarded to me. (The signers did not send it to me.)

The letter refers to "a number of statements published by me impugning the work and reputation of Betty J. Meggers and Clifford Evans," but what the letter refers to specifically is a statement that I am supposed to have made that Drs. Meggers and Evans worked for the CIA in covert activities during their research in South America.

In defending Drs. Meggers and Evans from accusations of CIA involvement, the writers are under a misapprehension. Far from suggesting that Drs. Meggers and Evans belonged to the CIA, I wrote generally of the OSS and diplomatic participation of contributors to the Handbook of South American Indians (edited by Julian Steward), who carried out research in South America, drawing a parallel between the spread of U. S. influence and the popularity of theories about the spread of prehistoric civilization from centers of advanced cultural and political development in South America. I was interested in how scholars' cultural background affects our attitudes to fields of study. To express an hypothesis about the roots of a group of scholar's theoretical preferences in terms of the national culture of the time is hardly a calumny.

To state that I have accused Drs. Meggers and Evans of working for the CIA because I mentioned Handbook contributors' military and diplomatic service does not fairly represent what I said. I certainly do not subscribe to the opinion that membership in the wartime OSS is tantamount to CIA membership simply because the OSS later became the CIA. I think it extremely unlikely. The majority of former OSS officers and diplomats did not continue in the CIA, to my knowledge. Further, wartime OSS and diplomatic service was and is considered honorable, and mentioning someone's participation is not a harmful calumny, contrary to the letter. (Many in my own family proudly served in the organizations.) Such participation is often mentioned in tributes to scholars. That is how I learned of scholars' participation in those organizations.

As to my critiques of Dr. Meggers' and Evans' theories about the development of cultures in South America, such are an integral part of science. It is not sensible to feel that such criticism is "impugning" their work. The theories were developed before the application of radiocarbon dating to archaeology, and it is not surprising that they do not fit what we now know of the culture history of South America. Academic fields grow by learning from continuing research. That I should point out the empirical problems with ca. 50-year-old theories does not seem a legitimate problem for the SAA Ethics Committee, to judge from my years of service on the American Anthropological Association Committee on Ethics.

I assume that some if not all of the theories in my own dissertation may in the end be proved wrong in part or whole. I do not think that anyone who points out problems in my nascent theories is impugning my work. Anyone highly sensitive to such critiques needs to keep refining and correcting their own theories as their thinking matures and new data come in. Otherwise one ends up in the position of uselessly defending outdated theories in the face of one's own data and that of rivals who gladly will point out any possible problems in the theories.

Collegial solidarity is a good thing but not when it leads to the denial of scientific problems or to inaccurate accusations against those who bring up the problems. To reiterate, wartime OSS service and diplomatic service are certainly not the same as CIA membership, and I have absolutely no reason to suppose that any of the South American anthropologists who served in the former worked in the latter.

Anna Roosevelt
Curator of Archaeology, Field Museum of Natural History
Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago

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