Advancing Theory? Landscape Archaeology and Geographical Information Systems | Hu | Papers from the Institute of Archaeology

Dear all four people who read my blog,

The past couple of years have been extremely busy for me, and I apologize for not updating my blog more frequently. I will remedy this by posting more often this year. I recently noticed that for two of the articles I published, the journal websites have something called an altmetric, which tracks the amount of internet “buzz” surrounding an article. I find this extremely helpful, as it gives people an idea of the various ways an article can contribute to scholarship. Take my article on GIS and landscape archaeology that came out in 2012 (official publication 2011) for example: according to altmetric, it has been mentioned by 7 twitters and saved in the reference libraries of 12 Mendeley users. This gave it a score of 5.7, which ranked it in the 89th percentile of all articles published by that journal. I also noticed that several classes assigned the articles in their syllabi. I’m glad that some people have found the article useful. I am very impressed with the Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. Their professionalism and skillful integration of technology is unparalleled among journals run by graduate students. Because they are open source, I feel that my article has been useful to a wide audience, as evident in the number of views and downloads (high for an academic article). I highly recommend publishing with them!

Advancing Theory? Landscape Archaeology and Geographical Information Systems | Hu | Papers from the Institute of Archaeology.

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Quick recap

These past few months have been pretty hectic.  After enjoying a busy, but predictable, routine in Seville in January and the first week of February, I came to Peru.  In Peru, todo es posible; all is possible.  Really really really possible!  I started off in the national archives, but my third week in, the archivist put sheet of paper in front of me announcing that the National Archives (Archivo General de la Nacion) will be shut down for the next three months due to a string of robberies.  I know what you’re thinking, and no, it wasn’t me!  The Biblioteca Nacional del Peru also suffered a string of robberies the past few years and was also shut down for three months.  Sadly, I also planned to do more work there.  Luckily, I am basically finished with the national archives, but had hoped to get digital copies of some of the more interesting documents.  This can wait.

I spent the rest of my time in the Archivo San Francisco and the Archivo Arzobispal de Lima.  The latter didn’t have anything specific on Pomacocha, mainly because Pomacocha is in the domain of Huamanga, but had some great documents relating to the sacred nature of walls and large stones as part of the home.  This dovetailed nicely with my architectural reconnaissance of Pomacocha last summer.  Unfortunately, I think the Archivo Arzobispal de Huamanga has been non-functional for a while now, and the Convento de Santa Clara, given that they have had a long troubled history with their hacienda-obraje of Pomacocha, has been unwilling to let me into their archives.  The church archives in Vischongo apparently has a lot of relevant documents, and I will be checking that out shortly.

In other news, I finally submitted our excavation permit proposal a couple of weeks ago, after some unexpected difficulties.

Someone who has also run an independent research archaeological project in Peru told me that for her, fieldwork was one step forward and two steps back.  It certainly feels that way.  I hope that the step forward is more like a leap forward.

I also found out that the Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad has been cancelled for Fiscal Year 2011.  Tragic.  I feel incredibly lucky to have one and am trying to make the most of it.  I believe that everyone who has it do what they’re doing out of passion, so they’re quite efficient with the funds given to them.  I’ve made it a priority to take public transportation whenever possible and live below the stipend level given (which is amazingly generous) to make sure that the funds go a long way in helping Peruvian archaeologists.  Hopefully, as principle, I hope to return a bit of money to Fulbright Hays after all this is done.  I will see it as a personal challenge.  I remember getting my first ever grant to mint reproduction Roman coins.  I asked for 474 dollars, and they said it was impossible for me to do it with that money, so they gave me 1000 instead.  They were right.  I spent nearly 1000 dollars (silver is expensive), but I didn’t have them refund me for supplies I didn’t end up using (blocks of charcoal), so it cost them a little over 900 dollars in the end.

I’m both excited and anxious for this field season.  At our height in August, we will have 13 people. That’s 13 people to feed well, house, transport, teach (and learn from), pay (some of them), and keep reasonably happy.  All on a shoestring budget.  That’s why I’m eating Ramen daily to save money.

On Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A couple of weeks ago, I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1, with a few friends.  I’ve watched the previous Harry Potter movies, but never got around to reading them.  I admit that part of the reluctance was the immense popularity of the books…  This time, however, I had to read the book after I watched part 1.  I can’t bear surprises and not knowing if the conclusion is within reach.  I borrowed the book from a die-hard fan, who dutifully brought the book with her to the movie (she also watched the movie 5 times in the first week it was out).  I read the second part of the book from where the movie left off.  I have to admit that J.K. Rowling is a really good writer and storyteller.  My favorite character thus far is Snape.  I decided I will read the other Potter books, but in reverse order like a true archaeologist.

As archaeologists, we generally know how things ended: decayed, disappeared, in ruins, abandoned, reused, dead.  As we peel back the layers of dirt and put on our thinking caps, we construct stories and become attached to the people in the past.  It’s going through life backwards.  Knowing how people ended up and then finding out how it came to be resonates with me deeply.  One of my favorite books in high school was The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  First, the idea that people’s personalities are in the things they carry is very archaeological.  Second, one of the most moving passages I’ve ever read was from this book titled “The man I killed.”  It was about a young vietcong man the author had killed.  As the author was standing over the body, he began to recreate this man’s life, how he came to be and what he would’ve become.  The story the author created about this man’s life eerily mirrored his own aspirations: scholar-writer.  The author had only met the man when he killed him.  He was the cause of this man’s end, but immortalized him through reconstructing how he came to be.  Poor sod.  This is why I like Snape so much at the end.  I found out how he ended, and that’s when I really met him.  Reading the books in reverse order will be interesting…