Stories tagged Historic Perspectives

Apr
01
2014

Maya ball game: When disputes arose during Maya ball games, players would reenact the play in slow motion for officials to determine if they made the correct call.
Maya ball game: When disputes arose during Maya ball games, players would reenact the play in slow motion for officials to determine if they made the correct call.Courtesy anth2589
The new Major League Baseball season is underway with lots of hoopla about the expanded use by umpires of using instant replay to reconsider close or controversial calls during the course of a game. It’s all overshadowed some amazing archaeological findings in Central America, where stele art and cave paintings have confirmed that the Maya ball game was governed by its own set of replay rulings.

Independent teams of archaeologists from the University of Michigan and Stanford have found evidence that disputes in games were resolved by an elaborate replay system. First working independently, they’ve now combined their research into this extensive report, co-published in Science and Sports Illustrated this month.

Of course, video technology was many centuries away in the future. But Maya ingenuity figured out a way to get around that hurdle in a creative fashion. Former Maya ball game players would position themselves around the field observing the actions of their contemporaries. If a controversial play occurred and a coach threw out his challenge marker, the former players would rely on their keen observation and game skills to reenact the play at a slower motion for officials to take a second or third look. According to limited data collected in the findings, officials’ calls were overturned about 36 percent of the time.

Key clue: Heiroglyphs and art on this pot helped researchers figure out that instant replay was a key part of Maya ball game officiating.
Key clue: Heiroglyphs and art on this pot helped researchers figure out that instant replay was a key part of Maya ball game officiating.Courtesy Loryn Leonard
Heiroglyphs explaining the process were careful to note how critical it was to get the calls correct in games, especially those at the highest level where the losing teams would be sacrificed. After three consecutive years of bad calls in championship games leading to the deaths of what should have been victorious players, the replay system was implemented.

Further causing the move to replay rulings was the large amount of wagers gamblers placed on the games each year at Chichen Itza, the Las Vegas of Maya cities. After that run of poor officiating, gambling leaders who had taken huge financial losses on the altered outcomes threatened ball game leaders with execution if they didn’t come up with a more just system of deciding calls.

Ha!
Ha!Courtesy Wikipedia
And looking at the infamous Maya calendar, the new replay system was put into effect on the Gregorian Calendar equivalent of April 1, 1414 BCE, exactly 1600 years ago today, April Fool’s Day 2014.!

Feb
11
2014

Heritage Crew member teaching about excavation levels.
Heritage Crew member teaching about excavation levels.Courtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
Kids at North Dale screening dirt with Heritage Member Elias
Kids at North Dale screening dirt with Heritage Member EliasCourtesy Science Museum of Minnesota
December 2013 through February 2014, Heritage Crew went out to do outreach activities at North Dale Rec Center. For six days we taught elementary school aged kids about archaeology and the Sheffield Site. Some activities were learning Oneota pottery, identifying animal bones in archaeology, and stone tools. We created excavation boxes allowing the kids to get a an idea of what an archaeological dig is like. The kids measured a unit, and then dug down layer by layer until they found "artifacts" and "features" that we had set up. Archaeologist, Dr Ed Fleming, let us use copies of the level sheets that were used at Sheffield Site, so the kids could record their findings. We taught them about mapping each level to record artifacts and features, and why archaeologists use this method in the field. We had fun during this experience, and hope to do more outreaches like this in the future.

Feb
04
2014

North Dale Rec Center
North Dale Rec CenterCourtesy City of Saint Paul
Come join us on Saturday, Feb. 8, noon to 4 p.m., to talk to the KAYSC Heritage Crew about the Sheffield Site at Northdale Recreation Center! We will be joined by Rod Johnson from the Minnesota Archaeology Society, and Dr Ann Merriman from Maritime Heritage Minnesota. North Dale Rec Center is located at 1414 Saint Albans Street, Saint Paul, MN.

Enter to win a 4 pack of tickets to Ultimate Dinosaurs, "a huge new exhibition featuring 20 fascinating specimens from the other side of the world". It will open at the Science Museum on March 1!
Go to http://www.smm.org/dinos for more information!

Jan
24
2014

Pit Oven
Pit OvenCourtesy www.instructables.com
Hey there! Do you know that food can be cooked in the ground? Well it can! We learned about the process at the Archaeology Festival in Mille-Lacs Kathio State Park. This method of cooking was used by cultures over hundreds of years ago. Here are the steps that are similar to what we learned at Mille-Lacs Kathio State Park:

1.) Dig the hole on flat land and make sure there are no low hanging tree branches. Sandy areas work too. How big the hole will be is determined by size of the fire, and what you are going to cook. The hole should be about 3 feet deep.

2.) Line up the hole with medium or flat rocks on the sides and on the base.

3.) Next, it’s time to build the fire! Collect some dry wood. Put the larger branches on the base which will be the main fuel for the fire, and place smaller ones, like twigs or sticks, on top of it.

4.) When you fire it, let it sit for 2 hours so the stones can get hot and ready for cooking. If you run out of wood, you can use charcoals to keep the fire going.

5.) During those 2 hours, you can go prepare and season the food that you’re going to cook in your pit!

6.) Wrap the food with layers of aluminum foil, enough so that dirt won’t be able to sweep through. You can also use an oven pan or any other pots that are oven safe.

7.) After 2 hours, and the stones are heated up, remove half of the burning coals out of the pit and put them on the side for the next step.

8.) Place your food on top of the coals in the pit and then put coals that you took out around its sides.

9.) After that you cover it with dirt. Make sure to make a mound on the top, so you won’t lose its location.

10.) Depending on what you’re cooking, it’ll take awhile for it to get fully cooked, including vegetables. Depending on the size, it can take up to 12 hours. Look up the time it’ll take for the food to get cooked before doing this!

11.) When it’s time to take the food out, carefully dig the dirt and rocks out and make sure not to hit the food by accident or it’ll probably get ruined! It’s also very hot!

12.) Enjoy your food!

13.) Also remember to clean up the pit the next day by removing any scraps of aluminum foil and fill in the pit back with dirt. It’s very important!

If you plan to do this, stay safe!

If you want to check out on upcoming archaeology events. You can find the calenders on the Minnesota Archaeological Society website: http://mnarchsociety.org/events.html

Dec
02
2013

Scott Anfinson
Scott AnfinsonCourtesy Scott Anfinson
Hey there! Do you know that we have a State Archaeologist here in Minnesota? Meet Scott Anfinson the 3rd State Archaeologist of Minnesota. Scott came to visit us and while talking to him, we’ve learned some interesting things about the burial mounds in Minnesota. We’ve learned about the Lidars (shots of lasers that are use to scan the ground from above, used to detect mounds) that are used to detect the mounds and the importance of his job of protecting them. We’ve interviewed him with some questions and will like to share some of his answers to you about his job experiences.

What inspired you to become an archaeologist?
When I was 8 years old, I received a book for Christmas, that was all about dinosaurs. It showed mainly these guys who were digging in China in the Gobi Desert… That sparked my interest in digging and archaeology… However, at that time I didn’t know that paleontology and archaeology are different.

What is exactly a State Archaeologist? What is the significance of the job you do?
One of the jobs that I do for the state is, I’m in charge of all ancient burials that were made 100 or 12,000 years ago in Minnesota...
Some people would probably say to me “Why do we need an state archaeologist?.
First of all, I’ll say to them is, “Well who do you want to be in charge of all those 3,000 pioneer cemeteries and 12,000 Indian burial mounds? Who would be in charge if they asked,
“Can I disturb them?”, “Where are they?”
“What are the disturbance?”. I can help them find a solution.
I also help state agencies... It’s against the law to disturb any archaeological site on public property. So they need my help to figure out how to build their road, their trail, or their new visitor center by reducing the harm to the site.

How long have you’ve been the state archaeologist?
Started in 2006. So it’s been 7 years now.

What places you excavated?
I’ve never done archaeology in another country. I do almost all of my archeology right in the Midwest.

Have you ever misidentified anything or changed your mind about something you found?
Happens all the time... When you create a hypothesis, basically it is saying is “I think this what happened”. But you can never prove for sure if that’s what exactly what happened, but you can prove something that didn’t happen... What you do is, you can start eliminating the possibilities until you are left with possibly what probably caused it… Science proves the truth, it is just getting closer to some kind of truth, and that truth can change. For an example, one time when I was working on a site in western Minnesota and I found some burnt bones, which looked very much like hand bones from a human. I thought I had found a cremation burial, but then I noticed that the bone that I found must be a very big guy. I went over to the Bell Museum in the University of Minnesota and took the bones with me to look at them a little more carefully. And they were are actually a paw of a black bear… So I was wrong on my first conclusion.

As you can see the job of the an State Archaeologist is very important to the state. Meeting him, was a great opportunity because just learning what he does, really draws you closer to the importance of archaeology. It’s more than digging, it’s science!

Oct
23
2013

With the announcement of the Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants of Gondwana exhibit comming to the Science Museum of Minnesota, I was thinking back to all the questions I have had regarding dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus rex: the Tyrant Lizard King on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
Tyrannosaurus rex: the Tyrant Lizard King on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Questions like: "Who gets to name Dinosaurs?" "What is this dinosaur named after?" and "What does this name mean?". I thought that I'd take some time here to answer these questions.

Oct
16
2013

Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura): an ugly yet somewhat majestic raptor species often seen soaring around Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minnesota during the annual fall migration.
Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura): an ugly yet somewhat majestic raptor species often seen soaring around Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minnesota during the annual fall migration.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Birds seem to be a big part of my recent experience, so I thought I'd put together a little post of events featuring our fine, feathered friends.

Here at the Science Museum of Minnesota, an antique model of Archaeopteryx originally created by modelmaker Gustaf Sundstrom in 1934 is on display once again as Object of the Month for October. Archaeopteryx model by Gustaf Sundstrom
Archaeopteryx model by Gustaf SundstromCourtesy Mark Ryan
Archaeopteryx has long been considered the earliest bird - it lived around 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic - sharing the world with giant sauropods and vicious therapods such as Apatosaurus and Allosaurus, respectively. Even though Archaeopteryx has been recently re-categorized from being a "dinosaur-like bird" to being a "bird-like dinosaur" (I'm not sure what the difference is but I suspect it has do do with percentages) - anyway, it still ranks as one of the great transitional fossils. You can see the Object of the Month display in the Collections Gallery on the 4th floor of the Science Museum of Minnesota all this month.

Another bird-related story deals with naturalist and artist John James Audubon and his artistic masterpiece Birds of America, both which I've covered before here.

Audubon's Whooping Crane: plate no. 226 from the artist's masterpiece Birds of America.
Audubon's Whooping Crane: plate no. 226 from the artist's masterpiece Birds of America.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Back in the early 19th century Audubon, tramped around the American frontier seeking just about every kind of bird he could find, shoot, and paint for his masterpiece natural history tome, Birds of America. The original edition featured 435 exquisite plates of birds drawn in natural size, were etched in copperplates (along with some engraving and aquatint), then printed in black and white and printed on large double-elephant folio-sized (30 x 40) handmade paper. Each of the large black and white prints were hand-painted in watercolors by a team of skilled colorists and bound into two volumes. Long considered one of the greatest collections of natural history illustration, only some 200 sets were completed in the mid-19th century. Of those only about 100 remain in existence. The rest were either destroyed or disassembled and sold off as individual prints. Because they were hand-colored, these large first editions are considered "originals" and are quite valuable. Smaller, more inexpensive prints and editions were later created and sold.

Audubon exhibit: Preview Night at the Bell Museum
Audubon exhibit: Preview Night at the Bell MuseumCourtesy Mark Ryan
Lucky for us one of the original Double Elephant Folio sets is held by the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis. Even luckier for us, the Bell has just opened a brand new exhibit, called Audubon and the Art of Birds, which is centered around some of these beautiful originals of Audubon's wonderful illustrations. I attended the preview a couple weeks back and let me tell you, it is a chance in a lifetime to see these rare and beautiful natural history illustration masterpieces. The exhibition opened on October 5th and runs in two sections. Right now, 33 of Audubon's mammoth prints grace the walls of the exhibit (along with illustrations by other bird artists) then other restored mammoth prints of Audubon illustrations will be rotated in during a two week shutdown in January, and the exhibit's second half reopens on February 1st. Find more information about the exhibition here.

On the lookout for birds: Visitors to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory scan the skies for migrating raptors above Duluth, Minnesota.
On the lookout for birds: Visitors to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory scan the skies for migrating raptors above Duluth, Minnesota.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Last week, my wife and I took a day-trip to Duluth and stopped at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, located on Skyline Parkway overlooking the east end of the city. The site is a favorite autumn destination for bird-watchers of all kinds. Snared and tagged raptor: Hawk Ridge volunteer Jessica displays the wing of a sharp-shinned hawk.
Snared and tagged raptor: Hawk Ridge volunteer Jessica displays the wing of a sharp-shinned hawk.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Official bird-counters were still there tabulating hawks, eagles and other raptors migrating south for the winter. The count will continue through October. Set and release: a lucky Hawk Ridge visitor launches a banded sharp-shinned hawk back into the wild.
Set and release: a lucky Hawk Ridge visitor launches a banded sharp-shinned hawk back into the wild.Courtesy Mark Ryan
The birds don't like crossing the wide expanse of Lake Superior on their way south, so they funnel into Duluth to cross there. We only saw a couple birds in the air while we were there (some 680 had been counted earlier in the day), but a couple of hawks snared just down the road were brought up to the ridge overlook for banding and release. Volunteers tagged and recorded the hawks (a goshawk - Accipiter gentilis - and a sharp-shinned hawk - Accipiter striatus), then enlisted the help of a couple of lucky onlookers to release them back into the wild. It was a beautiful afternoon on the Ridge.

LINKS
Object of the Month
Audubon and the Art of Birds
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
View Birds of America prints via the University of Pittsburgh

Aug
16
2013

Sheffield Site Excavation 1960
Sheffield Site Excavation 1960Courtesy SMM
Sheffield Site Location
Sheffield Site LocationCourtesy SMM
On August 20th and 27th, Heritage Crew is going on a overnight at the St.Croix Watershed where they are going to join the Sheffield Site excavation with SMM and U of M Archaeologists.
Everyone is going to have a chance to do shovel skimming, screening, mapping, photographing, and record observations in our journals.
This is the second time we're going to see a excavation, but it's the first time we're going to help out. This is very exciting because we are going to have everything we learned put into action and have fun.

Aug
02
2013

On July 22nd we went over to Bremer site in Hastings. We observed the University students of Minnesota and asked them many questions such as, "Why is there pink flags sticking up the ground?" They're for the excavation spots and to mark the test pits.

While we were at Bremer we learned how Bremer was found by a young boy in 50s who just walking alone the bay.
Now we have the opportunity to work at Bremer and dig up cool thing like Pottery.

U of M Students dig into the past

Jul
22
2013

Archaelogy Lab's Open House
Archaelogy Lab's Open HouseCourtesy SMM
On Youth Science Day, the KAYSC Heritage Crew joined the Archaeology Lab's open house, located behind the Dinosaur exhibit on the 3rd floor. There, archaeologists presented unique Oneota artifacts that were digged up in the 1959-1960 Sheffield Site excavation.
One of the interesting things that we learned is about the two garden hoes that were found on different two sites, St. Croix (Sheffield) and Red wing. Both are made from a animal shoulder blade and are used for the same purpose, but are not from the same local resources. One was made from a white-tailed deer at St. Croix (Sheffield) and the other was made from a bison at Red Wing. Does the Oneota have a connection with another tribe? Is this a sign of trade or technology exchange?