Skeletons in the Closet

I shouldn’t say this. In fact, as someone who covers the field of archaeology for a living, I probably shouldn’t even be thinking this. But I find myself wondering increasingly whether it’s time for some dirt archaeologists to relinquish one of their great pleasures, namely the beloved rite of summer:  field season. I say this […]

Portrait of the Archaeologist as Young Artist

On the taxi ride there, I felt a little ill. The long, sleepless flight to Lima, a dodgy lunch that was coming back to haunt me, and the abrupt swerving and lurching of the taxi through the congested streets of the Peruvian capital—all seemed to be taking their toll.  By the time I and my […]

Redux: A Catholic Saint and an Aztec God

A few days ago, while I was out hiking in southern Arizona’s early morning heat with Jason De Leon and his students, I heard mention for the first time of Mexico’s Santa Muerte, or Saint Death.  Our destination for the day was a small archaeological site hidden away in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest, but De […]

The King Must Die

A little over two weeks ago, on the evening of August 10th, a young Irish heavy-equipment operator spotted what he thought was an old leather car seat jutting out of the drained fields of Cashel Bog. Jason Phelan was nearing the end of a long day on a harvester, a giant machine that slices peat […]

Why Don’t We Know More about Our Ancient Past?

Today, I’ll wrestle with a question that Ann posed during our birthday celebration: People have been living and building things in North America for tens of thousands of years, the same tens of thousands that they’ve been in India, China, Egypt, Mesoamerica, Europe; so why do we know comparatively so little about North American paleolithics? […]

The Inca Empire’s Afghanistan

Pambamarca isn’t a household name, not like Machu Picchu. Few backpackers trek its steep slopes each year seeking out the elusive Inca past. There is no sleek Vistadome train, no fleet of gleaming Mercedes-Benz buses whisking crowds to the ruins, no luxury lodge at the top. But Pambamarca bristles with the ruins of Inca ambitions. […]

Indiana Jones and the Neanderthal’s Tooth

Most archaeologists I know have a soft spot for Indiana Jones. They might not admit it. They might grimace at the famous bullwhip and guffaw at all the suspension-bridge antics over crocodile-infested waters. But despite that, or perhaps because of it, Indiana Jones often captures something from a defining moment in their lives. It reminds […]

A Dictator’s Rule

Three weeks ago, a BBC journalist experienced first hand the random brutality of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s security forces. Chris Cobb-Smith and two colleagues were heading to the town of Zawiya to cover the conflict, when security forces arrested them at a checkpoint and hustled them off to a makeshift prison. There guards repeatedly beat […]