Without a Trace? Rethinking the Place of the Dead in Historical Accounts of the Past
March 19, 2014
Hosted by Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein
In Madagascar today, and in the recent past, the dead are understood to inhabit the world alongside the living. Accounts of the 19th century tell of people possessed by the dead, of ghosts roaming abroad, and of the care that must be taken around them. How can archaeologists and anthropologists provide space in historical narrative for entities that we might consider to be imaginary or nonexistent? How do we acknowledge the agency of the dead for people in the past? For Columbia University’s Dr. Zoë Crossland, this means attending to the material signs of the dead – whether tombs and standing stones, or the patterns of inhabitation that people left behind in the landscape. Archaeology is often called the discipline of things, but Dr. Crossland argues that our work is semiotic in nature – that is, it is primarily concerned with material signs, and with the interpretation of those signs. Archaeology is a fascinating discipline for the way in which it pulls together empirical data with the enlivening interpretation through which it becomes meaningful, but we’ve tended to think about interpretation as something that happens in people’s heads. Join us tonight and learn how Dr. Crossland draws upon the semiotic philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce in her forthcoming book to rethink how we approach the signs of the dead and their interpretation.
Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archaeology
Archives Available on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
This show targets an audience interested in archaeology. It explores myths surrounding this exotic, often misunderstood field and acquaints listeners with the contemporary practice of unearthing the human past. Themes range from Dr. Schuldenrein’s own “Indiana Jones”-like adventures in the land of the Bible to his team’s archaeological forensics effort to unearth Kurdish mass graves in Iraq. That undertaking helped convict Saddam Hussein in 2006. Topical issues contribute to the evolution vs. creationism controversy based on updated fossil records and innovative DNA studies. An episode highlights the main funding source for archaeology in the U.S. (Hint: the oil and gas industry). Experts reveal the latest high-tech approaches to buried archaeological landscapes that provide clues to understanding climate change, past, present and future.
Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein
Joseph Schuldenrein is president and senior scientist of Geoarcheology Research Associates (GRA) in Yonkers, New York. He has been a Visiting Scholar at New York University since 1996. His professional expertise is in geoarchaeology, a sub-discipline that introduces earth science techniques to traditional archaeological excavation. Joe has worked extensively across North America and the Old World. He received his doctorate in 1983 at the University of Chicago. Recent research in North America has concentrated on the urban archaeology of New York City and Native American landscapes of the Atlantic Coast. Joe’s projects in South Asia have ranged from Human Origins investigations to the beginnings of civilization of the Indus Valley. During the Iraq war Dr. Schuldenrein’s team helped direct a forensic archaeological mission in support of the Saddam Hussein prosecution. His newest venture is an assessment of Cultural Heritage Sites in war-torn Afghanistan (2011). Dr. Schuldenrein publishes widely in numerous archaeological and geological journals. He is a reviewer for American Antiquity, Geoarchaeology, and Quaternary Science Reviews. He has acted as Principal Investigator or Consulting Scientist for grants awarded by the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory. Dr. Schuldenrein has been interviewed for PBS, as well as national and regional TV and radio outlets over the past 30 years.