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Demystifying the Changes to Bears Ears National Monument

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Less than a year ago, President Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument in an attempt to protect some 1.35 million acres of awe-inspiring red rock canyons in Utah. It holds an almost countless number of ancient dwellings and petroglyphs, in among unique geological formations. But yesterday, 85 percent of that land lost its National Monument protection, after President Donald Trump rescinded its protections and those of large portions of nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

William Lipe
Lipe

On one hand, this appears to expose around two million acres to commercial activities, ranging from oil and gas extraction to mining and logging. But it’s not all going to be razed tomorrow. Significant portions of that land and its bounty do still hold other forms of protection. The key, says Bill Lipe, an archaeologist at Washington State University, is that the monument designation guarantees a higher standard for new development projects.

“Traditional economic uses such as grazing, as well as hunting and fishing, will continue, and existing mineral extraction leases will be honored,” when land is designated, he says. “However, new leases will not be offered, and developments such as road and utility corridor construction will be evaluated more stringently in terms of their impact on the landscape—both cultural and environmental.” Now far less land will be subject to that level of scrutiny, which also could have an impact on the places that retain some kind of protection.

Another, more worrying, effect of the changes, Lipe says, is that while it may leave protection in place for individual cultural heritage sites, it ignores their context—the smaller important places spread across the landscape that show how ancient people used and moved through the land. This is a tragedy for archaeological study, which recognizes the historic value of the landscape as a whole. “The sites visitors are drawn to are typically parts of larger distributions of related sites that together represent dispersed communities and social networks,” Lipe says. In other words, the forest is more valuable than the trees alone.

“This kind of perspective is possible because the physical landscape of the Bears Ears Monument is relatively intact, because it has not seen extensive or large-scale modern economic development.” So far, that is.

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Atlas Obscura

Nature

Prehistoric turkey DNA used to track ancient Pueblo migration

Tim Kohler
Kohler

In the mid-to-late 1200s, some 30,000 ancestral pueblo farmers left their homes in southwestern Colorado’s Mesa Verde region and never returned.

Where these people went and why they left are two of American archeology’s longest-standing mysteries.

A new study co-led by archaeologists Tim Kohler, of Washington State University, and Brian Kemp, formerly at WSU, now at the University of Oklahoma, provides the first genetic evidence suggesting that many of Mesa Verde’s ancient farmers moved to the northern Rio Grande area in New Mexico, a region currently inhabited by the Tewa people.

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WSU News

Computer models find ancient solutions to modern problems

d’Alpoim Guedes

Washington State University archaeologists are at the helm of new research using sophisticated computer technology to learn how past societies responded to climate change.

Their work, which links ancient climate and archaeological data, could help modern communities identify new crops and other adaptive strategies when threatened by drought, extreme weather and other environmental challenges.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jade d’Alpoim Guedes, assistant professor of anthropology, and WSU colleagues Stefani Crabtree, Kyle Bocinsky and Tim Kohler examine how recent advances in computational modeling are reshaping the field of archaeology.

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WSU News

Phys.org

ScienceBlog

Popular Archaeology

Health Medicine Network

NewHistorian

Association for Computing Machinery

Paste Magazine

Treehugger

 

Researcher: Turkeys a major part of ancestral Pueblo life

William Lipe
William Lipe

While the popular notion of the American Thanksgiving is less than 400 years old, the turkey has been part of American lives for more than 2,000 years. But for much of that time, the bird was more revered than eaten.

Washington State University archaeologists over the years have repeatedly seen evidence, from bones to blankets to DNA extracted from ancient poop, suggesting that the Pueblo people of the Southwest bred turkeys as far back as 200 B.C.

“Turkeys were an important bird symbolically and in practical ways as a source of feathers that kept people warm in the winter,” said Bill Lipe, a WSU professor emeritus of anthropology with decades of experience in the area. “And they were also important as a food source, probably primarily at periodic feasts and ritual gatherings.”

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WSU News

Cooking the world’s oldest known curry

Why India is a nation of foodies

Had you been washed ashore four millennia ago on the banks of the now lost river of Saraswati and hitched a bullock cart ride to Farmana in the Ghaggar valley near modern-day Delhi, here’s what you might have eaten—a curry.

For in 2010, when advanced science met archaeology at an excavation site in Farmana—southeast of the largest Harappan city of Rakhigarhi—they made history, and it was edible.

Steven Webber
Steve Webber

Archaeologists Arunima Kashyap and Steve Webber, professor of anthropology at WSU Vancouver, used the method of starch analysis to trace the world’s first-known or “oldest” proto-curry of aubergine, ginger and turmeric from the pot shard of a bulbous handi (pot). » More …