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Becky Read-Wahidi and her committee: Dr. Bill Dressler, Dr. Jason DeCaro, Dr. Michael Murphy, Dr. Kathy Oths, and Dr. Mariana Gabarrot, who skyped in from Mexico
Becky Read-Wahidi and her committee: Dr. Bill Dressler, Dr. Jason DeCaro, Dr. Michael Murphy, Dr. Kathy Oths, and Dr. Mariana Gabarrot, who skyped in from Mexico

On Tuesday, October 7, Becky Read-Wahidi successfully presented and defended her dissertation, titled "A Model Guadalupan: Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and Psychosocial Stress Among Mexican Immigrants to the South." This was the first Anthropology Department Defense this academic year.

Becky began her presentation with some historical background on the Virgin of Guadalupe, who appeared to Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531 with instructions to build a church in her honor. The Virgin of Guadalupe has been officially recognized by the Catholic Church, and has her own festival occurring on December 12. She is indigenous to Mexico, and is seen as a resistance to social injustice. Becky focused on the idea that the Virgin of Guadalupe could be a Mexican master symbol.

Becky then presented her cultural research in Scott County, Mississippi. She performed a cultural domain analysis, which included a consensus analysis and a consonance analysis, to place the idea of the master symbol within the context of immigration and to determine if the Virgin of Guadalupe is a "collective representation." She focused on the biocultural aspects of the immigration experience, particularly the physical and psychological effects of stress, in order to evaluate the Virgin of Guadalupe as a coping mechanism. She developed her own scale for the consonance analysis, which included variables such as years in the US and Mississippi, comfort speaking English, and birthplace of children. The effects of stress were measured by participants' reported health and life satisfaction, illness in the past month, and a comparison of life satisfaction now and before arrival in the US.

Becky's research and analysis demonstrated that devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe was not buffering stresses. She did determine that there was a higher consonance with the more children a participant had, as well as higher perceived stress scores, which could potentially be linked to the Virgin of Guadalupe being seen as a mother figure and a complex family model, respectively.

Congratulations to Becky Read-Wahidi on her successful defense!

Photo by C. Madeiros
Jessica Kowalski presented FABBL #3. Photo by C. Madeiros.

Our third FABBL of the Fall 2014 semester occurred on October 10 with Jessica Kowalski's presentation "On the Mississippi Mound Trail: A Report on Two Field Seasons of Excavations."

Jessica discussed her work under the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which contracted three different universities to perform excavations over two summers for a public highway project, with the intent of building tourist signs. Her particular area included 9 sites with 14 mounds over 13 weeks of field work. The historical period covered ca. 1200-1500 AD; and her presentation focused on research issues, political economy, mortuary practices, and changes in iconography during this period. The largest problem encountered during field work was how to formulate a research design for testing about 30 mound sites.

Their design looked at the project goals, time, and resources to determine chronology and construction techniques. The methods included LiDAR, mapping with GPS, exploratory testing through split spoon cores and bucket augers, and test unit excavation. The methods were updated slightly during the second season. Jessica then presented some sites that worked well with these methods, and some that yielded disappointing results with these methods, before focusing on the site that is the main focus of her dissertation research. The overall project yielded a chronology for dating mounds: Coles Creek Settlement 900-1200 AD, Winterville phase ca. 1200 AD, Late George Phase ca. 1400 AD. The Late George Phase sees a mound building explosion.

Jessica's dissertation research focuses on Arcola, which has 3 of the 6 original mounds still standing. The first season encountered some problems relating to identification. They cored and augured Mound A, and excavated a test unit in which they found mound erosion, Late George phase and Protohistoric ceramics, and Winterville phase ceramics. During the second season they excavated Mound C, with a cut face on the summit. They found a burn floor surface and radiocarbon dated it to between 1435 and 1490 AD. Mound C has the potential for intact mound surfaces, and is a Late George phase site. During the presentation, she also discussed how to date a mound, including problems with balanced testing of mound fill and finding surfaces and the differences in the materials mounds are built on. Mississippi mounds are built of levee silts and sands for expedience, while Coles Creek mounds had a core and finish - the focus is on whether the mounds are built up or out and the sociopolitical implications of how the mounds were built. Jessica plans to continue research within the Arcola site.

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Greg Batchelder presenting FABBL #2. Photo by C. Lynn

Our Fall FABBL series continued September 26 with Greg Batchelder's presentation "Estibrawpa: Ecotourism in the Bribri Village of Yorkin. Celebrating Tradition and Improving Health."

Greg's presentation focused on his summer 2014 research in Costa Rica, where he learned about Estibrawpa, an ecotourism program created by the women of Yorkin, a village of about 200-250 people. Most of the men there worked on banana plantations, and therefore had to travel and remain away from home for long periods of time. This caused depression and lower health in the community, and the women in the village decided to organize an ecotourism company, in coordination with ATEC,  to create an alternative to wage labor on plantations. Men now work as guides, construction workers, organic farmers, and canoe captains to facilitate tourist visits to the village. The community has also been able to build schools in order to teach these trades, native language, and the Bribri historia---their own collection of creation myths and legends. The village also has a medical clinic, but it was closed during Greg's visit.

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Photo by C. Lynn

Greg traveled to Yorkin by canoe and stayed for a week in the home of the Morales family. Houses in the village typically house many generations---8 members of the Morales family lived in the house---and the Bribri are a matrilineal/matrilocal society. The houses are on stilts with storage area underneath for chickens, ducks, pigs, and horses. There is also a communal area in the house, which includes the kitchen/dining area, where they have spring gravity fed water and some solar paneled electricity---although there can be a lack of sunlight at times. Families also usually grow their own corn, and there was possibly a shared community garden. The women also focused on organic coacoa production, which they sell in the village of Bambu. Family life is very important, and a more permissive and communal style of parenting seems to be practiced.

Greg was able to observe many of the benefits from the creation of Estibrawpa, including the resurgence in the community of an interest in traditions from the younger generations. While there is not much outside influence---the village is currently trying to get internet---the younger generations are becoming more interested in learning the native language and historia in order to be more successful in the ecotourism opportunities they have. He was also able to discern a perceived improvement in health from all members of the community, and intends to study this further. He plans to use blood pressure as a biomarker and potentially gain access to past health records in the clinic. The CESD depression scale will also be used. He plans to return next summer and to continue to collaborate with the community in Yorkin and possibly find a natural control group in order to provide further evidence of the improved health benefits of the ecotourism project.

 

The Department's Friday Afternoon Brown Bag Lunch (FABBL) talks commenced this semester on September 12 with Erik Porth's presentation: "Some Preliminary Results from the 2012 Fall Field School Mound P Excavations."

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Erik Porth presenting FABBL #1. Photo by C. Lynn

Erik started the presentation with an overview of Moundville's ceramic chronology and archaeological phases, then focused on Late Moundville (post-1450 AD) excavations at Mound P. The Late Moundville period is of particular interest because of the archaeological evidence it exhibits and lacks. Excavations at Mound P have provided the first assemblage from the entirety of the Moundville III phase, 1400-1520 AD.

Erik then presented the questions that this assemblage may be able to address: Why do the symbols change or stay the same? Does mound construction really halt during Moundville III? Do they stop producing ceremonial bottles? Is there a shift in non-local exchange networks, or do they disintegrate? And, what changes occurred with ceremonial object production and consumption?

Erik also provided an overview of the excavations of Mound P, starting with CB Moore in 1905 and ending with the latest excavations during the Fall Field School in 2012 overseen by Erik and Dr. John Blitz. It is the largest mound on the western plaza periphery, is one of the latest occupied mounds, and is not fully understood yet. The goals set forth for the 2012 Fall Field School were: to mitigate the impact of the new staircase connecting a viewing platform on Mound P to the Museum, to determine the location of midden deposits and recovery of representative artifact samples from Moundville III, and to understand the timing of mound deposits and construction phases.

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Photo by C. Lynn

Some of Erik's preliminary results include identification of several different ceramics found at the west flank trench and an analysis of the bucket auger assemblages. He wrapped up the talk with the goals for his research, which were to locate and date mound midden deposits and to assess the building sequence of mound layers, and how he plans to compare the Mound P assemblage with the current phase system expectations for Moundville III. Erik's presentation was a great start to our FABBL series this semester!

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Dr. Cameron Lacquement

In our latest issue of "10 Things You May Not Know About," we focus on Dr. Cameron Lacquement, our Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Dr. Lacquement is an archaeologist who specializes in Southeastern archaeology, ethnohistory, and prehistoric construction. His professional interests are prehistoric archaeology, Mississippian archaeology, experimental archaeology, architectural energetics, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, wood science technology, history of archaeology, marriage and kinship studies, and forensics.

Dr. Lacquement is also the editor of Architectural Variability in the Southeast, published in 2007.

 

Here are 10 things you may not know about Dr. Lacquement:

1. Was a state champion swimmer in high school.

2. Enjoys woodworking and carpentry.

3. Is the co-founder and pitcher of the Argonauts co-rec intramural softball team (est. 2006). Go 'Nauts!

4. Resume includes gas station attendant, lifeguard, fish and reptile sales, whitewater rafting guide, carpenter, tobacco primer, and 2-year aquatic watermelon wrestling champion (Oak Ridge, NC - July 4th 1996 and 1997).

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University of Alabama Press, 2007

5. Once hitchhiked from NC to PA and back---but does not recommend it.

6. Thinks that Ben Affleck is a horrible choice for Batman.

7. Plays classical guitar.

8. Bowls on Wednesday nights in the "Druid City Lousy Bowlers League"

9. Is the second Dr. Lacquement in his family.

10. Knows all 11 herbs and spices in the Colonel's secret recipe.... but he'll never tell.