Skip to content

Dr. Abrams meets Dr. Bindon, who helped develop our Biocultural Medical program and in whose honor the lecture series was started.
Dr. Abrams meets Dr. Jim Bindon, who helped develop our Biocultural Medical program and in whose honor the lecture series was started.

In the fall, we hosted several in-house lectures and workshops and were graced by talks by a few visiting scholars.

On October 8, we were able to take advantage of a visit to Tuscaloosa by Dr. Natilee A. McGruder, Director of the River Region Food Policy Council (RRFPC), who graced us with an Extemporaneous Talk called "The Local Food System: Getting to Know Your Neighbor." On November 6, we inaugurated our new "Biocultural Anthropology and Health Lecture Series" with a talk by UAB Professor of Philosophy Marshall Abrams entitled "Modeling the Development of Sustainable Rice Production and Religious Practice in Bali."

Lynn Funkhouser presented on the history, archaeology, and bioarchaeology of the nations first VA hospital, located outside of Pascagoula, MS for the falls first FABBL.
Lynn Funkhouser presented on the history, archaeology, and bioarchaeology of the nations first VA hospital, located outside of Pascagoula, MS for the falls first FABBL.

Several speakers participated in the FABBL (Friday Afternoon Brown Bag Lunch) series, hosted by the Anthropology Club. On September 25, doctoral candidate Lynn Funkhouser presented "The Mexican Soldiers of Greenwood Island, Mississippi." On October 9, doctoral student Courtney Andrews presented "Finding Culture in Acculturation: Does Cultural Consonance Mediate the Relationship between Acculturative Stress and Health Outcomes among Mexican Immigrants?" On October 23, doctoral candidate Rachel Briggs presented "Public Archaeology in Western North Carolina: Recent Excavations at Spanish Fort San Juan de Joara." On November 6, doctoral candidate Daniel LaDu presented "Interaction Spheres and 'Circle-Maps': Considering the Role that Extra-Regional Exchange Plays in the Process of Culture Change."

On December 4, Dr. David Meek was kind enough to give a department workshop on spatial ethnographic research design.

The line for Bill Nye tickets, day 1.
The line for Bill Nye tickets, day 1.

Finally, the Department of Anthropology is affiliated with the Alabama Lectures on Life's Evolution (ALLELE) speaker series, which hosted four lectures in the fall. On September 28, ALLELE co-hosted a talk by science personality Bill Nye the Science Guy called "The Importance of Teaching Evolution." This was the biggest ALLELE talk to date, with thousands of people turning out for three successive giveaways for roughly 5,000 tickets. Dr. Lynn wrote a summary of the event for the EvoS Consortium (http://evostudies.org/2015/10/how-exactly-is-evolution-a-crosscutting-concept-enter-bill-nye-the-science-guy/). Geologist Linda Ivany (Syracuse University) gave a talk on October 15 called "The Pace of Life---The (Often) Missing Element in Studies of Evolution Using Fossils." On November 12, historian Ron Numbers (University of Wisconsin-Madison) gave a talk called "Baptizing Dinosaurs: How Once-Suspect Evidence of Evolution Came to Support the Biblical Narrative." And on December 3, evolutionary psychologist Rebecca Burch (SUNY Oswego) gave a lecture rescheduled from the spring entitled "Semen Chemistry: Implications, Innovations, and Controversy."

Our students and faculty also gave talks around the University. Dr. Marysia Galbraith gave a talk about her experience in Poznan, Poland for the Fulbright Scholar Program on September 3 entitled "Memory in Fragments: Reassembling Jewish Life in Poland." On December 4, undergraduate Lauren Pratt presented "Status and Stature in Two Prehistoric Burial Populations" in the Computer-Based Honors Program. (faculty advisors, Drs. Blitz and Jacobi).

Dr. Mark Moberg, University of Southern Alabama
Dr. Mark Moberg, University of Southern Alabama

The Department of Anthropology was lucky to have several visitors who gave planned and extemporaneous talks in the spring 2014. On February 21, the Anthropology Club co-hosted a FABBL (Friday Afternoon Brown Bag Lunch) talk with Dr. Mark Moberg from the University of Southern Alabama entitled "How 'Fair' is Fair Trade: Contrasting Views of Economic Morality among Caribbean Banana Farmers." Dr. Moberg is the editor-in-chief of Human Organization, the research journal for the Society for Applied Anthropology. His work focuses on trade, globalization, and political economy in the Caribbean and Latin America.

As part of our Extemporaneous Talks series (ET #3), Dr. Jim Hall, formerly of UA's New College and now of Rochester Institute of Technology, gave a talk on February 24, 2014 about UA anthropologist Solon Kimball and the Talladega Study. Kimball, who was a founding member of the American Ethnological Association and Council on Anthropology and Education,  was instrumental in developing and administering the Talladega Study, which led to the establishment of the town's public health program. The Study highlighted a painful aspect of academia at that period time with regard to segregation. Dr. Hall spoke of how Kimball and his collaborators appear to have been anti-segregationists but could not convince the Talladega community to allow African-Americans, who constituted 1/3 of the town's population, to participate in the study. In 1978, Kimball helped establish the Zora Neale Hurston Fellowship Award Fund to honor outstanding African-American graduates in anthropology, and the Kimball Award is issued every other year by the American Anthropological Association to an anthropologist who effects change in public policy. Though Kimball's presence in our department is not part of the living memory of any current faculty members, Dr. Jim Knight, who grew up in the Talladega area, recalled taking an undergraduate course with Kimball when he had moved on from UA and was a professor at the University of Florida.

Fellow Mayanist Lisa LeCount poses with ET#5 speaker Elizabeth Paris (Photo by C. Lynn).
Fellow Mayanist Lisa LeCount poses with ET#5 speaker Elizabeth Paris (Photo by C. Lynn).

ET #4 was presented on March 9 by Dr. Deborah Keene, a Senior Fellow for the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, Assistant Professor in Geological Sciences, and an Adjunct Faculty member of the Department of Anthropology. Her talk, "How Should You Prepare Pro-Evolution Students for an Anti-Evolution Reality?" dealt with her experience with investigating anti-evolution rhetoric in teaching students to examine sources critically.

On March 7, 2014, the Department of Anthropology and Lambda Alpha hosted a guest lecture ""Joara and Fort San Juan: Eventful Archaeology at the Berry Site") and workshop ("Structure and the Problem with Macrosociality") with Dr. Robin Beck. Dr. Beck is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Curator of North American Archaeology at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He has worked in the Andes and in eastern North America, including NSF-supported research along the Catawba River at the Berry site in North Carolina. Dr. Beck received his master's degree from UA in 1997 and his PhD from Northwestern University in 2004, both in anthropology.

Dr. Elizabeth Paris gave ET #5 on April 2 entitled "Form and Function in Small Maya Cities: A View from Highland Chiapas." Dr. Paris is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at St. Lawrence University and previously an Adjunct Instructor and Research Associate of Anthropology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Paris is a Mesoamerican archaeologist who talked about her work investigating smaller and less complex sites than those usually studied in the Maya region to distinguish between diversification and specialization in urban structural organization.

Greg Batchelder's World of Warcraft avatar.
Greg Batchelder's World of Warcraft avatar.

Our final lecture of the semester was a FABBL by PhD student Greg Batchelder on April 11 (“Batchhunder’s Travels: Participatory Aesthetic Experience in World of Warcraft: Effects on Mood and Mental Wellness”). Greg earned his master's degree at Colorado State University, where he also participated in team research under Dr. Jeffrey Snodgrass on a psychological anthropological study of World of Warcraft play.

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.

2014-09-26 12.16.14
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.

2014-09-26 12.17.21
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."

2014-09-12 12.18.03
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.

2014-09-12 12.17.53
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!