September 24th, 2013: Garbology

In this week’s lesson the students got to dig around in garbage! Clans were combined in order to form two groups and each group was given a giant bag of trash. The students were asked to sort the “artifacts” into categories and answer the following questions about the people their trash might have come from

  • How many people created this trash?
  • How old were the people who deposited this trash?
  • Were these people wealthy? Healthy?
  • What did these people like to do? What kind of interests did they have?

The point of this exercise was to illustrate that archaeologists do not just deal with exquisite artifacts and treasures. They often use the everyday items they find in past people’s households, like their trash, to learn about the people who lived there. A lot of the students were very surprised by what they could tell about these people just from looking at their trash.

 

Anna talks to the students about archaeology.
Anna talks to the students about archaeology.
Kelsey helps this group of students sort their garbage.
Kelsey helps this group of students sort their garbage.
Francios and Lynn help students sort trash
Francios and Lynn help students sort trash

September 17th, 2013: Ethnography

For our second meeting, the students broke into their clans again and reviewed their clan characteristic they had created last week. Then each clan had to designate an “ethnographer” that would travel to another clan to learn about their culture and create an ethnography. Ethnography is the way anthropologists study and teach others about different cultures. After the ethnographers visited the other clans and recorded the clan name, their shared ancestor, who their leader was (or if they had a leader), their attire, a clan totem/symbol, and any other identifying features, the entire class reconvened in a big circle. Each ethnographer got the chance to stand up and tell the class about the foreign clan that they got to study. The clans being described were then able to critique the depiction of their clan. Most ethnographers got it pretty close to correct, but in some cases clans felt that they weren’t represented completely accurately. The aim of this exercise was to give the students an idea of how difficult it is to be an outsider learning about and describing a culture different from their own. We also emphasized that anthropologists only work with the cultures they study for a limited amount of time.  It is impossible to learn everything there is to know about a culture during this time.  Additionally, cultures change over time and questions that the researchers ask influence the answers they get.

The Wizard Clan symbol
The Wizard Clan symbol
The Magical Rainbow Zebra clan symbol
The Magical Rainbow Zebra clan symbol
The Ice clan's symbol
The Ice clan’s symbol

 

 

 

September 10th, 2013: Create a Clan

For our first meeting of the semester the students were split up into groups of three and created their own clan. A clan is a group of people who share a common ancestor, real or mythical. The students also learned the following concepts: culture, totem, rite of passage, and symbol and applied them in the creation of their clans. Each clan was encouraged to come up with a clan name, a shared ancestor, a leader (or no leader), attire, a clan totem/symbol, and any other identifying features. Our clans got very creative in creating their cultural identities.

The Magical Rainbow Zebra clan: The Magical Rainbow Zebra clan was a created by a group of all ladies. Their shared ancestor was a Magical Zebra who lived on a rainbow. They elected to have no leader, and instead settle disputes with a vote. The students chose to have an insignia on a button that identified membership in their clan. Their clan symbol was a rainbow over a colorful rainbow with the words love, friendship, kindness, and laughter written in the different colors of the rainbow. Additionally, the Magical Rainbow Zebra clan came up with a secret handshake that only clan members could know.  In order to become a member of the clan you had to be given a button and learn the secret handshake.

Kelsey helps the Magical Rainbow Zebra clan design their symbolsKelsey helps the Magical Rainbow Zebra clan design their symbols

The Ice clan: The Ice Clan all admires their shared ancestor John, who lived long ago. John loved ice products, such as ice cream and Popsicles, but he also loved to run. One day John decided to run a marathon while eating ice cream and wearing shorts and a white headband. Throughout the race, a group of people followed John and eventually established the sweet-loving but athletic Ice Clan. They are a proud egalitarian (politically and socially equal/without a leader) clan and regularly wear shorts and fabulous white headbands which indicate membership in the group. They have several different totems that all represent ice products and their love for ice cream and fun.

Anna helps the Ice clan think about their common ancestorAnna helps the Ice clan think about their common ancestor.

The Tuscaloosans clan:. The ancestor of the Tuscaloosans is a combination of Chief Tuscaloosa and Aslan the lion. They are a warrior-centric culture and specialize in making weapons and armor. The cultural symbol is a shield with a wolf’s head and fire upon it. To enter their land you must know the secret handshake.

Lynn helps the Tuscaloosan clan decide what kind of leader they want.

Lynn helps the Tuscaloosan clan decide what kind of leader they wan

The Wizard clan: The common ancestor of the is Dumbledore and they are trained in the use of magic from a very young age. They travel through the use of griffins, unicorns, and the dreaded shark-mermaid. When a clansmen has a birthday, they are given a special token that grants 2 magical wishes. The rest of the community then performs elaborate mock-battles and other feats of strength within the arena. The Wizard Clan is a democracy, where all issues are debated and voted. The mortal enemies of the Wizard Clan are snakes and other serpentine creatures.

Francois tells the Tuscaloosans clan about what a symbol is.

Francois tells the Wizard clan about what a symbol is.