Yale students present at SAA 2017 in Vancouver

April 7, 2017

Student presentations at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Vancouver including the following student posters and presentations:

Peter Coutros (Yale) and Jessamy Doman (Yale)

People and Paleoclimates at the Diallowali Site Complex: Changing Patterns along the Middle Senegal Valley throughout the First Millennium BC

The first millennium BC was a time of considerable social, technological, and environmental change for the peoples of West Africa. Despite the growing number and distribution of archaeological projects throughout the region, very little is known about this critical period. Likewise, many of the climate models currently in use lack the sufficient temporal or spatial resolution needed to provide context for the variety of changes occurring at a localized level. Recent research at the Diallowali Site Complex along the Middle Senegal River Valley has provided a unique opportunity to investigate how first millennium BC social and environmental changes are linked. Combining stratigraphic excavations and large-scale, systematic survey, the Diallowali Archaeological Research Expedition (DARE) has compiled a detailed record of human habitation and climate change along the western margin of the Middle Senegal Valley. A multi-proxy approach to paleoclimate modeling and a detailed record of changing subsistence strategies and settlement patterns has provided a robust and localized dataset spanning the late second and first millenniums BC. This paper will utilize this new body of research to explore the dynamic relationship between the changing environment and the human communities that called it home.

Corey Herrmann (Yale University)

Tabuchila Ceramics of the Jama River Valley, Manabí, Ecuador

Archaeological excavations by the Proyecto-Paleoetnobotánico Río Jama (PAPRJ) in the Jama River Valley of northern Manabí, Ecuador, have established a cultural chronology spanning over three millennia of prehispanic occupation. One of these occupations, the Tabuchila Complex of the Late Formative Period (1000—500 BC), remains poorly understood. Excavations at three sites in the Jama Valley in the 1990s recovered ceramic, lithic, obsidian, paleobotanical, archaeofaunal, and human skeletal remains from Late Formative Tabuchila contexts, with the goal of orienting Late Formative occupation of the northern Manabí region to its contemporaries in western lowland Ecuador. This study employs a methodology of modal ceramic analysis to recognize and catalogue formal and stylistic variation within the recovered Tabuchila ceramic assemblage. Through this analysis the Tabuchila assemblage is compared to other studies of Middle and Late Formative culture, to understand how Tabuchila represented a regional variant of and contributor to the formation of the Chorrera ceramic tradition.

David McCormick (Yale University) 

The Obsidian Workshops at Late Classic Cotzumalguapa: Preliminary Technological and Sourcing Analyses

Scholarly understanding of the prehistoric economy of the Pacific Coast lacks the resolution afforded its Lowland counterpart. Analysis of the Obsidian deposits at Cotzumalguapa offer us a lens through which to bring our understanding of the prehistoric economy of the Pacific Coast into focus. Surface survey and excavations near the El Baúl acropolis revealed the presence of several obsidian dumps, the result of a large-scale lithic industry in the Classic Period site of Cotzumalguapa. Thus far, the debitage analyzed is almost entirely the result of prismatic blade cores reduction. Interestingly, however, neither nodules, nor decortication flakes, or even first series flakes and blades have been identified. Cores also occur in low frequencies and extant cores are nearly exhausted. These patterns suggest that obsidian was imported in the form of already reduced prismatic-blade cores as opposed to rough polyhedral cores or nodules. Preliminary visual analysis suggests the vast majority of the material from this deposit came from the Guatemalan Highland sources of El Chayal and San Martin Jilotepeque. Although the debitage analyzed to date suggest blade production was the primary activity in the El Baúl group, there is also evidence of low intensity, projectile-point production.

Andrew D. Turner (Yale University) and Rex Koontz (University of Houston)

The Late Classic Ballgame and Cross-Cultural Interaction at Xochicalco, El Tajín, and Copán

The proliferation of ball courts at major sites such as El Tajín and Xochicalco during the Late Classic period suggests that the Mesoamerican ballgame and its associated architectural features played a crucial role in the expression of power and identity in the tumultuous centuries that followed the collapse of Teotihuacán. This paper investigates the role of Late Classic ball courts in fostering, shaping, and manifesting cross-cultural interaction through focus on sites from three different regions: Xochicalco in Central Mexico, El Tajín on the Gulf Coast, and Copán in the Southern Maya Lowlands. While several earlier scholars have noted distinct similarities in ballgame art and architecture shared among these sites, they have been hesitant to explain how and why such features should be shared across vast distances. As focal points of public ritual and spectacle, ball courts served as spaces that mediated cross-cultural interaction, and may have been constructed in part to impress visiting dignitaries or merchants from distant allied or rival polities. Likewise, similarities in ballgame architecture and associated artistic embellishment could signal mutual affiliation to foreign visitors, and thus may have been prone to emulation among different cities.

Qingzhu Wang (Yale University), Thomas Fenn (Cal State), Hui Fang (Shandong University), Xuexiang Chen (Shandong University) and Jianfeng Lang (Shandong University)

pXRF Examination of Shang-Dynasty Bronzes from the Daxinzhuang Site, Shandong

In this paper I present the preliminary results of pXRF analysis of Shang-Dynasty bronzes from the Daxinzhuang site (1400–1046 BC), Jinan, Shandong province. The Daxinzhuang site has been receiving considerable research interests since the 1930s, especially when the high elite burials were excavated in 2003 and 2010. Much research has been focused on these burials and the elaborate bronzes, but there has not been any research on the chemical composition and casting techniques of the bronzes from the site. The pXRF data from the Daxinzhuang site, together with the published data from Zhengzhou and Anyang, provides a new perspective to explore the interaction of people who lived at the Daxinzhuang site and those of the central Shang power in Henan.

Daniela Wolin (Yale University), Yuling He (Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Socia), Zhonghe Liang (Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Socia) and Junfeng Guo (Jinan Institute of Archaeology)  

An Intersite Comparison of Human Skeletal Trauma in Shang Dynasty China

Participation in the near-constant military campaigns of the Late Shang dynasty of China may have constituted an important social role for much of the population. Archaeologists have employed mortuary analysis and a close-reading of contemporaneous oracle bone inscriptions to help elucidate the nature of warfare and its participants. A large-scale bioarchaeological analysis of human skeletal remains could not only provide valuable insight on the relationship between weaponry as grave goods and possible participation in violent interactions, but also illuminate the overall experience of traumatic events at the population level. This paper presents the bioarchaeological analysis of trends in traumatic lesions among a population from the Liujiazhuang locale of Yinxu in Henan Province. Patterns in the distribution of lesions on the body are examined to assess whether they are more likely to result from accidental injury or intentional violence, along with a demographic analysis of who in the population is affected by diverse types of trauma. These results are then compared to two sites with Late Shang components in Shandong Province, Jinan Liujiazhuang and Qianzhangda, to assess how differences in the distribution of trauma may reflect differential participation in warfare-related events or variations in lifestyle and activity.

Andrew Womack (Yale University)

Use Wear and Standardization Analysis of Pottery from Dibaping, a Banshan Period Cemetery in Southern Gansu Province, China

Excavated in 1978, the cemetery at the site of Dibaping in southern Gansu Province, China revealed hundreds of Banshan period (2600–2300 BC) ceramic vessels. The elaborately painted geometric motifs on many of the vessels led to them quickly being touted as an example of the pinnacle of artistic achievement in Neolithic northwestern China. Aside from typology, however, no other analyses have been done on these objects. The result is that little is known about how these vessels were created, the role that they played in mortuary practices, or even if they were used before being interred. This paper will present the results of recent use wear and standardization analysis of these vessels and the effect these have on our understanding of their production, use, and deposition. These results will then be framed within our wider understanding of the benefits and limitations of use wear and standardization analysis, and our current knowledge of Banshan period production and consumption practices.

Ryan McRae (Yale University, Department of Anthropology), Gary Aronsen (Yale University, Department of Anthropology) and Erin Gredell (Yale University, Peabody Museum of Natural History)

Bones, Beads, and Birds: Determining Cultural Affiliation of Skeletal Remains and Artifacts from Casuarina Mound, Brevard County, Florida

Efforts to repatriate Native American human remains and artifacts are of immediate importance to American archaeology. Excavated in the early twentieth century, Casuarina Mound (8-Br-0122) was first dated to the Malabar II period (750–1565CE) by Irving Rouse in his 1951 publication A Survey of Indian River Archaeology, Florida. Historical accounts describe the removal of at least 112 skeletons and numerous funerary objects from three successive interments. A small subset of this material was donated to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University. Here, we document all human skeletal material and funerary objects from Casuarina Mound present in the collection. Represented mainly by cranial material, the individuals comprise a range of age/sex classes and present indicators of life history, health, and disease associated with cultural biomarkers. The funerary objects, despite being only a fraction of that removed from the mound, are strong indicators of cultural identification. Our documentation of Casuarina Mound human remains and artifacts at the Peabody Museum may reconnect contemporaneous elements and objects housed at disparate institutions. Such analyses contribute to the determination of ancestry and tribal affiliation using replicable and verifiable methods, and connect institutions and indigenous communities through scholarship and consultation.