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Ethnography and Archaeology of Water in the Maya Lowlands

Procuring potable water is an important factor for daily life in the semitropics, especially for contemporary populations in rural Guatemala. Seasonal subsistence practices are crucial for survival, especially regarding agriculture, droughts, and flooding. This article focuses on the Salinas de los Nueve Cerros region in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala to highlight contemporary land-use practices among the Q’eqchi’ Maya, their adaptations to flooding, droughts, and uses of different water resources.

Uncovering Amazonia

“Amazonia”—the word alone can conjure up a lot of images, some accurate and some wildly not. In truth, it has many definitions, ranging from a specific drainage basin to a tropical ecological world. For most of my childhood, such kinds of tropical “jungles” were places of peril to be avoided. The very word “Amazon” conjured up Joseph Conrad’s images from Heart of Darkness ([1899] 2015), albeit that book was about the Congo in Africa.

Multiple Ways of Understanding Peru’s Changing Climate

In this article, we consider how the perspectives and experiences of contemporary people facing climate change can enrich our archaeological interpretations of climate change in the past. In particular, we present an ethnographic study from highland Peru that highlights the complex and varied ways people are responding to environmental uncertainty, and explore how their perspectives and responses have led us to question and expand the narratives we construct about ancient people.

Rivers and Bones

The bones that lie below the ruins of a medieval fortress in Dmanisi, Georgia, tell a story about the exodus of early humans from Africa almost two million years ago. The remains of five early humans, known as Homo erectus, have been found at Dmanisi. This 1.78 million-year-old World Heritage site is located in the country of Georgia on a promontory above where the Masavera and Pinasauri Rivers converge.

Life, Land, Water, and Time: Archaeologist Doug Birk and the Little Elk Heritage Preserve

The title of the 1976 novella by Norman Maclean, A River Runs through It, is also an apt description of the career of Minnesota archaeologist Douglas A. Birk, who passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Actually, several rivers run through his remarkable and pioneering career, which spanned nearly 50 years. Birk was among the first historical archaeologists to conduct underwater investigations of sites relating to the North American fur trade along the “voyageur’s highway,” the chain of rivers, lakes, and overland portages that run along the Minnesota-Canadian border.

The View From Watery Places: Rivers and Portages in the Fur Trade Era

On the drive northward from the Twin Cities on the straight and flat road of I-94, and then Minnesota’s Highway 10, the landscape of urban and suburban development slowly cedes to wide open fields and scattered towns, sometimes lined with rows and patches of trees. This is not the most exciting or scenic of drives, but it’s exciting to us nevertheless, because this is the way toward another season of archaeological fieldwork on a late eighteenth-century fur trade post located on the Leaf River in Wadena County.

Learning from the Dakota: Water and Place

These videos and audios are from Bdote Memory Map. The deep mapping project created by Allies: media/art is a partnership project with the Minnesota Humanities Center.  The website was created several years ago to help citizens of the area now called Minnesota know where they are, and to learn from the Dakota that this place and the river is not a resource, but rather a relative.