Half-Life: Radiocarbon Dating Tehuacán Carbon Samples

Contributed by Emma Cook

In my last blog I discussed soil analysis and its importance in dating and understanding a site. Another form of analysis used in the Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish was a process called radiocarbon dating, a technique developed by University of Chicago physicist Willard Libby. Carbon samples were collected during excavation and sent for carbon dating to be used for the Tehuacán Chronology Project.

There are two techniques for dating in archaeological sites: relative and absolute dating. Relative dating, in a stratigraphic context, is the idea that objects closer to the surface are more recent in time relative to objects found deeper in the ground. This relates to the law of superposition, which in its plainest form, states soil layers in undisturbed sequences will have the oldest materials at the bottom of the sequence and the newest material closer to the surface. Although this form of dating can work well in certain cases, it does not work for all.

Jars of Carbon Samples from various sites in the Tehuacán Valley.
Jars of Carbon Samples from various sites in the Tehuacán Valley.

Many sites include soil layers that have been disturbed and this can happen several ways. Natural disasters, such as floods, can erase top layers of sites. Rodents can move around layers in a site as they burrow underground, sometimes moving items from one context to another. Even current human activity can change the stratigraphy of a site through construction, post holes, and pits.

This takes us to our second dating technique. Absolute dating represents the absolute age of a sample before the present. Examples of objects that can be used to find absolute dates are historical documents and calendars. However, when working in an archaeological site without documents, it is hard to determine an absolute date. If a site has organic material present, radiocarbon dating can be used to determine an absolute date. Radiocarbon dating is a universal dating technique that is used around the world and can be used to date materials ranging from about 400 to 50,000 years old. Radiocarbon dating may even work on very recent materials.

Part of this carbon sample sent to Isotopes lab for radiocarbon dating.
Part of this carbon sample sent to Isotopes lab for radiocarbon dating.

Organisms such as plants and animals all contain radiocarbon (14C). When these organisms die, they stop exchanging carbon with the environment. When this occurs, they begin to lose amounts of 14C overtime through a process called radioactive decay. The half-life of 14C is about 5,730 years. Radiocarbon dating measures the amount of stable and unstable carbon in a sample to determine its absolute date. As a result, the older the organic material, the less 14C it has relative to stable versions of the isotope.

The carbon samples recovered from the Tehuacán Valley were collected specifically with this in mind. Many of these samples had labels or notes stating that some of each sample was sent to labs for radiocarbon testing. The carbon samples are organic material and their properties of radiocarbon were used to determine the age of the material, which in turn, helped date each site.

Map of the Tehuacán Valley and some of the sites the carbon samples came from.
Map of the Tehuacán Valley and some of the sites the carbon samples came from.

The following sites are represented in some of the jars of carbon samples I catalogued from the Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project.

Site Number                        Site Name                     Radiocarbon years

Tc 35                                         El Riego                                 6800 to 5000 B.C.

Tc 50                                         Coxcatlan Cave                  5000 to 3400 B.C.

Tc 307                                      Abejas                                     3400 to 2300 B.C.

Tc 272                                      Purron Cave                          2300 to 1500 B.C.

Ts 204                                     Ajalpan                                     1500 to 800 B.C.

These results were published in Volume Four of MacNeish’s Prehistory of the Tehuacan Valley: Chronology and Irrigation and can be found on Page 5. MacNeish and Tehuacán Chronology Project director, Frederick Johnson, selected carbon samples to be sent for testing, which resulted in the determination of 218 radiocarbon dates. Johnson played a prominent role in radiocarbon dating, serving as the chair of the Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14 set up by the American Anthropological Association. This project not only produced a chronology for the Tehuacán sequence of excavated sites, but later contributed (along with 400 additional radiocarbon dates) to the chronology for all of Mesoamerica. The dates, however, were made within the first two decades of radiocarbon dating and lack the accuracy and precision now available with newer techniques, especially with the older dates.

To read more about the Tehuacán Archaeological-Botanical Project and the Tehuacán Chronology Project visit Internet Archive.

Further Reading

Libby, Willard F. Radiocarbon Dating, 2nd ed., University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1955. Print.

MacNeish, Richard S. et al., The Prehistory of the Tehuacan Valley: Chronology and Irrigation. Vol. 4. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX, 1972. Print.

Stromberg, Joseph. “A New Leap Forward for Radiocarbon Dating.” Smithsonian.com, October 18, 2012. Web. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/a-new-leap-forward-for-radiocarbon-dating-81047335/

Taylor, R.E. and Ofer Bar-Yosef. Radiocarbon Dating: An Archaeological Perspective. 2nd ed., Routledge, New York, NY, 2016. Print.

Transcribing the Collection

Contributed by Marla Taylor

The Peabody Institute has been working for some time now to establish full physical and intellectual control over our collection. You can read about our progress here, here, here, and here.

But, physically inventorying the collection is only half the project. The Peabody also needs to document and account for all the artifacts that came into, and left, the collection over the years. Currently, about 56,000 catalog records are present in our database, PastPerfect, versus the nearly 120,000 unique catalog numbers that have been assigned over the years. Original cataloging records at the Institute are largely on paper in two formats – ledger books that document the first phase of collections and individual catalog cards that were in use through the 1980s. Often, a single line of handwritten text or a 3×5 index card contains all the documented information for a specific artifact. That data is invaluable for making objects relevant and accessible to researchers, faculty, students, and in our ongoing repatriation work with Native American tribes.

example accession ledger page
A page from one of the accession ledgers

Recently, I presented this problem to the Board of the Abbot Academy Fund as part of their biannual grant cycle. Focusing on the need to transcribe the hand-written ledger books – 78,094 individual line entries in 14 ledger books. I am thrilled to report that the Abbot Academy Fund has chosen to support our Transcribing the Collection initiative!

The grant funds a temporary project transcriptionist who will type each line of the original accession ledgers from early twentieth century cursive into an Excel document. The project will be complete in the fall of 2019.

Once all this information is recorded, the Peabody will collaborate with PastPerfect to migrate the data into our database. The ultimate goal is to make the collection more accessible to staff, researchers, students and tribes.

I will keep you updated!

The Transcribing the Collection project is made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Fund, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

Weaving through the collection

Have you explored the Peabody collection online lately?  If not, you should!

Nearly 375 baskets in our collection have recently been added to the online catalog.  Explore baskets from many regions of the country – southwest, California, northwest, and New England.  The baskets are cataloged by shape – Jar/bottle form, Tray form, Bowl form, Burden/gathering basket, Cap/hat, and Container.

We are proud to house baskets made by Molly Neptune Parker, Jeremy Frey, and Clara Darden.  Our collection also contains several rare baskets like these Salinin and Yuki examples from Central California.

Check it out and weave your way through the collection!

The William Duncan Strong Collection

This blog represents the twelfth entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Institute through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled for the Peabody 25 tag!

The Peabody Institute holds many collections from across North America. In the early 20th century, institutions often traded objects with one another in order to expand holdings and develop more diverse collections. One of the collections the Peabody received in trade is the William Duncan Strong collection, which consists of objects from Labrador. Strong was a prolific archaeologist and anthropologist who was known for his direct historical approach to studying Indigenous cultures of North and South America.

William Duncan Strong was born in Portland, Oregon in 1899. He attended the University of California at Berkeley where he initially studied zoology before switching his focus to Anthropology. While at Berkeley, he studied under Alfred L. Kroeber, a well-known American anthropologist who Strong considered a mentor and friend. Strong received his Ph. D. in 1926. His dissertation, titled “An Analysis of Southwestern Society,” was subsequently published in American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. Throughout his career, Strong conducted ethnographic and archaeological studies throughout southern California, Nebraska, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains, Peru, and Labrador.

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William Duncan Strong. Photo Source: Alchetron.com/william-duncan-strong

The Labrador collection is one of the largest collections housed at the Peabody. It was given to the Peabody by the Field Museum in Chicago in exchange for materials from Pecos Pueblo. The Labrador collection contains many interesting artifacts from the Arctic region. Strong assembled the collection as part of a 1927-28 expedition to the Arctic led by Commander Donald B. MacMillan. MacMillan was known for his arctic cruises, which often included a variety of scientists and observers. Most of Strong’s time was spent in ethnographic research with the Montagnais-Naskapi, but he also found time to excavate several Inuit villages—this is where the Peabody collection originated.

One of the artifacts that I found the most intriguing was what looked like a boat carved out of stone. I asked about what this object was since I had never come across anything like it.  I thought perhaps it was some kind of kettle but I was informed that it was actually a lamp called a Kudlik.

Lamp
One of the Kudliks present in our collection.

These lamps were typically used by people in the Arctic to light and heat their dwellings, to melt snow, and to cook. They were usually made out of soapstone, which was carved into a dish-like object with a shallow perforation in the center. This is where the wick, which was fashioned from cottongrass or moss, would be placed. The surrounding dish was then most commonly filled with seal blubber, although whale blubber was also used in whaling communities. The wick would soak in blubber, which would then allow it to remain lit and provide people with light.

paleoeskimo lamp burning
A picture of a Kudlik in use. Photo Credit: elfshotgallery.blogspot.com

It is always very interesting to see how people in the past used various objects from their environment to create tools that we still use to this day!

Oral history project

Ted Stoddard and Irene Gates at the SAA Annual Meeting, April 2018

The Peabody oral history project began last year, a little by chance. I recognized the name of a family friend, retired Brandeis Anthropology professor Robert (Bob) Hunt, in some of our archival records from the Scotty MacNeish era. Peabody director Ryan Wheeler suggested I reach out to Bob and ask about his memories of MacNeish. I did, and Bob eventually came up from Cambridge to carry out the oral history in April 2017. Curator of collections Marla Taylor and I had an hour-long conversation with him, which was recorded and transcribed and is now part of our archives (and available for anyone who is interested). As it turns out, Bob and his first wife Eva Hunt met MacNeish in Mexico in the 1960s – they were doing archival research in Mexico City, and fieldwork among the Cuicatec, a small Mexican-Indian group located between the Tehuacán Valley and the Valley of Oaxaca. They crossed paths with MacNeish and his crew in the city of Tehuacán and became friends. Eva also wrote a chapter on irrigation for Volume Four of the Tehuacán publications.

Marla Taylor, Bob Hunt and Irene Gates at the time of his oral history, April 2017
Marla Taylor, Bob Hunt and Irene Gates at the Peabody, April 2017

It was fascinating to hear about MacNeish from someone who had known him personally and who could describe and contextualize his personality, fieldwork and scholarship. I had just spent several months processing MacNeish’s papers and welcomed the opportunity to learn something new about this person who was very familiar to me, but in a two-dimensional, removed in time sort of way. Now that I have done several oral histories, I recognize this wondrous quality while conducting them of time being suspended, of the past and present merging, as individuals and situations are evoked and memories are transmitted anew. As an archivist who usually works with static records, experiencing the living, human dimension of archives through these conversations has been very meaningful.

After the interview with Bob Hunt, Ryan suggested a few other people with whom he thought it would be great to do oral histories. Anticipating that some of them would be at the Society for American Archaeology conference in Washington, D.C. in April, Ryan proposed I attend too. I then arranged ahead of time to meet and carry out the interviews with Ted Stoddard, associated with the Peabody in the late 1940s-early 1950s, and with Dick Drennan, a curator at the Peabody in the 1970s. Their stories were wonderful to listen to: Ted described carrying out fieldwork in Maine for the Peabody as an undergraduate and then graduate student at Harvard, his memories of the Peabody director and curator team Doug Byers and Fred Johnson, and how he went on to pursue a career outside of archaeology. Dick talked about carrying out fieldwork in Mexico, teaching the archaeology class to Phillips Academy students and carrying out excavations at the Andover town dump, other memories of the Peabody at the time, and how the position fit into his overall career. I am still finalizing those transcripts but they will soon be available for anyone interested to consult.

Ted Stoddard and Irene Gates at the SAA Annual Meeting, April 2018
Ted Stoddard and Irene Gates at the SAA Annual Meeting, April 2018

I hope the oral history project will continue over the years to come!

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the institute’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.eduor 978 749 4493.

The Peabody goes to the Annual SAA Meeting!

Last week, members of the Peabody staff made their way down to Washington D. C. to attend the 83rd annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology! This society is the largest organization for archaeologists who conduct work in North and South America. It was founded in 1934 and had its very first meeting at Phillips Academy in December 1935. Today, the SAA is comprised of over 7000 members. The annual meeting of the SAA lasts for four days. Archaeologists from all over the Americas get together to present papers and posters pertaining to their research, conduct symposiums related to current issues in and directions for the field of archaeology, and many institutions and vendors rent space in the book room to promote their organizations.

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Dr. Wheeler and Rachel behind the Peabody’s table.

 

This was my primary task at the SAA meeting this year. The Robert S. Peabody Institute had a table in the exhibition hall manned by Peabody staff members. This is a great way for other conference attendees to stop by and talk to us about what is going on at the Institute, find out whether or not we have collections that researchers are interested in, and learn more about our online collections, Cordell Scholarship award and the Journal of Archaeology & Education. There was also an order form for anyone who interested in purchasing our new book, Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. All in all, working the table was a great experience. It was awesome getting to talk to fellow archaeologists who might not have ever crossed my path if not for the Peabody table.

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Dr. Wheeler and his former advisor Dr. Barbara Purdy

 

In addition to the educational and networking benefits that come along with attending conferences, the SAA is also a great place to get to see former colleagues and friends who have gone their own ways. I had the chance to see so many people that I never get to see anymore because in the world of archaeology, people can work with you one year and then go work halfway across the world the next! People I know came from St. Louis, Albany, New York City, Virginia, New Mexico and even Hawaii! I saw colleagues from my very early days as an archaeologist in New York, as well as friends that I had made working on projects all the way down in Virginia. It was very enjoyable to have my multiple spheres of friends finally collide in one space.

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Dr. Ryan Wheeler with Ted Stoddard, whose collections are housed at the Peabody!

Because the conference was in Washington, D.C., it also provided the opportunity to see museums in the area. The main museum I had wanted to see was the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Unfortunately, everyone else in the city wants to go there too, and even though we tried to grab tickets at 6:30 AM, there were none to be had. I walked the mall with some friends anyway. The weather was gorgeous, passing 80 degrees! The cherry blossoms and sun were out and it was a great day to walk around outside and see the various monuments (which look much better in the sun and heat than they did the last time I was in D.C. in January 2016 with clouds and rain).

blossoms
Check out those cherry blossoms blooming!

I finally made my way to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I’ve somehow never been to this one before, and I’m very glad that I went. The museum had numerous exhibits, including precious gems and rock formations, dinosaurs, a human origins exhibit, an osteology exhibit and even an exhibit showcasing mummies from Egypt. The collection of faunal skeletons in the Osteology Hall was particularly fascinating. It’s amazing to see how similar many creatures are when they are stripped down to just bone.

diamond
The Hope Diamond housed at the National Museum of Natural History.

The four days spent in D.C. for the SAA were amazing and I hope a good time was had by all who attended. It was a nice break from the daily routines I have here at the Peabody!

The Inventory Specialist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the institute’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.edu or 978 749 4493.

Women of the Peabody

Malinda Stafford Blustain in New Mexico, circa 2002

March is Women’s History Month, so it seemed like the perfect time to write about some of the women who have worked at or been associated with the Peabody. I have been struck during my work here by how male dominated the Peabody was for most of the twentieth century – there is a noticeable absence of women in the archives. Almost all Peabody director and curator positions were held by men, with the exception of Jane C. Wheeler, curator in the late 1970s. In the 1990s, this began to shift, with women beginning to occupy more leadership and professional posts (staff size also grew and new roles developed); eventually Malinda Stafford Blustain would become the Peabody’s first female director in 2001. This shift reflects broader trends in museum staff demographics – today, 60% of museum staff members are female, though leadership positions continue to be dominated by men (see the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey, which also highlights the underrepresentation of people of color among museum staff).

Most of the women who worked at the Peabody before the 1990s were administrative assistants. There are traces of them in our archives and in the Phillips Academy handbooks: their names, titles, salaries, and occasionally correspondence or internal documents that they wrote. Theodora George, who received a bachelors’ degree in archaeology from Columbia University, worked at the Peabody from 1968 to 1980 – she is the only administrative assistant for whom I’ve found an obituary, which includes her photograph. I also discovered that her father was of Syrian descent and owned a grocery store in Lawrence for a time. She is acknowledged with helping catalog museum collections and editing the Tehuacán publications. Other administrative assistant names I’ve come across are Florence Cummings, Gladys Dill Salta (later Gladys Jump), Ethel Cohen, Evelyn Willett Drew, Marie Indurre, Marjory McC. Stevens, Ashley Baker, Carole A. Walker, and Elizabeth Steinert.

Two early women pioneers of archaeology and anthropology were briefly associated with the Peabody. Margaret E. Ashley Towle (1902-1985) and Adelaide Kendall Bullen (1908-1987) are both notable for pursuing these interests in a time when those fields (like museums) were very much male dominated. Presumably, their socio-economic status also gave them a certain measure of freedom in doing so. Margaret E. Ashley Ph.D., is listed as the Research Associate in Southeastern Archaeology at the Peabody in 1929 and in 1930 (she actually received her PhD later in her career). Her association with the Peabody came because of Warren Moorehead’s Etowah, Georgia excavations; Emory University asked her to serve as a representative on the dig because some of the collections were destined to come to them. Ashley subsequently came to Andover to further study the ceramics. Her ceramic analysis forms part of the official site publication, the Etowah Papers. Ashley went on to work extensively in South American paleobotany, with a long association at Harvard’s Botanical Museum. To learn more about her, see pages 25-41 in Grit-Tempered, Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States (1999).

Adelaide and Ripley Bullen and their sons, visiting Aztec ruins in New Mexico, 1941
Adelaide and Ripley Bullen and their sons, visiting Aztec ruins in New Mexico, 1941

Adelaide Kendall Bullen came into the Peabody’s orbit through her husband, Ripley Bullen. Ripley worked as a student assistant at the Peabody while pursuing graduate studies at Harvard in anthropology. Meanwhile Adelaide began undergraduate studies at Radcliffe College in her early thirties, and after receiving her A.B., also pursued graduate studies in anthropology at Harvard. Together they began working on excavations, including the Lucy Foster site, the nineteenth century Andover home site of an emancipated African American woman. They also lived on campus and both of their sons graduated from Phillips Academy: Dana Ripley Bullen II (Class of 1949) and Pierce Kendall Bullen (Class of 1952). In the Peabody’s annual reports from that time, Ripley’s excavation projects in the area are briefly mentioned, but Adelaide’s involvement with them is not acknowledged. She is only mentioned in 1942 as helping select and arrange “material on the Navaho and Iroquois Indians” for an exhibit at the Andover Public Library. After leaving Massachusetts in 1948 Adelaide and Ripley expanded their work to involve avocational archaeologists in Florida and the Caribbean and continued to publish extensively; they maintained connections with their Peabody colleagues and Ripley was an earlier adopter of radiocarbon dating. To learn more about Adelaide, see pages 148-162 in Grit-Tempered, Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States (1999).

A number of women participated in Peabody-sponsored surveys and excavations, sometimes contributing to the project publication as well. These women include Elsie Clews Parsons, Anna O. Shepard and Madeleine Appleton Kidder at the Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico excavations directed by Alfred V. Kidder, 1915-1929; Lucy Raup in the Yukon surveys, co-directed by Fred Johnson and Hugh Raup, of 1944 and 1948; Eva Hunt and Antoinette Nelken-Terner at the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico, excavations directed by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, 1960-1965; and Antoinette Nelken-Terner again in the Ayacucho, Peru, excavations directed by MacNeish, 1969-1975. There may be many that I have missed – if so please name them in the comments below.

Lucy and Hugh Raup on the southeast slope of Big Arm, Kluane Lake, Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition 1944. Photograph by J.H.H. Sticht.
Lucy and Hugh Raup on the southeast slope of Big Arm, Kluane Lake, Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition 1944. Photograph by J.H.H. Sticht.

Ed Sisson, Antoinette Nelken-Terner and Scotty MacNeish
Ed Sisson, Antoinette Nelken-Terner and Scotty MacNeish at Penefiel near El Riego Cave, February 5, 1973. Photograph taken by Ray Potvin.

The first woman to hold a permanent professional position at the Peabody above the administrative assistant level was Curator Jane C. Wheeler, PhD (1977-1982). (Mary Ellen Conaway worked on new exhibits at the Peabody, 1970-1974, but is not listed among permanent staff.) During her time at the Peabody, Wheeler conducted research in Peru and Bolivia, published extensively, and taught courses to Phillips Academy students as well as conducting a field school at the Andover Town Dump.

One hundred years after the Peabody’s founding, Malinda Stafford Blustain became its first female director. She began here as the Collections Manager (1992-1997), then became Curator (1997-2001), Interim Director (2001-2004) and Director (2004-2012). Blustain helped raise support for the museum and oversaw it through a crisis period in the early 2000s. She refocused efforts on integrating the museum into Phillips Academy’s curriculum, developing collections management programs, and ensuring NAGPRA compliance. These priorities continue to guide the Peabody’s work today.

Malinda Stafford Blustain in New Mexico, circa 2002
Malinda Stafford Blustain in New Mexico, circa 2002

Other women in the 1990s, such as Leah Rosenmeier, contributed significantly to the Peabody – this post thanks all of these women and pays tribute to their work here.

Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology: Behind the Book

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

When I joined the staff of the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology in July 2012 there was major project underway. At the 2011 annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, then Peabody director Malinda Stafford Blustain had organized a symposium on the history of our venerable institution. Presentations were made by archaeologists, as well as Phillips Academy faculty members, administrators, and alumni, and covered everything from the scientific contributions and the ups and downs of the Peabody to personal recollections. The major theme of that symposium was conveyed in its title, “Rising from the Ashes: Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology.” In 2002 financial issues and lack of connections with our parent institution, Phillips Academy, came to a head and resulted in a potential shuttering of the Peabody. That didn’t happen, and the 2011 SAA symposium was a celebration and reflection on what can be described as a very unusual place: an archaeology museum situated at a storied New England prep school.

Image of Participants in the 2011 symposium "Rising from the Ashes" at the 2011 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting.
Participants in the 2011 symposium “Rising from the Ashes” at the 2011 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting, Sacramento, California.

Malinda had done the Herculean task of procuring drafts of each symposium presentation and recruited Jane Libby, close friend and colleague of former Peabody director Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, to help with editing. The plan was to edit, design, and print the volume in-house. Linda S. Cordell, Peabody Advisory Committee member and contributor to the volume, had insisted on peer review; reviewers had been identified and were submitting notes to Blustain and Libby. When I joined the team it became clear that there were several challenges. Some of the contributions needed lots of editing, some were very long, there were over 100 photographs planned for inclusion, and, most notably, we possessed no means to warehouse, market, or fulfil orders. In September 2012 Linda Cordell and I discussed the project and I also spoke with Lynn Baca, then editor at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe and John Strand, editor for the American Alliance of Museums. We all agreed that the project had lots of merit, but that there were any number of obstacles to overcome. Institutional histories can be tricky to publish, as they often have a limited audience. Our lack of distribution and fulfillment created problems, as did questions of storage. As a part of Phillips Academy, we have no way to set up a bank account or receive payments. It was clear that we needed a publishing partner and that we needed to do some serious editing.

Image of Peabody books on a shelf.
Peabody publications from the 1920s through the 1970s.

Our own history provided a clue. In the 1920s Alfred V. Kidder established a relationship with the Yale University Press. Yale published Kidder’s An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology in 1924 (and it has remained in print since that time). Other volumes in Kidder’s Southwest project also were published by Yale, including studies of Pecos Pueblo artifacts, pottery, and volumes prepared by Carl Guthe, Elsie Clews Parsons, and Earnest Hooten. Warren Moorehead used the Yale press connection to bring out his volumes on Etowah and sites in Arkansas and neighboring areas. Some of these Yale titles are still in print, while others are hard to find, even on Internet book searches. The “blue book” series, developed in the 1930s by the Peabody’s Doug Byers and Frederick Johnson, suffered from many of the same problems that we were facing with the new volume: lack of distribution, marketing, and fulfillment logistics. Despite producing some significant work, most of the printed “blue books” are still stored here in the Peabody attic. We’ve had the bulk of this series digitized and made available via InternetArchive. Scotty MacNeish avoided these issues by partnering with academic presses at the University of Texas and the University of Michigan, which brought out his five-volume Tehuacan and three-volume Ayacucho studies in the 1960s through 1980s. This was clearly the solution!

Image of metal shelves holding blue paper-covered books.
Copies of Peabody “blue books,” so-called because of their blue paper covers, still housed in the attic. Many institutions had similar publication series–and similar challenges.

By the end of 2012 I hired writer and editor Sharon Magnuson to help work on the project. She continued to work on editing through the end of 2016. We were able to return substantive review comments to authors, along with copy-edited versions created by Sharon. In 2013 I had conversation with the kind folks at Harvard’s Peabody Museum Press, who were publishing David L. Browman and Stephen Williams fabulous Anthropology at Harvard: A Biographical History, 1790-1940. There were some discussions about publishing our volume as a companion piece and I prepared a prospectus. Time and other commitments didn’t allow that relationship to go forward, but conversations with Harvard’s Joan O’Donnell helped me think through some of the challenges. One idea that Sharon Magnuson and I tackled was to make some of the personal reflection chapters into much shorter essays or sidebars. This helped focus these pieces, and significantly shortened our page and image count. Sharon’s great editorial eye also helped identity a few other issues, including one massive bibliography that had one chapter tipping the scales at over 80 pages! We put it on a diet.

By September 2015 I felt that the book was in pretty good shape and I was on the hunt for a publisher. Early efforts were a bit discouraging and I was prepared to revisit in-house publishing. Marshall Cloyd, Phillips Academy Class of 1958 and long-time member of the Peabody Advisory Committee gave me a pep talk and encouraged me to keep trying. Archaeologist David Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History was kind enough to help me brainstorm ideas about presses that might be interested. It was clear that we needed an academic press that was publishing histories of archaeology and anthropology. I ultimately sent out at least twenty inquiries. I got a lot of rejections! I did, however, have interest from presses at the University of New Mexico and the University of Nebraska. Editor Matthew Bokovoy at Nebraska thought the book might fit nicely in their Critical Histories of Anthropology series. I supplied the manuscript and waited for reviewer comments and a decision from Matt and series editors Regna Darnell and Stephen Murray.

On July 5, 2016 we had two sets of review comments and positive feedback from the press. I prepared a response to reader’s comments, which was due August 1, 2016. The folks at Nebraska got it—we had an interesting story to tell, one that was often central to the history of American archaeology, but one that also was little known. It was summer 2016 and it was clear that we still had a lot of work to do. The editors and the twenty contributors alike had lots of constructive comments to address. We needed to cut back on the figures—we agreed that fifty-five was the right number—and we needed to find a way to reintegrate those sidebars that we had created into the regular chapter structure. By September 2016 we had an agreement with Nebraska and were working away on a final draft, which we submitted in January 2017.

Despite the joy surrounding the completion of the manuscript, we must remember the people that we lost during this journey. Linda S. Cordell (1943-2013), who wrote about Alfred Kidder’s contributions at Pecos Pueblo and pushed for a peer-reviewed volume, died March 29, 2013. Gene Winter (1927-2014), long-time Peabody volunteer and honorary curator, passed on February 24, 2014. Gene brought his tremendous knowledge of New England archaeology and institutional history to the volume and I am so grateful that I was able to sit with him and work on revisions to his co-authored chapter. Most recently the world of archaeology lost another bright light in Brian Robinson (1953-2016). Brian passed on October 27, 2016. He and I had had many discussions about Maine archaeology and our decision to affiliate and repatriate funerary objects from the Nevin site to the Wabanaki tribes. The last conversation we had was about his chapter and some final notes from the copyeditor. Linda, Gene, and Brian were kind, generous, and knowledgeable people who made time for the Robert S. Peabody Museum, shared our values and vision, and helped to make us better. You will be missed.

Over the course of 2017 we got to know many people at the University of Nebraska Press. We worked closely with copyeditor Sally Antrobus, as well as production editor Joeth Zucco, who both brought a lot to the volume. Heather Stauffer answered lots of questions and helped keep us on track. I was happy for the opportunity to meet editor Matthew Bokovoy in early December 2017 at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington DC and share just how professional, encouraging, and kind he and his entire staff had been during the publication process.

Image of galley proofs showing mark up.
Pages from the galley proofs were marked up and returned to the press–this was the last time we saw the book before publication! These pages are from Mary Eubanks’ chapter on Scotty MacNeish and the search for the origins of corn domestication.

Marla Taylor, Peabody curator of collections, Irene Gates, archivist, and Lesley Shahbazian, staff assistant, all contributed to the volume, helping to find, re-find, and re-re-find photographs, providing proper citations for archival materials, and helping to obtain permissions. Their help is greatly appreciated!

One final person deserves a special mention. Dr. Peter Hetzler, Phillips Academy Class of 1972, and member of the Academy’s Board of Trustees and the Peabody Advisory Committee, provided much-needed support for publication of the volume. Archaeologist Jimmy Griffin once used the term “archaeological angel.” I can think of no better way to describe Peter!

Books in cardboard shipping box.
Copies of Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology arrived in early March 2018!

Copies of the published book arrived at my office on March 5, 2018. It’s a beautiful book with some amazing stories. Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology is a testament to what people did here, from Alfred V. Kidder and Warren K. Moorehead to today’s museum professionals, educators, and students. If you’d like a copy they are available directly from the University of Nebraska Press and on Amazon!

 

 

 

 

Cataloging photographs in our database, and the Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs

L-25-5. Collecting Primulas on muskeg between beaches west of Mile 1020-21. Near Pine Creek Camp. Alaska Highway. 6/23/44.

Contributed by Irene Gates

Since November, I’ve been focused on better organizing and rehousing the Peabody’s photographic collections (a rough extent estimate: 10,000 prints, 35,000 slides, 230 rolls of film, 500 glass plate negatives and 1,500 lantern slides). These consist of excavation, ethnographic and museum object photographs. Some were created during the course of the Peabody’s activities; others were donated to the museum. There are some wonderful images here, many unknown to Peabody staff members even. In keeping with the archives project’s mission to make the Peabody’s archival collections more accessible, contract librarian Mary Beth Clack has begun cataloging photographs in our Past Perfect collections management database. For many photographs, some type of bibliographic record such as a catalog card or an index already exists, so adding a record to the database is a question of transcribing and consistently formatting existing information. Work duty students and I have been scanning photographs so that a digital image can then be attached to the catalog records, which are then easily published online via our Past Perfect web portal. In addition to the benefits of making these publically available, cataloging them in the database makes them infinitely more findable for staff members.

L-28-28. Fairbanks, Alaska. Snapshots of Chena Slough, streets and houses. 7/30/44
L-28-28. Fairbanks, Alaska. Snapshots of Chena Slough, streets and houses. 7/30/44

Mary Beth is currently working on the 1944 and 1948 Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition print photographs. These approximately 1,500 images document the archaeological and geobotanical expeditions carried out jointly by the Peabody and Harvard University (and funded by additional sources, including the Wenner-Gren Foundation) in parts of the Shakwak and Dezadeash Valleys, in southwestern Yukon. The photographs, taken by Fred Johnson, Hugh Miller Raup and John H.H. Sticht, are mounted on stiff paper, typically two to a page, with typewritten captions below each image. Many of them, in addition to being important documentation of the expeditions, are very beautiful. Included here a few examples. The first batch of records have just been published online, and more will be added soon: please browse them here.

Example of an Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs page, with images from 1944.
Example of an Andover-Harvard Yukon Expedition photographs page, with images from 1944.

L-25-5. Collecting Primulas on muskeg between beaches west of Mile 1020-21. Near Pine Creek Camp. Alaska Highway. 6/23/44.
L-25-5. Collecting Primulas on muskeg between beaches west of Mile 1020-21. Near Pine Creek Camp. Alaska Highway. 6/23/44.

For more information about the Yukon project, see its publication: Investigation in Southwest Yukon, by Fred Johnson, Hugh Raup and Richard MacNeish, 1964

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the institute’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.eduor 978 749 4493.

Radiocarbon Dates Association, Inc.

Drawers of punch cards

This blog represents the eleventh entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Institute through objects in our collection.  A new post will be out with each newsletter, so keep your eyes peeled for the Peabody 25 tag!

One of the more unusual collections I came across during my survey of the Peabody’s archives last year was a group of notched 5×8-inch cards containing radiocarbon dating information. It took me a while to figure out what these cards were, and as it turns out, both the format and the content have interesting back stories. These “punch cards,” widely used as a form of data storage in the late nineteenth to twentieth century, represent an endeavor to create a data set of known radiocarbon dates from sites around the world and share it with researchers.

Dr. Willard Frank Libby, a chemist who studied radioactivity and worked on the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, invented radiocarbon dating in the 1940s. He recognized its potential for fields such as archaeology and geology (and received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for these efforts). His research quickly came to the attention of Doug Byers and Fred Johnson at the Peabody, who were already using scientific dating techniques such as pollen analysis and dendrochronology. When the American Anthropological Association formed the Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14 in 1948, to liaise between the archaeological community and Libby and provide him with archaeological samples on which to test his method, Johnson was appointed its Chairman.

(See the additional resources below for publications on radiocarbon dating authored or edited by Johnson, who became so involved with this subject that in a 1958 letter he wrote, “… now I wish to heaven that I had never heard of radiocarbon”)!

Beginning in 1953, conferences on radiocarbon dating began to be held at the Peabody. In October 1956, the Committee for Distribution of Radiocarbon Dates was established at one such conference. The R.S. Peabody Foundation was listed as the committee’s address. A $1,500 grant by the Wenner-Gren Foundation in 1957 was used to finance a survey sent to 1,500 scientists to gauge interest in radiocarbon dates punch cards. Enough interest was shown that the enterprise moved forward. In 1958, Radiocarbon Dates Association, Inc., was established, with Johnson as President and Byers as Secretary-Treasurer. Subscriptions were purchased by museums and universities across the world.

Committee for Distribution of Radiocarbon Dates informational page
Committee for Distribution of Radiocarbon Dates informational page accompanying survey

Mockup of radiocarbon dates punch cards
Mockup of radiocarbon dates punch cards

The cards were published and sent to subscribers in batches, along with sorting and coding equipment, and index guides. Each card contained information about a sample, such as its geographic location, its material (plant remains, oak, i.e.), where it was processed, its date, a citation if published, and occasionally a narrative description of where it was collected. This information was collected from the approximately forty laboratories carrying out this type of dating. Through the notches on the cards, using the sorter, subscribers could parse out samples having a common trait, like doing a search of records through a computer database with a particular term.

Punch cards were inspired by notched papers designed in the eighteenth century for looms, to help automate patterns in weaving.  By the late nineteenth century, the idea had been adapted to other uses. Herman Hollerith, working at the United States Census Bureau, applied his Electric Tabulating System invention to census data processing. This game-changing system led to the formation of IBM, and punch cards dominated data processing for most of the twentieth century, and were used with early computers until about a generation ago.

After the launch of Radiocarbon Dates Association, Inc., in the late 1950s, the production and distribution of the cards are not mentioned as much in the Peabody’s Annual Reports (my main source of information for this post!). A 1973 letter shows that the name had been shortened to Radiocarbon Dates, and that the main address had been moved to Braintree, MA, c/o John Ramsden. That is the last trace of the project that I’ve found here, besides the cards themselves. Fred Johnson donated his radiocarbon dating-related papers to the University of California, Los Angeles, where Willard Libby taught for a substantial amount of his career (and which hold his papers as well). More information about the project exists in those records, which were used by Keith Baich in his 2010 Portland State University master’s thesis, American Scientists, Americanist Archaeology: The Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14, which heavily features Fred Johnson.

Additional resources:

Finding aid for the Frederick Johnson Papers at UCLA: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt296nc30m/entire_text/

Finding aid for the Willard F. Libby Papers at UCLA: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt9j49q5hh/admin/#ref7

Baich, Keith David, “American Scientists, Americanist Archaeology: The Committee on Radioactive Carbon 14” (2010). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 168.
http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/open_access_etds/168

Johnson, Frederick, et al. “Radiocarbon Dating: A Report on the Program to Aid in the Development of the Method of Dating.” Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, no. 8, 1951, pp. 1–65. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25146610.

Johnson, Frederick. “Radiocarbon Dating and Archeology in North America.” Science, vol. 155, no. 3759, 1967, pp. 165–169. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1721124.

The Temporary Archivist position is supported by a generous grant from the Oak River Foundation of Peoria, Ill. to improve the intellectual and physical control of the museum’s collections. We hope this gift will inspire others to support our work to better catalog, document, and make accessible the Peabody’s world-class collections of objects, photographs, and archival materials. If you would like information on how you can help please contact Peabody director Ryan Wheeler at rwheeler@andover.edu or 978 749 4493.