The Robert E. Funk Memorial Archaeology Foundation, Inc. provides grants of up $2,500.00 for archaeological research conducted using New York State sites and artifact collections.  The grants are awarded through a competitive review process. 

The grants generally are for analyses of archaeological collections or non-obtrusive data recording, and do not fund excavation, surface collection, purchases of field equipment, or artifact catalog and data entry projects.  Recent grants have been made for problem-oriented studies such as isotopic analyses involving faunal remains, radiocarbon dating, projectile point analysis, debitage analysis, and petrographic analysis.  The grants support both stand-alone research and specialist studies that are parts of larger projects. 

The Funk Foundation has provided the following announcement of a Fall 2019 grant proposal and review schedule:

Robert E. Funk Memorial Archaeology Foundation, Inc.
Fall 2019 Solicitation for 2019-2020 Grant Cycle

The Robert E. Funk Memorial Archaeology Foundation, Inc. is soliciting grant applications for the fall of 2019, as part of the 2019-2020 grant cycle.  The Funk Foundation is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to supporting archaeological research by student, avocational, and professional archaeologists. Research grants are available for studies of New York State archaeology.  Funds are awarded to support archaeological research projects that compile and present new data or test previous conclusions with the expectation of new findings or insights. The Foundation’s Board of Directors accepts, and reviews grant applications from students, avocational archaeologists, and professional archaeologists. Grant awardees are required to submit a draft final report on their research project within one year of award.

The Fall 2019-20 grant application deadline is September 30, 2019; applications must be electronically submitted on or before this date. Awardees will be informed of the Board’s decision by October 30, 2019.  Application guidelines and information are available on-line at:  or by email request to the Foundation board President Ed Curtin, at:

In Memory of James Tuck, Who Helped Shape Contemporary Archaeology in New York State and the Canadian Maritime Region

Dr. James A. Tuck

Dr. James A. Tuck

The world recently lost James A. Tuck, an archaeologist who was born in Buffalo, New York, received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Syracuse University, and taught at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada.  Tuck is best known in New York State for his work on prehistoric Onondaga Indian archaeology in which he outlined a sequence of village movements and cultural changes that provided the first comprehensive model of the development of Iroquois culture within an Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) tribal homeland.  This was published in Tuck’s 1970 book Onondaga Iroquois Prehistory:  a Study in Settlement Archaeology.  The significance of this research for New York State archaeology cannot be understated.  Beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the 1960s, archaeologists grappled with the notion that Iroquois culture had developed locally in and around the tribal homelands occupied during the 17th century.  This idea, referred to as the in-situ hypothesis, was replacing the older theory that the Iroquois had migrated into New York from the south, perhaps from the Mississippi Valley, and possibly not long before the European entrance into these homelands.  Tuck’s research was not performed in an intellectual vacuum; for example, he incorporated Donald  Lenig’s concept of the “Oak Hill Horizon” bridging the previously presumed period of cultural hiatus and Iroquois migration.  But testing the in-situ hypothesis required large amounts of data from a single area.  You can think of Tuck’s book, replete with excavation data, ceramic seriation, and radiocarbon dating, as a blow-by-blow account showing long-term continuity (since about 1000 AD) between late prehistoric Iroquoian communities in the Syracuse area and the temporal phases of the preceding Owasco culture. 

Tuck’s research in Canada included studies of the Maritime Archaic culture in Newfoundland and Labrador, around the Strait of Belle Isle and in seminally important excavations of the L’Anse Amour burial mound and the Port au Choix cemetery.  Research by Tuck and his students on the Maritime Archaic provided a long temporal sequence spanning ca. 2000-7000 BC.  Based upon his findings in Newfoundland and Labrador, Tuck published an article in 1977 called “A Look at Laurentian” in which he described how an important Archaic period culture in New York State and surrounding parts of Ontario, Quebec and Vermont had roots in different material culture traditions of the North American interior and Far Northeast coastal region.  Put otherwise, there came a time, ca. 5000-6000 years ago (the beginning of the Laurentian Tradition), when in the great unfolding of indigenous history, populations in the upper St. Lawrence River region began recreating (perhaps initially trading for) some the most highly crafted artifact types of the Maritime Archaic.  These artifact types include ulus, gouges, plummets, and polished slate points and knives.  A broader view of this process would also incorporate coastal areas farther south in New England in a similar but somewhat different pathway through history, although that is not what Tuck focused on.  However, his idea and its implications are intriguing during the current era when the native cultural history of the Northeastern region is being rethought. 

Tuck’s many contributions to Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology are best summarized by others who were closely connected with this work, and there are several informative obituaries available online.   I will simply mention that he also investigated, or supervised student research on prehistoric Indian cultures of more recent periods of Newfoundland-Labrador archaeology, as well as the remarkable 16th century Basque whaling station in Red Bay, Labrador (another important site on the Strait of Belle Isle, and a UNESCO World Heritage site).  Archaeologists in both New York State and the Canadian Maritime region owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to James A. Tuck.  

June 30, 2019, edited Dr. Tuck’s place of birth.

Remembering Ralph S. Solecki, Who Discovered the Shanidar Neanderthals, the Hessian Hat Plate, and Ancient Maspeth

The riders found their seats as they piled into the subway car on a pleasant afternoon in 1985. Getting comfortable (no one had to stand), we were soon off on our return trip from Red Hook, Brooklyn to the EPA Region II offices in Manhattan. At first, I barely noticed one of my fellow passengers sitting a little away from me, but eventually I took in his distinctive

Field Techs and Office Assistant Needed

Curtin Archaeological Consulting, Inc. is seeking one or two field technicians for immediate employment in work on local projects in the Albany-Schenectady-Saratoga-Lake George region during June, 2018.  Some work on a Phase 1 survey is available during the week of June 11.

We also anticipate work that would combine field and office skills full-time or part-time.  Strong computer skills and experience with QGIS are a plus.

Please email resumes to  If you have recently submitted a resume, please email us with your availability.


An Earth Day Note: Comments with an Archaeological Perspective

     On Earth Day in 2017, The March for Science was held by scientists across the country.  I mentioned this in comments I made that very morning at the beginning of my presentation to the annual meeting of the New York State Archaeological Association in Lake George.  My colleagues who were in the streets exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly had my sincere admiration, and I looked at several branches of science in my preamble because of the spirit of the day.  Quite by coincidence, my paper was on the effects that ancient climate change had on archaic American Indian societies in our wonderful corner of the world located between the Atlantic Ocean and Lakes Champlain, Erie, and Ontario.  Much of my emphasis was on sea-level and lake-level rise that occurred as the world warmed following the Ice Age.  These incursions across the shorelines happened fast at first but slowed down over thousands of years.  Also quite by coincidence, 2017 was a bad year for the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines.  A sudden rise in water level caused suffering for more than a few New Yorkers and people downstream in Canada.  The high water actually forced a delicate international situation, since New York State controls outflows from Lake Ontario that were flooding Ontario and Quebec (CBC News 2017).  It is debatable whether the 2017 event is part of normal fluctuation also seen in the 1970s and 1990s, or part of a new normal; that is, a notable event in the current global warming trend.

     When Earth Day started on April 22, 1970, global warming wasn’t on many people’s radar, and the penchant to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” was one of the great, iconic symbols of the threat to the fragile relationship between the human and natural worlds.  In the present-day, the only people who aren’t at least somewhat concerned about global warming actually deny that is happening (and seem odd in comparison).  And there are those who, while acknowledging that global warming is occurring, nonetheless deny that intensively burning fossil fuels for the last 150 years is having an effect on it.  The long view I take of the past puts the current situation into perspective for me, and I am convinced that burning fossil fuels is causal, and in fact, may have quickly brought the world out of a long-term cooling trend.  Moreover, although there have been warming trends in the past, such as the Medieval Warm Period from about AD 800-1300, our human ecosystem may not be as resilient as it was during past periods (including the Medieval Warm Period).

     I want to make three points for consideration of global warming on Earth Day that I glean from the study of archaeology.  The first is that although climate history since the end of the Ice Age has included both warm and cold periods, something different is happening now.  Since about 10,000 years ago the general trend has been global cooling, sometimes interrupted by warming.  For the last 3,000 years, the climate mainly has been cooling.  There is a variety of scientific evidence for this, from variation in pollen that indicates what kinds of trees and other plants were prevalent at different times, to variation in the growth patterns of tree rings, to changes in the accumulation of glacial ice, to changes in the chemical composition of samples recovered from a variety of ancient sources.  When I mentioned fossil fuel burning changing the larger cold trend, I meant specifically that the most recent prolonged cold snap, known as the Little Ice Age chilled the planet for more than 500 years before being replaced by the beginning of the current warm period about 1860.  This climate reversal closely followed a virtual explosion of wide-spread deforestation, charcoal production, and coal-burning that was used to fuel the Industrial Revolution, and iron and steel manufacturing in particular.  The forests you see now across upstate New York were cut down back then, and much of the wood was used to produce charcoal for the expanding iron industry.  Archaeologists working in the now-regrown woods sometimes find the low, flat-topped mounds of charcoal and earth where the charcoal was manufactured.  During the 19th century, coal superseded charcoal.  And then we began burning petroleum for fuel.  The amount of carbon that has been entering the atmosphere (and oceans) in recent decades is rarely paralleled in earth history (going back hundreds of millions of years).  The geological record reveals that these rare surges in atmospheric and oceanic carbon have been associated with mass extinctions (The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert summarizes this quite well).

     The second point I want to make is that archaeology provides insights into what people did during previous periods of global warming, such as the Medieval Warm Period, which preceded the Little Ice Age.  Although in Europe the Medieval Warm Period is associated with agricultural abundance and all the good that can bring, in many parts of the world, including much of North America, the Medieval Warm Period brought extensive and prolonged drought.  This famously affected the Pueblo societies of the American Southwest, and the argument has been made that the great Mississippi Valley society centered at the ancient city of Cahokia was affected severely enough to lead to political instability, collapse, and abandonment.  Even in the usually well-watered Hudson Valley region, increased deforestation appears to have occurred during the Medieval Warm Period, and is correlated with decreased rainfall.  Deforestation may have increased due to the intensity of lightning-set forest fires occurring in unusually dry conditions.  Another perspective on this is that using a diversification strategy for food resources, native people may have started to include uplands more often in agriculture and other subsistence practices, clearing land more broadly, and thus contributing to charcoal accumulations in downstream areas.  Whichever the cause of increased forest burning (which is inferred from alluvial charcoal deposits), evidence of increasing salinity in the lower Hudson appears to be the hallmark of decreased water flow from upstream.  This provides a good basis to infer increased drought while increased forest burning also was going on during the Medieval Warm Period (Pederson et al 2005).  The increasing intensity of storms and associated flooding during this period created another dimension of environmental instability.  There is a growing literature on this subject that I tapped into and cited in an article on a ca. 1200-1300 AD archaeological site in Coxsackie, New York (Curtin 2011).  My opinion has been that people spread out and diversified to cope with environments that were becoming unpredictable or unreliable for floodplain agriculture. 

     The third point I want to make is one that Brian Fagan has made in his lively and very informative book about the Medieval Warm Period, The Great Warming.  Fagan, by the way, has joined the majority of scientists who have weighed in on the current global warming trend.  Like many others, he expressed that the current episode is caused by fossil fuel consumption.  His long-range, retrospective archaeological view informs this position.  His big point is that the world has changed greatly since AD 1300, and the human-environmental system is now too fragile for people to successfully respond as they have in the past.  Foremost among the changes since the Medieval Warm Period are the immense growth of human populations, and the many social and technological changes people have undergone.  The ways that people could respond to the adverse effects of global warming 800 years ago are much less possible now.  For example, societal responses to the droughts of the Medieval Warm Period in part of the American Southwest included becoming smaller (i.e., fissioning into smaller communities), more mobile, and more innovative in the sense of bringing hunted and gathered foods more into the food economy (Nelson et al 2006).  My sense is that this happened in the Hudson Valley as well after agricultural communities began to form during the initial warming.  The small, mobile, diverse strategy was possible in these areas because there were large, comparatively unoccupied territories where human subsistence had not greatly pressured needed natural resources.  People could move into these kinds of places then.  This kind of response is much less possible in today’s world and virtually unimaginable in the United States, where all land is owned either by private owners or government agencies that have land management policies, and often have contracts with mining, timber, and ranching corporations that would conflict with waves of squatters and homesteaders trying to live off the land (Sorry, I have inserted this image into my summary of Fagan in a quick but true nod to post-apocalyptic speculation).  Fagan make several essential points:  (1) the human world is much larger and more complex than the last time it experienced global warming; (2) its interconnections are much longer, more dense, and more fragile; and (3) the propensity for global warming to spread drought means that water shortage, migration to better-watered areas, and conflict over freshwater resources loom large in the impending crisis.  And while I say impending, this set of problems is already a crisis, depending on where you are.  

     Rising sea-level will present another set of challenges, which have precedents in the ancient past, but which will be a big problem in the present’s more fragile setting, and may be exacerbated by societal divisions that did not exist in the deep past.  For example, who will welcome coastal populations moving inland, say from the New York metro area to Poughkeepsie, Catskill, Albany, or Cambridge (Nearing 2017)?   At what cost will New York City be protected by technology that may require a perimeter of sea-walls?  

     Now as we recognize Earth Day, the challenges of global warming are very much in our awareness.  As we think about this, we should be informed that cycles of warming and cooling in the past posed their particular challenges, but there is no good analogy to the present situation.  The fact that earlier warm periods existed in no way normalizes what we are experiencing, or will continue to experience as global warming increases.     

References Cited

Curtin, Edward V. 
  2011    A Small Site in Coxsackie, Circa A.D. 1200:  Some Ecological Issues Concerning Its Age and Location.  In Current Research in New York State Archaeology:  A.D. 700-1300, edited by Christina B. Rieth and John P. Hart. Pp. 53-76.  New York State Museum Record.  

Fagan, Brian
  2008    The Great Warming:  Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations.  Bloomsbury Press, New York.

Kolbert, Elizabeth
  2014    The Sixth Extinction:  An Unnatural History.  Picador, New York.

Jardin, Laurene
  2017    St. Lawrence River Could Rise if N.Y. Request to Lower Lake Ontario is Approved.  CBC News, May 5, 2017.

Nearing, Brian
  2017    Global Crisis May Hit Home.  Albany Times Union, June 25, 2017.

Nelson, Margaret C., Michele Hegmon, Stephanie Kulow, and Karen G. Schollmeyer
  2006    Archaeological and Ecological Perspectives on Reorganization:  A Case Study from the Mimbres Region of the U. S. Southwest.  American Antiquity 71:403-432.

Pederson, Dee Cabaniss, Dorothy M. Peteet, Dorothy Kurdyla, and Tom Guilderson
  2005    Medieval Warming, Little Ice Age, and European Impact on the Environment during the Last Millennium in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York, USA.  Quaternary Research 63(2):238-249.

The Funk Foundation's 2018 Grant Cycle

Robert E. Funk in the field, Upper Susquehanna Valley, New York Photo courtesy of the New York State Museum

Robert E. Funk in the field, Upper Susquehanna Valley, New York
Photo courtesy of the New York State Museum

            The Robert E. Funk Memorial Archaeology Foundation, Inc. is now accepting proposals for grants for research in New York State archaeology. Grant applications must be received by May 7, 2018. The grant applications will be reviewed by the Funk Foundation Board of Directors in a competitive process with award decisions made by June 22, 2018. Further information including the grant application forms can be found on the Funk Foundation website at If you have any questions, please email Funk Foundation Board President Ed Curtin at, or call Ed at (518) 928-8813.
            The 2018 grants are for amounts in the range of $1,000.00-$2,500.00. They are ideal to assist parts of stand-alone research projects or studies that are parts of larger projects. For example, Funk Foundation grants have been made to support a range of services such as faunal analysis, radiocrabon dating, petrographic slides, lithic analysis, and remote sensing. Funk Foundation grants do not support fieldwork other than technical applications such as remote sensing.

Jerry's Rescue, Syracuse, 1851

(The original version of this article appeared in 2013 as part of a series on history and archaeology in upstate New York communities)

            It’s been five years now, but back in February, 2013 I attended a Saratoga Reads program on the book Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.  How timely.  It was African-American History Month, and the movie of the same name was in the works, to be released in October.  
            Northup was a free man of African ancestry living in Saratoga Springs in 1841, when he was lured away from Saratoga by a promise of work as a musician in a circus, and then sold into slavery in the notorious Washington, D.C. slave market.  After his return to freedom in 1853 he published his book and became a public speaker.  His book was widely read and seen as an important eyewitness testimony to the inhumanity of slavery. 
            One of the subjects that came up in the program I attended was the controversy over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required the return of escaped slaves from non-slave states such as New York (and allowed the prosecution of people harboring slaves).     I was reminded then of an event in the enforcement of this law--  and the resistance to it--  that I learned of during an archaeological survey of Clinton Square in Syracuse, New York. 
            Clinton Square--  located in the heart of 19th century Syracuse, and vitalized in olden times by that essential artery, the Erie Canal--  has a modern monument in brick and bronze to what is referred to as The Jerry Rescue.  Jerry, also named William Henry, was working in Syracuse on October 1, 1851 when federal agents (and the local police) seized him and tried to arraign him as an escaped slave (which apparently he was).

The Jerry Rescue monument, Clinton Square, Syracuse, New York

The Jerry Rescue monument, Clinton Square, Syracuse, New York

            However, the tale doesn’t end here, and in addition, there is a significant back-story to this attempt at fugitive slave capture.  In his arrest and incarceration, Jerry became an unfortunate pawn of 1850s politics:  In May of 1851, Secretary of State Daniel Webster had proclaimed to an audience in Syracuse that the law would be upheld despite the efforts of the abolitionists--  even if it had to be enforced during a scheduled congress of abolitionists in Syracuse in October.
            So when Jerry was seized on October 1 under the very noses of the abolitionists meeting in Syracuse, the outrage of this particular (however legal) kidnapping was met with instant and undoubtedly calculated resistance.
            With a canal basin, the best hotel, crowded businesses, government offices, the police station, and eventually an opera house, Clinton Square was the civic and social center of the city.  The drama quickly played out in this most public arena where crowds could mass and express the vox populi.
            The federal action was an obvious follow-up to Webster’s speech.  It was a demonstration of federal power in the face of the radical anti-slavery movement.  The abolitionists’ resistance to Jerry’s capture was immediate.  It was even anticipated by those who were ready to ring church bells to alert them.
            The bells rang.  A large crowd gathered.  The abolitionists tried to rescue Jerry at arraignment, and he actually broke free, making it to the street (still manacled) before being captured again.  His arraignment was rescheduled and moved to a larger room at the police station, but the crowd did not disperse, despite a warning shot fired by the police.  The rescuers battered down the door and the police surrendered Jerry, who was hidden in Syracuse, then spirited away to Oswego on Lake Ontario-- and from there to freedom in Canada.

The bronze statues depict William "Jerry" Henry fleeing with abolitionist supporters.

The bronze statues depict William "Jerry" Henry fleeing with abolitionist supporters.

            The photos seen here are from the Jerry Rescue Monument in Clinton Square.  The monument’s bronze statues were sculpted by Sharon BuMann.  They show Jerry, panicked, perhaps in pain, fleeing with the aid of white abolitionist Reverend Samuel J. May, and Bishop Jermain Loguen, an Underground Railroad leader who was once enslaved himself.  

Reverend Samuel J. May and Bishop Jermain Loguen, along with many others aided in the freedom of William "Jerry" Henry.

Reverend Samuel J. May and Bishop Jermain Loguen, along with many others aided in the freedom of William "Jerry" Henry.

            A proclamation made by abolitionist leader Gerrit Smith the day after the rescue noted that “2,500 brave men” rose up for Jerry during the rescue.  It also praised Syracuse while describing Daniel Webster in most unsavory terms.  Later, Loguen and others were arrested for their roles in Jerry’s rescue (May was not).  Bail was posted by Senator William Seward of Auburn, New York, who became Lincoln’s Civil War Secretary of State a few years later.  Almost no one was convicted.
            However, the story still isn’t quite over.  Smith got the arresting Marshall Allen indicted for kidnapping, taking the opportunity through his argument in this case to figuratively indict the Fugitive Slave Law.  In the end Marshall Allen, legally within his authority, was acquitted.
            Finally, when the abolitionists commemorated Jerry’s rescue in 1853, the speaker preceding Frederick Douglass was Solomon Northup, recently freed, his story in print and sweeping the nation.  Anti-slavery sentiment remained strong and Northup remained popular:  he appeared in Syracuse to speak again in 1854, when a local newspaper referred to him as “Sol”.     


Fiske, David

2013   Northup’s Southern Discomfort.  Syracuse New Times November 6, 2013.  Electronic document consulted on February 13, 2018.


Hardin, Evamaria         

1993   Syracuse Landmarks:  An AIA Guide to Downtown and Historic Neighborhoods.  Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, New York.


New York History Net 

The Jerry Rescue.  Electronic document consulted on February 21, 2013.


Northup, Solomon

2008   Twelve Years a Slave.  Wilder Publications, Redford, Virginia.


Observation, Measurement, Facts, Deduction, 1896 Style: Review of the Alienist by Caleb Carr

The Alienist  by Caleb Carr, with updated cover art featuring actors from the upcoming TNT drama series

The Alienist by Caleb Carr, with updated cover art featuring actors from the upcoming TNT drama series

     The Alienist, the 1994 detective novel by Caleb Carr, was a bestseller in its day.  Now book sales may go through the roof again due to the TNT network’s new television series of the same name.  You have probably seen it in stores with the stars of the TV series gazing from the shiny new covers displayed on the shelves.  

     The Alienist introduced an unforgettable cast of characters including the alienist himself, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler; his friend newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore (he whose Dutch name evokes New York history); their friend, Sara Howard, who broke the glass ceiling of the secretarial profession (a previously male domain) at the NYPD; and Cyrus Montrose and Stevie Taggert, who have worked for Kreizler ever since he saved them from life crises in the period before the novel begins.  Cyrus and Stevie have real jobs working for Kreizler, but in addition, Cyrus provides the team’s muscle while Stevie has the necessary stealth and street connections that come with the territory this book covers. 

     The story is set in 1896 Manhattan.  The atmosphere ranges from tense demonstrations of power in the halls of money, church, and government to the seamy surroundings of new immigrants and seasoned New Yorkers occupying the city’s teeming tenements, navigating its grimy streets, and nightly filling its notorious brothels.  Fortunately, dinners at Delmonico’s provide the alienist, his collaborators, and the reader with periodic respites from the ghastly crime scenes, political maneuvering, and surly thugs who try to control Kreizler’s investigation in order to preserve various dimensions of the criminal status quo. 

     In this work of fiction, it was New York City Police Superintendent Theodore Roosevelt who brought Kreizler and his team in to investigate a series of murders involving the killing and mutilation of cross-dressing boy prostitutes.  Roosevelt knew Kreizler and Moore from college at Harvard; they are now old friends working together with affection and trust.  During the time of the story, Roosevelt was the new superintendent trying to improve the police department with his eye on cleaning up corruption, misbehavior, and poor performance.  Another historical character, the pioneering American psychologist William James (who they knew as a Harvard professor) does not actually appear as a live character, but is cast as a memory whose role is a shaper of thought and character.  The term alienist in this period of time meant a psychologist:  Kreizler himself was an alienist becoming what is now called a criminal profiler.  His research and applications were controversial to powerful people, which meant that Roosevelt’s initiative in starting this investigation could bring his own political downfall unless he conducts it as a shadowy parallel of the official (and ineffective) police investigation.  Sara’s job as a police secretary assisted with this, since she had an unquestioned reason to be in the police department.  In addition, Roosevelt quietly assigned two young police detectives, the brothers Lucius and Marcus Isaacson to help Kreizler.  The brothers proved eager to assist, especially because their innovative forensic techniques were actively resisted by the old guard in the police department, at least some of whom also didn’t like that they were Jewish.

     This is a book you can sink your teeth into.  It is 484 pages long and unfolds as the investigators learn that they are tracking someone who, like Jack the Ripper and W.W. Holmes hunted and killed human victims in London and Chicago ca 1888-1893.  The Ripper and Holmes are quite credibly on people’s minds in this story (newspaper reports concerning Holmes are periodically mentioned due to the killer’s execution in May 1896, several months into the story).  Kreizler’s team also deduces that the killings are predictable in a way connected to religion, which I will not discuss further as I try to avoid spoilers, and even tidbits of specific information concerning clues the reader will ponder while turning the pages.  Nonetheless, deducing who the killer is and where he will strike are, to say the least, eventful.  And so the story works through the months of murder and mutilation, the side trips, the interviews, the discoveries, the attacks, the confrontations, the near-confrontations, death and near-death, the grim encounters with evil. 

     It is fair to ask why The Alienist is reviewed in an archaeology blog.  I suppose that part of the answer is that The Alienist is the kind of book an archaeologist reads in his or her spare time, when he/she is off-duty, between archaeological surveys, chili on the stove, reading while the cocoa is warm in the mug and it’s snowing outside the window.  A broader answer may be an analogy that at least one archaeology professor has made (but that I suspect numerous archaeology professors have made):  “Archaeology is like detective work.”  I, a reader of Kay Scarpetta novels and The Hound of the Baskervilles, have never been prepared to argue against this view.  But I would make 3 further points. 

     First, because of its nature, forensic science appeals to archaeologists, and archaeology increasingly has a lab-science forensic aspect.  Meanwhile, crime scene field investigations have converged toward archaeological techniques, as we can learn quickly from a chapter or two of Marilyn Johnson’s Lives in Ruins (or more casually by watching CSI reruns). 

     Second, while Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series pioneered forensic investigation as a significant dimension of detective stories, The Alienist (written roughly contemporary with the early Scarpetta novels) has imagined forensic science as applied to criminal investigation in its infancy, set 90 years before the first Scarpetta story.  Of interest to anthropologists and archaeologists in particular, Alienist author Caleb Carr uses his characters Marcus and Lucius Isaacson to bring to this narrative the late 19th century anthropometric method of the French researcher Alphonse Bertillon.  The Issacsons also employ fingerprinting, a method then regarded as too controversial and unproven to introduce as actual evidence, but something the Isaacsons consider could unofficially guide an investigation.  The general context of this is fascinating: in the era when the book is set, anthropometry trumped finger-printing as a method to provide evidence in criminal investigation and prosecution.  In the specific context of The Alienist, anthropometry had become widely accepted in Europe, but was actively resisted by the NYPD due to entrenched interests in less rigorous methods that did not require detectives to measure things.

     Third, famous anthropologists show up in the novel. Teddy Roosevelt is not the only historical figure to become a walking, talking character here.  Franz Boas and Clark Wissler are two of the others.  As part of the investigation, Kreizler and Moore stop by the American Museum of Natural History to interview Boas and Wissler about the possibility that the killer is Native American, or whether the mutilation of the victims could have been inspired by American Indian practices.  As I said, no spoilers here, so that is all for now on the anthropologists…All except to say that the anthropologists’ response sent the investigation in an important direction, while their ethical position on the Indian questions will resonate across time for archaeologist/anthropologist readers.

     In 1994 The Alienist was a best seller, which is no small achievement.  Now it is poised to become a bigger thing, in different measures because of television and the discovery of this book by a new generation of readers.  For the new generation of readers, or those who have not followed Kreizler’s adventures beyond The Alienist, there is really good news:  Carr wrote a sequel called The Angel of Darkness (1997), introducing a new killer and transporting Kreizler’s team to the Village of Ballston Spa, seat of Saratoga County, New York. 

The Alienist  by Caleb Carr, original cover

The Alienist by Caleb Carr, original cover

     Also, after a long hiatus in the Kreizler saga, Carr published Surrender, New York in 2016.  Surrender, New York tells the story of present-day detectives taking a Kreizler approach to their work.  Surrender, New York is the fictional name of their little village.  I wonder where on earth (between Saratoga Springs and the Town of Easton, in the greater Schuylerville-Victory, New York vicinity) that is? 

     Finally, internet searches will show you that there may be one or two more Kreizler novels in the works.  Carr told the story of The Alienist with John Moore as the narrator, and The Angel of Darkness from Stevie Taggert’s perspective. Who will narrate the next story?  I’m putting my money on Sara Howard.  It won’t likely be Laszlo Kreizler.  Wouldn’t it be totally un-Sherlockian for Kreizler to tell the story?

Winter Archaeology (For Hearty Souls)

     Archaeology conjures various pictures in the public imagination.  Hot, thirsty, desert archaeologists using small hand brooms to brush the crumbled dust of the ages from ancient stone foundations...

     Indiana Jones- and Joans-types in khaki shirts and wide-brimmed hats pushing through steaming, verdant undergrowth, nearly stumbling over long-lost jungle ruins...

     Hard-core students of history descending ever deeper into square excavations along a slow, muddy river, the summer sun beating down on the canopies that provide much-needed shade...

     Frigid wind blowing snow into the faces of bundled-up seekers of the past as they trudge knee-deep through the icy crests of shifting drifts toward their client's Area of Potential Effect (APE), located just beyond the distant hedgerow...

Digging to recover artifacts before construction.  Archaeological data recovery a few years back  in the Town of Coxsackie, New York.

Digging to recover artifacts before construction.  Archaeological data recovery a few years back  in the Town of Coxsackie, New York.

     Frigid wind blowing snow in the faces of bundled-up seekers of the past as they trudge knee-deep through the icy crests of shifting drifts... What?

The field crew keeps warm by working hard on the survey of a Phase 1 project in Stillwater, NY.

The field crew keeps warm by working hard on the survey of a Phase 1 project in Stillwater, NY.

     Let me introduce you to winter-time archaeology in the State of New York.  I don't want to make it sound too bad.  There are those memorable days when it's very cold and getting the job done takes extra dedication.  But some days are better than others.  Just last week we were out in mostly sunny weather with temperatures reaching the 30s by early afternoon.  And some winter fieldwork days are even better than that:  Sunny days when you might actually take off your coat and roll up your sleeves.  That being said, however, on the cold days, dressing in layers and using hand and foot warmers helps a lot.  Many of you know this, and certainly, archaeologists are not the only ones who work outdoors in the winter.  People do winter fieldwork in a variety of professions for the same reason:  we have clients who are getting ready for construction.

Screen and shovel, awaiting the gloved hands of an archaeologist to continue work in a field near Saratoga Springs, NY. A good example of the snow cover acting as an insulator for the ground beneath.

Screen and shovel, awaiting the gloved hands of an archaeologist to continue work in a field near Saratoga Springs, NY. A good example of the snow cover acting as an insulator for the ground beneath.

     There is a good reason New York State archaeology is conducted in the winter:  Archaeological data are needed to satisfy environmental review and historic preservation requirements so that construction projects can proceed.  Often, these projects need to avoid disturbing archaeological sites, or at least adequately take into account how they might affect archaeological sites.  People who want to build in the spring or summer sometimes need archaeology done in the winter.

     This process starts with a Phase 1 archaeological survey, an investigation of whether archaeological sites occur within a proposed construction area.  The Phase 1 survey includes background research:  checking files of archaeological site records, researching old maps, visiting the project site to evaluate its setting and condition.  This work is sometimes called a Phase 1A archaeological or cultural resource survey, and this part can be done any time of year.

     But the full Phase 1 survey has a Phase 1B part involving fieldwork such as test pitting.  Most 1A surveys find that the Phase 1B is warranted, and indeed necessary to meet State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) requirements.  The Phase 1B fieldwork can be performed in the winter if the ground is not frozen.

     You probably have realized by now we won't shy away just because it's cold:  the big limitation is frozen ground.  I find that in most years in the Hudson Valley region the ground freezes sometime in January, if it freezes at all.  Wooded areas with thick leaf litter and areas covered with snow stay unfrozen the longest.  There have been some years recently when the ground in the woods either did not freeze, or froze late and thawed early (staying frozen for maybe 3-4 weeks).  Last winter we shovel-tested a wooded area in Ballston, New York during February, and at the end of February we shovel-tested a project site in Warrensburg.  In winters when the ground freezes, it routinely thaws upward toward the last crust at the surface.  During February and March, a thick, insulating cover of snow may enable the ground to thaw before winter is over, sometimes weeks before it's over, as we found in Cobleskill one winter.

     So, often when someone needs to hire an archaeologist in the winter, despair about schedules may be premature.  First of all, the background research can be performed.  In addition, it may be possible to complete the field archaeology if the project area is wooded, if it has been snow-covered much of the winter, or if it is in a location such as an urban parking lot where a backhoe is needed anyway to test below paved surfaces and fill.

     We do fieldwork every winter.  The photos shown here represent winter fieldwork performed over the years (with cold hands and warm smiles) by some of the most skilled and dedicated field archaeologists.  The captions give a little context on the work and results.

Vampires, Consumption and Wasting Away in the 19th Century: Review of Food for the Dead by Michael C. Bell (Hardcover: Carroll and Graf, 2001; Paperback: Wesleyan, 2015)

Oh, hello, come on in.  I’m just finishing my book review.  What?  How’s work?  It’s going pretty well.  We’ve been doing Phase 1 and 2 archaeological surveys up and down the Hudson Valley.  Catskill, Saratoga, Bethlehem, Colonie, Moreau, Stillwater, Queensbury...we’ve been here and we’ve been there, that’s for sure.