Northeast Anthropology Numbers 83-84 Honors Albert A. Dekin, Jr. with Northeastern Archaeology Articles on Landscape, Scale, and Technology
Numbers 83-84 of the journal Northeast Anthropology is a single, integrated, guest-edited volume titled Archaeological Landscapes: Scale, Technology and Emerging Approaches. It is guest-edited by Nina M. Versaggi, Laurie E. Miroff, and Edward V. Curtin.
That’s right. I’m announcing a book that I helped to edit. However, one cannot respectably review one’s own publication, not even nowadays. Mindful of this, what I offer here is purely archaeology news, not a book review. My bias as a reporter is that I think this book is great.
Archaeological Landscapes is first and foremost a Festschrift for the late Al Dekin, who was one of the most important archaeological mentors in the Northeast. Al had many students, including a cadre of Binghamton University graduate students learning and working in Cultural Resource Management (CRM). The themes of Landscape, Scale, and Technology were dear to him. These three themes therefore were easily located when we looked for a title for Al’s Festschrift. In one way or another, they have guided each contribution. They substantially informed Al’s teaching, his mentoring, and his well-organized approach to applied archaeological research in the vast universe of CRM, which was an impressively undisciplined discipline at its inception.
The authors of the articles are Al’s students plus some co-authors. They are long-time friends of mine, except for the couple of co-authors I don’t know (However, they are just friends I haven’t met yet). In order of appearance, the authors are:
• William Andrefsky, Jr.
• Susan C. Prezzano
• Daniel Cassedy
• Edward V. Curtin
• Nina M. Versaggi and Samuel M. Kudrle
• Francis P. McManamon
• Laurie E. Miroff
• Doug Harris and Paul A. Robinson
• Victor T. Mastone, Craig Brown, and Christopher V. Maio
• John J. Knoerl
• Robert Quiggle and Matthew Kirk
Within the rubrics of landscape, scale, and technology, several articles consider ancient hunter-gatherers, and several of these focus on the Archaic period. Dan Cassedy interestingly analyzes how a shifting Archaic settlement location responded to the growth and expansion of the Mohawk River floodplain, underscoring the importance of a refined historical sequence to understanding place. Generally speaking, several articles that consider either the Archaic, later pre-contact, or early historic periods tease out details of archaeological history, often touching on implicit native thinking (including memories, beliefs, or traditions from deep in the past) that recognize sites or landscapes as important (even sacred) because they are historical (i.e., histories made places important, revisited, revered, transformed). This conceptualization of place contrasts with (although doesn’t necessarily exclude) an older idea that sites and landscapes were important because it was easy to find food there.
Moreover, Susan Prezzano considers the importance of present-day Archaic period archaeological discoveries to non-Indian residents of her study area with respect to recognizing the “intrinsic value of the natural environment.” The importance of the past to the present emerges in several other articles, including the articles on historic battlefields.
Technology looms in this volume in ways ranging from lithic technological analysis, to the emergence or coalescence of Archaic period technological traditions, the development of historic Adirondack industries, and some wonderful GIS applications. The technology theme thus includes studying old technology and using emergent technology.
Often, specific archaeological sites are considered within larger, sometimes extensive, landscape perspectives. Meanwhile, the several analyses of historic battlefields are explicitly landscape-scaled. In addition, Frank McManamon, who pioneered a site-less, landscape approach to archaeological survey and data interpretation on Cape Cod in the 1980s, revisits that and subsequent work, while relating how digital technology has improved information sharing and the potential for effective public outreach.
Although this is a volume focused on the Northeast, do not despair if you grow tired of reading about the Northeast. Bill Andrefsky’s view of landscape structure, human agency and evolutionary process takes in a southeastern Oregon study area, while John Knoerl’s general perspective of battlefield analysis and preservation emerges in specific Virginia contexts. So if you plunge right into reading about Frontenac Island or Cape Cod, move on to the Mohawk or Susquehanna valley region, and then, breaking from your reverie find you need to wander, let your imagination drift south, or perhaps far to the west. It’s all good stuff.
This informative new volume has an introduction by Nina Versaggi and Laurie Miroff, which will orient you further to its themes as well as the career of Al Dekin and his impact on students.
Archaeological Landscapes: Scale, Technology and Emergent Approaches, Numbers 83-84 of Northeast Anthropology is now available. To get a copy, visit Northeast Anthropology.