My good friend and old colleague Gregory Vogel sent me an interesting e-mail this afternoon. Greg is currently doing a post-doc at the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville, Illinois. At any rate, he tells us that a recent organizational meeting ended with a surprising mortuary ritual.
James B. Griffin (pictured above during his 1930s work in the Lower Mississippi Valley) was one of the most influential archaeologists of the United States during the 20th century. He had a five-decade-long tenure in the University of Michigan Department of Anthropology, and acted as the director of the Museum of Anthropology. He had over 260 publications including such landmark works as Archeology of Eastern United States (AKA “the Green Bible”), and Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, 1940-1947 (AKA “P, F & G” as it was, of course, co-authored Phillip Phillips and James Ford).
Griffin died in 1997 and Greg now tells me that he was cremated, and it was his wish that the ashes be split, with half of them scattered in the Illinois River Valley (Greg didn’t know what happened to the other half of the secondary burial). Jane Buikstra, the Leslie Spier Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico and a bioarchaeologist certainly accustomed to dealing with chiefly burials, ended up with the Illinois Valley portion of “Jimmy.” Before now, Vogel tells us, she hadn’t found an appropriate occasion to broadcast the remains.
Below is a snippet from Greg’s e-mail:
Many of the people attending this meeting knew Griffin, so they went out in a pontoon boat (see attached picture), motored a few miles above Kampsville until they were opposite the Kamp Mound Group, and decanted the remains into the river from a reconstructed Elizabeth Mounds Site bowl. In attendance on the boat were Jane Buikstra, Jim Brown, David Ash, Nancy Ash Sidell, Gail Anderson, John Doershuk, Bonnie Styles, Rochelle Lurie, Sarah Neusius, and Mike Wiant. A touching final ceremony for Jimmy Griffin.
One last humorous note: Along with the bag of cremains was a note, apparently from Griffin’s son, that read “No chemical tests.”
Gregory Vogel has just put up an interesting web application on our Project Past site–he calls it Evergreen Virtual Cemetery, the Preliminary Version.
What Dr. Vogel has done is to make available to a wide public as much information as possible concerning Evergreen Cemetery–a historical cemetery in Fayetteville that he has been using as a teaching laboratory for his Approaches to the Archaeology (ANTH 3023) class for years.
Most of the information was gathered by the over 200 students and about 50 volunteers in the Evergreen Cemetery Recording Project who mapped and recorded, in detail, all permanent features of the cemetery. The mapping and recording are nearly complete, and much of the data has been integrated into a GIS relational database. This information includes a database of all permanent features of the cemetery, including gravestones, footstones, family markers, plot walls and corner markers, benches, permanent flower vases, and unmarked stones. Along with the descriptions, digital photos of most features will soon be available as well.
The GIS-derived map and database are interfaced using MapViewSVG, which is a software package for publishing GIS data on-line in a searchable, interactive format.
You can see a similar project at St. Michael’s Cemetery–an eight-acre cemetery in the heart of Pensacola, Florida. This on-line GIS database was constructed by archaeologists and geographers at the University of West Florida.
These are great first steps to making easily usable databases available to the general public…I’m thinking about attempting this on a larger scale…say, with regional site data (with appropriate safe-guards to insure that locational data will not get into the wrong hands, of course).
I’ll keep you posted.
Tags: archaeology, gis, cemetery
I’ve always known that there is a deep connection between archaeologists and beer. My friend Greg Vogel has consistently informed his students that he has learned more about archaeology in bars (such as Fayetteville, Arkansas’ Maxinie’s Tap Room pictured below) “talking shop” with grizzled veterans of the discipline than he has ever learned in a formal classroom. This is true of my own experience as well. . . .
But now archaeologists can claim that we can make an important contribution to the world of beers (ok. . . maybe more quirky than important).
Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware has made a beer similar to a drink brewed in China about 9,000 years ago and they started with a formula from archaeologists who derived it from the residues of pottery jars found in the late Stone Age village of Jiahu in northern China.
Check out this article for more details: