2017 San Diego Archaeological Center

Student Symposium

September 30, 017

Symposium Paper Abstracts


Kathleen Bennallack, UC San Diego

Title: Water, Environment, and post-“collapse” life in the Late Neolithic of Jordan

After the discovery that most very large Neolithic “megasites” surrounding the Dead Sea were abandoned near-simultaneously around 8,000 years ago, where those people went, why, and how they survived afterward have been defining questions for researchers of the Late Neolithic, the period that follows the abandonments.  Recent research in Jordan has shown that in the 9th and 8th millennia BP numerous sites, some of them very densely settled, were founded in what are now arid and sparsely inhabited regions, raising the question of how the settlers survived and why they would choose such inhospitable locales.  The environment may have changed drastically in the intervening millennia, however, and the quantity and density of recently-discovered Late Neolithic sites in the arid regions of Jordan indicate that the ancient environment was capable of supporting many more people practicing more diverse lifeways than it does now. This paper will present preliminary results from test excavations of several Late Neolithic sites in the Faynan region of southern Jordan, as well as an environmental and archaeological survey, as a test case for how these now-arid regions may have supported dense populations in antiquity.


Jacob Bowen- CSU, San Marcos

Digital Mimesis and Cultural Responsibility

As technology has developed, humans have gained the ability to replicate items with ever greater accuracy. With the advent of 3D scanning and printing, objects can now be recreated in a matter of hours with almost exacting duplication. As this technology infiltrates different fields of study, a question must be raised to address the responsibility of scanning objects to the people that created them. Anthropology and archaeology are currently experiencing immersion in technology, yet relatively little research has been performed on the cultural impacts and repercussions that such works have. This work seeks to lay a foundation for further research into the effects of mechanical reproduction through digital means on culture, while also raising concerns over the principals and ethics of such a practice.



Jim Bryant-San Diego State University

New Analysis of the THRESHER Disaster

April 10, 2018 is the 55th anniversary of the loss of USS THRESHER (SSN 593) 220 miles east of Cape Cod, MA with a loss of 129 lives.  It was the first and remains the worst nuclear submarine disaster.  THRESHER was the first U.S. submarine with a 1,300-foot test depth, nearly twice the test depth of previous classes of 700 feet.  A Navy Court of Inquiry determined that major, uncontrolled flooding was the probable cause for the sinking.  Analysis of newly released acoustic data shows that major flooding was not the cause, but a combination of excessive leakage, a flawed high-pressure air system used to blow main ballast tanks and, although speculative, a control surface failure made the boat sink until the hull crushed at 2,400 feet. In this presentation, I explain how techniques used in archaeology were used to analyze data and challenge the official Navy record.



Cheyenne Chavez– CSU, San Marcos

 Museum in a Box:  The California Archaeology Edition

Tangible and tactile opportunities allow a sense of control that greatly aids in the retention of material.  Unlike reading assignments and lectures, Museum in a Box offers an untraditional experience that brings to life the people who utilized the objects.  Through this organization museums have started their uniquely tailored and mobile programs to exchange materials with other institutions.  This presentation lays out how the California Archaeology Edition can be a valuable teaching aid for all levels of students.



Diana O. Diaz, Jesus Garcia, and Peter Pham- CSU Northridge

Engaging the History of the San Fernando Valley: Collections and “Synergy” at CSUN

Perceptions of southern California’s San Fernando Valley have long pertained to its relationship to adjacent Los Angeles, with the region over time characterized as either agricultural hinterland or faceless suburbia.  Such stereotypes overlook the numerous historical associations and resources of the region, in the process subverting the identities and “communitas” of valley residents.  In 2016 courses taught in the Department of Anthropology at CSUN work have been collaboratively designed to create “synergy” associated with the San Fernando Valley in regards to history, space, and place.  A particular focus has been archaeological resources from numerous valley localities curated at CSUN, including artifacts from Mission San Fernando, Rey de Hispana, and numerous 19th century “adobes.”  These collections have never been synthesized, and evaluation in classroom laboratory settings offers the opportunity to engage local history and to involve students in the process.   The results have expanded perceptions of the value of archaeological resources, the importance of local history, and the critical need for community engagement.



Mikael Fauvelle, UC San Diego

Shells, Seeds, and Soapstone: Reevaluating Maritime Exchange on California’s Islands


For the past several decades, archaeological work on maritime exchange in southern California has been dominated by the concept of resource-patchiness.  Specifically, islands were seen as terrestrially impoverished, necessitating the importation of food from the mainland.  Likewise, the mainland was seen as lacking in the high quality Monterey cherts used to produce shell beads.  Exchange between the two areas, therefore, was explained as the logical result of the economic forces of localized supply and demand.   Over the past several years, this model has been challenged along several fronts.  First of all, the concept of island ecological marginality has been critiqued, with numerous scholars suggesting that California’s islands may in fact have been optimal for a number of important subsistence resources.  Second, the efficiency of transporting bulk subsistence goods in plank canoes has been challenged by caloric analysis of plant foods and experimental archaeology.  This presentation will review the evidence against the resource-patchiness model, and suggest that rather than subsistence goods, mineral resources and value-added products were the primary items driving trade to and from California’s islands.



Victor Adam Herrera- – CSU, San Marcos

 Where did they get this rock?

A majority of our prehistoric archaeological materials are lithic in composition. In most cases these materials can be identified by observation alone. Identifying the material only gives the researcher limited information to where the material might come from. This presentation intends to give an understanding of the geologic settings where lithic materials occur. It will introduce and explain the interpretation of topographic and geologic maps and internet databases. Photographs of various lithic outcroppings and their geologic setting will be explained so the viewers can understand source locations. The presentation will be concluded with an explanation of how these methods can be applied to various forms of interpretation and research.


Ian W. N. Jones, UC San Diego

The Copper Mines of Faynan and the Economy of Southern Jordan during the 12th and 13th Centuries AD

Southern Jordan is generally seen as one of the most marginal and least economically important areas of the southern Levant during the Middle Islamic period (1000-1400 AD). Recent research in the copper ore-rich Faynan district, however, suggests that during the late 12th and 13th centuries AD — in historical terms, the Ayyubid period — this region briefly played an important role in providing metal for the emerging sugar industry of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea lowlands. Using evidence from recent excavations at two copper production sites in the Faynan region — Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir and Khirbat Faynan — and from several archaeological surveys, I have been able to reconstruct the patterns of Middle Islamic period copper mining and metallurgy in Faynan. Through comparison of these patterns to regional archaeological data sets and historical evidence, I have been able to situate the copper industry more broadly within the major shifts in the Levantine economy beginning in the 10th century AD, and the changing relations between the Islamic polities of the Levant, the Crusader territories, and Europe in the late 12th and 13th centuries. In so doing, I show that the brief exploitation of mineral resources in southern Jordan was not a failed experiment, but a purposeful and somewhat successful reaction to changing regional and international economic circumstances.



Ariana Yanez– CSU, San Marcos

 Public Archaeology and the Cleveland National Forest

Value of public archaeology is defined by the involvement of the local communities with archaeologists by creating an open dialogue in order to work together on sites that can be significant to the public community. Public archaeology is important in the contributions of education, preservation of history and the future of archaeology in local communities. The Cleveland National Forest plays a role to continue to preserve, inform, and work with the public in order to continue work in public archaeology.  Future generations will enjoy the prehistory and history of a region. Volunteers, Interns, tribal members, and archaeologists contribute to public archaeology through agencies such as the CNF. Education and awareness are the results of a community involved in public archaeology.