Biology and Human Language

Posted By on October 14, 2010

When we examine the basicranium of anatomically modern humans, we are presented with a series of important biological and linguistic qualities. The base of the human skull articulates with the spinal column; it is the first site for the development and growth of the human skull.

As you can imagine, the architecture of this portion of the skull is integral to survival. Its shape becomes a statistical determinant in the eventual, adult volume of the cranial vault, the depth and breath of the oral cavity, and the position of the voice box. This is why, when we compare/contrast basicranial measures of non-human primates such as P. troglodytes troglodytes, P. paniscus, A. afarensis, A. africanus, and A. anamensis to those of modern humans we recognize a completely different positions of important cognitive and phonemic structures (please note, the three australopithecines listed above are only known from fossilized, skeletal elements).

Comparison of  Basio-Bregma Heights (H. sapiens, A. africanus, A. afarensis, P. troglodytes)

Comparison of Basio-Bregma Heights (H. sapiens, A. africanus, A. afarensis, P. troglodytes)

Please note: The above measurement data is drawn for a wide range of resources, including casts and skeletonized remains. The measurement for the afarensis material is questionable due to the nature of the fossilization and its subsequent reconstruction.

Africanus, Afarensis, and Troglodytes

Africanus, Afarensis, and Troglodytes

The Trempealeau Dilemma

Posted By on April 28, 2010

The term “Mississippian” is archaeological in nature. Its social and historical meanings can be compared to modern concepts that relate to an individual’s faith tradition or residential location. The Mississippian cultures of a thousand years ago were composed of many linguistic and social traditions.

Professor Farley and his daughter Elizabeth atop a platform mound at Cahokia.

Professor Farley and his daughter Elizabeth atop a platform mound at Cahokia.

Archaeologically, Mississippian peoples were identified by their unique architectural, religious, and technological practices. They produced nearly identical artifacts and landforms.

Map portraying the counties and archaeological sites WLC currently studies in relation to the Hopewell and Mississippian cultures.

Map portraying the counties and archaeological sites WLC currently studies in relation to the Hopewell and Mississippian cultures.

Regionalism was part of the Mississippian experience, peoples settling within the Mississippi River drainage and the Great Lakes Watershed varied in their production of pottery, hunting implements, metalwork, and the preparation of human remains for burial.

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Copper ear spools recovered and photographed by WC McKern (Milwaukee Public Museum, 1935).

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Copper celt recovered and photographed by WC McKern (Milwaukee Public Museum, 1935).

Platform and effigy mounds are an important visual remnant of this period and its common traditions. Throughout the American Midwest and the Central Plains, platform mound sites such as those at the Aztalan site (Jefferson County, Wis.) and Cahokia (Saint Louis, Mo.) are recognized to be prehistoric centers of administrative power and trade. Archaeologists from Wisconsin Lutheran College and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have identified the importation of materials such as Burlington Chert (a type of microcrystalline metamorphic rock that fractures in a predictable manner) from the Ozarks to the Mississippian metropolis of Cahokia. This material has been discovered as far north as Canada and demonstrates the trade connections that bound these regions together prior to European contact.

This fragment of a projectile point (fashioned from Missouri, Burlington Chert) lays atop a pile of freshly excavated soil.  The soil was disturbed by Cahokia park officials reconstructing a portion of the site's western defensive wall.

This fragment of a projectile point (fashioned from Missouri, Burlington Chert) lays atop a pile of freshly excavated soil. The soil was disturbed by Cahokia park officials reconstructing a portion of the site's western defensive wall.

The modern city of Trempealeau lies along the eastern shore of the Mississippi River. It is a community that contains several important Mississippian landmarks. In 1990, platform mounds were studied by members of the Mississippi Valley Archaeological Center (UW-Lacrosse). Their findings, published in American Antiquity recognize Trempealeau as a northern outpost for this Mississippian society.

Photo of Hopewell mound cluster at Perrot State Park.

Photo of Hopewell mound cluster at Perrot State Park.

This site was important to Amerindians for over 25 centuries. At Perrot State Park, archaeologists with the Milwaukee Public Museum excavated several mounds. The contents of these mounds led early researchers like W.C. McKern to identify Trempealeau as a unique subculture within the earlier Hopewell and later Mississippian culture complexes. Burials expressed a significant presence of copper as well as evidence of scaffolding prior to burial.

The Middle Woodland Period (2000-1700 BP)

Posted By on April 19, 2010

“The Hopewell Culture Complex of the Mississippi River Watershed”

The Middle Woodland Period of what is today the American Midwest represents one of the most influential time-periods within the cultural development of this region. Archaeologists recognize the Middle Woodland to be a time when the numerous Amerindian communities inhabiting the Mississippi River Valley and its associated watershed became large year-round settlements connected through a highly organized system of trade. By 1,100 years ago, this trade network had developed into a centralized, urban power structure that culturally unified the entire Mississippi River Valley.

Aztalan State Park in Lake Mills, Wis., and Cahokia State Park, in Collinsville, Ill., represent the north and south extent of archaeological complexes generally referred to as ‘Hopewell’ and ‘Mississippian.’ The term ‘Hopewell’ is derived from an early mound site in central Ohio and its 19th century landowner, Mordecai Hopewell. The earthen structures of Mordecai’s farmstead became the focus of a bourgeoning school of American Archaeology and a national controversy – The mound builder myth;” both were focused on the recordation and explanation of the thousands of mounds found throughout the riverine areas of the Great Lakes Region. Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis – antiquarians from the frontier community of Chillicothe, Ohio – recorded the physical nature and location of more than one hundred mounds in 1845. They finalized their research in 1848 with the publication of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. Today, the term ‘Hopewell’ is unique to archaeological circles, though it would not have been a label used by the diverse language communities that it now represents; it is an archaeological, regional horizon of cultural remains and physical features, describing a unique style of pottery and mortuary practice.

mound-diagram

Profile view of a typical Hopewell conical mound.

In 1965, archaeologist Stuart Struever reviewed the physical evidence that American archaeologists of the early 20th century used to define the Hopewell complex. After comparing residential and mortuary sites in Ohio and Illinois, he concluded that the Amerindian Midwest was a resource entrepôt. Raw materials arrived in Hopewellian communities from regions throughout the North American continent, appearing as grave goods among a small number of individuals within this mound building culture. “Copper earspools, breastplates, panpipes… cut mica sheets … worked bear-canine teeth … [and a] special class of pottery vessels” became the markers of Hopewellian culture and its increasingly centralized power structure (i.e. they were the “typical … ceremonial items … usually found in [Middle Woodland] burials” (1965, 212).

In order to consolidate this vast network of riverine communities, the Hopewellian politeia had to provide its member groups with an important administrative service. Archaeological evidence from sites throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys demonstrate social-organizational characteristics unique for their selective food procurement economies. These horticultural or gardening communities differed from earlier Amerindian groups of the Archaic Period (10,500 to 3000 BP).

Prior to the Woodland Period small bands of foragers and hunters migrated throughout the North and South American New World. They gathered food resources from a wide range of locations, utilizing an intimate understanding of seasonal change in local biomes. Small-scale foraging and hunting allowed for a limited number of multi-generation households to coalesce at select times of the year. The possessions, carried by members of these households were few in nature and the technologies associated with their production were easily fashioned from surrounding lithic, faunal, and floral materials. Early tool industries, for example, such as the Dalton Tradition of Southern Illinois, express artifact forms fashioned from noncarbonate, nonclastic sedimentary rocks such as microcrystalline chert and metamorphic quartzite (common throughout much of the North American continent).

At the start of the Woodland Period, 3,000 years ago, population sizes increased. More people came to occupy North American watersheds and began to compete for fewer available resources. Additionally, the archaeological record associated with this period demonstrates an increased reliance on domesticated vegetative stands. The early horticultural pursuits of communities comprising several family groups witnessed an increase in the number of household architectural features and associated storage-refuse pits. Dependable food resources and annual surpluses were important to the survival of these bourgeoning watershed villages. Small-scale agriculture and the administrative control of natural and domestic land and labor resources were necessary if the communities of the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys were to remain intact.

Modern researchers believe that the Hopewell archaeological complex and associated artifact and feature horizon was a Woodland system of social and economic control. The shared mortuary practices and grave contents of this mound building tradition eventually provided the scattered Amerindian communities of the Great Lakes-Riverine area with a trade network and centralized power structure. Archaeological evidence from central and southern Illinois and southern Wisconsin demonstrate the proliferation of procurement strategies that were focused on the breeding and harvesting of Pigweed, Acorn, and Sunflower stands. It is believed that these plant types were integral to the urbanization and demographic increases of the period, and that by 1,200 years ago they became the crops important to developing small-scale agricultural traditions. These traditions and the diverse language communities which were bound together by their food surpluses and trade networks are ‘the Hopewell.’

The circular burial mounds and effigy mound shapes that initially characterized this culture complex have come to symbolically represent the unification of the Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds. As is the case with the barrow cultures of Neolithic and Bronze-age Europe these burial practices came to materialistically represent the communities and traditions that were responsible for their construction. Archaeological evidence associated with the contents and surface treatments of their burial chambers demonstrate the presence of a significant urban, state-level structure within the American Midwest that rivaled the contemporary Mayan and Aztecan States of Meso-America.

Making Yourself Ready

Posted By on April 12, 2010

primate2Gaining knowledge is important to academicians. It is the principle means with which college students are judged by their peers. Additionally, it is a means by which a program or institution is understood; outside agencies monitor the progress of colleges and their graduates, they ask questions regarding a student’s growth and his or her future career successes.

Biological anthropology is a new major at Wisconsin Lutheran College. The hope of its principle instructors is that graduates will have several career/interest paths that they can pursue.

Anthropologist Michael Alan Park complied a series of readings that is integral to the knowledge of biological anthropologists. Students interested in declaring this major should pick-up a copy of Biological Anthropology: An Introductory Reader (2006). Their major advisor will meet with them on a monthly basis to discuss select readings.

The Global Effects of Japanese and Brazilian Migration: A study of the rise of ultimate fighting

Posted By on March 3, 2010

[by Jeremiah Cady]

Grandpa Gracie, brother of Carlos who was trained by Maeda and who in turn opened his own Jiu Jitsu school. Carlos stated that during one of his classes, Maeda (Koma) called his style Jiu Jitsu, "so that's what we called it. If he had called it Judo, we would have called it Judo." This quote if funny do to the competitive dislike that exists between Judo and Jiu Jitsu players.

Grandpa Gracie, brother of Carlos who was trained by Maeda and who in turn opened his own Jiu Jitsu school. Carlos stated that during one of his classes, Maeda (Koma) called his style Jiu Jitsu, "so that's what we called it. If he had called it Judo, we would have called it Judo." This quote if funny do to the competitive dislike that exists between Judo and Jiu Jitsu players. Photo source: The Gracie Academy Website; www.gracieacademy.com.

Japanese immigration to Brazil between 1908 and 1988 had profound cultural effects on the populations of both nation-states. Today this diffusion of culture has affected the global marketplace; people from every corner of the globe have practiced Jiu Jitsu and millions of viewers continue to follow the international sport of ultimate fighting.

Prior to 1907, the feudal government of Japan outlawed citizens from carrying weapons. This restriction was used to extend the government’s control over its rural provinces; if the farmers could not fight back they would have to fall into line and do what they were told. This practice had a rare and beneficial effect on the traditions of rural peoples. Unlike similar practices in China and Tiawan, Japanese farmers didn’t adopt a militaristic or police style of self defense. Instead, they developed Judoka.

A master of this Japanese form was Mitsuyo Maeda. He migrated to Brazil in 1914 where he met a young businessman by the name of Gastao Gracie. Gracie and his family not only learned and perfected this style of defense, but helped Maeda establish a gym. Gracie Jiu Jitsu, as it has come to be known, made early tournament fighting such as Vale Tudo a popular venue where Brazilians could admire this Japanese-Brazilian tradition.

Today this tradition’s progenitor the Ultimate Fighting Championship (or UFC) is watched in over 33 countries. In 2006, this sport generated over two hundred million dollars in revenue.

Beneath Our Feet

Posted By on February 20, 2010

We all walk to get from one place to another, but it is not often that we think about the substance that supports us in that endeavor. The dirt, the soil beneath our feet, is not simply some brown particles that are the same whether you are in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Madison, California, or Peru. In fact, because they all formed on different starting material, in different places, with a variety of slopes, climate, and animal and plant influences, the soil we walk on can be very different from place to place. Taking a closer look at the components of soil can give us an idea of what kind of plants will like to grow in a particular place, whether or not buildings or roads can be supported, how the people before us may have managed the land, and even what the climate may have been like in a much earlier time.

There are physical, chemical, and biological components that make up the soil, but in the next couple paragraphs I’ll be focusing on a couple of the chemical parameters that can give us clues about the past: those being pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon and oxygen isotopes.

soil1

The pH is a common and easily taken measurement of the soil that indicates how acidic or basic the soil is. Most soils have a near neutral pH (close to 7). The parent material (the rocks and other composite material on which a soil started to form = starting material) of a soil influences its initial pH, since the presence of magnesium, calcium, and carbonates tend to cause a soil’s pH to be higher. Besides the parent material, management of the soil can change the soil pH over time. Chemical fertilizers, particularly nitrogen, tend to lower the pH of a soil. However, animal manures which can also be used to fertilize the soil, tend to raise the pH. Thus plots of land next to each other, with similar parent material but different pH’s have likely had different histories, one of which could be presence of domestic animals.

soil2

Another chemical component of the soil is the plant nutrient nitrogen. Most plants cannot make their own nitrogen, so they need to get it from the soil they are rooted in. Nitrogen is usually the most limiting nutrient for the growth of plants, which is why it is so often applied in fertilizer. The reason nitrogen is often not present in large enough quantities is that the form a plant takes up is either nitrate (NO3-) or nitrite (NO2-), which are easily dissolved in water. When it rains, these forms of nitrogen dissolve in the rainwater and leach (move) down and out the bottom of the soil profile rather quickly, away from where plants can reach it. Also, there are many microorganisms that use the different forms of nitrogen in their life cycles, and change it from forms available to plants into forms that are volatilized (released as a gas into the air) or incorporated into their tissues. Because most form of nitrogen do not bind to the soil, it doesn’t leave much of a history behind.

soil-probeOn the other hand, another plant nutrient, phosphorus, does leave more of a history. The form of phosphorus that plants use is phosphate (HPO42-, or H2PO4-). These forms quickly bind to soil minerals like iron and calcium. So phosphates do not leach through the soil like nitrogen does, but because they bind so tightly to soil minerals, they also may not be very available to plants – which is why phosphorus is also often added to soil as a fertilizer. Because phosphorus does bind to soil, when it is added as manure or fertilizer, if it is not used by plant, it can accumulate in the soil. High levels of phosphorus in the soil tend to indicate the presence of humans, due to chemical fertilizer additions, or animal use (manure). Phosphorus can move away from the soil into lakes and streams. This causes problems in freshwater systems because they are usually phosphorus limited. Extra phosphorus can encourage excess algae growth, which is esthetically unpleasing. Also, when the overgrowth of these organisms is decomposing in the water, oxygen levels often decrease hurting fish and other aquatic organisms.

Finally, isotopic carbon and oxygen measurements can give an idea of earlier climate conditions. Isotopes, such as C13 and C12 are the same element with different numbers of neutrons (causing them to have different weights). Because plants incorporate carbon dioxide from the air and oxygen from water they uptake (and do it somewhat preferentially for the lighter C isotope), the chemical signatures of these elements are incorporated into the plant tissue (think of the equation for photosynthesis: carbon dioxide (CO2) + water (H2O) + sunlight energy => sugar (C6H12O6) + oxygen (O2)). Similarly, precipitation of carbonate (CO3) in the soil from the interaction of carbon dioxide and water leaves behind a chemical signature in the isotopes that indicate what the temperatures were when it precipitated and also give a fingerprint of the rainfall patterns. Much of the interpretation of these chemical signatures is complex, but scientists are starting to be able to investigate the isotopic information stored in the carbonates of soils to study the history of temperature and rainfall.

The soil is an amazing resource that supports food production and buildings, cleans our water, and gives us clues to our past. Looking at the chemical components is only one of many ways to appreciate its complexity and diversity.

Proposal for a new major – Biological Anthropology

Posted By on February 11, 2010

Anthropologists have made the study of human biology and culture their primary research interest. Wisconsin Lutheran College’s plan of providing an increasingly diverse student body with cross-cultural course subjects and research topics will be further accomplished with a major in biological anthropology.

bioarchaeology

Biological anthropology is one of four research branches within the discipline of anthropology. By its nature, it provides students with a wide range of career options. Today, graduates of this field acquire work as laboratory assistants in offices of county coroners, they study human physiology and demography as it is applied to fields such as nursing, medical social work, nutrition and public health. Additionally, students holding degrees in biological anthropology work in contract field archaeology and often have the opportunity to work for Federal and State branches of the Parks Department. These careers are lucrative and often accompany local civic and community concerns.

applied

Students who choose to pursue graduate degrees in biological anthropology, often combine their undergraduate, academic experiences with research in forensics, criminology, primatology, and cultural resource management. The career paths that often follow from these added specializations and research partnerships allow students to acquire further certification with law enforcement programs and environmental protection agencies (fields which are continually growing in significance and public interest).

forensicsChristians with backgrounds in anthropology have become important to the mission field. Whether they assist in compiling Biblical translations or with the establishment of culturally focused systems of healthcare and education, their contributions have been instrumental in finding new and unique cultural pathways for the conveyance of God’s Good News.

If successfully supported by the WLC academic community and the college’s Board of Regents, a degree in biological anthropology will be offered beginning in the fall semester of 2010.

Study of Prehistoric Wisconsin Crania

Posted By on February 3, 2010

[Caitlin Hartmann, Courtney Moll, and Ned Farley]

The Great Lakes Watershed encompasses a region of nearly 95,000-square miles. Students and faculty from Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) studied a sample of prehistoric crania from the Milwaukee Public Museum. A map of the counties and sites can be seen below.

Counties initially targeted for study and the sites/place names directly associated with archaeological finds measured for this study (recognized sites and burial groups are labeled in bold type).

Counties initially targeted for study and the sites/place names directly associated with archaeological finds measured for this study (recognized sites and burial groups are labeled in bold type).

Z-score comparison of the nasal and cranial indices of the museum collection, historic African foragers (who have a similar lifestyle to the archaeological group), and the historic Arikara (agriculturalists whose diet would have been considerably more limited than the Great Lake group).

Z-score comparison of the nasal and cranial indices of the museum collection, historic African foragers (who have a similar lifestyle to the archaeological group), and the historic Arikara (agriculturalists whose diet would have been considerably more limited than the Great Lake group).

Given its diverse natural resources, populations living in the Great Lakes had a much more diverse diet than contemporaneous peoples to the south and southwest. The plants and small game of this region insured the survival of many human communities, including those of the Late Woodland and Mississippian time periods (2200-1000 years ago).

Photograph of a cranium (not used in the study) depicting additional craniometric measurements associated with the face. [Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum]

Photograph of a cranium (not used in the study) depicting additional craniometric measurements associated with the face. [Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum

Archaeologists studying the cultural and biological changes that accompanied a transition from foraging to small and large-scale agriculture within this watershed have focused their analyses on demographic change and the rise of pathologies relating to pulmonary tuberculosis and iron deficiency anemia. This study tested the hypothesis that changes in subsistence strategies and diets among the Amerindian inhabitants of prehistoric Wisconsin was not as rapid and did not have as detrimental of an effect as has been witnessed among contemporaneous communities of the Mississippi and Missouri Drainage Basins.
An illustration by Caitlin Hartmann depicting some of the cranial measurements employed in the study.

An illustration by Caitlin Hartmann depicting some of the cranial measurements employed in the study.

Craniometric indices and illustrations were created in order to compare the patterns of craniofacial growth among a sample of prehistoric and proto-historic Wisconsin crania.

Christian Anthropology?

Posted By on February 1, 2010

Does a Christian Worldview Conflict with the Founding Principles of Anthropology?

Excavation, the best means of understanding the archaeological record. Though often a tedious process (a student cuts grass roots as she prepares to excavate), this destructive scientific method provides archaeologists (as anthropologists) with their best means of studying cultures of the past.

Excavation, the best means of understanding the archaeological record. Though often a tedious process (a student cuts grass roots as she prepares to excavate), this destructive scientific method provides archaeologists (as anthropologists) with their best means of studying cultures of the past.

The School of American Anthropology traces its foundational roots to the work of Franz Boas. In 1883, as a physical geographer studying the natural and cultural landscape of the Baffin Islands, Boas realized that human culture is in a constant state of change. His hope was to preserve not only the language of the scattered foraging groups of the northeastern most territory of Canada but to study their varied physiology, ethnic history, religion, and sense of community. In doing so, Boas formulated a new science–one that attempted to understand the biology and social history of all peoples. 

ACTS (1:12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying…  (2:1) When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…  (3) Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Sprit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Christians have always acknowledged the diverse nature of human biology, language, and tradition. In fact, as the early disciples ran into the streets of Jerusalem to share the good news with Jews and Gentiles, witnesses were amazed at their command of the many languages spoken within the city. Centuries later, the records identifying the people and traditions of North and South America were penned by Christian missionaries whose primary focus was the fulfillment of Christ’s final challenge;

MARK (16:15) … go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Since the 19th century, anthropologists have attempted to separate their social scientific study from related humanistic disciplines such as psychology and sociology. Though aspects of their academic history and research topics are similar, the focus of these studies differ. In fact, within the four branches of professional anthropology only one research interest is shared by other social sciences — a scientific method in understanding the world and the plants and animals that thrive within its many habitats.

GENESIS (8:13) And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry… (15) Then God spoke to Noah, saying, “go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”

When biological remains are lithified they are no longer organic; they are a representation of one-time living material, now trapped within the earth’s lithosphere (i.e. Fossils are casts of organic materials—the organic tissues composing them are replaced by mineral and chemical precipitates carried in solution by groundwater). 

Today’s climate was not as warm as in the past. In fact, the degree rise that we have experienced over the last 400 years seems minor when one compares it to the three degree rise that occurred just prior to the flood. Our modern planet is a much cooler and less tropical place than the world geologists and geographers describe when they give an environmental context to the flora and fauna of the fossil record.

The most important human adaptation, culture. Artifacts present archaeologists with their most important (functional) units of scientific analysis.

The most important human adaptation, culture. Artifacts present archaeologists with their most important (functional) units of scientific analysis.

Beyond the scientific method, anthropologists recognize two research interests that are unique to their understanding of human biology, language, and tradition. The first relates to culture. Anthropologists recognize human culture to be the most significant adaptation that living members of genus Homo have made since their appearance in the archaeological records of eastern and southern Africa. Human culture has allowed its practitioners to thrive in every modern climate and environmental niche. Though impossible to measure directly, the behavioral imprint that human culture has made on its users, their patterns of ritual, residence, and social organization is observable. 

A testimonial to the beauty of God’s creation. This Black and White Colobus Monkey lacks an important primate trait; in this case a short or non-existent thumb.

A testimonial to the beauty of God’s creation. This Black and White Colobus Monkey lacks an important primate trait; in this case a short or non-existent thumb.

A second principle relates to the biological history of anatomically modern humans. As members of the Order Primates, Homo sapiens sapiens are believed to structurally and genetically share a common ancestry with other living primates. A great deal of anthropological research compares the biology and behaviors of apes such as living chimpanzees (Pan) and gorillas (Gorilla). 

DEUTERONOMY (4:15) Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth.

The principles of the evolutionary sciences have become the cornerstone for modern biology. Children and adults as they navigate their educational careers are exposed to a wide range of research that seems to support the Darwinian notion of “change with modification.” In fact, many people today have replaced their faith traditions and understanding of human origins with ideas that require continued testing before they can be portrayed as “fact.”

Evolutionary theorists recognize the similarity in genome sequencing between humans and non-human primates as evidence of a recent common ancestor. Phylogeny — or the notion that ontological relationships (beyond form) exist between living organisms — requires that the genomes of organisms sharing a common ancestry have identical coding for specific developmental and life sustaining cellular events.

Is a Christian approach toward anthropology possible? In fact, it is. As anthropologists, Christians can celebrate the diverse nature and resiliency of God’s creation. We live in a fallen world yet we can appreciate the strength of God’s breath as it gives life to all creatures. These creatures are not all the same, yet each has been created to survive in a unique way; we represent the antithesis of this truth. Made in His image. Varying in biology, language, and ultimately culture — we celebrate His creativity.

Archaeology at Mount Hope

Posted By on January 30, 2010

Pictured here, the Mount Hope field crew (Fall 2008).

Pictured here, the Mount Hope field crew (Fall 2008).

With permission from the offices of the State Archaeologist and the Burials Archaeologist of Wisconsin, the archaeological survey of Mount Hope began in the fall of 2007. The project was initiated by members of the Burlington Historical Society (Burlington, Wis.) who approached faculty and students from Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC). Their primary interest was the clearing of land believed to hold 19th century human interments. Records archived within the historical society and the Milwaukee Public Library System (Central Branch; Milwaukee, Wis.) described to the persons contained within the Mount Hope burial group and the impact they made as early landowners and territorial settlers. The site’s archaeological integrity and its eligibility for preservation as an important landmark in the history of Walworth and Racine Counties became the purpose of the project.

Volunteers from Burlington, Wis., and Wisconsin Lutheran College clear-cut the cemetery site in the fall of 2007. Oral reports of the site’s history, dating to the 1940s and 1950s, identified the history and degree of site disruption. In this case, the majority of the site’s post depositional disturbances came from its utilization as a cattle pen; often referred to as timber grazing, this agricultural practice accounted for damage to a number of local cemeteries yet, in the case of Mount Hope, this pastoral strategy may have preserved the site’s old growth oak stand and the ornamental plantings associated with its historic development. Throughout Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine landscape, timber grazing allowed for both short-term returns for livestock feed while at the same time insuring a future timber resource (Fleischner, 1996; Huddleston and Kling, 1984).

WLC students of archaeology physically testing the drumlin’s eastern bluff.

WLC students of archaeology physically testing the drumlin’s eastern bluff.

Historic records associated with the cemetery’s 19th century survey and planning, described it as a 5,420-square meter plot. This estimate provided WLC archaeologists, in 2008, with an approximation of their project area. Additional historic information associated with the property’s historical tax status helped to orientate the burial group in relation to landmarks of the modern USGS survey map and several historic plat maps. Records recovered by the Burlington Historical Society, described the location of the western edge of the cemetery and its associated carriageway. These records placed the entire site along the southeastern quarter section line of the 23rd section of the Spring Prairie Township (situated within the northeastern quarter of the Lake Geneva Quadrangle). The access corridor which provided historic mortuary practitioners and mourners with access to the cemetery is still used as by the Stowell Family to access their agricultural holdings. Additionally, this public right of way has proven helpful in allowing archaeologists to identify the cemetery’s location on a wide variety of maps–accurately estimating the site’s elevation and orientation along a glacial drumlin.

After the initial clear cutting of the site, archaeologists began to map all terrestrial features associated with the cemetery. Surface depressions and natural mound features were identified and mapped. The location and orientation of the cemetery landscape along with a series of cedar and oak plantings were assigned to the land use history of the site and over two centuries of frontier settlement. These features were also recorded and mapped.

A WLC student cleaning a fallen grave marker for a late afternoon photograph.

A WLC student cleaning a fallen grave marker for a late afternoon photograph.

Though sub-surface testing for archaeological features was not possible for the historic cemetery–due to the statutory protections awarded human burials under several legislative documents–archaeologists conducted pedestrian surveys and limited shovel testing of historically plowed land directly west and north of the cemetery, and pastured land to the east. Though the intentions of project historians and archaeologists was focused on situating the cemetery plot and its occupants within a history of Wisconsin Territorial development (not an interest either defined by the act or one that ran contrary to the spirit of the legislation), the methods employed to define the cemetery and estimate the number and condition of its burials fell under the physical limitations of Wisconsin State Statue 157.70.

Today, the preservationist concerns outlined in Wisconsin State Statute 157.70 have come to include burials that are historically associated with local peoples and events. The expansion in the legal authority of this legislation, on the part of local indigenous peoples and elected and appointed state officials, has meant that historic-era burials assigned to American frontier histories, periods of human migration, the death and burial of military personnel, and members of religious movements–even if they lack any discernable, “direct kinship” (2005:16) relations with living peoples–continues to prevent archaeological investigation and preservation of their remains. This has meant that modern field practitioners are required to consider the social context of a burial group’s initial establishment and later development, and its current preservation status. In this case archaeologists, in particular, are challenged to identify an interment’s socio-cultural significance in light of modern municipal and private development.

A shell bead recovered from a hearth feature along the drumlin's eastern bluff. Evidence of a Mississippian cultural component? (The term "Mississippian" refers to the many language communities that created the effigy mounds of Wisconsin and Illinois.)

A shell bead recovered from a hearth feature along the drumlin's eastern bluff. Evidence of a Mississippian cultural component? (The term "Mississippian" refers to the many language communities that created the effigy mounds of Wisconsin and Illinois.)

A phase one assessment of Mount Hope, was employed to determine the physical conditions of the burial group and its social value to living residents of Burlington, Wis. In 2006, Wisconsin Lutheran College entered into discussions with members of the Burlington Historical Society and other “interested parties” from Walworth and Racine Counties. Researchers from Wisconsin Lutheran College under the advisement of personnel of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Department of Anthropology were concerned with the assessment of the site’s structural integrity and what degree of impact that the initial survey of the site and its later recognition as a historic landmark would make on the integrity of burial features and their legal protection. Whether these researchers choose to consider the philosophy of Executive Order 11593 or the Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Lyng vs The Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association (King 2008:27), the human remains that defined the Mount Hope burial group were considered to be a non-replentishable human resource of significant historical importance (in this case contributing to the social history of the American frontier, both within the territorial history of the State of Wisconsin and the national history of American Westward expansion).

In the 2008 field season a second phase of indirect site analysis began with the excavation of 1×1 meter test pits along the drumlin’s eastern bluff and the access roadway believed to be the public corridor defined in the 1851 survey by William Dyer and the Mount Hope Cemetery Association. This spring the access corridor will be trenched, adding archaeological data to historical and botanical qualities of the cemetery’s orientation. The orientation of this carriageway, its phases of construction and use, and the traffic bond–if any–used to prevent seasonal erosion and the encroachment of local plant stands will be of primary importance to trenchers.