Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whispers from the Past at the Aldridge Botanical Gardens

Three sisters garden at Aldridge
On October 23rd the ANTHRO-TEACH students and faculty participated in the Aldridge Botanical Gardens second annual celebration of Native American Culture. This exciting full-day of outreach and education for the public and their families was hosted by the Aldridge Gardens with the partnership and support of ANTHRO-TEACH, Moundville Archaeological Park, Legacy Partners in Environmental Education, and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

One of the activities for kids included a puppet show about the Native American myth of the Three-sisters (corn, beans and squash).

Chip Wente created a traditional kitchen and cooked native Alabama foods in an earth oven using clay pots he created in the traditional Native American style.

 Using Native American flint knapping and hafting methods Chip created an array of tools that would have been used in the past by the Southeastern Native Americans.

UAB ANTHRO-TEACH students and faculty worked with the Aldridge volunteers and crafters to teach the public about the lifeways of the Native Americans in Alabama and the Southeast. Visitors to Aldridge learned about beading and the bead loom.

UAB Anthropology Department faculty Lori Cormier and Sharyn Jones explained artifacts, (their use and construction) from the Josselyn Archaeology Collection housed at UAB Here visitors are handling enigmatic clay "Poverty Point Objects" from the site of Poverty Point in Louisiana.

UAB Anthropology student Brandon Grisaffi explains pottery making in Alabama per-Columbian times to Aldridge visitors.
UAB Anthropology Graduate Student Christel Carlisle describes Native American homes and musical instruments to program participants.
Graduate student, Anna McCown explains ground stone technology and the distribution of Native American tribes in the past.
Dr. Jones discusses Alabama archaeology with visitors to the Josselyn exhibit.
Visitors to the Aldridge event learned about native gourd crafts, that include rattles, spoons, and bowls. Pictured above, two Anthropology graduate students, Jade Delisle and Anna McCown clean and work gourds as they teach local kids about this process.

Aldridge visitors select gourds to work and create useful household items with.
Andrew Kirkpatrick, a UAB Anthropology student (pictured below) worked with Aldridge volunteers and program participants to teach about the atlatl. The atlata is a tool invented by Native Americans in the Southeast who used it for leverage to enhance the distance that a dart could be thrown.

Visitors also engaged in leaf pounding, an ancient Cherokee craft.

Ethel Owen displays her beautiful pine needle baskets, a type of weaving art used by Native Americans.

The photos below are of the Sylestine Legacy, a troupe of Creek Indian dancers who participated in the Whispers from the Past event.

These young visitors to Aldridge try their hands at making music.....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Peace Day Proceedings

The Anthropology department and the Anthro Club held a bake sale in recognition of International Peace Day, September 21st. Many students and club members baked goodies and worked the booth in order to spread awareness about Peace Day and raise donations for the West End Community Gardens. The bake sell went very well raising over $200 dollars for the West End Gardens.

International Peace Day was also the perfect time to introduce UAB students to the Anthropology department's new class, Introduction to Peace Studies, which will be available in Spring 2012. The Introduction to Peace Studies class (ANTH 104) will be an online course taught by Dr. Jones and Jade Delisle. This is an exciting new course that introduces students to the history and utility of social justice, conflict resolution and nonviolence. Students learn about various ways to solve conflicts and address problems without resorting to violence.

In addition to teaching the Peace Studies class, Dr. Jones is working with ANEC (Active Nonviolence Education Center) to provide internships for students taking the Introduction to Peace Studies (Anth 104) and the Environmental Studies Internship (Anth 483). Dr. Jones and ANEC are also working together to offer a Study Away in India for May 2012. More information about this opportunity is forthcoming and anyone interested may contact Dr. Sharyn Jones.

The ANEC website is a wonderful resource for information about the center, its mission and activities. The website also provides recources for the public, ways to volunteer as well as global and political news about peace.

In addition to the ANEC website, there are some other websites that are as inspiring and appropriate for reflection about Peace. The Peace One Day website provides information about the Global Truce initiative scheduled for 2012's International Peace Day. The initiative calls for a day of ceasefire and non-violence to be observed globally on September 21, 2012. The website offers ways for people to become involved in the movement, videos about Global Truce as well as a schedule of events, including concerts, pod talks and festivals. The website Wisdom Portal has poems, quotes and letters from spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh about peace. These are a wonderful collection of writings that inspire and define the goals not just of International Peace Day but of peaceful movements and actions everyday.

The website Peaceful Societies is an encyclopedia of societies that anthropologists have described as being peaceful. The characteristics of these societies are defined. This website is interesting an resource for anthropologists as well as the public in general as it provides examples of alternatives to violence that have been practiced by social groups.

One final great website to check out while pondering peace is Les Sponsel. This is the University of Hawaii's website for the Ecological Anthropology Program that they offer. This site lists and defines specializations such as Buddist, Cultural and Political Ecology. The website provides the credentials of and contact information for the program director, Dr. Leslie Sponsel. This is a wonderful website for studente interested in Ecology, Anthropology and Peace studies.

With the success of the Anthropology Department and Anthro Club's International Peace Day Awareness bakesale, the exciting new peace courses at UAB and a plethora of websites; it may be easier to not just celebrate Peace Day every September 21st, but to actively work for peace every day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The UAB Anthropology Department's Earth Day celebration was not just a success but a fun day full of unique and informative activities, delicious food and important goals. The activities planned were a community art project, free yoga class, gardening demonstration, slam poetry contest and a peace panel discussion that featured religious and scientific leaders from Birmingham. The Earth Day festivities also included a Sojourn booth that sold hand made and eco friendly crafts, a booth of arts and crafts made by students and a booth for the Anam Cara Irish Dancers.


Student Art

Irish Dancers

Of course, in addition to the booths and activities there was food! Baked goods, sushi and Indian food were available and donations were taken for the West End Community Gardens and the Red Cross for Japan Tsunami Relief. The donation collection for the baked goods was a success as $300 was collected for West End Community Gardens and $200 for the Red Cross Japan Tsunami Relief effors!

(For more information about the West End Gardens-watch the documentary filmed by anthropology students and earth day coordinators Anna Mcowen and Lindsay Whiteaker.)

After some mingling, eco-friendly shopping and nutritious eating-visitors and volunteers were treated to a panel discussion that featured religious and scientific leaders of the Birmingham community.Panelists included: Losel Maitri representing the Buddhist community, Jun Ebersol curator from the McWane Center, a representative from the Hindu Temple, a speaker for the Birmingham Bahai Center, and a speaker for The Church Without Walls. The panel discussed their varying ideas on the importance of the earth as our home and how we should fulfill our duty as stewards to the earth. Though there were some specific differences between the panelists beliefs; the discussion highlighted the similarities between the pannelists and the groups they represented. The panel discussion provided insight about how comminities as a whole could work together to solve environmental issues dispite percieved and real differences. The lesson learned was that we all live on this earth together and therefore equally share the responsibility of caring for the environment.

After the panel discussion there was an Earth Day Poetry Slam competition produced by Real Life Poets, Inc. Local middle and highscool students presented poetry they authored specifically for Earth Day. There was a cash prize of $100 awarded to the best environmentally themed poem.

The success of Earth Day was evident in the faces of attendants and volunteers as they learned about specific environmental issues and solutions and as they realized that concern about the earth is broadly shared throught the community. Due to the success, anthropology students are commited to making the Earth Day celebration at UAB an annual event that will continue to grow and inspire people to make environmentally friendly choices and take action for the sake of the planet, our home.

Friday, April 15, 2011


At the Southern Anthropological society's annual meeting in Richmond, Virginia some of UAB' s anthropology students, as well as Dr. Cormier presented research projects that they have been working on.

Lindsay Whiteaker presented findings from an ethnographic fieldschool in Fiji where she examined the deeper meanings of artwork created by the local children.

Dr. Cormier Presented a poster about obseity and body image within Fiijian society.

Chauntelle Sharp presented a poster about the syncrenicity of traditional Native American music

Mallory Messersmith presented a paper about archaeology in Fiji, where she has been examining ritual

Ashley Wilson presented a paper about Fijian food preference.

Anna McCown presented information about an ongoing study of fijian garbology as a study of the material culture of Fiji.

Jake presented information about on ongoing study of the lithic collection at the McWane Center.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

UAB Fiji 2009 videos at APT Plus

What do you get when you combine archaeological research with public television treatment?

You get a wonderful educational resource that brings cultures from around the world right into the classroom. Alabama Public Television has teamed up with the researchers from the 2009-2010 UAB-NSF field school to provide online video reports about Fijian Culture and Archaeology. So far eight short videos, produced by Craig Highburger, have been released, covering the research from the 2009 field school. These films are located on the APT Plus website, an online multimedia resource for teachers and students that offers videos and images, as well as other teaching aids. The APT Plus digital library affords teachers with videos of local historical and cultural subjects as well as scientific, environmental and global studies. The work that the UAB-NSF researchers and APT Plus has produces introduces students to Fijian culture as well as the methods and purpose of archaeology.

The first video titled, What Do Fijians Eat, was scripted by Anna McCowan. This video discusses the diverse diet of the Fijians and the various ways Fijians have for accessing food from their environment. The video explains the division of labor between men and women in association with food. The order in which Fijians eat, how they eat and other cultural practices are also addressed in the film. Lastly, the film explains how archaeology can be used to examine historical remains that provide clues about past the past food ways of Fijians.

The second film, Fijian Song & Dance, is presented by Dr. Sharyn Jones. She discusses the reasons for certain Fijian dances or Mekes as well as who performs what dance. The video shows the difference between the dances done by women and those done by men or boys. Sharyn explains that music and dance are important ways of communication and celebration for Fijians.

Films three and four explore the archaeological excavations at Na Masi Masi and Wai Turu Turu. In the film Na Masi Masi, Mallory Messersmith explains many of the methods of archaeological excavation, revealing how proper field techniques can provide archaeologists with artifacts from the past. She describes some of the artifacts found at the Na Masi Masi site and what those artifacts indicate about the past. The video Wai Turu Turu, features Anna McCowan as she discusses the archaeological dig at the Wai Turu Turu cave site. Sharyn Jones relates the oral history of the caves use as a fort by early Fijians. Both films are excellent sources for how archaeology can be used to understand past cultures.

Megan Sunderman Noojin introduces the subject of shells in the Fijian Seashells film. Megan explains the importance of identifying different types of shells to understand biodiversity. She also explains that seashells from the past can help show how climate has changed over time. The shells can also provide evidence for how Fijians used them for perhaps eating, tool use and jewelry.

The next three videos are presented by Dr. Sharyn Jones. Sharyn discusses the gender division and roles in the Fijian Gender Roles film. She explains the interest and humor that Fijians had about how the female UAB students were willing to work hard and get dirty digging up objects of the past. In the Liku Tour film Sharyn describes the tiny village of Liku on the far side of the island Nayau. She describes life in the village. The final video, Masi Fabric, Sharyn describe the masi making process and its importance to Fijian women. Fijian women work very hard making and decorating the masi. In the past it was traditionally used for clothing. The making of masi is a way to keep traditional way alive as well as strengthen the bonds between the women as they work side by side.

Please visit the website and view these videos, they do not take long to watch and are extremely entertaining. Makes one wish they were in Fiji!