Tag Archives: Punk Archaeology

The Archaeology of Refrigeration

Plans to a root cellar from Summer 1976, No. 68, North Dakota State University Extension Service.

Plans to a root cellar from Summer 1976, No. 68, North Dakota State University Extension Service.

The ability to both produce and store food is a central component to the sustainability of any society. I got to thinking about this while reading Grand Forks Herald article earlier this morning on root cellars, and this in turn got me thinking about depressions archaeologists come across during pedestrian surveys. At first, a depression in the landscape simply looks like that: a depression. But this is why it is important to look to the written and oral history of a place, lest a former root cellar or a cache pit continue to go unnoticed.

Before the Second World War, and prior to the post-WWII shift of artificially conditioning the air to our homes and refrigeration devices within the homes (this is all connected with the cultural inertia that today has us searching and exploiting the world for petroleum), our grandparents and great grandparents kept food and drink cool with root cellars and cache pits. Using a subsurface pit (or a cave, which is how Europeans refined and perfected the wine and beer processes) for storage takes just a bit of planning, thought, and foresight. It can be done, though. Some call them root cellars while others call them cache pits (those bell-shaped subterranean pits used by Mandan and Hidatsa cultures).

After reading the Herald piece this morning, I shot an e-mail to a North Dakota State University extension agent to see if I could get a digitized copy of a 1976 plan for a root cellar. Within the hour the extension agent responded with “Electric Farm Power: Vegetable Storage” (Summer, 1976, No. 68), this prepared by the NDSU Agricultural Engineering Department, Cooperative Extension Service, and North Dakota Power Use Council Cooperating (yes, note the keyword “cooperative,” as cooperatives and cooperation are central to getting things done).

The illustration here is the design of a root cellar, and these also dub for tornado shelters in the summer. This is something to increasingly think about considering how Oklahoma has taken on serious tornados already this year, and also how a tornado came close to hitting the Denver International Airport not but a week ago. Anyhow, here above and to the left are the unadulterated plans to a root cellar.


Punk, the Humanities and Academia: Some Analogies

Bret Weber and Bill Caraher prepare to present man camp findings to NDSU in the Spring of 2013. Tom Isern pictured at right saunters back to take a seat.

Bret Weber and Bill Caraher prepare to present man camp findings to NDSU in the Spring of 2013. Tom Isern pictured at right saunters back to take a seat.

This coming Friday the board of the North Dakota Humanities Council (or humanities council, however one prefers) will convene for one of its regular meetings. The council meets every three or four months in various locations throughout the state to conduct the business of a board. A primary function of these meetings is to consider a variety of outstanding proposal submissions. In addition to this, and at this Friday’s meeting, we will officially or unofficially welcome aboard — the board — some new members. One of these new members is Bill Caraher, a crack Ohio State University-trained jet-setting ancient and modern historian and archaeologist with University of North Dakota’s prestigious department of history. Bill is also a Punk Archaeologist without borders, much like our friend and colleague Andrew Reinhard.

Because Bill’s summer field season regularly takes him to Cyprus and the greater Levantine world, he physically cannot be with us in eastern North Dakota for this specific meeting. But because it’s the second decade of the 21st century — and even though we don’t have flying cars or flux capacitors, yet — we will digitally beam Bill from Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean to conduct a short presentation in Fargo, North Dakota. The topic is a presentation on our modern archaeological and sociological research of man camps in the petroleum booming Bakken of western North Dakota. I just returned

Dr. Kostis Kourelis, punk archaeologist and art historian with Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania), gives his thoughts on punk archaeology through a PA after being introduced with a bullhorn.

Dr. Kostis Kourelis, punk archaeologist and art historian with Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania), gives his thoughts on punk archaeology through a PA after being introduced with a bullhorn.

an e-mail to Bill this morning, letting him know the technology I’ll bring to the NDHC board meeting so that we can pull a kind of joint half-hour presentation off in good order.

Doing something like this is akin to playing in a band. Professors and teachers: encourage your students to start or join bands. Here are some analogies between the two: there is the processes of research and preparation (or what a band calls making songs and then rehearsing those songs), locating the technology to transmit that research (the band refers to this as instruments, including voice, guitars, harmonicas, drums, banjos, cymbals, sound boards, timpani, PAs, speakers, cow-bell[s], monitors, lights), finding the specific meeting room and location and coordinating with the executive director (this is what a band calls finding a venue, and “chatting with a bar owner”), and then executing the entire thing within the span of 30 minutes (this is what a band calls a “set”). Doing this over and over and over again, too, ensures that researchers and lecturers (or individual band members) will simply refine the process and get better and better.

Another note: while we can digitally bridge the spatial gap between the northern Steppe of North America and the eastern Mediterranean, there is little we can do about the temporal gap: it’s not that big of deal, though, since when it is noon Central Standard Time in eastern North Dakota, it is roughly 20:00 hours in Greeco-Levantine time (or about 8:00pm). This will be fun. Long live modern archaeology, the digital humanities, and punk.

Some modern archaeology of a punk archaeology set.

Some modern archaeology of a punk archaeology set.


Some Archaeology of Food

Pheasant and BarthSome years ago I decided to take up bird hunting for this main reason: if I was going to purchase saran-wrapped chicken legs, thighs and breasts in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, I thought it was more respectful to at least experience what it was like to kill wildlife — in this case pheasant, doves and grouse — for the purpose of feeding family, friends and myself. This decision required me to purchase a bird gun (in my case, I bought a double-barrel, side-by-side 12-gauge shotgun), shotgun shells, and the necessary hunting permits. Since then I have hunted with at least four friends, including Rod Austin (accompanied by Grizzly, his beagle), Tayo Basquiat, Ed Stine, and Bob Shannon.

After identifying suitable areas to hunt (in ND, PLOTs land provides excellent public hunting grounds), walking several miles, spooking pheasant from the brush, identifying the roosters from the hens, and then downing a rooster, one of the first impressions I had (and I’m presuming I’m not the only one here) in picking up a recently-killed pheasant rooster was the warmth. This stands in contrast to the cold feel of a saran-wrapped chicken breast in the grocery store, or the increasingly ubiquitous appetizer called “bone-in” and “boneless” chicken wings (culturally, we shovel these into our mouths, kind of on autopilot, as we watch the 37 flat-screen televisions broadcast UFC fights and sporting events, and as additional juke box and video game machines drown out any kind of conversation that could have been had in our drinking warehouses throughout America).

A local plate of food. Slices of bison (medium-rare) from south-central North Dakota, this topped with a sauté of locally-harvested morel mushrooms. The origin of the salmon is unknown, but comes from Valley Meats in Valley City, North Dakota. The remaining vegetables were organic, or from what I call historic farming practices.

A local plate of food. Slices of bison (medium-rare) from south-central North Dakota, this topped with a sauté of locally-harvested morel mushrooms. The origin of the salmon is unknown, but comes from Valley Meats in Valley City, North Dakota. The remaining vegetables were organic, or from what I call historic farming practices.

No doubt, authors such as Michael Pollan have tapped into a growing social structure that concerns itself with the technics of how and philosophies of why food is produced. As an observer of this growing movement, international and local journals have also turned attention to reporting on these stories. Or at least the stories that involve individuals who want to know where their food comes from. These groups are bringing attention to multi-national corporations, and the stories have been picked up by The New York Times, CNN and, locally, WDAY News in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota.

In this latter story, the reporter focused on something North Dakotans are very aware of: heritage. This heritage is in turn used to consider how our grandparents and great grandparents produced food on family farms in contrast to how the Agricultural Industrial Complex produces food today. I remember when I was 10 or 11 years old (or thereabouts) in the kitchen of my late Grandma Barth. She had just sliced up a tomato, and in putting it on the table in front of me she said, “Here is a tomato, although they probably gassed it just a couple days ago.” My grandmother was communicating something to me that has been lost (and what I’m trying to recover by hunting): a connection with the land, and the landscape, and the food we eat that comes from that land. Although she didn’t say it directly, she was also concerned with what a gassed tomato (which is how the Agricultural Industrial Complex turns a green tomato into a red-colored tomato to simulate ripeness) might do to physiological early childhood development of her grandchildren.

The main point of this, though, is that individual consumers continue to consider and ask questions about where the food is coming from. (I’m a bit amazed by this point, too: if Monsanto made this great bio-tech seed that is going to feed the world, why aren’t they proud about labeling it so you and I can easily identify it when in the grocery store?)

Another note: North Dakota legislators recently said it was okay for individuals to purchase unpasteurized or raw milk, so long as they owned a share in the cow. Below is the local WDAY story, and also the CNN story too.

The CNN story:

The WDAY story, which won’t imbed for some reason, so you have to just click on this link here.


Punk Archaeology Recap for Dakota Goodhouse

A photo of the evening crowd at the NDHC Punk Archaeology un-conference in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

A photo of the evening crowd at the NDHC Punk Archaeology un-conference in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

Today my good friend Dakota Goodhouse, staff with the North Dakota Humanities Council, sent out a group e-mail and asked individual board members to reflect on and write a short summary about a particular North Dakota Humanities Council event they attended. Dakota said he would accept these write-ups, consider them, and eventually post them on the NDHC blogspot sometime down the line. So this is a draft of what I wrote, photos, hyperlinks and all:

On the evening of February 2nd, 2013, at Sidestreet Grille and Pub in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, the first global Punk Archaeology un-conference unfolded with song, bullhorn, academic rants and discussion, and more bullhorn and song. The event was simple enough: get a group of scholars together in a tavern, get an audio-video system and a pitcher or two of beer, and have these scholars openly talk about and consider why and how “punk” might be part and parcel to the disciplines of archaeology, history, and art history.

Scholars from North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota, Concordia College, and Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania) contributed to the discussion. Considering that a winter storm pummeled central and eastern North Dakota that night — that evening, the North Dakota Department of Transportation shut down I-94 between Bismarck and Dickinson — an approximate audience of 300-to-400 visitors to the 5-hour Punk Archaeology un-conference was considered more than a success. One noticeable difference of conferences compared to un-conferences, at least noted by University of North Dakota’s Bill Caraher, was that at punk archaeology un-conferences, scholars are introduced with a bullhorn, and then they are required to give their talks through the same PA that the punk bands play through.

Dr. Kostis Kourelis, punk archaeologist and art historian with Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania), gives his thoughts on punk archaeology through a PA after being introduced with a bullhorn.

Dr. Kostis Kourelis, punk archaeologist and art historian with Franklin and Marshall College (Pennsylvania), gives his thoughts on punk archaeology through a PA after being introduced with a bullhorn.

In the weeks that led up to this event, a variety of Red River Valley media outlets contacted me, as they were understandably interested in what was meant by the phrase Punk Archaeology, and also what an “un-conference” entailed. Without me rehashing everything that was said, here are the hyperlinks to the media punk archaeology frenzy. Bob Harris of KFGO 790AM in Fargo-Moorhead interviewed me on the evening of January 21, 2013. The first segment of that interview is linked to here, and the second installment is linked to here. On January 23, Kris Kerzman put together a Punk Archaeology write-up for the The Arts Partnership blog here, Kayleigh Johnson ran a Punk Archaeology story in The High Plains Reader on January 31, 2013 linked to here, and The North Dakota Free Press covered it on February 1, 2013 here. The Fargo Forum covered the story in two different instances, once in a January 23, 2013 blurb here, and John Lamb’s January 29, 2013 write-up of it here.  Steve Poitras asked me to chat about this event during his February 2nd, Saturday morning Fargo-Moorhead radio show on 101.9 FM from 7:30-to-8:15AM. So I did that too. This was what the official press covered, and it went over well.

Several additional sponsors of Punk Archaeology included Laughing Sun Brewing (Bismarck), Tom Isern’s Center for Heritage Renewal (NDSU), the Cyprus Research Fund (UND), and the Working Group in Digital and New Media at the University of North Dakota. In all, it was an event that brought together North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota, and the North Dakota Humanities Council, among others.
In closing, here his Bill Caraher’s blog-spot recap of Punk Archaeology linked to here. It happened. And it was awesome. And there is light banter about doing it again.

Drummer’s View of a Sound Check

A quick concluding note on the punk archaeology unconference from this weekend at Sidestreet Grille and Pub in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Since history, archaeology and life require us to put ourselves in the shoes of others, I wondered if it would be interesting for non-drummers to have access to a drummer’s view during a sound check. So here is a still photo of the stage from the vantage of the Audio-Video team from the University of North Dakota.

View of the stage from the Audio-Video sound station.

View of the stage from the Audio-Video sound station.

And here it is from another angle, a drummer’s view of the sound check (this brings up the fact that there are always more than two sides to a story, or history):


The Weekend the Music Died

"Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury" (Orange County Museum of Art: Prestel Publishing, 2008).

“Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury” (Orange County Museum of Art: Prestel Publishing, 2008).

This weekend marks the day the music died. I’ve been reading Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, And Culture at Midcentury, edited by Elizabeth Armstrong and issued by the Orange County Museum of Art (Prestel Publishing) in 2008. It is a kind of work that explores the genesis (or amplification) of “cool” from southern California, and this raises a chicken or the egg question: in the post-WWII world, did southern California create “cool,” or did southern California appropriate cool, embrace it, and then turn it up to — in the words of Spinal Tap — eleven?

Armstrong says that southern California in 2008 is renowned for nice weather, a laid-back attitude, a “propensity for fantasy indulgences,” an attachment to cars, hillsides covered with suburban tract houses, sunny beaches and blondes — those seemingly perfect suburban conditions that provide a launching off point for punk rock.

It’s not cool to talk about cool, and that is a primary working definition of cool from the post-WWII world (captured in many ways by Anatole Broyard’s 1948 essay, “Portrait of the Hipster”). In Armstrong’s words, cool is “an attitude that eludes those who try too hard to achieve it.” (Armstrong, 2008: 1) In the essay “Cold War Cool” by Thomas Hine (also in this work), he says “Those who speak and write most about it — including most of those quoted in this essay — don’t have it. Truly cool people know enough to keep their mouths shut. (Nevertheless, I shall proceed.)” (Hine, 2008: 194) So shall I.

Buddy Holly in the 1950s.

Buddy Holly in the 1950s.

Anyhow, and to not get too far off the topic of Buddy Holly, here is a photo of Buddy used in Birth of the Cool. The caption beside Buddy Holly notes his influence on The Beatles and Rolling Stones, among others (including Jonathan Richman). So in thinking about all this, it’s appropriate to say that my S-10 Chevy is snowed in an alley parking spot just 2.5 blocks from the levy, and this Friday evening I’m going downtown Fargo for a bit of whiskey rye. And to think a bit about the weekend day that the music died. The world sure missed out on a lot of great tunes because of that plane crash in Iowa on February 3, 1959. They were trying to get to a show in Fargo-Moorhead. At least Buddy continues to echo throughout the rock and roll ages, whether we know it or not, aesthetics and rhythm and all. Thanks Buddy.


Some Advice on Bullhorns and Drumsets

The "Uzi" model bullhorn, useful for certain musicians and Punk Archaeology un-conferences.

The “Uzi” model bullhorn, useful for certain musicians and Punk Archaeology un-conferences.

There has been light to medium-heavy banter about a bullhorn showing up at this Saturday’s Punk Archaeology formally unformal un-conference (Sidestreet Grille & Bar, Saturday at 7:17pm, downtown Fargo, North Dakota). So I thought I’d post a pic of the “Uzi” model bullhorn, perhaps one of the best bullhorns I’ve ever owned or appropriated for music and, now, an un-conference (I have been through 3 bullhorns thus far). I haven’t yet been able to test the full range of this particular bullhorn — I don’t mind using a bullhorn or drumset in my apartment, but my neighbors and landlord sure do. So we may have to experiment a bit with it this Saturday evening during the sound check.

And here is at least one tip for potential bullhorn owners: bullhorns are a lot like drumsets in that everyone should own at least one. But never leave a bullhorn or drumset out at get-togethers or soirées. The bullhorn is much like a drumset in that someone will always invite themselves to sit down behind it to show everyone what they are made of. The first 3 seconds are kind of fun: whispering through a full-throttle bullhorn for your friend to get another beverage from the fridge has a certain charm the first time. But after about 4-to-7 seconds it goes from being annoying to being intolerable. So hide the bullhorns and drumsets before the company arrives. Everyone will thank you, as will your apartment neighbors.


Being Punk Archaeology: A Voice from Cultural Resource Management

The following is a short essay reposted from e-mail correspondence between Barth HQ and archaeological colleague and comrade Jennifer Harty. It has been declassified and reposted with Harty’s permission.

In Harty’s words:

“Punk Archaeology… it’s happening… and I wish I was there”

by Jennifer Harty, punk archaeologist of the Americas and Northern Great Plains

Jennifer Harty, archaeologist of the Americas.

Jennifer Harty, punk archaeologist of the Americas.

What does it [punk archaeology] mean, though?  I think we are all probably asking ourselves that, and there probably isn’t even an answer. What I do know is that it’s people coming together to talk about archaeology and do what archaeologists do best- drink a beer and listen to great music.

Does that seem frivolous? Maybe to a university president in the ivory tower or even to those who tout themselves as business professionals who seem to have lost touch with what archaeology is all about.  Sure, you have to make money; sure, it’s studying the past through material culture, but isn’t it more than that? Isn’t it really discovering who we are and why we are? Isn’t it about asking questions about the past in order to make today more relevant? And to that point, aren’t the best paradigms the ones that come from a relaxed atmosphere and friends bullshitting with friends about what they’re thinking?  Then again, isn’t PUNK about being different and going against the stereotype? How can punk archaeology be punk if it’s about sitting in a bar drinking with friends and listening to great music if that’s the stereotype?

Here’s how – punk is really about being yourself and doing what you want to do. It’s not about being punk, it’s about being you. It’s about interpreting things the way you see it, not the way you’re told to see it. It’s about putting that off the wall spin on your work that draws groans from your peers but that you know is important to include. It’s about not trying to impress everyone else. It’s about writing a rambling, barely cohesive piece to be read at a bar where a bunch of people are getting together and being punk archaeology.


Punk Archaeology Practice Notes

Todd Reisenauer and Troy Reisenauer of Les Dirty Frenchmen.

Todd Reisenauer and Troy Reisenauer of Les Dirty Frenchmen.

The other night, Troy Reisenauer and Todd Reisenauer invited me over to the Les Dirty Frenchmen practice space for the first of our get-together of practices, this for the February 2, 2013 Punk Archaeology un-conference at Sidestreet Grille and Pub in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Through the randomness inherent to the music world, this assembly happened — come to think of it, every band I’ve ever played in has never been planned. It was a process that came together over a matter of several conversations and days or weeks — the important thing, though, was each individual’s willingness and desire to play for the love of playing. Todd and Troy offered to bring their slaying punk guitars to back the songs and lyrics of Andrew Reinhard, and the keyboard of Michael Wittgraf. Andrew’s original punk archaeology tunes are available here, and free for download.

As Reisenauer, Reisenauer and I bounced around from one song to another, there certainly were tunes we favored. Todd rightly pointed out that we ought to stick with a theme, though, and that Reinhard’s tunes definitely have a garage punk sound. So this helped us narrow and focus our practice, as earlier we considered other classics such as Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law” and Velvet Underground, “Sweet Jane.” We decided to not play those. At least not this time.

Eventually, Team Reisenauer, Reisenauer & I decided on a short list of punk archaeology songs. Some classic go-tos include covering “Nervous Breakdown” by Black Flag, “Loser’s Club” by The Humpers, and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Iggy Pop and The Stoogies. We also ran through two Reinhard originals, including “History,” and “Publish and Perish,” a segment of this latter song appropriating a punk-abilly sound that might be familiar to Social Distortion fans.


Punk Archaeology Handbills

Around the Fargo-Moorhead area, here is a glimpse of some of the first Punk Archaeology handbills to go up. This one is secured to the entrance of the Rhombus Guys Pizza joint on Main Avenue in downtown Fargo in Cass County, North Dakota. For more details, click here. On February 2, 2013 (a Saturday) at Sidestreet Grille and Bar in downtown Fargo, ND, music will kick off around 7:17pm, and the panel discussion just a bit later. And like any quality un-conference time, it may start just a little before, or a little after. Swing on down if you’re in town. It is happening. And it will be awesome.

Various handbills in the entrance of Rhombus Guys in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Punk Archaeology handbill lower right.

Various handbills in the entrance of Rhombus Guys in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Punk Archaeology handbill lower right.