Some people (ok, most people) might not know that I have an unusual interest in archaeology. This obsession started when I was a young child while reading a book on ancient Egypt…I felt a connection to the characters in the story more than I had with any other book. This motivated me to read more on the topic and research Egypt. At one time, I even vowed to pursue Egyptology as a possible profession. However, the extent of my formal Egyptology studies was one Level 400 college course on the History of Ancient Egypt (my only non-A grade on my transcript…yeah, I don’t want to talk about that, wink.)
Fast forward a couple of decades, life happens and I now feed my interest once a month when my Archaeology magazine arrives in the mail. Reading those magazines cover-to-cover is a highlight of my month. This past issue I had two reflective moments whilst reading completely different stories in the May/June issue, both of which relate to the role technology played. I have summarized below:
“After the Battle of Dunbar: Legacy of a Lost Scottish Army” When researchers concluded that the recently-uncovered mass grave in Durham, England held the remains of the soldiers of The Battle of Dunbar (an amazing story of fighting, death and survival) they were surprised by the increase in online traffic from hits on America’s eastern seaboard. The influx was coming from Battle of Dunbar survivors! Motivated by this, a number of the aforementioned researchers traveled to New England and thus presented their findings to a packed room of descendants who were VERY interested in finding out more information and meeting others of the same ilk. The researchers connected these people through their information and presentations. What I found extremely interesting was the decision to present based on heightened online traffic from a particular area! It does leave me asking a lot of questions (which is always good!) and wondering how this technology can/will influence education. Are we teaching our students to use tools to be collaborative and make connections using technology? Are we inspiring our young learners to think big-picture? To critically think through real-world problems and find solutions? At this time, I don’t know.
I continued reading through the issue and found another awe-inspiring article. This one was entitled “The Ghosts of Kangeq: The Race to Save Greenland’s Arctic Coastal Heritage From a Shifting Climate.” Kangeq, a settlement in southwestern Greenland, hosts a layered index of human occupation that covers at least two millennia. Fluctuating weather patterns are melting the permafrost and accelerating natural decomposition. This means a plethora of amazing items found in these midden sites (preserved wood, bones, feathers, baleen, antlers, leather, fur, human hair) will soon turn to mush, or as archaeologists refer to it: “butter bone.” Greenland’s current capacity for managing archaeological sites is limited as the coastline alone stretches over 27,000 miles. Although archaeological teams will tend to the sites that are identified the most vulnerable, they will still need help to cover ground and acquire pertinent information. The plan is to tap into local expertise and crowdsource the information. “Modern Greenlanders are frequently very familiar with changes to their hunting and fishing grounds from year to year, and we want to figure out a way to capitalize on this local knowledge,” states Bo Albrechtsen, Deputy Director of the Greenland National Museum. This will most likely take the form of a mobile app to document and record important information on threats to coastal archaeological sites. The sum is greater than its parts. I love it. And in regards to school and education (as I like to put that lens on just about everything I do and read)….the teacher doesn’t hold the knowledge, the students do.