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Jack Biggs


January 30, 2017

Wading Through Skeletal Aging Literature and Raphael.js

January 30, 2017 | By | No Comments

Apologies for my tardiness in posting!  It’s been an incredibly hectic semester so far and time keeps on slipping away!

Since my project is focused on subadult skeletal age estimation, I’ve really started going through the literature and publications over the subject.  On one hand, this is a great way for me to conduct in-depth literature reviews for my methods section of my comprehensive exams and prepare for my dissertation since I’m focusing on the growth and development of ancient Maya subadults and how social, environmental, and biological stressors affect those processes.  On the other hand, I’ve been running into a few academically-related brick walls.  One common thread I’ve found throughout most of the literature is that there really is no single-agreed upon method for most of the transitional age-related changes for any single bone or bone element.  Academia, especially Victorian and early 20th century academia when many of these studies originally took place, is full of researchers and their own opinions or just blasting other scholars’ methods.  Additionally, the racist roots of physical anthropology focused on non-white populations as a curiosity while only conducting comprehensive and in-depth studies of white European or American populations.  This is an unfortunate trend that extended embarrassingly far into the 20th century and was not until post-WWII that things began to change.

However, the vast majority of skeletal studies, as a result of large institutional collections, are still comprised of mostly white individuals which limits the degree of applicability for those studying cultures in non-white areas of the world where different cultures and environments greatly dictate development of the human skeleton.  As a result, the majority of the methods employed in this interactive website will be pulled from studies comprised of mostly white individuals, as those have most often been heavily researched.  For me, this is an unwanted convenience as it does not actually represent the full breadth of human variation that we see across populations and cultures across the globe.  (However, population-specific studies have become very popular and standards for specific regions and populations have increased, but not enough to the point yet to where I could effectively implement them into my website.)

An additional unwanted event occurred in which I accidentally discovered that another researcher is using the title ‘OSSA’ as well for his osteological software that statistically estimates ancestry.  It has not yet been published and is still in its beta test phase which is why nothing originally came up in my search for anyone else using that acronym.  Although I think I may technically finish my website before him and could thus use the name, this researcher is on my dissertation committee and I felt it wisest not to make them mad!  So for right now, the working title of the project is ‘Fontanelle’ in reference to the spaces on the cranium of incomplete closure on infants.

One last aspect of the project I’m working through is the interactive graphic on the landing page.  Ideally it will be a juvenile skeleton to where when the mouse hovers over a specific bone or element, such as the skull, the skull will change colors and clicking on it will take you to a new page specifically focusing on aging methods of the bones of the cranium and mandible.  I have been trying to accomplish this with raphael.js which allows you to draw vector graphics on webpages.  Since I have had a slower-than-expected start to the semester, I’m a little behind in my execution of being able to do this and it is still weighing me down.  I know that once I am able to map out a single bone, the rest of the skeleton should be relatively pain-free (although this might take a while with all the bones in the body!)



January 29, 2017

Learning About Web 3.0

January 29, 2017 | By | No Comments

My project involves working with some of the technologies of the semantic web. The main idea of the semantic web (or web 3.0, and in Berners-Lee’s language the “read+write+execute” phase that will supersede the “read-only” phase of web 1.0 and the “read+write” phase of web 2.0) is for web services to reason automatically about resources. Robust descriptions enable the linking of heterogeneous resources. Semantic web services commonly use the Resource Description Framework (RDF) to represent entities in terms of subjects, objects, and predicates.

Take the hyperlink, for instance: where a classic hyperlink connects one document on the web to another, web 3.0 proposes to link data within a document to data within another. This proposition depends on data modeling work: specifying a domain’s things as categories (classification), identifying supersets and subsets of its classes (generalization), and specifying the part-whole relationships in which its classes participate (aggregation).

Where descriptions of resources are robust, we are able to build services to reason about them intelligently and automatically. Europeana, the European Union’s platform for heritage content, provides good documentation and maintains a SPARQL endpoint, which I’ve found helpful for learning about these technologies. See the video I’ve posted above for more information.



January 29, 2017

Gathering Data of Immigrant Movement in Detroit

January 29, 2017 | By | No Comments

During the break, I started gathering data for Filipino-American settlement and representation in Michigan, and my first stop was the city of Detroit. Michigan is already a difficult state for this type of search because many of the first wave immigrants came through Hawaii, the West Coast, and Illinois. I believed Detroit would be a promising start because though the first Filipino students came in through Ann Arbor, many Filipino migrants were drawn to work in the auto industry. In my mind, I imagined populating a digital map with the general movement of these immigrants, the neighborhoods they would eventually settle in, and the commercial and community establishments that would later develop from the diverse population.

Instead, I ran into dead ends. After a week of relentless research, I concluded it still exceptionally difficult to unearth Asian American histories in this area of the Midwest – thus, perhaps all the more crucial. Most of what I found written about Filipinos coming to Detroit focused on whether they were civilized or not. In one memorable example, an article in the Detroit Free Press highlighted the city’s first Filipino in 1904 with a discussion of his white overseer’s compassion in bringing the Filipino child over and an excerpt from his school writing to show how his exceptional grammar and English skills proved Filipinos could be made civilized. I doubled back and gathered the addresses of the Filipino students that came through between 1917 and 1921, hoping to find their story, but I was met with silent fates, mostly implied displacements from major (discriminatory) zoning laws and urban developments. This is to say that the work of unearthing these histories is a struggle—and necessary to move beyond denigrating frames of specific cultures. Still, traces are coming through, and reminding me that Filipinos had a role in forming the city.

One particularly case is the neighborhood of Cass Corridor which is now the target of gentrification. Filipinos and other immigrants who were pushed into the crime-infested area had helped built into a solid ethnically-diverse community. They opened businesses, introduced new foods, and celebrated culture in impactful ways, which the city then marketed for profit. Cass Corridor’s fate isn’t new if we look at Chicago’s Wicker Park or Cabrini Green. And beyond providing marketable culture, immigrants’ place-making in host cities has helped redevelop decaying urban and economic infrastructures.

With over 100 years of Asian Americans in Detroit, the community’s displacement due to zoning measures, prejudice, and urban planning has contributed to such movements as the upheaval and transfer of an entire Chinatown, relocation to the suburbs or other states, and migrations to low-income, crime-infested downtown areas such as Cass Corridor. These transferences have provided a challenge for sustainable Asian American communities, making the Asian American presence—despite its numbers—struggle to be representative in the public sphere. To then represent these movements on a digital map relies on what little spatial data can be found: the general movement of neighborhoods and snapshots of APA material sites that assert claims to space before erasure.

Erin Pevan


January 28, 2017

Circumnavigating the choppy waters of evidence gathering in Norwegian national literature

January 28, 2017 | By | No Comments

Recently, as I’ve begun to build my project and begin the first explorations of constructing the corpus of textual evidence through which I will examine national identity in Norway, I’ve been vexed with an epistemological challenge of using such evidence in my corpus that includes examples of literature, folklore, folk songs, and the like. Can such evidence provide solid, justified examples of meaning and knowledge based in truth, or is it a medium through which discourses of opinion provide problematic challenges in discerning fact from fiction? Well, thankfully, I’ve explored this issue before, and with recent input from the American Anthropological Association conference I attended this past November, I have found many ways in which cultural heritage research, and anthropological research in general, has made great use of the wealth of material that literature provides as evidence for such topics such as expressions of national identity. Read More

Jessica Yann


January 27, 2017

Phase I: Developing my Timeline

January 27, 2017 | By | No Comments

Now that the new semester is here, I have finally begin to build my archaeological timeline of Michigan.  While not much has changed on the project website, I have been working steadily on collecting the necessary data to include.  You are welcome to view/keep tabs on my project development by going to my project development page here. Depending on when you check, there may or may not be a navigation bar at the top (that has been my most recent struggle).  I’m hoping to have the base pages created soon, with a navigation bar on all of them, and the timeline visible on the main page very shortly.  From there I can amend the events on the timeline and really start to add content.

Speaking of content, I’d like to say a bit regarding the type of information you can expect to see on my timeline.  After struggling a little trying to make decisions about just which archaeological sites to highlight, I decided it was important to highlight the most important sites in our state, which will be represented by those sites that have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  These are archaeological sites that have been determined to be nationally significant, that have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory (you can see the criteria for listing here).  I will probably add a few additional sites that represent the earliest occupation of Michigan (these have not yet been nominated for listing).

Keep tabs on my project, comment on what you see, and enjoy! Just know that this is a living draft, that is always changing. I’m hopeful by my next blog post I will have started adding events and information to my page!


Autumn Beyer


January 25, 2017

Capturing Campus Cuisine: Choosing a MSU Theme

January 25, 2017 | By | No Comments

Over the Winter break and into the beginning of this semester I  have been working on building and editing the framework for the Capturing Campus Cuisine website on the early food practices at Michigan State University. Following discussions with Susan Kooiman, my fellow Campus Archaeology fellow on this project and Dr. Goldstein, we wanted to have the website follow as close as possible to the historic colors and fonts used by the University. How is this even possible you ask? Well, there happens to be a webpage created by MSU specifically for these purposes! Check it out! Read More

Erin Pevan


December 27, 2016

Rifling through a stack of books: Examining expressions of Norwegian national identity

December 27, 2016 | By | No Comments

In my last CHI blog post of 2016, I’ll discuss the next steps of my project, expanding from my last post regarding the visualization of cultural heritage and ethnographic topics to the overall scheme and vision of my own project on Norwegian national identity. As with most large scale and content heavy projects, mine has evolved over these several months to this current iteration that not only serves as the main component to my master’s thesis, but also as the platform from which I can launch further projects that involve my interests in Scandinavian culture heritage, language, and the use of technology as the medium through which I can explore these interests.  Read More

Nikki Silva


December 16, 2016

Project Introduction: Directory of Oneota Scholars

December 16, 2016 | By | No Comments

Project Description:

My dissertation research focuses on Oneota populations living in Illinois. Artifacts attributed to the Oneota have been found primarily in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Because of the variety of Oneota sites and the different geographic areas where artifacts have been found, it is difficult to parse out who is currently studying or has previously studied the Oneota and what has been published on Oneota archaeology. For this years CHI Project I will create a website that serves as a directory of these scholars and lists their publications, areas of interest, and current institutions of employment. This directory will be used by graduate, undergraduate, and PhDs trying to find other scholars studying the Oneota.

Read More



December 10, 2016

Clarifying My Project’s Topic

December 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

My project will consist of a deep dive into the representation of heritage objects in CIDOC-CRM and will result in an interactive presentation of case analyses of CIDOC-CRM object descriptions.

I’m interested in exploring the operations through which an object comes to be recognized as a heritage object. In documenting the why of the project, I’ve dabbled with the term heritage industry.But while I’ve found The heritage industry: Britain in a climate of decline (Hewison, 1987) pretty compelling, I’m not interested in what seems more like a particular argument’s foil to historywell executed, than a term with much analytic purchase here. It will be more productive to say that I’m interested in what happens in the space described in the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC), most recently in ISIC Revision 4 Section R Division 91:

This division includes activities of libraries and archives; the operation of museums of all kinds, botanical and zoological gardens; the operation of historical sites and nature reserves activities. It also includes the preservation and exhibition of objects, sites and natural wonders of historical, cultural or educational interest (e.g. world heritage sites, etc).

This division excludes sports, amusement and recreation activities, such as the operation of bathing beaches and recreation parks (see division 93).

Moving forward, I’ll need to do some reading about the extent to which activities in this space can be described in concepts like between-firm value networks and within-firm value chains composed of business processes, not to mention the very concept of the firm, and whether organizations acting in this space can even be described as such.

I’m thinking this project will involve almost as much conceptual plumbing work as it will design and development. I’m not unhappy about that, but it should go without saying that suggestions on literature to check out will be welcome!

Jessica Yann


December 9, 2016

Gliding through time!

December 9, 2016 | By | No Comments

Last time I described my idea for my CHI fellowship project, an interactive timeline on Michigan’s Archaeological history.  I have had plenty of time to play with this idea and test out several different means to try and get a functioning timeline on my web page.  I think I have finally decided on using Timeglider JS, as it looks like it will allow me to create the pop-ups and interactivity I am looking for.  Timeglider JS is a widget written in javascript that you use to create your timeline, then incorporate that into your web page.  I’ve tested it with dates from 14,000 years ago up through the present, and even tested the interactivity to a point. I believe it will do everything I am hoping for.

Now that I have decided how I’m going to accomplish my project, the next step is to accumulate the information to put into it.  During the coming semester, I am going to start compiling archaeological information on important sites and themes to include on my timeline, while figuring out how to best incorporate them into the timeline. Some of the major themes I am thinking of incorporating into the timeline include major environmental changes, faunal changes (i.e., demise of mammoths and mastodons), and then major technological changes (i.e., appearance of pottery, plant domestication, introduction of the bow and arrow).

While I can do this all on my own, I am also soliciting input from you all as well.  What do you see as the most important themes in Michigan Archaeology that should be included? What are your favorite archaeological sites?  What information do you think the general public would most benefit from having included? Let me know what you think!