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20 November, 2013


Verb. To prove something previously discredited.

This word came about when I was talking to my sister about archaeologists' habit of calling things they cannot identify "ritual objects" in a joking way, and how I found one of these, but through further reflection and research have come to believe is in fact a ritual object. (Just scroll down to the last post, if this is too confusing).

In any case, one of the supremely humorous ironic scenarios is that of the rebunking: A hasty and possibly unfounded load of bunk is presented as truth, only to be debunked. But then, it turns out to have been true all along: rebunked.

Leafing through my unabridged dictionary (a 1941 edition of the 1934 copyright of Webster's), the etymology refers briefly to a Spanish "supposed card game" before getting serious with a reference to a speech by an Appalachian North Carolinian rep in the 16th Congress of the US of A, in which he referred to the people of Buncombe (County). It is only fitting that "bunk" as in BS, no...not merely that, but as in "don't even waste my time with your ridiculo-pathetic prevarications," originated in Congress.

Rebunking, I hope, does not occur often in the august legislatures of our US of A, state or federal. So little political bunk stands a chance of ever becoming true. It's low grade stuff,  Scrapple to Spam, Hanna-Barbera to Warner-Brothers.

But out in the real world, rebunking can happen. Science is replete with examples (I'm looking at you, epigenetic Lamarckians), often with the pleasing side-effect of pompous experts being forced to eat crow in their ivory towers (I'm looking at you, pre-Clovis doubters, if you still exist).  Rebunking, or the nagging threat thereof, is a force that creates at least a little humbleness in advanced society.

19 November, 2013


What the hell is this? Ask an ArchaeOlygist.

OK, I held off saying so here until the Mission Spit salvage project was done, because I didn't want treasure hunters showing up at an unguarded pile of artifacts (even if they were all broken, and deemed officially insignificant by regulatory archaeocrats).

But there's an archaeology blog for Olympia now. Because I just cannot resist that kind of messing with words, it's called ArchaeOlygy. So far, it's mostly about a sand spit that contained evidence of the first Catholic Mission in the area, but I plan to branch out, if not go very far afield. Any other archaeologists in the area interested in contributing are welcome. I don't really care if you are a professional, as long as it's about the past down here in the South Sound, and does not talk about finding dinosaurs, use the word "treasure," or suggest that aliens of the Lost Tribe of Israel made the site you are writing about.

I may cross-post once in a while, and archaeology that has nothing to do with the Olympia area will still appear here, but ArchaeOlygy will exist until I'm bored or it's clear that nobody is reading it. I'll still be a smartass over there, but with more focus, and less trickery and fakelore.

11 November, 2013

Nature Show in the Yard*

My, what sharp shins you have. Note a fortuitous blade of grass for comparison.

In the wilds of, front yard, the hunter became the hunted. Cliche, but true, all conveniently presented on a grassy lawn with no obstruction, and anough time to grab my camera.

I was just arriving home, when I heard a violent screeking, and looked over to see a small hawk pinning a starling to the ground by my doorstep. In no mood to share her prey, she flew over to the neighbor's yard, where it became evident that this was one starling no longer singing its foreign songs, and the racket was the hawk's victory chant.

Mine! Mine! Mine!

"She?" Probably, based on the word of the Fish and Wildlife biologist who I sent these photos to. Juvenile, perhaps. Smaller than a Coopers, which would make it a Sharp Shinned Hawk in these parts. A native culling a flock of invasives. One down, thousands to go.

Hawk struck starling a few times for good measure, but was not really eating it. More of a dance: lowering its wings over the kill, flipping it's tail up, turning, stamping. And screaming all the while. She kept an eye on me lest I look too hungry, but kept it up for 66 seconds (thanks, digital camera for the time-keeping) before...

No bird for you, alien feline.

This is just one of the neighborhood cats (the ferals mostly fall to coyotes, I think), but to watch it come in, fast and low, ready for a pounce after the run, was to see the hunter that lives in most house-cats. It came out of nowhere (OK, probably the alley behind me), answering the dinner call. Was it like me, thinking it heard a bird in distress? Or have the cats learned the hawk's "I killed a freakin' starling!" song? This unwild-cat was probably not ready to hunt the hunter, but would steal a starling if it could.

This time, it could not. But it did make me wonder about how this works out on the big scale. I mean, a huge flock of starlings in the fairly open setting of single family homes  be a boon to the bird-hunting hawk, but how many times does the native raptor make a kill only to have it taken away by a cat? Or, does a hawk have to spend much time eluding pets hungry for yet another hand-out? The massive toll of cats directly killing wild birds has only recenltly become clear (billions, by the way, if not billions and billions), but what about the effects of harrassment and competition on native predators?

Maybe the impact of cats on raptors is tiny. Maybe I could find out if only I spent another few minutes searching the internet. But, I will not, because I suspect that the data are, even if they exist, apt to take more than a few minutes to find. Besides, the main point of this post was to share some photos of a nature show in my yard. These shots were zoomed like hell on a cheap digital camera, but they came out pretty cool, I thought. Sometimes just having a camera handy beats hours of waiting with fine photopgraphic gear.

* Adapted from a post at Land Before Me.

02 November, 2013

Feeding the Hand that Bites You

"So long, and thanks for all the fish."
The last book I read was about the Nez Perce war, and right now I'm working on one about the Puget Sound wars, treaties, and trial of Leschi a generation earlier. It ain't pretty, and ties into why I'd rather fill out "Other" than "White" or "Caucasian" on forms that ask for ethinicity. I have to assume that a large percentage of "Others" are similarly aware of "white" misdoings (I'll leave the "Caucasian" misdoings to that Caucasus favorite son, Joe Stalin).

Another Joseph, the Younger Joseph of the Nimipu (Nez Perce) was betrayed and hunted like a disagrreable neighbor's rabid dog a generation after Leschi of the Squally Absch (Nisqually) was killed like,...the same. The reason for this was not that either of these men, their forebears, or their kin, had done wrong by American settlers. To the contrary, Nimipu and others saved Lewis and Clark from starvation, provided guides, and even horse-sitting services, without which the Corps of Discovery would not have reached the Pacific, much less returned home. Leschi and others accomodated Hudsons Bay men and even attempted to deal with the Bostons (Americans) and their psychopath Governor of Washington Territory. 

As in Jamestown and a thousand points of dark in between, tribes in the Columbia Plateau and Puget Trough first dealt with west-hungry explorers and settlers by feeding them. Thanks for the Giving.

But food for the small settlements only led to hunger for everything outside the pale. Lewis and Clark handed out medals, but later American settlers grabbed and acted offended when the natives wanted to stay free on the land they'd tended for millennia. Even in the middle of the Pacific Moana, sons of missionaries who had depended on the kindness of kanakas turned around and plantationized islands, pauperizing most of the inhabitants.

Fresh out of native people to rob, the American elite eventually turned to stealing Africans and distilling wealth from their sweat (yeah, the Yankees did it too, with shiploads of human cargo headed to the plantations). Once they ran out of brown peoples, the uber-white people turned their attention to their unter-brethren, continuing to concentrate wealth among the few while consigning the masses of crackers to poverty. The process continues unabated (accelerated, even) until today.

But none of this would have happened had not Wahunsenakawh (Powhatan) fed the hand that would eventually bite him and eventually everyone else in Indian Country. As my people say, "No good deed goes unpunished."

01 November, 2013

Magic, Or Just Happy Happenstance?

The other day, as a ferry was bringing a bunch of artifacts to the Suquamish Tribe's museum, close to where they were excavated decades ago, a large number of orca bagan playing around the ferry. Sure, the whales have been active all week in the area, but to see so many around a ferry is unusual, and to have it happen when artifacts from ancient times are on their way's just way too cool to dismiss as coincidence.

I was raised by a physicist, and I even make efforts to do archaeology in a scientific way, but I've also got enough experience and intelligence to know there are things I do not know and cannot explain. If people who descend from the ones who made the artifacts, from hundreds of generations of people who fished alongside the orca and recognized them as relations, if they see this as a welcome home gesture from the whales, who am I to argue?