This NSF-funded research project seeks to identify a suite of "grand challenge" problems of broad scientific and social interest that can drive cutting-edge research in archaeology for the next decade and beyond. We are soliciting discipline-wide consideration of these challenges in order to determine what investments in computational infrastructure by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) would be most likely to effect scalar transformations of our ability to address major problems in archaeology, and in science more broadly. The results of this effort will be published and disseminated on the Web.
“Grand challenge” is a term used to mean "a fundamental problem in science or engineering." For example, in archaeology a grand challenge might be: “Understanding the origin, timing, routes, and demographic dynamics of the peopling of the Americas." In this sense, grand challenges would not include disciplinary challenges with respect to the practice of archaeology, such as changes in financial and legal frameworks. While the current project will use the grand challenges identified here to argue for investment in computational infrastructure, others may find them useful in arguing for funding, policy, or other changes.
This first stage of the research seeks professional perspectives on the major scientific challenges facing the discipline. Following a synthesis of the results, we will return to the community to rank the challenges that emerge most clearly from this initial call. Two project workshops will then explore the data and modeling requirements of highly ranked grand challenge problems to develop a formal argument for major NSF investments in computational infrastructure for archaeology. Computational infrastructure includes improved data acquisition tools for the field and laboratory, digitization of existing data, documents, and reference collections, improved ability to discover, access, and integrate digital data and documents, tools to facilitate modeling and visualization, and training and community building necessary to exploit this infrastructure.
In commemoration of Ohio’s founding, the Ohio Historical Society and its partners, including the Ohio Archaeological Council, invite you to join a broad coalition of history advocates on Thursday, March 1 at the Ohio History Center in Columbus beginning at 9:30 a.m. As part of the celebration at the Ohio History Center, admission to the general public will be free on March 1.
Statehood Day is a celebration of Ohio and its history, as well as a legislative advocacy event. This year’s event will be a celebration of the persistent efforts of Ohio history advocates. For example, just in 2011 the Ohio General Assembly approved:
There are more successes to celebrate, and other legislative priorities to work on.
To register ($25 for lunch and to participate in Statehood Day activities) and for more information about Statehood Day 2012, see www.ohiohistory.org/statehoodday.
During 2011, OAC members learned of the deaths of four colleagues: Kent Vickery (June 1, 2011), Kevin Gibbs (August 28, 2011), Tony DeRegnaucourt (October 17, 2011), and Julie Quinlan (November 2, 2011). Each made contributions that help us to better understand and appreciate archaeology, and, especially Ohio archaeology. Though no disrespect or offense is intended, it is with humility that I write this remembrance knowing that I likely overlooked someone or omitted something. Perhaps each of us can take time this week to raise a toast and thank colleagues near and far, living and no longer with us, for their friendship, comradeship, and efforts to make archaeology better for all of us.(Note: Kent Vickery, Kevin Gibbs, Tony DeRegnaucourt, and Julie Quinlan were all former members of the OAC.)
The OAC is currently reviewing its legislative priorities. Last reviewed in 2008, they are to 1) revise and enforce Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 149.53 regarding archaeological investigations on public improvements, 2) enact a state environmental protection act, 3) revise the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) industrial minerals mining permits to protect archaeological sites, 4) protect unmarked human remains and abandoned cemeteries, and 5) clarify the applicability of ORC 149.54 regarding permits to conduct archaeological investigations on state land.
Oil and Gas Drilling on State Land (implementation of Amended Substitute HB 133). The following message was temporally posted on the OAC’s website but has since been removed at the request of ODNR.
Also urge that cultural resource investigations to identify archaeological and historical sites be reviewed and approved by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO). Request that the OGLC work with OHPO to develop a programmatic agreement on how the surveys and review process will be structured. The law gives the OGLC authority to consider land use compatibility, economic, environmental, visitor, operational/equipment, agency objections, and other impacts per rules adopted under Ohio Revised Code section 119. You can also request that you be placed on a list of persons to be notified when the OGLC proposes rules. The rule-making procedure in Ohio is quite complex. If you are interested in learning about it consult ODNR’s Rule Making Guide http://www.registerofohio.state.oh.us/pdfs/rmg/RMG_1501_20101124.pdf and/or An Overview of Administrative Rule-Making Procedure in Ohio http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/membersonly/127rulemaking.pdf
In conjunction with this post, the OAC sent editorials to a number of Ohio newspapers concerning this matter, some of which were published. The intent of these efforts is to raise public awareness about the issue. Recently, Mr. Wickstrom contacted the OAC after reading some of the editorials and receiving an inquiry from a state legislator who had been contacted by OAC Board member Andy Sawyer. Mr. Wickstrom indicated that ODNR was working on the matter and he assured us “that protection and preservation of archaeological and historical resources on state land is being addressed.” He invited the OAC to meeting with him on December 9 (this meeting was postponed at the last hour by Mr. Wickstrom and has not been rescheduled). We accepted the invitation after we meet with OHPO to discuss the matter. At the OAC’s request, ODNR also invited OHPO to the meeting.
Ohio Underground Damage Control Prevention Coalition. The OAC has been invited to participate in the OUDCPC, and Al Tonetti attended meetings in September and October. The Coalition meets monthly. From the beginning of the meeting it was obvious that the many varied interests in the Coalition have disagreements and it will be a challenge for the members to reach consensus, defined as 80 percent agreement among members. The Coalition’s goal is to revise Ohio’s utility protection laws (ORC 153.64 and 3781.25 - 32) making work around utilities safer for everyone. They hope to have something ready to take to the General Assembly early next year. This a working meeting/group, with a number of subcommittees who are reviewing existing laws in Ohio and similar laws elsewhere, and the failure of SB 152 from last year’s General Assembly.
State ex rel. Merrill v. Ohio Department of Natural Resources. On September 14, 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the 11th District Court of Appeals ruling that the publicly owned land boundary of Lake Erie changes from “moment to moment as the water rises and falls.” The Supreme Court ruled that this boundary “is at the location where the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes”, e.g., storms and droughts. The ruling was unanimous. The question of who defines this boundary and how was remanded to the Lake County Court of Appeals. This ruling is important for Ohio archaeology because it keeps the lakeward side of Lake Erie’s natural, i.e., ordinary, shoreline public property, under control of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, thus enabling archaeological sites that occur at or below the natural shoreline in the public domain and, theoretically, protected from private actions that may adversely affect them. A ruling to the contrary would have threatened archaeological sites along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Statehood Day. Due to protests at the statehouse on March 1, 2011 regarding Senate Bill 5 (public employees collective bargaining), Statehood Day was cancelled. Another organization has reserved the statehouse atrium on Statehood Day 2012, so the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) is developing alternative programming at OHS for March 1, 2012. Al Tonetti is representing the OAC on the planning group for Statehood Day.
One recently successful outcome of Statehood Day was the passage of the Ohio Income Tax Check-off supporting a history (broadly defined) grant program to be administered by OHS. Planning is underway developing this program. Al Tonetti is representing the interests of the OAC/archaeologists on the planning committee. The income tax check-off will appear on your 2011 Ohio Income Tax forms. Please give what you can. You do not have to receive a refund to do so.
Profile of and Meeting with Members of the 129th Ohio General Assembly (2011-2012). The Ohio General Assembly is in session at various times throughout its two-year term. It usually meets on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, holding committee hearings, voting on bills, etc. If you want to meet with your state legislator in Columbus, those are the days on which you should arrange the meeting. Otherwise, you will want to meet with your state legislator in their home district. There are breaks in the legislative calendar throughout the year. It is best to contact your legislator to see when they can meet with you. Do not try and figure out their schedule. They are very busy and things can change quickly, so be prepared for rescheduling or meeting with an aide. Aides often are critical to a legislator’s stance on an issue. Make sure you meet with the right aide by framing the issue you want to meet about correctly when you arrange the meeting. Most state legislators only have a couple of assistants on their staff.
Hundreds of bills are introduced every term; 900-plus in the 128th General Assembly (2009-2010), and about 650 so far in 2011. The vast majority of bills do not get enacted into law. Most do not even get a hearing in the committee to which they are assigned. It is far easier to kill a bill than it is to get one passed.
The 129th Ohio General Assembly consists of 99 state representatives (59 Republicans and 40 Democrats, 77 men and 22 women) and 33 state senators (23 Republicans and 10 Democrats, 25 men and 8 women). Two-thirds of the representatives have been in the General Assembly less than 4 years. Thirty percent of the senators have served less than 4 years. Given their relatively brief experience in state government, it is critically important that efforts to educate them about archaeological issues occur at least yearly.
Section 106 of National Historic Preservation Act may be threatened in 2012 and beyond. Section 106 requires that Federal agencies consider the affects of their projects, called undertakings, on archaeological and historical sites listed in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). This includes undertakings on federal land and other public and private land when there is a federal undertaking, such as a construction project using federal funds or a privately funded construction project requiring some type of federal permit, such as a permit to place fill into wetlands or navigable waters. Recently, in the name of streamlining and job creation, the House of Representatives has tried to pass legislation exempting certain projects and types of projects from complying with Section 106 and other federal laws and regulations. More is expected. Although Congress’ regulatory problems are primarily focused on the EPA, many so-called environmental regulations are being scrutinized. Although no Congressperson has called for the outright repeal of Section 106, and a frontal assault is unlikely, there are signs that the integrity of the Section 106 process is threatened.
Two recent examples:
H.R. 1505, National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. On October 5, 2011, the House Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 1505 by a vote of 26-17. This bill, which now goes to the full house, exempts the US Department of Homeland Security from complying with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Archeological Resources Protection Act, the Antiquities Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and more than 25 other federal laws when accessing federal land or building infrastructure, including fences and roads, within 100 miles of international land and maritime borders of the US. A distance of 100 miles from Ohio’s maritime border with Canada covers most of the northern half of Ohio, including federally controlled areas of Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Lake Erie. Ohio’s only member on the Committee, Rep. Johnson (R), voted yes. A similar bill has yet to be introduced into the US Senate. Exempting compliance with Sections 106 and 110 of the NHPA and other federal laws protecting archaeological sites is dangerous public policy because doing so may then become the norm, not the exception.
HR 1904, Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act 0f 2011. This bill passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. Among other things, it transfers 2,400 acres of public land to a privately owned mining company without assurances that cultural resources on the land will be protected pursuant to NEPA and Section 106 of NHPA.
According to the Society for American Archaeology, most archaeologists in the U.S. today work for private-sector cultural resource management (CRM) firms. CRM is a billion dollar a year industry employing many thousands of people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2011, employment for anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow by 28 percent, driven by growth in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry. CRM firms, in addition to helping preserve and protect our cultural heritage, are in the forefront of the heritage tourism business, one of the few bright spots in these troubled economic times.
The last time the integrity of Section 106 was severely threatened was in 2005, when Republicans in the House tried to limit Section 106 to historic properties currently listed or determined eligible for inclusion/listing in the NRHP, i.e., there would be no more Phase I surveys to identify historic properties. This effort was defeated by a coalition of forces outside of and within Congress, but 2012 and beyond looks to be a very different and difficult time for environmental and similar laws and regulations in Congress. The archaeological community nationally, statewide, and at the local level, needs to prepare itself for what may come. Waiting may not save Section 106 this time around.
At the national level, the Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, Preservation Action, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, the American Cultural Resources Association, and other organizations will be prominent in any contest for Section 106. At the state level, the efforts of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office and the Ohio Archaeological Council will be prominent.
To address this matter the OAC must provide and educate its members about Section 106, and provide them with the information they need to contact their Congresspeople about why the fundamental aspects of Section 106 should be retained. While Section 106 could use some tweaking, its fundamental integrity need not be compromised in order to address the economic issues of today. An OAC Lobby Day in local House District and Senators’ offices is being contemplated. Please contact Al Tonetti if you want to get involved.
Kevin Gibbs, Ohio Archaeological Council member, died unexpectedly on August 28. Kevin was employed at ASC Group for 20 years, where he was a supervising archaeologist, lithics lab supervisor, curation manager, and information technology manager. Previously, he was briefly employed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and David R. Bush, Inc. Kevin’s career in archaeology began with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology at Ohio University in 1987. He also took graduate level classes at Kent State University. Kevin authored or co-authored more than 170 Phase I, II, and III archaeological investigation reports for ASC Group. Kevin’s vast knowledge about prehistoric and historic material culture and information technology will be greatly missed, as will his wonderful sense of humor and wit. He loved science and the quest for knowledge. Helpful in so many ways, his generosity will be greatly missed. Contributions may be made to Perkins Observatory, 3199 Columbus Pike, Delaware, OH 43015, St. Timothy Catholic Church, 1088 Thomas Lane, Columbus, OH 43220, or Lifeline of Ohio, 770 Kinnear Rd., Suite 200, Columbus, OH 43212, in Kevin’s memory. Kevin gave the gift of life.