Events and Calendars

Fall 2016 - Spring 2017

To see an archive of past events go here.


September 22, 2016

7:30 PM

Amanda Crompton
Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada

From the early sixteenth century onwards, French, English, Spanish, and Basque fishing crews were drawn to the island of Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador (Canada), to harvest the vast stocks of cod, whales, and seals found there. Prevailing gendered notions of maritime employment meant that these crews were almost exclusively men, and so European colonization of Newfoundland and Labrador was largely a movement of males. Women formed a very small proportion of settler populations. The rarity of European female migration, and the choices made by Aboriginal peoples in engaging with these new arrivals had an immediate and sustained impact: many colonial men formed households in the virtual absence of women. This resulted in a re-purposing of normative masculine activities in unusual ways. Furthermore, the nature of European-Aboriginal interaction meant that the process of métissage leading to hybrid Aboriginal-European households would not emerge until the late eighteenth century (in Labrador.) Métissage and ethnogenesis can be fraught processes, and in this region, they only began centuries after the period of initial culture contact. This lecture will explore the demography of colonization in this North Atlantic region, the archaeology of colonial and Aboriginal landscapes, the gendered identities of men and women in settlements that were numerically dominated by men, and the (eventual) formation of new Aboriginal-European hybrid identities

October 13, 2016

7:30 p.m.
Kristen Seaman
University of Oregon

November 10, 2016

7:30 p.m.
Gary Staab
Staab Studios, Creator of natural history and prehistoric life models

February 16, 2017

7:30 p.m.

Nick Card
University of the Highlands and Islands

Off the northernmost tip of Scotland lies the Orkney Islands where it is said that if you scratch its surface Orkney bleeds archaeology! This is nowhere truer than in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site that is renown for some of the most iconic prehistoric monuments of Atlantic Europe: the great stone circles of the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness; Maeshowe the finest chambered tomb in northern Europe; and the exceptionally well preserved 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae.

Recent research and excavation in this area is radicalizing our views of this period and providing a sharp contrast to the Stonehenge centric view of the Neolithic. In particular, the stunning discovery of a Neolithic complex at the Ness of Brodgar that was enclosed within a large walled precinct is changing our perceptions. The magnificence of the Ness structures with their refinement, scale, and symmetry decorated with color and artwork, bears comparison with the great temples of Malta.  These excavations are revealing a 5,000 year old complex, socially stratified, and dynamic society.

The Ness excavations were recognized by the American Institute of Archaeology as one of the great discoveries in 2009; named the 2011 Current Archeology Research Project of the Year; winner of the international Andante Travel Archaeology Award in 2012; and featured in cover article in National Geographicin 2014.

The excavations are directed by Nick Card who has lived and worked on Orkney off the north tip of Scotland for more than 25 years. He is Senior Projects Manager of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute that he helped to establish. He is also a Member of Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site Research Committee; an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of the Highlands and Islands; Chair of the Ness of Brodgar Trust and Vice-president of the American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar.

April 13, 2017

7:30 p.m.

Kathleen Gibson
University of Texas (School of Medicine)

Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, co-discoverers of the principle of evolution by natural selection, held starkly contrasting views about the origins of the human mind.  Wallace considered the human mind to be qualitatively distinct from that of other animals, while Darwin postulated that animal and human minds differ in degree but not in kind. Darwin’s position, but not Wallace’s, represented a sharp break with traditional Cartesian views that human behavior is rational, but animal behavior is instinctive.

Controversies over the nature of animal/human mental distinctions continue to this day. Many, perhaps most, students of human evolution have continued to hold Cartesian views of human uniqueness.  When, in the 1960s, great apes successfully challenged traditional views that humans are the only animals that can make tools or use symbols, anthropologists, psychologists, and linguists were quick to define new areas of human uniqueness such as theory of mind, cooperation, and syntax.  These, too, have now been challenged by great apes.  Hence, while many scholars continue to argue that human mentalities are qualitatively unique, others now advocate a more Darwinian approach.  They accept that great apes possess the rudiments of many object-manipulation, social and communicative behaviors once considered unique to our species, but recognize that human abilities exceed those of the apes in each of these domains.  This presentation argues that humans possess increased information processing capacities across a variety of behavioral domains.  Hence, humans can construct more information-rich and hierarchically organized motor sequences, objects, communications, and socially-cooperative actions.

Qualitative gap models have also tended to dominate interpretations of the archaeological and paleoanthropological records.  Not so long ago, it was nearly universally agreed that the first manufactured stone tools were produced by early members of the genus, Homo, and that fully modern mental abilities arose very suddenly about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago with the appearance of the Upper Paleolithic.  New findings challenge these views.  These include manufactured stone tools from Lomekwi, Kenya (3.3. mya), complex tools from Africa which long predate the Upper Paleolithic, Indonesian paintings dating to about 40,000 years ago, and increasing evidence of Neanderthal “symbolic” activities and of interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans. This talk discusses this new evidence in light of continuity versus qualitative gap perspectives of human/animal and modern human/fossil hominin mental differences. It concludes that much of what we see in the archaeological record accords with an increased information processing model of tool-making, cooperative, and communicative abilities, and, hence, with Darwinian views that differences of degree, rather than of kind, distinguish human from animal minds (and by extension modern human minds from those of other hominins).

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