Martha’s Anniversary: Passenger Pigeon Events

With the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, only days away, Ectopistes-related events are happening everywhere. Here are some to look forward to over the Labor Day weekend and beyond:

Passenger Pigeon Weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo. 

Held at the original home of Martha and co-sponsored by the Ohio Ornithological Society, this event includes a Friday night cocktail party, a Saturday symposium with Joel Greenberg and others, and birdwatching opportunities.

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History

Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America has been open since late June. Martha herself can be found here. The Smithsonian is also having a twitterchat about Martha on September 2, 2-3 P.M. EST. Check out #Martha100.

MassMoca

Artists Sayler/Morris have created a new art exhibit at this fascinating museum in North Adams, Massachusetts,  that contemplates the life and death of the passenger pigeon. Here’s more from the museum’s press release:

Eclipse consists of a massive 100-foot video projection, screens on the walls and ceiling of MASS MoCA’s four-story atrium. The video loop shows a flock of passenger pigeons in reverse-negative silhouette lifting out of a life-sized tree, accompanied by sound design consisting of layers of digitally processed human voices. The exhibition offers a space for reflection with a limited-edition artist publication that will include writings by Kolbert, original photography by Sayler/Morris, and archival images.

Eclipse officially opens on September 1.

Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, Easton PA

Michael Pestel’s multimedia art exhibition Requiem, Ectopistes migratorious, “ metaphorically places Martha at the center of the installation in the form of a human-scale birdcage, encouraging visitors to contemplate extinction—of the passenger pigeon, of other species, and perhaps even author Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction.” It opens September 1 with a presentation by the artist, music, and readings.

Beloit College Center for the Sciences, Wisconsin

On September 8, Steve Kuehn will give a talk entitled The Prehistory of “The Feathered Tempest”: Passenger Pigeon Zooarchaeology in the Upper Midwest focusing on pigeon bones from archaeological sites in Illinois and Wisconsin.

A Shadow Over the Earth: The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History created this exhibit, which is being presented at many venues throughout the country, including the Florida Museum of Natural History, the New Jersey State Museum, and the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society. Many locales are supplementing the display with material from their own collections.

Passenger Pigeon Lecture at New York State Museum

Next month, the New  York State Museum will be presenting a lecture  on the passenger pigeon.  Jeremy Kirchman is no stranger to extinct birds, having done research on the Carolina parakeet, the (possibly extinct) Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and others.

The passenger pigeon, icon of extinction
September 28, 2014 : 1:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M.
Description: One hundred years ago, on September 1st 1914, the world’s last Passenger Pigeon died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo marking the demise of a species that once numbered in the billion of birds. What were Passenger Pigeons, and what happened to cause their extinction? Please join Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, New York State Museum Curator of Birds, as he presents this lecture on the life and times of America’s “wild pigeon”.

Reading the Cowboy Way: Ranger Doug Finishes all 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Riders in the Sky
Ranger Doug, left, prior to finishing reading 1,001 books.

Guitarist and lead yodelist Ranger Doug of the band Riders in the Sky just completed a five year odyssey reading all the books on the 1,001 Books you must read before you die list, according to an article in The Tennessean by Tony Gonzalez.

Why? “It’s just something you do on the road. You get in that bunk and you’ve got nothing to do until it’s your turn to drive.”

How does a cowboy round up all those books? He uses his local public library, scouts out used book stores, and occasionally resorts to using the internet.

Ranger Doug is both a reader and a writer, having authored several books including Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy. Read the original article to see which books he recommends, and which he recommends you avoid.

Archaeology Journals and Impact Factors

Those in tenure-track positions care a lot about impact factors; other people, not so much.

Elsevier, which coincidentally also publishes academic journals, makes freely available  “three alternative, transparent and accurate views of the true citation impact a journal makes.” These are the Impact per Publication (IPP), Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), and ScImago Journal Rank (SJR). Each one is updated yearly.

For full information on how these are calculated and see the impact factor for any of thousands of journals, go to journalmetrics.com

Where do the journals devoted to archaeology rank? Generally speaking, well below more general science journals that frequently publish articles of archaeological interest.

The highest ranked journal of any kind, using any of the three rankings, are Nature (IPP 32.997) and Science (25.903), both of which publish occasional articles of archaeological interest.

There is quite a drop off in rank after that, with the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) having an IPP of 9.756, followed by Quaternary Science Reviews, Evolutionary Anthropology, and PLoS ONE.

Other journals well-known among archaeologists are the Annual Review of Anthropology, Quaternary Research, and Current Anthropology.

The highest ranked journal dedicated solely to archaeology is the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (2.27), followed closely by the Journal of Archaeological Science (2.237), and the Journal of Archaeological Research (2.192).

Trailing somewhat are the Journal of World Prehistory (1.724), Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (1.519), Geoarchaeology (1.51), and a relative newcomer, Archaeological Prospection (1.478). The venerable Antiquity (1.352) is next, followed by Archaeometry, the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, the Journal of African Archaeology, and  Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Considering its prominence among North American archaeologists, it may be surprising that American Antiquity just barely rates an IPP above 1.0 (actually 1.038), and is outranked by American Anthropologist, Australian Archaeology, the Journal of Field Archaeology, Archaeology in Oceania, and World Archaeology. The SAA’s sister journal, Latin American Antiquity, garners a 0.642

The SJR rankings seem to be comparable to IPP, although American Antiquity, for one, moves up in the rankings. Using the SNIP shakes things up: After Nature and Science is the Annual Review of Anthropology, outranking PNAS.  Two journals significantly increasing their rank are Medieval Archaeology and the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

 

Have Deer Gotten Smaller Since the Archaic?

A white-tailed deer in the Adirondacks of New York.  Late Archaic deer were larger than modern New York deer.
A white-tailed deer in the Adirondacks of New York. Deer in the Adirondacks tend to be smaller than those found in Central New York. Late Archaic deer were larger than modern New York deer. Source: Mwanner. Creative Commons license CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons.

The average white-tailed deer killed during the Late Archaic at Lamoka Lake weighed 77 kg, or 170 pounds.

That’s the estimate derived from measuring the astragalus, a bone in the lower leg of white-tailed deer.  By the Late Woodland to Protohistoric Period in New York, deer found at the Engelbert Site averaged 64.5 kg, or 142 pounds.

How big was the largest identified deer at Lamoka Lake? Over 155 kg, or  342 pounds.

To learn how these weight estimates were derived, and learn more about deer body size, get the paper:

Preliminary Archaeological Evidence for a Decrease in White-Tailed Deer Body Size in New York during the Holocene.

 

 

Gold Miners Find Trove of Pleistocene Animal Bones

Animal bones from the last Ice Age are continually being exposed by gold mining in the Yukon. The provincial government hires two paleontologists to collect the bones, and occasionally bits of flesh or fur, from the many mining operations; they already have 25,000 specimens.

Source: nationalpost.com and Government of Yukon

“Typically, you know you’ve found it because you smell it before you see, it,” said Duane Froese, a University of Alberta scientist who has been coming to the Klondike for 20 years. “Imagine putting something in your freezer for 40,000 years and then thawing it out.”

In fact, most placer mines are permeated by a noticeably foul smell. As Klondike silt is blasted away, it unleashes the distinctive stench of millennia-old rotting plants and animals.

“It’s like rotting ancient barnyard, and you know when you have that smell that you’re going to find a lot of ancient material,” said Mr. Zazula.

The Klondike region, along with parts of Alaska, was one of the only parts of North America not to be covered by ice sheets during the last ice age.

As a result, while soil in the rest of Canada was repeatedly smashed and churned by glaciation, the frozen Klondike ground remained as undisturbed as a graveyard. In some remote area of the northern Yukon, prospectors even talk of finding mammoth prints.

Fossils in them there hills: Yukon gold miners uncover bounty in ancient animal remains each year

Ignore the Horns: Physicists Explore Viking Social Networks

Real social networks (like, um, Facebook) are different from fictional social networks (like Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings). So what kind of social networks are present in the Icelandic Sagas? that’s what Statistical physicists Ralph Kenna and Pádraig Mac Carron wanted to know.

Veronique Greenwood at theverge.com writes about what they found. The power and the potential of there approach is summed up by her here:

Tim Tangherlini, a folklorist and professor at UCLA who hosted a 2010 National Endowment for the Humanities meeting on network analysis, sees potential. “There are a lot of latent patterns in this material that you can’t discern overtly. You can do it very well as a trained reader — by developing ways of thinking about the material that let us see latent patterns — but we have a very hard time articulating it.” Algorithms could help make those patterns visible. In the case of social networks, they can reveal which people are the most connected or powerful, as well as how densely connected the network is and the average distance between any two people, qualities that vary depending on the type of group.

For more details, and the horns, see Viking Sagas: Six Degrees of Icelandic Separation.