Our next virtual meeting will be August 18! Check your email for details.

The August 18, 2020 virtual program will feature John S. Harris, archaeologist with the USDA National Resources Conservation Service, Temple, Texas, speaking on:

What to Look for in Site Vegetation: A Proposed Schema for Recognizing and Describing Anthropogenic Surface Vegetation at Archaeological Sites

Despite the popular use of “anthropogenic” in recent years to refer to soil, lithics, flora, and fauna as indicators of human activity, the term has evaded clear and constructive definition, resulting in surprisingly divergent ideas over what constitutes human “modification” or “influence,” leaving some traces of human activity to be noticed over others. While specialists in lithics, soils, faunal remains have all wrestled with recognizing the signs of human activity, yet the same cannot be said of site surface vegetation. Without conceptual cohesion, archaeologists risk overlooking the data potential of surface vegetation at archaeological sites by focusing on a few familiar aspects of anthropogenism to the exclusion of others. This discussion will identify the problem of definition and proposes a conceptual schema to reconcile diverse notions of what is “anthropogenic vegetation.” This will be done by drawing on formation process theory’s concept of trace categories and pragmatic semiotics’ referential and non-referential indices to frame anthropogenism as occurring both as innate (intrinsic) and contextual (extrinsic) sets of phenomena associated with humans. A brief description of each of these anthropogenic categories are then discussed, in hopes of guiding the archaeological gaze so future site records offer greater research value needed for “reading” what local site vegetation has to “say” on past human activities.

John Harris is a recent transplant to Texas, where he serves an archaeologist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Texas. John is a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA) and Air Force veteran with a background in historical archaeology, environmental and landscape archaeology, historical ecology, ethnobotany, and archaeological documentation, and hails from Missoula, Montana. He holds a M.A. of anthropology from the University of Montana, and is a doctoral student of cultural heritage and applied anthropology. John is a peer-reviewer for Human Ecology and shared his passion on overlooked cultural indicators in the environment and living cultural heritage with many groups. His presentation is based on an article he has submitted to the Journal of Ethnobiology.

Wondering what our programs are like? View the list of speakers and topics we've had since 2006.

When conditions allow, the next regular meeting will be held on our usual schedule, the third Tuesday of the month at 7pm at Santa Rita Cantina's central location, 1206 W 38th St (26 Doors shopping center). Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month, except June and December. They are free and open to the public. For those who wish to come early, we gather around 5:45 PM for dinner, drinks, and fellowship. The short business meeting starts at 7:00 PM, followed by the guest speaker's presentation.


No in-person events are planned at this time. Check our Facebook page or join our mailing list for information on virtual meetings and online resources.