Bookbeat: March 2006
Recent publications from CLAS faculty
The inhabitants of San Jacinto could not understand why Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo and his fellow researchers were spending money to “dig a hole in the ground” in violence-ridden Colombia. But San Jacinto 1, and its ceramics, hooked Oyuela-Caycedo from the moment he saw it. Five years later, the UF anthropology professor began excavating the site, located close to the Caribbean Sea in northern Colombia.
But obstacles constantly surfaced: the small town where the excavation took place suffered a lengthy drought that dramatically raised water prices; unemployment and violence continued to grow; and Oyuela-Caycedo’s neighbor was kidnapped. Residents, puzzled by the activity, called the excavation site “la piscina,” or the swimming pool.
Despite these challenges, the dig at San Jacinto 1 revealed the oldest-known pottery in the New World and clues to the lifestyles of people who lived in the area more than 7,000 years ago. The publication of San Jacinto 1: A Historical Ecological Approach to an Archaic Site in Colombia is the culmination of two decades of research and analysis in San Jacinto for Oyuela-Caycedo. “It’s like closing a mental door,” he says. “I started this project in 1986, the minute I saw the site and fell in love with it.” The book focuses on both the processes and the conclusions of the archaeological excavation. The fiber-tempered pottery found at the site, used for collecting plants and cooking, points to a reduction in mobility and an increase in territorial control. “The people who made the pottery were already collecting plants that became domesticated, including maize,” says Oyuela-Caycedo. Evidence also shows that the people who occupied the site were hunter-gatherers, whose movements from base camps to special-purpose camps were determined by the changing, highly seasonal environment. These people visited San Jacinto during the dry season, cooking in earthen ovens and collecting and processing plants to make fermented beverages.
Although six researchers continue to analyze evidence from the site to create a sequel to the book, Oyuela-Caycedo views the publication of San Jacinto 1 as the closing of one chapter in his life and the start of a new one. Current efforts focus on the site of Quistococha in the more peaceful country of Peru. The site, located near the city of Iquitos, is the first in the Upper Amazon to be associated with dark soil, or soil modified by human activity to increase productivity. Oyuela-Caycedo plans to travel to Quistococha with 15 undergraduate students this summer in an effort to learn the cultural characteristics of the people who lived there more than 2,000 years ago.
“Curiosity is what drives me,” Oyuela-Caycedo says. “Who were these people, what were they like, and what challenges did they face?”
— Tiffany Iwankiw
This book proposes a new way of viewing and dealing with the problems of ethnic conflict and cooperation in multiethnic states destabilized by the changing environment of the post-Cold War era. Analyzing important moments in the history of Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia, Arfi theorizes that the governance of these societies is transformed under changing international conditions, providing new insights on how policy making can be improved to respond to the challenges posed by the creation, maintenance, transformation and collapse of state governance in multiethnic societies.
More than 2 million people died of AIDS in Africa in 2003. Drawing on longtime fieldwork in Tanzania, Hansjoerg Dilger describes the re-negotiation of social and cultural relationships in the context of rural-urban migration and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Ongoing confrontation with illness and death leads to ruptures in kinship relations, and to stigmatization of HIV/AIDS victims. Yet individuals, families and communities have reordered social and cultural relationships in the context of crisis to counter the effects that HIV/AIDS has on the social fabric, and to re-establish control over the inseparable unity of life and death.
From the earliest days of the Republic to the waning of the Empire, conspiracies and intrigues created shadow worlds that undermined the openness of Rome’s representational government. Victoria Pagan examines the narrative strategies that five prominent historians used to disclose events that had been deliberately shrouded in secrecy and silence. She compares how Sallust, Livy and Tacitus constructed their accounts of betrayed conspiracies, revealing how a historical account of a secret event depends upon the transmittal of sensitive information from a private setting to the public sphere—and why women and slaves often proved to be ideal transmitters of secrets.
photo by Jane Dominguez