by Sheryl Marlar

The Department of Anthropology at the University of West Georgia recently hosted the Waring Distinguished Lecture Series, featuring Dr. Jeb Card, assistant teaching professor of anthropology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Dr. Jeb CardSpecializing in historical archaeology, Card focuses on early colonialism, ethnogenesis, ceramic analysis and pre-Hispanic Maya political history in Mesoamerica, mainly in El Salvador. Conducting work in Classic Maya archaeology, Card has excavated at classic and pre-classic sites in Yucatan and El Salvador.

Card’s lecture, titled “Spooky Archaeology,” focused on myths and science of the past. He explained that many people see archaeology as a “spooky” field of study, especially with claims of ancient aliens being discussed.

“In reality, archaeology is a study of ancient people who lived a long time ago,” Card began. “Many people see past generations as people like them or people who look like us.”

As Card explained, the further back one goes historically, those generations begin to appear mythical or almost supernaturally alien.

“Somewhere, these two meet in the middle with one foot in human archaeology and one in mythic archaeology,” Card continued. “Archeology can be weird, expanding human time into mythic times.”

Card’s lecture went on to explain that ancient artifacts also play a role in how archaeology is perceived, based on where the artifacts are found and how different cultures expand their own ideas of who built things.

“Think about stone tools one might see hanging in an archaeology department or on a museum wall,” Card said. “Those tools are seen as being made by hunters who needed to kill an animal to survive or to cut fruit or chop wood.”

However, in Scotland, these tools are believed to have been made by fairies and elves, whereas in the middle east, artifacts are believed to have been made by genies, Card explained.

Card believes archaeology comes from our quest to find our origins.

“We dig into the past to see where we came from,” Card said. “Many believe that these fairies, elves and genies were our early human ancestors.”

Card’s work also centers around three-dimensional documentation of artifacts. His work at Miami University includes building virtual artifact collections using 3D scanning technology. He had several artifact replicas produced in this manner to pass around to those in attendance at his lecture.

The Waring Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible by the Antonio J. Waring Jr. Anthropology Endowment, which funds public evening lectures from renowned speakers on important and timely topics in anthropology.

For more information on the Waring Lab at the University of West Georgia, please visit the Waring Lab website.

Posted on March 18, 2020