Project Proposal – Engendered Spaces on Campus

Dr. Roddick:

Following the 2016 nuclear disaster of the McMaster campus, I am proposing a research project which focuses on engendered spaces. Specifically, I will be looking at areas on campus where there were potential gender distinctions including the bathrooms and areas of dwelling such as residences. My approach to the project will be from a structuralist perspective. The use of classification and binary oppositions aid in the study of gendered archaeology of the landscape. Bourdieu’s habitus, which is housed in structuralist principles, allows for the reproduction of sets of beliefs, values, and social relationships which include gender (Sørensen 2000, 148). This school of thought will render itself relevant to the project.

Looking at issues of gender relations on campus is a pertinent area of study as space is a physical source for studying gender (Sørensen 2000, 144). After referencing several archeologists whom have written on gender archeology, I found the writings of Sørensen to be particularly useful to my initial research. Specifically, she wrote on how space and place affect the sense of an individual (Sørensen 2000, 144).  This sense being, the ways people belong to a particular group, in this case gender (Sørensen 2000, 144). In addition, Sørensen brings up the importance of spatial organization in regards to gender. Space allows for an opportunity for segmentation on a landscape (Sørensen 2000, 151). In the context of the project I am proposing, this is a useful tool for looking at the differentiation of people (in regards to gender) in certain areas on campus. I plan to investigate the remains of the campus for evidence of engendered spaces. For example, I will investigate the bathrooms on campus, as being in the year 2116, gendered bathrooms are a thing of the past. Did the bathrooms have gender division? Did the placement of bathroom features (including sinks, toilets, etc.) have any correlation to gender? What are the gender binaries and what do they reveal about the landscape? Some of these questions can be addressed with phenomenological approaches to the landscape. As phenomenology in gendered archeology, according to Brumfiel, allows for archeologists to reach an understanding of differences (Brumfiel 2006, 36).

The architecture of buildings and rooms on the McMaster campus are important to the study, but one cannot solely rely on them for information.  Engendering spatial studies must investigate how interaction and participation with the landscape impacted how people identified with their gendered identities (Sørensen 2000, 166). Gender therefore is impacted through spatial constructions. Through an initial walkthrough of the campus, there have been some evidence of gender distinction. For example, from a previous investigation of Wallingford Residence, there has been speculation that is was an all female residence. I will be investigating further into this hypothesis, the methods I will be using include stratigraphy, chrono-typology, seriation, and phenomenology (as mentioned). As a sample of some of the plans I have for the project, I will briefly discuss some ideas for the excavation of Wallingford Hall. As mentioned, a previous report indicated there being potential of the space being gendered at the time of the nuclear disaster. To further investigate this, I plan to look at the remains of material culture in the area. I will use seriation methods to investigate the area, which will provide me with information on the chronological ordering of artefacts in the space. I will then compare the results to societal “norms” throughout history to hopefully provide some insight into gender distinction. I also plan on looking at paint colours on the walls, as I have studies on the association of colour and gender. I will then compare them to the walls of other areas on campus to provide further evidence of the space being gendered.

Works Cited:

Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. “Methods In Feminist and Gender Archaeology.” In Handbook of Gender in Archaeology, edited by Sarah Mileage Nelson, 31-53. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2006.

Sørensen, Marie Louise Stig. “The Engendering Of Space.” In Gender Archaeology, 144-66. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2000.

Networks of Exchange

In this blog post I will primarily be focusing on the article written by Isabel McBryde regarding networks of exchange in Aboriginal Australia, and how these complex long distance exchange networks link the societies. However, I will make mention of the Michael E. Smith article.

McBryde has been coined as the “Mother of Australian Archeology” for her outstanding contributions to the field, specifically in Aboriginal Australian archeology. McBryde attempts to explain in addition to the technological and economic factors of exchange, to also include the significance of the social aspects of exchange. The case study of the Lake Eyre Basin is used by examining the exchange practices on the site. The exchange networks are what links the Aboriginal societies of Australia (McBryde 1997:587). The geographic area of Australia is on a grid system of exchange networks, which binds individuals and groups for social, ceremonial, and economic alliances (McBryde 1997:587).

This grid can be compared and related to Dream Tracks or Songlines (McBryde 1997:587). I would like to briefly discuss the idea of songlines and how there are inherently connected to the landscape. Songlines are maps of the land, as they are routes that have been traveled by others throughout history (Queensland Rural Medical Education 2013). The songlines can be generated from having an intimate connection to the landscape, and experiencing it (Queensland Rural Medical Education 2013). This short YouTube clip explains the songlines in more detail, if anyone is interested  McBryde describes the songlines and trade routes to be “interchangeable in geographical space”, and how both are underpinned with cultural and symbolic meaning (McBryde 1997:587). Therefore, when studying the exchange routes it may be useful to employ a phenomenological approach. I would like to pose the question in how phenomenology could be used when studying the exchange networks. As McBryde stresses the importance of being aware of the social networks, social significance and the processes involved in the movement of goods.

The article regarding Mayan cosmograms written by Michael Smith critiques previous studies of the cosmograms. He is skeptical of the new studies taking place, specifically by Ashmore and Sabloff, as he believes that the term “cosmograms” is being used too easily (Smith 2005:217). He highlights the issue being that archeologists are interpreting the cosmograms in the present and not in the past (Smith 2005:220).  This was an issue discussed in previous lectures. As we read in the Bender article from a few classes ago, landscapes are active. They cannot be considered to be stuck in time or passive in the background. Going back to the McBryde’s article, I think she does a good job in not falling into viewing the Australian Aboriginal exchange system in such way. She mentions the importance of the landscape and the songlines, and focuses on the cultural and social meanings of exchange, thus studying it from the past (McBryde 1997:590).

Exchange practices permeated many aspects of Australian Aboriginal society, including its economic, social, symbolic, and ceremonial roles (McBryde 1997:590).  The meaning of the exchange was inherently tied to the value of the goods. Some of the prestige goods were valued, not for its raw material but rather for it being sourced from a distant location (McBryde 1997:590). This leads into a discussion of landscape, specifically of the Lake Eyre Basin. The Lake Eyre Basin is a dry desert landscape, where there are limited resources and technology (McBryde 1997:591).  However, a crop that thrived in this environment was a type of starch that derived from wild cereal grasses (McBryde 1997:591). In order to prepare the grain, it must be ground with large grindstones (McBryde 1997:591). Therefore, the grindstones were vital to the survival of the people inhabiting the area and also played a large role in ceremonial practices (McBryde 1997:591). In order to gain access to the quarries, the group needed to obtain rights or practice exchange (McBryde 1997:591). Due to the importance of the grain in ceremonial practices (which were run by men) and in sustenance, they became important items of exchange (McBryde 1997:591). The grindstones became a player in traditional stories of the land, as they are viewed as valued artefacts (McBryde 1997:591). The quarries where the grindstones could be found become a part of the songlines or The Dreaming discussed above. In continuation of this McBryde notes that the large grindstones were primarily women’s artifacts (McBryde 1997:591). The methods and techniques were passed down matrilineally, as they were manufactured by men and utilized by women (McBryde 1997:591). This reflects back upon some of the themes discussed last week in regards to gender and archeology. By looking at the origins of the landscape gives insight into sex linked behaviors, possiblely someone to be dissucssed more?

Dr. Roddick on the blog mentioned integrating Inglold and taskscape into the discussion. I am not very familiar with the concept of taskscapes past what I read on Mownika’s source blog (which is found to be extremely useful). My initial thought was that for the Lake Eyre Basin case study, the task of exchange is obtaining grindstones from the quarry is obviously situated within the time and landscape of the area. And the completion of these tasks allows for dwelling and ceremonial practice. I am curious in how McBryde’s work could be further fitted with this framework.

Works Cited

McBryde, I. (1997). The Landscape Is a Series of Stories. Grindstones, Quarries and Exchange in Aboriginal Australia: A Lake Eyre Case Study. Siliceous Rocks and Culture, 587-607.

Queensland Rural Medical Education. (2013, October 17). What are song lines? Retrieved March 11, 2016, from

Smith, M. E. (2005). Did the Maya Build Architectural Cosmograms? Latin American Antiquity, 16(2), 217.




Source Blog – Phenomenology & GIS


For my primary source blog post I will examine the concept of phenomenology, with a mention of the applications of GIS and phenomenology. We got a brief introduction in week 7 to phenomenology from the articles by Tuan, Basso, and Robin, but I will not be focusing on these publications. Rather I will dive into a discussion on how archeologists are using GIS and phenomenology in conjunction.

Definition and History of Phenomenology

Before discussing the GIS applications, it is important to define what phenomenology is. Phenomenology is the understanding and descriptions of things as they are experienced by a subject (Barrett & Ko 2009: 276). When observing landscapes one must be consciously aware of what is surrounding the landscape and consolidate this into possible meanings of the past (Barrett & Ko 2009: 276). Phenomenology has its roots in philosophy, specifically from the works of German philosophers of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merlau-Ponty during the early-mid 20th century (Smith 2003). Phenomenology relates back to the idea of phenomenon, as how things appear and how we sense/experience them (Smith 2003). Husserl sets out two notions in regards to phenomenology, the first being the notion of being in the world, and the second is the perception of the body (Smith 2003).

Phenomenology meets the world of archeology with Christopher Tilley’s 1994 publication Phenomenology of Landscape Paths, Places and Monuments. Archeologists had a growing interest in looking at issues such as symbolism, meaning, and human subjectivity (Johnson 2012: 270).  It was known that humans, material culture, and landscape were all constituted, and looking at how archeologists could engage with the meanings was of interest (Johnson 2012: 270). Tilley explains that in order to understand the archeological record it is vital to have an understanding of human contact with both material culture and the landscape they inhabit (Tilley 1994: 11). He also discusses the idea of “Being-in-the-world”, which stems from the ideas proposed by Husserl (Tilley 1994: 12). The concept of phenomenology requires the archeologist to use themselves as the “medium of engagement” with the world through what Tilley discussed as of “Being-in-the-world” (Tilley 1994: 12). It is through this experience that a greater understanding of the archaeological record can be obtained

Phenomenology and GIS – Connections to Class       

GIS (Geographical Information Systems) is a mapping tool that allows for the visualization of landscape features such as changing elevations, geometric properties of the land, and several other morphological features (Pellitero 2011: 57). These features are easily generated via a computer program as they are all quantitative, the issue lies within documenting qualitative aspects of a landscape (Pellitero 2011: 57). Although controversial and somewhat problematic, GIS is being incorporated into developing a phemenological experience of landscapes (Pellitero 2011: 66). Pellitero explains how the use of GIS allows the archeologists to map complex landscapes and interpret the visual experience (Pellitero 2011: 66).

Gillings writes extensively on applications of GIS and phenomenology. Phemenological thought can be used in anthropology and archeology to bridge the gap between other disciplines. However, issues have arisen between those with that utilize spatial technologies, such as GIS, and those who focus on more theoretical practice, such as landscape phenomenologists (Gillings 2012: 603). Gillings mentions the use of affordance, which he describes as being a useful framework for looking into the past (Gillings 2012: 604). In the context of Gillings work, affordance it the relationship between an environment and an animal (including humans), and how the environment enables actions for the animal (Gillings 2012: 603).  Gillings uses the concepts of affordance to further strengthen the use of phenomenology  and GIS in the archeological setting (Gillings 2012: 604).

The idea of phenomenology and GIS can be linked to ideas of historical ecology discussed in class. As seen, Gilling’s mention of the concept of affordance and its relations with the environment and humans. Historical ecology notes the significance of humans and the environment being inherently connected. Graves McEwan and Millican makes several points with her discussion of “middle ground” (Graves McEwan & Millican 2012: 491). The middle ground is an approach that considers both the qualitative (phenomenology) and quantitative (GIS) in landscape archeology (Graves McEwan & Millican 2012: 492). By taking this approach, it can lead to insightful and holistic discussion about the landscape (Graves McEwan & Millican 2012: 492). Understanding that humans (and animals) are mutually constituted with the environment, allows for GIS and phenomenology to be applied.


Gillings references the work of Llobera, who used integrated affordance into the discussion of landscapes to interpret prehistoric ditches (Gillings 2012: 604). The project utilized GIS to further develop an explain hypotheses. As an example of why GIS is useful when studying the phenomenology of landscapes, is the development of gradient viewsheds (a viewshed being a geographic area such as a lake that is visible) (Gillings 2012: 604). By generating this information, it allows for a greater depth of understanding of the landscape being studied, thus adding to the core phenomenological thought of interpreting the physical space (Gillings 2012: 604).


Phenomenology in an archeological setting has been criticized for avoiding some of the core concepts and technicalities of the philosophy, and simply is used to label an approach to looking at landscapes (Barrett & Ko 2009: 276). Specifically, Barrett mentions how phenomenology uses historical generalizations to make assumptions and conclusions of a particular landscape. Essentially, ignoring the foundation of processual archeology (Barrett & Ko 2009: 276)

One of the major critiques of using GIS in a phenomenological setting is that it can be used to replace the human perception and experience which is vital to phenomenology. As Heidegger stresses the core of phenomenology is at an understanding of what it means to be in the world. The concept of “being in the world” was discussed in length in lecture, and how human experience is mediated through the body not through language or collected data. Therefore, it is clear the hesitations some scholars may have towards incorporation of GIS. Gillings combats these criticisms by using GIS to explore the affordances of landscapes and to still go out an experience the landscapes (Gillings 2012: 605). GIS cannot be used independent of actually experiencing the landscape (Gillings 2012: 605).

Stewart Eve raises questions to the legitimacy of phemenological approaches in archeology both with and without the use of GIS. He labels phenomenology as a “loaded term”, as he describes it as being too general and subjective (Eve 2012: 584). In regards to its ties to GIS, the issue remains that true phemenological practice cannot be undertaken. GIS is completed within a computer lab, not on the landscape, thus altering the perceptions and interpretations the archeologist will make (Eve 2012: 586). This was an issue teased out in class in regards to the body and the experience.


Since the initial interest in phenomenology in archaeology with Tilley’s work in the 1990s, it has developed and evolved over time, one of these developments is the use of GIS. Although highly contested, the incorporation of archeological GIS practices has been proven useful. Its use is seen in what Gidden’s explains in regards to affordance, to the visual interpretation Pellierto discusses. It is important to stress that these computer systems cannot be used to replace human landscape interaction, rather it adds to the experience.

Works Cited

Barrett, J. C., & Ko, I. (2009). A phenomenology of landscape A crisis in British landscape archaeology?. Journal of social archaeology, 9(3), 275-294.

Eve, S. (2012). Augmenting phenomenology: using augmented reality to aid archaeological phenomenology in the landscape. Journal of archaeological method and theory, 19(4), 582-600.

Gillings, M. (2012). Landscape phenomenology, GIS and the role of affordance. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 19(4), 601-611.

Johnson, M. H. (2012). Phenomenological Approaches in Landscape Archaeology*. Annual review of anthropology, 41, 269-284.

McEwan, D. G., & Millican, K. (2012). In search of the middle ground: quantitative spatial techniques and experiential theory in archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 19(4), 491-494.

Pellitero, A. M. (2011). The phenomenological experience of the visual landscape. Research in Urbanism Series, 2(1), 57-71.

Tilley, C. (1994). A phenomenology of landscape: places, paths, and monuments (p. 10). Oxford: Berg.

Smith, D. W. (2003). Phenomenology. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from



Erickson .v. Kolata – A Collapse of Culture?

In this blog post I will be focusing on the debates between Clark Erickson and Alan Kolata et. al in regards to the possibility of a state collapse in Andean prehistory. Erickson is responding to the initial findings by Kolata and his colleague’s ideas of the “collapse hypotheses”. While Kolata is responding to Erickson. Before diving into the debate it is important to gain a general understanding of the situation at hand. Erickson brings up the point that most Andean archeologists are interested in the idea that cultural change could be explained by climatic shifts (Erickson 1999: 634). In this case, the Tiwwanaku state was written about in regards to extreme drought periods that the area has experienced throughout history.

The title of Erickson’s article, “Neo-environmental determinism and agrarian ‘collapse’ in Andean prehistory”, contained a term I was not familiar with, environmental determinism. After searching the term, I gathered that it is the belief that the environment impacts human behaviour and society. Further I found this link which discusses ecological anthropology and provides a definition of environmental determinism. I noticed that when searching environmental determinism, possibilism seems to be associated with it. The difference between the two terms could be something to be discussed in seminar? Erickson explains how environmental determinism was commonly used in early anthropology, possibly prior to the “New Archeology” phenomenon Matthew Johnson discussed in last week’s readings. According to Erickson this idea led to reductionist thinking, and accuses Kolata and his colleague’s findings to be a form of neo-environmental determinism (Kolata et. al 2000: 424).

Erickson proposes to replace neo-environmental determinism with “New Ecology” (Erickson 1999: 635).  New Ecology is defined by Erickson as a way to understand the dynamics of cultural landscapes (Erickson 1999: 635). It also highlights the importance of viewing environments as “historically contingent” (Erickson 1999: 635). This links directly to the arguments between Erickson and Kolata of the potential collapse of Andean culture as a result of environmental changes. Erickson’s stance of the issue is that the culture of Tiwwanaku did not collapse as a result of droughts and floods. He does not deny that these environmental instances had detrimental effects on the area and its inhabitants, but rather that over time they adapted to these climatic patterns. For example, he mentions that the history of drought and flooding periods resulted in the building and rebuilding of settlements, which is evident in the complex stratigraphy of the area (Erickson 1999: 641).  While, Kolata and his colleagues argue that the environmental changes to the area of Tiwwanaku did in fact result in a partial collapse of culture. In Kolata’s response, it is stressed that the claim of a total cultural collapse was never made, despite what Erickson said.

The question remains in how this relates to issues of space, place and landscape. Both Erickson and Kolata state that the drought and flooding periods had effects (though varying) on the culture and landscape. It also uses ecological and scientific approaches to the issue of culture. As discussed in last week’s lecture, cultural ecology is the relationship between a given culture and its natural environment.  This has a clear connection to the articles as they demonstrate how the Tiwwanaku culture responded to periods of drought and flooding.  Humans clearly respond to their environment and thus viewing the situation from the lens of a landscape archeologist allows for a combination of theory and interpretation.

Since the articles are pinned against each other, I am unable to state my position on if there was a cultural collapse due to the environment. Both articles bring up important points, some of which are contradictory to each other. Although I did not mention the other assigned article by Heckneburger et al. it does provide some insight into understanding the debate at hand. The article is focused on changing biodiversity of the Brazilian Amazon but does make the point that human interaction with landscape alters biodiversity (Heckneburger et al. 2007:199). Thus changing biodiversity which alters landscape in turn has the possibility to alter culture. It would be interesting to read further into this debate and see what other studies of the area have to say.

Erickson, Clark L. 1999 Neo-environmental Determinism and Agrarian “Collapse,” Antiquity 73:634-42

Heckenberger, M. J., J. C. Russell, J. R. Toney and M. J. Schmidt. 2007 The legacy of cultural landscapes in the Brazilian Amazon: implications for biodiversity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 362:197–208.

Kolata, A L, M W Binford, M Brenner, J W Janusek, and C Ortloff 2000 Environmental Thresholds and the Empirical Reality of State Collapse: A Response to Erickson (1999). Antiquity 74 (284): 424-426.