Knowing What We Don’t Know: Challenging the Conventional Narrative in Search of Virginia’s Colonial Plantation Landscapes
For all that archaeologists and historians have learned from studying plantations in southeastern Virginia, there…
Whenever I meet someone for the first time, inevitably the question of what I do for a living comes up. When I tell them that I work for the U.S. Army as a Federal Archaeologist I am usually asked the question “why would the U.S. Army need an archaeologist?” My mischievous side usually comes out at this point and I respond with an outlandish tale about how the government is embarking upon a daring new counterinsurgency program where they are trying to acquire the lost Ark of the Covenant before our enemies find it and use it against us. After a puzzled look, the eventual recognition of the reworked plot line and, finally, the overwhelming realization that I’m being facetious, I explain to them what section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act is and that the Department of Defense (DoD) has a very robust cultural resources program, managing over 111,000 archaeological sites on 25 million acres. While it’s not as romantic or adventurous as the Indiana Jonesesque tale, most find what I do interesting and can tell that I absolutely love my job.
The DoD cultural resources program seems to be one of those well kept secrets that the CIA could take a lesson from, as I am often surprised to find that there are archaeologists that do not know that we exist. Archaeology students and professors, alike, are often times shocked to discover that many military installations have artifact curation facilities, with collections representing sites from numerous types of contexts ranging from Paleo-Indian to 20th century historic occupations. And they are even more surprised to find that installation archaeologists are more than willing to open those collections to other archaeologists for study and, on some occasions, provide funding to help facilitate the research. If you just so happen to be a student looking for a topic for your master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, contacting the cultural resources manager at your nearest military installation may be worth considering.
My job can be multifaceted and I am even surprised by the range of opportunities that I have available to me. For instance, the U.S. Army provided me the opportunity to attend the Leicester meeting in January, along with my colleague, Chris McDaid (Cultural Resources Manager with joint base Langley/Fort Eustis, VA) to conduct a workshop entitled “An Introduction to Cultural Property Protection of Historical and Post-Medieval Archaeological Sites during Military Operations” highlighting the U.S. Military’s own heritage management programs, the international framework for cultural property protection, how archaeologists can communicate information to military planners effectively, and reviews of several case studies involving military operations and cultural property protection. This is a topic that has become near and dear to me. The issue began long before I entered employment with the U.S. Army and encompasses much more than the section 106 process.
During the first year of the Iraq War it became apparent that the U.S. Military was unaware of the archaeological sensitivity of the environment in which they were operating. After several set backs on the military’s part, many concerned DoD archaeologists stepped up, led by my colleague here at Fort Drum, Dr. Laurie Rush, to provide guidance on protecting cultural property while conducting military operations overseas. The turning point came in March of 2009 when the United States Government deposited the instruments of ratification for the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict with the U.N. beginning a new chapter in the Department of Defense’s cultural heritage protection. This new mandate, however, has yet to be fully implemented since the military hierarchy is still trying to determine the best way to proceed. Unfortunately, the wheels of government turn slowly. Regardless, there has been a small grass root like effort, on the part of those same concerned DoD archaeologists, to organize a group to take the lead on issues and initiatives that will, in the long run, assist in implementing the Convention. This group is known as the Combatant Command Cultural Heritage Action Group (CCHAG), of which I am a proud participant. To find more information on the CCHAG please visit the website at www.cchag.org.
The protection of cultural property during military operations presents a particular challenge. Unlike the Department of Defense’s domestic cultural resources management program, the military cannot survey every place overseas where such operations take place. There simply is neither enough time nor resources to do so. For example, when the earth quake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. military deployed units in the humanitarian effort that followed. The response was quick and effective. While there was no damage to Haitian cultural property by U.S. Military forces, the fact remains there was no time for a section 106 like process to proceed before humanitarian relief efforts, debris removal, and reconstruction could begin. So what is to be done to prevent inadvertent damage from occurring in the future?
There is a solution. First, our fighting men and women need to be made aware of this issue. Training at every level is needed. Currently, several training modules are being introduced at the Training and Doctrination Command (TRADOC) to teach enlisted soldiers about cultural property. However, the upper echelon needs to be indoctrinated into these concerns as well. Currently, curricula for Commanding General Staff College and the War College have been developed and implementation will begin soon. However, Cultural Property Protection during military operations, like all legal and ethical obligations, should be inculcated in our military leadership from the very beginning of their careers. For this we need YOUR help.
You read this correctly, I am asking for your help. The CCHAG is calling for experts with research experience from all over the world to teach ROTC cadets and midshipmen about the importance of Cultural Property Protection (CPP) in conflict areas and during disaster response missions. The goal of the course is to incorporate CPP into university-based ROTC programs, demonstrating its intrinsic value and its relevance in a military context. We are asking archaeologists and related professionals to volunteer their time for students in a local ROTC program, to present a pre-packaged lecture supplemented by personal expertise, experiences, and anecdotes. You may request this material by sending me an email at Duane.Quates@us.army.mil and you will receive, via mail, a flash drive with the lecture materials stored on it.
The second part of the solution involves getting site location information into the hands of military planners. The CCHAG has been working on this problem and are aware of the challenges. However, the solution calls for subject matter experts (SME) willing to share their knowledge with us. This became abundantly clear just prior to the U.S. led NATO air strikes in Libya in early 2011. When it became apparent that these strikes were to take place, the U.S. Committee on the Blue Shield contacted specialists in Libyan archaeology concerned with the potential destruction of archaeological sites. Within 36 hours of President Obama’s announcement of U.S. involvement, the Defense Intelligence Agency had a list of archaeologically sensitive locations, which was then shared with U.S. and NATO targeteers as a “No Strike” list. These locations were spared during the NATO bombardment that followed. This success would not have been possible without the help of the various committees on the Blue Shield, the U.S. State Department, and most importantly, academic archaeologist willing to share this information. Please see http://blueshield.de/libya2-media.html
The CCHAG recognizes that this is a successful model that can be duplicated in the future. However this requires that we coordinate with SMEs. The CCHAG believes the best way to identify these individuals is through the various professional archaeological societies. Therefore, we have approached the Archaeological Institute of America and they have responded by forming the Cultural Heritage by AIA Military Panel or CHAMP, which is dedicated to improving awareness among deploying military personnel regarding the culture and history of local communities in host countries and war zones. Furthermore, the Society for American Archaeology has responded with the formation of the Military Archaeological Resources Stewardship interest group or MARS, of which I now serve as the chairperson. This group’s goals are simple: to create and facilitate a dialogue between DoD archaeologists and the academy. Being an historic archaeologist I felt that it was natural for this group to reach out to the Society for Historical Archaeology. My goal is for MARS to sponsor symposia, forums, field trips and workshops with the SAA and I hope to do the same with the SHA.
I invite you to participate in this important endeavor. Contact me! Or at the very least, look for me, MARS, and the CCHAG at the next SHA meeting in Quebec. Hopefully, Chris McDaid and I will be there conducting a similar workshop and, perhaps, a sponsored symposia with a few of our colleagues. If you see me, stop me and ask; I would love to talk with you … archaeologist to archaeologist.