Benjamin Madley to Lecture on an American Genocide

Genocide, according to the United Nations, is “…acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  Benjamin Madley, an associate professor of history at UCLA, applies the term to describe the treatment of American Indians in mid-19th century California in his book, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe. In two weeks, Dr. Madley will lecture at an FHSS event to argue that California Indians didn’t fare much better than Armenians, Rwandans, or even European Jews during the Nazi regime.

You’re invited

  • Who: Dr. Benjamin Madley, hosted by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies
  • What: A presentation on the American Genocide
  • When: Thursday, September 21st, from 11 a.m. to noon
  • Where: B192 JFSB (the Education in Zion auditorium)
  • Why: To discuss important historical events that often lack awareness and understanding
american-genocide
Courtesy of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.

An American Genocide

An American Genocide, in which Dr. Madley estimates that 9,000 to 16,000 California Indians were killed from 1846 to 1873, has been reviewed by The New York Times, Newsweek, The Nation, and many others. Some of Dr. Madley’s fellow historians have criticized his book for applying the term “genocide” to the conflicts between Americans and California Indians. Gary Clayton Anderson, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma, challenges Dr. Madley’s death toll estimates and characterizes the California massacres as “ethnic cleansing.” The reasoning? Dr. Anderson argues that government policy never supported mass killings, so the genocide label might be inappropriate.

But An American Genocide details murders and massacres carried out by vigilantes, state militias, and the United States Army. Dr. Madley “methodically [gives] examples of each and [tags] the incidents like corpses in a morgue,” according to Richard White of The Nation. A seasoned historian, Dr. Madley also compiles many accounts of the incidents in nearly 200 pages of appendices. Every reader can weigh the evidence and conclude whether or not the incidents were genocidal.

Dr. Madley developed a passion for the interactions between indigenous groups and colonizers during his childhood; he was born in Redding, California, and lived in Karuk Country in northwestern California. Dr. Madley has earned degrees from Yale University and Oxford University, and he has authored many journal articles and book chapters.

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Courtesy of UCLA’s Department of History.

 

How do you think historians should apply the modern definition of “genocide” to historical events?

Research Logs: Essential When Doing Your Family History

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These days, family history, as we’ve mentioned here, is less about finding information about people and more about organizing the amazing amount of information available to anyone who looks. Access to records has greatly increased in recent years, but it might be a challenge for some to keep track of the research they do to find a particular person or straighten out a particularly convoluted limb of the family tree, even with the many online tools and apps available. One tool that has proven useful for many in past years is logbooks. At their most basic level, logbooks are a simple means whereby people looking for their ancestors can record what searches have been done, what results have been found, and which documents are relevant to the question at hand. Peg A. Ivanyo, in her 2016 Family History Conference class for genealogy beginners said that they can contain notes, citations, stories, and even links to blog posts. But how exactly can they be helpful?

Research logs serve to make things easier. Jill Crandell, a history professor at BYU, says that research logs help to decrease duplication of effort and make one’s searches more efficient. Her own research log website, ResearchTies.com, serves to help people plan their research, catalogue their findings, and record their interpretations. Of research logs, she says, “[they] logs need to be detailed and kept consistently. If they are, the logs will prevent researchers from searching the same sources multiple times, documents will be organized and accessible, and research analysis will be higher quality. Find a research log format that works for you, one that you are actually willing to use to record your work, then use it.”

Many years ago, she was working on tracing a nomadic family who had lived in New York, Canada, and Scotland, with a common name. The man she was researching never identified his parents in any of his documents. To solve the mystery of who his parents were, Dr. Crandell turned to her research log. Through it, she was able to learn that this man had been traveling with other people who had moved to all of the same places as him. By studying the documents saved in her log, Dr.Crandell was able to further this genealogy.

The benefits of doing genealogy, to both the doer and the ancestor, are plentiful, and logbooks are some of the many tools available to anyone who has a desire to connect with those ancestors. Paul Cardall, the noted pianist who spoke at BYU’s most recent Conference on Family History and Genealogy, spoke of the relationship between family history and missionary work. As Mormons, we believe that families can be together after this life. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen relationships with all family members, both those who are alive and those who have died…for Mormons, genealogical research or family history is the essential forerunner for temple work for the dead.”

 

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What Tips to You Have for Doing Family History?

Fun, Prizes, and Free Stuff: Geography Awareness Week is This Week!

Have you ever wanted to go onto the roof of the SWKT? Do you like competitions and prizes? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then the Geography Department’s Geography Awareness Week is the week-long festivity for you. This is an annual activity meant to make geography fun and interesting for everyone.

The event kicks off on November 14.  Here is a rundown of the week’s activities:

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November 14

Repp-ing It Up

A week long Geoguesser competition. Similar to last year’s geocaching competition, this year’s competition will involve hunting for things to win a prize. This year’s prize, though, will be a national parkannual pass (an $80 value). Visit their booth in Brigham’s Square outside of the Booth in the WILK everyday from 10am to to 2pm with details on and sign up sheets.

geoguesser

November 15

SUPA Day

3pm. Student Urban Planning Association’s Tour of Campus. Conducted by Dr. Michael Clay. Meet at the Geography department office

November 16

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

SWKT Rooftop tours from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

OSM (Open Street Maps)  Lab 2-3 640 SWKT: An effort to ” crowd source digitizing of roads and rural areas.”

November 17

Chauncy Harris Lecture at 11am 250 HBLL

They’ll also have a Bowl of Heaven (1283 N University Ave #101,) fundraiser from 3 -8 p.m., in which 15% of your purchases will be donated to the Geography Club. Be sure to place your receipt in the fundraiser donation box!

November 18

Geography Major Picture: All geography majors gather on the SWKT lawn (time TBA) for free hot chocolate and donuts and picture-taking!

Geoguesser winner announced at 12 noon

This event is bigger than just BYU’s Geography Department; it has in fact been going on around the country for more than twenty years. 

Anyone is eligible to win other prizes as well, including t-shirts, maps, and books by:

Says Geography club president Roman Huerta about the purpose of all of these activities: “We hope to raise awareness of the power of maps and spatial analysis.  When people understand its power and abilities they will use it more and apply it more to various aspects of their studies, research, and lives.  It is super relevant in today’s world, and the more people are using mapping software the more new and creative applications for geography will come forth and continue to grow and advance.”

I Seek Dead People: Family History Education

 

Brigham Young University-Provo is known for several things: being the number one stone-cold sober school, being the largest private religious university in America, and having the only four-year degree program for Family History–Genealogy. In the United States of America, Western Europe, Asia and elsewhere, no other university offers a Bachelor of Arts in this major that educates students in both history and genealogy.

At the recent RootsTech Conference, BYU had a presence, with representation from the Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections unit, the Center for Family History and Genealogy and the Family History Technology Lab as well as the Family History program.

Family History Coordinator and BYU History Professor Amy Harris, who supervises the program’s recruitment and curriculum standards says an event like RootsTech helps raise the profile and recognition of BYU’s commitment to genealogy research and education. “It’s my hope that BYU becomes more associated with high-quality genealogy and family history education and that BYU gets recognition as a major player in the genealogy community,” Harris says.

The Family History program, which receives support and funding on both the department level and college level and from donors, employs 40 students in the CFHG research lab and sends students domestic and abroad for hands-on field research and mentored student learning.

Students at the Center for Family History and Genealogy are currently seeing the migration and impact of their work for people’s use.  In partnership with LDS Church Historic Sites, students are identifying residents of Nauvoo, Illinois, from 1839 to 1846. Each resident, to the extent possible, has records trailing from birth to death. All this data is free and accessible for curious minds and researchers into the history of the Nauvoo community.

The findings can be located on FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Complete research logs along with other discoveries are just within a mouse-click reach. Learn more about the Nauvoo Community Project that is dedicated to academic genealogical research.

The Family History and Technology Research Lab also has multiple projects on the line like Relative Finder that allows you to uncover how you are related to your everyday associates: co-workers, prophets, historical figures…you name it. FHTR is always developing the latest in creative, fun applications for family history, so keep checking!

 

Top Five FHSS Studies of 2015: New Findings on Important Relationships

The faculty and staff of BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are passionate about improving the understanding of how people work, how families work, and what makes societies tick. We spend a lot of time researching, teaching, and writing about these things. Other people seem to be interested in those things as well, as witnessed by the fact that five of the top-10 most read stories produced by BYU News in the last 12 months are stories about research done by faculty in our college. We’re proud of their great work, and excited to see the effects of it in peoples’ lives. Here are those five stories, in order of Facebook likes:

5. Prescription for Living Longer: Spend Less Time Alone (598 likes):

Holt-Lunstad, Julianne Cropped

Research from psychology professor and lead study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad shows that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously,” she said.

The study, published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science, took into account that loneliness looks different to different people. Someone may be surrounded by many people but still feel alone, while others may purposely isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone. The effect on longevity, however, is much the same for those two scenarios.

 

4. Frenemies: Ambivalent Marriages are Bad for Your Health (690 likes)

BYU psychology professor and lead author Wendy Birmingham published

Birmingham, Wendy

a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine in May that found that couples in ambivalent relationships experience higher blood pressure than their supportive-couple counterparts. This means that their relationship has both high levels of positive and negative elements, similar to what some would call “frenemy” relationships.

Birmingham remarked that previous studies about health and marriage look at marriage quality uni-dimensionally, qualifying it as either supportive or not supportive. This study takes into consideration realistic relationships that aren’t always perfect, but aren’t always awful either.

The study was quoted in Time, New York Times, Deseret News, KSL.com, and Details magazine.

6614968881_5cf95a5b60_b I against I via Flickr Raul Lieberwirth
Courtesy of Flickr.

3.  Most of America’s Poor are not Unemployed (3,221 likes)

Sociology professor Scott Sanders says the findings of a study he co-authored with researchers at Cornell and LSU dispel the notion that most impoverished Americans don’t work so they can rely on government handouts.

Sanders, Scott

“The toxic idea is if we clump all those people together and treat them as the same people, then we don’t solve the real problem that the majority of people in poverty are working, trying to improve their lives, and we treat them all as deadbeats,” Sanders. Science magazine says the data from this study is relevant to the upcoming presidential election, as candidates discuss ways to help the working poor move out of poverty.

 

 

 

2.  Parents’ Comparisons of Siblings can Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

“Parents’ beliefs about their children, not just their actual parenting, may influence who their children become,” said BYU professor and lead author Alex Jensen. The study, published in June in the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at 388 teenage first- and second-born siblings and their parents from 17 school districts in a northeastern state. The researchers asked the parents which sibling was better in school. The majority of parents thought that the firstborn was better, although on average, siblings’ achievement was pretty similar.

 

Now, drum roll please… the study that garnered the most attention on BYU news channels was about…elementary school lunches?

1. Eat School Lunch AFTER Recess

6239623842_6fa315afc5_b school lunch via flickr USDA.jpg
USDA Photo by Lance Cheung via Flickr.

This study was shared by over 4,000 people on Facebook, and cited in USA Today, The Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo News, CBS News, the Salt Lake Tribune, LiveScience, Deseret News, and NPR. What was it that was so important? It was the finding that when recess takes place before kids sit down to eat lunch, instead of after, fruit and vegetable consumption increases by 54%.

“Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids, said Joe Price, BYU economics

Price, Joseph

professor. “If you have kids choose between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time.”

Price is the lead study author and collaborated with Cornell’s David Just for the paper in Preventive Medicine. Their sample involved almost 23,000 data points. Price and Just noted that, “increased fruit and vegetable consumption in young children can have positive long term health effects. Additionally, decreasing waste of fruits and vegetables is important for schools and districts that are faced with high costs of offering healthier food choices.”

 

 

All faculty photos: All Rights Reserved BYU Photo

 

Celebrating 20 Years of the Family Proclamation on November 19th

Come celebrate 20 years of the The Family: A Proclamation to the World with students and faculty of the School of Family Life at a special conference on November 19th. President Kevin Worthen and Dr. Sarah M. Coyne will be guest speakers, and the objective of the conference is to energize and inspire university students and faculty about the Proclamation.

Over the last 20 years si620-the-family-proclamation-a-clear-standard-to-the-world_1nce the Proclamation was released, we have seen a shift in the world’s opinion of the purpose of marriage and family or lack thereof. As the church has stated, “A wide range of social ills has contributed to this weakening of marriage and family.”  As Latter Day Saints, it has become increasingly important to understand the doctrine of family and to live it. A quarter of students at BYU are married and many others are anxiously preparing for marriage. This anniversary celebration serves as a wonderful reminder to those in the early stages of raising families that marriage and family are central to God’s plan.

The Family Proclamation was written by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was first read by President Gordon B Hinckley on September 23, 1995 in Salt Lake City, Utah as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting.

Guest Speakers:

President Kevin J Worthen 

President Worthen is the current president of Brigham Young University. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Monterrey, Mexico. He graduated summa cum laude with both his bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees from Brigham Young University in 1982. After working as a clerk for Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey of the D.C. Circuit Court and then for Justice Byron R. White of the U.S. Supreme Court, he joined the respected law firm Jennings Strouss & Salmon in Arizona in 1984. In 1987 Worthen returned to the J.Reuben Clark Law School as a faculty member. From 2004-2008 he served as dean of the Law School before being names BYU’s advancement vice president. He has been the president of Brigham Young University since 2014.

He and his wife Peggy have three children and two granddaughters.

Dr. Sarah M. Coyne

Dr. Coyne is an associate professor of human development in the School of  Family Life at Brigham Young University. She received her BSC degree in Psychology from Utah State University, and her PhD in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England.

Her research interests involve media, aggression, gender, and child development. She will soon be starting a major longitudinal study that will examine how parents and children can use media to strengthen family bonds in this digital age. This research agenda will support and help us understand the statement, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on … wholesome recreational activities”, as described in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. She has 4 young children and currently lives in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Family Proclamation

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

New Economics Professor Brings Experience from the United Kingdom

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A firm goes bankrupt. What is a fair way to divide the liquidated value of the firm amongst its creditors? This is the type of question that keeps John Stovall, a new BYU FHSS faculty member, up at night. He deals in social choice theory, a conceptual framework for analyzing individual opinions, preferences, and interests, and how they affect social welfare and collective decision-making processes. He brings to his new position a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Other areas of his research explore the behavioral implications of temptation. He comes to us from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, and has also spent time at the University of Oxford and Boston University.

Dr. Stovall received his PhD and MA in Economics from the University of Rochester, and BS in Mathematics from BYU.

Anxious About Marriage? You Are Not Alone

A variation of an old adage is well-spoken: happy wife equals happy life. But, no relationship is perfect, and marriages are not one-dimensional. What about marital relationships that are lukewarm? BYU FHSS psychology professor Wendy Birmingham and four of her colleagues published a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine that suggests that ambivalence plays a role in both the health of a marriage and the physical health of those in marital relationships. What should young adults seeking a good marriage or a good marriage partner do?

Butler study correlating health and marital quality

1:  Realize That Marriage Isn’t a Cure-All

Marriage is not necessarily a cure-all to pre-existing problems. Brigham Young University student Caroline Belnap met her future husband in New York City after he moved there for work. They married in July of 2014. For her, marriage came when she least expected it–when she wasn’t seeking it out. She observed that issues one might have before marriage, whether it is regarding body image or self-confidence, don’t necessarily go away after one is married.

Photo by Caroline Belnap
Photo by Caroline Belnap

“Even though marriage might seem like a fantasy,” she says, “prior issues don’t disappear. I’ve told girlfriends on more than one occasion that if they have ever had body image issues, marriage is nice because there is someone who cares about you and thinks the world of you. However, she explains that those issues must be dealt with personally. “Your husband can’t fix that for you.”

2:  Have realistic expectations

Lauren Johnston, an Arizona native who married in December of 2014 says she tells her friends—married and unmarried—that they should be realistic about wanting to change another individual.  “You want to love your significant other as they are right now, knowing that you both are going to grow,” Johnston says. ”If he’s awesome before, he will stay awesome.”

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Johnston performs as a Cougarette for BYU and her husband is preparing for medical school. She says that marriage means being willing to accept people as they are. “If you are going to get married on the stipulation that they are going to change, they won’t. If anything, marriage will magnify the problems you already have.”

A Cinderella-style courtship does not guarantee an automatic happily-ever-after. Whether you anticipate marriage or are newly-married, you might be riddled with emotions and feelings ranging from doubt to confidence, exhaustion to elation and even bliss to anxiety. Mark Butler, Professor in the School of Family Life at BYU says that emotions play a central role in the strength of relationships.

“Emotion is, among other things, our social signaling system. It first tells us how things are going in our relationship generally and in any interaction specifically. Emotion next prompts us to act, to share with others what our experience is, and where needed, make things better.”

Emotional communication contributes to the health of our relationships-whether spouse-to-spouse, boyfriend-to-girlfriend or parent-to-child. Butler explains that “when emotions are positively shared and underlying threats resolved, differences, disagreements, or problems are much more manageable, and sometimes simply disappear.”

He adds that:

“Relationships are shaped toward health as we express what we are feeling—our emotions—and together uncover and resolve any self-concept or attachment threats occurring in our interaction or relationship.”

3: Develop Your Self-Confidence and Personal Goals

Looking back on her engagement period before marriage, Johnston said she maintained her self-confidence and brought her personal goals to the marriage, and that made for a healthy start to her new adventure. “The stronger your self-confidence and the direction you want to go in your life, the more you will feel that you are able to grow in your marriage.”

Belnap said she focused on herself during the months before getting married and that led to a more dynamic relationship. She suggests that, “you want to be your best self, academically, spiritually, and especially emotionally. Work on who you are as a person because that will bring a stronger you to the table.”

Doctor Butler adds: “After emotion gets our attention, it next becomes a motivating influence getting us to act to make things better.”

In terms of making things better, Johnston says her emotions become a motivating influence to keep impressing her husband. ”Treat each date likes it your very first date‑minus the awkwardness!”

How do you prepare for a good marriage?

Devoted FHSS Benefactor Mary Lou Fulton Passes Away

Fulton PhotoA rare few have left a legacy so deep and expansive, and one that spans the decades, as Mary Lou Fulton. As a devoted supporter of student achievement at Brigham Young University, Fulton’s generous support and impact on higher education will be greatly missed. The Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology reported that she passed away the first of October at age 82. She was one of the greatest benefactors of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and Brigham Young University. Through the endowment established in her name, she touched many students’ and faculty members’ lives with her commitment to excellence and appreciation for scholarship.

Along with her husband, Ira R. Fulton, she generously endowed four chairs in Mary Lou’s name at BYU. The Mary Lou Fulton Endowed Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences provides meaningful research and educational experiences for students, faculty, and children. The chair was established by her husband in 2004 in recognition of her example.

The Arizona native always maintained an enthusiasm for lifting others and promoting academic pursuits. In 1999, her and her husband’s first gift to BYU came as renovation help for the neuroscience labs located in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower. Since then, they have donated in excess of $50 million to Brigham Young University.

What the Fulton Chair Does

The Mary Lou Fulton Chair in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences funds activities that contribute to the holistic education of students and faculty alike in these six ways:

  1. Annual Conference: This BYU initiative encourages hand’s on research and creative scholarship for undergraduate
    1504-31 069 1504-31 FHSS Fulton Poster Conference April 9, 2015 Photo by Aaron Cornia © BYU PHOTO 2015 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu  (801)422-7322
    Photo by Aaron Cornia
    © BYU PHOTO 2015
    All Rights Reserved
    photo@byu.edu

    students who receive personal mentoring from faculty. Opportunities may include study abroad, internships, and service projects.

  2. Professorships: Established scholars with a track record of excellence in teaching and research receive a Mary Lou Fulton Professorship for five years.
  3. Internship Grants: Current undergraduate and graduate students who are declared majors in a program in the College of FHSS apply for an internship grant of up to$1,600.
  4. Conference Participation Grants: This award can be used to pay for students expenses (travel, meals, lodging, etc.) regarding participation in professional academic conferences.
  5. Mentored Learning Grants: These fellowships are dispensed based upon peer-reviewed applications and enable faculty to involve undergraduates with unique research and publication opportunities. Students in various disciplines benefit from direct interaction with faculty on significant projects.
  6. Young Scholar Awards: This award offers incentives and recognition for outstanding scholarly work by promising young faculty. Each award provides funds to hire one student to assist the faculty member in his or her research.

The Annual Mentored Student Research Conference is a full-day event, and is approaching its twelfth year in 2016. Both undergraduate and graduate students from all departments within the College of FHSS are invited to submit a research poster. The event is designed to create a platform for students to inform other students, faculty members, and the public.

Several faculty members from the College of FHSS have benefited from the Fulton’s generosity. A professorship is an investment in outstanding scholars. Through this award, faculty recipients extend invaluable learning opportunities–which funnel future success for undergraduate students towards securing jobs and completing degrees at the best graduate programs. In 2005, Arden Pope, professor of economics, received the Mary Lou Fulton Professorship from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. Pope, who teaches more than 600 students each year about the principles of environmental economics, said the Fulton Professorship is an important support to him and his students. “The Fulton Professorship has helped support several collaborative research efforts with scholars from various other universities and institutions,” Pope said.

Student Rebekah Purcell had this to say about her Fulton-funded experience in the British Library:

This experience…helped me realize how real my work is. I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment. I know that it is something that I will always hold on to as I keep pushing forward with my degree. [The Fulton’s] generous contribution [helped] me achieve this dream. I will always be so grateful for it.

Likewise, Wade Jacoby, professor of political science has felt the impact of the Mary Lou Fulton Professorship in Political Science. He said that with the assistance of research support from this professorship, he achieved an exceptionally productive year publishing content and organized a strong team of student research assistants. For him, 2014 was an outstanding year. “I published four journal articles. I also published a chapter in a book at Oxford University Press with a former BYU student, which he used to get into the PhD program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island,” Jacoby said. During this time, Jacoby also co-authored a book for Cambridge University Press, in conjunction with colleagues from several top universities in the nation.

The Fultons at BYU

Nearly every college and department on BYU’s campus has felt the generous hands of Ira and Mary Lou Fulton. Among those include the Joseph F. Smith Building, the BYU Athletic Complex, the BYU Broadcasting Building, and the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni & Visitors Center. Other chairs begun to honor her legacy include the Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Theatre and Media Arts, the Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Health and Human Performance and the Mary Lou Fulton Chair of World Languages.

To find the imprint of Mary Lou Fulton’s hand at BYU is an easy task. To follow the impact of it for generations to come will not be so easy.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave at BYU?

Raiders of the Prehistoric: BYU Grad Students to Present at the Utah State History Conference

“Archaeology is the search for fact … not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever, marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library.”

―Indiana Jones

As children of a great film period, many of us dreamed of one day growing up to become Indiana Jones. But as kids, we also missed this famous quote shared by all archaeology professors at the beginning of a semester. For most of us, the dream eventually simmered down to a simple Halloween costume, or a vague wish to explore. But, this dream never died for BYU FHSS graduate students Daniel King, Joseph Bryce, and Madison Pearce, who made presentations at the recent Utah State History Conference.

Daniel King’s presentation on the use of fossils suggests that a collection of fossils may have just been a prehistoric form of pop culture. “My findings suggest that fossils were viewed as talismans, by some,” he says, “to offer physical protection and healing.” His presentation focused on the use and interpretation of fossils by various peoples living in the prehistoric Utah region. “Others are known to have curated fossils, keeping them…within their homes.”

In King’s own personal time as an undergraduate here at BYU, he had the opportunity to work at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures with fellow conference presenter, Joseph Bryce. Part of their work at the museum was organizing the museum collections. “We stumbled upon a prehistoric Fremont collection that contained fossils and our curiosity got the best of us,” said King. And the rest is history.

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Grad student Joseph Bryce’s curiosity led him down a different path. Determined to dip his toes in the waters of the scholarly community, Bryce is a Utah State History Conference veteran. While attending the conference a few years ago, Bryce was intrigued by a presentation discussing basketry impressions that had been found on the backs of Fremont figurines.

A week later, Bryce was back at BYU analyzing pottery from a Fremont site here in Utah Valley when he spotted a basketry impression on the bottom of a bowl. His team has now identified over a dozen examples of basketry impressions from that site alone.

“Finding the basketry impressions started me thinking about how to find out more about the artifacts that don’t survive in the archaeological record,” said Bryce. Artifacts, particularly those made out of plant materials, decay long before archaeologists get digging, leaving behind lots of literal holes in the cultural makeup of a prehistoric society. “[These] impressions that are found in clay are one way that [to] get information about artifacts that we would otherwise have no information about,” said Bryce.

From a grain of salt, Bryce was able to take this concept of basket impressions on clay figurines a step further. “Right now I am researching the basketry impressions as well as the impressions left by the beams of their houses when the houses collapsed,” said Bryce. “I am also interested in fingerprints that can be found on some of the artifacts.” The information that small historical fingerprints like this can give us provides those missing pieces of the puzzle, helping us to put together a fuller picture of the past.

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Also searching for lost puzzle pieces, grad student Madison Pearce focuses her studies on the ethnographic records of prehistoric peoples. Her goal is to discover if, how, and why prehistoric peoples in today’s Utah Valley were using plants. To do this, Pearce was required to get down and dirty, quite literally, by analyzing the preserved seeds found in prehistoric coprolites, or old feces. In making this sacrifice, Pearce was able to determine which plants were being consumed by the inhabitants of the Spotten Cave near Goshen, Utah.

Her findings combined with the historic cultures’ application of plants were able to develop an understanding of plants as a source for food and medicine. “While I cannot make the claim that how prehistoric peoples used plants was the same as historic peoples, I can at least provide possibilities for if, how, and why plants were being used in the past,” said Pearce. The use of plant life obviously changes according to time, season, and place. But with an understanding of historic cultures applied to the basic information they had discovered in prehistoric remains, Pearce was able to piece together another crucial part of the puzzle.

“The notion that prehistoric peoples were able to walk outside of their homes and find plants that they could eat or use to help cure colds and fevers is really attractive to me,” said Pearce. “I often find myself looking out my window wondering, ‘Could I eat that? Or would that cure a disease? And if so, which one?’”

As a stay-at-home mom, Pearce doesn’t get as many chances as she’d like to be out in the field but her interest in ethnobotany isn’t going away anytime soon. “[It’s an interest] that I hope to continue to cultivate throughout my life,” said Pearce, glad of the conference as an opportunity to test her knowledge and her ability to share that knowledge.

While these three are not collecting golden idols and racing to discover the ark of the covenant, their research brings us a few steps closer to discovering the past. The Utah State History Conference was held Oct. 2 and featured a variety of professors, scholars, and students presenting their research on the history and archaeology of Utah.

What do you think will be the fossils we leave behind for future generations?