Museum talks dive into island and coastal archaeology

The UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History's annual Fall Archaeology Lecture Series will transport its audiences to various locations in the Pacific Ocean as part of October’s statewide Oregon Archaeology Celebration.

The 22nd annual series — this year titled “Diving Deep - Adventures in Coastal and Island Archaeology” — begins Friday, Oct. 9, and runs three consecutive Fridays. Three widely known scholars are lined up for the series. Each talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. and be held in Room 175 of the Knight Law Center, 1515 Agate St. All lectures are free and open to the public.

The series kicks off with Patrick Kirch of the University of California, Berkeley, on the topic of  “Vulnerability and Resilience in Island Cultures and Ecosystems.” Kirch will describe his research on the Mangareva Islands of French Polynesia, where Polynesian occupation significantly changed the island ecosystem over eight centuries, leading to vulnerabilities as well as resiliencies within island culture.

Kirch’s talk is co-sponsored by the UO Center for Pacific and Asian Studies and is co-listed as part of its Jeremiah Lecture Series.  

On Friday, Oct. 16, Amy Gusick of California State University, San Bernardino, will present “Underwater Archaeology in North America – A View from the Pacific Coast.” Gusick will discuss her research on submerged archaeological sites that extend from Canada to Mexico, exploring the question of whether humans migrated to North America via the Pacific Coast.  

The series will conclude on Friday, Oct. 23, with “Rethinking the Mystery of Easter Island” by the UO anthropologist Terry Hunt, dean of the Robert D. Clark Honors College. Hunt will paint a surprising picture of Easter Island’s past and the remarkable culture that flourished there.

Series organizer Lauren Willis said that this year’s focus on island and coastal cultures has a direct connection to the museum’s mission of encouraging environmental stewardship.

“The world’s oceans and coastlines are an integral part of the human story,” Willis said. “The more we can learn about how humans interacted with these ecosystems in the past, the better equipped we are to develop conservation plans for the future.”

(The other two speakers, Terry Hunt and underwater diving Amy Gusick, are shown below.)

— By Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History