Thursday, January 25, 2018

Taste and Terroir as an Anthropological Matter – Summary

This post is a summary of: Taste and Terroir as an Anthropological Matter – by Amy Trubek (this was published on FoodAnthropology Jan. 2018 )

Happy New Year!
Abigail Adams and I are the new co-editors of the SAFN blog. Our heartfelt thanks to David Beriss, the long-time editor and constant champion of this fantastic resource! We are stepping into big shoes.
We will begin our tenure with a series of short overviews of the food related panels at the 2017 American Anthropological Association meeting in Washington, D.C.. We include contact information for the panel organizer so that you can easily initiate further dialogue or requests for individual papers.
Kerri Lesh (University of Nevada-Reno; organized the panel, Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter. She was joined by Carole Counihan, Anne Lally, Sharyn Jones and Daniel Shattuck. I was the discussant. The papers covered a wide range of locations, perceptions and actions related to taste and terroir: Kentucky, Iceland, Sardinia, Italy and Spain; capers, grapes, sheep, hogs. As Kerri Lesh points out, terroir can be identified as a rich site for “condensed sociocultural matter.” In such considerations, as made clear by everyone on the panel, terroir makes sense to people due to concerns that emerge from specific cultural and environmental contexts. Anthropologists, thus, can make an important contribution to the expanding scholarly interest in the concept of terroir, because our research makes clear that it cannot be understood using linear analyses of cause and effect. Meanings are complex and contradictory. Anne Lally’s exploration of the contested role of sheep to the Icelandic landscape and culture made that clear; these sheep are ‘good’ for Iceland’s agrarian identity but not so ‘good’ for contemporary concerns about tree loss and soil erosion. Meanwhile, everyone in Iceland likes the taste of the sheep. So, certain sociocultural matters appear consistently in terroir talk, even though the cultures and identities vary. All the panelists agreed that we talk about terroir in order to be connected to a certain geography. Daniel Shattuck, Sharyn Jones and Carole Counihan’s ethnographies reveal that to talk about terroir can also reveal contemporary concerns, because it reinforces the notion that our food is natural, it comes from the soil and not a bag of Miracle Gro. Finally, we all affirmed that those we studied care about terroir because it links food and drink to larger human aspirations, mediating on-going attempts to build towards the social, cultural and public good – by producers, by consumers, by activists.
Amy Trubek, SAFN Blog Co-Editor
University of Vermont

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A link to my article in the American Anthropologist

Here is a copy of my abstract and citation info for the annual review of archaeology from 2015 that appeared in the American Anthropologist. Please contact me if you would like to obtain a copy of this paper.

Jones, Sharyn. 2016 Anthropological Archaeology in 2015: Entanglements, Reflection, Reevaluation,  and Archaeology beyond Disciplinary Boundaries. American Anthropologist 118(2):301-316. DOI: 10.1111/aman.12531

Archaeologists in 2015 engaged with critical anthropological topics in our search to understand human-ity's story, including conflict and cooperation, materiality, ritual, food, environment, and heritage. New shifts in both our theory and our approaches are emerging; lines between traditional publication outlets and gray literature have blurred; open-source publications are now available; and social networking sites, along with blogs, crowdfunding, and data-sharing sites, are changing archaeological practices. At the same time, political challenges to archaeology's relevance exert pressure on what and how we study. Social changes and technological improvements have affected archaeological practices and prompted archaeologists to explore these various entanglements, including the range of audiences who consume and use our work. Archaeological research in 2015 produced new research findings and new multidisciplinary perspectives while reflecting a continued commitment to examining anthropological questions.

A copy can also be purchased from Wiley publishing here. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

September is Kentucky Archaeology Month

Fall is in the air and it is time to celebrate Kentucky Archaeology Month!

Mammoth Cave Rotunda Room. Photo from:
Mammoth Cave Rotunda Room. Photo from:

From the 30 Days of Kentucky Archaeology Blog: "For the past several years, the Governors of Kentucky have proclaimed September Kentucky Archaeology Month. In accordance with this proclamation, “professional archaeologists continue to work with the public to provide new insights into our collective past and greatly expand our knowledge about different cultural traditions.” In this spirit, he Kentucky Heritage  Council/State Historic Preservation Office has created a blog, “30 Days of Archaeology,” as a contribution to Archaeology Month events sponsored by the Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists (KyOPA). Blog topics range from what makes archaeology important to society, to how cool it is for a student to find that first artifact. "

Follow the blog at

Check out the 30 Days of Kentucky Archaeology website

Kendra Hein, a recent MA from the Public History Program at NKU, wrote an essay to celebrate Archaeology Month and reflect on her experiences conducting ethnoarchaeological research in Fiji with the support of the NSF REU Fiji Program. Here is her post:

  The 300+ Fijian Islands, located in the South Pacific, include two large islands called Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.  Approximately 2800 years ago the ancestors of modern Fijians, known then as the Lapita peoples, began inhabiting these islands.  On Vanua Levu along the largest bay in the central Pacific, Natewa Bay sits a small village called Nasinu.  Here, over three-hundred descendants of the Lapita peoples reside, and they live mostly off of the land and sea that surrounds them.  Many contemporary Fijians rely on what anthropologist’s call “Traditional Ecological Knowledge,” (or TEK); a system where native heritage and information about local resources are combined to manage human interactions with the environment.  TEK is passed down from generation to generation, and it reflects a deep archaeological heritage from which we can tie these practices back to their Lapita ancestors through the archaeological record.  This knowledge also depicts modern ideas and use of an ever changing environment. 

The population of Nasinu relies heavily on the sea, which provides a large portion of their daily diet, but they also rely on the tropical plants and agricultural produce, that grow in extensive field systems and in the wild all around them. Not only do modern Fijians consume a high quantity of plant products, including taro root, cassava, and coconut, they also use the plants for a variety of purposes; from building materials to rituals, crafts, clothing, dyes, food preparation, glue, and medicines. Fiji has an abundance of palm varieties, and it is no surprise the locals have many uses for all parts of this plant.  The coconut tree is one of the most important species on these islands.  The palm fronds can be used for basket making and mat weaving, for roofing and shelter.  The meat of the coconut and heart of the palm can be consumed, the wood is used for building materials, and the oil is used for treating ailments such as skin rashes, belly aches, constipation, and chest congestion.  Fijians have long utilized dozens of species of native flora as common medicines – this is supported by the archaeological and ethnographic evidence.  So-called native medicines are popular even today due to the high cost of “modern medicine,” and the lack of accessible medical facilities for much of the population.

In the summers of 2014 and 2015, I participated in ethno-archaeological field programs created by Dr. Sharyn Jones of NKU, and funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates.  We worked extensively in the village of Nasinu, and the region around it, on the island of Vanua Levu.  While residing with a local Fijian family, I conducted an ethnographic study focused exploring the traditional uses for local Fijian flora.  The results exhibited uses for multiple parts of plants, including the leaves, fruit, bark, stem, and roots. 

Fijians have a vast knowledge of plant uses due to both TEK and subsistence practices from the environment around them.  Here are a few examples of my field research and personal experiences with plants used as medicines.  The leaves of the guava (Psidium guajava) plant can be crushed and drank to ease cramps, upset stomach, and diarrhea; they can even be applied topically for sunburn.  Noni (Morinda citrifolia), a very popular tropical plant used locally and in a range of exported products (i.e. soaps, lotions, shampoo), can be used to treat skin conditions.  The leaves or the fruit are crushed up and applied directly to the skin.  Additionally, Noni combined with small red chili peppers is said to treat stomach issues for men.   

I experienced firsthand how well some of these medicines work.  I was suffering from severe cramps and our project informants concocted a drink made with the crushed leaves of the guava and kalambucidamu (Acalypha wilkesiana) plants. Kalambucidamu is the Fijian name for a red leaved plant that grows wild and bush-like in Fiji.  The leaves of the plant are similar in shape and color to varieties of Coleus.  Once I finished the drink I noticed a decrease in my abdominal pain almost immediately.

For thousands of years Fijians have lived and thrived on their islands and rely on TEK along with daily subsistence practices, which in some contexts have changed little over time. However, with the constant influx of tourists and expatriates, and with technological advances, many of the traditional practices Fijians have relied on are beginning to dissipate.  Faster and newer medical advances are being adopted daily and many people are moving from remote village life to the hustle and bustle of city living.  As a budding archaeologist and anthropologist I have been privileged to witness cultural change firsthand, but I feel the need to document daily practices, such as TEK, before they disappear altogether.  By combining archaeology and ethnography I have been able to gain a fuller picture of both the past and the present.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1156479 to Dr. Sharyn Jones ( ). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.