Response Begins with Preparedness: The Impacts of the 2017 Coyote Creek Flood in San Jose

Principle Investigator: Gabbie Fall

Faculty Sponsor:
A.J. Faas

In this study, Gabbie examined how aid and recovery were handled after the 2017 Coyote Creek flood in San Jose. To learn about this, she conducted interviews with people impacted by the flood, analyzed media cover-age from the time of the flood and since, and interviewed workers from relevant city offices and non-profits to see how relief and recovery efforts were perceived as well as how they were intended. This articulates with the anthropology of disasters by providing another view of what it means to be prepared; not only prepared to reduce the effects of disasters but also prepared to provide comprehensive aid immediately after the fact, regardless of whether or not the effects of the disaster were reduced in the first place. She found that people were largely dissatisfied, to say the least, because the damage was not mitigated due to the late evacuation and the subsequent relief efforts did not meet the needs of those living in a city with such an expensive cost of living. This shows how diverse needs cannot be met with generic solutions and can be used to avoid the repetition of certain missteps in the future.
Gabbie presented her work in a poster session as part of the SJSU Celebration of Research event on April 23, 2019, and delivered a paper on this study at the Annual Conference of the Southwestern Anthropological Association on April 19, 2019, where she won third place in the student paper competition. She also gave an Ignite Talk on this study as part of SJSU’s Department of Anthropology AnthROX! event on April 26.

Plastics in Paradise

Principle Investigator: Megan Shaw

Faculty Sponsor: A.J. Faas

Other Sponsors: Berth Kalm Scholarship for Making a Difference in Humanity (SJSU Office of Graduate Studies), Inez and Donald Burdick Scholarship (SJSU College of Social Sciences) Department of Anthropology Grad Grant

The focus of my research is on plastic consumption and waste management on the island of San Pedro, Belize. I spent five weeks in the community in June 2018 conducting interviews, participant observation, attending community events, and working as an intern for a local NGO. My internship with through an organization called the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), a nongovernmental watchdog organization focused on the Belizian government’s Tourism Board (BTB). For my internship, I worked with another local volunteer to create a curriculum for the San Pedro Junior College that incorporated aspects of garbage and waste education and awareness. We were able to create two course components for fourteen different classes, ranging from microeconomics to reef conservation. The hope is that this curriculum will be embraced by the instructors and foster the development of community-level education and awareness the issue of consumption and waste management.

Through this internship, I also participated in an island clean-up hosted by the BTIA in November 2018. The organizers set lofty goals and were able to gain in-kind and monetary donations from many people. I spent the majority of my time helping the local workers at the transfer station (garbage dump) unload and sort waste collected from roadsides and the mangroves. Several community issues were highlighted during this clean up. One was that many businesses were paying for garbage to be hauled and were unaware that the hired workers were dumping it illegally instead of bringing it to the transfer station. Proof also surfaced that waste directly tied to the council had been illegally dumped into the mangroves. As the four-day clean-up drew to a close, the BTIA vowed to continue pushing the local government for stricter enforcement of illegal dumping fines and for their support in continued remediation of polluted areas. My participation in both projects enabled me to delve deeper into community issues and meet numerous people with fantastic insights and experiences. My involvement with the BTIA provided me with context and connections while I worked on collecting data and these connections will continue to be an integral part of my research in the future.

This research and my time in Belize would not have been possible without the support and funding the Berth Kalm Scholarship, the Inez and Donald Burdick Scholarship, and the SJSU Anthropology Department Grad Grant. My advisor, A.J. Faas, has also been a fantastic mentor through this process and will continue to be as I work through my analysis and writing phase of this project.

Community-Based Participatory Archaeology with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe at the Sunol Water Temple Site, CA ALA-565

Primary Investigator: Alicia Hedges and Arianna Heathcote

Faculty Sponsor: Alan Levanthal

As new graduate students in the Applied Anthropology program at San Jose State, we found ourselves in the exciting position of being a part of community based participatory research. During the fall 2017 semester, we spoke with Alan Leventhal concerning his past and current work with local tribes and our interest in getting involved.  From this meeting with Leventhal, we were invited to Sunol by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe to assist on the excavation of their ancestral dead at CA-ALA-565, affectionally called the Sunol Water Temple site as it rests near the historic Sunol Water Temple. We were graciously trained on proper procedures and decorum by SJSU alumnus Brieann DeOrnellas and graduate student Alisha Ragland, as they had long time experience on the site and with the Tribe. It was comforting to discover that the Tribe encouraged a learning environment and welcomed new-comers recommended by Leventhal.

There were many important discoveries made at the site. One of them, a Kuksu pendant (anthropomorphic abalone pendants meant to be worn around the neck), would be the stimulus of Alicia’s M.A. project which addresses the geospatial distribution of Kuksu pendants in the Bay Area associated with the Muwekma Ohlone. Other artifacts of note were found in the matrix of Burial 49, where three individuals were interred with shell beads and five beautifully preserved obsidian projectile points. Mortars and pestles of enormous size were found throughout the site indicating mass ritual and represented the intense labor required to manufacture these grave goods. By way of oral histories, the Muwekma Ohlone know that this site was a burial site specifically for those of importance in their society. This claim was supported by the types of grave goods associated with the burials. In this site we also witnessed cremains (cremated remains), which was a component of the traditional Muwekma Ohlone practice for warrior burials.

This site had beautiful preservation that allowed us to discern a great amount of detail about each burial. After excavation, the burials were drawn, photographed, documented, 3D photographed, and sent to local osteologists for examinations. We look forward to the compiled report that will soon tell us even more about the Muwekma Ohlone’s ancestral dead.

Analysis of a Skeletal Population from Archaeological Site CA-SCL-134

Primary Investigator: Brieann DeOrnellas

Faculty Sponsor: Alan Levanthal

I am currently analyzing a Muwekma Ohlone ancestral skeletal population that was excavated at archaeological site CA-SCL-134 located in the City of Santa Clara.  I am conducting this research under the supervision of instructor, archaeologist, and co-principal investigator Alan Leventhal.  To obtain radiocarbon dating analyses of seven of the burials from this population, I applied for—and was awarded—the College of Social Sciences Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Grant totaling $2,280.  The AMS radiocarbon testing dated the burials to be between ~1000 BC to AD 505, thereby chronologically placing this mortuary population in the newly revised temporal Scheme D that is defined as the Lower Berkeley Pattern (+2100 – 600 BC) through the Middle 2 of the Upper Berkeley Pattern (AD 420 –AD 585).

This research provided me with new skill sets and networks, thus providing me the opportunity to work directly with and for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area on their ancestors and ancestral heritage sites.  In May of 2017, I was invited by the Muwekma tribal leadership to work as an anthropological consultant to the tribe as an archaeological field excavator at site CA-ALA-565 located in Sunol, California.  Since then, I have been continuously working part time on that site along with four other SJSU graduate students Alisha Ragland, Arianna Heathcote, Alicia Hedges and Kanya Yoshihiro as field archaeologists and Chairwoman Rosemary Cambra, Vice Chairwoman Monica V. Arellano and tribal member Arnold Sanchez as part of the burial recovery program for this ancestral mortuary population.  Furthermore, I have also been trained as a monitor overseeing the heavy equipment subsurface excavation for utilities and other construction activities.

Working this job with integrity and cultural sensitivity has resulted in enhanced experience and the development of new competencies, as well as invitations for continued involvement as an archaeologist for the tribe.  More recently, I participated with the tribe in the burial excavation located at the Guadalupe Mines site in San Jose, and have been involved in the skeletal analysis of the Guadalupe Mines and Sunol burials along with fellow anthropology undergraduate students Leslie Hoefert and Amanda Jorgenson.

Alicia Hedges, Alisha Ragland, Arnold Sanchez, Brieann DeOrnellas and Arianna Heathcote at the Sunol Site

Morphological and Semantic Challenges of Confirming Cleft Palate In a Case Study from CA-ALA-329

Primary Investigator:   Erik Savage

Faculty Sponsor:   Dr. Elizabeth Weiss

Burial 92, a young adult Native American woman from the CA-ALA-329 site, is recognizable by the eruption of a central incisor and a small extra tooth in her upper lip area. The roof of her mouth is similarly divided into right and left halves, and these abnormalities have been interpreted as a skeletal example of cleft palate. Using photos of Burial 92 as evidence, a dentist proposed that the unusual features could be explained without assuming she had a cleft palate. This prompted a new review of the physical evidence to reconsider the earlier interpretation.

This new investigation identified physical evidence that was inconsistent with clinical “cleft palate”.  Clinical literature suggests divisions should be smooth-edged, uninterrupted, and found in predictable locations. However, Burial 92’s divisions contain jagged edges and small sections that appeared intact. The location of the division in her lip area is more consistent with MCL (median cleft lip) than typical cleft palate. Typical presentation in the mouth is symmetrical, but her right maxilla was more affected than her left. Hyperdontia is often associated with cleft palate, but Burial 92’s extra teeth may have forced the incisor through a lip area that had been intact. In addition, the evidence of infection in the roof of the mouth might be at least indirectly caused by trauma resulting from these unusual eruptions. Given these facts, the additional assumption of a pre-existing cleft palate is unwarranted.

A shared, interdisciplinary understanding of “cleft palate” would improve the consistency of classifications. The clinical term “cleft palate” applies only to a specific set of facial structures that normally fuse early in the development of an embryo. Ironically, this means the term “cleft palate” may deliberately exclude many palates that are arguably cleft. Early childhood diagnosis and treatment is problematic for bioarchaeologists, who rely on skeletal evidence and confirmed examples for comparison. More collaboration between clinicians and anthropologists could improve consistency, especially by the development of differential diagnostic criteria focusing on skeletal presentations.

A poster summarizing the results of this investigation received the 1st Place award in the Student Poster Competition at the 2017 Southwestern Anthropological Association (SWAA) conference.