Friday, November 3, 2017

An Archaeologist's Perspective: Origins

I didn't start out as an archaeologist.
  Although my background and interests had always been in the past,
 I had grown up a book nerd. 
I had never even considered the possibility of studying history first-hand in the field!



My undergraduate study was done at a small liberal arts college in upstate Vermont.  I was one student in a small department, studying Classics.  I was learning the history and culture of the great Mediterranean civilizations: the Greeks and the Romans.  It was during this program that I spent a term abroad in Athens, Greece.  This period was my first time in Greece, and the first time I would ever see the sites and artifacts of my study first-hand.  I was living in a city thousands of years old, surrounded by a culture that was a beautifully chaotic mix of old and new, taking classes that were taught in and around the ancient buildings themselves. 



I was hooked.  I knew that, whatever my future job, it had to bring me back to this feeling of experiencing and living history.


During this time, I took a one-week tour on the island of Crete, home to the ancient Minoans.  Walking the corridors of the famed Palace of Knossos, I was left speechless at its sophistication and size.  That awe turned to intrigue as I learned just how little was actually known about the culture and its people.

When my term in Greece finished, I returned to my college in Vermont.  I continued my studies in the later Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome.  But I could not forget the mystery and lure of the Bronze Age Minoans. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Archaeologist's Perspective: from the Field to Museum, Minoan to Kumeyaay






Since childhood, I have been fascinated by history.  It is more than a static list of events and people long-since passed.  It is instead the living narrative of where we have been, and of the human condition and perspective through time.  It encapsulates our collective achievements and failures – locally and globally – and everything in between.  History is the story of us; the people whose actions and thoughts are remembered through it are no less relatable today than your neighbor across the street.  And just like those neighbors in the past, today we live and create history with every passing moment.  It is our inheritance, and our own legacy. 





My name is Dr. David Breeckner.  I am an archaeologist.  It is my job to study human history and prehistory through both excavation and the analysis of the material goods or remains discovered within.  My background is in Mediterranean civilizations, with a focus on the Bronze Age Minoans. My specialty is pottery, the material that I consider to be the key to deciphering ancient peoples and cultures. 




Since August, I have traded the Mediterranean for the desert, and the Minoans for the Kumeyaay.  Driving across the country from my family's home in rural New Hampshire, I now live on-site in the town of Ocotillo, CA.  Over the next few weeks, I will share my experiences in the study of history, in the work that I've done, and the work that I do now.  I invite you to follow along as I “dig” into my own personal past.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Value of an Education

We held our first Evening w/ an Expert of the season tonight. It was a dinner event associated with the History 586 class that I am teaching at SDSU Imperial Valley Campus. The class has been looking at foodways from the paleolithic era to the agricultural revolution to the Roman Empire. We have been reading Feast: Why Humans Share Food, by Martin Jones, and Spice: the History of a Temptation, by Jack Turner. Tonight was a hands-on investigation of the taste of ancient foodways!

This is my favorite class that I teach, and my favorite event at the museum. We tasted four dishes that have come down through the ages, and students ate with lithic tools. What does that mean...





Seriously, students had a random selection of tools that they could use to eat with, from a basalt hand axe, to an obsidian point, to a hafted glass point knapped from the bottom of a beer bottle.

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum has a goal of being the most fun education institution in the region. I think we achieved that tonight!

After dinner Dr. David Breeckner presented his work on the ceramics of the Minoan civilization on Crete. In the History 586 class we had readings on Minoan Crete, so the tie in was amazing. It is one thing to read a book. It is a totally other thing to listen to someone talk about their direct experience with an archaeological site.

From start to finish, this was an amazing event. Thanks to all who came, and to all who supported the event. It costs a lot to do innovative educational programming. But there is a value in education. Both the food and Dr. Breeckner proved that tonight!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Project complete! For now

-from Anne C. Morgan

It's hard to believe it's nearly the end of September already.  A month ago I began an intense digitization project with the goal of scanning all photographs in the Harry Casey Collection that connected to geoglyphs.  In a collection of more than 8,000 individual images, I knew the bulk of them pertained to geoglyphs, but what did that mean? All 8,000? 7,000?





30 days, 230.5 hours, and 2 scanners later, the answer is 4,462.  That's the number of photographs scanned, although there were over 1,000 duplicate copies of individual images.


2 scanners worked hard on this project!
What's next? What was the point of becoming the Mad Scanner? I'll be working with photographer Harry Casey and Sunbelt Publications to put together Harry's manuscript with accompanying images for publication.  The museum will apply for grants to create an interactive digital exhibit based on the work.  After that? There are plenty more ideas waiting to be implemented- not to mention almost another 4,000 photographs of rock art, Nazca Lines, and desert plants waiting to be scanned and create exciting, interesting, and beautiful exhibits!



A special thanks to Dr. David Breeckner, Angelina Coble, and Marcie Rodriguez for all their help with this project!


Marcie examines a slide

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Storerooms are Open!

By Dr. David Breeckner, Scholar-in-Residence

New exhibits are coming to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, and with them comes a host of new artifacts and research. Beginning in September 2017, the museum is launching a series of mini-exhibits designed to engage patrons with previously-unseen materials from its curated collections.

These exhibits are designed to be small in size and duration, but echo with the weight of something far greater. Visitors will find one of our new display cases, full of new objects and research. These cases and their contents demonstrate specific themes and ideas, exploring the contents and nature of the museum's material collections. These exhibits are fleeting and designed to only be featured for a limited period.   

...But never fear! From the ashes of one exhibit, another will rise to take its place. The Imperial Valley Desert Museum hosts a variety of archaeological materials in the Imperial Valley College Collection: pottery, lithics, fossils, multimedia (photographs, audio, video), and much more. Our goal is to showcase parts of this collection as it is researched - interpreting and celebrating the landscape and culture of the Imperial Valley Desert region. With this new program, the IVDM aims to make accessible that which was previously stored, bringing our backrooms to the exhibit floor.


This week we've unveiled our first exhibit in this series: Ceramics of the Americas. This mini-exhibit celebrates the material culture of native peoples from outside our immediate region. Both this week and in the weeks to come, there is something new for everyone. We invite you to come by and answer the question yourself: what's the new thing at the museum now?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Welcome, Dr. Breeckner, to IVDM!

~Education Coordinator, Marcie Rodriguez


This week we have a new face here at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, Dr. David Breeckner. Dr. Breeckner is our new Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. Hailing orginally from Connecticut, he graduated from Trinity College Dublin, in Dublin Ireland in June of 2017.

His backgroung is in Minoan ceramics, but is looking forward to expanding his expertise into our local pottery. Dr. Breeckner will be spending the next few months with us at the museum, and we are looking forward to seeing the research he produces.