The Modern Marvels of Technology (Stalking)

 

Wherever you go in the world today and whatever you see, technology is a cultural phenomena because it is in everything we use on a daily basis. Like second nature to breathing, we cannot live without the technology we have now or at least it would be almost impossible to do so. Our reliance on technology stems from wanting to make everything more efficient and easier to come by. The purpose of using technology has changed over the course of our (humans) existence, starting with our ancestors. It began with using stone tools in order to survive environmental and climatical changes, then agricultural practices, to now – huge modern industries. During Journey 1 of the Chesapeake Semester Program, I’ve learned a great deal about this trend from stone to modern technology through the museums and tours that I participated in. I have also discussed with my peers about how our advance technology couldn’t possibly save us alone when facing an environmental crisis. I think that as much as technology has impacted our lives for the better (not always), it could easily be our downfall causing societies to collapse.

My very first experience of using stone tools was during the beginning of Journey 1 when my group and I went camping at Chino Farm. Professor Schindler, an archaeologist expert, allowed us to use serrated stone tools when preparing our dinner. He used a specific kind of stone technology which is called Blade and Core, this is striking one stone in order to make multi-purpose flakes. Mostly for tearing, cutting, and or scraping, we used them for our meats, roots, and fruits (squash). Stone tools like these and many more helped hunters/gathers to collect, extract, and hunt their food. Even within this period of stone technology, there were changes always being made to create sharper tools without wasting stone material. The changes reflected upon that of the environment in which our ancestors lived in but also how our ancestors transformed from ape-like to bipedalism humans. What was most striking though was just using ordinary stones to cook a stew and break open three huge femur bones. Heating a few stones on the coals before placing them directly into the food we were going to eat later was very interesting to me. Comically, I thought it would be funny to see what people would think if they were to do this in their modern kitchens. What was fascinating by far was seeing one of my peers break a femur bone just using a good-size stone. Nothing gets more raw than that in my opinion. Drinking the marrow was delicious but I will never forget that simple act of splintering a bone in two just by using stones. It’s made me realize that not all technology have to be so advanced or complicated, using what’s around you – stone, clay, wood, can be enough to make a powerful tool.

Jumping ahead in the Journey, I learned about the colonial period and how technology drove tobacco to become a staple production. An Englishman selling his tobacco could earn 4 sterlings for a barrel (equivalent to a pound), this was double the amount a common man would make back in England. Before, most Englishmen planned to stay in Jamestown until they got rich and then return home. Now families were pouring in, buying large acres of land and growing fields upon fields of tobacco. Among the people who came to America were indentured servants, individuals that worked 7 years for somebody before acquiring land. When tobacco became a huge boom, indentured servants weren’t enough to take care of the fields. So people started to bring over African-Americans as slaves to do the work. African slaves were horribly mistreated but their numbers helped colonial families keep their tobacco business and the economy as a whole running. Learning more about African slaves and their struggle of life made me realize that there is a labor force behind all technology. Africans were bound labors who had to work in the fields for the rest of their lives and if caught trying to flee, would face unspeakable punishment. In today’s industries and companies, there is a huge labor force working to make mass productions of food and commodities for consumers to buy.

Transportation had a far-reaching impact for food production. When it became possible to sell goods to other parts of the world, there was a greater demand as a whole. In the beginning, a farmer could only sell his products in a local market because they couldn’t be preserved for long travels. The first kind of food preservation were food cans and glass jars with vacuum seals where fruits, vegetables, and seafood could be stored without going spoiled. During the 1800s and 1900s, new transportation methods appeared in the forms of steamboats, railroads, interstate highways, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Now it was possible for people around the world to access the same foods and commodities.

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At the end of Journey 1, I had visited the Baltimore Museum of Industry where there were so many exhibits showing the changes of modern-day technology. I learned about how oysters were canned, how army outfits were sewn together, and how the printing press improved. What struck a cord though was the subtle shift from manual labor to machineries. With each new machine invented to make the job easier and faster, someone would loose their job because he/she was doing manual work. This mostly happened to child who were working in the labor force but many were happy to see them out of those dangerous places. Of course there were many more exhibits but the most interesting perhaps was a full wall showing all the first forms of technology that happened in Baltimore and there were a lot!

This whole journey was to have a “sense of place in history” which I believe could be interpreted with many different folds. I thought that the history behind our technology served as a good reminder of how far we have come from just using stones as tools. Now we have all sorts of devices – big and small – such as phones, computers, cars, etc. I said that technology has impacted our lives for the better if not always but that didn’t mean for the land. So much of the it has been destroyed, tainted, or ruined by our doings. Mostly because of over-extracting natural resources and clearing land for agricultural fields or buildings. Our water systems such as the Chesapeake Bay is suffering because of nutrient pollution overcharge, overfishing, and the general loss of ecosystems and organisms. This environmental crisis has brought many programs together to restore the Bay by placing policies and regulations both on watermen and recreational fishermen. There are several if not more factors that play in the role of degrading the Chesapeake Bay so only time and more efforts to save it can give us any hope of it surviving. Problems like these are far and between on this planet and its our responsibility to do what we can to fix them now. That doesn’t mean sit back and let technology do it, it means actually putting your energy and time into doing what you can. If we are facing a tipping point where our planet will no longer be able to support us – then we, as a species, could become extinct.

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The Fight for Freedom

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Throughout this journey, I’ve learned about the fight for freedom through different lenses in history. We started with the English colonies fighting for their independence, to the Native-Americans fighting for their lands, to African-Americans fighting for a better life. In each place we visited – Williamsburg, Washington D.C., and Annapolis; I have heard unbelievable stories of individuals and societies fighting to achieve the ultimate goal: freedom. The tours that I got to participate whether in museums or on plantations really helped me get a better understanding of slavery and the idea of freedom as not being directly inherited back then.

This learning experience started in colonial Williamsburg where I learned about the culture and lifestyle of the colonies. We had an assignment where we had to find about the slavery, food pathways, and music that occurred during this time. To do this we had to explore the shops, taverns, and interview people who were dressed up reenacting the colonial period. During our expedition we got to see important events being played out in the streets such as the “Storming of the Palace” and the “Declaration of Independence” celebration. The Storming of the Palace is an event where the Virginia colonies demand the stolen gunpowder that was taken by British sailors to be returned to them. They all gathered in front of the Governor’s Palace to address this issue and to defend for their rights. This and the news that about the Declaration of Independence represents the struggle that the colonies had to break free from the British hands and become their own independent state.

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The next day we headed to two different colonial plantations, the James River and the Shirley. Both were very different in terms of size but showed the same kind of lifestyle. The first plantation was a true eye-opener for me to learn about the living conditions of the slaves. We met a man who was making baskets and he really understood the hardships that the slaves had to endure. He mentioned that a slave would work 14 to 16 hours each day of every week and that the children would begin working at 4 or 5 years of age. He continued saying that the masters didn’t often care much about their slaves as long as they did the work in the fields. They needed to provide enough food and shelter for them so they don’t all die but other than that – slaves are considered property. What really struck me was that he said you often do not hear about the real stories from slaves but about the colonies and masters. It’s vitally important to hear both sides of history because there is always two sides to a coin.

Later that day we went to the Shirley Plantation which is the oldest family-owned business, currently the 11 generation is operating it. It started in 1637 using the James River as a central location for transporting goods and people. This spectacular place has a wealth of history, some are just unbelievable, but not much was said about the slaves. Our fantastic tour guide did mention about one family member having owner over 1,000 slaves at one point due to his status and thus owning a few plantations. The slaves did work which helped to support the Shirley plantation and the family. It’s incredible though to think about how many slaves worked on a plantation such as this one, I can’t be sure what their life was like but the hard work of having to keep this kind of plantation would have been difficult.

We shifted to Native Indians next ad visited the Pamunkey Reservation with its fish hatchery and the National Museum of the American Indian. On the reservation I learned that because the tribe had sighed a different treaty instead of the American treaty, they are not fully recognize by then federal government. So it’s been a long and constant battle to keep what’s left of their land. There have been several threats and attempts to acquire the land but so far it hasn’t occurred. I also learned that most people now a days aren’t aware that there a still American Indian tribes around as well as reservations. Slowly it seems that their history and culture is disappearing from our history books and that should’t be. They are just as important as anything else. This battle to keep their culture and land is a different form of freedom I believe because they don’t want to lose what they have.

Lastly today I visited the “Freedom Bound Exhibit” at the Historic Annapolis Foundation and the African American History Tour. In these exhibits, I learned more about African American slaves but these were specially stories of individuals who tried running away. Many unfortunately were caught but it was powerful to see that some tried running away more than once because they were so desperate to leave the life that they were living. What made it possible for most runaway slaves to be returned to their masters was a famous newspaper which often had advertisements about such issues. When slave runs away, the master will often write up a well-descriptive ad with a reward for whoever finds him/her. It usually includes the physical appearances of the runaway, clothes that is worn, and place they may escape to. Anyone who was found assisting runaway slaves could also be punished severely, it was a big risk for free African Americans to help a slave because they could loose their freedom. I also learned about the differences between indentured slaves and criminal slaves, they all have different service periods but a African slave meant life. It’s completely understandable why so many African Americans tried to fight for their freedom from the horrible abuse.

After learning so much about the different way of fighting for freedom, I have much respect for my freedom that I assume for the moment I could think on my own. It’s incredible to think that others had to fight tooth and nail for theirs even to this day with the Native Americans. Learning about the struggles to have our rights and to not be oppressed is so important and to do so we have to tell the stories that are not heard often. Hearing about the stories of runaway slaves and the immoral ways of which they were treated was brought to light through the museums and tours that I participated I so far on this incredible journey.

A New Way of Camping

The first part of my Chesapeake Semester journey was camping at Chino Farm, a 5,000 acre land, for 3 days. This place is located in a isolated part just pass the Chester river bridge where a dam is operated, a pinewood restoration is in progress, and a pigeon shooting range. This farm is really removed from civilization so I was able to completely be unplugged from technology and get closer with nature. I have gone camping once before during my junior year of high school but this was different, especially during my second night there. My former Archeology professor, Schindler, came to teach the group about foraging food and how to cook with the most basic of tools made from stone and wood.

Professor Schindler had brought with him a number of potteries, a number of stones and wooden tools, and a few foods that would otherwise been foraged or hunted. After setting up he took us around the immediate area of our camping site to show us what plants could be consumed. It was amazing how knowledgable he was, he was reenacting essentially what hunters/gathers would have to do in order to survive. Through a group effort we were able to gather sassafras roots, catnip roots, among others to be used for our dinner that night. What I learned though which was really crucial for a the kind of society we were acting as was knowing about what plants were in season. We tried finding some mushrooms however they were all too old. We also happened to find a persimmon, a fruit, but it too was not ripe enough. We ended up having a really dry mouth with a bitter aftertaste. After looking at what we had gathered, which wasn’t much, I was surprised that we hadn’t found more food. It made me realize that if we had to survive just by forging, it would be difficult even though it was only 8 of us in the group.

Foraging was only part of the learning experience, we also needed to prep all the food and cook. We built a huge fire so that we could cook a couple of things at the same time, from strew to squash, to three colossal leg bones. Yes, though we didn’t hunt and kill a cow, Schindler brought with him three cow bones so we could try bone marrow. We divided up roles, some of us helped skinned the squashes while others skinned a duck, 3 squirrels, and a rabbit. These would have been the common type of animals that we would have hunted for survival, in this case Schindler had these in a freezer for a year. What I thought was amazing was that we were using stone tools to cut away the skins of the squashes while the others used them to cut the meat into quarter sizes. Schindler had made these stone tools known as bifacial cutting tools by hitting rock against rock in a specialized way. These were extraordinarily sharp!! You could honestly cut yourself if you were not careful. Once the meats were fixed, they were placed in a pottery bowl filled with water and set into the fire. We used a pumpkin to cook the squash in with beans and quinoa, instead of placing the pumpkin itself into the fire – Schindler used heated stones. He would put a few on the coals until they were hot and then place them inside the pumpkin to cook the ingredients. I have never seem this been done before and I was instantly fascinated. We had also roasted the pumpkin seeds in a different pottery. For an appetizer we roasted cactus and catnip roots, roasting the cactus helped to get rid of the tiny spikes that came in huge numbers. The catnip roots which were pulled out from the muddy ground were washed and cut to be lightly roasted. You only ate the starch which left the outside layering. Using the types of cutting tools and potteries helped me to understand that if you are living this kind of lifestyle, you really have to make everything yourselves. The energy that was put into prepping the food was long and difficult but that was what it took to cook your food. You had to rely on your skills to know what you were doing.

Now here was the most exciting part of my evening, extracting bone morrow. I’ve always loved eating the fatty parts of a T-bone steak and finding any marrow too. However, I had never seen such enormous leg bones in my life! Schindler explained that these are used sometimes as dog bones which I could imagine a dog enjoying himself very much. Through the whole time we were cooking the food, we had placed these bones on the coals to cook. When we were ready, Schindler placed one on a rock and Kelly, one of my classmates, used a different rock to break it. It was harder than we had all thought, it took several blows but finally the bone splintered and broke. The marrow within was a combination of being “fatty” or liquid like butter. It was delicious – I had never quite had something that good. I didn’t want to indulged myself too much but having some really was great. Once we had cracked open all three bones, we used the leftover bone parts as fuel for the fire. At the end of the meal you only needed to put the dirty pottery bowls face down by the fire to clean because the heat would carbonized the leftovers.

As we sat around the fire we talked about what it meant to be sustainable and what will our future be if we continue down the road we are on now. A few ideas were bounced around from killing off half the currently population and living as hunters/gathers to stopping when we have pushed a species to extinction to giving more energy and natural resources the what we take from the planet. All these ideas were good in my opinion, though some may be unreasonable – namely the first one. But I do think it is vitally important to find some way to become more stainable if not more so aware of what we are doing to this planet. It’s not enough to have a few people change their ways, it must be a global phenomena. People have to really believe that making a change could very well save the future generations from failing natural resource systems. We’ve already passed crucial moments in time where we could have saved the planet and now we are most likely approaching a breaking point where the carrying capacity will no longer support us. Every effort will count towards a better, cleaner planet.