Thursday, September 12, 2013


Apologies for the long hiatus....I should probably change the name of the blog to "Sorry for not posting recently," but perhaps it would be easier to stipulate that I'm always sorry for not posting more frequently. Okay?

My contrition for infrequent posting pales, however, compared to my remorse for the quality of the posts. I recently found myself reading Elif Batuman's moribund blog. (Digression alert--For the less hip, Elif is a brilliant young writer, author of The Possessed. She writes frequently for The New Yorker. I recently read an interesting article by her in The New Yorker entitled "Poisoned Land". It was about a mysterious kidney disease in the Balkans and the various theories that have been proposed to explain it. I found the piece interesting in part because of the relationships it illustrated among disease, hydrology, geology, and geomorphology. The article made me think about the multiplicity of possible causes for the even-more-mysterious kidney disease killing people along the Pacific Coast of Central America. --End digression) I just don't understand how someone--and she is not alone--can generate such quantities of graceful and interesting prose. It reminds of Michael Smith's lament for his clear but not vivid prose. I agree with him. Most of would be overjoyed just to achieve clarity.

Pausing the self-flagellation just momentarily, I can at least point to credible excuses for not posting lately. At the time of the last post, in March, I was racing to prepare and submit my permit request for this summer’s field work in Nicaragua.  Then I became trapped in the regular end-of-semester crush, while simultaneously ordering equipment, arranging travel, and preparing for the fieldwork.

This year I went into the field earlier —from mid-May to early July—than on previous occasions, when I went during the second half of our summer. Turns out that it rains more in the first half of the summer. Not enough to ruin the fieldwork, but we definitely lost more time to rain than we have in the past. I took with me two grad students, Kelin Flanagan and Ashley Hampton. They were great. The house we rented was mediocre: too small, with poor access and only intermittent running water. At one point, the little bridge leading to our street collapsed, and we had to drive several blocks around to get home. On several occasions, we had to bathe out of buckets for lack of running water.  Still, it was better than the Side Track Tap we rented last time.

Kelin and Ashley, very cool.

We found a number of sites but only worked at four of them, of which three were particularly interesting: Dulce Nombre de Jesus, Cosmapa Oriental, and La Trinidad. (Actually, we had discovered the first site a number of years ago, but we explored it more thoroughly this summer and found a bunch of cool stuff. [Sorry about that fancy archaeology jargon.]) Here is a map showing the locations of the sites we have found so far in the Department of Chinandega.

Map showing the location of archaeological sites we have identified to date (2013) in the Department of Chinandega.
If you want more information about the results of our fieldwork, feel free to consult the preliminary report of our fieldwork that I have posted on my website. Follow the link to "Nicaraguan Research" page where you will find a link to the MicroSoft Word document.

After returning from Nicaragua, I had, according to the terms of my permit, only 30 days to prepare this preliminary report. Actually, I had less than 30 days because it took several days for Fedex to ship the document to Managua. Given the short time available for it s preparation, I'm proud of the report. If you find any errors (there are of course omissions, like the lab results, which are still not finished), please let me know at my office e-mail address, ctbrown "at"

To continue with my excuses, writing the preliminary report sucked up the rest of my summer, which flashed by in a blur--I was working in the office early in the morning the day after I got back from the field. Then the new semester started, and I inexplicably agreed to chair a couple of committees. I should probably get a brain scan to see if I have a tumor pressing on the part of the brain responsible for generating the word "no." Maybe they'll name a new kind of aphasia after me.

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