The Prison Palimpsest: A Former Tour Guide Looks Back at Eastern State Penitentiary By Kate Duffy Osheim
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Digging may seem like the simple act of moving dirt, but it has deep resonances. Digs can be homes or insults; we can dig in the dirt or in archives. We hope our excavations of the word are entertaining and edifying, but above all that they inspire you, our reader, to go digging yourself.
Chapter 1: Digging in the Dirt
Letter from the Editors: Digs
“Digging may seem like the simple act of moving dirt, but it has deep resonances.”
Trade Tales and Tiny Trails: Glass Beads in the Kalahari Desert
By Carla Klehm
What can a handful of tiny glass beads tell us about precolonial African history?
Mining the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas
By Allison Bigelow
University of Virginia professor Allison Bigelow explores how miners in Spanish America mixed metallurgical terminologies with the racialized terms of colonial science.
De Re Metallica
By Justin Berry
Contemporary artist Justin Berry reimagines the Renaissance woodcut, excavating the multiple levels on which it operates.
Meerkats Without History: Digging for a Non-Human Past in the Kalahari Desert
By Benjamin Breen
The Hobbesian bleakness of nature documentaries prompts a question: what would a history of animal societies look like?
A Much Too Distant Mirror: Against Animal Histories
By Ansel Payne
Nature is a dark narrator, an artist of indifference, Cormac McCarthy on a cosmic scale." Zoologist Ansel Payne on the insoluble boundaries between humans and the other beasts.
When the Jazz Age Met the Pre-Columbian
“Dry but crunchy, like a martini stirred with a pickaxe, Digs documented a group of college co-eds who left the Jazz Age to venture into the Pre-Columbian.”
By Michele Stepto
The basin itself, with its crazed surface, put her in mind of the demon bowls that had begun to turn up at auction, pilfered from sites all over Iraq.
EXCERPT: Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunderlizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology
By Jim Ottaviani and Kevin Cannon
A graphic history of paleontological skullduggery and childish competition in the American West.
Chapter 2: Digging in the Archives
Letters to the Editor: Digs
Historical letters on subjects ranging from a tiny but “perfectly formed frog” miraculously imprisoned in a piece of coal to the science of the grass rings where fairies reside.
Haiti’s Declaration of Independence: Digging for Lost Documents in the Archives of the Atlantic World
By Julia Gaffield
The historian who discovered the original printing of Haiti's Declaration of Independence after it had disappeared for nearly 200 years reflects on her find and its implications.
Bandit Resurrections: Who Was the Real Sundance Kid?
By Daniel Buck
Welcome to the kaleidoscopic universe of Wild West history, where outlaws return from the dead with vampiric regularity.
Following a Migrant Route
By Josi Ward
Touring the desert towns of California's Imperial County, Josi Ward finds traces of New Deal work camps which testify to fast-fading histories of migration and upheaval.
Interviews with Young Historians
On the one year anniversary of our first issue, we decided to ask a group of young historians about who they are, what they do, and what they want to see, going forward, as they walk backwards in time.
The Appendix Guide to Gertrude Bell in the Hauran
By Kevin Cannon
Kevin Cannon's cartographic biography of the explorations of the Englishwoman Gertrude Bell in the Hauran region of Syria in February of 1905.
International Diplomacy (and Chocolate) in the Archives
By Corinne Wieben Lampert
A Fulbright grant takes a young historian to the enchanting Tuscan walled city of Lucca, where she discovers that the director of her historical archive has been fencing stolen goods, among other challenges. But chocolate heals all wounds.
By Molly Brodak
In Molly Brodak’s poems, burial becomes transfiguration, and the past is never really put to rest.
Chapter 3: Nice Digs
“One of the Damnedest Trampling Matches You Ever Saw”: When Archaeologists Talk Trash
By Christopher Heaney
For this issue’s Open Source, we share with you one of the funniest, angriest, epistolary meltdowns that we know.
The Prison Palimpsest: A Former Tour Guide Looks Back at Eastern State Penitentiary
By Kate Duffy Osheim
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was a new kind of prison that housed notables like Al Capone. Today it tells of multilayered story of American life as it appears through jail cell bars.
By Erika Bsumek
An encounter between a Yankee portrait painter and two Sioux warriors leads to the enactment of a rather macabre physical pun.
Historical Crushes: Annie Burlak
By Jacob Remes
Coming March 13, 2014
Hark, a Vagrant’s Kate Beaton on Comics, History, and Drawing Admiral Nelson
By Christopher Heaney and Benjamin Breen
Coming March 17, 2014
“And Raising His Hand He Gave the Finger to Heaven”: Digs and Disses Throughout History
By Benjamin Breen
Coming March 19, 2014
The Most Soviet Park in Russia
By Charles Shaw
Coming March 24, 2014
In King Tut’s Shadow
By Darrel Hartman
Coming March 26, 2014