Author Archive: andrewreinhard

Canadian Skateboarders and Archaeology

Monday, January 9th, 2017 by andrewreinhard


Punk Archaeology made an appearance at December’s Theoretical Archaeological Group (TAG) in Southampton in the United Kingdom. Robert (Bob) Muckle¬†(Capilano University) and Bruce Emmett¬†(Emily Carr University) presented a paper on skateboarding and public archaeology, “Never Say Last Run: Skateboarders Challenging the Terrain and Becoming Involved in Archaeology,” the abstract of which is here:

A collaborative project involving skateboarders, artists, educators, and an archaeologist is a unique undertaking in the realm of archaeology in North America. This is partly the story of a wide-eyed archaeologist becoming immersed in the culture of skateboarding and discovering a level of intellectual engagement in an activity often perceived to be reserved for punk and parking lots. Preeminent persons in the skateboard industry, skateboard park designers, professional skateboarders, and< skateboard activists have been part of the collaboration. Experiences of those involved indicate there is considerable interest in the project by many people, but there are naysayers as well, leading to challenges to excavating what is perhaps the oldest intact public skateboard park in the world. This presentation provides a short history of the construction and early use of what is now this highly significant site in Canada. It describes the challenges to excavation, issues related to heritage designation and control, interpretation of sites, and identity and practice. Ultimately, the excavation of, and even the widespread recognition of the heritage significance of the site may never be realized. Challenges include being stymied by the purported leaders in education, and issues related to members of a subculture attempting to work within a dominant system. It may be that this project may never break ground. The quest for significance and the creation of a collaborative space between persons of disparate disciplines and interests may in fact be the greater story.

The authors generously granted Punk Archaeology permission to link the paper, which you can download and read here.


Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016 by andrewreinhard

2016 art by Yoshitomo Nara.

The Ramones released their eponymous album on April 23, 1976, on Sire Records, and on July 4 of that same year played their first non-US show at the Roundhouse in London, igniting the Punk fuse under British bands such as the Damned and the Clash, some of whose members were in the crowd that night. It was a Punk Independence Day in the UK ushered in by four burnouts from Forest Hills, Queens.

To celebrate Punk’s 40th birthday, the Queens Museum is hosting a Ramones retrospective exhibition, which will close on July 31, re-opening at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on September 16. What sets this exhibition apart from others of its kind is the fact that it ties Punk to place, namely Forest Hills, and contains ephemera about (or belonging to) the band members and their friends and families before the Ramones formed. The concept of Punk-and-place is not new to this blog, and you can read more about that here.

The exhibition places the band inside the context of the fledgling Punk scene in New York City with posters and handbills from CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and photos of Blondie, Wayne County, Iggy Pop, and others. There are handwritten setlists and lyrics, art made by the band members and their fans, fan letters, original album art, original concert merch, backstage passes. Artifacts of the band include gear and clothing, as well as elements of when the Ramones were “becoming”, including an original demo tape and press kit. Visitors tour three galleries arranged chronologically, encountering Joey’s “Gabba Gabba Hey” sign and memorabilia from the film Freaks and later from Rock and Roll High School.

We see the Ramones invent themselves and their sound, creating not just a Punk phenomenon, but a pop culture one as well, becoming part of the American vernacular as they played over 2,500 shows. Not only do we see the transformation, we hear it as well, as Ramones tunes invite guests in to learn about the origins and growth of a legendary band. Through the Ramones’ artifacts and an attempt to place the band in first a local context, then in the context of the Punk scene, and then on their own terms as a global juggernaut, the exhibition attempts to explain a legend through the sum of its interconnected parts. We don’t quite get a feel for the men themselves through what has been preserved. What we do get, however, is a look at the band-as-virus, spreading Punk wherever it touched down. It’s the creation and circulation of a blueprint. Or perhaps a ‘zine.

The final gallery is entered through a glass door installed in a vain attempt to dampen the sound of a Ramones concert film played on continuous loop. In the back of the room, placed almost as an afterthought, is a case containing the Ramones’ lifetime achievement Grammy and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame statues. This almost hidden placement is clever, though, reminding us that the band was not about achievement; it never was, instead focusing on communication through music to as many people as possible. Such is Punk rock.

When I visited, about eight other people were seated in chairs, listening to the concert footage and smiling. And it marked the first time that I’ve ever seen EVERY SINGLE PERSON smiling in a museum exhibit, without exception. The exhibit walked the nostalgic line to be sure, but did its best to address the Ramones and Punk generally on their own terms, a creative force.

Below is a gallery of images I shot while touring the exhibit. Click on an image to learn more about it, and to enlarge it.

-Andrew Reinhard, Punk Archaeology

Archaeological Activism

Sunday, November 15th, 2015 by andrewreinhard
(Image: Birmingham Mail)

(Image: Birmingham Mail)

There is a lot to be angry about in archaeology. I lumped a handful of things to be mad at into a Punk Archaeology tune, “Darkaeology” (nsfw), but the list is sadly nowhere near exhaustive:

  • Funding (and lack thereof)
  • Jobs (and lack thereof)
  • Safety (lack of)
  • Publication (paywalls and author-paid Open Access)
  • Media coverage (the wrong/lazy kind)
  • Looters/nighthawks
  • Shady dealers
  • Sexism
  • ISIS/ISIL (and other groups)
  • Rupert Murdoch

Part of Punk is protest (remember all the anti-Reagan/Thatcher tunes in the ’80s?), and with the relaunch of Punk Archaeology, we as archaeologists need to think globally and act locally in order to affect change within (and outside of) our discipline, be it in helping to stop the illegal/illicit trade in antiquities, or in educating the public (down to the neighborhood, grassroots level) on what it is we do (and how they can participate), on stopping sexism. There’s plenty more. Punk Archaeology is public archaeology. Together we have a voice to demand change.

Protest in archaeology is not new. Take for example the call to save the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2012 (pictured above). In 2014, archaeologists, historians, and others rallied to the klaxon to stop the National Geographic Channel’s Nazi War Diggers program, which while initially successful, has now resurfaced via Clearstory in 2015 as Battlefield Recovery. Archaeologists have also been at the fore in protecting cultural heritage in conflict zones, most recently in Syria. Every Dig Sexism catalogues everyday sexism in the archaeology and heritage sectors via Twitter and a blog.

Punk Archaeology (and Punk archaeologists) should have an activism component, a Bat Signal, a rally point, a midnight bark. We can protest. We can support. We can educate. We can protect. If there is something in archaeology that you are passionate about, please write it up and email it here to Punk Archaeology for posting. We can try to take it viral, or at least put people in touch with one another to take action both online and on the ground.

-Andrew Reinhard, Punk Archaeology

Skateboard Archaeology

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by andrewreinhard
My daughter with her $12 skateboard-artifact

My daughter with her $12 skateboard-artifact

In a recent Punk Archaeology post, I described my experience at Trenton, New Jersey’s Punk Rock Flea Market. As we were looking at various Punk wares, I spied a well-loved skateboard hanging on a pegboard. The price was truly Punk: $12.00. I looked at my daughter, 12 years old, black Chucks, beanie, hair in her face. “You wanna skateboard?” Her eyes lit up. I paid $12 cash, handed the new ride to her, and she carried it for the rest of the morning without complaint.

Bottom of the skateboard-artifact.

Bottom of the skateboard-artifact.

I had bought an artifact without any stated provenance at an open-air market from a dealer I didn’t know. Part of the impulse buy was to fulfill a need I had when I was a kid: I never had a skateboard. My parents (as many parents do) would buy me stuff, but typically off-brands in weird colors. Skateboarding was out of the question, and I never learned to ride. But I’m going to start. And my kid is already learning, finding her balance as soon as we got it home.

I also bought the skateboard because it looked well-loved. The bottom of the deck showed a lot of wear at the head and toe, and some in the middle. And my inner archaeologist took over. I couldn’t wait to get this thing home, not so I could ride it (or watch my kid ride it), but so I could examine it with my archaeological eye. What could I learn about the skateboard, or what archaeologists call the object’s biography?

Top of the skateboard-artifact.

Top of the skateboard-artifact.

I considered the signs of wear at the bottom, figuring the deck had seen a lot of street action (because of the abrasions down to the plywood). The trucks and wheels, all of the hardware was original, which probably meant this was a first board owned by a kid who probably didn’t have a lot of money to upgrade it (or upgraded to a new board entirely after outgrowing what was kitted out as a starter skateboard).

Kryptonics logo stencil atop the board's deck.

Kryptonics logo stencil atop the board’s deck.

The top of the deck still had the original grip, worn all around the edges, and still sported the original stencil: a “K” in a circle surrounded by four half-arrows pointing clockwise.

Kryptonics wheels, painted, and native to this board.

Kryptonics wheels, painted, and native to this board.

The wheels featured the same smiling skull iconography and color as the graphics on the bottom of the deck, with the word “Kryptonics” in all-cap, red Gothic lettering. “Kryptonics” was also labeled across the bushing, with the nut, bolt, and washer rusted.

Kryptonics components under the deck.

Kryptonics components under the deck.

As I stated earlier, I’m not a skater, so I didn’t know exactly what I had bought. Armed with a brand, a logo, and iconography, I went to the Internet to have a look. As it happens, Kryptonics is a storied brand founded in 1965, quickly becoming the industry standard for polyurethane wheels and sponsor of world-class skateboarders including Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva. The company still makes polyurethane products and wheels, and it also produces pre-made skateboards, becoming the house brand for Wal Mart, which retail new for around $50. Scrolling through images of these newer Kryptonics boards, the one I purchased did not show up, making me think the board was at least a little older as the wear from usage indicated.

Ralph's Famous Italian Ices sticker for the Lyndhurst, NJ location.

Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices sticker for the Lyndhurst, NJ location.

The most interesting thing about the skateboard, though, was the worn sticker for Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices. The sticker had been applied after the skateboard was originally purchased, and could help zero in on the location not of production, but of use. Staten Island-based Ralph’s currently has 78 stores in the New York/New Jersey/Long Island areas. The snippet of the “Hwy” address on the sticker on the skateboard pointed to the Lyndhurst location, which is now permanently closed. I was unable to learn when the Lyndhurst franchise was shuttered, but that would at least give us a terminus ante quem, or maximum latest date that the sticker could have been acquired, thus dating the skateboard.

What was an impulse buy from a nostalgic and indulgent father became a learning experience in the history and manufacture of a well-loved item from a young person’s past, communicating a bit of corporate history not only of Kryptonics, but also of Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices. Sometime in the not-too-distant past, a kid (or sibling or parent) went to a northern New Jersey Wal Mart, bought this skateboard, added some local personality to it, and the rode it until either outgrowing it or tiring of it, at which point it was released into the wilds of (probably) garage sales until finally ending up in a Punk Rock Flea Market, and is now a new mode of locomotion for another kid just discovering what it is to have four wheels and some freedom.

-Andrew Reinhard