Monday night marked the second packed house in a row for the monthly meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences’ Anthropology section, hosted as always at the Wenner-Gren offices. This time, the hot topic (no pun intended) was Burning Man, the infamous counter-cultural event which metastasizes for months in the Nevadan desert before evaporating without a trace in the early autumn after a week of come-as-you-are celebrations of free expression.
Burning Man devotees make much of the gathering’s commitment to zero impact on their natural surroundings – the grounds, known as “Black Rock City” after the desert they are situated in, are meant to be absolutely scrubbed clean of any evidence of human habitation after Burning Man comes to a close each year, chording with the event’s larger themes of self-reliance and harmony with the environment. Cultural anthropologists have been fascinated by the social structure and practices of “burners” for years. But what can archaeologists, who study traces, add to the story of a phenomenon which is expressly committed to never leaving a trace?
To help answer that question, we welcomed Dr. Carolyn White, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada – Reno, and Dr. Brian Boyd of Columbia University’s Center for Archaeology. The talk was very well-attended – particularly by Burning Man alumni.
The Anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences will be holding more meetings at our offices through May. Stay tuned to this blog and our twitter feed to get the heads-up for the next session, coming late March.