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Back To El Salvador Archaeology during a civil war is dangerous, but as the bloody conflict in El Salvador drags on, a team has resumed work on a prehistonc site 20 miles north of the capital, San Salvador. The team led by Payson Sheets, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, spent the summer working on what he calls an “archaeological goldmine,” the best preserved domestic village in SQuth America. “I’ve never seen a site like that,” he says. &

Oct 16, 1989
The Scientist Staff

Back To El Salvador

Archaeology during a civil war is dangerous, but as the bloody conflict in El Salvador drags on, a team has resumed work on a prehistonc site 20 miles north of the capital, San Salvador. The team led by Payson Sheets, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, spent the summer working on what he calls an “archaeological goldmine,” the best preserved domestic village in SQuth America. “I’ve never seen a site like that,” he says. “It’s extraordinary.” The village was buried by five meters of volcanic ash 1,400 years ago. Sheets and his team, which began excavating the site in 1978, had to abandon their work in 1980. “We would hear machine gunfire pretty regularly at night,” recalls Sheets, who pulled his team out after it came across the victims of a political assassination along the highway. But the archaeological treasure was too hard to resist. So, with a grant from NSF, Sheets assembled a new team and returned in May. To protect themselves, the archaeologists maintained a “high profile,” opening the site to a full spectrum of visitors—from the far right to the far left—all of whom seemed to share the team’s excitement. As for the not-too-distant bomb- ings: “Basically, it’s a livable situation” for foreign scientists, says Sheets, “if you’re fairly intelligent and can avoid trouble.” Sheets would like to return to El Salvador for at least six months, which, he laments, still wouldn’t be enough time to mine the data there. “We could be working on this for years to come.”

Students Attack MIT Provost

While the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is searching for a new president to take over after the current academic year, a graduate student group is questioning the ethics of one of the leading candidates, Provost John Deutch, and accusing him of conflicts of interest, In an issue of the MIT alternative student paper, The Thistle ,devoted to Deutch, members of the student Science Action Coordinating Committee (SACO) accuse him of improperly using his position on the Defense Science Board, which advises the Department of Defense on research policy, to funnel research grants to MIT. While chairing committees on chemical warfare and biological defense in 1980 and 1984-85, Deutch recommended that DOD increase spending on mycotoxin research, according to an article in The Thistle. MIT eventually received $2.3 million from the Army for mycotoxin research. Deutch says his actions were appropriate. The students “are misinformed and not properly represented. It’s not a big deal,” he says.

In an interview with The Scientist, SACC member Steve Penn, who wrote several articles on Deutch in The Thistle, said that the next MIT president should make the environment and education, and not the weapons industry, his priorities. ‘We need a president that will address the people’s welfare, not their destruction,” said Penn.

According to Susan Hansen, public affairs officer at DOD, members of the Science Board can only make policy recommendations and do not allocate money. In addition, she says, there are usually 30 to 40 members working on something at the same time to make sure there is no conflict of interest.

Seismic Study Key For Test Ban

A bilateral agreement that will give U.S. and Soviet scientists a look at each other’s earthquake zones could also pave the way for a treaty banning nuclear tests. The U.S.-Eurasian Seismic Study Program will allow scientists to place seismic stations in two geographically sensitive regions in each country. In an effort coordinated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, the U.S. will place its stations, to be manned by Soviet seismologists, in Garni, Armenia, and near Frunze, Kirghizia. The Soviets will place their stations in Albuquerque, N.Mex., and Blacksburg, Va. While the primary interest is geological, the seismic data will be vital to future talks on the verification of nuclear testing. According to Jonathan Berger, the Scripps geophysicist responsible for the project’s instrumentation, lack of seismic data has “always been a hang-up.” This explains the interest of the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency: in the first year of the project, it’s providing the U.S. side with $5.7 million in funding, $3.1 million of which will go to Scripps.

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