Tin Cans and More

I think historic archaeological sites and artifacts sometimes get a bad rap for not being as interesting or fun for archaeologists to record and it can be difficult to explain to non-archaeologists the importance of protecting a pile of tin cans. I’m not talking about the large-scale heritage sites like Mount Vernon or a wooden fort, but piles of tin cans and other historic rubbish piles. While surveying, I have been guilty of being like, “ugh, another hole-in-top can. Break out gps.” At times, I have to remind myself the importance of recording the past, no matter the date. Where I’ve done most of my work in the southwest, isolated artifacts and dumps can tell us so much about how people lived during the 19th and 20th centuries. And there is so much more than just tin cans—there are beautiful amethyst and aqua glass, fragments of leather shoes, and so on, to discover. In different parts of the United States, amazing historic artifacts have been recovered from the 16th and 17th centuries, such as metal fragments of armor along the Santa Fe Trail. And, then there are all of the unique post-contact artifacts of various Native American groups, such as metal projectile points. So, in a nutshell, historic archaeology can be pretty fascinating.

Please note: it is both unethical and illegal to remove any kind of artifact—prehistoric or historic—from archaeological sites on public lands. It doesn’t matter how nice you think that historic bottle would look on your desk. Leave it!

For type guides on historic artifacts, visit:

-The Society for Historical Archaeology: https://sha.org/resources/20th-century-artifacts/

Gnats Galore

Gnats

Tales of archaeological adventures tend to focus on the amazing artifacts observed or death-defying situations with bears or gun-toting individuals. Rarely do they wax poetically about bugs. But all kinds of creepy crawlies can be found on a survey or excavation, from ticks to biting gnats. It’s not the heat or a fear of rattlesnakes that make me nervous before a field season—it’s bugs. You can’t escape them! And, already, my ears are itchy. No, that isn’t some euphemism for eavesdropping. My ears are literally itchy. It’s that time again: bug time.

I thought I’d have time before I’m eaten alive by gnats, but they’re a bit early this year and that makes me worry for this upcoming season, since they’ll likely get worse. It may be a pessimistic view, but I’d rather be prepared than not. There’s nothing quite like the gnats in the southwest; not only are they tiny, they bite and they love biting ears. Not even a mosquito net can keep them at bay. Imagine if you will, trying to record an archaeological site—which can take hours—and trying to focus on writing up summaries while hundreds of tiny gnats swarm about your head, wriggle their way through the head net, and then bite every inch of exposed skin. It’s so bad that you can’t even stand still long enough to eat lunch—you just have to keep moving, occasionally shoving food under your head net. And, the bugs are already out.

Time to prepare . . .

*Note: there really isn’t much you can do to combat biting gnats, other than completely covering up and using a gnat net (which works ~60% of the time).  Bug spray doesn’t really deter those little jerks, either.  Just walk as fast as you can and hope for a super windy day!

Random Musings While Surveying 75 Miles in 8 Days

All undergraduate archaeology theory courses briefly cover the introduction of a feminist lens in archaeological interpretation, with it typically tied in with post-modernism and post-processualism. Numerous articles and books outline the importance of looking beyond gendered perspectives (i.e. it’s unlikely that only men knew how to create stone tools, etc.). What is not covered in—or at least does not appear to be— academic courses and beyond is the need for the mere presence of women in the field, in the actual practice of archaeology. Multiple viewpoints are a good thing. As a post-processual/processual-plus archaeologist (yes, I’m one of those archaeologists), I’m all for varying interpretations of the archaeological record (within reason). However, are we actually seeing this happening in the field? In my, albeit short, career as an archaeologist, it is not unusual for me to be the only female archaeologist in a Federal agency office or on a CRM crew. Why?

Obviously, the Women in Archaeology blog and podcast indicate that we are out there, but is it enough of a presence? There could be any number of reasons why I tend to be the lone wolf. It could be regional. There could be more women in office-bound/higher-up positions, so I simply don’t see them in the field. And yet, as woman in her early 30s, I just don’t see very many women in my age group and up directly in the field. I remember there were far more women than men studying archaeology at my college. I remember there were far more women than men at my field school. I remember there were only female interns at the various archaeology internships in which I participated. So, where are they now?

I recently read Charles J. Peliska’s ‘Results of a Survey for Field Archaeologists/Cultural Managers’ for an episode of the Women in Archaeology Podcast. I highly recommend checking it out, as it gives some insight into how we’re being paid, what the job market looks like, issues of discrimination, etc. There were two things that particularly struck me: 1) the decrease of archaeologists in their 40s and up, and 2) the relatively high rate of those who have witnessed or were the victim of sexual harassment.

Addressing age, Peliska notes that the physicality and inconsistency of our work can cause archaeologists to shift careers. Furthermore, since many of the current positions in CRM and at Federal agencies tend to be seasonal, health insurance, retirement plans, and maternity leave are typically not provided. After a certain age, you have to start thinking about the future. With a busted knee, I know I need to consider what the future holds in store for me (i.e. employment with healthcare). I do wonder if the absence of older archaeologists working in the field may have a connection to the lack of childcare offered. You can’t exactly strap a child to your back while surveying. What needs to change to better support field archaeologists in order to keep them in the field?

As for sexual harassment, sadly, I’m not too surprised at the high rate of incidents witnessed or experienced. Of the 479 survey participants, 60.9% had seen/heard sexual jokes but no one seemed openly uncomfortable, and 30.3% had witnessed or been the victim of jokes or teasing of a sexual nature. Harassment and sexual discrimination can come in a variety of forms, some of which may seem harmless at the time. I find that ‘casual sexism’ is far more prevalent than overt sexism—at least in my experience. For example, I was the assistant crew chief for a large-scale project in which the crew chiefs were changed each session. One of these crew chiefs would only ask my male coworker for project information, assistance with equipment, etc. He would have been mortified if I said he was being sexist, but his actions said otherwise. Has casual to overt sexism made it such a difficult work environment that women tend to veer away from field jobs at a certain point?

So, here are some questions to end this stream of conscious-esque article:

  1. How does fieldwork need to change?
  2. How do we encourage more women to work in the field?
  3. What needs to change to make the practice of archaeology a more welcoming environment?
  4. How can we, as a community of archaeologists, create a zero tolerance policy for all kinds of harassment?
  5. In what ways can Federal agencies and CRM companies provide support to archaeologists with families?
  6. How can archaeology societies/organizations better approach issues of discrimination and harassment?

 

Works Cited

Peliska, Charles J.

2016 Results of A Survey for Field Archaeologists/Cultural Resource Managers. Electronic document, https://docs.google.com/document/d/15v_MIeKg3VOEPUYsU-ZbOvbrvOZSlGu1GtRGmwnFBv0/pub, accessed May 27, 2016.

The Dangers of Survey

surveying

You wouldn’t think simply walking across the landscape looking for tiny flakes, bits of pottery, and the occasional structure, would be dangerous–well, you’d be wrong.  It is surprisingly dangerous.  Trees just appear out of NOWHERE!

Women in Archaeology Podcast: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN ARCHAEOLOGY – EPISODE 10 (September 18, 2016)

(Click Here)

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In a nutshell, sexual harassment is surprisingly pervasive throughout archaeology.  It can be found in academia to fieldwork.  It is being committed by supervisors to entry level field techs–and it needs to stop.  I am very proud to have been part of this discussion.

Episode summary: Today the Panel discuses the formation of the SAA’s recent statement on sexual harassment and look at a few notable cases that have made the news. 

Women in Archaeology Podcast: WHAT’S IN YOUR PACK, WOMEN’S EDITION – EPISODE 8 (August 21, 2016)

(Click Here)

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I love being part of the Women in Archaeology Podcast group!  This was a fun one to record!  There’s some good advice, too, if you’re interested in becoming a field archaeologist.

Episode Summary: Today the panel discusses their essential field gear, How to Go in the field, what to do about Flo, and basic first-aid training and essentials.