You may learn more about me at www.abdiefenderfer.com!

Archaeology in the margins

Some days, archaeology only creeps into the margins of one’s day or one’s plans. It might be in one’s social media “feeds” or compilations of news tidbits; it might be in “calls for proposals,” conference announcements, or correspondences with fellow archaeologists.

Today for instance, my immersion within pure archaeological bounds/boundaries was quite minimalist, not necessarily by design, but rather, because that’s how some things play out.

In one regard, that frustrates me, especially when hearing and seeing what is being done around the globe in investigation, lab work, preservation, conservation, education, etc. as it just feels as though I could and would want to do more, but it is something I accept the same too.

When I teach, it primarily is sociology, cultural anthropology, or nowadays, even biological anthropology (human evolution specifically); there just are not the archaeology courses left to teach. Even still, I keep the archaeology in the margins, mixing it in as examples relate, as questions correspond, or as it supports learning and increases engagement. I also informally educate K-12 students in informal workshops when I can, with mock dig boxes, pseudo-soil stratigraphy boxes (use paint chips as Munsell charts!) In that regard, the passion for archaeology is still there, but it is leveling out with my passions across all disciplines of anthropology, along with my work experiences as a more generalist, and as an anthropologist.

While I still read up on archaeology and keep current that way, I see myself and identify myself more as an anthropologist first rather than as an archaeologist, in part because it steers more away from “where/when was your last dig” or even, “how do you get a job in that” discourse. The archaeology identity is there, but like much of textual analysis and translation; it is more in the margins than sprawled across the daily or even the monthly calendar personally.

For that reason, although I blogged since the inception of Day of Archaeology in 2011, I think I am going to transition into reading the entries and in that way leave archaeological blogging in the margins. It has been an enjoyable time, and the more I get to know the bloggers, the more I know I will still have the means to relate and to exchange information, just like good marginalia notes do for translations and for deep textual analysis. I will forever support this international blogging cause, as I will always be an archaeologist at heart.

At the Inner Core: Passions for Archaeology and Education

It is hard to believe another year has passed, and it is time for a third year of Day of Archaeology participation. What is the radiocarbon plus/minus on a year?

Joking aside, I am both excited to have more archaeology-based work in my planner now, and to be part of this across-the-globe initiative.  After all, archaeology is still a living, breathing passion and field for all of us. What better task is there than showing others around the world what archaeology is, its methodological practices, and what its true values and other gains are for the world in which we live?

This summer finds me teaching cultural anthropology online, catching up on professional journal reading, working on book reviews for a professional archaeology journal, listening to insightful webinars on national archaeology funding and legislative news, and even conferencing with a K-12 (secondary school) teacher on her plans to integrate archaeology lessons into a classroom this fall.

It was and always will be fun to collaborate on lesson planning and discussing what I have facilitated as a volunteer.  Archaeology lends itself well to active learning engagement, hands-on activities, and interdisciplinary learning. It allows for flexible, creative planning no matter how young or how senior the audience. Sharing how I took paint color chips to construct a pseudo-Munsell chart on the cheap, to how to construct mock dig boxes, to what online resources are out there on historical archaeology etc. was a lot of fun. I was grateful for that opportunity earlier this week.

Knowing that these lessons ignite the passion in other students as young as I was when I first proclaimed I want to be an archaeologist (by kindergarten or first grade, 5 or 6 years old) and even their K-12 teachers is exciting too.

Admittedly, equally enjoyable higher education tasks (such as grading, facilitating a meeting, engaging in online dialogue with students, and tutoring) largely filled my day today.  After all, it is that time for the summertime juggle of roles and responsibilities.  However, I did spend some break time engaging in the online archaeology literature (thanks in part to social media resources aggregating my favorite archaeology news, professional organization, magazine and journal websites for me!).

By day’s end, my efficiency reduced my workload to the point that I can spend all day Saturday reading the end of an archaeology book and writing reviews.  In retrospect, I am content to have carved out a life sustaining my passions for what we each do. After all, my writing about archaeology and living the life of an archaeologist is not exclusive to one day a year or to one set of job descriptors/job titles. I might not be as active in laboratory, research or even field-based lines of archaeology at present, but what I do as an educator merges my passions of teaching and archaeology.  This increases sustainability of the discipline to some level, as new people find their passions and interests in what I do, continuing dialogue of what archaeology is and what it can contribute to the world in which we live.

Friday Casual: Today’s Brushes with Archaeology

Another year, another Day of Archaeology. Kudos and thank yous to the core staff facilitating this blog!

That said, this year provides more ways to connect with my first academic love, archaeology. Today, I’ve spent time culling through links in my social media feed for the latest archaeology reports and news, a practice I do daily. In fact, just yesterday, that practice yielded an article find completely pertinent and timely to my online course’s discussion of past subsistence practices and diets. The students like it when I bring archaeology into the cultural anthropology discussion, because it lets them appreciate how the subfields unite to generate a richer picture and record.

After keeping current on research online, I listened in on a 1.5-hour webinar presentation from an astronomer on Maya calendar studies. It gave me some ideas about a project approach I could use in the design process for a new class activity, and was great insight into interdisciplinary research occurring on the other side of the United States from me.

Tonight, I look forward to reading through the stack of anthropology/archaeology professional organization journals I put to the side during the spring semester and the ones which arrived while I was at a teaching workshop last week. I might also take a look at my schedule and see if I can get to an archaeology museum this summer to visit an exhibit I would really like to see.

While I am teaching one cultural anthropology class online this summer, I use my summers for prepping projects for the upcoming year too. My week included networking with professors at other colleges in my region, including discussing how we can join our students together to learn more about archaeology, and discussing a service learning project with a non-profit director. Moreover, my work included starting to tinker with a conference paper to hopefully have it ready to submit for publication submission soon. I’ve added more sources to my to-read-this-summer book list in hopes of starting plans to design an archaeology course in the next year and activities for a student club which will hopefully be up and running in the next semester. Lastly, my experiences in the midwest last week for a workshop have brought me back to our group website, looking for teaching and anthropology materials I could incorporate into my courses come fall. Although I would like for more hours in each day to be archaeology-focused, I still come back to it often enough for contentment and to enhance my students’ learning experiences.

Even though I wasn’t in a field, lab, or in a classroom today, archaeology hasn’t been far from mind or from the independent workload I’ve designed for myself for this summer. It’s always a pleasure to share a bit of the diversity of work opportunities with those interested in archaeology.

Day in the Life of an Adjunct Professor

By training, I’m an archaeologist, but currently I teach cultural anthropology for a community college in the Northeastern section of the United States.  I leave my archaeology work for volunteer archaeology workshops for middle school students, writing pieces for a science advocacy’s publication, and for whenever I can incorporate my knowledge of the discipline to my students (to give them a preview of what else is included within anthropological research). This summer, my work included items like lesson and syllabus planning, previewing videos and DVDs for classtime discussions, and adapting to the different textbooks selected for the fall semester. I also worked on writing book reviews, columns, and articles for submission to anthropological and science-based publications.

However, this week, I’m partaking in a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks workshop geared toward community college faculty, where my days are chockful of archaeological work. Earlier this week, I got to see a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) device in action and also ever so briefly use it to scan over a shipwreck site in one of the Great Lakes. We also watched others use sonar devices under the lake and bay waters. We’ve gone further up the coast to see the remains of a wreck washed ashore and worked on practicing mapping the pieces which remain. Although I have never formally studied the Great Lakes or maritime/nautical archaeology beyond archaeobotanical coursework, my summer included days of reading articles and books on the subject matter.

You see no matter what you do as an archaeologist, constantly learning subject matter is essential work and involves a level of professional development. I came here to upstate Michigan this week to learn, explore, but most of all, to find new materials, approaches and activities to spark a new level of teaching from within. My students are my primary focus, although a lot of what went into my decision to apply this spring for this particular workshop series included the chance to spend a week somewhere I had never travelled, with facilitators and colleagues I never met before this week. Of course, maritime history and archaeology are topics I never explored before as well.

Today, we will be coming together as 25 students who teach across the United States (and within different academic departments and disciplines) to learn from experienced archaeologists, historians, doctoral students and governmental employees for a final day of workshops. While it is hard to imagine surpassing snorkeling over a wreck, and surveying a wreck on the shoreline yesterday, the same speculation could have been made earlier in the week. I mean, how do you top using and watching others use an ROV over a wreck? Or, seeing sonar being used to map shapes and features on the bottom of the water? The life of an archaeologist or an aficionado of the field can be quite eclectic, but no matter what your age, pathway, or deviations throughout the course of life, no matter what, you can always find your way to or back to, archaeology and enjoy the experiences.

For now, I plan on working on my final assignment then heading off to the marine sanctuary for a day of presentations, a boat ride, a few more research and photography hours, and then closing events. I should have some photos on my webspace at some point, so do feel free to take a look and also to write me an email with any questions. Likewise, if you are a community college instructor in the United States, I highly encourage you to check the NEH website for more on all the professional development opportunities which could be awaiting you as well next summer!