Richard MacNeish

The Business of Archaeology

Michelle Touton

While surveying, you sometimes find unexpected things–like blueberries! Yum.

I’m a project manager at a contract archaeology company, which means I have to be both an archaeologist and a businesswoman.  Anathema to purists, maybe, but in the United States most archaeology is done commercially, as part of an industry called Cultural Resource Management (CRM), and businesses need people doing business-y things to keep them running.  In CRM, developers hire archaeologists and architectural historians to help them deal with cultural resources that will be affected by their development project, in much the same way as they hire environmental scientists, traffic engineers, and architects.  We work for the developer, but our first duty is to the resources.

For me, the 2012 Day of Archaeology was pretty typical.  My primary task for the day, as it has been for the last month or so, is to continue editing a site report.  The archaeologist who wrote the report works mostly on prehistoric sites, but this report is about a historic site.  Since it’s her first historic-period report, we’re taking our time with it to teach her how to do it right.  Historic-period artifacts require completely different analysis knowledge than prehistoric artifacts (e.g., learning to recognize mold seams on bottles or differentiate fabric types in ceramics, vs. categorizing edge flaking in stone tools), which takes time to learn.  You also have more lines of evidence (in the form of historical maps and records) that you need to bring in to your analysis.  Work on the report has been slow-going because I often am too busy with other things to get a chance to work on it.

The Day Begins

My first task upon getting to the office–after brewing a pot of tea, of course–is to check in with our people in the field.  Today we have two field projects going on, both of which are in the monitoring stage.  “Monitoring” means that an archaeologist watches the construction crew as they dig, in order to spot any emerging resources (artifacts/sites/etc.) before they’re damaged or destroyed.  Monitoring is usually done after we’ve already done testing and evaluation of anything we know is on site, and is largely a failsafe to protect things we didn’t know were there.

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Excavating an Archaeologist’s Desk

In honor of the Day of Archaeology, in which we endeavor to display the “wide variety of work our profession undertakes day-to-day across the globe” (Day of Archaeology 2012 [archaeologists cite things]), I’m throwing this together as an archaeologist who embraces three different roles within the profession, has worked across 10 states and 3 foreign countries (Mexico, Cuba, and the British Virgin Islands), and still hasn’t finished graduate school (much to the chagrin of many, including myself).
To convey this complex existence, I’m choosing an archaeological metaphor and excavating my desk. My workspace is, to no surprise, a reflection of the many things that occupy my time, pique my interest, and, I hope, lead to some insight into the pasts of the common people of history, a group that counts my ancestors, German and Welsh immigrants, among its numbers. I have imposed a classification system on the contents of my desk, by which I will unpack the contents and, in turn, my life as an archaeologist working in the SAU Research Station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey.
Books
Indiana Jones once told a student (while running from the KGB) “If you want to be a good archaeologist, you gotta get out of the library.” While I fully endorse this sentiment, you must realize that a lot of archaeological research involves bookwork. We read a lot about the work of our forebears as a way to help orient our own research, building on and modifying that which came before, and to avoid scientific dead-ends. The books on my desk include those oriented towards:
Dissertation: I am a doctoral candidate at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, the cradle of historical archaeology in the United States. I am trying to knock out a dissertation that will be the final step in my formalized education. This requires both books on epistemological issues relevant to the way I do research, such as Tim Murray’s Time and Archaeology or Anders Andrén’s Between Artifacts and Texts: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. Combining the clarity of thinking derived from such sources with the results of fieldwork are then combined with the insight derived from other books, such as D.W. Meinig’s The Shaping of America and Kenneth Lewis’s The American Frontier to produce a document that will add to the historiography of southwest Arkansas and the American West… and earn me a diploma (please please please).
Teaching: I just finished teaching two classes at Southern Arkansas University, one a survey of world archaeology and the other a criminal justice research methods class. The detritus from preparing the lectures, including Catherine Hakim’s Research Design and Henn et al’s A Critical Introduction to Social Research still haven’t left my desk. They’re actually checked out from the University of Arkansas (5 hours away), so the next time I get called up to the coordinating office in Fayetteville, I’ll drop them off.
Methods: We demonstrate our competence as archaeologists in the field, showing each other and the cosmos that we can dig properly (carefully and fast), map precisely, and document our findings appropriately. I’ve got Hester et al’s Field Methods in Archaeology on my book rack for reference, and the bookshelves surrounding my desk are full of books on aerial remote sensing and LiDAR research.
Conference preparation:  One of the high points of any archaeologist’s professional year is a conference. For me, that usually means the Society for Historical Archaeology meetings, though in my current position the Arkansas Archeological Society conference is important as well. I’d like to go to the Fields of Conflict conference this year, but Budapest is a bit out of the range of my wallet (my truck needs work…). This week, I’ve been pulling together a session for the SHA with colleagues and classmates at William & Mary, and I’ve been using the abstract books from past conferences and De Cunzo and Jameson’s Unlocking the Past to write abstracts and encourage the session to take form.
Fieldwork Papers
As mentioned above, proper note taking is an integral part of archaeology. Documentation of context is key. It separates us from looters, provides a basis for scientific work, and is a backstop for ideas and information that might otherwise get missed. If ideas were baseballs, an archaeological dig is like being a catcher behind home plate, facing a battalion of pitching machines. Even if you’re Johnny Bench, you can only hold so many of those baseballs at once. Paperwork is like having a canvas bag to put those ideaballs (I’m liking this metaphor less and less) in so you don’t lose them. On my desk may be found
–        A green 3-ring binder from Area B of the 2012 Arkansas Archeological Society Training Dig, directed by my boss/friend/mentor Jamie Brandon. See his post here on the dig itself. The stack of papers inside is probably 2 inches thick. All of that came from two weeks in the field. It’s a lot of stuff to sift through, but every sweat-stained word is archaeological gold.
–        Field books. I see three, though there may be more buried in there somewhere. These nifty little books, usually with yellow covers, have waxed pages, making them resilient in rainy or sweaty conditions, and are the place where we jot our notes about the project we’re working on. My field book from the Society Dig contains the shot log for our surveyor’s total station, so we have a redundant copy of all that information. I also have my field book for site visits done on behalf of the Survey. The notes I take in the field can then be transposed into either a site form, which I submit by way of report to the Survey, or included in subsequent publications on that research. Writing notes, particularly under hot or busy conditions, is one of the disciplines that archaeologists must learn. As with so many other things, when it comes to notes, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. In some positions, such as federal jobs, field books are part of the paperwork associated with a project and subject to subpoena and other legal strictures, so don’t draw too many cartoons about gophers in them.
Technology
The final big section of research-related equipment can be classed as technology.  Technological advancements in computing, remote sensing (Johnson 2005), data sharing (Kansa 2012), and numerous other fronts in the past twenty years is revolutionizing archaeology. The very fact of this blog post, the internet, and personal computing is evidence of this. Hallmarks of this advancement are, of course, found on my desk.
–        Computer: Shocking, I know. Nowadays, computers are everywhere and used in most pursuits, but mine is special, consarnit! First, it’s a laptop on a dock, which is necessary given the high mobility of many archaeologists. Since you can’t bring sites to you, we have to go to the sites, often for extended periods of time. We just finished two weeks at Historic Washington State Park, and in the last year, I’ve spent weeks at Toltec Mounds, Wallace’s Ferry, and Prairie Grove, all in Arkansas, as well as making numerous trips to the Coordinating Office in Fayetteville. My Army job was just like that, as was my time with the NPS, just that in the federal gigs, the projects are usually spread over greater areas. Laptops are essential in taking our computing power along with. Crucial to that computing power is the software held on the machine, particularly, in my case…
–        Geographic information system (GIS) software. I do a lot of work with spatial documentation and analysis, so I need mapping software. Being able to document the location of sites and areas within sites is an important part of the documentation process.
–          Scanner: I scan lots of things, primarily to make back-ups (hard to lose all copies of a document) and to share them with colleagues. Information sharing is a big part of the research process, as those who share your interests and expertise are not likely under the same roof as you. This is partly why conferences are so important. Information exchange stimulates, as Poirot liked to call them, “the little grey cells” and advance the discipline. Scanners help make that possible.
–        Telephone: Again, rather mundane, but an important part of my job. The Arkansas Archeological Survey does a lot of public outreach work for people of all walks of life from across the state. My station covers 11 counties in southwest Arkansas, and I get calls to come out and look at sites or assist colleagues at museums and parks in the area with public outreach work (come to the Red River Heritage Symposium at Historic Washington State Park on the 28th of July). Much of that begins with a phone call.
Other/Miscellaneous
As this all should indicate, I spend a LOT of time working, well more than 40 hours a week. As a result, I spend a lot of time in the office or in the field, and my desk contents reflect that.
–        Coffee mug and empty Coke/Diet Coke cans: I am a caffeine addict, plain and simple. I often get little more than 5 hours of sleep a night, and with as stacked of a to-do list as I have, it’s rather unavoidable. I can’t keep up with a friend, who runs on five cappuccinos a day, but there are times when I wonder how awesome that feels. I’m guessing “pretty.”
–        Mulerider Baseball cup: Our host institution and my erstwhile employer, Southern Arkansas University has a great baseball team, and the Muleriders just won the GAC Championship… again. Great job, guys! One of the ways I avoid having the pressures of all of these jobs and responsibilities burn me out is by having a mental outlet. For me, that’s baseball and hockey. We don’t get much of the latter down here. However, the baseball stadium is right across the parking lot from the office (really, I can see it from my desk), and those evening games are a nice break from the grind.
–        Yellow duct tape: Why yellow, you might ask? Because every station in the Survey system was allocated a color to mark their equipment with so that we could tell whose stuff is whose when we collaborate on projects. Our station’s color is yellow, Henderson State’s is orange, Toltec’s is blue, etc. etc. etc. Marking things as ours helps avoid confusion and trowel fights.
–        Field hat: I saved this for last because it’s one of my favorite things. For archaeologists, the attachments we form with crucial bits of equipment can be very strong. Many people still have their first trowels, and carefully guard them (think of a mitt for a baseball player). They’re things, but they’re things intimately tied up in the art of our discipline, and that makes them special. For me, there are three things that fall into this category. My trowel is the first, and I keep it distinct from all other trowels by wrapping the handle in hockey stick tape. The second is my Brunton pocket transit (think a compass on steroids with neon flames shooting down its hood), which is not only a very useful bit of equipment, it was also my father’s when he was doing his dissertation, and that carries great meaning to me. Finally, there is my field hat, a mid-crown cattleman with a 4” brim from Sunbody Hats in Houston, Texas. No matter how hot it gets, it’s always a little cooler under this thing, and it was a wedding gift from Jimmy Pryor, the owner of Sunbody and a childhood friend. It’s a link to home and my wife all at once, and it cheers me up when I’ve been out on a project for a couple of weeks and starting to get a little barn sour.
Now, having looked at these piles for a few hours while writing this, it may be time to do some cleaning…
References
Andrén, Anders
1997     Between Artifacts and Texts: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. New York: Plenum Press
Day of Archaeology
2012    About the Project. Electronic resource (http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/about-the-project/, accessed 29 June 2012).
De Cunzo, Lu Ann and John H. Jameson, Jr.
2005     Unlocking the Past: Celebrating Historical Archaeology in North America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Hakim, Catherine
2000     Research Design: Successful Designs for Social and Economic Research. New York: Routledge.
Henn, Matt, Mark Weinstein, and Nick Foard
2006     A Critical Introduction to Social Research. Los Angeles: Sage.
Hester, Thomas R., Harry J. Shafer, and Kenneth L. Feder
2009     Field Methods in Archaeology. 7th edition. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Lewis, Kenneth
1984     The American Frontier: An Archaeological Study of Settlement Pattern and Process. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Meinig, D.W.
1988     The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 2: Continental America, 1800-1867. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Murray, Tim, editor
1999     Time and Archaeology. New York: Routledge.

Archaeology: Watching Other People Dig

It’s an early morning for me, earlier than usual. I have two archaeology jobs these days – one as the webmaster for archaeologyfieldwork.com, and also my full time job working for a government agency in the northeast US. I wake at 4am and have just enough time to post some new archaeology jobs to the website, then it’s a quick rush to get ready for work!

I am adhering to the schedule of a subconsultant doing work on our property. An environmental company is planning a soil remediation project, essentially stripping away dirt that has tested as contaminated, and removing it from the site. Generally one thinks of archaeologists as the ones doing the digging, but today I will be watching someone else digging.

This is only my second week on the job, and the first time I’ve been in the field in a long time. I’m still learning the ropes at my employer and figuring out the right people to talk to, where to look up information, and even mundane things like where various equipment is located.

I’ve gathered the requisite equipment and spent time mentally preparing for the job at hand. Before you go into the field, there are certain steps that need to be taken. Part of the process is doing research on the area where you will be working. I needed to figure out what previously recorded archaeological and historical sites were in the vicinity of the project area, and what was found. Geographic information system (GIS) maps and site files are consulted in the search. Soil survey maps are also studied and can provide something of a preview of what you can expect to encounter. It’s important to also know the topography of a project area – is the landform flat, a severe slope, a hilltop? Related information is also important such as proximity to a water source (including seasonal water sources, or even one that existed only in the past). Some predictive models have been developed using those factors and other criteria to provide an educated guess on where sites may be found. Knowing something about the history of an area is also helpful. Is the project area near known Native American trails, or historic routes? Were structures present? What do we know about land use here in the last few hundred years? Archaeologists try to arm themselves with as much information as possible before an excavation ever occurs, however, you really don’t know what’s out there until you conduct fieldwork.

I did my homework, packed my truck, and headed out to the site to meet the contractors. I’m usually a bit obsessive about being early, but following a slow moving dump truck on dusty roads for miles and miles, I show up just on time. The contaminated soil is in association with a historic structure whose foundation remains. The contractors spend a bit of time debating the various methods of removing the soil, and I busy myself taking measurements  and photos of the ruins and proposed excavation. Nothing too exciting here from an archaeological perspective, even for someone enamored of historics like myself. Poking around the fill in the foundation turns up a few modern artifacts – sewer drainage pipe, PVC plumbing and plastics.

The excavator begins to strip the top few feet of soil, which is recent fill. I find a dark colored lens with charred wood in the excavated wall, likely a modern burn episode. The excavator operator is a local and informs me this is where trash was sometimes burned behind the structure. I ask more questions about the surroundings and compare the info given with my previous research. It’s often beneficial to hear what folks have to say, and sometimes you can obtain useful information. Any archaeologist who has been working in the field long enough can tell you stories about how a local informant clued them in to what was really going on (and usually where the real sites were).

The excavation comes to a halt, as there is a delay in bringing containers on site from another contractor. After spending time waiting for the containers to show up, the decision is made to cease operations for the day. I pack up and drive back to the office to write up my notes. The containers may not be arriving until next week, so I shift my attention to the next project and put this on the back burner for now. Shovel testing is planned for Friday at another site, and I need to complete my research before heading out. And so the cycle begins anew. Onto the next project!

My Project: “Dig for Victory”

I’m Sarah, and I’m a part time archaeology student. As I was on holiday on the actual Day of Archaeology, I’ve decided to write about a current project of mine entitled “Dig for Victory”.

My situation is a little complicated, but in summary I’m a distance learning student with the Open University but also doing practical courses with the University of Southampton. I’m finishing up my degree at the end of next month and I’ll be starting my Masters with Southampton in October. I’m particularly interested in prehistory, specifically human origins, but I’ll have to wait until October to join the postgrad world. For now I’m digging around in the dreaded depths of theory.

As a distance learner I’m somewhat limited in my project choices, and therefore cannot run out into the field wielding my trowel very often. Instead I found myself oddly drawn to archaeological theory, and in particular to an assignment I did in my first year about the politics of archaeology. Although I investigated many cases in many different countries, for my project I decided to focus on archaeology in Nazi Germany and wartime Britain. In particular I’m investigating how national identity was in part built by archaeological findings, and how these were used to include and exclude certain groups of people.

In Britain various national icons, such as the British Museum, were used to promote national identity and to unite the country during in between the World Wars. Museums in particular provided an avenue for people to explore their history and develop national pride in their country.

But in Germany it was rather a different story, with archaeology being used to prove ideological arguments and to legitimise the actions of the leaders of the Nazi party. The field of archaeology quickly came under the jurisdiction of the military, as many areas did, and was being used to investigate the “great Germanic people”. At one point excavations were being planned near every SS unit to help instil a sense of national pride. But, of course, excavations were expected to support the ‘right’ version of history, not necessarily the true version. Prehistory in particular was used (despite Hitler allegedly not thinking highly of prehistory) to write the history of the Germanic people, and therefore justify the invasion of other countries.

I’ve recently been focusing on the German archaeology, and moving onto the British side next week when I visit various museums in London. I never really realised before just how much archaeology was used, and how archaeology in Germany was littered with references to the military – for example, I’ve many images of Nazi officers attending the opening of museums and of Nazi banners at conferences.

Although I would, of course, love to be out in the field digging for my project, I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to sit and consider theory in more depth. As a first year I was too baffled by theory (as is every archaeology student!) to fully appreciate why it was important, and it wasn’t until the final lecture that I really understood why we were learning this stuff!

I think it’s important for archaeology students to learn about the history of archaeology itself, and that it’s not just about what we dig up but also about the impact that knowledge has on others. Archaeology has gone through many changes in the last century, and is bound to go through many more in years to come.

I’ve certainly found an invaluable but cautionary tale in my researching, and I hope to share more details with you once I have finished. If you would like to follow me while I complete my research and move onto my Masters, you can follow my on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/archaeosarah

Thank you for reading, and happy (belated) day of archaeology!

2. Getting started in Archaeology: volunteering and studying as a part-time mature student

Getting started in archaeology: volunteering and studying as a part-time mature student

I’m going to explain how and why I came into archaeology (which will discuss volunteering and studying as a part-time mature student), and why I went into the field of early medieval archaeology. I hope this will show the positive effects of history and archaeology in schools, the role of museums in stimulating interest, and the significance of public access to archaeology. It will also hopefully provide some insight into the value of education, and the challenges of studying archaeology as a mature student.

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A deskbound archaeologist at work…

I’m Joe Flatman and I have two jobs in archaeology – I’m both a county archaeologist and a university lecturer in archaeology, working part-time between both in theory, full-time in both in reality. So this ‘Day of Archaeology’ is a standard very long one for me – a solid 12+ hours a day split between both jobs is not unusual, sometimes it is hard to see where one ends and the other begins.

I began today at 0700 when I dealt with the first of my work emails over breakfast (with a speedy sift through Facebook, Twitter and the Guardian for good measure – all increasingly ‘work’ related). After commuting into one of my two offices (a 30 minute bus ride), I have then spent the rest of the morning so far (its now 1100) doing various admin to do with my two jobs – a mixture of emails replied to and sent relating to my local government job and some book editing relating to my university job. This editing will take place all day long until at 1800 I go off to an evening work meeting, grabbing a meal on route. With luck I’ll finally get home about 2200 and have a beer while watching some dumb TV show with my wife to unwind. What I do is not exactly the kind of work I expected to be doing when I started out in archaeology and it doesn’t fit the popular image of archaeology either – I’m working in an office in central London wearing smart clothes, not out on an archaeological site in some exotic location. But my work is interesting and challenging all the same, which is what I am after, and importantly I feel that i make a difference: my two jobs mean that I get to tell a lot of people about archaeology and also get to visit and help protect a lot of sites.

The majority of today will be spent quietly working on editing two different books, a side of archaeological work that many people are not aware of. These books are important for both of my jobs – they are about communicating archaeology and advising people how they can become more involved in archaeology themselves. Those two tasks are some of the most important things anyone in my position can do. If people don’t have the opportunity to learn more about and become more involved in archaeology, then we as a discipline are failing.

The first book I am working on today is an edited volume entitled ‘Archaeology in Society: It’s Contemporary Relevance’. I am co-editing it with an old friend, another archaeologist based in the USA. The book has 21 chapters, 30 authors and over 300 pages – it is huge! The book is all about how archaeology plays a role in modern society – how archaeological data is used by people from all walks of life, how archaeologists work in different sectors of society and contribute to the economy, and how archaeology can help us make a better and fairer world. The book originated from a conference held back in 2007 – five years later the books is now very nearly done, we’re just checking the final set of ‘proofs’, the last draft of the book before it gets sent off to be printed. This is our last chance to check that the spelling and grammar are correct, the pages properly laid out, and so on. It is an intimidating thing to do – the next time we see this book it will be on the shelves of a bookshop for sale, so we have to get things absolutely right now.

The second book I am working on today is a much shorter introductory guide to archaeology. This book is ‘only’ 50,000 words long and I have been commissioned to write it by a publisher. I have spent the last 18 months slowly working on it off-and-on, and in two days from now I have agreed to submit a complete draft of the book to the publisher – a rough version of the whole book. The book is designed to be an introductory text for anyone interested in archaeology, explaining what archaeology is and how archaeological work is undertaken. It has been really fun explaining the entire practice of archaeology in interesting and accessible terms, choosing examples from around the world to illustrate my points. But it will also be a relief to send the book off to the publisher! That will only be the start of a whole new cycle though: the book will then have to be checked by an editor at the publisher for mistakes, ‘peer reviewed’ (read by another archaeologist who will judge its writing and data and make suggestions for improvements) and revised in the light of these peoples’ comments. Then I’ll have to arrange images for the book and also work with the publisher’s art department on its layout and format. Then the book will be ‘typeset’ – its pages laid out; and then finally I’ll be able to check these pages for errors before the book is finally printed and ready for sale. so my submission of a draft on Monday is merely the start of another 12 months at least of further work.

A Day (or 2) in the Life of the Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program

The following is a combined Day of Archaeology post from the Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program (http://campusarch.msu.edu).

Since we have completed our major piece of fieldwork for the summer at the beginning of July, I asked our graduate fellows to talk about what they are doing now. I wrap up the discussion at the end of this piece. The first picture is from our summer field school excavations, the second from a series of tours we regularly do (this one was Grandparents University).

Lynne Goldstein, Director of CAP

Chris Stawski

As MSU’s previous Campus Archaeologist, a day for an archaeologist like me is concentrated on the educational aspects of our program and of archaeology. Ranging from working with undergraduate interns on their semester projects in archaeology, to writing technical reports on fieldwork and site mitigation, to the basic social outreach done through Twitter, Facebook and the CAP blog, each aspect centers around education. It’s these day-to-day operations that educate the public, the community, and our students about the methods, theories and platforms that we as archaeologists use to preserve, protect and share MSU’s historic past.

 

Katy Meyers

As the new Campus Archaeologist for MSU, most of my time is currently spent trying to transition into the position and get ready for the upcoming year. While archaeology does involve a lot of excavation and work with material culture, it also requires planning and working with the public. Currently I’m working on developing a social media plan with one of the previous Campus Archaeologists. Creating a relationship with the campus community requires work with a number of online platforms to make the work accessible, open and relevant. All the archaeological work that is done on campus is tweeted, facebooked, photographed, and published online. This requires not only careful documentation of everything that we’re doing, but also a method for disseminating the information in a cohesive, standardized and — most importantly — quick manner. By making the campus aware of our activities, we spread information about archaeology, and we also create connections with various facilities on campus that may be doing potentially destructive work.

Grace Krause

While I love dirt and the glamorous excitement of new archaeological finds, my life in the lab is far more satisfying to me. After spending several years in museums, detailed work with collections has become the most enjoyable aspect of archaeology for me. Lately for Campus Archaeology, I have been analyzing our faunal collections. My day in the lab requires bone manuals for identification, a microscope and magnifying glass to look for small modifications, and calipers (a precision measuring device) to take measurements that help determine species and age. Some broken bones I am able to reconstruct to help with identification. After identifying a bone, I enter it into a database with site information, bag number, species, any modifications, and other potentially important information; the bone is then drawn on a separate form if there is evidence of human modification. Of course, it is always better to record more information than you think you might use. Finally, specimens are tagged and returned to their cabinets for safekeeping. Organizing collections such as this is a key aspect of archaeological research. Without such work, we could not make informed interpretations about the frequently confusing remains we see at sites.

 

Kristin Sewell

Imagining a typical archaeologist, many people envision a khaki-clad figure huddled over a hole with paint brushes and trowel, rear-end stuck in the air like a stink beetle. For most archaeologists, realizing this popular image is a high-point of the year: the much anticipated field season. But, what do archaeologists do during the rest of the year? For me (a historic archaeologist), the bulk of my archaeological research is done in preparation for the field season and happens in the library and archive. Libraries contain secondary sources like biographies, histories, and maps that help me recreate the past and identify previous research and interpretations of cultures and people. In the archives, I scour journals, letters, ledgers and other primary sources that describe the experiences of specific individuals. I try to find that small voice that reaches out from the past to direct my research in the present—I once heard an archival researcher compare this research as the moment when Dr. Seuss’ beloved Horton finally hears the Whos on that speck of dust “We are here! We are here! We are here!”—With research from primary and secondary sources in hand, archaeologists like me can better identify where to dig, how the land there was used, why it was used, and what we might recover during the archaeological field season. This is the life of a typical archaeologist, a life spent as much in the dust as it is in the dirt.

 

Lynne Goldstein

The Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program is unique – we not only step in to collect site information before it is destroyed by development, we do work on any and ALL ground disturbances on campus – from new buildings to new sidewalks, trees and shrubs. Another important aspect of our program is education, as both Chris and Katy have noted above. Both Grace and Kristin have talked about lab and archival work that is critical for establishing context and helping in interpretation. We actively try to include the entire MSU community – from staff, faculty, administrators, students, and visitors to alumni and the general community – in everything we do. There is no question that this program is the most transparent and collaborative program I have ever directed or participated in. We want people to know who we are, what we are doing, why we are doing it, what we are finding, and what we have produced. On this day of archaeology, we hope that we provided a glimpse into our program, and we welcome you to visit us on a regular basis, via our website (see above), Twitter (@capmsu), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/capmsu), Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/capmsu), or in person! Hope everyone learns a lot today and gets excited about archaeology around the world!