Age Gracefully and Stay Out of the Way

I’m not a huge “Day of Archaeology” guy. I guess I should be, but most of my days as an archaeologist involve not quite enough archaeology for me to talk openly about my work as an archaeologist per se. But, whatever, there seems to be some excitement about the Day of Archaeology this year, so I’ll post something here and shoot it out over the Twitters with the appropriate hashtags.

First, I did do archaeology today! I had a long chat with my collaborators, David Pettegrew and Scott Moore, about the final publication of our excavations at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus. In particular, we discussed how we’ll publish material from an earlier excavation at the site and integrate it into our work. The conversation was mostly organizational. What numbers do we give artifacts found in these earlier excavations and how will these numbers coincide with the numbers that we assigned to artifacts and strata from our work? We also worked to track down some catalogue entries and readings of context pottery to make sure that we have as complete a data set in font of us before we start a week of writing on Monday.

For me, this speaks to what archaeology is about, especially as I enter the long “end game” of my career. I have been working in the field, every summer, and periodically during the rest of the year, for almost 20 years. I have a lifetime of archaeological material to publish scattered about in my head, on hard drives, and in storeroom and dusty sites. I’m sure that I’ll do more field work at some point, but as I look ahead to my late-40s I also realize that my body, my mind, and my career probably don’t need it. In some ways, the organizing and publishing of material from the field is both typical of this day of archaeology and perhaps most of my archaeological days for the rest of my life and career.

As I dragged my ragged and broken body and addled mind through hill and valley over the last few years, I was humbled and exhilarated to work with a group of energetic and smart graduate students and colleagues. These friends have shown me, if nothing else, that archaeologists must find ways to age gracefully, put aside their trowels and hiking boots, and let the next generation of scholars take on the challenges of the field and the opportunities of new finds, new sites, and new interpretations. My job, as a greying and increasingly broken-down Associate Professor, involves both supporting their work and as frequently, staying out of their way!

To support the next generation of scholars, I’ll keep working to create a new model to publish archaeological interpretation and analysis with my Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. In fact, just this morning, I tweaked away on the layout of a new book on digital tools and practices in Mediterranean archaeology. I’ll also work with more established presses to produce dynamic, linked archaeological volumes. This morning, I send a draft of a new digital edition of our volume on the survey at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus. This digital edition includes links to our data in Open Context and will hopefully serves as a model for hybrid, paper and digital publications.

I’m also spending time reading books like Leonard Cassuto’s The Graduate School Mess (2015)in my capacity as director of graduate studies in the Department of History at the University of North Dakota. While I don’t agree with Cassuto’s premise or his solutions (to what I see as mainly non-problems), his book has kept me thinking about how we as faculty can continue to produce fertile ground for the next generation of historians and archaeologists. While getting out of their way is relatively easy, leaving the ground better for them looks to be more difficult as funding, educational, and cultural priorities change in the 21st century.

Finally, I did what I do most mornings. I wrote an entry on my long-running blog, The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World. While ye olde blogge is probably well past it’s heyday, it still attracts some reader and waves the flag for my research and interests in the mob-scene that is the internet. It provides a platform for my ideas, promotes the work of my colleagues in the field, and helps me maintain a certain amount of discipline each day in my writing (and, for whatever it is worth) my thinking.