I've had 6 years of schooling leading to a B.A. and an M.A. in anthropology with a focus on archaeology and museum training, including an amazing field school in Ohio. All that training barely prepared me for real-life archaeology. I've worked in Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Montana, and North Dakota. I hope you stick around so that I may regale you with my stories of, and adventures in, field work.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Adventures, where are you?!
Winter is definitely not an archaeologist's friend. I haven't been in the field since November, and I'm beginning to resemble a small planet......maybe a moon? (See my post two posts ago and you'll understand why) The point is, I do believe my archaeological field adventures for the next year are officially on hold. Though, I swear if given the chance to do a pedestrian survey or a Phase II or III, I would rock it. The belly can hold up the screen while I search for artifacts, and hold my clipboard while I takes notes. And any irrational pregnancy rage brought on by some stupid tree looking at me funny, can be taken out by vigorously hacking out those 10-cm levels in the oh-so-delicate way we CRM peeps do (See this lovely post from a while ago regarding the surprises of archaeology.). I got this.
So, winter. As many people know, winter is full of frozen days, maybe some snow...and with that (in the DC area) mass panic, school closings, and crazy drivers. The grocery stores are raided like we've got the zombie apocalypse going on, only people seem to prefer to buy beer and frozen pizzas, cuz you know, those are necessities....?
And yet the fresh fruits and vegetables area is deserted......
Anywho, back to archaeology and winter. They don't mesh...like oil and water. Even if you shake, stir, scream at, they won't mix well. Winter freezes the ground (especially in the more northern areas of the US), frozen ground breaks shovels and trowels. And no archaeologist can refer to themselves as an archaeologist if they don't have a trowel. Seriously, Indiana Jones without his fancy hat, whip, and Nazis to punch, isn't Indiana Jones. He's just....Harrison Ford.
Hhhmmm.....where is my trowel?
Oh, well. It'll turn up eventually. Clearly, I am not doing archaeology right now, unless you consider writing on artifacts and creating little paper tags for them to be archaeology. Oh, and working all day curating a group of artifacts because West Virginia's curation guidelines say so, only to be told by the WV curation people that we, in fact, do NOT have to do that task. The. Heck. Test in patience? Yes!
Today's lesson: dealing with a SHPO or curation people.
You see, the SHPO (pronounced SHIP-OH, the State Historic Preservation Office) is the office responsible for allowing us CRM people to do our jobs. For example, we have to convince them that some particular archaeological site is actually of value to...someone...and that the pipeline/roadwork/parking lot/mall/what-have-you, will destroy a valuable part of the area's history. These are the people you do not want to piss off. You could find Noah's Ark buried in Pennsylvania, and they'll be like, "We don't believe you, we're just going to bury the site and build on top of it." Also, and only in my experience so I could be wrong, SHPOs aren't archaeologists. I don't know what they do, but they don't do archaeology. They work in an office with twirly chairs. Perhaps they have a degree in anthropology/archaeology? I don't know. The point is, whether or not they are being stupid, you have to smile and nod and take it.
The same goes for the curators. You need them to approve the work in curation that you've spent months doing, running out of funding, writing super small on an artifact a mere 1-square inch in size. No joke. If it is bigger than 1x1 inch you have to write on it. And these labels consist of something like this*:
And it has to be legible. And we generally use a calligraphy pen. Legible. So, my recent test in patience came with the curator who informed me that we did not have to curate and box separately any artifacts that were photographed for the report, and that it wasn't even stated in their guidelines. Meanwhile, I'm staring at the paragraph that says exactly that. Hm. Okay.
Gosh, I miss the field. Give me frozen earth and broken shovels! Much easier to understand than the ever-changing curation guidelines or SHPO moods.
Well, that is about it for my current adventures. And, as I don't really have anything else for you.....here's an awesome meme:
GET SOME!!!!!! **note the trowel in the last image**
* I totally made-up that site and specimen number, if it really exists....oops.