Tag: zooarchaeology

I have never seen the Indiana Jones’ movies….

I have never seen the Indiana Jones’ movies….

Less than a week away!

Went to dinner with my parents last night to celebrate my upcoming trip and give their well wishes. Had a delicious BBQ brisket and watched my dad and boyfriend sample half of the extensive beer menu. It’s like watching children at a toy store. Serious beer conesours. I was explaining what kinds of things I would be doing and about my research project when my dad mentioned, “I told some people that you were going to dig up dinosaur bones”. Sigh. I can’t tell you how many times I explained how I do not study dinosaurs and I told him to just tell people I’m Indiana Jones. I only know about this reference because that is conclusion most people come to when I explain what archaeology is, but I have actually never watched any Indiana Jones’ movies. I’m not much of a movie person so no that is not what inspired me to pursue this field. Think it would be fitting to briefly explain what Anthropology is in this weeks entry.

Anthropology is the study of people. Anthropology has four sub categories: Biological/Physical, Socio-cultural, Linguistic, and Archaeology. Within those sub categories are numerous specified fields. It truly is a multi-disciplinary field in that you need a team of experts from multiple fields to complete anthropological projects. I’ll break down the major sub categories briefly:

Biological or Physical Anthropology studies the physical body of humans. They tackle subjects such as evolution, primates, and DNA. Bio-anthropology were some of my favorite classes. It is definitely much more scientific based than other categories yet driven by socio-cultural concepts to explain evolutionary theories.

Socio-Cultural Anthropology is the study of human cultures and societies. Most soci-cultural research uses an ethnography to study cultures which basically means you are putting yourself directly in or around a culture. Sometimes you interact and participate and other times you simply observe without anyone knowing that you are. A great example of an ethnography are those documentaries about first contacts with tribes. I did a  brief ethnography on an Mixed Martial Arts gym I was attending to take Muy Thai classes. I wanted to study gender relations in the gym for two reasons: MMA/fighting is generally perceived as a male dominated culture yet I found many women attending this gym and 3 months prior to my study Ronda Rousey was scheduled to fight Liz Carmouche in the first female featherweight match in the UFC.

Linguistic Anthropology deals with human language. I personally was not interested in this topic until I took one linguistic class and it surprised me how interesting these studies were. Language can say a lot about humans and their cultures. The language you are taught has such a huge impact on your belief systems and behavior. For example, some languages do not have a concept of an individual. It is always we or us. Similar to socio-cultural in that some studies are done through an ethnography.

Last but not least is Archaeology. Archaeology is the study of the material past. Archaeologist study humans by looking for and researching what people have left behind. It is the garbage you throw out or bury that someone discovers centuries later and tries to understand who you are and the world you live in. Archaeology in of itself is multi-disciplinary. An archaeologist’s main avenue of study is through excavations. How these excavations get started is that an idea or question is asked, a location is picked, and then the digging begins. I’m paraphrasing an extensive process, but you get the idea. An archaeologist can have an expertise of different time periods, specific materials, specified areas, and even understanding the plants and animals co-existing with humans at certain times. The list is almost endless of the possibilities someone can become and expert in. My trip revolves around studying animals and the ecology of this specific area. Although it doesn’t involve directly studying humans, think about taking this information and theoretically zooming out to see the “big picture”. All of these little things play a huge role in the narrative of human beings as a whole. My personal interest is understanding climate. One way to study that is to research animal bones and plant fossils because they can tell a lot about what the environment was like. By studying modern species of plants and animals we can track the phylogeny (family-tree) by understanding why/how their biology changed or why/how they thrived o disappeared. FASCINATING I KNOW!

Phew! Now you hopefully will understand a little more about Anthropology as a whole. Anthropology is considered a Liberal Art or Humanities. One professor explained in class that, “Anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the sciences”. It’s the the gateway between the two fields in which both sides at times must rely on each other’s research. So while I do have a B.A in Anthropology, I believe I have a well-rounded education. It’s the quintisentional Jack of All, Master of None degree.

So you may be asking yourself what is the purpose of studying these things? I think any anthropologist would tell you a different answer. Here’s mine: I am generally a curious person. It is hard to imagine what life was like even 50 years ago. I wonder how we as a species ended up here. How we as a species survived and thrived. How we as a species will continue to exist. The narrative that 10,000 years ago humans just discovered agriculture and boom here we are today is unsatisfying for me. Just this past week a discovery was made that anatomically modern humans have been around for at least 300,000 years (Link to this discovery CLICK HERE). That’s 100,000 more than was previously thought for decades. Truthfully we do not really know the answers to these questions. And we must study history so we are not doomed to repeat. Also, do you know how fucking awesome it is to dig out a piece of pottery that is almost 200 years old that no one has seen or held in 200 years? It’s fucking amazing, seriously.

What I’ve learned so far:
The whole packing thing is not as bad as I imagined. I am trying my best to take only what I really need. I mean I’ll have access to a laundry room I don’t need to get crazy! I have 2 large suitcases and back pack. Perfect. This week at work will be insane. My nerves are racing I’m teetering between excitement and absolute terror. My poor boyfriend is trying his best to hang on to my roller coaster ride. I’m realizing I needed this time away from my normal life more than ever. This is all perfect timing. I truly believe every once in a while we need awe in our lives. Something that breaks the routine and has us filled with wonderment. As content as I usually am, I need that moment to come now. Need to remember why I do all of these things for, why I work so hard, why I wanted all of this so badly, and I need to remember the things that make life so worth while for me.

Thank you for reading!


Countdown Begins

Countdown Begins

In exactly 2 weeks I’ll be arriving at the Reno International airport to meet professor John Broughton from the University of Utah. Then spend another 2 hours in a car to our final destination at Eagle Lake, California. You might think the 6 hour plane ride would be the source of anxiety, but meeting a group of strangers and hopping in a vehicle to a place I have never been to do something I have never done is the culprit. Anxiety in this context is an expression of both fear and excitement. I am one to embark on adventure, but there is nothing like the comfort and security of home and a 9 to 5 job. I am aware of and take full responsibility of honoring the commitments and promises I have made, but a part of me wants to stay home and say “fuck it”. For weeks my fear has been much louder than my excitement. Am I doing the right thing? Am I wasting my time? Am I good enough or smart enough? Is this a mistake? You may be wondering why these are even things I am questioning because those of you reading will probably be people in my life that are my biggest fans, supporters, and think highly of me (which I wholeheartedly appreciate). So what’s the deal?

First I would like to admit I am my biggest enemy. I self-doubt, self-deprecate, and criticize myself all of the time. Those attributes are both a blessing and a curse. It keeps me humble yet it motivates me to keep going. Here is my thinking: how can someone who had zero ambition, almost fail 10th grade, a once college dropout, and all around lazy ass have the audacity to pursue a career in archaeology? Are you kidding me? The archaeologist I’ve been around are some of the smartest, adventurous, fearless and diligent  people I have ever met. Although I feel like I encompass aspects of those virtues I ultimately feel like it is everything I wish I was and want to be. So maybe that’s why I have pursued this career. It’s everything I have ever feared in myself.

Now that I got that off my chest, lets get into what in the hell I am even doing. June 17th, 2017 I will be taking a plane from Philadelphia to Reno then a car ride to Eagle Lake, CA in Lassen County. We’ll be lodging at the Lassen County Youth Camp. I highly recommend googling Eagle Lake it is absolutely beautiful. The program is through the University of Utah by Professor John (Jack) Broughton. The course is the Zooarchaeology and Field Ecology Field School. What is Zooarchaeology? “Zooarchaeology is the study of animal remains from archaeological contexts to enhance our understanding of the long-standing and complex relationship between past people and animals”. For 3 weeks we’ll be exploring this topic as well as conducting our own research projects. The project I have chosen is best described by Prof. Broughton: “your project will attempt to evaluate the impacts of recent (the last ~decade) climatic influences on Eagle Lake fish populations (especially Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout) through the analysis of modern fish bone assemblages collected from local sites. This might involve change in species composition (relative abundance of different fish species) or the size of individual fish within species”.

I have much to learn since I have little to no experience in this field. Most of my archaeological experience has been historical archaeology dealing with modern humans through essentially the garbage left behind by people. So I am excited to get the chance to learn the skills necessary to study another aspect of the human experience, the animals and the environment that we have lived and continue to live in. I specifically have an interest in the peopling of the Americas and a period known as the Younger Dryas in which many incredibly mysterious events occur that includes both the disappearance of numerous mega-fauna and humans.

So what is this all for? Well, I am attempting to begin a career in Cultural Resource Management (CRM). Basically, archaeologist who get paid. If you would like to find out more information about CRM I recommend visiting the wikipedia entry: CLICK HERE. The requirements for CRM include a degree in anthropology/archaeology and a completion of a field school. I have completed one of those requirements in 2013 when I graduated from Temple University with a B.A in Anthropology. I definitely did not do so well when I transferred from a 2-year to a 4-year school so my GPA kind of sucks and only having two years to understand the ins and outs of this field was not enough time. So as most things in my life, I have to work twice as hard and start this career much later than most. So in a perfect world, I’ll complete the field school, apply for CRM jobs and get hired. Easy peasy.

What I’ve learned so far:
This is most challenging test for how well of a planner I am. How much shit does one person need for 3 weeks? My list seems to expand everyday and I don’t know how I’m going to manage transporting all of this crap across the country and then back. I also learned that having a full time job while prepping for this is exhausting. So much to read, research, and understand while dealing with work. Also, will I ever not be in debt? Is this what people have to do? Fuck me.

I’ll include the course syllabus and some photos of Eagle Lake.

Thanks for reading!


ZOFE Syllabus 2017