Entries tagged with “archaeological fieldwork

I had been thinking over the past couple weeks that maybe I should scrap everything I’ve done so far and just have a fresh start in the “new year.” If I had a clearer sense of how to blog about my self-study in anthropology, I might be more inclined to do just that. Though I won’t rush to scrap anything, I will change things up a bit. I’ve been revisiting helpful shaping and learning experiences from childhood — rereading certain books, adding some volunteer community service, being directed more by interest than canon (the important works have a way of making themselves known during the course of foraging). I’ve been reminded of how I often interacted with texts as if either the author or one of the characters were my tutor and/or friend; this often fueled the drive to read more works by and about a particular author. Reading  “Philosophy of Science in Anthropology” really pulled me back into that world of author as tutor, and I enjoyed that feeling and the sense of motivation it inspired. And so, I’ve decided to take a tutor.

It’s not that I’m opposed to the oxygen-breathing variety of tutor. I made some efforts several years back to acquire such, but never with much success. I had a few good conversations and read some things I might not otherwise have read. Perhaps after I have studied more and written more it will be easier to acquire a real-time guide. For now I will go with my childhood technique. It would seem that the desire to return to this technique has been prowling in my subconscious, waiting. In the last review I read, “Women’s Voices: Their Critique of the Anthropology of Japan,” Mariko Tamanoi makes mention of someone I’ve long admired. Tamanoi writes that Simone de Beauvoir considered the body to be a negative concept to be conquered by the mind; Tamanoi disagrees. She argues, “A woman’s mind, situated in her body, knows no separate existence.” This mention of Simone de Beauvoir serves more as illustration in midst of a discussion of feminine personal politics (sexuality and reproduction); it’s not the thrust of a discussion, but it’s one I would like to have. I do not find it as easy to disagree with Beauvoir. Some of my most cherished readings from childhood embrace the mind/body dichotomy.

I’ve long brushed against the works of Simone de Beauvoir, but I’ve yet to read the full text of any of her work. I do not know why I have denied myself this pleasure, but now that De Beauvoir is to be my tutor, I will feast. Well, at least, this is my intention. Additionally, I have hopes that reading De Beauvoir will spur a more rigorous engagement of my French language studies. I intend to blog about my readings in anthropology as if I were corresponding with De Beauvoir. Hopefully, there will be a natural growth of “relationship” as I read. I haven’t kept up a written correspondence with anyone in quite some time as the practice was already in severe decline in my youth, but I love letter writing and I believe this will provide a more comfortable context for me. I’m excited that the local library has volumes of De Beauvoir’s correspondence in addition to her more scholarly work. I came across an old journal with a single entry and decided to start my correspondence…


Just now I looked inside a diary given to me by my recently deceased friend. I made one entry dated 9 May 2008. I noted that Daniel probably bought this for me at the charity shop where he volunteered. I made mention of my desire for a mentor who was female and French. I am certain that I had thought of Madame then, but at that time I had hopes of meeting an oxygen-breathing mentor. I had brushed a reddish-brown hair from the page before starting to write, and I wondered, after my hasty gesture, whether there would be another…it’s just that easy to miss someone, isn’t it? There was a phone number written on the page opposite the front cover and another for “CARL” on the third lined paged. Apparently, I was also thinking of self-guided learning at the time because graduate school seemed quite impossible (and it still does).

I wrote on a cool afternoon during the archaeological dig class. I wish that I could take that class again, but that’s quite impossible as well I think. My short, simple sentences prompted me to pen that I was writing for USA Today. We were waiting for someone to identify bone found in one of the dig units; there was thought that it might be human bone. I didn’t make note, but it turned out to be a deer burial; I believe two deer burials have been unearthed in the same general area.

I made note of having gone to a small party: “Let’s see — I was about to list the attendees, then thought the better of it. Sometimes you don’t want to remember everyone.” I then wrote of Eudora Welty as if she were a friend, as is my habit with favorite writers. I once shared the same four walls with her during an event held in her honor. I prefaced the bits about Eudora by writing that I was off to myself like a good wallflower, observing (during class and probably at the party as well).

I am currently reading a collection of essays on a Eudora Welty short story, “A Worn Path.” I am also reading a biography of Jack Kerouac. Looking at my desk bookshelf I noticed that I have a slender volume titled “An Introduction to Existentialism.” Perhaps I should give that a quick read in preparation for reading Madame’s work? It won’t be my first introduction to existentialism, but I could use the refresher.

I hope this satisfactorily fulfills Madame’s request that I write a brief note about a moment in my day… something that sheds light on the me that I wish Madame to know and guide… something that perhaps reveals a secret that I didn’t at first intend to share.

Yours in mind and spirit,

Professional Responsibility in Public Archaeology
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 12: 143-164 (Volume publication date October 1983)
T F King
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

A couple years ago I took an archaeological fieldwork class for which the site was located in a federal park.  Reading  “Professional Responsibility in Public Archaeology,” I was left with an even greater appreciation of the outstanding job the fieldwork professor did as far as creating awareness of and stimulating depth of thought about ethical concerns in public archaeology.  And he managed to do this without at all dampening the excitement of getting to dig and sift and catologue and record.  Looking back, I’m amazed at the smooth, seamless integration of classroom lectures, firsthand accounts of experiences in public archaeology and personal conduct during the course of the class; there was a truly holistic experience of an on-the-job course in responsibilities in public archaeology.  My mind had been thoroughly engaged regarding all the issues Thomas King discusses in “Professional Responsibility in Public Archaeology.”

King organizes his discussion along the lines of asking to whom the archaeologist is responsible.  He states that the lack of consensus regarding ethical concerns is generally based on disagreements over the object(s) of responsibility.  He describes six objects:

1. The Resource Base: responsibility to archaeological sites.
2. Companions-in-Arms: responsibility to colleagues.
3. Research: responsibility to the advance of scholarship.
4. Clients: responsibility to those who pay the tab.
5. The Law: responsibility to legal and contractual obligations.
6. The Living: responsibility to nonarchaeologists with interests in archaeological sites or data.

King says that some archaeologists become “true believers” in a particular object.  I started to think about my own experience in the field class and wonder which object was supreme in my mind.  Briefly speaking….

With consideration to (1) The Resource Base, decisions about where to excavate during my field class involved discussions about where the most gain could be had with the least destruction to what could be valuable data.  Given the excavation methods and techniques available, excavation in area A seemed productive whereas it might be best to leave area B unexcavated with the thought that the future might bring better excavation techniques that result in greater data recovery with less destruction.  It’s one thing to hear this discussion and it’s another to witness the self-restraint involved in making a decision to preserve a site.  As regards (2) Companions-in-Arms, other archaeologists who had worked in the area were brought in to guest lecture.  A walk-through of a site with an archaeologist who has different interests and different areas of expertise was such a good lesson in how data can have varying levels of significance depending on the research design.  With (3) Research, the importance of keeping good records that followed industry standards for the benefit of other scholars was emphasized.  For (4) Clients, personal accounts of working with a wide variety of public archaeology clients gave perspective to the more sheltered experience of working in a federal park.  For (5) The Law, classroom discussion of laws were reinforced with fieldwork examples of situations in which those laws came into play such as when there was a need to determine whether bone found at the site were human remains.  For (6) The Living, the professor was great at talking to people who wandered by to ask questions; he told personal stories that showed a respect for the concerns of living people with a “cultural and genetic connection,” as King puts it, to the site.

Well, that’s quite fast and incomplete, but the experience in the class gave me a lot to think about when reading King’s article.