One of the reasons I was most excited for this field school—aside from the charm of the Upper Gila and the completely foreign ways of life I was told I’d encounter every day—was because it gave me a chance to compare how archaeology was practiced across regions, particularly within the U.S. and North America.
Fortunately, I have had the chance to take part in many summers of East Coast Cultural Resource Management (CRM) work without any formalized archaeological training under my belt, so I found this opportunity to do archaeology in the American Southwest to be a perfect complement to my overall education as a student of anthropology.
I wondered how different (or even how similar) archaeological methods were between shooting transects through historical sites in the deciduous pine forests of Virginia and excavating in 13th century Pueblo masonry in the much drier New Mexican desert highlands.
While, as anthropological archaeologists, we endeavor to answer vaguely similar questions such as, “Who were these people?” and “What did they do here?” we find ourselves having to employ different methods to find out the answers to these questions. Simply put, we are an academic culture working within a contemporary regional culture to study cultures that are long past. As you can imagine, that means there is no overarching, objective way to do this; we have to change things up a bit to get our answers.
As students at this field school, we are exposed to a completely new light of archaeological practice. Not only do we get to experience relationships being built between CDA/UA staff and the landowners of the Fornholt site, but we also get to think about and be a part of the micropolitical machinations of the entire Ancestral Pueblo and Mogollon region—certainly not something we could have gained simply from a lecture or in a classroom setting.
Even though we are finishing our work here at Mule Creek, I know for a fact that all of us have gained a heightened respect for and interest in the archaeology of such a fascinating area of North America. Some of us have expressed great desire to return to work and volunteer here, as well as made pacts to come back again and again to see the awe-inspiring Chaco Canyon, visit friends made here, and even to just have one more habañero lime milkshake from the burger joint in Silver City. Truly, this experience has been an education in anthropology and in life.
— Henry Foote, James Madison University