Erin Verbeck, Preservation Archaeology Field School Student
I am a junior at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) studying anthropology and political science. This is my first time in the Southwest, and I am continually surprised by how vibrant and beautiful the landscape is—not to mention how hot it is! As a native of Minnesota, where we break out our swimsuits after temperatures reach fifty degrees, this environmental shift has been a new experience for me. Although the landscape, mesquites, and cholla are constantly grabbing my curiosity (and my clothes), I have found myself learning most from the people whom I have met and interacted with. From the field school staff and visiting scholars to Mule Creek residents, these groups of people have revealed different facets of Southwestern anthropology to me—all with casual mud fights and dance parties thrown in to keep me on my toes. Here are a few things I have been doing with these incredible people:
Last week, Dr. Diane Austin came out to the site. Diane is an applied environmental anthropologist and director of the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and getting to know her was extremely enjoyable and valuable for my future aspirations. Though her career focuses on cultural anthropology, she excavated with us like a pro; the first time she shook an artifact screen with me, she nearly pulled me over the screen! I loved having her cheery attitude around the site, and I especially appreciated her career advice. Diane talked about her work in counteracting poverty in California public school systems. I am passionate about combating poverty in Nashville, especially for Nashville youth, so hearing Diane reflect on her experiences is helpful for my endeavors in Nashville. I love hearing from established scholars, because I soak up their wisdom like a sponge—each piece of advice helps me figure out my own future more smoothly. It was sad to see Diane leave, but I hope to see her again … if not to talk about anthropology, then to get her back for pulling me over that screen.
Though the visiting scholars and field school staff all have degrees in anthropology, by interacting with Mule Creek residents I have come to believe that you do not necessarily need a degree in anthropology to be an effective scientist. One Mule Creek resident, Marty, has visited and occasionally assisted us in excavating our unit. I have adored working with Marty, but it is so frustrating when he finds stuff faster than I do! I am kidding about being frustrated, but holy buckets, Marty is sharp!
Recently, we presented our projects at the community center in Gila. My project focused on Mimbres pottery, so I brought foam “pots” for the kids to decorate. I was surprised with how much the kids knew about pottery—we had quite a few budding scientists at the center that day. I asked a three-year-old boy what people put in pottery, and he thought for a moment and responded with, “cereal and milk!” I doubt that Cheerios or Lucky Charms were kept in Mimbres bowls, but I enjoyed seeing the boy making connections between the past and present.
As we are winding down to the final days of field school, I am reflecting on the friendships I have made. Fieldwork may be coming to a close, but I see these relationships extending long after field school.