(April 7, 2017)—Last week, several of us from Archaeology Southwest attended the Society for American Archaeology annual meetings in Vancouver, BC. Thousands of archaeologists migrated north and flocked to the Vancouver Convention Centre to spend five days seeing posters, forums, and 15-minute talks on virtually every archaeological topic imaginable. We spent our evenings staying up far too late, catching up with colleagues and old friends who work in institutions across the country (including some of our past Preservation Archaeology Field School students), most of whom we only get to see once a year at these meetings.
Not surprisingly, catching the nuances of dozens of talks delivered in dark rooms became progressively more difficult as the string of late nights and early mornings began adding up. Luckily, there were many interesting poster sessions to visit. A busy, light-filled room, rows of posters distilling a research project’s essence into just a few graphics and limited text, and a series of individual conversations are always a welcome part of the conference scene.
This year, we organized a poster session bringing together researchers from the five archaeological field schools currently taking place in the Upper Gila and Mimbres areas. It was fun and interesting to have so many people working in this area gathered in one place, even though the poster session was so busy we couldn’t all get to each others’ posters before our two hours were up! Fortunately, I have another chance to see them now—we’ve gathered these posters together here on our website for everyone to see, whether you spent that day in a dark room two doors down in Vancouver or anywhere else in the world.
When I wasn’t seeing papers and posters, I spent some quality time with a Dremel tool cutting tiny fragments of animal bones in my hotel bathroom. The collection from the Stix and Leaves site was the last set of deer and turkey samples needed for the animal bone isotope project Jeff Ferguson and I are working on (which I’ve written about previously here, here, and here). It was maybe a weird thing to do, but it also seemed fitting for this project after Jeff’s exploits with a salad spinner and a food dehydrator in his hotel room last fall! The Stix and Leaves collection is from southwest Colorado and is currently being analyzed at the University of Exeter in England, but our colleague Bruce Bradley was kind enough to bring the bones we needed to the SAA meeting in Canada for us. By the end of the conference, I was able to return the well-traveled bones to Bruce, and pass on the little samples I’d removed to Jeff to take to the MURR lab in Missouri. (Here is a video of Jeff’s Archaeology Café presentation about his work at the research reactor.)
It was a productive meeting, and Vancouver’s green, forested parks and shorelines were beautiful. But when I looked out the windows as my plane landed in Phoenix, my first glimpse of the dusty brown landscape with its faint subtle greens made me happy, just as it has ever since the first childhood flight I can remember. For me, dusty brown is the color of home.
Thank you to the National Science Foundation (REU-1560465) and the UA Foundation for supporting the Preservation Archaeology Field School, and the National Science Foundation (BCS-1460385) for supporting the Mesa Verde isotopic analysis project. Funding social science research makes the world a better and more interesting place.