(April 24, 2017)—Over the weekend, thousands of people across the country came together to march, rally, and speak out for science. In Tucson, an estimated 4,000 people came out to El Presidio Park to show their support for the S.T.E.M. fields. Looking across a sea of people and their signs, there seemed to be a diversity of fields represented—everything from chemistry, biology, and physics to music and the arts. And, of course, archaeology.
Archaeology Southwest was one of about 40 outreach booths set up at the rally. Over the course of four hours, Karen, Bill, Kathleen and I got to talk about archaeology to what seemed like (and probably were…who knows?) hundreds of people. We brought along our Hohokam and Flaked Stone Tool fact sheets and another flyer that highlights the palimpsest of ancient, historic, and modern structures that were, basically, right beneath our feet in downtown Tucson (formerly el Presidio San Agustín del Tucson and before that, a Hohokam village).
I always have fun talking to people about the “things and stuff” we bring along with us to these kinds of events. This time, we had our model of early agricultural and Hohokam pithouses and replicas of a Hohokam pot, various styles of projectile points, a stone axe, a rabbit stick, and an atlatl and dart. We can use these hands-on visual aides to start conversations about what archaeologists do, what kinds of things we find, and how we know what we say we know about the past.
One enthusiastic young visitor caught Bill’s attention with his questions about various styles of indigenous houses (What does a Tarahumara house look like? What does a Yaqui house look like? and so on). Then he noticed the atlatl and darts. He recognized what they were, but had never tried them out. We weren’t set up for atlatls, per se, but there was a relatively empty patch of grass nearby that worked. Within about 15 minutes, he was throwing darts like a champ, and only one went over the wall into the road (it was recovered without incident).
The chance to make connections like that, with people who are genuinely excited and want to know more, is why science outreach is so important. It is possible that we were “preaching to the choir” there at the March for Science rally, but it was no less heartening to see thousands of people come out to support critical thinking and science in Tucson.