Stacy L. Ryan, Field School Staff Member
(July 14, 2017)—For most of the year, we staff members of the Upper Gila Preservation Archaeology Field School work on a variety of projects that focus on our research interests and areas of expertise. But for six weeks in the summer, we converge in Cliff, New Mexico, with a common goal: to work with students from all over the country who are interested in learning about excavation techniques, survey techniques, experimental archaeology, and the applications of archaeological methods and theories. Our long days together in the field and lab allow for structured instruction, as well as free-flowing conversations about our diverse backgrounds and experiences. Together, we represent some of the many different paths that lead to a career in archaeology.
The students also have an opportunity to hear from a wider range of voices, thanks to guest lecturers who are an important part of the field school experience. Throughout the season, we welcome a series of visitors at our excavation site and field camp to interact with the students and share their knowledge and expertise. Our guests are often cultural resource management professionals, professors, independent researchers, and archaeologists from federal land management agencies. They cover topics that include geomorphology, archaeometry, ancient technologies, NAGPRA, historical archaeology, applied anthropology, and mammalogy. Lectures are usually given in our lab after dinner, and several are open to the public, providing us with another opportunity to interact with the Cliff community. Some sessions have a hands-on component so the students can learn the various uses of ground stone tools or how coil-and-scrape pottery is made.
Talks also take place in even less formal settings that fit with our field and travel schedule. We gathered at a campsite near El Morro National Monument to listen to Jeffrey Ferguson speak about geochemical source characterization studies. In the field, we lunched on a backdirt pile while ethnobotanist Karen Adams explained the importance of the flotation samples we collect. And we learned more about the environment of the Gila River Farm site during a walk around the Nature Conservancy property led by Martha Schumann Cooper.
Our field trips offer more opportunities to connect with different people and provide a greater perspective on cultural resources and the history of the land. At Chaco Canyon, we were treated to a full-day tour of select sites by Paul Reed. Our stop in Zuni included a tour of the Village of the Great Kivas by guide Fernando Peywa, and an invitation to spend time with a family preparing for the solstice dances. At Acoma Pueblo, we embarked on a tour offered by the Sky City Cultural Center to learn about the pueblo’s history and the present-day community. The students expressed a desire to hear more from Native American descendant communities and archaeologists who work closely with tribes, prompting discussions on how to broaden our interactions in the future.
Those who visit us over the course of the season to discuss archaeological research and methods, or to provide career or graduate school guidance, greatly enhance our field school curriculum. The topics our guest speakers touch on—botany, earth science, landscape management—highlight the importance of multidisciplinary approaches in archaeological studies. As a staff member these past four years, I have learned a great deal from our guests, tour guides, and hosts, and I appreciate their willingness to spend time with us.
The 2017 field school students and staff thank the many generous speakers who volunteered their time to visit our project and share their research, work experiences, and knowledge of important local places with us: Jenny Adams, Karen Adams, Diane Austin, Greg Conlin, Martha Cooper, Katherine Dungan, Jeffrey Ferguson, Bill Gillespie, Sharlot Hart, Sarah Herr, Gary Huckleberry, Patrick Lyons, Stephen MacDonald, Marilyn Markel, Barbara Mills, Mary Ownby, Fernando Pewya, Paul Reed, Bernard Siquieros, Martin Soto de Soto, Wendy Sutton, Homer Thiel, and Andy Ward. Thank you!