(June 11, 2018)—Our field school has been in session for just over a week now. As usual, we began with a whirlwind introduction to Hohokam area archaeology before proceeding to our camp in Cliff, New Mexico. We’re settling in to our normal routine now, and just finished our first week of excavations.
One exciting part of this year’s field school comes from connections with students from previous years. Each year, our staff goes out a week early to set up camp and get everything ready for our students’ arrival. This year we stopped to visit another archaeological project near Reserve, New Mexico, on our way back to Tucson. One of the leaders of that project was Deb Huntley, our former field school director who now lives in Denver. We also got to catch up with our 2017 alumni Taylor Picard and Chris La Roche, who were working on that project (along with Johnny Schaefer, another 2017 student we missed by a few days).
A few days later, Riley Duke (2014 alumnus), who now works at the Arizona State Museum, gave our group a tour of the museum’s pottery vault and special collections area. We all enjoyed seeing examples of Salado pottery and getting a glimpse of the storage areas where the artifacts from our project will be kept in perpetuity and remain accessible for future generations of researchers. We also got a chance to see some items that aren’t currently on display in the museum’s public areas, like sloth coprolites and a mammoth bone tool. That night Riley, Taylor, and Elissa McDavid (2016 alumni) were able to join our incoming students for dinner, warning our new group about the fierce mosquitoes at the Gila River Farm site and talking about the work they’ve done since their student days.
Another 2014 alumnus who has transitioned from student to teacher is Maxwell Forton, who is our survey director for this year. Max was a student at our field school the summer before he started graduate work at Binghamton University (where he has since finished his Master’s degree and begun his doctoral work). He’s spent every summer since then doing excavation and survey work, including positions at Petrified Forest National Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and Navajo National Monument. Max loves archaeological survey, and we knew he’d be a great addition to our team this year.
Next week, yet another former field school student will join us for a few days in the field. Adam Sezate (2016) just received his Master’s degree in Applied Archaeology at the University of Arizona and is now working with Linking Southwestern Heritage through Archaeology, a program that connects Tucson area high school students to Southwestern archaeology, the outdoors, and public lands. Adam and project director Rebecca Renteria will be bringing a group of high school students and teachers to spend three days working and camping with us. This year marks our third time hosting this group, and watching our college students teach the high school students what they’ve learned so far about excavation is always a lot of fun.
Every year’s group of students is different, and each summer’s field camp atmosphere is different from the last. So far, this year’s evenings have been full of guitar playing, singing, a memorable bout of yoga/acrobatics, and plenty of laughter. The other staff members and I are looking forward to seeing our students discover new interests and talents over the next few weeks. Archaeology is a relatively small world sometimes, and I still see people I met as an undergraduate 20 years ago at research conferences. I’m sure I’ll be seeing some of this year’s students in the field years from now, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.