(July 9, 2018)—Throughout history, archaeology has often been viewed as invasive digging and robbing of burials and homes of Indigenous persons and places. In many respects that sometimes isn’t too far from the truth. Thankfully, not all archaeology follows the same suit. One of the main aspects that drew me to this field school can be summed up in one word—preservation.
There are a few influential administrative actions throughout history that have turned the field toward this direction. The Antiquities Act, passed in 1906, allows the president to protect lands that have significant natural, cultural, or scientific value that need to be preserved by designating them as national monuments. The National Historic Preservation Act, passed in 1966, along with the National Register of Historic Places, was the first federal policy that emphasized the importance of preservation. Now developers, tribes, and landholders are required to collaborate on the promotion of conserving these invaluable lands. But, the battle for preservation has not yet been won.
For the past four years I have been an outdoor guide in Moab, Utah. I quickly became obsessed with the Cedar Mesa region, which has been brought into the public’s eye recently through the creation and subsequent reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument. I have been an active member in the fight to preserve the land, restricting development for resource extraction. Thankfully, all is not lost.
Once I discovered archaeology and quickly found it as a potential career path, I dove in head first. Chomping at the bit, I am impatiently going through the steps of getting a second degree in order to start working in the field. My professor continuously encourages me to slow down and soak in the process, but I can’t help my eagerness. When it came time to choose a summer field school, I was overwhelmed with the large variety of options before me. I had a class project to interview a professional based on published papers ,which led me to finding Jeff Clark. I was interested in the idea of using archaeology to preserve culture and the land. Our conversation led to Archaeology Southwest’s Preservation Archaeology Field School. My decision was all but made for me.
Within a short few weeks I have experienced more than I could ever write about in this short blog post. Excavation is the basis of all field school programs, but that is just the tip of the iceberg here. We have learned the basics of excavation and survey with preservation as its base. Beyond that we have guests and lectures that teach us about topics far beyond the basics: geoarchaeology, archaeo-ethnobotany, and applied anthropology, just to name a few.
All of these amazing experiences are woven in with preservation at the core. Moving forward I will bring these skills back with me to Moab and work to help preserving Cedar Mesa. Making connections with a community of like-minded individuals with this powerful tool as its base is the start of a movement. I can’t wait to begin.