July 12, 2019
Dear Glorious Readers,
This will be the last correspondence from all of us young-uns here in Cliff. By the time this is published, we’ll all most likely be clean, well-rested, and missing our wonderful ranch land and internet-free oasis. It has been a terrific and memorable time out here, and without a doubt we will all remember these days for at least a few hours after they have ended (maybe more). We have excavated, analyzed sherds, analyzed lithics, and made educational projects for the public—and we only had to be in a small amount of pain (some more than others) to do them all.
In a word, this experience was a whirlwind. In more words, I would say that the amount we have learned will only dawn on us in the coming months and years. Before this six-week journey, none of us had any idea how to set up a unit, shovel flat, trowel lightly, identify a flake, or know whether a thing is a thing (identify human interaction on a landscape). Who knew digging flat required practice, or that sometimes even the experts are confused about the identity or classification of a feature? I think we will all come away from this experience with an intuitive and slightly subconscious knowledge of excavation, survey, analysis, and experimental techniques.
I’m not sure what will be most memorable about this summer—maybe the weird names we all gave our separate work crews, the two at-war “towns” we fictionally created in our camp, the Civil War-era-style letters we all wrote to each other, or maybe the artifacts and features we had the pleasure of excavating. Each person probably has a different idea of what they will never forget, but for me, my memorable moment would have to be the small feeling on the second-to-last week of excavation when I felt that I officially had some confidence in my own opinion. Up to that point, I had made the right decision in my head when faced with a choice, but when it came time to execute I always double-checked with my crew leader. When I needed to make a decision on that last week, the training wheels were off, and I had the confidence to follow through on my decision.
So, it now falls to me to end this correspondence we have been having with you over the past six weeks. I hope you have learned as much as we have, and I hope you were able to peer into the crazy little bubble we have created. We are now archaeologists, trained for observation, interpretation, and dirt. We are proud of what we will leave behind—the long reports, the hilarious jokes. Along the way we stumbled, and we maybe even gave up for just a second, but in the end we finished, and we finished strong. (Trust me, I know—our backs hurt because of it.)
Sean White, University of Colorado Boulder
Upper Gila Preservation Archaeology Field School 2019