Mr. Yao’s first language is Mandarin.
(June 17, 2021)—I have trained as a Mediterranean archaeologist, so Southwestern archaeology and its field methods are new to me. I had many ideas about archaeological fieldwork before I came to the field school, but I never imagined that I would be working on a project in a completely alien place for me. The COVID pandemic offered me this unexpected opportunity to examine a different world that I have never approached before.
Even for a clumsy young archaeology student like me, this fieldwork in New Mexico is a “transcendent” experience. Although I have lived in Tucson for three years, getting out onto the Southwestern landscape has not been a part of my routine. I have been astonished by the unique geology and archaeology of New Mexico. The harmony of nature and ancient Southwestern cultures is enlightening.
I think I am a fortunate man for attending this field school; I have met a bunch of young archaeology students with diverse backgrounds and the same goals. They are passionate and devoted people whom I deeply admire. We are encountering the same struggles, both physical and mental. But our endurance remains high. The onerous labor and repetitive process of screening have not discouraged our morale. Our skin is getting darker from the sun.
There have been some surprises. The scorpions and various poisonous insects are our “closest friends,” and frozen burritos are our most decadent feast in the field. The chorus of turkey and coyote is the most bizarre lullaby of my life, but the natural sounds are tied to the history of this land. This experience overwhelms and humbles me, and I think about the dualities of life and death, modernity and antiquity, center and periphery. I deeply enjoy this philosophical process. We are the nameless nobodies looking toward the eternal survival of our ancestors’ knowledge. Their wisdom is buried in the dirt and carried in the mind.