Q. When did you start working for your survey?
A. I have worked at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey since December 2016. I have been a professional archaeologist for nearly 40 years, beginning with excavations at an Anglo-Saxon site in Southampton, England. I have 20 years of experience of archeology in the Midwest and Western United States. My MA focused on plant use by protohistoric Oneota inhabitants of the site of Blood Run in northwestern Iowa. In contrast, my Ph.D. examined the use of animals as a source of raw material (bone and antler) by Neanderthals and modern humans in the early Upper Palaeolithic in France.
The majority of my archaeological work in the U.S. was conducted at a private woman-owned and operated CRM company based in northern Illinois, where I supervised archaeological surveys and excavations; and historic building recordation.
Q. What made you decide to go into your field?
A. I can’t remember a time when I was not interested in history and archaeology. Archaeology seemed to be a way of studying how people lived and worked that did not rely on the written record. Archaeology was much more visible in the UK, where the BBC and independent TV networks aired documentaries on archaeology. There are always items on the national and local news about recent archaeological discoveries. I am still a little surprised that my parents were so encouraging, my father in particular—probably because he and I shared a strong interest in history and archaeology. By the late 1970s, when I went to university, it was clear that a career in archaeology was possible with the expansion of salvage archaeology programs (now CRM) and academic programs.
Q. Who was a mentor to you?
A. As a graduate student: Mary Whelan, Bill Green and Jim Enloe at the University of Iowa, and Francine David of the CNRS in France. In my work as a CRM archaeologist I was mentored and trained by Rochelle Lurie and Paula Porubcan Branstner.
Q. What is the best part of your job?
A. The best part of the job is the chance to learn something new about the archaeology of Illinois, or about new developments in my fields of interest—particularly how humans have interacted with their environment in the past. All these interactions are filtered through cultural and economic systems both local, regional and national.
Q. What advice would you give to other female scientists?
A. Search for work that you enjoy and find rewarding—it makes it much easier to be productive and innovative. Maintain your professional network and learn how to be both an effective member of a team and an effective advocate for yourself. Trust in yourself and be willing to speak up.
Q. What work/project are you most proud of?
A. I am proud of my work examining Archaic subsistence and site location patterns in northeastern Illinois. I hope to develop this further to examine how site location can be predicted for areas of Lake Michigan which are now submerged.
I am proud of my PhD research, which enabled me to examine subsistence patterns and strategies used by Neanderthals and modern humans to obtain bone for tools. This enabled me to consider the use of bone tools ethnographically and also consider ethnographic data on how children and young adults learn to hunt and gather to obtain the tools. As a graduate student, I was part of a team excavating in France, which led to the most exciting find of my career—a partial Neanderthal maxilla.