What is your current position at PRI?
I am a postdoctoral researcher in Midwestern Archaeology. The responsibilities of my position are split between collections management and organizing the first ISAS Visiting Scholar Conference. Collection management involves organizing, digitizing, and analyzing leftover lithic and ceramic materials from the Richland Analysis Project and the Emerald Acropolis Project, both of which I was involved with during my graduate career. I am crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s for these large projects, making sure all of the related collections are fully analyzed, all analyses and associated documents are digitized and prepared for curation.
What is your research background?
My original archaeology field training was in Ecuador looking at the pottery of Incan and local Cayambe fortress sites. Additionally, my senior thesis for my undergraduate degree was research on the ceramics of Puebloan peoples in Taos, New Mexico, and what that told us about the movement of people into and around the area. My regional focus shifted to that of the Midcontinent of the United States as I worked with Susan Alt, who specializes in Cahokian and Mississippian cultures. I also grew up across the river from Cahokia and have always been interested in learning more about the Pre-Columbian peoples that lived there, so it was a natural fit. I have been doing archaeology of the Midwest for 10 years now, excavating and researching the past peoples of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and the Ohio River Valley. Aside from fieldwork, my laboratory research has been in the geochemical characterization and mineralogical composition of ceramics and other archaeological materials, including identifying paint pigments and the composition and source of special sediment deposits in shrines.
What excites you about this new role?
I am excited to widen the scope of my experience and interact with a new network of archaeologists and researchers. It is my first chance post-graduate degree to spread my wings while allowing for continuity with analyses I have done during my graduate career. Additionally, organizing the first in a new series of Visiting Scholar biennial conferences that Timothy Pauketat as the new director of ISAS wants to get off the ground. As a visiting scholar, I have the chance to craft a conference theme that directly reflects my methodological and theoretical interests. It is extremely exciting to be able to build a conversation on a topic that is directly of interest to me. You can find more details and a call for abstract proposals on the ISAS website.
What drew you to this field of study?
That’s a funny story. When I was in elementary school, we did this project where we created a civilization—designing a city, making various items they may have used, this whole narrative. The teacher then took our objects and buried them in the garden behind the school. We had to excavate and "map" where we found the artifacts—we weren’t even 10 years old, so this was pretty advanced stuff. No one excavated their own culture, so we had to build a story around what we found. It was an excellent project and very engaging. I truly believe it planted a seed into my subconscious that germinated into a full-blown passion in college. Otherwise, I ended up in anthropology courses by accident—I needed an elective my freshman year and Intro to Anthropology looked interesting. In a similar way, I fell into attending a field school because it was just something fun that one of my professors offered for the summer break. Not only was it fun, but my latent passion planted by the school project was also brought back to the surface. I haven’t turned back since.
What work/project are you most proud of?
I think I am most proud of my involvement in the Emerald Acropolis Project with Susan Alt and Timothy Pauketat. In a way, I grew as an archaeologist during the course of this five-year project. I started off as a volunteer and crew member who came out to work with my graduate advisor Susan Alt and gain more experience in the methods used in Midwestern Archaeology (remember, I was trained in South American archaeology). In the following years, I became a field supervisor, then a site director, and finally the field director for the final year of the project. I helped supervise block excavations at the main site with the project directors and directed excavations of sites around Emerald as part of the larger project goals. Looking back, I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to gain so much experience on such a large project. Additionally, I wrote my dissertation on the ceramics we excavated at Emerald during this project, characterizing the composition and source of stylistically non-local types. This project has further pointed me toward an interest in connecting animist conceptions of landscape and place-stories to material and source-geologies. I am excited about the direction this research will take me in the future.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I actually enjoy reading about the history of science. The struggle, the discoveries, the happy accidents, and the true characters involved. It can get really philosophical at times, because science is often tied with knowledge systems and how people relate to, and interact with, the world. Things and concepts that you generally don’t think about in your daily life all have histories and journeys of their own. This extends to books about knowledge production systems other than our own, including different concepts of science, observation, and the relationship with natural phenomena and materials.