As a recent archaeology grad stuck in the never ending search for my first job, I’ve been on a mission to refine my resume by volunteering with local archaeology projects. I came across the Herring Run Archaeology Project on Facebook a few weeks ago and jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I am so glad that I did.
Archaeologists and historic preservation specialists work together to preserve, share, and protect our nation’s cultural resources. Although associated most with historic buildings and sites, historic preservationists also strive to preserve and interpret structures or districts which reflect elements of archaeological history. In the following entry, Ms. Christy presents the site and its history, why we preserve and interpret, and how this relates to archaeology.
Site History and Background:
On the 1st of October, in the pouring autumn rain, a group of local residents, farmers and landowners from the village of Bagendon, in the Cotswolds UK, teamed up with archaeologists from Durham University working on a project called Resituating Europe’s First Town’s (REFIT). The aim of the project is to explore how different types of stakeholders (farmers, residents, local business people etc.) use and understand their local landscapes through interviews and engagement events. For this particular event, with help from Past Environment expert Mike Allen, the group investigated the stories about past land use and environmental change that are hidden in Bagendon’s soil. Using hand augers, everyone had a go a taking and analyzing soil cores and learnt just how much information we can glean about the past from changes in soil type to even the tiniest snail shell or burnt seed remains.
In October 1774, Peggy Stewart, a Maryland cargo vessel, was burned by colonists in retaliation to Britain’s boycott on tea imports. The story begins in February 1770 with the arrival of the brig Good Intent to Annapolis from London. At this time, colonists were boycotting the current Britain tax of the Townshead Acts. The custom collector in Annapolis did not allow the goods to be taken ashore until the taxes were paid; the colonists refused to the pay the taxes on any goods. The merchants in stubborn refusal sent Good Intent back to London. Because of ships like Good Intent refusing to remove their merchandise, Britain repelled taxes on everything, except tea.
It has been a little over a year since I’ve been involved with Archaeology in the Community and it has been chock full of teachable moments. Unfortunately, I did have to take a sabbatical during the winter months, but I couldn’t wait to get back in action with Dr. Alexandra Jones and the other interns at AITC.
I am also working a full time job which often makes me reminisce about the days that I would accompany Alexandra to the “Archaeologist for a Day” programs. Then, I remembered my first educational program…
This is a success story in the making. Specifically, this is a story about a small farming village in Jamaica, and about the development of a community based research agenda there. This is also the story about how a group of people from different backgrounds came together, as fellow students of history, and how we united in friendship and solidarity. This is our story and we are writing it together. We are Nicole Ferguson, an eco-heritage tour guide in Flagstaff, Jamaica, and David Ingleman, an anthropology graduate student at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). We became friends and research partners several years ago, when David was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Flagstaff.
I really had no idea what to expect when I decided to become an archaeologist. There weren’t any guidebooks back then and I didn’t know anyone who was already an archaeologist. Other than my mother, not too many of my family members supported my decision. They were all worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a job. Or, they thought I’d be captured by rebels in some jungle somewhere and would never be heard from again.
None of that stuff happened.
There is no straight-as-an-arrow, tried-and-true path to becoming an archaeologist. Most of us attend college, getting our first taste of archaeological fieldwork and research in the process. After college, we typically find jobs in the cultural resource management industry as consultants, at a museum, or at a university. A Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology, History, American Studies, or a similar field is usually the base level of education for a job in archaeology in the United States. Individuals that want to do archaeology as a career should plan on getting a graduate degree (either a Master’s or PhD) because this is required to move up the ranks in the archaeology industry.
“When I grow up, I’m going to be an archaeologist.” That’s what I said when I was 4-years-old. “Or, an astronaut.” My mother replied; “That’s fine, son. You can be whatever you want to be.”
When I was just entering Junior High, I remember telling my literature teacher I wanted to be either an archaeologist or an astronaut when I grew up. Half-jokingly, he said I should “shoot for the stars.”
When I was just about to graduate from high school, I was discussing the results of my aptitude tests with my school’s guidance counselor. She was describing some of the optimal career paths that would utilize my best skills: architect, politics, bus driver— all fine jobs, but I already knew what I was going to do.
I stopped her short “I’m going to be either an astronaut or an archaeologist,” I told her. I’d already taken and scored high on the ASVAB and was planning on going to flight school with the Navy. Archaeology was my backup career. She chuckled. “Those aren’t real careers,” she said. “Nobody plans on doing archaeology or being an astronaut. They just kinda slip into those jobs.” She could read the disappointed look on my face and tried to cheer me up. With a broad smile, she said, “Maybe you should consider a career more suited to your skill set? Architecture is an excellent field that would probably suit you well. And, it pays pretty good money.”
I’m here today to talk about the ways that community archaeology hits home – for me, quite literally. My dissertation has focused on my own family’s Homeplace, a farmstead in southeastern Illinois dating from the early 19th century to the present. I’ve been working on this site since 2010, and our project has included oral history collections, documentary research, and two field seasons of excavation. I’ve always been interested in collaborative archaeological projects, and it is working on this particular site that has really driven home for me how important community engagement really is.
My ancestors came to Illinois when it was still the frontier, before the land was cleared, before statehood, and before the civil war and Jim Crow would drastically change the racialized social landscape for Free Black communities. They came as Free People of Color from South Carolina via Kentucky; they fought in the war of 1812 and afterwards stayed to establish some of the area’s first forts and churches. They sent for their families and built their farms, and by 1875 over 400 acres in Bond Township were owned by Free Black Farmers.