Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Me and Archaeology

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin.  I've spent a great
deal of time working on soils/geology/archaeology
field work here with Dr. Lynne Goldstein.
Click for photo credit.
As I mentioned yesterdayI am featured in the new issue of Hofstra Horizons magazine that features Hofstra research projects.  The article focuses on how I got into sustainability and the future direction of sustainability studies at Hofstra.  Here is a link to the article.  After I posted the article, I heard from a friend of mine how I forgot to mention in the post the influence of archaeology on my career.  She was right!  I did mention it in the article in Hofstra Horizons, but I didn't go into any significant detail and I didn't mention it in yesterday's post.  So, I thought I would round out the discussion here.

After I completed my masters in geology, I moved on to do a Ph.D. with the late Robert Eidt, a noted expert in anthrosols, or humanly modified soils.  While working with him, I became the manager of the UW-Milwaukee State Soils Lab, which was at the time, the only state soil lab in an urban setting focused on testing soils for urban gardeners interested in determining how best to fertilize their lawns and in finding out if their soils had any pollution--particularly lead.  During this time, Eidt had me take a course in field archaeology with Professor Lynne Goldstein in order to get better trained on how to determine alteration of soils in the field.  Goldstein is an expert on mortuary analysis and taught a number of well regarded field schools in Wisconsin on prehistoric archaeology focused on Mississippian mound builders.  The course I took was excellent.  It was also different from my geology field school.  My geology field school introduced me to the understanding of regional geology in the Yukon, British Columbia, and Alberta.  This field school required me to drill down into the details of one particular place.

During my field school, I learned a variety of archaeological techniques that greatly benefited my understanding of the planet.  We excavated a portion of a mound group near Koshkonong, Wisconsin, did field tests to look for Native American settlement sites, and walked freshly plowed or planted fields and collected artifacts in order to systematically map the distribution of artifacts.  I ended up doing quite a bit of work with Dr. Goldstein over the years and with other archaeologists in places like Fort Ross, California; Aztalan, Wisconsin; Arkansas; Tennessee; and Yemen.  All of this work demonstrated to me that pre-historic and historic alteration of the planet was much more widespread than I thought.  Prehistoric peoples greatly altered the planet in ways that were sometimes subtle (creation of small agricultural fields in Wisconsin), and sometimes massive (development of large agricultural fields in pre-Islamic Yemen).  

Archaeology greatly informs sustainability by showing us the impacts of past actions on the environment and by providing examples how humans and their environments interact in different places and times.

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