First 100 Days…

Time for an update…as many folks know, I have just made a huge change this summer…moving from Magnolia in southwestern Arkansas back to Fayetteville in the Ozark Mountains.  This has been a pretty stressful move, but it looks like many of the kinks are getting worked out.

I have been the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s UAF Research Station Archeologist now for a little over 100 days…working on 4 months…I have moved into my house and 2 different offices (one on the UofA campus and one at the Arkansas Archeological Survey on the Ag Campus) and I’m just beginning to get the feel of the real differences between this job and my old Research Station in southwestern Arkansas…the job descriptions may look the same, but they are, in fact, very different jobs…here are some random observations:

  1. I am not alone…This, by and large, is a positive thing…there are colleagues at the ARAS Coordinating Office, there are colleagues in the Anthropology Department at the UofA…the loneliness of my previous job was initially one of the drawbacks (I’m a very social person)…but feeling like you are a “outpost for archeology” is not all bad either…When I was the Research Station Archeologist at SAU, I FELT like I was the Research Station Archeologist at SAU…I was the only Ph.D. archeologist (until my assistant Carl got his in 2013) for at least an hour and a half radius in all directions…I was the go-to guy for all things anthropology and archeology in my “fifedom”…In Northwest Arkansas, my purpose and authority are less established…I am but one of many, many experts in the area.  I find myself unsure about how to fit into this larger picture…I’m still figuring that out…For sure there are ways that this will be easier…but I have to spend time re-figuring out what the job is and how I am going to do it.
  2. My time is even more divided than it was at SAU. To be sure being an ARAS Research Station Archeologist can feel very liminal…You are employed by the University of Arkansas System, but you live and work in one of many campuses or state parks across the state.  For instance, you are never invited to faculty meetings on your host campus, because they do not employ you…conversely, you are never invited to faculty meetings at the UofA because you do not live there…I had thought that the UAF position would feel less liminal as I would be (sort of) on my “home campus”…but here (as I mentioned previously) I have 2 offices–one at the Coordinating Office (CO) and one in Old Main on campus…My predecessor spent most of his time on the UofA campus…he informed me that I would get more work done on campus than I would at the CO…he, of course, was right…I thought, however, that I might split my time evenly…Spending M&W on campus and T&Th at the ARAS CO…with Fridays as a wild card (ostensibly used to explore my research territory…something I did effectively when I began my ARAS-SAU gig 8 years ago)….that sounds good and easy…but when you factor in that other aspects of my job mandate that I be in meetings or on the road at least one or two days in any-given week…it means that I am never in any one location very often…this is something I’m going to have to change…it is leaving me feeling like a “visitor” in both offices and disconnected from folks both at the CO and the Anthro Dept…and being much less productive all the way around…I haven’t figured out the right formula yet…but I’m working on it…I’m wondering if a “seasonal round” of Fall semesters at the CO and Spring semesters at Old Main might work…we’ll have to see.
  3. I AM enjoying the change in lifestyle. I live practically on campus.  Its a 10 min. walk to my office in Old Main.  I can walk almost everywhere I need to go–downtown (Farmer’s Market), down to Dickson St. (bars, restaurants, drug store)….I can take the bus to my other office on the Ag Campus…I really enjoy all the walking (and not driving).  My wife also teaches on campus…so I like that we can walk to work together and even have lunch together every now and then…that’s quite nice.  We, of course, also enjoy access to restaurants, bars (see my previous recent post about Maxine’s Tap Room), and health food stores…and music…etc., etc.
  4. My future research projects are still forming.  The first year I was the Research Station Archeologist in Magnolia I made a list of 10 research projects I would like to undertake…I got a lot of research and outreach done during my tenure at SAU…but I did not get to a single project on that list…the nature of this job is that things come up, things all in your lap, the center cannot hold, etc., etc…. So it is with great apprehension that speculate on what my research interests will be in NWA.  But, nevertheless, here are some things that seem like possible directions for my future research.
    1. Ozark Bluff Shelters.  In the short time I have been the ARAS-UAF Research Station Archeologist, I have been contacted by several informants and landowners about bluff shelter looting.  Couple that with the fact that my associates Jerry Hilliard, Liz Horton, Randall Guendling and Jim Rees have been poking around with historic bluff shelter collections (from excavations between the 1930s-1980s)…not to mention my predecessor’s work on Arkansas rock art…and you have a great place to start working on this unique Arkansas archeological resource.  I have visited shelters in Benton, Washington, and Searcy Counties already.  Jerry, Liz and I are currently scheming up the first phase of a multi-year project that will attempt to fill in some of the holes in what we know about Ozark bluff shelters…stay tuned for more information.
    2. Historic Cane Hill.  In 2003 I was involved in the initial testing at a site in the historic town of Cane Hill, Arkansas in western Washington County.  While I was in southwest Arkansas, a Historic Cane Hill organization has been founded and it is on the way to becoming a private version of Historic Washington State Park…they have acquired many properties in the Cane Hill area (including Cane Hill College) and renovations are underway…lots of possibilities of archeology there…
    3. Geophysics at Late Prehistoric Mound Centers in the Ozarks.  When I was in southwest Arkansas I worked with a number of graduate students to do some basic geophysical survey at several regionally important Caddo sites (like Battle Mound and Crenshaw)…There is a real opportunity to do similar work in the Ozarks…especially given new information about Spiro and the Cardon Bottoms locality to the south…I plan on working with geophysicists Dr. Jami Lockhart on these projects (the Jami & Jamie show).

Finally: A big hunk of September was spend on the road, so I actually have not even been 100 days in Fayetteville.  Much of that road time was spent helping to interview my replacement at the ARAS-SAU Research Station (I acted as tour guide on the SAU campus).  So advice for the incoming regional archeologists for southwest Arkansas is heavily on my mind just now…look for my next post soon…and for it to be a list of things I found out about being a Research Station Archeologist over my 8 years in Magnolia.

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Categories: academia, anthropology, archeology, life, news, post, spotlight


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