Nasty Woman Marching on Washington

There are moments as I go through the graduate school process that I wonder why I put myself through it all. Choosing a career that requires an MA or PhD, there are few moments when advisors/other faculty members give out positive reinforcement. The choice to continue work in academia means choosing a life that will require hearing criticisms and having everything you do chewed up and spat back out at you with the expectation of you saying “thank you for your feedback”. It isn’t easy, but today I was reminded yet again why I do what I do.

As an anthropologist, I study people. This field of study (in short) aims to look at people in the past and present in order to understand behaviors. This ultimately leads to an understanding of the different ways in which people view the world and a respect for those different world views. Not that everything is condoned or accepted, but it is understood. It is because of the nature of our field that as anthropologists we value the rights of every human no matter their sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural affiliation, disabilities etc. What is not tolerated are those who aim to justify hatred because they think themselves superior or anyone who doesn’t fit their little box of ideals to be inferior.

It is because of this, I am proud to say that this is the life I’ve chosen. I am surrounded by people who will not tolerate injustice and hatred. With the Women’s March on Washington happening tomorrow, almost the entire Anthropology department, faculty and students, will be attending the local march.  It is not okay to threaten basic human rights. It is not okay to justify hate and promote the idea of white-male superiority then say it isn’t what you said or meant. We see you and we will not just stand by. We will not allow this hate to go unnoticed or become normalized.

Yes, I am a Nasty Woman and I will be marching on Washington tomorrow.

Life Update/Blogging Again

I honestly didn’t think I’d come back to this blog. My life has been a rollercoaster of emotions and the schedule has been jam packed. As some of you know, I started graduate school in Fall 2016 focusing in archaeology. In my last few blogs I expressed excitement over the new adventure I’d be starting but also acknowledged the stress to come and acceptance of it then to be added to everyday life stress. Little did I know that the acceptance would be much easier said than done. I didn’t know what being in graduate school really meant, especially coming in as a PhD student straight from my BA. There are some things I wish I had known how to deal with both academically and personally that would have made my first semester smoother than it was. I didn’t want to make this blog post about “what I learned in 2016” since I don’t think it’s fair to make that distinction for my situation. Since I’m a student, my life is lived by the semester and because of this I will share with you the experiences I have had both good and bad in my first semester of graduate school and things I wish someone had warned me about. Let me just say, I am not at all complaining about my situation. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity to learn from leading professionals in this field and work along side brilliant fellow graduate students. That being said, here we go.

Warning: I’m not editing this entry much. Mostly because I feel this type of content should be somewhat raw. Just a heads up in case there are any typos and grammar issues.

1. Choose projects/term papers wisely.

I made the mistake last semester of choosing a term paper project based on what my professor wanted me to do and not exactly what I felt comfortable with doing. I wanted so desperately to impress this professor that I didn’t think in the moment that this was a project that was beyond my skill level. Long story short, the project was a flop and and the paper was horrid. In my attempts to impress the professor turned into a great way to do the complete opposite. I have made sure that not only will I try to make sure that the project I choose directly relate to my thesis/dissertation topics but I will also only take on projects that I know I can handle and seek guidance when it is something I can’t.

2. Everyone else is just as stressed.

Yes, even people who seem on top of their game are just as stressed and self-doubting as I am. It’s easy for me to fall into this mental pit of darkness thinking I was the only one feeling like I was in over my head all the time and scrambling to get things finished on time. As it turns out, this is not at all the case. Not that this was something I was unaware of, but it is something I am now trying to actively recognize as not a fault on my part but a normal part of this life we have chosen as graduate students.

3. Friendships are amazing and necessary.

Whether the friend lives on the other side of the world, city or street, there is nothing that can replace a great friend. If it wasn’t for my friends I would not have made it out of my first semester without quitting. Between coffee pep talks, text rants and evening drinks we all got through our situations together. Not just from an academic standpoint, as not all my friends fall into this category, but from an overall life standpoint.

I’m proud to say that I feel my long-distance friendship is getting stronger after what seemed like a hiatus. Our lives weren’t just physically apart but there were just situations on both ends making communication difficult. This is changing rapidly and I’m so happy to say that my best friend is still my best friend. I truly don’t know how I’d get by without her. She is my sister and my other (better) half.

I’ve also made some amazing new friends in my first semester of graduate school. Friends that I can honestly say will be an important part of my life for years to come. These people aren’t just brilliant but also genuinely wonderful. The lessons I have learned just through casual conversations is extraordinary. I am a better and stronger person now because of them.

4. It’s okay to be upset.

All semester I put up this front that I was okay, that I was handling everything. No, I definitely wasn’t. I was a mess and nobody knew it. I didn’t think it was okay to show that I was upset or disappointed. I thought it would show that I couldn’t handle graduate school and everyone would think less of me. So I held it all in and kept a calm smile on my face. When the semester ended I had a mental breakdown. I went through a solid two weeks of swinging from indifference to uncontrollable crying. I was at an all time low. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I’m breaking down after holding it all in ever again. I need to be okay with acknowledging when I’m upset with something so I can constructively deal with it when it initially occurs and not when I can’t do anything about it. It is okay to feel upset and it is okay to cry it out every now and then.

5. There are no excuses for putting this off. 

I put myself in bad situations by making every excuse I could think of to not do things in a timely manner. Everything got pushed to the last second and I paid the price for it either immediately or in the long run. This is stuff that I was able to get away with when I was an undergraduate but I have quickly learned that this isn’t going to get me far in graduate school. I have started off this semester the way I never have before, I created a schedule for myself with deadlines that I will make myself follow. I’m surprised to say that it is actually working! Creating monthly, weekly and daily goals is fantastic and I am feeling great about this new change I have implemented into my routine. Hopefully I can keep it up!

 

So there it is. An update on my life… sort of. Just a few things that I wanted to share either specifically or generally about my experiences in the Fall of 2016 and what I have learned from them. Clearly this is just a snapshot and I could have written so much more! Hopefully I didn’t lose anyone in this post. It was clearly geared towards my experiences as a graduate student but obviously most of these things most can relate in any career. I hope to be able to post more often on here! I’m not sure how it will go but I will try! Thank you for reading! The content will soon (hopefully) get back to normal outdoor/photography/archaeology related things!

Southwest Archaeological Field Work 2016

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The summer field season has wrapped up. The students are back in their hometowns and cooling off from the extreme Arizona heat. This summer marks summer #3 of archaeological fieldwork for me and boy was it an incredible experience. I spent it yet again in the American Southwest, a place riddled with the remains of past human life. Of course, as before, the location of my work will remain private. There is such a horrible looting problem and I’d rather not contribute to or provoke those actions.

For starters, this was the first year I’ve been out in the field and have had the role of being a crew chief. Meaning I was in charge of the excavation of a unit and was responsible for teaching a new group of students every week of the proper procedures and tedious process of archaeological excavation. IMG_5572

Although there were times things got a little heated (literally and metaphorically), the students this field season were excellent. Such a wonderful group of humans working together towards a common goal, whether it was excavation of the pueblo or survey of the surrounding land. A hard working bunch with a strong desire to learn. I couldn’t continue this post without acknowledging their drive, without which our work would be much more difficult and near impossible. IMG_5585

That being said, we accomplished so much this summer. Excavation in my unit in particular yielded such amazing information including evidence of ritual closure. Many ceramic sherds were found along with a full projectile point, bone beads and a few awesome features. All of this was found underneath wall fall, which seems to have been pushed down intentionally as a way of closing the space (extramural). It was truly incredible.

Survey of course revealed so much information that we did not expect. So many new archaeological sites were found ranging from Paleo sites to Pueblo period. This area isn’t known for having paleo sites so these findings are incredibly important for the archaeological record.

All in all, a fantastic field season with amazing people and wonderful finds. I apologize for the vagueness of the findings. I cannot describe with too much detail the area or the findings due to sensitivities of both site integrity and the living descendants of these past peoples.

To everyone reading this: Please understand that we must protect these cultural resources. Do not pick up or destroy archaeological remains of any sort and take it away from it’s context. As archaeologists, we need things to remain where they are found in order to learn anything from them. Respect the archaeological record and the descendants of the people who left them. 

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A New Adventure

DSCF0143For some reason keeping a blog going (or getting it started) has been difficult. There has been many changes in my life since my last post. I had just graduated with my BA in Anthropology and was trying to keep myself busy while I was waiting to hear about my fate as a student. Would I get accepted into graduate school? If so, where would I go? Well, these questions were answered shortly after started this blog.

I heard the news of my acceptance into the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology while I was on vacation in Mexico. The vacation was fantastic. I had been to these cities in Mexico a few times in my life already (Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta) but this time was even more amazing than the previous visits. It was meant to be a gift for graduating college, but it turned into a getaway from the stress that was waiting on my graduate school prospects.

As it turns out, a few days into my week long trip I received an email from one of my mentors that I got accepted into the graduate program at the University of Arizona. Of course, this was a pretty big deal. I was ecstatic. Knowing that I’d be continuing my academic life at a school that is known for being a top player in the field is something that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around. To be able to pursue my PhD in Anthropology/Archaeology with a professor I respect and admire is something most students only dream of and somehow it happened to me. I don’t doubt it will have its stressful moments and there will be times I question my decisions, but right now this is what I want and I’m excited to get started. Here’s to August and the start of my new adventure!

There will be a blog soon of my vacation to Mexico as well as my recent archaeological fieldwork experience. It has been a fun and educational few months!

The Tucson Mountains

Took a hike up the Tucson Mountains with my dad. This is a hike that I have been doing with him since I was a child. I remember this trail and the specific trees and cacti that have been there since my childhood and years before my very existence. The memories made here are incredible.

The desert is often thought to be a baron wasteland to those who don’t live here, but once you go out and take in the landscape yourself, you realize that the desert is beautiful in it’s own way. The plans are not welcoming and can often be hostile if you get too close, but this is how they survive their own environment. The desert isn’t an easy place to survive. The plants are tough!

The Sonoran Desert. Such a wonderful place. Here are some pictures in an attempt to capture its beauty!

Madera Canyon

Took a spontaneous drive to Madera Canyon this weekend. The only thing I meant to do was go up there, enjoy the views, take some great pictures and just get some fresh air. Little did I know that the seemingly leisurely trip to Madera Canyon would turn into a full on hike up the longest trail available! Not that I’m complaining. I had a blast! I got some amazing shots along the trail and a lot of silent reflection time. Nature is beautiful. Life is beautiful.

There were so many photos of this hike! Here are some of my favorites.

Southwest Archaeology Pt.1

Archaeological fieldwork in the Anasazi culture area (Northern AZ & NM and Southern UT & CO). For the sake of privacy and protection, I will leave out the details of the location.

When people think about archaeological fieldwork they think of people digging in pits. Although excavation is a huge part of fieldwork, much of the work in archaeology involves survey. There are various methods of survey but this particular survey involved was is called “field walking” to cover planned out transects. This allows for a more thorough search from sites and artifacts while walking very systematically over the land. Sites and artifacts are recorded but rarely are the artifacts collected. The artifacts collected are usually the rare finds such as projectile points and intact groundstone. Projectile points are collected due to the rarity of the finds and the possibility of finding them again are rare even after taking down their coordinates. Groundstone is extremely important due to the traces of various organic materials and minerals that can be found in it’s pores.

You will see in the photos that I have demonstrated some of these materials that were collected. One of them is a Clovis point. Clovis is perhaps one of the oldest known cultures in the Americas, dating to approx. 13,000 years ago. There is still a lot of debate in the archaeological world about Clovis being the oldest in the Americas.

In another photo you will see an intact metate. This was most likely used for the purposes of grinding down various grains and perhaps dates closer to Late Archaic, 500BC. However, since it was just found this summer, the exact timeframe of this particular metate is unknown.

The photo of the rock art was not found on our survey but was close to where we were working. It is located in a canyon that has thousands of petroglyphs dating from thousands of years ago all the way to just a few hundred years ago.

What is extremely important to realize is that these artifacts, although very interesting, should not be removed from where they are found unless there is a professional archaeologist in the field to ensure properly recorded information. Context is everything in archaeology. Just because you found a cool Clovis point doesn’t mean that picking it up and taking it home is ok. Even if your intentions are good and you take it to a museum, we encourage you not remove it from its place. Without context, very little (if any) information can be gained from that artifact. Let’s learn more about the past and remember that without proper research, we can know very little.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! I will post more about my archaeological adventures as they come up!